Vicar's Letter

Dear Friends,

At last the waiting is over!  We have our new Area Bishop, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham, known to most of us already as our former Archdeacon. Not only is Olivia our new bishop, but she is also the first woman to serve as a bishop in this diocese. An Alleluia moment! Some twenty-five years since women were first ordained as priests in the Church of England, it is not before time!

Please pray for Bishop Olivia as she takes on this new role and responsibilities, conscious I feel sure, of the weight of expectation on her shoulders. She will certainly need our prayers and support. As Bishop Olivia said at her Service of Welcome (or, rather, welcome back!) at Reading Minster a few days after her Consecration, she has large shoes to fill – following on from Bishop Andrew’s time with us. Her shoes will be rather different! She will be leading us on the path of faith and discipleship in the Reading Episcopal Area in the years to come.

The waiting will soon be over in other ways too! The forthcoming General Election will be upon us on 12th December. We may be waking up on 13th (or even staying up the night before!) with some trepidation about the results and the path which lies ahead. The uncertainty continues over Brexit, and whoever ends up in government will have a huge task ahead, not least in trying to bring the UK together amidst all the deep divisions caused over Brexit, and needing to urgently address the climate change crisis.

In other ways, the waiting is just beginning. We are about to begin Advent, the season of waiting and preparation for Christmas. Over the coming weeks we will be hearing children around us telling us ‘I can’t wait until Christmas!’ Maybe we can still remember that wonderful feeling of excitement and anticipation from our own childhood as we looked forward to Christmas. Perhaps as adults it feels rather different, as we contemplate the length of our ‘to do’ lists – the cards to write, the presents to buy and wrap, the house to decorate, visits to be made, larder to stock, and so the list goes on…We may find ourselves appreciating the waiting.  It gives us time to get ready and prepare.

During the weeks ahead, can I encourage you to make time!  Take time amidst the busyness to reflect, to pray, to let the wonder of Christmas overwhelm you.  You may like to come and join with others for our special Advent evenings, or the Advent Quiet Morning; alternatively you may prefer to take time on your own.

Do something this Advent to make this time special, so that when Christmas comes, not only will you have worked through your ‘To Do’ list, but you will be ready once again to welcome Jesus.

Our waiting in Advent should be filled with anticipation. It is rather like sitting at a concert when all goes quiet and everyone waits for the orchestra to strike up with the first note. For me, that waiting reaches its climax in the quiet intimacy of our Midnight Eucharist as we sit in silence in the darkness as the service begins – one of those spine-tingling moments in our Christmas worship when...

‘The world seems hushed
In silent expectation,
The light in the stable
Draws us from chaos
To the stillness of
God at the centre,
And love is born.’

(Ann Lewin: Extract from ‘Christmas Rush’)

Wishing you all a blessed Advent, a joyful, wonder-filled Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

With love,