Vicar's Blog ~ May 2020
Nearly twenty years ago, just after the Millennium had inspired us in all sorts of ways, folk began to notice that over the horizon was the year 2020. Not quite palindromic, it is a double number, of promise, and of course, of vision. With eyesight so much in the news this week… I’m reminded that so many organisations began to ‘see’ that a good way of ‘looking’ forward would be to talk in terms of a ‘2020 vision’. The Diocese of London were among them, as indeed were the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers. In the early twenty-first century we began to wonder what our vision for 2020 would be, what the world would look like in 2020, and, most importantly, how organisations, churches, individuals even, could not only prepare for the year 2020, but be proactive in determining what kind of (better) world we might want or expect, and, for example whether certain diseases, attitudes injustices, etc might be changed or eradicated. Of course there have been major achievements in the last twenty years, many of which are to be celebrated and enjoyed. Have a think about what they might be. But perhaps, also wonder whether we could possibly have imagined that 2020 would be like THIS, eighteen years ago. And perhaps in doing so, there is some hollow laughter that might slip out. Globally nations were trying to say and do the right things about world debt. Now we are looking at a global debt situation which we would not have foreseen. We were anticipating major developments in medicine. There have been many, but here we are laid low by a minuscule virus, just as they were in 1918. (Our dealing with it is of course very different). I wonder if, honestly, anyone foresaw Brexit twenty years ago. Meanwhile many did foresee the expansion of the internet and mobile phones and the impact they would have on our lives, transforming them. I managed to get on the front page of the Times in 2002 and on the Today programme for writing a spoof ‘wedding liturgy’ for someone becoming ‘wedded’ to their mobile phones. Everyone laughed. Except Sue McGregor on Radio 4 who in quizzing me live didn’t seem to understand that it was a joke. I wonder where exactly, your mobile phone is right now? In your pocket or handbag I daresay.
Eighteen years ago you were looking forward (I guess), to having a new Vicar, and we were all forming 2020 visions for ourselves, trying to see clearly the road ahead. You didn’t know who was coming, or how long he would stay (back then there was no way you were going to get Dawn French as your Vicar). As I recall, folk didn’t expect me to stay very long when I did arrive. But we did and have, and are only leaving because, according to the Letters Patent I received the other day, her Majesty ‘commanding and requiring the Bishop of Rochester to ‘institute, induct and invest with all and every the rights members and appurtenances therunto belonging and to do all and singular other matters and things in anywise touching or concerning the admission institution and induction aforesaid…. (‘to the Canonry Residentiary in Our Cathedral Church of Rochester in Our County of Kent’). So much for that, it has to be admitted, rather cool letter of appointment.
Yet words cannot express or sum up the greatness of the privilege; the bountiful joy; the depth of affection, the quality of laughter, power of prayer and breadth of love we have shared and received as companions on the pilgrimage road that has woven its way around Enfield, to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Jordan and back. We have travelled together in so many ways, literally, physically, mentally, spiritually, faithfully. We have shared in baptisms, marriages and of course, too many funerals. I will leave many friends under the hallowed turf atop Windmill Hill. We shall miss them, and you, all.
There is, as you well know, a time for everything. We could not have predicted how this present time would pan out - our twenty-twenty vision certainly became foggy as 2020 progressed, and now half-way through, we can barely see beyond the locked-down noses on our face! But it is time. Time to leave, time to arrive, time to move. Time to turn parishioners into friends without portfolio, time to promise to stay in touch - and mean it - and of course, time to commit the joyful past, and all our futures to the mercy and care of God, knowing that in all things - even if our 2020 vision is pretty useless at the moment - light and hope is coming, to illuminate paths and, by the grace of the Holy Spirit to lead you; to lead someone to you, and for me to reassure you, as Julian of Norwich famously put it, that ‘all shall be well, and all manner of thing, well’.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Reflections of a Royal Philosopher)
Go well, and stay well,