At this busiest and most pressured time of year, we would like to thank you for your work as Estate Church leaders.
It is banal to speak of this ‘business-end of Advent’ as being so full as we dash about fulfilling Church and community duties, while also trying to find space for God, for ourselves, and for our friends and families, but it is so true.
We pray that Christmas is good for you. But also wonder what this might mean? For many of us it will not be the ‘success’ of hundreds of people through the doors of our churches at multiple services that we see shared so often on social media this week (our advice would be to sit very lightly to Facebook and Twitter the next few days).
We give thanks for so much faithful and good work done by estate churches. I think of the huge difference we make in so many ways. The physical hunger that is now, disgracefully, such a part of British urban life. When we work with primary schools at Christmas, we have to be so careful in what we say – not now to be the minister who ends up in the newspaper as saying something unwise about Santa Claus – but remembering that Christmas is such a bad time for so many families. We might think of the utter joy on a mother’s face as she is given a few carrier bags of tinned food from a vestry cupboard.
If we are looking for the meaning of Christmas it is here. It is in the many overlooked and humble acts of love that Estate Churches make. If we look carefully, it is here that we might glimpse the face of Jesus.
Fritz Eichenberg, Christ of the Soup Line
Our communities are so often in what Thomas Merton called the time of no room. Thank you for making the space that matters. Space for God. Space for those who he truly loves.
We are reminded of Fr Joe Williamson remembering a childhood in poverty a hundred years ago:
My first day at school stands out clearly in my mind. A crust of bread and a kiss was my breakfast as I ran across the road to St Saviour’s, at the age of five. When I got to school, there was placed before me a white mug of hot milk and a bun; it looked very big. I couldn’t believe it was for me. I looked up, and there was a big fat man in black, with a funny hat looking down at me. He had a big face with a double chin; he was smiling; it was a lovely face. The man put his hand on my head and said, simply: ‘Eat.’ That was Father Dolling, and I think I have felt that touch ever since.
– Father Joe, The Autobiography of Joseph Williamson of Poplar and Stepney
We need those smiles, that deep, practical love that shows the Face of the Lord. May you experience that love of God this Christmas. May you pass it to others.
With love and prayers from all at NECN
Lynne, Sara and Andy