I was queuing for petrol yesterday. Not because I was panic buying, but because my tank was almost empty. I felt aggrieved and embarrassed sitting in the queue, huffing and puffing that what should take five minutes was taking almost thirty. There I was with a perfectly reasonable need to fill up and there were those around me who were just panicking, perhaps. After all, I was there with a valid reason so why not all the others? But why were they all there at the same time? I sat in the queue and listened to some music. I ended up chatting to a couple of people also in the queue and we all realised that we have to take our time and that there's nothing to worry about. But we all felt awkward about it, even though we were not 'hoarding'.
Petrol is probably the second most important liquid on the planet after water. The oil from which it is refined is is the product of ancient sunshine, captured in the wood of carboniferous forests over 300 million years ago, and formed into gloopy juice since then. Only a few hundred thousand years ago (a blink of the eye, relatively speaking), our own ancestors were becoming humans and only a few hundred years go we began to use that gloopy juice. Now we are a sprawling presence across the globe, standing on garage forecourts wondering if there's enough to go around.
And now there is the sudden awareness of the central role that carbon dioxide plays in our lives. Carbon dioxide is the bogeyman gas. It is the cause of climate heating and the product of the burning of the petrol I was queuing to use. This week we have been reminded that CO2 is a vital component in the preservation of salad (oh, so healthy), the production of beer and the slaughter of animals, and that there is currently a shortage of this globally too-abundant gas. What is going on?! How can the gas be so abundant if there is a shortage?
The problem is that so much of what we do puts us in the wrong place at the wrong time. As humans were beginning to be recognisably humans all those years ago being in the wrong place meant that you were vulnerable to being eaten or of starving. Now it is all about global economics and how we move the gloop around the planet. It is all so sophisticated. We need HGVs and fertilisers. We worry about jobs and wealth and whether the stores are stocked. But we are essentially little different physically to our ancestors who became Homo sapiens. Indeed, socially we are very similar as well. Likewise, the mystery of God is very similar. We may have invented machines and technologies, and managed to grasp the subtle beauty of the cosmos. But when our food supply or our shelter is threatened we revert to our basic instincts. I am not suggesting this is good, bad or whatever: it simply happens. What I am suggesting is that the way we can live from here on is a way that helps us see the need for balance in our world, to try to be in the right place at the right time: to know that we can look beyond the scarcity of the immediate and see the abundance of the Kingdom of God. Cars and beer are fundamental in our world and I do not suggest we get rid of either. But perhaps we can keep a control on just how important we think they are.
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.