It's the second week of December and I am about to write this for our January 2019 Parish
Magazine. Christmas is just on the horizon and very much on my mind with a multitude of other responsibilities also
I have just had the first Singing Group and Scallopini joint
rehearsal for the Carols by Candlelight service. It went well and I thank the Singing Group for all their hard work
and support. When all the adult voices and the Scallopini children sing in two part harmony it's exciting.
Also of course, a challenge. You might liken it to the ‘Swing-a-thon, Waltz-a-thon and this year's Lindy-hop-a-thon'
in Strictly Come Dancing, when all the contestants take to the floor and hope they don't bump into anyone and keep in
time with the music, as well as remembering all the steps!
When this goes
to print we will be celebrating Epiphany on 6th January. As we know from the famous carol We three Kings,
the Magi brought gifts for the Christ Child. These were no ordinary gifts - they were special, precious and rare,
each one having a specific use. St Matthew's gospel 2.1-12 we are told that the Magi travelled some distance to
present these gifts. Their offerings were something that required preparation and most importantly, were an act of worship
to the newborn King. However, there is no ancient evidence from anywhere, other than the gospels, for the coming of
the wise men. Nevertheless, for over two thousand years the story of the Magi has provided rich material for theologians,
artists and musicians.
When I was visiting Florence last year
there were many examples of renaissance artists placing in their depiction of the Magi, people they knew, often their
patrons or a saint, putting them at the heart of the story, thus re-working and embellishing Matthew's gospel account.
The artist's patrons wanted to be in the action and also to be giving something
to the new born King and they wanted to been seen doing so. Not showing off at all!
As we know from Christmas and birthday celebrations, gift giving is
not a one-way exercise and often more joy is found in the giving than in the receiving. Just like the Magi, we all have
something special to share in our gifts. We offer them to the church but in sharing our gifts with others, we
share a deep part of ourselves.
Putting one's head above the parapet and taking
on a responsibility, as many of you will know, isn't an easy path. It requires a great deal of preparation and training
and the skin of a rhino, which not every one of us possess.
Learning how to use
our skills in a sensitive and prayerful manner within the service is not necessarily something picked up very quickly and
is probably developed over time.
in church can be delivered in many ways. My own gift, if you can call it that, is in the use and preparation of music.
For children and I dare say many adults, it is a prime method of evangelising.
read some of a report led by the Music Development Director for St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds. It reviewed
churches in the diocese, an area including Ipswich and most of Suffolk. The report identified and it is no great surprise,
that only 45% of churches in that diocese have members aged under 50, and 62% have no children in any services. Only
a handful of churches have teenagers. Fewer than 150 children across the diocese sing in a church choir or singing group.
Almost half the churches have an organist aged over 70 and only 4% have one aged
under 30. 59% of organists are unpaid. In 17% of churches there is a music group, though only 22% of these play
every week. They are statistics worth thinking about and food for thought as we head into 2019.
Licensed Lay Minister