Message from the Rector
Over the summer weeks we have, as ever, held our annual Thorpeness Summer Services. Their history goes right back to the existence of St Mary’s church in Thorpeness, dedicated (but not consecrated) in 1938. The trustees of the church would appoint their own chaplain (often, but not always, the Vicar of Aldringham) and the summer services were held there for many years. After the church was closed in the 1980s the services moved first to the Working Men’s Club and then to the Country Club. This year we held the services outdoors, by The Meare, and they were a great success. Huge thanks to the members of the Pilgrim’s Together group for organising and running them and to the clergy who put together the weekly ‘thoughts’, The Reverend James Marston and Canons Bruce Gillingham and John Tipping. Last week we rounded off the summer sequence with a service of Holy Communion in the garden of The Dolphin pub and, despite cool and windy weather, the congregation numbered 45, the choir from Aldringham church sang and welcome after-service hospitality was provided by the ever-generous pub landlord, David James. Thanks to him and to all involved in making the service work.
Also, over the summer we held outdoor services at Aldringham church. These too were a great success and attracted considerably larger congregations than we had come to expect in church over the summer weeks. For the original idea, for organising the services and running them so efficiently thanks go to David Gordon and to Sheila Brechin who has led some of them too. Those services will continue for as long as the weather allows.
The success of both of these sets of services, despite the restrictions imposed on us by the Covid-19 outbreak, is something very positive and we will certainly spend some time pondering exactly what we have learned and how to put it into practice in the future. With weather such as we have enjoyed this summer the great outdoors is very attractive and in their different but complimentary ways the services have made excellent use of it. Throw into the mix a couple of very enjoyable afternoons of music-making in Friston churchyard (when the numbers attending would have been impossible to accommodate indoors) and it just goes to show what is possible with imagination, goodwill, and a bit of hard work and prayer. We certainly missed our Aldeburgh Carnival Songs of Praise and our Lifeboat Service (they will return, all being well, next year) but, in the end, the summer has been a very good one, under the circumstances.
The celebrations continue (indoors!) next week (13th) when we all gather in Aldeburgh church at 10.30am for a service of Holy Communion presided over by James – his first after his ordination to the priesthood at 5.30 this Sunday afternoon (6th).
Please do keep James in your prayers over this weekend and be with us on the morning of the 13th.
With love, as ever
Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked ones, you shall surely die’, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life. Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: ‘Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?’ Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
Reflection by Revd Sheila Hart
All three of our readings from Scripture today have something to do with how we who are of the household of faith should behave in our dealings with both God and our fellow human beings and especially those who are fellow believers with us.
In our Old Testament reading, Ezekiel, the prophet is told by God that he has been made a sentinel – one who looks out for the welfare of another person or group of people – for the house of Israel. He is conveying God’s message to the Israelites in exile of which he is one and who throughout the whole of their history from their wanderings in the wilderness, through the period of the Judges and throughout the rule of the Kings and during the period of the prophets, have moved between faithfulness to the covenants which had been made between the Patriarchs and their descendants including David and God on their behalf through rebellion and disobedience to repentance and restoration. It is because of their lack of faithfulness to the promises of God that the Israelites find themselves in exile at the time of Ezekiel’s prophecies and here we have God giving the responsibility to Ezekiel to be faithful in conveying God’s warnings to the rebellious Israelites. Not only does God want Ezekiel to convey His message of warning to the Israelites, God also requires the blood of the Israelites at his hand if Ezekiel refuses to convey the message to them, however hard it might be for the people to swallow. However, Ezekiel is only responsible for his own faithfulness in conveying the message, not for the people’s response to it, but God’s overriding desire is that having committed wrong, the people will recognise it, admit it and turn from their wicked ways renewing their relationship with Him in the process.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the message is somewhat similar although it is no longer related to the nation, but to the individual. This is about person to person falling out in the fellowship of believers – If another member of the church sins against you. It is a matter of procedure when individuals in the church have something against another member of the church. The procedure is very clear in this passage in Matthew’s Gospel ‘Go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone,’ In other words don’t gossip about it with other members of the church; don’t gang up on the offender; just be adult about it and speak fairly and concisely about how you feel about the offence of the other toward you. Again you are not responsible for the other’s response to you and all will be well if the offender is prepared to listen to your report of his/her offence. If they are not willing to listen, then you are required to take one or two – by implication – trusted and impartial members of the church along with you so that what you are saying can be confirmed by others. If that doesn’t work, then you should go through it all again but this time with the church and if the offender refuses to listen even then, they should be treated as someone who is outside the fellowship of the church but – again by implication – as someone whom you would like to see as part of the fellowship so you’re not going to be nasty to them, but seek to leave the door to fellowship open to them when they choose to repent of their offence and renew their relationship with the believers.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, takes the whole teaching a step further, looking at it in terms of how we, as Christians, should always behave toward one another, both to those inside the fellowship of the church and also to those who have not yet made a commitment to Christ. Warning the members of God’s wrath if they refuse to turn from their wickedness; sorting out issues between individuals in the faith community so that relationships can be restored is no longer enough. The law of Christ is to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength and our neighbour – a member of the faith community or not – as ourselves. ‘Love,’ as Paul writes to the Romans, ‘does no wrong to a neighbour, therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.’
During the current crisis with lockdown and life being far from normal, one thing I and many of you, I am sure, have been aware of is how much love and care for others – the poor, the elderly, the sick, the weak – of our communities, has been in evidence. Shopping has been done for those who have been self-isolating; people have been looking out for each other; phone calls have been made to ensure that neighbours and friends have had their needs met; our neighbourhoods have become loving, caring communities again where people matter. As I have had conversations with various people about life after lockdown one of the most common observations that has been made is that they don’t want to lose the sense of community and care for others that this crisis has highlighted. But, I ask myself, why has it taken something like a pandemic to create a loving, caring community? Is that not the way we are called to live all the time and, in all situations, – even when things are going well with us and our movements are not restricted? Let’s pray then, that as we come out of lockdown and life begins to return to ‘normal’, that we don’t forget the basic things we have learned through this time and return to rushing about from place to place doing our own thing but forgetting the needs of our communities and the love which God commands us to have both for Him and for each other.
God our creator, you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven: let this holy food sustain us through
our earthly pilgrimage until we come to that place where hunger
and thirst are no more; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Week Ahead – Next Sunday
13th September – Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
Benefice Holy -Communion Service
Aldeburgh Parish Church
Online Service available
Suffolk Historic Churches Ride and Stride
Saturday 12th September 9am-4pm
The 2020 Ride and Stride is going ahead but will be adapted to the current Covid 19 guidelines. The Annual Sponsored Ride and Stride is a national event, and every second Saturday in September cyclists and walkers all round the country are out making money for their local county Churches Trust.
Our usual wonderful volunteers at Aldeburgh Parish Church will be taking part and a new addition too in the form of a certain member of the clergy.
Our participants currently are Revd James Marston, Adrian and Jill Brown, Richard & Emily Rapior, Mary Sidwell, Ed Wilhelm, and Fran Smith (who will be sponsored for the registering of participants).