A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

Six years ago, when James was just about 6 weeks old, I wrote in my October magazine letter, about the story of Hannah.

Hannah, as I’m sure many of you will be aware, was the mother of Samuel, who was to be a great leader and prophet for the people of Israel. She had had difficulty in conceiving her son, and when he was born she gave vent to her emotions and poured out her praise to God by singing,

My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.
I Samuel 2:1

For Hannah the birth of Samuel was the ultimate victory over her  barrenness and inability to conceive, and in accordance with her times it is a victory that she ascribes to God.

In the New Testament, Hannah’s words are picked up by a young girl, in celebration and praise to God for the birth of her own son, in quite different (she found herself pregnant rather sooner than she had planned or dreamed of) and yet still difficult circumstances. That girl of course was called Mary and her son was Jesus, and her words have become the song we call the Magnificat; they are her words of praise to God on the conception of her Son.

Despite her long wait for a son, as soon as he is weaned, Hannah gives him over to serve God in the temple, in accordance with the promise she had made to God. Out of love for God, Hannah gives the gift that God has given her, back to Him.

Back then, I encouraged folk to “Count their Blessings” as Harvest Festival approached, just as we were counting our blessings with safe arrival of James into our lives. I did point out that neither of us burst into song in the delivery room – Chris was otherwise occupied, and I felt that the midwives didn’t deserve to be afflicted with my singing!

I was reminded of all this when we attended my nephew’s wedding a few weeks ago. During the signing of the registers when the Bride and Groom had left the room those of us remaining in our seats were treated to a montage of pictures, beginning with the inevitable baby photos and moving on through their lives, lived separately and then rounded off with pictures of them as a couple. Later during the speeches, there was a lot of thankfulness and joy expressed for the blessing that Edward and Eleanor, have been in their own way to their parents.

As, first Hannah and later Mary, had given thanks and expressed their joy in their offspring, so Ed and Eleanor’s parents and family had expressed their joy and delight in the couple and in the potential their marriage represents, as they both seek to live together as servants of God.

At our Harvest Festival service on the 8th October, we will give God praise for his gifts to us. Praise for the gifts of food and produce some of which we will bring back to church, to be distributed to those in need.

As we celebrate our Harvest festival this year, may we count our blessings, particularly those that come through the hard work and endeavour of people from all over the world, especially those whose blessings are not as numerous or easy to count as our own, and at the same time bring our praises and thanksgivings to God.

May God continue to bless us all, as we bless Him with our praise.


St. Philip & St. James Parish Church Whittington, Worcs. WR5 2RQ