Welcome to St John the Baptist Church in Smalley, Derbyshire.


by The Revd Kate Plant

In July, members of the Smalley Community group stepped up to help us open the church for private prayer. I was so grateful. I wanted to send them each something to say thank you. I tried to find some of those little olive wood crosses from Palestine. If you have one or something similar, you’ll know that they surface at odd times. You find it in your pocket unexpectedly on a bus –it is lying on a mantlepiece when you are searching for the remote, on the kitchen window sill when it is raining or in a drawer as you look for socks.

I wanted them to have one to remind them of their kindness. But also because of course the Cross, for me, is an anchor, a pivot, and a call.

In the September magazine last year I wrote ‘Michaelmas (29thof September) heralds for us all the start of the ‘Great Season’ –Harvest, All Souls and Saints, Bonfires & November the 5th, Remembrance and then the darkening nights and rumbling prophets in Advent.’

But this year –undoubtedly –things are different. We simply do not know what lies ahead. The energy that is released as the days get cooler and term begins again, doesn’t have a natural direction. How will our Harvest lunches and suppers be? How will we celebrate Remembrance? Will our pensions remain unaffected by an economic downturn? Whose job will go next? Will Covid spike again –and like our Muslim brothers and sisters at Eid will our plans for a great feast at Christmas be interrupted?

The Great season will still come but rather than it being a time of returning to remembered happinesses and patterns, instead it calls us to the unknown, the possibility of change and challenge.

There is another church Feast day in September, Holy Cross Day on the 14th. Little celebrated of late this is an ancient feast, going right back to the 4thCentury. The Cross is not worshipped but it is venerated. For Christians it is the great symbol of our faith. For those who share that faith, you will know what I mean when I say that the cross is something to be held onto and looked to as we venture forward. It gives courage and hope because it speaks of the always triumph of good over evil. The cross stands when all else falters.

But you know really what it stands for is love. And those of you who struggle with the idea of God, can meet us on this common ground, because I think we share an understanding that love is the thing we should put our trust in, let it order our lives and direct our footsteps.

Love must help us think how we plan to celebrate harvest –and if it does I believe our donations to the Padley centre, or Salcare or wherever will be greater than they have ever been. If Love guides us when we celebrate remembrance, our commitment to peace and reconciliation will be the more powerful. If we are Love’s servants as we approach Christmas –the light we find and carry into the darkness will be brighter and better serve those in need.

But love is not just for feast days, it surfaces at ordinary times, comforting us and prompting us to look to the needs of others. The way we spend our money, (fair trade or not fair trade?). The way we use our time, (shall I read one more chapter of a book or write to a friend who is sad?). Our thoughts (shall I ponder the wrongdoings of others or check up on my doings?) and our words (is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?). It can leads us to forgive and to embrace, other times it prompts us to forgive but to refrain from embracing. Sometimes it causes us to volunteer to sit quietly in an empty church so that others may know they can come to pray.

I have not found the crosses I wanted to give –yet –but THE Cross is there for everyone to take hold of as we venture forward into this new season.

Will you anchor hold in the storms of life
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?
We have an anchor the keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s Love.


As a church we take safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults very seriously. If you have any concerns or queries, however small, please contact our vicar or safeguarding lead. Rev. Kate Plant 01332 834928/ kateplant2610@gmail.com or Carol Davidson 07747 871560/ caroldavidson2808@gmail.com


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