Pastoral Letter for March

Primroses are in bloom all over the garden and in the lanes around.’ So writes the Gardening expert in our Saturday paper this week. Here at the Vicarage the primroses certainly arrived early, a foretaste of spring after a long, wet winter.

Some years ago the same ‘Gardening expert’ paid a surprise visit to the Vicarage garden where we were tenants. She had decided to take up a ‘reader’s question’ we had submitted – 3 years before – which we had quite forgotten. I was away on a training course in Hampshire, so Diana had to field the visit, as the expert drove up from Dorset, following a phone call.
Now if this had been Rowley, we’d have had no need to write to a newspaper for advice. In our church are experts on vegetables, roses, lawns, composting. Even I have learned some skills that make a difference!
When I rang home, asking how the visit went, I was relieved, at least until I was told a photographer was coming later that week to take a family photograph in the garden. Sure enough, a week later, our garden – quite a lot of it bog and brambles featured in the Saturday edition.

“How about keeping hens,” was one letter we received.

The visit and the article did have an effect. I hadn’t actually met the ‘Gardening Expert’ first hand, but I sensed she could make a difference: –
First she had ideas. In her mind she could see what out garden could become if we drained it, reclaimed the borders from the brambles, and got on top of the vegetation. Her first effect on us then was a vision of what it might be.

Secondly, her gardening articles always include, ‘This week’s work’-(Jobs to be done). As I write, her advice, with the ground wet to sow anything outside, is to start off and nurture seedlings, such as broad beans, peas, salad crops and herbs.

Thirdly, she gave us the confidence to try new things in our garden; welcoming new trees and plants; clearing spaces, doing things differently (or in our case to stop neglecting them completely!)
As we draw near to Easter, the most important celebration of the Christian Year. I’m struck with the parallels of the Garden Expert and the Risen Christ. Many especially St Paul never actually met, Jesus in the flesh, like me and the garden expert, they heard second hand from others. But there was an effect:

The early Christian Family (probably few, and not wealthy and with little experience of travel, were given a Vision that was global.
“Go and make disciple of all nations, I am with you.” Little did they guess that Christianity would spread as it did, and transform so many places, so many lives
Secondly, the Church at its best has seen the wisdom of preparing for the future. Nurturing the delicate seedlings of faith, of potential ministry, of leadership. (A very good local training scheme is the 3D Course – a year long, weekly group with the aim of helping people grow in faith.

Thirdly, we shouldn’t be frightened. We have the promise of Jesus to be with us – we shouldn’t be frightened of taking risks, and trying new ventures. Especially in our contacts with those under represented in church life; children, young adults, young families. At some point we need the confidence to trust those who might be God’s new gifts to us, now and in the future.

For some, a garden can be a worry (and our churchyard has been for us in years past) Not everyone can give the time and attention to create a beautiful place, that especially in spring, lifts the heart.

God has entrusted us, has given Jesus for us. May Easter bring us vision, encourage us to nurture, and never to be afraid of allowing new things to flourish here at St Giles.
Let’s get to work!

Revd Canon Ian Shelton

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