Over the past few months the three Parochial Church Councils have been looking at the pattern of services in the Benefice. The existing pattern had quite a few services, which left little time for the Rector to see people in one church before rushing off to lead worship in the next one. And so a new pattern has been produced which comes in to force this month. This process has been quiet a challenge as it has meant removing some services and changing the times of a
couple of others, whilst trying very hard to give each church a fair balance of worship. As one might expect, not everyone was happy with the idea of change!
However, all three PCC's have now agreed on a new pattern which we believe gives a fair balance of worship for everyone. Details of this appear opposite. Whilst facing the challenge of balancing individual expectations against the needs of the majority, I was struck by the words of St. Paul when he wrote to Galatians: 'Bear on another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ' (Gal 6:2). It can be so easy to concentrate on our own desires to a point where we fail to take into account the needs of those around us. St. Paul tries to get us to look at life in another way. He asks us to look at what burdens those around us might be carrying - and then invites us to see how we might help them - even if that means putting ourselves out just a little.
But what does he mean when he says 'and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ'? I believe he is referring to the second of the great commandments given by Jesus when he said 'love your neighbour as yourself'. When we love someone, then we want the best for them and we don't want them to be weighed down with heavy burdens. Life is so much better when we share the load in love. And that doesn't just apply to individuals or local situations - it can have a global impact.
I caught a comedy programme on television recently in which British comedians were putting the French and German people down. I have to admit that the jokes were very funny and follow many centuries of such banter between nations and races. However, I did cringe at the perpetuation of this mild racism and it made me wonder how I would feel if some of my French and German friends were there watching it with me. After all, it is our attitude towards others which has been the cause of conflict in such places as Northern Ireland, Israel, Iraq and the other dangerous cities and countries of our world.
And that sustained attitude is responsible for the rise of extremism and the many tragedies that accompany it - not least the 11th September, 2001.
It is said that the greatest forest fire is started by a single spark - but such sparks need not be destructive. If each one of us decided to 'bear one another's burdens' and to encourage those around us to do the same - and have them encourage others to do likewise; just think of the impact that would have, not only on our local situation, but on the whole world!
As the last days of summer (sorry, did I say 'summer'!) draw to a close and autumn arrives - I hope that you will delight in the glory of this colourful season and enjoy much love and fellowship with those around you.
With all good wishes,