SPRING IS ON THE WAY
Ginni has rashly invited me to take over this first page of Pax for the foreseeable future. Although I live in Clifton I have been helping to lead worship in the benefice for about 20 years as a retired priest and I am delighted to help her in this way.
February reminds us of two of Christianity's many martyrs - one barely known, the other a household name. There will not be a special service in the benefice to remember St. Polycarp of Smyrna on 23rd February. Yet
he has been my inspiration ever since I discovered his story while researching the martyrs of the early Church
in the mid-1960’s for a post graduate degree which I never got. It is too long for this column but suffice it to say that in 155 AD he was ordered by the local magistrate (in a time of persecution) to sacrifice before an image of the Roman Emperor and revile Christ, or be burned to death. The 86 year old bishop replied 'Eighty and six years have I served Christ and he has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?' He was then put to death in this particularly horrible way. There are pages of the story and it is worth looking up in search engines. He has been both an example and a challenge to me all through my ministry and I always think about him this month.
A few days before St. Polycarp's Day, on 14th February we remember St. Valentine, who was martyred in Rome in 270 AD at the age of 42. He ministered to persecuted Christians in Rome and became one of them in due time; that is about all we know for certain about him. These days of course his day is associated with love and romance. It's the day when couples get sentimental with each other, the makers of greetings cards enjoy major sales and the writers of their contents are at their gruesome worst. For we older ones it is a day when we look back on the past and smile - happy memories.........!
Above all, St. Valentine's Day is a reminder that spring is on its way. I am writing this in mid-January. The Covid-19 virus is rampaging, the days are cold and dark, and there seems no end to these depressive conditions. It remains to be seen whether this will be one of the colder winters but few surely can be so miserable. St. Valentine's Day reminds us that spring is not that far away and that there will hopefully be an easing of all this. Whether it will mark the lessening of the Covid crisis remains to be seen, but it is a sign of hope.
Throughout the winter the clergy have received many instructions about the nature and conduct of worship, what precautions to take, and the use (or non-use) of church buildings. I am not in a position to comment on this, and even if I were the situation may have changed before Pax comes out. I would suggest that you keep
in touch with what is going on through the St. Ippolyts Church website. But whatever happens in these coming weeks please remember two things. One is that we will be doing all we can to ensure the safety of those who attend our three churches. The other is that even if they have to close at any time (as they did in the first lockdown) the Church is always there for YOU. There is hope for the future and the light is beginning to shine at the end of a long dark tunnel - and your church will always be there for you whenever you need it.
Very best wishes, Paul Lanham