I write having just returned from walking "Wesley" on the Estate cricket ground. On this particular occasion, and almost home, he caught sight of "Bailey" in a neighbour's garden and, like an exocet missle, launched himself through the brambles, over a stream, finally frustrated by a fence, preventing him from pairing up with his canine mate. Impelled, and oblivious to my pleading, Wesley was on a mission – determined to extend his adventure and do what dogs do. Bailey's owner appeared, laughing, having witnessed the performance from the window. We left the garden, waved off by my empathetic neighbour, Wesley straining at the leash; such was his energy and drive to do what he had to do....
All three Annual Meetings in the benefice have taken place: Peter Melhuish, Sally Brearley, Brian Hernaman, David Hughes, Dr Graham Stirling and Marigold Jordan were elected churchwardens. We are grateful to them for offering their time and energy, and also to those serving on the three PCCs for the next year. Of particular concern is the sustainability and viability of St Katharine's, Exbury. The co-opted PCC Secretary writes further in this edition about the two community meetings held in the church, and whilst ideas were shared, and a possible project introduced, given the very modest congregation numbers and the changed demographic of the village, the future is very uncertain. We continue to pray about this, and for the PCC who must make some difficult decisions; we need to recognise in all these deliberation that God may indeed be asking us to engage with different opportunities and priorities.
On Sunday 20th May we celebrate the feast of Pentecost - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Often colourful balloons and a cake feature, marking what Christians regard as the birthday of the Church. The disciples were a disparate group whom we have come to know quite well through the Gospel stories. Following Jesus' death, we see them meeting behind locked doors, perhaps fearful of repercussions. John's narrative tells us that the risen Lord appears to them "on the first day of the week"; reminiscent of that first day of the week in Genesis, where God the Creator begins to bring life out of chaos. In John’s Gospel, God the Redeemer comes to bring new life out of the chaos of grief and loss. Having shown the disciples his wounds, Jesus then breathes on them. In Genesis God breathes life into the creature he has made out of earth. In John’s Gospel, God's new life and hope are breathed into the fearful and uncertain disciples. The 'Acts of the Apostles', attempts to articulate the extradordinary Pentecost event: it's like a rushing mighty wind, and attendant tongues of fire. However it happened, from Pentecost onwards these people left their locked rooms and went out, preaching and teaching and embracing the danger they had previously feared. We are commissioned to go out and share what we have been given through them and after them; to call others into God’s new creation, free from fear, and empowered by the spirit.
To return to "Wesley" - he's impelled by testosterone at present – but we are fuelled by the power of God's spirit: in the spirit of Christ we are called to go and make disciples, to love others as he has loved us, to go to those places where we might not otherwise go, sharing his love and life, encouraging a spirit of oneness, hospitality and communion.
As I type Prime Minister Teresa May has called a special meeting of the Cabinet to discuss the parlous situation in Syria, and the possibility of backing military action by the US and its allies, following the suspected chemical attack in Eastern Gouta. We have become used to aweful news from the region, but we have been horrified by recent pictures of children apparently suffering the effects of chemical agents, though the Syrian leadership has dismissed it as false information. There are many layers to the narrative of the Middle East; these are unpredictable times, and there is the fear of excalation. We must pray for our Prime Minister and political leaders as they shoulder weighty responsibililtes and make difficult decisions, including the possibility of force; may they may be given the wisdom and insight to act for the common good. In the face of arguments, confusion, and apparently locked doors, may God's spirit direct us in the ways of truth and peace and trust.
We are looking forward to our benefice outing to Wells next month which John and Kathy Hughes have organised - they are well known for their thoroughness and ability to make a good day out. After stopping off at Wilton we shall make our way to the cathedral city on the edge of the Mendip Hills. Our visit culminates with Choral Evensong. It would be a perfect opportunity to invite a neighbour or friend along. We look forward to your company.
With my love and prayers - and licks from a spirited canine!