Things have changed so much over the last two thousand years! That is, of course, rather obvious. Change has been as much a part of the history of the church as in every other part of human life.
We read of the early church in the book of Acts. So few people were involved to begin with, soon after the death of Jesus the church was a small persecuted group in an occupied country. The early Christians lived together and knew each other. Following that first Pentecost, the faith began to spread and the church grew fairly rapidly.
Much of the New Testament is made up of the writings of early Christians, St Paul and others. These letters were written to keep those groups of Christians in what became a widespread church in touch with the beliefs and practices of the faith. As the church spread geographically so ways had to be found to help and encourage each other, to share ideas and experiences and to continue the teaching of Christ.
Now the Christian church is truly worldwide. There are, of course, differences in ways of doing things in different places. In some places it is dangerous to be Christian. In some places it is difficult to obtain a Bible. In these places people long for news of other Christian groups, and long to be able to share with others their experiences and beliefs. In other places the church has perhaps become complacent, taking its place in society for granted.
Just as communication became important in the early church so it is in this place and at this time. We are lucky enough to be able to be open about our beliefs, but we must not become complacent and we must remember to keep in touch with our faith and our fellow Christians.
We are a large and busy parish. So much is going on- there are our services of course, and so much more. There are a wide variety of events which may be primarily social or fundraising, events led by our Harvest and Rose Queens, by the Ladies of Leesfield, by the schools, the Sunday Schools, and by the uniformed organisations – and more. There are also extra services in both our churches linked to the season of the church year.
All this is very encouraging, and is sign that the parish is healthy.
I think there are two real dangers though. Firstly it is easy to take our faith for granted and in our busy lives fail to find the time to worship with our fellow Christians. It is almost too easy – there are so many opportunities. Yet worshipping with others keeps our faith alive. Private prayer and reading is important but so is being present at our services.
Secondly, as a busy parish it is possible for people to be overlooked. Those perhaps not ‘in the loop’ may miss out on what is going on. We have a responsibility to those who may be housebound or in care homes. Our pastoral team do a great job supporting those, and I know there are others who also take this ministry seriously.
We do have ways of informing all those in our parish about our activities. This magazine, The Voice, has a role. This is produced and distributed every month by Paul and Liz – but they can only include the material they are given, and people will only know what is in there if they read it. Pewsheets are another way of keeping in touch.
These ways of communicating are vital if we are to keep everyone in touch, and the more we remember our own responsibility to inform others and to keep ourselves informed the better they will work!