One of the pleasures of being in ministry at Most Holy and Undivided is the location of the Rector’s office. (All right, there are moments when it is also one of the challenges of being in ministry at Most Holy and Undivided!) But most of the time it is a joy to be in this so-permeable space, where I have no choice but to hear so much going on, upstairs and down, in the nave and chancel, in Upper Hall and Lower Hall and often in the Green Room and the corridor spaces as well: at times even in the “lonely East Wing.” This ever-unfolding, ongoing “sound portrait” of life in Most Holy and Undivided offers plenty of material for reflection on who we are and what we do, and ultimately on the goodness of God to us and through us.
As I turn to writing this report, finally (one of the things I sometimes hear is Dreamsecretary sighing, next door…), the sound portrait is especially rich and inspiring. To the left of me, more or less, the sounds of renovation: hand tools and power tools of all kinds, and much masculine conversation (yesterday afternoon this sound was further enriched with feminine conversation, as the kitchen renovators and the Knit-Wits worked and socialized in the Upper Hall). There is even the occasional enlivening crash of demolition, to keep us all alert.
At the same time, to the right of me, more or less, the sound of organ practice. What at first sounds unfamiliar, random, resolves itself into a familiar hymn tune (the words of the hymn hovering just on the verge of awareness), and the tune works its way through countless variations of harmony, register, tempo, volume. (In the meantime, kitchen renovations continue to provide accents of percussion.)
And it seems to me that once again this odd combination of sounds, sometimes jarring, sometimes wonderfully harmonious, is a kind of capsule summary of our life together at MH&U during the past year. If there are special emphases, they might include things like the ongoing work on our church building—with all its special challenges. The beauty of an old building is balanced by its fragility; the joy of worshipping in it, in balance with the chagrin of discovering yet another imperfection in its infrastructure.
Another emphasis in the last twelve months has been our work with families; with children of nursery and Sunday School age, with the appointment of a Co-ordinator for our young people; in another way, also, our work with couples approaching marriage, and our outings for seniors. If we were to balance those accomplishments with the not-yet-done, I would think of our unmet need for a Parents’n’Babies program, and the hope that we might this year provide a helpful and nourishing ministry to singles as well.
There is satisfaction too in contemplating the ways we strengthen our community internally and externally with social occasions, work bees of all sorts, including that hardy perennial, the semi-annual Rummage Sale, and with music in so many different forms. The opportunity to sing together, so easily taken for granted in our experience of worship, grows ever rarer in the world around us—even in the churches around us.
Considering our music, in turn, reminds me of all the ways, musical and other, in which we support and interact with our neighbours in this community and in the wider world – all the kinds of outreach that are empowered by this congregation’s understanding of God’s goodness.
Part of strengthening our community life is marking personal milestones for the members of our own congregation – birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, promotions and so forth. I look back at a year with baptisms, weddings, birthday and anniversary parties, and, of course, memorials too. In 2007 we bade farewell to a number of long-time, indeed lifelong parishioners: ... We give thanks for their lives and for the assurance that we need not mourn as must those without our hope, rooted in Christ’s resurrection.
Exploring and growing into “the reasons for the hope that is in us” is part of the function of our Christian Education programme for adults as well as for our children. During the past year we have explored a number of Christian thinkers; this year we continue an end-to-end study of Matthew’s Gospel (feel free to drop in, any Tuesday evening), interrupted by special book study session during Lent and Advent. We look forward to more early-Sunday-afternoon presentations by parishioners and guests, on the model of the “Epiphanies all over the place” that we have enjoyed in the last month. Christian Education in this season of our lives has to have in view the ever more pervasive attacks not just upon churches but on Christianity itself, and, in fact, any form of religious faith. We can no longer count on, or coast on, a residue of even low-level respect for religious belief and practice in our society; it behooves us to know what we are about, and why, and also to know how to make that clear to onlookers who may be not only uninformed but actively hostile.
No small part of the gratitude we feel as members of a parish (and this brings me back to the impromptu symphonies I hear in my office) is that our thankfulness to God for the many blessings we enjoy cannot be expressed or even experienced without a parallel recognition of how God’s goodness is ministered to us through the dedication and spontaneity and uniqueness of the human beings with whom we work and worship. As I give thanks to God, then, for another year as Rector in this place, I am also thinking with gratitude of a great many human beings. Some of them have written reports for this meeting. More of them are named in the reports for this meeting. Many whose names may not appear here or elsewhere are still essential to the fullness of our life together. I am grateful to you all, each and severally, more than I can say.
But I would like to thank specifically, first, our invaluable Office Administrator – not least for her unfailing positivity and good humour. As one of my Internet clergy-friends commented, “the stuff that dreams are made of.” And my own work has been made, in various ways, very much easier and vastly more pleasant this year by the collegial presence and activity of the Reverend Curate and Mrs. Curate, to whom we wish all good things in their new posting, and of the Reverend Honorary Assistant and Mrs. HA, whom it is a joy to welcome into our midst.
As we embark, this next week, upon our Lenten discipline, I hope that thankfulness for the past year will empower us to attend with diligence to our thoughts, our habits, our speech and our action, to examine our lives and open ourselves to God’s transforming power wherever changes need to be made, and will strengthen our willingness to take time to prepare properly for the great celebration of Easter.