A lot seems to have happened in the Benefice since I wrote the last article for the magazine.
In September, St Mary the Virgin Church, at Bulphan, hosted a moving memorial service, at which Bishop John came to preach, to remember the American service men who died when their B17 planes crashed in Bulphan. In the same month, eight young people were prepared for Holy Communion, which culminated in them receiving their First Communion at a United Benefice Service at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Horndon-on-the-Hill, at the beginning of October. It was a joyous occasion at which Bishop John also came to preach.
And then, in October, we celebrated Harvest Festival at all three churches, and in all three church schools, through acts of worship, sharing meals, quizzes and entertainment. I would like to say a big thank you to all those who worked hard to prepare food and fun and to make the churches look so beautiful.
At harvest services, the children were given the letters H A R V E S T and were then asked to make the words ‘have’ ‘starve’ and ‘share’. Whilst we all gave thanks for what we have, we reflected on the importance of us sharing our resources with others. The food we collected was for the Thurrock Foodbank and we now have food collection boxes in all of our churches if you would like to make a donation.
We have also been collecting Christmas shoeboxes for the charity ‘Samaritan’s Purse.’ Samaritan’s Purse is an international relief and development organisation that works through local churches to proclaim and demonstrate the love of God amongst communities in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The shoeboxes are for children and young people who, otherwise, would not receive a Christmas present. You can see film clips of children receiving their Christmas shoeboxes on the Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child website: Samaritan's Purse and it is really moving to watch.
Fair Trade is something else we have been thinking about and we have also lit a candle made by the Dalit people, in India. For over 3000 years the Dalits – or Untouchables – have been positioned at the bottom of India’s society and they are still subject to the most aggressive and dehumanising abuse. Dalit Goods Co. is a website where beautiful goods made by the Dalit people can be bought to assist them in providing health and education for their families. It is well worth a look.
At the end of October we held a Benefice Service of Commemoration for those who wished to come to church and light a candle, to remember their departed family and friends.
As I have reflected on the diversity of, and emotions associated with, all these events, it has reminded me that God is interested in all aspects of our lives; in our pasts, our presents, in our celebrations, and in our struggles, and that is so reassuring. But I believe that God also likes to challenge us, gently, to remind us of the need, as children made in his image, to continue to work towards a future where we can see more glimpses of the kingdom of heaven, here on earth.