Stephen’s Letter

Dear Friends,

The weather is changing, bringing colder nights and shorter days.  This time of year, as the nights lengthen and we can’t sunbathe anymore, you may have a sense of wanting to hibernate instead…  It feels like it’s time to close the curtains, put more coal on the fire (or turn up the central heating) and shut out the cold inhospitable world.  And hopefully, “All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin,” as we sang in the harvest hymn.

But what does it mean to have everything safely gathered in?  In reality, the weather is unpredictable and we never know what tomorrow will bring, and however hard we try, we can’t shut out the world.

We cannot ignore the signs of the world around.  Autumn is with us: leaves falling, bare branches, first frosts putting an end to the vegetables which were planted in soil once warmed by a strong spring sun.  When fruit plants are no longer fruiting and vegetables aren’t producing we know for sure that summer’s splendour is over.

Autumn is a time of the year full of endings.  So it is not surprising that these endings find expression in next month’s remembrance services: services to remember the departed.  One such service will be taking place at St Chads on the evening of Sunday November 3rd.  It is an opportunity to light candles and name loved ones we have lost.  Thus, even in the gloom we may begin to experience hope.  For, as Christmas follows the dullest and shortest days, so those candle flames, following the loss of loved ones, remind us that after endings there can be hope and light.

Of course the most dramatic and significant of all experiences of light following the deepest gloom is the resurrection of Jesus.  After his death there are fears amongst the disciples that the light which they had seen in him was lost for ever.  But Jesus’ light never dies.  Even within the deepest night he kindles a flame which never dies away.

As we “hunker down” ready for the winter storms, can we give thanks to God?  For with God, the shadows are no longer shadows.  The psalmist says, the light and the dark are as one to God.

So this letter comes to wish you light, hope and peace as the days grow shorter.

With love,