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October 2020

This month’s letter comes from Linda Joy:

As we move now into the autumn and the leaves are starting to change colour and fall, it heralds a new season beginning, and a reminder from nature that all things are constantly changing.

We have all lived through changes that would have seemed unimaginable at the beginning of 2020, and today, as I write, the regulations and guidelines around Covid 19 are changing again.  These changes are new ways of life that we have had to learn to adjust to as we seek collectively to protect and care for one another at this time.

For young and old alike, it has been a time of great uncertainty and change and continues to be so for us all.  And yet, amongst it all there has been wonderful signs of togetherness, love and hope.  One such event for me was the wonderful wedding day of my daughter and son-in-law – a simple, beautiful day, full of love and hope for the future.

 Another sign of this togetherness and hope for many was the release of the UK Blessing, where many churches came together to produce a beautiful song that can be enjoyed through this link to Youtube.

“The Lord bless you and keep you

Make his face shine upon you

And be gracious to you

The Lord turn His face towards you

And give you peace

In the morning, in the evening

In your coming and your going

In your weeping and rejoicing

He is for you, He is for you

Amen”

In ever changing times we can rely on the love and presence of God with us.

Blessings

Linda

September 2020

This month’s letter comes from Revd Victoria Chester:

Where have the last 12 months gone?  Even though so much of the spring and summer has been spent indoors or no further than the garden gate, both seasons seem to have raced by; how can it already be September?!  Although, as someone said, time proceeds at the rate of one second per second most of us have a sense of it speeding up or slowing down at different times in our lives, even at different times of the day.  The slowing down seems to happen when we wait for something, looked for or dreaded, or are held awake in the small hours of the night; while the speeding up seems to take place when we’re in the midst of ‘living’ – special family events, holidays, even sleep can seem to whisk by when the alarm goes off before we’re ready to get up.

I can hardly believe it is almost a year since I was ordained deacon in Exeter Cathedral.  That day was so full of family, friends, music, joy in a great coming together in thanks for all that had been and all that was to come.  Looking back now that day seems to belong to another time, we didn’t have to wear masks, we could embrace and greet each other and sing our socks off!  Just 12 months on I look forward to being ordained priest in the Cathedral on the 26th of September with just 5 tickets to offer friends and family, no singing, masks and hand-wash replacing embracing; and yet I feel there is still so much to give thanks for, and hope for all that is to come.

Thanks most especially for the support, patience and generosity of our communities, colleagues, and congregations as I have learned new ministries in taking baptisms and funerals, and the privilege of sharing these life moments with people.  Thanks too for being part of new ways of worship, creating new links, new friendships within and beyond our communities in our Telephone and online services.  And hope, that in another year we can be together outside our bubbles, sing together, have time to lament and look forward together. 

Time can seem to pass very slowly waiting for life to ‘return to normal’ though, and I was also recently struck by these words from the American poet Maya Angelou, “since time is the one immaterial object we cannot influence, neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish, it is an imponderably valuable gift.” 

So that is perhaps another hope for the year to come; that however time seems to pass, in our waiting, our living and our hoping, we can welcome whatever it brings as a gift.

August 2020

Our letter this month comes from Rev Preb John Lees

Enjoying the moment

It’s a shock isn’t it, seeing so many people in East Devon. It’s good for our local economy, and good that people can have a holiday of course, but we have got used to things being…… well, quiet.

Many of us have missed seeing friends and family in person. Others have enjoyed the calm and peacefulness of life with less traffic and less frantic dashing from one event or meeting to another. It’s been good for us, in that respect, because it’s enabled us to find time to reflect, to enjoy our countryside and gardens – and we have had more time to connect with people, by phone or on screen.

I’m writing this just after coming home from the first church service I have attended since March. It’s good to be back, even with restrictions, and one of the best things was to see people face to face, all of us comparing hair very much in need of a cut.

People are good for us. Everyone has their preference about how much company they like. Some people say they don’t know what they are thinking until they talk to someone else; they get their energy from other people. Quieter types are usually happy in their own company, but not all the time. It’s good to have conversations even if they are about nothing in particular, to enjoy companionship.

Companion – that’s a good word. Literally, people we break bread with. Perhaps what we have missed most is having a meal with friends or the whole family sitting around one table. It’s what our communion services are really all about – coming to a table, sharing a meal, celebrating all the gifts we are given. Other kinds of meals are also special moments, where we can just be ourselves and not want to be anywhere else but in the moment, enjoying each other’s company.

A writer I came across this week talks about the way happiness is linked to the way we think about the future. If I can save more, work less, ease back on some of my retirement activities, if I can find time for the things that matter, then I’ll be happy. Of course, when the future arrives it’s never as perfect as we hoped. Of course happiness isn’t far away. Being in good company reminds us that all we need is here in the moment; right now.

Jesus was asked when the kingdom of God was coming. His answer was that the kingdom isn’t something you to be observed, nor is it somewhere far off in the future. He said something which turned his listeners’ world upside down: the kingdom of God is among you. We know it’s here by the way we live together, and because we see God in all things.

Don’t always feel you have to match the world’s speed, its hunger for activity. Hang on to peace and quiet if it’s been good for you. Enjoy what you have, and who you are with.

Revd Preb John Lees, Associate Priest

July 2020

This month’s letter comes from Father Steven:

‘Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16).  This verse is often heard during services which celebrate the dedication of a church—the actual dedication after the church building is finished, or on the yearly anniversary. Jacob realises that the Lord is there with him and says ‘this is none other than the house of God!’.  Our churches are meant to be houses of prayer; God’s house, where we can feel and know that he is with us.

During this period of intense restriction and lockdown, we haven’t been able to go to God’s house. Yet the prayers and worship of the church has continued, not least in our homes. ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ During lockdown, rather than go to God’s house, people have invited God into their home and have been surprised at how close they have felt to him. As thoughts turn to God, so comes the realisation that he is always there for us wherever we are, waiting on us to share the ups and downs, or even the ordinary day-to-day. 

God comes to us.  Many people have told me how they have found spaces at home where they have been able to pray as they have in church, places where they have felt the Lord beside them. Our homes, out of necessity, have become our churches. Although I was very glad to be back in church a few weeks ago to celebrate the Eucharist there again, it was sad to be dismantling the make-shift altar in our dining room. It made me appreciate, like Jacob awaking from his dream, that the Lord is everywhere, if we did but know it.

Our church buildings are now open for private prayer and soon, if the situation continues to ease, we shall be able to begin inviting people to take part in services. This is all good, but I hope that although we will be back in our beautiful, spiritual church buildings, we shall continue to know God to be with us at home, and continue to pray as often and deeply at home as we can in church.

Your parish church is God’s house. It is also your house and is there for you as a spiritual home and you are welcome there.  Please continue to pray wherever you are. When we pray, either at home, in church, in the car, on a walk—truly the Lord is in that place. Open your heart to him in trust and honesty and he will come to you. 

Please pray especially for those suffering from the virus, for those who have died and their families, and for all those caring for the sick, elderly and vulnerable.  

With every blessing,

Fr Steven

June 2020

From Revd Victoria Chester

As a confirmed armchair gardener I have two favourite kinds of garden. Those such as lovely National Trust gardens, where someone else does the hard work and I can enjoy the results. And second, those shown on ‘Gardener’s World ‘ on TV with the wonderful passion of the presenters for the plants in their care.

What I also love though, in any garden, is the way that plants have of scuppering our best laid plans.  Despite the very best our garden centres can offer there are still weeds that seem to survive relentlessly. Which of us hasn’t marvelled at the state of our hedges and borders, when everything else struggles for survival, but the brambles and nettles still grow at a rate of knots?  Even amongst carefully tended house plants, shoots of quite different stalks and leaves can appear seemingly from nowhere overnight.

But the bramble doesn’t realise that it’s a weed nor does the daisy in the middle of the lawn. There is something quite wonderful about their pride in blazing into flower in the most inappropriate place, gloriously unaware that they don’t fit into our plans.  No matter how good a gardener we are, weeds, soil and the weather all  help remind us we are not entirely in control. We can fertilise our soil, but if it is acid, it is unlikely to become alkali – and the plants that thrive will reflect that. Some years we think we have done all the right things, but still there are plants that don’t flourish as we might hope and ‘weeds’ that flourish all too well. But after all, it’s been said that “a weed is just a plant in the wrong place”.

I sometimes wonder whether our gardens can offer us some important lessons, particularly in these strange times when not being in control of what we otherwise take for granted has been a big feature of life for so many of us.  For Jesus, it was the wild flowers and weeds of the field that had so much to teach us.  In his parable of the mustard seed the wild black mustard plant was the perfect example of the potential and blessings of the kingdom of God that come when we let something grow as our Creator intended it.  What for the farmers of his time was a pernicious weed, was for Jesus a vital source of shade from the burning sun and shelter for birds and animals alike.

For those of us blessed with gardens, allotments or houseplants over the last few months they have been oases of calm, refreshment, colour and activity.  But perhaps there is a bigger message growing there for us too; that our Creator delights equally in all that he has made, in each lily of the field, in each mustard seed, and in each one of us.  His love encompasses the weeds as well as the flowers wherever they grow, planned or unplanned, because they are all signs of life, growth and the hope of his kingdom.  In the words of one of our best loved hymns:

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures great and small

All things wise and wonderful

The Lord God made them all.

May 2020

Where do we find God (and ourselves)?

Writing at a time when our churches are closed for public worship some may find the question a challenge. Indeed our churches are sources of beauty, peace and inspiration to many and the commonplace term ‘House of God’ adds to expectation. 

The word Church is often associated with a building but perhaps the Greek word used in the New Testament is more helpful in that it means ‘a gathering’ but this does not mean that we cannot find God when we are alone and in some cases we are able to use the benefits of technology to ‘gather’ in new ways. The young Jesus would have been familiar with the noise of the carpenter’s workshop, the bustle of daily village life and no doubt found opportunities to enjoy His heavenly Father’s presence in those circumstances but also in the times when He found a quiet place to be alone without other distractions. 

In isolation we need to find God’s presence in new and perhaps surprising places and reflect on Jesus’ promise to His disciples to be with them always.

Isolation also challenges us as to how we value ourselves: it is often by the work we do and the wealth it produces but in the current crisis those working in caring for others have found a new or increased and well deserved value in the eyes of many.  If we are unable to work or contribute our sense of value may be diminished but it is important to remember that our faithful heavenly Father values each one of us not by what we do but as by what we are, a precious child of God, whether we recognise this or not, and the events remembered in Holy Week and Easter remind us of the costly love God released to show us how much we mean to Him and, through the resurrection, the new creation we can become, confident of the value we have in God’s sight irrespective of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

In conclusion I offer the following reading, Footprints, which you may find helpful in times of uncertainty;

One night I dreamed a dream.  As I was walking along the beach with my Lord, across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.  For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand and I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most why You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever. During your trials and testings, when you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

Charles Hill, Reader

April 2020

Cheap Chocolate.

No – this isn’t a piece about child labour on cacao plantations and the importance of fair trade, although bearing it in mind is always a good idea.  No – it’s a piece about Easter.  When we lived in the North West a neighbouring family never bought their children Easter eggs until the afternoon of Easter Day (at the earliest) and more often on Easter Monday because by then the supermarket had slashed its prices to clear the seasonal stuff off the shelves.  They were proud of this thrifty move.  It pleased them enormously.  It made me sad.  Because there is definitely a place for extravagance in our lives and I think Easter is it.

Christmas brings extravagance out in almost everybody – whether they’re a church-goer or not – Easter not so much.  The story of Easter is far less user-friendly than the Christmas story.  There are no stars, no kings, no angels, no baby – nothing to coo over, no romance.  There’s mockery, cruelty, earthquakes and an apocalyptic eclipse. Good Friday is the grimmest of stories before the strangeness and wonder of new life on Easter day.  And that contrast between frightening events and an eventual fresh beginning is a story we very much need to hear now.  Things have changed for us almost overnight from a free and easy lifestyle to lockdown.  Fear is (almost literally) in the air.  Things are tough and might get tougher.  It’s all in the Easter story.  In the blink of an eye, Jesus goes from hero to zero in the eyes of his people. Things get tough for him and then they get tougher. But that isn’t the end of the story any more than lockdown is the end for us.   

Easter has no cuddle-factor. The bunny is an interloper from a whole different story – as is the egg, but Christians aren’t daft, we know a good symbol when we see one, so we co-opted the egg.

And I have to say the chocolate egg is a wonderful thing.  There’s something about the taste and feel of a thin sliver of chocolate eggshell that is quite magnificent. It is not at all like a chunk from a bar.  And it is extravagant.  My neighbours were right about one thing though – an Easter egg is a very expensive way to buy chocolate.  But at Easter that’s the point.  God loves us.  Completely.  Extravagantly.  And loving us cost him everything.  If you manage to buy an Easter egg this year, when you pay for it remember that Easter is the very opposite of cheap. 

This Easter will be different for all of us.  No family visits.  No trips out.  But we are a community capable of great things – of sharing so that everyone has something and no-one has nothing; of keeping in touch so that no-one feels lost or alone.  Let’s care for each other extravagantly.  We are of God – looking after each other is built in to our nature.  Have a good  (though different) Easter.

Jan Lees

March 2020

In celebration of Mothers

This month holds a very special celebration on the third Sunday of Lent.  It is Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday as it was more traditionally called.

Mothering Sunday was originally a time when people returned to their ‘Mother Church’, the one in which they were baptised or where they attended services when they were younger. This meant that families were reunited and returned to the towns and villages where they grew up. In time, it became customary for young people who were working as servants in large houses, to be given a holiday on Mothering Sunday. They could use this day to visit their own mother and often took a gift or food. In turn, this moved towards the modern celebration, which we know today.

Many families get together around their mother and celebrate with a special meal out and I love to see generations of the same family all gathered together. The shops are bursting with beautiful bouquets and bunches of flowers to give as gifts to our mothers and the array of special cards are in abundance too.

However, for some it can also be a sad time, remembering the mother they can no longer hug, or perhaps some wish they had a different or closer relationship with their mother. Others may not be a mother yet and long for a day when they might have a child.

I love the image of a mother hen in this verse from Luke 13 v 34

‘How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings’

That feeling of love, safety, nurture and warmth is so necessary for young to thrive and a human need in us all.

However we will be spending Mother’s Day this year we can be sure that God longs to gather us up and meet all our needs in Him.

Services will be held around the Mission Community on Mothering Sunday 22nd March to which you are all warmly invited.

Linda Joy

Children and families worker

Holyford Mission Community

February 2020

Glimpses of spring light

January is a time of year for promises and resolutions. February is perhaps a month for reckoning – asking ourselves why we’re already slipping back on those commitments. This cold, hard month can be a bit of a reality check.

However, when the lights no longer go on at 4.30pm, we know spring is on its way. We find things to look forward to – holidays, things to do when the weather improves. These simple plans show how important it is to look forward to better times, to live in hope that good things are on their way.

This is what the church year is doing right now. Christmas is an explosion of light, colour and sound and, even though decorations get put away early in January, the song of the angels keeps ringing in our ears – good news for all. The message is simple and clear – God has come among us, and remains with us.

Hope lives on, long after the recycling lorry has carted away the Christmas wrapping paper. The stories of Epiphany are full of signs and wonders – stories such as the time Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana, and the moment when Jesus is himself baptised as an adult by his cousin John. When Jesus bursts out of the river water the sky above him is filled with God’s blessings, for him and for us all.

Yes, Lent is coming, a time of quiet, reflection, sometimes sadness. But even now in these dark days of winter we can see the light of Easter in every early glimpse of spring flowers magically appearing in foggy lanes.

Light in darkness – an idea as old as time, and yet a reminder that we live in a world where goodness prevails.

That isn’t just an uplifting message. There is some science behind it. The Gottman Institute has studied relationships for 50 years, discovering that people are generally happy if they have five times more positive experiences than negative ones. In passing, this research suggests that in general people are content with life, because on balance more good things happen than bad things. We are perhaps more generous, caring, helpful people than the daily news would suggest.

If that glimpse of hope isn’t enough to cheer the winter blues, what is?

Revd Preb John Lees, Associate Priest

January 2020

Caroline, John, Henry and I have been overwhelmed by the wonderful welcome we have received from the communities of Colyford, Musbury, Northleigh, Southleigh, Branscombe and Colyton. Thank you for all your cards, letters, messages and your thoughtful gifts, including some wonderful hampers and local food—all greatly appreciated.   

At the beginning of January we celebrate the Epiphany when gifts and greetings were taken to the Holy Family. ‘Epiphany’ is a fancy Greek word which means something like ‘manifestation’ or ‘appearance’. It is a rich celebration which (in the Western Church) marks the visit of the Three Kings who bring gifts to the manger, which is one of the early signs that the birth of the baby Jesus is not simply a good human being, or wise teacher and moral example, but is in fact God made man. The readings we hear in church around this time look beyond the crib, at all the miracles and wonders Jesus did during his life and ministry to help us to think about who exactly Jesus Christ is, and what he might accomplish if we were to allow ourselves to trust in him a little more and our friendship with him to grow. 

As I travel the East Devon lanes (avoiding the potholes….sometimes more successfully than others…) travelling from one church to another, I am aware how fortunate I am to be a part of the life of the six churches which make up the Holyford group. The Church is a people, but it is buildings too, and each of our beautiful buildings is a gift and sign of the Epiphany; each  stands as a manifestation to remind us that we have a God who is Emmanuel—‘God with us’—present at the heart of the community, come wind or weather.

Arriving at the beginning of Advent and leading up to Christmas has provided a great opportunity to get to know quite a few new faces. Thank you to all those who have said hello. If we haven’t already met, I hope that we shall soon. Until then…

 Wishing you every blessing and a Happy New Year,

 Fr Steven.

December 2019

From the Holyford Mission Community Ministry Team

Travelling

Advent and Christmas is a time of travelling for many, for the distribution of gifts and reunion of families and friends and we wish all safety in their journeys and joyful encounters with those they visit and host.

Advent itself is a time of travelling, even if not in terms of distance, but in our readings we reflect on the journey of God’s people in preparation for the coming of the Messiah and it is an opportunity for us to examine our own journey of faith as we prepare to greet the Christ child once more.

At Christmas we remember the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the Shepherds visiting the stable, the visit of the wise men and the flight of the Holy family into Egypt.

In our Mission Community we begin a journey as we welcome Steven and his family and look forward to his ministry amongst us.

Through all our ‘travelling’ we wish you all a joyful and peaceful Christmas Season and may that continue into the New Year that lies beyond.

Charles, Colin, Emma, Jan, Jeremy, John, Linda, Nigel, Steven and Victoria

November 2019

We are very excited about moving to Colyton and getting to know the churches and parishes that make up the Holyford Mission Community.  In preparation for our arrival, I have been asked to provide a few lines about myself, so…

I was born ‘at a very early age’, in London, and came to the church through music, as a choirboy at St George’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Southwark. It was there that I encountered some inspiring Christians and began to learn about the faith; it is since then that I have always felt the deep and loving presence of Jesus Christ in my life.

We moved to Sussex when I was about 10 years old, and it is there I began to learn to play the organ. My family and I moved again to Devon, about 22 years ago. Music, especially church music, has always been a passion. I read music at Exeter University, going on to postgraduate study there and finally at the University of Bristol. During my time studying I was organ scholar at the University and at Crediton Parish Church and for three years a choral scholar at Exeter Cathedral. Before ordination, I was a teacher and taught music at The Maynard School in Exeter.

I trained for ordination at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, and served my curacy at Tavistock with Gulworthy and Brent Tor. During the past year I have also been looking after the churches at Mary Tavy and Peter Tavy. I am married to Caroline, who works as an historic landscape specialist for Nicholas Pearson Associates. We were married just over eight years ago at Crediton (where I was Director of Music), and have two sons, Henry (aged 3 ½) and John (7 months). You will also see (and hear!) Beryl pottering about. Beryl is our 1969 brown Morris Minor who has been with me for the past 20 years.

It would be good at this point if I could write something gripping or niche about my hobbies and interests (…that I liked windsurfing in tweeds or that I was founding captain of the England Bo-taoshi team…) but the truth is that in my spare time I like to do all the usual things, like listen to music, read (short-ish) books, wander about in the garden and, most of all, doze off in front of the television.

I know that there will be precious little time for dozing off as I endeavour to meet everyone and discern how I can best serve you and the growth of God’s Church on our journey together. Thank you for inviting me to become your next Rector; I hope that we shall meet soon, and pray that God will bless us and all that we do in his holy name and in the service of his love.

Fr. Steven.

October 2019

Food for thought?

Or should it be the other way around.

Writing this when many of our Churches are about to celebrate harvest festivals or have recently done so I am also aware that the topic is rarely absent from one form of media or another.  I am particularly reflecting upon the different emphases of such information, including economics, environment ethics and health and, as I listen to the latest ‘wisdom’, it seems increasingly difficult to hold them in a balance which does not involve conflict between them.  😕

Our food comes from many different sources and even improvements in package (another issue!) labelling do not give us the whole story.  We may have the country of origin but not the type of agricultural system which produced it, what its carbon footprint might be, the degree of exploitation of vulnerable individuals and/or local environment and animal welfare issues (if appropriate).

We live in a complex world and as we are faced with more information the complexity seems to increase and it can be tempting to carry on regardless but it is clear that to do so is unsustainable for our planet and calls for urgent action should not go unheeded.

Any changes we can make may seem like a drop of water in an ocean but when there are many drops it does make a difference.  We have a responsibility to one another and to the global human community as well as having respect for the natural world.  We should acknowledge our dependence on many others and giving thanks for what others have provided for us is a sign of responsibility and respect; reducing our over-consumption and wastage of food is a practical way to demonstrate it.

When we obtain our food perhaps we should focus more closely on what we needrather than what we want and indeed on what we might be able to share.  Our heavenly Father is a generous God and gives us many things for our enjoyment and well-being but also recognises our different needs and situations. All he requires in return is our acknowledgement of his generosity with thankful hearts and to remember that what we do for ourselves may well have an impact on others.

Charles Hill

September 2019

This month’s letter comes from Victoria Chester

‘Tis the season . . .

Having been a Reader (a lay minister) in our parishes for a number of years I am about to take the plunge into ordained ministry – or as a friend of mine puts it ‘getting collared’!  As the year turns from summer to autumn I will be ordained in Exeter Cathedral on the 14th of September and then serve as a self-supporting curate in our Mission Community parishes of Colyton with Colyford, Branscombe, Southleigh, Musbury and Northleigh.

Although the days may still be warm, there’s no doubt that September marks a turning of the seasons for many of us, from holidays to the start of the new school year for some and the return to work for others.  The same is true for our religious festivals, those times in the Church year that recall special moments in the life of Christ and in the life of the Church.  Some of the most familiar festivals and seasons seem to come round with startling speed – can it really only be just over 100 days to Christmas?!

Here in our Exeter diocese July marks a special time commemorating St Peter and Christ’s call to him to be “a rock” on which the Church would grow.  Whether or not these were the exact words used it is always an important anniversary in the life of any community when we remember the foundations we are built upon.  Church, village and family all have roots that remind us of our beginnings, where we have come from, and where and with whom we hope to grow in the future. 

For Exeter Cathedral, Petertide, the season of St Peter, has particular significance as the Cathedral building itself is dedicated to St Peter and each year the community there uses this as a focus for special celebrations.  This significance also carries through into other seasons in the life of our diocese.  Ordinations in the Church of England usually take place at Petertide, but here in Exeter we wait until Michaelmas, mid-September, for the service at the Cathedral that marks the start of our new ministry.  I for one am grateful for this later season and celebration; just as the disciples waited in Jerusalem before starting their ministry so the period between the end of my study course at Petertide and my ordination at Michaelmas has given me much needed time to rest, to give thanks for the care and support that has given me the foundation from which to take this new step, and to look forward with joy to the journey to come.

August 2019

Happy To Chat

We have scaffolding up outside the house at present and it’s rather odd to see knee-down views of workmen passing the bedroom window.  It’s not attractive – the scaffolding, I mean  – I wouldn’t dare criticise the chaps’ legs!   But scaffolding isn’t pretty to look at, unless it’s been specifically designed to be visible like the jolly coloured structures on the Pompidou Centre in Paris. 

Anyway, all this has got me thinking about hidden support (there should be an underwiring joke here, but I can’t think of one, so insert your own).  So many things in our lives depend on hidden support.  The friends who drop by to see you when you feel low, the casseroles and cakes that arrive when life’s got out of hand aren’t listed as emergency services but they rescue us just the same.

We’re lucky to live in a place where people care about their neighbours and where there are such strong networks of friendship holding our communities together.  The everyday friendliness of our neighbourhoods is a great gift and harnessing it in organisations such as LINK is a brilliant idea.  And here’s another one that I saw online –  a photo of a bench bearing the sign  ‘happy to chat’.  The idea being that if you sat on that bench you were inviting conversation as an antidote to loneliness – either your own or whoever might pass by.   Of course some people would find that a nightmare – they’re desperate for a bit of quiet,  and five minute’s peace on a bench where no-one mithers them is their idea of paradise.  Support comes in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes just letting someone enjoy their alone-time is the best support you can give.  Which is not the same as blanking them – a smile and a nod go a long way to making everyone’s day better.   A smile and a nod is like wearing your built-in support system on the outside.*  It’s part of the glue that holds us all together.

Jan Lees

(*insert own joke about being a superhero/wearing your pants on top of your trousers etc etc….)