Church is like a lifeboat...

As we prepare to move to St. John’s Upper Holloway after Sunday 10th June, it is very hard to believe we have only been part of this Benefice and the communities our three churches sit at the heart of, for just short of four years. Time has literally flown by with so much happening, rendering the length of time much less important I think. None the less, it does seem very strange to be saying goodbye. We will take with us so many special memories: for example, Christmas and the glorious variety of services will be unforgettable; Remembrance Sunday an honour to share in; the two church schools feel like home; the Village Lunch in Dane End; St. Mary’s at the School; the Oasis group for women and the Men’s group; the youth ministry and so many supportive people inside and outside the church who have welcomed us into your lives, thank you all.

So why is it time for us to move on? The timing of things is always hard to decide and then explain, but we know our ‘calling’ in God is to remind and equip the church to be what God designed it to be. For us, church is like a lifeboat, always ready to rescue and save people, equipping and training those already onboard to love God and help others. I believe the greatest privilege in this life, is to help someone to know how much God loves them and to help one another grow in a relationship with Jesus. Why is the lifeboat analogy so important? Over time it is possible for something so important as a lifeboat to end up being used in very different ways. For example, a lifeboat can morph into a luxury cruise ship for those doing well in life, pandering to their every need, like an exclusive club, however friendly it is. Or, a boat offering tourist trips, giving people an interesting experience and history lesson and then returning them to shore once again. The church in very similar ways, can forget what it is here for - a luxury cruise ship, historic building?
Our best memories of serving churches are always found in the people who discover how special they are to God; in those who begin to hunger after God; who want their faith to be relevant to their everyday life; who become part of a small group growing in faith together; who want nothing more than to pray for and help others to know Jesus in their hearts too; a lifeboat with the most amazing team already on board, waiting to help others. We hope we have helped our churches to be more like that!

Thank you for welcoming and loving us, as we have loved you, in this short but very special period.

Alan Comfort, Rector

Backstories

By the time you read this, our local churches will have elected our Churchwardens and Church Councils for the coming year. We as churches thrive as a direct result of the many volunteers who rarely want praise or even to be noticed, but always do their best to support what is important to them and many others within our communities. Thank you everyone for what you do to enhance the work of St. Mary’s, All Saints’ and St. Catherine’s Churches.

Experience tells me the backstory to why people do what they do is often inspiring. Let me tell you about Nic and Clare; Nic is an insurance broker and keen golfer who married the most delightful and incredibly organised woman you could ever meet. Normal people with a son named Ben in his last year at University, but behind their normal life is an inspiring story. Every year they seek to raise thousands of pounds to help women and babies at risk in pregnancy. In fact, over the past twenty years they have helped to raise over £500,000 to fund, support and research this critical area. Follow their story: in 1998 Nic and Clare became the proud parents of Lauren born prematurely after just twenty-four weeks. I had the privilege of baptising little Lauren in Kings College Hospital soon after and she survived against all the odds for nineteen weeks before she tragically lost her life. This beyond tragic loss inspired Nic and Clare to give a huge part of their lives to raising money and helping others (The Lauren Page Trust). The volunteers story is often inspired and inspiring. Many of us have a story to tell, a cause that means everything to us, like the Snowdrop Walk in Standon on 15th April that raised funds for Child Bereavement UK. Such occasions mean so much more than the event itself.

Perhaps we can join together to thank God for every person inspired to volunteer, to give up their time to make someone else’s life better, of faith or no faith, young and older, who deserve to be noticed. We say thank you for what you do. What inspires you? When I became a Christian thirty-four years ago, God stirred in me a love for other people. I would like to tell you it had always been there, but it hadn’t. But things changed when Jesus became the centre of my life and I wanted to love God and others as never before. Ephesians 2 v 10 says; ‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Be encouraged.

Alan Comfort, Rector

Stepping back and trusting God

The story’s told of two young cockney boys declaring their devotion to one another. ‘Oi Bobby, if you had a million pounds, would you give me half? Of course I would. If you had a thousand marbles, would you give me half? You know I would. If you had ten marbles, would you give me half? That’s not fair, you know I’ve got ten marbles.’

I’m sure you agree this is a silly story even by my standards, but it does raise an interesting question: many of us talk of what we would do if we had more money, or more time, but the more important question is this: what are we willing to do with what we actually have?

As you receive this April Newsletter, the well-known events of Good Friday and Easter Day are nearly behind us. What does/did Easter mean to you? Our twenty-four-year-old son Henry turned away from God and the church nearly eight years ago. This broke our hearts back then, but we know a relationship with God only makes sense when you yourself want it. How hard it is to step back and trust God to look after those we love. (Stepping back doesn’t mean stop praying!). Well, several months ago Henry went to a church in Cambridge and found Jesus again. Jesus had not gone anywhere of course, but we sometimes drift away for a time. Henry is being baptised in his church on the afternoon of Easter Day and we are so thankful to God. What will you do with what God has done for you? Will you love him? Follow him?

We as a family, with genuine sadness, have some news for you all. We are moving on from this lovely Benefice with our last Sunday on 3rd June. When I first became a Vicar I saw many amazing people already doing the work I was just starting, and wondered what I could bring? I knew most were better than me in so many ways, but I had unique skills to offer as we all do. Since then, Jill and I have used the God given gifts we do have, to help several churches find renewed spiritual life and direction, before passing this transformed work onto someone else. It is a privilege to help, but immensely sad when it’s time for us to move on. As we head to St. John’s, Upper Holloway, we will miss so many new friends we have made here but go on praying for that beautiful work God is doing amongst you. Thank you.

Alan & Jill Comfort

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