As I write this, I’m off on holiday tomorrow and I haven’t packed a thing yet! I love holidays once I'm away but I don’t enjoy packing my suitcase or rather trying to decide what to take and what to leave behind. I usually end up taking far too much, just in case I need it, only to bring much of it back home never worn.
But then invariably when I arrive on holiday I find I’ve forgotten to take something important – like my toothbrush! One year we set off on a camping holiday and I forgot to pack the gas bottle for the cooker – an expensive mistake. To forget to take my passport tomorrow would be pretty disastrous.
Life’s journey can be a bit like this. We can surround ourselves with a lot of what we don’t really need and neglect to have with us the really important things. People of our society in the wealthy western world, have an increasing preoccupation with possessions and the acquisition of things. They may feel that they can’t do without the latest gadget or appliance or they just have to have that extra pair of shoes. And many lured into buying with a credit card what they didn’t really need, find themselves in debt.
I believe that fruitful and contented travelling through life requires us to identify what we really need and to be satisfied with that. When we remember that many in our world don’t even have what we would consider to be the essentials in life, we may be moved to spend our spare money on a worthwhile charity.
And it’s the same in our church life. It’s worth asking – what are we carrying with us that’s weighing us down, sapping all our time and energies and stopping us from doing the real work of the Kingdom?
On a recent day off, Peter and I set out on a walk up, over and around Bredon Hill. It was quite a climb up the hill in the heat! When we reached the top, we looked back from the top and surveyed the view and the way we had come. We congratulated ourselves on making it so far.
A journey can feel like hard work sometimes - if there are obstacles along the way, our new walking shoes are rubbing, the way is unfamiliar and we need to keep looking at the map or we take a wrong turn and have to retrace our steps. But the views from the top, and all we see along the way, the sense of achievement at persevering, knowing the calories we’ve lost and the muscles we’ve strengthened, all the conversations and laughter shared along the way, all make the journey well worth the effort.
It’s good to do this as we travel on the journey of life, take time to stop and reflect, look back at and appreciate all that we have experienced and achieved and admire the view. Obstacles we thought at the time were insurmountable, we got round. The wrong turnings we made didn’t end in disaster as we somehow got back on track or went on a new route. Situations in which we felt sore and pinched have been healed and we’re feeling more comfortable in the new places where we felt hurting and uneasy at the beginning.
Of course it makes a considerable difference to us as we journey to know that God travels with us. All along the way we can sense God’s encouragement, helping us to journey with courage, giving us strength to persevere and helping us to keep our eyes on the goal of our journeying, which is life with God, for ourselves and for others; the life which we can also appreciate and work for all along the way.
We have been journeying as a single parish team in Bromsgrove for three and a half years now. Clergy and members of the PCC get a greater insight into the workings of the parish team. Others may still be struggling to understand why we do the things we do.
An example is the team service that we hold whenever there is a fifth Sunday in the month. This is an opportunity for the congregations of all the churches to come together to worship. Through our coming together we declare, not only our shared love for and faith in God, but our commitment to work together as the body of Jesus in Bromsgrove and Dodford. Though we are many, six churches, we are one body.
For many practical reasons, not least that we all know where we’ll be on that Sunday, we have decided that the fifth Sunday service will always be at All Saints Church at 10am. This is not an All Saints service to which members of the other churches are invited. It’s a team service that happens to be at All Saints. To emphasise this, each service will be led by a worship team made up from across the churches. Clergy, Readers and ALMs will all take it in turns to be involved. This gives us the opportunity for us all to experience the ministry gifts of all our worship leaders, lay and ordained. As all our churchwardens are legally wardens for every church in the parish, the wardens too will take a turn at being responsible for the running of the service, drawing in sidespeople and people to take the offertory for example. Our organists and choirs also work together to provide the music for our worship.
We have our next team service on 31st July. Please do come, to celebrate the love and goodness of God, our common life together and to support the worship leaders and officers of our churches.