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Monthly Letter

Dear Friends

September sees the Autumnal Equinox when night and day are about the same length of time. From here on out, the temperatures will begin to drop and the days start to get shorter. In medieval times the observance of the Feast of Archangel Michael was introduced on 29 September, replacing the earlier Pagan solstices. By Michaelmas the harvest had to be completed and the new cycle of farming would begin. It was a time for new leases, rendering accounts and paying annual dues.

Nowadays it is still a time for new beginnings. It is the start of a new school year for many of our youngsters, who face new academic challenges, potential new friendships, new horizons, and perhaps unfamiliar teachers.

This year all of us at St John’s are in a pretty similar situation – for we have a new teacher! What’s more for many of us a relatively young one, who will be introducing us to new ideas in perhaps a different way, as we face together the challenges that will come our way as we approach the 2020’s. For instance the inequality and injustice of our world, indeed all the questions that people of faith have to confront, so we may ‘put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life…that we may rise to the life immortal’.

This month sees us turning our thoughts to Passchendaele as we remember the September of 2017. It remains one of the most notorious battles of the First World War which saw an estimated 550,000 Allied and German troops killed, wounded or lost. Again the question that challenges us, as Christians, is where was God? Why did He allow this to happen? Similar questions are put by Habakkuk in the beginning of the eponymous Old Testament book:

‘O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear? Why dost thou make me see wrongs and look upon trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise…’

Habakkuk receives an answer to his questions in Chapter 2 of this short book (page 890 in our pew Bibles). One suspects that it is not the answer that he was expecting when he stations himself on his watchtower, and perhaps it was even an answer that he didn’t want to hear! The Day of Reckoning will be coming:

‘If it seems slow, wait for it; It will surely come, it will not delay…. For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’.

For Christians, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the Archangels and is honoured for defeating Satan in the war in heaven in St John the Divine’s Book of Revelations (12:7-9); bringing us back to Passchendaele, within the supposed war to end all wars, seeking evidence of God’s presence there, as difficult for us to comprehend as Jesus on the cross, God’s sacrifice of his Son.

As our interregnum draws to a close, I would like to pay tribute to all the members of St John’s community who have helped to make this period a success, by taking on extra responsibilities and carrying on with all the manifold tasks, many of which are taken for granted until something unforeseen crops up, so that our services are prepared for and are meaningful. Our faithful choir and Reader deserve a special mention, as well as our visiting clergy who have looked after us admirably, not only with Sunday services, but during this period of abundant weddings, baptisms and a number of funerals. Thanks to those who helped in the essential task of preparing the Parish Profile for the discernment of our new incumbent, and of course to our administrator for all the extra work she has undertaken in such a professional and friendly manner.

Let the new season commence!

Jonathan Gadd