2020 Already! What on earth happened to 2019?!
Not only that, but a new decade too! Twenty years since the Millennium Celebrations which, quite honestly, feel to me about five or six years ago rather than twenty…
On a personal level, any year with a nought at the end is significant for me: having been born in 1960, I’ve hit milestone birthdays every decade on that year. Advance warning – put the 31st October in your diary – Big Party at the Rectory!
But who knows what this new decade will bring – to us as individuals, and to us as church communities? There’ll be new people to meet, new things to do, new visions to embrace, new paths to walk. There will be losses too, and partings: but this is what it means to be human – to move, to change.
All this can feel destabilizing and disorientating, especially at this threshold of a new year, a new decade: but one thing that remains certain and constant in this movement of time is the great cycle of the Church Year, that eternal round of celebrations and events which can be like a lifeline, drawing us through the choppy chaos of the storms of Life.
We’re already well into the Church Year.
It started at the beginning of December with Advent, that period of waiting, of expectation. We are now in Christmastide, and will be until Candlemas, when we take leave of the crib and turn towards the Cross, looking to Lent and Holy week, before the joyous celebration of Eastertide. We then move through Ascension to Pentecost and Trinity, with the Sundays after Trinity passing us by like leaves falling from a tree or footsteps left behind in the sand on the seashore. Finally, we reach All Saints, All Souls, Remembrance & Christ the King, before the year then turns and the cycle begins again.
For centuries, scientists and theologians saw the Universe as a series of Interlocking, moving spheres, which ran smoothly, generating a divine music – the Music of the Spheres – which was a reflection of the harmony of Heaven.
The Church Year is an echo of this, the gentle movement through time, by which we can recognise the imprint of God’s Love in this world. Participating in the Church’s Year, with its journey reflecting the Birth, Death, Resurrection and Eternal Presence of Christ in our Universe, is something we can build our lives on, something that can give us both meaning and hope in a precarious world. Eternity is our ultimate goal: God’s Kingdom our ultimate home.
I feel all this is part of what that wonderful verse of “It came upon a Midnight Clear” expresses:
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.
Happy New Year! Love, Fr. John, Rector
The science of Ecology is one of the newest academic disciplines taught at Universities, and did not really exist until about the 1950s. Prior to that, we had nature study, the sort of thing written about by the Reverend Gilbert White in the Natural History of Selbourne published in 1788-9. Prior to that we also had taxonomy (classification of living organisms) in the form of a book called Systema Naturae written by Carl Linnaeus and published in 1735. Later, we also had The Origin of Species written by Charles Darwin and published in 1859. However, most of this was natural history, and most of the animals that were studied were actually shot dead by the people writing about them. The plants were collected and dried and displayed in herbaria and the animals in natural history museums that also contained collections of pinned dead insects. Killing things was excusable and seen as sport.
During the 1950s and 60s wildflower and bird guidebooks started to appear. Then with television came programmes such as ‘Look’ with Peter Scott (son of Captain Scott of the Antarctic fame). We also had Johnny Morris at Bristol Zoo as a keeper and Desmond Morris with Zoo Time from 1956 and through the 1960s. Meanwhile, schools and universities were teaching Biology along with Physics, Chemistry and Geography, but the subject of Ecology never really emerged on its own until about the early 1970s. Ecology comes from the Greek words ‘oikos logos’ which mean ‘home study’. So, the science is the study of the ‘homes’ of plants, animals and other organisms such as fungi, bacteria, algae, slime moulds viruses etc. During this time, new kinds of books began to appear such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring which tells of a terrible world resulting from the over-use of pesticides resulting in the loss of all song-birds – hence ‘Silent Spring’. This book motivated biologists to start looking at the human (anthropogenic) effects of our activities on the natural world around us. Not only that, but we started studying the effects of one organism on another and produced the term ‘balance of nature’. We looked at the water and carbon cycle, trophic cascades and such things as density dependent mortality. Suddenly we had a mature science and just in time too, because if we did not, we would have run into the seriousness of human activity effects on the planet’s ecosystems completely blind.
The Church of the Holy Cross was transformed into a forest of Christmas trees over the course of December 6th, 7th and 8th for the twelfth annual Festival of Christmas Trees. A wonderful starburst of brightly decorated Christmas trees attracted people from all over Sussex, as well as from further afield, to visit and enjoy the splendour of the magnificent display of over one hundred Christmas trees. Visitors were amazed by the wonderfully creative and stylistic hand crafted decorations.
This year was very much a magical display and the wonderful array of different decorated trees made it a very special event. A complete cross section of Uckfield’s community was represented by local businesses, charities, Church communities and schools, as well as individual people and families.
ITV Meridian came to carry out a recording on the Friday afternoon and it featured on that evening’s local evening news. Also included in this year’s Festival was live musical entertainment with a strong seasonal bias. Friday evening featured Uckfield’s talented entertainer Bernard Tagliavini. During Saturday morning Jimmy the Juggling Jester made his customary appearance to entertain the younger visitors. In the afternoon John Pontefract sang and played guitar, Tim Guntrip (the Church organist) played the organ and Uckfield Concert Brass followed playing a selection of popular Carols.
Click here to see the gallery of photographs.
In the Belmont Centre refreshments and hot lunches were available, and visitors could also purchase from stalls selling a wide variety of made hand seasonal gifts and home produce. Children could be kept busy with Face painting (by Sarah Moxon) and be creative with a number of craft activities.
I’ve just come back from a week in Venice & it was Fab.
For me, as for so many people, Venice is a really special place, and it has been ever since I first went as a child. My last visit was three years ago, when I had a glorious sabbatical studying Titian and Veronese, and it was good to “touch base” with the place again. It was as beautiful as ever, with autumn sunshine on the faded facades of the palaces and with the reflections from the water in the canals glittering on the undersides of the bridges as we passed. I can well understand Peggy Guggenheim’s rather chilly comment on the city: "It is always assumed that Venice is the ideal city for a honeymoon, but it is a serious mistake. Living in Venice, or just visiting it, means falling in love and in the heart there won't be room for anything else."
I recently heard a talk by the Historian and Television Presenter Bettany Hughes, and very good it was too. At one point she was talking about myths and history: and off the cuff she remarked that in the opinion of some neuroscientists, we can’t as individuals have a future thought without accessing a memory. In other words, in our minds the past not only roots the present but in a concrete way embodies the possibilities of the future. This resonated with me, especially in terms of prayer life.