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Minister’s April Letter

Dear Friends,

As I write this letter, we are starting to see the signs of Spring returning, with our daffodil cross in full bloom, the days getting longer and even some slightly warmer weather occasional-ly. The festival of Easter is far older than Christianity, being an ancient celebration (Oestre) of light returning after the darkness of winter and new life springing up again in bleak, desolate places.
The cycle of the seasons can be very reassuring: that no matter how long the Winter, Spring will come; no matter how short the days, the lengthening light will return; no matter how empty the landscape, the food and flowers will come again. It was only natu-ral for Christians to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Springtime, making Easter an annual festival of returning life. At St John’s Church we have adopted the custom of stripping palm branches and a laurel wreath from the cross on Palm Sunday, marking the desertion of Jesus by his followers and his betrayal to death. But even as we feel the sadness and horror of what will fol-low, we are trusting in Easter Sunday to come, when the cross will be covered with flowers, as a sign of new life and of Jesus returning to his disciples.
But although we celebrate the return of life, light and joy at Easter, we also know that things will never be quite the same again. New life returns to the earth each Spring, but we are in a slightly differ-ent place to where we were this time last year. And the natural world does not continue “as usual.” Even daffodils begin to stop blooming and need to be replaced. Not all living things survive the winter. And global warming is now affecting the timing of our seasons.

When Jesus returned from death, he was not the same as he had been. His body had changed. His relationship with his disciples must change. They could not think in terms of simply going back to the way things were before Jesus’ death. “Don’t cling to me” he said to Mary in the garden. They had to move forward.
At the end of this month, things will change radically both for me and for St John’s Church as I finish my work here. Our Easter hope is that God will bring new life into this church and new life to me in my retirement. And we have known many faith communities and retiring Ministers to whom that has happened. As Ian Moore (your Interim Moderator) said in our service on March 12th- one chapter of St John’s life and history is closing and the next now needs to be written. But neither the next (vacancy) nor the one after (new min-istry) can ever be the replication of a previous one. We may live and work and pray in the firm faith that God will renew life and ministry in St John’s Church but it will be new and very different to what has gone before. (And it goes without saying that my life will look nothing like it has looked for the last 39 years…..)
So, let us pray for one another, that we may have faith, hope and courage enough to welcome the future, whatever it brings, trusting in God’s ever-renewing power.
With love and good wishes to you all,

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