Season of cake and celebration
Autumn is a glorious season and, as ever I am enjoying what Keats described as the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. In our family it is also a season of birthdays. I was born on my sister’s 5th birthday, so have always shared that celebration; Tim arrived just 5 days after my 30th birthday in October 1989 and Peter made his entrance 4 days before my 34th. There are advantages and disadvantages to having all these birthdays in close succession of course; when Peter was about 3 and very much into the whole idea of receiving gifts after his own birthday, he found it very difficult over the next few days when the parcels were not for him! Tim, coming at the end of the season, has sometimes been the victim of “cake-fatigue” amongst the family, but generally, as the boys grew up, if was good fun to share our birthday month.
So it was a great treat that things worked out this year for Andrew and me to spend some time with Tim and Hannah on Tim’s special day (and also able to see other members of the family who live in Yorkshire too.)
I had been speaking in York on Saturday at the Churches Visitor and Tourism Association – an interesting small charity which does what you might expect – encourages churches to be open to visitors and then to make the best use of that opportunity. Their weekend conference was on “Pilgrimage” so I was glad to share some thoughts about how tourists might become pilgrims, something which is very much buzzing around in my head at present, perhaps still thinking over some of the beautiful small chapels I encountered in the Isle of Man in July and in Shetland just a few weeks ago.
From Yorkshire Tim and I went on together to Methodist Council where much of the agenda revolved around property and how we use it, so there was some overlap there. Unlike Cathedrals and other large (mainly Anglican) churches, many Methodist churches are closed most of the time; this seems a shame. Are there ways in which we can use our buildings better to engage with all who are travelling life’s journey (i.e. everyone) and may, once in a while, need somewhere to turn aside, somewhere to remember, somewhere to think, perhaps somewhere to be offered cake and drawn into a celebration of life…?
Tomorrow I am preaching in a church building which is very special to me. Codsall Methodist Church will be celebrating 50 years of worship in the building which I watched go up from my primary school windows, in which I had many significant encounters with God, especially in my teenage years, in which I was married and in which we said goodbye to both my parents. I feel very privileged to be leading worship there for such a great celebration.