Alton Webteam: September 2016
Though we're enjoying a late burst of summer, there are tell-tale signs that autumn is on its way. The leaves of our crab apple tree, always one of the first to lose them, are dropping alongside the beautiful but indigestible fruit. There's a certain sharpness to the air in the early morning and a faint trace of breath can be seen when I take the dogs out at night. All around there is evidence that the harvest is just about ready to be gathered. In Hampshire we're blessed with countryside on the doorstep even when we live in towns and haven't lost that connection with the farming year. Schools have begun their new year, the children smart in their uniforms — some excited at being back with friends, some apprehensive at new classes or teachers. All the extra activities that are bound up in church life have reconvened after the summer break — a welcome and reassuring routine for those who have missed their fellowship these last weeks.
September marks the start of the Methodist year and when you're part of any church — but maybe particularly so in Methodism(!) — this is the time for meetings. They're a mixed blessing perhaps, but a necessary part of church life. We couldn't function without them, nor without those involved in them, who come together to ensure the smooth-running of all that is connected with it. As you pray this week, please remember those who give their time, energy and dedication in service to this church in all its business and outreach.
Soon it will be Harvest Festival time. Remember the scents of fruit and flowers that filled the churches of our youth? Wonderfully evocative. Maybe today we take a more modern slant and contribute packets and tins — or money — to the Food Bank and local care homes. Whatever form our giving takes it's a way of saying we appreciate the many blessings God has showered upon us and of sharing those blessings with others. It's a chance to show that we care about our community and to demonstrate God's love.
Harvest is not the only opportunity we're given though. Every day God provides us with moments and encounters where we can speak of him or show his compassion in a myriad of small ways. Acts of Random Kindness — A.R.K. — that's how we change the world says 'God' (a.k.a. Morgan Freeman) in the film Evan Almighty — one act of random kindness at a time. Perhaps our challenge for this week could be to commit to at least one A.R.K and to uphold in prayer a different activity or outreach of this church each day? It seems to me that that could be a good way of embracing this autumn time — a sort of 'New Year's' resolution if you like. Happy Methodist New Year!
To pray and reflect on:
the words of this lovely hymn by Fred Pratt Green
For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God;
For the gifts to every nation, thanks be to God;
For the ploughing, sowing, reaping, silent growth while we are sleeping,
Future needs in earth's safe-keeping, thanks be to God.
In the just reward of labour, God's will is done;
In the help we give our neighbour, God's will is done;
In our world-wide task of caring for the hungry and despairing,
In the harvests we are sharing, God's will is done.
For the harvests of the Spirit, thanks be to God;
For the good we all inherit, thanks be to God;
For the wonders that astound us, for the truths that still confound us,
Most of all that love has found us, thanks be to God.
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