My diary is full of extra visits and services for baptisms and funerals at the moment, and I am made freshly aware of the cyclical nature of life where we celebrate birth and death. In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in the order for the burial of the dead, we have these words: “Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down like a flower, he fleeth as if it were a shadow and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life, we are in death; of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee O Lord, who for our sins are justly displeased?” They are words from a Mediaeval anthem, which itself takes words from the book of Job. As I was thinking about the cyclical nature of things, and those words “Even in the midst of life, we are in death” I realised that what we are currently seeing is a reversal of this: Even in the midst of death, we are in life.
I have baptised more babies in the last year than in the three previous ones; the Circuit has received the news of the closure of two of its village churches with sorrow, and yet five new Fresh Expressions congregations have started or are about to start: Lego Church with Margaret at Colnebrook and Poyle; Gospel Church with Anne at St Andrews; Breakfast Church at High Street; Prayers and Bears at Cookham Rise and Teatime for the Soul at Windsor with me. We had five teens and tweens at Life, the Universe and Pizza, led by Elanor on Friday and 12 under-12s at ALOUD!! the singing and ukulele group on Saturday.
As I prepare for a service at Windsor next week to celebrate the lives of those who died during the preceding lockdowns, we are already looking forward to growth and development around the Circuit. We serve a risen Saviour and on days like today when I have met still one more delightful baby waiting to be baptised and heard at the Circuit Leadership Team the work being done in all our churches I am so aware of it. Today we can look forward with worry, concerned that we will once more be locked down, that our freedoms will be taken from us and that fear will win, or we can look forward with hope and wonder that Christ Jesus lives today and walks among us on our streets, in our congregations and in the stillness of our hearts.