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LOOKING BACK - LOOKING FORWARD, A Thought from Revd Paul Lanham


I shall refrain from writing directly about the Jubilee, albeit with reluctance.  Since it takes place at the start of the month it will be in the past after a few days and we will look back on it rather than forward towards it.  June for me means summer and my favourite month - apart from those irritating examinations at school and university that were the bane of my life.  And in June we start those endless Sundays after Trinity.

>Someone once came up with the idea of replacing Sundays after Trinity with Sundays after Pentecost but fortunately it never caught on.  In a sense it was a good idea.  Pentecost speaks of power and life, of creation and re-creation.  Trinity speaks of incomprehensible theology and deadness ('Firmly I believe and truly God is Three and God is One' - try working that out and weep at its impossibility).  And yet there is something timeless about it.  Once Trinity Sunday is over there are these twenty plus weeks that go through the summer and into autumn until the first frosts start to encroach.  Trinity reminds me less of theology and more of my boyhood in the village near Gloucester where my father was Rector.  I was brought up in the vast ancient rectory, walking the dog in the fields, sitting under trees, watching the farm at the end of our lane or wandering for miles in neighbouring villages on my bicycle - summer seemed never ending.  Then there was Geoff Green the organist playing Bach after the services as though he were playing to thousands in a great concert hall rather than to the forty or fifty in a village - it began my love of that music that will never die.  Quedgeley is now a vast housing estate but in those days it seemed an enormous rural playground (we left in 1961 and I have vowed never to return to see how it is now).  All that remains of those heady days is memories and a road named after my father long after we had gone and the developers had wrecked the area. 

Some of us may look back in this vein in the past with similar nostalgia, especially about the Church as it once was.  It may also leave us with a certain apprehension about how organised religion is developing and how it is viewed.  The past 70 years have seen enormous changes in the Church of England.  A lot of it has been positive but I am not sure that it has all been gain.  We are constantly being told of the threats that confront us. Yet there is so much energy, so much positiveness in Church life today, in spite of these threats and especially the decline in numbers.  We must be positive and remain positive.


When I was appointed in 1974 to my first Vicarage in darkest Accrington (of Stanley fame - the place exists beyond a football team!) my Rural Dean gave me two pieces of advice which apply not only to individual clergy but to anyone who cares about the Church and its members.  The first was to pray at the start of each day that I should have my priorities right.  The other was that faithfulness was more important than results.  I have never forgotten and have tried to live by them throughout my ministry.  But the advice is as timeless as it was when a young queen ascended to the throne 71 years ago and when so many of us were young - and innocent! 

                                                                                          Paul Lanham

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