Welcome to St John the Baptist Church in Smalley, Derbyshire.
In June Richard Kirby preached this ‘farewell’ sermon at Smalley before he and Linda moved nearer their daughter in Nottingham. We wish them every blessing in their new home and I thank Richard for giving me a month off writing the Rector’s letter.
Recent months have not been easy for our nation with an inconclusive general election, terrorist attacks in London and Manchester and the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire. I am reminded of these words in Matthew’s gospel, “When Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless”. I guess many of us must be wondering where is God in all this and what is the relevance of the church in the 21st century.
During his earthly ministry of bringing love, peace and hope to the world, Jesus, as God in human form, experienced all the tragedies, disappointments and anxieties of everyday life as well as its joys. Following his Ascension, his church is tasked with carrying on this ministry at the centre of human life, so being a source of good news to today’s world. Church attendance may not be what it was, but it remains a sign of God’s presence in every community including Morley and Smalley.
During our temporary stay in Smalley Linda and I have been made most welcome by the churches and people of these villages. We have been delighted to see that the churches host a variety of events such as concerts, quiz nights and suppers, which bring local people together. I believe that this is so important in building up community life and it is right that the church should be a focus of joy to local people as well as being a source of love and support in times of trouble, as we have recently seen in London and Manchester.
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few”, that being as true in Smalley and Morley as it was in Jesus’ day. I happen to think, however, that while there are some very good workers in these villages there is so much more that could be achieved. God’s church is at the centre of these communities, so I hope that the church families can continue to work together with other people and organisations of goodwill to build up society and serve the common good.
As we leave Smalley we pray that our local churches will receive God’s blessing as they promote the good news of Jesus Christ that brings the love, peace and hope which are so much needed in today’s world in these villages as everywhere else.