A selection of articles from our parish magazine
Issue No 102 Christmas 2020
It is no understatement to say that this year has certainly been a very different year, and I am sure not what any of us could have anticipated. Like many of you, 2020 for me was filled with hope and expectations, with plans and ideas, all of which were turned upside down and inside out!
For some this has meant changes in work patterns, or the loss of a job with the difficulty of finding a new post, and the financial worry of the loss of income. For some there has been the loss of friends and family, and grieving against the backdrop of restrictions on our lives has been particularly difficult. And those restrictions have also meant we have not been able to be with those we care for, and the lack of physical contact has, for many, been one of the most difficult aspects, because we are relational beings, we need others as part of our lives in order to flourish.
In the Bible in the Old Testament, we see this pain and sorrow mirrored in the psalms –songs and prayers that speak from the heart of lament, and yet in all there is also hope.
Hope is defined as an optimistic state of mind, based on an expectation of a positive outcome, a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. And throughout this year there have been wonderful signs of hope – the coming together of our community to support our key workers, and in the process people getting to know their neighbours; the support of food banks, calls from friends and neighbours, the sunshine and the sheer determined way that people found, within the restrictions, to be there for one another.
Christian hope is based on a confident expectation that God is a very real strength, especially in times of trouble and even when we feel most alone. Christmas is the time that we celebrate the promise of God amongst us, in the birth of God’s Son, Emmanuel, which literally means God with us.
This Christmas is a time for joy and celebration after a uniquely different year, as well as an acknowledgement for those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods, that this may be a time for consolation and reflection. And underlying it all is hope, hope in human ingenuity, compassion and love, a real light in the darkest times.
As we enter a new year with the hope of better times to come, Christmas is a good time to reflect on what has sustained us in 2020, to build on that, perhaps to leave with God the things that have been especially hard, as well as to give thanks for what was good.
And this year we would like to share some images of what hope means to each of us, in this most different of years. In our Share the Hope campaign, over the 12 days of Christmas, we aim to share some of that hope across our community. (See our website and social media for more information on how to join in.)
The birth of a new child is a joyful and hopeful sign of new life and new beginnings, and this year especially, Christmas is time to look for that hope.
As we share Christmas, in whatever form it may take, be it in person or via our screens, let us look forward in hope and love knowing Jesus, the light of the world, is always with us.
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’(John 1.5)
Happy Christmas and a Hopeful New Year to all.
Celebrating James’ Priesting
James was ordained Priest at Chingford Parish Church on Saturday 27 September. The following day, he presided at Holy Communion for the first time surrounded by his family and friends. The service was also special as it was the first time St Edmund’s had shared Communion since the restrictions introduced in March.
Despite ongoing restrictions, James managed to work into the service music with Kate Alam, singing Bach’s ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ and a quartet (with his mum taking the alto part) to sing his favourite hymn ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy’ to the tune Corvedale. The Rev. Julia Sheffield – from James’ sending Parish – armed with a bunch of keys preached on the ministry that lay in front of James as a Priest in the Church.
God equips Priests to reveal Christ through their body as they walking alongside God’s people; through their minds, using their skills to aid learning; through their spirit, where they encounter the real Jesus; and in their heart, where they hold the broken middle which divides the human from the divine, said Julia as she addressed the congregation. Because of this, Priests are equipped to be the super-spreaders of God’s love and, through the mystery of Jesus’ relationship with us, makes Jesus’ presence known: a presence integral to our being and which remains with us for ever.
Share the Hope This Christmas
Let’s face it, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been nobody’s favourite year. Most of us have been stuck inside for months on end, whilst key workers have had to carry on in very difficult conditions. Sadly, some of our friends have passed away or been seriously ill, due to the pandemic, and many others have faced the worry of losing their jobs.
Lots of people will be spending Christmas on their own this year – but of course, that is actually true every year. For Christians, Christmas is always a period of great hope for the world and, particularly for children, it is often a really special time. However, the days after Christmas (which we know as the ‘twelve days of Christmas’) are, sadly, one of the times of the year when rates of depression and suicide are at their highest. In those dark days, it can be easy to feel forlorn.
With news of a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon, we all have our fingers crossed that some good news might just be in sight for 2021. Even in the darkest of times, there are always some things in life that give us hope. That’s why, this Christmas, St Edmund’s Church are asking everyone in the local area to tell us one thing that has given them hope this year.
What we are hoping to do, is collect together everyone’s ideas of hope and make a display of them on our frontage. It will be a display designed to help others in the local area not to give up hope, to maybe remind them of something good that they too can hold onto, when they’re feeling down. We will also be using some of the best ideas to spread the hope over our social media, one idea for each of the twelve days of Christmas.
What’s brought you hope this year? It might be a specific person who has given you hope, or maybe your pet. It might be the NHS who have faced this year so bravely, or perhaps something like the flowers in the park coming up at just the right time. It might be a small kindness someone showed you, or something you did. Perhaps it’s the thought of being able to see loved ones again.
Once you have thought of something that has brought you hope, you can play your part in sharing the hope with others. All you have to do is:
- Think of one thing or person that has brought you hope during this difficult year.
- Take a photo or video of whatever has given you hope, or draw a picture, or put it down in words.
- You can then submit it in the following ways:
- submit the picture or words through our online form on the Share the Hope section on our website (please make sure you fill in the consent form)
- email your picture or words to firstname.lastname@example.org
- put a copy of the picture or words through Rev’d Lesley’s letterbox (the Vicarage can be found on Larkswood Rd, directly behind the Church), with your contact details attached. Please note, we are not able to return pictures afterwards, so please do not supply precious originals.
It would be great if, this Christmas, all our frontage could be plastered in pictures and words of ways that people are keeping hopeful this year, as a method of encouraging others not to give up hope. But that will only happen if you join in. So, why not help to spread a bit of cheer this Christmas, and join us to ‘Share the Hope’!
A Story of Hope
At its heart, the story of Christmas is a story of hope. The birth of any child is a sign of hope for the future: that we will be survived by another generation who in turn will have children of their own. We watch as the child grows, being there and caring for the child; and, because the child holds out a future, so (in the words of the author P.D. James) it becomes “reasonable to struggle, to suffer, perhaps even to die, for a more just, a more compassionate society.”
The Christmas story presents us with the birth of a child born in difficult times of political intrigue and corruption, where a people living under foreign occupation were hoping for a liberator who would restore their fortunes, redeem their freedoms, and reclaim their relationship with their God.
The expectation was of strength and power and success. The unexpected reality was a child born in poverty to unmarried parents holed up in temporary accommodation. And while those who had been waiting expectantly for liberation slept, it was only to those who had not been counted into that hope – the outsider, the foreigner – who were the first to espy the beginnings of that hope being realised in this child.
In a darkened world, fraught with danger, where “death stands like mercuries in every way,” this child is as a light that shines on within that darkness, and provides hope for the bright dawning of a tomorrow and a future beyond. This child allows the world to breathe and to live again, to restart with the slate listing our histories, misdemeanours and failings wiped clean. The child in the manger presents no strength or certitudes other than unveiling the image of a God – not so much of anger and vengeance – but of self-sacrificing love, in which – even within the darkest of nights – the “hopes and fears of all the years” meet.
Celebrate the hope this Christmas.
Hope at the End of the Tunnel
We are living in uncertain times, just like our ancestors did in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, and this pandemic is like our 3rd World War. Civilians did not see the enemy face to face, just like us, and most survived.
We are on a journey and there is light at the end of the tunnel. In those dark times of the past, the government did not always know what to do – they had to seek expert advice – the same as ours today.
So we must stay focused, do what we can, and have hope in our hearts. There is light at the end of the tunnel, never lose hope.
A Time to Celebrate and a Time to Remember
During the difficult months of 2012 we were able to celebrate the wedding of a friend from the past and remembered those who we had sadly lost.
- Jean Jelves & Trevor Jarvis: Married (at St Edmund’s), Saturday 19 September 2020. Jean was a member of St Edmund’s Social Committee during Christopher Owens’ time as Vicar.
- Elaine Humphrey: Born, 3 January 1938. Died, 2 March 2020. Halls Lettings; Church Councillor; Bazaar Committee.
- Geoff Walker: Born, 19 October 1945. Died, 21 March 2020. Synod Representative; Church Councillor; Former Mayor.
- Roy Speed: Born, 17 May 1933. Died, 2 April 2020. Church Councillor; Social Committee; Country Music Club.
- Bubbles Russell: Born, 3 March 1931. Died, 14 April 2020. Lay Minister of Communion; Church Councillor; Guide Leader.
- Alex Broadhurst: Born, 8 March 1940. Died, 6 September 2020. Bereavement Group.
- Hazel Moss: Born, 6 September 1939. Died, 29 October 2020. Church Councillor.
One of the most popular Christmas services at St Edmund’s in recent years has been our Christingle on Christmas Eve. This year we still don’t 100% – know what services can be held in Church come the festive period, but what we’ve decided is we will still provide a Christingle service (or services if needed), whether that is in Church – if practical – or online if restrictions still apply.
So for those who haven’t been to a Christingle before, what is it? A Christingle is a bit of fun but more than that it is a free gift that is given without having to be earned. Though that could be any number of things, here at St Edmund’s and in most other places, it is a combination of Christmas-y things – oranges and ribbons and candles and sweets – all combined together in a ‘strange creation’ but nevertheless something that looks and smells and tastes of Christmas.
The most important thing about Christingle is that it is a celebration – a celebration of families and communities, bringing us all together even if physically separated, to share the light and spread the hope.
How to make your own Christingle
- Fasten a piece of red ribbon (or sticky tape) around the middle of an orange.
- Cut a small cross at the top of the orange and place a square of silver foil over the cross.
- Place a small candle on top and wedge it firmly into the orange.
- Place dried and glace fruits and soft sweets on 4 cocktail sticks and place them around the orange.
© 2020 St Edmund, Chingford