Rector’s Letter August 2023

I have watched during the last two days 100 or so exhibits being brought into St Mary’s Slindon church for the art exhibition the weekend of 14 – 16 July. It is an impressive array – both in relation to diversity, (paintings, sculptures, iron work, posters) and quality. There are a lot of gifted, creative people in our villages. The same is true of the preparations in St Mary Magdalene Madehurst for an exciting flower festival at the end of September – and, of course, the same is true for our third village, St Margaret’s Eartham, where an open gardens was recently held to raise funds – the beauty of nature combined with the creativity of humans.

God as Creator is one of the fundamental building blocks of the Christian faith. As I can’t say too often, this is not a belief in opposition to science. My faith takes scientific discovery seriously – and actually whether it be the tiny wonders seen through a microscope, or the mind-boggling pictures and distances seen through a telescope, science helps me to be full of wonder and praise. What faith says is that this is not all chance – the force we call God is behind it – a force which, faith believes, Jesus shows is one of love and which can work in our lives as the Holy Spirit.

As I have looked at the exhibits as they come into church for the exhibition, there are a number of feelings I have experienced. The first is the quality of the talent. Everyone has their skills and gifts (though mine are certainly not in painting – I am still at the pin man stage of drawing). The exhibition reminds me I have the choice to use them for the common good or not. Art has been used to show beauty and to praise goodness, but sometimes in history it has been used for the opposite. We always have these choices.

Secondly, as I watch the organisers working solidly for five days, achievement also involves a lot of hard work! That is true of flower festivals and open gardens as well. I am very appreciative that so many people in our parishes put in such hard work – and not only, of course, for our churches but for the community and charities in general. Again, we have choices.

And then, talking to artists or writers, or anyone doing anything creative, they will talk of the pain and cost of creativity – the trying to get it right, the feeling that the picture or the writing could always be improved. The Roman Catholic poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, wrote beautiful poetry about creation (“The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil”): but the poem also contains the image of God bent over the world in toil – and Hopkins himself destroyed most of his poetry because he just thought it was not good enough. At the heart of the Christian faith – the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection – there is an understanding of the choice of goodness and love, its cost, and ultimately its triumph. Which takes me back to those pictures I have been looking at in church: the many right choices leading to the beauty of creation.

I will end with a verse from a hymn written by St Francis of Assisi, that great lover and appreciator of creation:

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

1662 Holy Communion @ St Mary's Slindon
Jun 26 @ 10:30 am – 11:30 am
United Benefice Communion @ St Margaret's Eartham
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Holy Communion @ St Margaret's Eartham
Jul 7 @ 9:30 am – 10:30 am
Matins @ St Mary's Slindon
Jul 7 @ 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Holy Communion @ St Mary Magdalene Madehurst
Jul 14 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am