September sees us saying goodbye to Rev. Prof. Tim Gorringe. Tim’s final service is at 10.30 am at Holcombe Burnell on 4th September. Tim arrived shortly after I arrived here. He has taken services in all of our four churches for the last fourteen years. He has made my life much easier by covering services when I have been away, and I have appreciated his help. Tim has always challenged us to think outside of our normal expectations. He has been much appreciated and leaves a big gap in our church life. Inevitably, we think of an ending, for example, someone leaving or an end of a term, course or job. It is often much harder to focus on the beginning because by its very nature it is new and to be discovered. Usually, most people are worried more than they are excited, about something new.
In the life of the churches in these villages, there seems to be a greater challenge as COVID-19 has resulted in smaller congregations. The church finances seem even more difficult than ever. There is a real concern as to how the rural churches will survive going forward. There are obvious solutions, more people and more money. I feel that our churches work well with a congregation of twenty to thirty people but in many instances we are ten people short of that aspiration. Would you consider coming to church or returning after an absence?
We have the most amazing churches in our villages. They can have a significant part to play in all our life events like baptisms, weddings and funerals. They are available to all who are in the village, the only qualification is that you live in the parish! Churches provide a green space for people to come and enjoy. They provide a quiet place for reflection and sanctuary, just to name a few of the great benefits. However, without the money to run and maintain these churches, there is always the threat of closure. Could you help by contributing time or money to the running of the churches? Unless we contribute and support our churches they will stop being our church buildings. Then they then face an uncertain future as historic buildings open or closed or become repurposed for some other use. The Diocese of Exeter has a policy to support and keep open its rural churches, even those with small congregations, especially where there is local support.
As I read the Bible it seems to be always looking forward, not trying to reinforce the status quo but looking forward to a brighter future. The Bible offers the reassurance that as we make changes for the better, we discover more about God in the new situation we find ourselves in. It seems that the more vulnerable and reliant on God’s grace we are, the better we will do in God’s eyes. As we are worried about new beginnings, now is the time to ask God to help and guide us into new situations. We may not know where it will lead us, but with God, we can be sure that it will be much better than we could have imagined.