When I was growing up the question was, "where were you when you heard about JFK?". Then, after I went to university it became, "Where were you when John Lennon was shot?" Now, since 11th September 2001 it has been, "... the towers came down?" We all know. We all remember the horror and disbelief. My sons were 7 and 8 years old and I recall sitting with them and not quite knowing what to say. I remember Tony Blair, about to speak at the TUC conference that day changing his address to remark that the world had changed. I recall the face on George W. Bush's face when his adviser told him the news. And most of all I remember seeing the collapsing towers and not quite understanding what I was seeing.
We did witness the world change that day. It was obvious. It was an obviously astonishing, sorrowful and incredible moment in history. We knew about it as it was happening because TV broadcasts blasted it around the world. Well before Facebook and YouTube we all saw it in real time. It was Hollywood without the happy ending. And it still has not ended.
With Kabul back in the hands of a (hopefully not) terrorist government it seems that the past twenty years have not even happened. People have died on all "sides". The good and the bad, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the oppressed. In the end their and all our lives have been affected by those aeroplanes and the collapse of the towers (not to mention the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville), but what is now different in regard to how we live?
There are all kinds of security, criminal and investigative changes to how the world now works: we are aware of so many terrorist possibilities and we are told that many incidents have been averted by better "intelligence". But again, what has changed? Are we any further from terrorism than we were? Perhaps. For a while. But do we (human societies) now get along together better? Hmmm.
So, then, what can we do? We Christians try our very best to show concern and kindness and we should never stop trying. It can seem an impossible task, however, can't it? Twenty years ago the world didn't suddenly burst into wars and flames. The "War on Terror" wasn't the first time we (humans) have had to respond to violence. Since forever humans have demonstrated a capacity to be cruel to each other. Two thousand years ago Jesus was noticed and castigated for encouraging his contemporaries to try harder to reconcile between ourselves and also with God, and we struggle today still. Two thousand years is nothing in the span of human existence. Our efforts, though vital and wonderful, must never cease, even when we feel disillusioned by the ongoing violence we know about.
In our current bible study, looking at the Epistle of James, we are encouraged to show our faith through our actions (James 2:14-18). Kindness and patience are actions. They may not be obvious sometimes, but as Christians we must find ways to show how we can see God in all people. If we don't, why should we expect anyone else to do so?
"Where were you when peace broke out?" Hopefully every day brings a new answer.
Some advance notice: All Saints (1st November) and All Souls (2nd November) will both be marked on 31st October this year. As each is a distinct feast day, we shall be holding two distinct services, and both be Benefice services: All Saints at 10am in North Curry and All Souls at 5pm in Burrowbridge.
Liturgically and theologically All Saints is a moment to celebrate the saints in heaven, known and unknown, and is a more general acknowledgement of the lives of those who have gone before as disciples of Christ across the millennia. All Souls is a much more intimate moment in the calendar, when we remember those known to us who have died recently. The last time we gathered for All Souls was 2019, before covid and before funerals were required to be so curtailed. During the pandemic so many of us lost loved ones and were unable to mark their passing in the desired way. All Souls will be a time to acknowledge this, to give thanks for all those who have died and to mark the moment appropriately. The service is open to any who grieve the loss of anyone dear to them, across all four benefice parishes.
Thank you to everyone who organised and provided a fine welcome at the charity concert last Saturday in North Curry. The concert was in aid of the North Curry "Appeal of Bells" and featured stunning performances, in particular the re-imaging of Vivaldi's Four Seasons by Fenella Humphreys (violin) for violin, percussion (George Barton), accordion (Iñigo Mikeleiz Berrade) and double bass (Ben Griffiths): an entrancing sound that gave everyone a great deal of enjoyment. And funds were raised!
The season of harvest is upon us. Our four parishes will be celebrating harvest as follows: Lyng on 5th September at 6.30pm, Burrowbridge on 26th September at 10am, North Curry also on 26th September and also at 10am and Stoke St Gregory on 3rd October at 11am.
I have already publicised the bible study we are doing next month, beginning this coming Thursday in fact. There has been a little rethinking about the times and venues. I picked the date from mid-air: it seemed the only way to get things underway. However, I have since discovered that because there is so much going on beyond the churches on Thursdays (still getting the hang of this...) I have decided to on the study twice on a Thursday. This will hopefully enable people to come along according to their own schedule.
So, the sessions will run at 4pm in North Curry (in church) and 7pm in Stoke St Gregory (in the church room). Yo can mix and match, come to one (or both!) and change from week to week. I hope that will be flexible enough for people.
Just to remind you what the study is all about, the Epistle of James has much to offer as to how we view the world as Christians. In these times of global turmoil and the ever impending onset of climate change, we need to be aware of how our faith directs our behaviour. James writes about the rich and poor, the powerful and powerless, the need to follow Christ and live in "The Way" as the early followers of Jesus described themselves. As COP26 looms over the horizon, it is worth reflecting how we, the Athelney Benefice, are part of this bigger picture.
What you need to do in preparation for the study sessions:
Not much. And nothing is obligatory! However, if you can, please do have a look at James's Epistle. Also, if you can, please do give some thought to how you step out into a world of challenge and turmoil. Also, also, if you can, please pray for how we learn together. Other than that, just turn up.