‘From Harvest to Christmas: Hospitality To Strangers and Entertaining Angels’

One Christmas Day, Paddy came knocking on our door. Homeless and travelling, he had come to our vicarage for help. I had seen him on the roads only a couple of days before and wondered then what story he had to tell. We were just about to set out the food on our table for a family Christmas meal when Paddy came and sat in our front room. He was a bit smelly but polite and grateful for the turkey sandwiches and mince pies. In those minutes, along with the story of how he came to be travelling (and he was quite articulate), I soon discovered what an amazing capacity he had for gratitude.

People in the parish who came across Paddy had various questions to ask. Was he an irresponsible scrounger who lived like a parasite off others and refused to own up to his responsibilities at home? Was he a self-made multi-millionaire who from time to time liked to bring himself down to earth and recall what life was like before he made his fortune? Or was he an author researching a book on living in churchyards – a sort of Michelin Guide to churchyard porches, benches and nearby restaurant bins? With only the clothes he wore to protect him and the contents of his rucksack to comfort him, he searched for the kindness and goodwill of strangers to restore his belief in humanity and maybe even God. From what I could tell, however, he had an extraordinary appreciation for the gift of each day and the need to live life a day at a time, wherever possible.

From Harvest thankfulness through to Christmas, Christians are encouraged to show generous hospitality to strangers. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ (Hebrews 13:2). I wonder whether daily we are surrounded by ‘angels’ who are sent to teach us about God and His salvation. If only we could be more aware of them. For it seems as if we are given each other’s prayerful company in order to fulfil our destiny, helping us to listen to the word of God through the Bible, through belonging to the Body of Christ, through the ministry of prayer. We hold the secret of others’ salvation in our hearts and lives as well as our own. Furthermore, Paddy made me think about my relationships and the need to see my faith not simply as something that works for God and me. For faith is also about having some faith in others, even in the most unlikely circumstances.

As we celebrate Harvest in our churches the theme of thankfulness will be very evident. We will be celebrating God’s love and provision. We will be doing this in our buildings, and God invites everyone to his party! As I think of this new opportunity to buy back the Old Vicarage, I love the vision of this building as a focus for a future parish-wide and town-wide youth and community centre. Buildings are a visible part of that invitation. As we think about the future we will be ‘entertaining strangers’. The test of the invitation is the love and care of the people within so that people in the local community will know where to find us when they need us. It will be a test of our generosity as we seek to raise the funds for such a mission. Let us mirror the grace of God and His hospitality towards us and enable this vision to become reality.

Nick Clarke Team Rector

Celebrating God’s Glory was the theme for this year’s Holiday at Home, held at St Aldhelm’s Church Centre. A good number gathered to enjoy the very varied programme and the delicious lunches. After morning coffee it was difficult to choose between the different craft activities, including flower arranging, quilling, Iris folding, knitting and crochet. Before lunch the Thought for the Day focussed on God’s Glory in the Word, in Salvation and in New Creation.

One afternoon Anni Douglas gave a whistle stop Tour of the Holy Land which was illustrated with some beautiful pictures from her visits there. Another was spent listening to local poets sharing their work, and then we heard about Fire Safety.

We are always aware of the tremendous amount of planning and preparation that takes place before these events and all who attended expressed their thanks to Belinda Watt and her helpers.

Anne Bond

Volunteering

The Jottings Team heard that you both volunteered for 2 festival events this summer.

What were they?
We volunteered as stewards at Bestival, a local music festival, and as part of the setting up team for Soul Survivor, a Christian camp for young people.

For which organisation did you volunteer?
The volunteering at Bestival was through Oxfam, meaning that the profit produced from the stewarding team went towards fighting international poverty. Our volunteering at Soul Survivor aided the work of the event’s production team.

How did you hear about the possibility of volunteering?
We heard about Oxfam volunteering from a friend and found out about the opportunity to be on a Soul Survivor team on their website.

Before you went what did you think you would be doing to help the organisations?
From previous experience, we had a fairly good idea about what the Bestival stewarding involved. The Soul survivor volunteering, on the other hand, was a lot more of a mystery. We thought we were likely to be unpacking vans and putting up signs.

What did you actually do?
Two days before the Soul Survivor festival kicked off, we displayed safety signs and banners for decoration, cut sections of carpet to protect marquee pegs, put out pedestrian railings, spray painted a display board and helped to prepare the music stages ready for the first main meeting when the campers arrive. Our duties were over by the first evening of the week meaning that we could attend all the seminars and main meetings we wanted to.

The Oxfam stewarding involved 3 x 8 hour shifts across the week which consisted of directing the attendees to the right places (most of the time) and answering their questions about the festival.

For each of you what were your best and worst moments?
Joanna
Worst moment: Very nearly falling asleep during the midnight until 8am stewarding shift at Bestival!

Best moments: Lots of interesting conversations with new people at both events and pointing out to our friends our handiwork at Soul Survivor when the event kicked off. My favourite seminar at Soul

Survivor was ‘How to hear God’s voice in life’s biggest moments’ as it was easily applicable and relevant for me.

Emma
Worst moment: The realisation that after carefully covering a Soul Survivor stage railing with gaffer tape, I had taped the wrong poles.

Best moments: At Bestival, when a friend brought me some cheesy chips to get me through the stewarding night shift.

At Soul Survivor, we met an inspiring group of young people and forming a prayer circle with them after one of the meetings is one of my most memorable moments from the festival.

Emma Dobson & Joanna Boyd

Book review

I am a dipper into books now and have enjoyed bits from books on my shelf. John Burningham has put together a Compendium of Childhood which consists of childhood memories from a diverse range of people with very different backgrounds – John Major, Jeffrey Archer, Sylvia Sims, with quotes from Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde among others. All good for bed time!

It was first published in 2004 supporting UNICEF.

Anne Bond

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