Magazine Letters from 2014
The “door” as access to Advent and Christmas.
We handle doors daily and probably take them for granted. There are many types of doors in buildings, fences and walls, in vehicles and in devices. Doors serve as a passage to go in and to go out. Doors connect or separate spaces and protect us.
For infants doors can be obstacles, but when they are old enough they learn how to gain access to other rooms by opening doors. Children learn very early on that closed or open doors cause associated feelings. If they want to visit someone and knock on the door, the door opens and they are welcomed in, they feel happy. Vice a versa if they themselves have visitors and open the door to them and welcome in their guests they are happy. Closed doors on the other hand can provide us with uncomfortable feelings of exclusion. Many children prefer to sleep with the bedroom door open so as not to lose contact with the parents.
Can you remember when you were a child and you stood outside and despite ringing and knocking nobody opened the door to you. Maybe you forgot your house key or lost it (again!) and you had to wait until mum or dad came from work. Or have you ever locked yourself in and you had to wait to be freed. This is very different from closing your door for privacy. The feeling of being undisturbed is beneficial as it makes you feel protected and secure.
I remember reading stories and fairy tales that featured doors. Often the closed door hid a secret and made me curious. We use the idiomatic expression ‘behind closed doors’ if something takes place privately or in secret or ‘open new doors’ meaning to give someone new opportunities.
“Doors” as word picture can connect or separate people. For example we associate “open doors” mostly with positive experiences and associate them with hospitality, friendship, open and honest people and a welcoming community. On the contrary “closed doors” can evoke feelings of isolation, withdrawal or being locked up.
Images, such as a door, closed or open can have many different interpretations. A “closed door” can also be of protection, security or privacy; and “open doors” could leave a person defenceless and helpless.
As you open the doors on your Advent calendar think about the secret message of Christmas that lies behind each door.
I wish for you that all your doors open for the love and warmth of the Advent and Christmas season.
Letter from the Reader
The 4th of August 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the day Britain entered one of the costliest conflicts in history – the First World War – with fighting continuing until the 11th of November 1918, Armistice Day. A special commemorative service was held on Sunday, 3rd August, to remember those from the village who lost their lives, just as we will remember them again, together with all who have lost their lives in the various conflicts over the years, on Remembrance Sunday, 9th November.
I don’t know about you, but one book, film and stage play which caught my eye again this year was an exceptionally poignant story of one horse’s experience in the First World War – “War Horse” by Michael Morpurgo. In 1914, Joey, a young farm horse, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges towards the enemy, witnessing the horror of the frontline. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey’s courage touches the soldiers around him.
In World War I over ten million people, mainly young men, died. The war also claimed the lives of over six million horses. And it is this horrifying period of world history that forms the backdrop for War Horse, a tragic tale that is told from the viewpoint of the horse, Joey. It is a tale that cleverly portrays the ridiculousness of war by showing the horse’s complete incomprehension of what was unfolding in the trenches and on the battlefield; the horse is simply unable to comprehend how, or why, anybody or anything would behave in such a violent, unthinking way and be able to commit such horrific acts. War Horse highlights human cruelty and human disdain for both animals and each other whilst also highlighting just how powerful love and courage can be.
There is so much conflict happening in varying parts of the world at the moment. Sometimes we just need to stop and take stock of what’s happening around us, to ponder on what’s going on in our own lives and to find some quiet space to think and reflect. I like to listen to some stirring, but reflective music. One piece I find myself humming time and time again with it’s wonderful cello solo is the Benedictus from Karl Jenkins’ work “The Armed Man”: A Mass for Peace’. Each of us will have our own favourite reflective piece or genre of music which brings us a sense of calm and inner peace. Some may prefer to go for a walk around our beautiful countryside and for those who prefer a quiet place, you are welcome to come and use St George’s Chapel for silent reflection, where I pray you will find an inner spiritual rest.
With every blessing
Throughout history, in-group/out-group dynamics have pitted brother against sister, husband against wife, aunt against uncle, cousin against cousin, child against parent.
The genocide in Rwanda is just one of the more recent examples. We may think we are different. Every person willing to speak about what happened there says the same thing. Except for the evidence before them, they would not believe that their loved-ones neighbour could become hated ones. It seems incomprehensible, but the same capacity is inside each of us. Learning to overcome our default social setting is the only way to guarantee that we will not turn eyes of hate on to those we love.
We like having clear categories, clear boundaries. We have a visceral reaction against cooperation or collaboration with the “enemy”. It is too reminiscent of the World Wars and the hated collaborators who betrayed those who helped the Jews escape, or turned Jewish men and women and children over to the Gestapo for deportation. Collaboration takes us too near appeasement. However, working with our enemies in ways that do not betray our core values humanizes us all. We embrace our shared humanity. Learning to see and integrate different points of view can keep our loved ones as loved ones and foster peace with our enemies. The more people practise these skills, the less hate is generated.
The only other option is to let our children and grandchildren continue to turn eyes of love to hate. The tales of Romeo and Juliet , West Side Story or Joseph and his Amazing Colourful Dream Coat (straight from the Bible Genesis 37 :1-35) illustrate the risk that transcends class, culture, and time. Audiences always leave the theatre thinking, “I’d be different.” We hope, with God’s blessing, we will be.
Several years ago my younger daughter went to a class on how to succeed at singing auditions. She learnt two things:-
- Not to kneel down.
- If scared, to take a small step out of your current position and your legs will stop shaking.
We can learn from both these pieces of advice.
Kneeling to sing involves at some stage, getting back onto your feet. You may overbalance and fall and the effect leaves not the best memory of the performance. Kneeling down has its proper time and place, for example, when praying or when helping someone who has fallen.
Arrow prayers, (the ones which are sudden urgent needs), or most things we do to help others, are better done on our feet or sitting down. We do not want to be so busy overbalancing in our prayer life that we do not see around us all the people who need our everyday contact – a visit, a word, a phone call, a smile, a helping hand.
Nearly everyone feels nervous when standing up to sing, to read, to perform or to do any new task. Taking that small step often works – I know because I often have to do this. In our lives we should step out of our comfort zone and, step into the nervous zone and then out the other side and accomplish new things.
Recently I was with friends when we saw a shop with “Christian Duplicating Service”. We suspected that Christian was his name – but it makes you wonder how, in real life, this could be done.
May we all receive God’s blessing.
Just over a month ago I finished my training at Ripon College Cuddesdon, a theological college in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, and I said my “goodbyes” to many good friends there that I made during my two years of study; many of us were sent out to serve the Church in various parishes scattered throughout the country whilst others remained at college. My “endings” gave way to my “new beginnings” as I moved to Staplehurst, and following ordination as a Deacon at the end of June in Canterbury Cathedral, I began my curacy at All Saints’ under the care and guidance of Silke.
It has been a month of transitions. A new area, a new home, a new role, new routines and new people to meet and to get to know, and names to remember! Despite having a career in the National Health Service for 25 years, and living in many places during my life from industrial Sheffield to parts of Essex and Kent, I have always found transitions both testing but also full of excitement and opportunity. I have enjoyed my “new beginnings” here in Staplehurst and I have met so many kind, friendly and supportive people. The village has real warmth to it and I have felt welcomed here. My first day at All Saints’ was a joy and I was greeted with so much friendliness and generous hospitality. And Staplehurst and the Parish Church are also so full of talent; I was blessed to be here for the Alternative Flower Festival, with its many awe-inspiring and spectacular displays, and the concert on Saturday evening and the Songs of Praise service on Sunday were both memorable and uplifting events.
I give thanks for both my “endings” and for my new opportunities here. I hope that I can serve the people of Staplehurst and All Saints’ to the best of my ability as part of the team at the Parish Church. Although I have not been in the parish that long I am keen to get to know as many people as possible in the Church and in the village and so please feel free to contact me via e-mail or telephone or just say “hello” if you spot me walking to the Church or out and about in the village!
All the very best,