A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

Welcome to the last month of the year – the church year that is.

Just as school years are different to the calendar year, in that they start in September and finish in August, and Universities have a different year starting and ending in September, and even the Inland revenue has a different year starting in April, so too the church has a different year – starting in Advent – the season of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas – this year 1st December. Following Advent of course come the 12 days of Christmas, and then the period called Epiphany (6th Jan – 2nd Feb) and then a number of different seasons that move around on the calendar according to the date of Easter Sunday – these seasons: Lent, Easter itself and Pentecost, are followed by a period which the church calls Ordinary time, or the Sundays after Trinity Sunday. This year, the last Sunday after Trinity fell on the 27th October (the last Sunday in October), which leaves something of a gap at the end of the Church year of four Sundays before Advent begins.

These Sundays mark a relatively new season in the Church calendar called the ‘Kingdom Season’. The Kingdom Season  reminds us of that line from the Lord’s Prayer, where we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, and is an opportunity to reflect on what that line means and what being a part of God’s kingdom is and will be like.

The first main feast day in the Kingdom season is All Saint’s day – 1st November – on which we celebrate those men and women in whose lives the church as a whole has seen the grace of God powerfully at work. It is a time to be encouraged by the example of the saints and to recall that sanctity or holiness may grow in both the ordinary circumstances and the extraordinary crises of human living.

All Saint’s day, is followed by All Souls Day, with its Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, which celebrates the saints in a more local context. It allows us to remember with thanksgiving before God those we have known more directly: those who gave us life, or who have nurtured us in faith.

Remembrance Sunday goes on to explore the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-gift, memory and forgetting.

Finally the annual cycle of the Church’s year ends with the Feast of Christ the King when we proclaim the universal sovereignty of Christ. Christ is King, yet His kingship is very different from that of any other earthly king. His life gave his followers a very different example of how to live. His kingship is not about the pursuit and maintenance of power and power structures, but is about establishing His Kingdom of love, and compassion, of justice and mercy, of grace and forgiveness. His Kingdom can only be established by the working of the Holy Spirit, changing and renewing lives and communities, just as those Saints we celebrate on All Saints Day, those Souls we commemorate on All Souls Day, and those heroes we remember on Remembrance Sunday, have changed and renewed lives and communities before.

May our celebration, our commemoration and our remembrance of them, change and renew our lives and communities that we may follow their example and the calling of the Holy Spirit and change and renew the lives of others.

Every blessing…

Revd. Andy Stand

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