‘Random’ Events

17th March 2023

Three random events this week which are somehow connected in the way that we view life, faith and worship.

A dear lady attending the Dower House Lent Course gave Helen a collection of special service orders that had been collected by her grandfather over the course of 15 or 20 years from services at Westminster Abbey. She kindly thought that I might be interested in seeing them, which I was. I’m not whether he had an official role or was just someone who happened to be invited to these events in the life and worship of our nation, but he must have been well connected as these are some of the major services held at the Abbey in the first half of the 20th Century. The first, and perhaps the most special service order is: ‘The Funeral Service of a British Warrior’, on the Second Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice. This we known as the burial of the unknown soldier. The last is a ‘Form of Prayer to Almighty God at this Time of War’ on the first Sunday of October 1939 – just after the start of the second world war. In between there are others in 1921, 1929, 1935 and 1937.

They are faded and worn but the language and structure is reverent and beautiful. It reminds me of the great history and tradition that we have within the Christian church and in particular the Church of England.

The second event this week was the digital mapping of our churches. Our quinquennials revealed that we lacked accurate, up to date measurements or charts of our church buildings. Historically these would have been created by physical measurements, but over the course of a few days both St Mary’s and St Swithun’s have been digitally measured and scanned using up to date laser technology. This will allow us to consider a re-ordering at St Swithun’s and also to think further about how St Mary’s too, might meet the needs of our village and wider society in the years to come. This reminds me that there’s always the need to think how we move forward – we rejoice and cherish the history but know that our service, witness and life takes places within an ever-changing world.

Thirdly, and this is random – is the death of Dick Fosbury – the great higher jumper who revolutionised high-jumping in the 1968 with the Fosbury Flop. Prior to that time there were ‘scissor jumps’ and then the ‘straddle jump’ – but Fosbury, in one single, radical departure changed the course of high jumping by going over the bar backwards. I remember our school high jump record went from 1.56m to 1.88m in the course of a single season as Les Sissons perfected the technique after the school bought a soft landing bed! It reminds me that sometime radical things can bring amazing change and cause us to do things completely differently.

All this applies to our lives – we need tradition and certainty, but must always be open to change and improvements, and every now and then there will be a radical breakthrough that changes everything. We see this in society right now with the introduction of AI technology – the news that a new version of ChatGPT can configure a recipe from a picture of your fridge contents seems to open incredible opportunities not just in the kitchen but in all areas of how we live.

It also applies to our worshipping life and the life of faith – we hold fast and value traditions and history, but are open to trying new things in worship – think about the songs we sing today to those that were sung 50 or 100 years ago.

And further still there are radical changes that the Church of England has ushered in – especially around the creation of Resources Churches which are seeking to bring in deep societal transformation. We might not fully appreciate how these things will apply to us, we might even think that they are a fad and that they, in time, will not last – but it’s good to see these initiative and be open to them and how they might help us.

We value the past, seek to always be moving forward and are open to any radical changes that the Holy Spirit may bring to us – it’s a blend that works and allows us to cherish our worshiping life of faith and witness here in the Worthys.

Revd Paul