Behold, he cometh...
Christmas is a wonderful backdrop to any good story. Indeed, Christmas is probably the best story of all time. I want to tell you the story of how we came by our new Posada figures of Mary and Joseph. We have been very fortunate to have been able to borrow the figures in past years, but now we have our own, new, Mary and Joseph...
When I was sitting comfortably outside Bocky’s Tea Rooms in the summer, waiting for a friend to join me for coffee, I noticed a lady sitting there knitting. I supposed she was a local lady and, not one to miss an opportunity, I asked her if she would be able to knit us new Mary and Joseph figures. She knew all about Posada, and how these figures go from house to house during Advent, as Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born. Lynda kindly agreed to knit them for me free of charge, and asked that I give a donation to Burrswood.
The figures finally arrived in Groombridge in September... from Jersey! Lynda, thank you so much. Throughout December they will lodge in homes around the village. Some hosts invite friends and neighbours around to share this gift of hospitality, a symbol of welcoming the Christ-Child into our world once again.
Amidst all the tinsel and baubles this Christmas, please set aside a small corner where the real Christmas story is told in your home – a small nativity scene, a Christmas card with the Madonna and Child – the story of God coming to dwell among us, as one of us, a vulnerable baby. As Christmas nears, and the nativity story builds with angels, shepherds, wise men, lambs and oxen, my prayer is that you may experience the wonder and joy of this Christmas story – as though you are hearing it for the very first time.
Behold, he cometh.
He cometh not in gold and silver...
but in lowliness and poverty,
in mildness and charity,
that he may be loved rather than feared...
Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471)
It is becoming apparent that the sexual abuse of children has been more widespread in British society than many have believed. The spheres of broadcasting and sport have recently been in the spotlight and we already know that abuse has happened in our churches. The courage of victims and survivors has led to a number of prosecutions and convictions but we cannot be confident that we know and understand the full extent of church-related sexual abuse. Some may still be unable to articulate what has happened to them; some may not have come forward because their abuser has died and others may not wish to face the process of a criminal trial.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which is taking this diocese as a case study, has initiated a Truth Project, which is designed to allow anyone to talk about their experiences and be heard with respect. I am writing now to ask you and anyone who reads this letter to think about whether this is something that you might be able to contribute to. The Truth Project offers the opportunity to disclose what has happened to you or to others. This might be sexual abuse or it might be the failure of someone to respond when abuse was suspected or reported. It is when people come forward to tell about the abuse they have suffered, about the grooming of victims they have witnessed or about the failure of people to respond, that we shall begin to understand the truth. It may be that your small piece of the jigsaw holds the key to understanding a much wider picture.
It is important that anyone who has suffered abuse has the opportunity to make sure their story has been heard. It is also important that the truth about abuse, and about how it has been responded to, is brought into the light. It is for this reason that I commend the Truth Project to you. You will find their contact details below.
One viewer in California enjoyed our 'dismantling the Gray & Davidson Organ' so much that he sent us $14,000 - which is a useful contribution to the organ fund!
We have now received approval from the Diocesan Advisory Council (DAC). The process for this is rather like the process for Listed Planning consent, but it now means we can move on to the final stage and apply to the Chancellor of the Diocese for a Faculty for this work.
It’s still not too late to sponsor a pipe!