Ministry Team Letter - November 2020

NO . . . vember

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – the well-known opening to Keats’ poem “Ode to Autumn”; later he describes how “barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue.”  Which I suppose I have seen recently while out and about with the dogs.

But I have also had the words of Thomas Hood’s poem running through my head during the last few weeks: “No sun - no moon!  No morn - no noon - No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day . . . November”.

Contrasting seasonal viewpoints? – or perhaps just a reflection of the changeability of the weather at this time of year.

Maybe your choice of autumnal poetry has a different focus – memories and “Remembering”:

“Remember, Remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot . . ” – a children’s song, which echoes the turbulent political and religious history of our country – the Protestant-turned-Catholic Guy Fawkes, whose participation in the ill-fated plan to blow up King James and Parliament led to his arrest, torture and execution.

Or, of course, there are the haunting words of the Binyon poem that we use every year in our Remembrance services – “At the going down of the sun and in the morning . . . We will remember them.”

The Church, also, follows its own annual round of seasonal festivals and special occasions.

During October, we’ve been holding our much quieter than usual, socially-distanced Harvest Festivals around the Benefice.  It’s been strange listening to the organ romping through “We Plough the Fields” while sitting reading the words rather than our usual lusty singing – congregational singing is not permitted in any places of worship, of whatever faith or denomination at present, because of the risk of increased transmission of C-19.  But during these weeks as our churches re-open, I’ve found that sometimes, having to read and ponder, has brought the meaning of words which I’ve sung – more or less from memory – since childhood, into a new and sharper focus.  I listened to the refrain of “We plough the fields”, more carefully I think than I have ever sung it – “All good gifts around us, are sent from Heaven above . . “

November 1st is “All Saints’ Day” – we remember our connection with all Christians throughout the centuries who have made their way through the world, through life and death – and, as Christians believe – into eternal life.  November 2nd (All Souls’ Day) then seems a logical progression into a day for honouring and remembering the departed with love and sorrow; celebrated locally each year on the first Sunday in November with our special All Souls’ service in St Mary’s Church Kintbury.

These two Christian occasions get a bit mixed up these days with all the fun and scary frolics of Hallowe’en – and none the worse for that if we ”remember” to include some of the solemn ideas along with the tricks.

So – NO. . . vember; we all need our memories, don’t we – they are a big part of what makes us each and every one unique – and they are also the glue that holds us together in families, neighbourhoods, communities and countries.  An important month therefore and – despite the shortening days – not all bad.