So much has happened in our Benefice in the last year – We have been without a Priest in Charge for over a year, as I write this. Hopefully 2016 will be when we welcome a new Incumbent. 2015 has been a year during which we have reflected on all the many new initiatives that Revd Elaine brought to us. She helped us to bring our worship into the 21st Century, the new music enabled by Kay Askew and the music of the Filling Station. Our Filling Station was the first one in the entire West Midlands – now there are about 7 in the West Midlands, many started as a result of coming to worship with us.
Puppet Praise has grown, we have had to buy more Puppets, this growth could not have happened without the ‘Leebotwood team of ladies’ – Mary Wilson, Sylvia Ashley and Doreen Mansell aided and abetted by Neil and Mary Cadman who provide a lavish spread of delicious food for the children and very welcome cups of tea for the grown ups! Kay, again, has been instrumental in her work with the children, not only with knowing what activities they would like to engage with, but inspiring the children to lead the drama with such enthusiasm. I think all ages who take part have been encouraged to see the children grow in confidence, and to feel privileged to share worship together. A wonderful example of what the Church calls ‘Messy Church’.
There are too many things for me to list regarding the many new initiatives that Elaine started, I will mention one more, however. She welcomed children to our services, she did this by including them in leading worship, by making them feel equal members of the church, which children are. People often say ‘the children are our future’ when welcoming children to our churches. My response is always ‘ actually, children are our present’. Children’s spirituality is as valid as your’s or mine. They are entitled to be taken as seriously as anyone else.
As we reflect more widely on the many awful events of 2015 – the Paris Massacre, the highest floods in Cumbria – the question we so often ask is ‘where is God in this?’ At Christmas we celebrate the fact that God sent us his son, Jesus Christ, to be born as man and live and work amongst us to show us more about God, to show us that God is love. So where is God in these disasters? You will find God in the immeasurable acts of kindness and good that emerge in these situations. I commend anyone who has not read this tribute from Antoine Leiris who lost his wife Helene in the Bataclan theatre in Paris… His facebook tribute to her killers has since been shared thousands of times..he said ‘ I will not give you the gift of hating you’….. he didn’t deny his tremendous overwhelming feelings of grief and sadness, and when talking of his 17 month old baby he made the point that he (their son) would eat every day, play every day and he says, ‘I will insult you with his happiness and freedom.’ ‘You will not have my hatred.’
We, most often, do not notice the God of Love when disaster strikes, yes we may turn to prayer in desperation. This question of ‘where is God in this?’ is one which we are hoping to explore in our Filling Station talks after Easter. So please do come and join us. There is more about Filling Station in the magazine, elsewhere.