Rector's Monthly Letter August 2018

Dear Friends

My first week as Priest in Charge at Heanton, Marwood and West Down has been one of meeting up with lots of different people, some that I have known for a while and others that I have not met previously. As I have spoken with and listened to them I have become aware of how much we need each other for support and encouragement, particularly during times of pain and suffering. I have also become aware of how much care and concern is actually given out. I also enjoyed wandering around at the West Down village fayre and saw there the contribution that many are making to village life. As I look back on these things and look ahead to the Village v Church cricket match at Heanton, I am reminded that humans are relational beings and need to be with and alongside others in order to function well.

My thoughts on this have been very much shaped by my experiences as part of the Lee Abbey community. This intentionally Christian community came into being to enable individuals and churches to grow in faith and extend the work of God through providing retreats, conferences and holidays. Whilst at Lee Abbey, Claire and I experienced deeper and more open relationships and a greater sense of community than we had previously known. This is not to say that the relationships there were always easy, just more real and honest. Among a group of people with whom we worked, prayed and shared meals on a daily basis we could not hide our real selves. Whilst this came with a sense of vulnerability it was also very liberating. To be accepted for who we are is a mark of authentic community.

Yet I do not believe that it is possible to create such community when the community itself is the sole aim. The community cannot be the only reason for its existence. Instead it naturally arises when people gather around a shared vision of something beyond themselves.

In a world where image is everything, true community is about substance. Churches are called by God to be models of community and we have to continually look towards the vision that will enable it to happen.