Vicar

A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

Hi Everyone,

I appreciate that when you read this letter we will be over a month into the New Year, but nonetheless as this is the first magazine letter of 2024, may I begin it by wishing you all a Very Happy New Year.

I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas season and experienced some of God’s great love for us all in our remembrance of the Christmas stories.

In my last magazine letter for our December/January issue I wrote of some my experience of Christmas 2022 which was tinged with sorrow at the anticipated loss of my Mum, who in the run up to Christmas 2022 was seriously ill, and who eventually died at the beginning of March last year.

I know that for some of you Christmas 2023 will have been similar, as the St. Mark’s congregation have lost a couple of their long standing members, including one of our centenarians, who sadly died just 8 days or so shy of her 102nd birthday – what a great age to have reached!

At the time of writing, I am thinking about our services for Candlemas that will have taken place by the time this magazine is published, but that mark the end of what I like to refer to as the Greater Christmas season. As part of that service we shall hear in our Gospel reading the story of two great and faithful witnesses of faith, Simeon and Anna, and of their meeting the baby Jesus, in the temple precincts in Jerusalem when he was just 40 days old, and his parents had brought him to the temple to offer sacrifice as prescribed by the Jewish law at the time.

Anna, in the gospel accounts is described as a prophet who had reached a ‘great age’ and who, ‘never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.’ Simeon’s response to encountering Jesus, that day was to sing a song which these days we call the Nunc Dimitis: It is a song of joy, recognising that Simeon’s life purpose has been fulfilled: he has met his God in the flesh!

The introduction to the Candlemas service reminds us of the hinge point that the service represents: partly looking back 40 days to Jesus’ birth, but also looking forward towards our marking of Jesus death and our celebration of Easter. It would seem that no sooner have we finished Christmas than we begin our preparations for Easter.

The 14th February this year, as well as marking St. Valentine’s day, is also Ash Wednesday, the first of the 40 days of preparation for Easter, that we call Lent. Traditionally, it is a period of self-denial, fasting and of alms (charitable) giving. It is a time when we are encouraged to be intentional about nurturing our awareness of God’s presence and love, with us and for us; and a time, too, when we should be intentional about our prayer life making space for God’s love to shine through us.

Within the Worcester, South-East team, there are opportunities for worship and reflection offered as a means of deepening our awareness of God with us: – Stations of the Cross (Mon evenings at St. Martin’s), and a couple of different Lent courses (Tues afternoons at Whittington; Weds mornings at St. Martin’s or Weds afternoons in Ronkswood). Why not consider joining one of these as your preparation for celebrating Easter this year?

Every blessing,

Andy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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