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On Thursday the 12th of October we were delighted to welcome Norman our bishop to the parish.
A busy day began with our school’s harvest festival service. A full church of pupils, parents, teachers (and a three-day old calf!) heard Bishop Norman recount stories from his time as a parish priest in rural North Norfolk. The children’s hard work paid off as they beautifully sang, said and prayed their thanksgiving for the harvest in this traditional service.
The pupils and staff then had a longer opportunity to talk to the bishop when, after the service, he and Father Robin and Father Matthew visited the school, and the bishop was able learn more about the school’s many achievements.
It was a short walk from the school to reach Gloucester House Care Home for the twice monthly service of Holy Communion led by our Reader John Robinson. Bishop Norman gave the blessing and after the service met residents and members of staff.
Lunchtime was spent at a wonderful buffet meal supplied by parishioners, around twenty of whom joined the Bishop and spent a very convivial hour and a half together.
The afternoon began with an opportunity to meet the new Archdeacon of Tonbridge, the Reverend Canon Julie Conalty.
This was followed by a visit the ‘Loaves and Fishes’ Foodbank. A weekly local ecumenical project based at St John’s Church Hall that provides food for around 40 families. Bishop Norman met some of those families and volunteers explained how the Foodbank operated as various harvest festival gifts were stored in readiness for distribution.
The bishop then joined the parish clergy in their regular weekly chaplaincy visit to Sevenoaks Hospital, visiting patients and staff on the hospital’s two wards.
On his way back to the Clergy House Bishop Norman called in at the church to see the preparations being made for the forthcoming session of our popular Messy Church.
Finally, after saying Evening Prayer with the vicar and curate, Bishop Norman presided and celebrated at a Confirmation Mass. It was a joyful occasion in which Louise, Tim and Ewan were Confirmed and made their Communion for the first time. It was a tremendous blessing to be gathered around our bishop for the celebration of these sacraments, and the sense of fellowship was carried through to a very happy gathering in the Hall afterwards before Bishop Norman left to catch the 10pm train from Sevenoaks.
A full and memorable day!
In our gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent we see St John the Baptist asking Jesus, ‘Who are you?’
Its a question that almost anyone who has thought about matters of life and death is likely to ask. Is this really the Son of God, who through His life, death and resurrection offers us the means of eternal life?
We learn that Jesus’ response to John’s enquiry is to draw his attention to the miracles that He is performing: the deaf hear, the blind can see and the lame now walk.
Stunning though these miracles are they are also metaphors that point beyond themselves to the greater task of healing humanity from the effects of sin which Jesus will accomplish. In doing so he empties death of its power and turns it too into a metaphor which points beyond itself to the transition into perfect eternal new life in Christ, which Jesus makes possible for those who follow Him.
This week the Church begins a new Christian Year. The wreckage of the streamers and party from the last Sunday of the year, Christ the King, have been put away. Instead the Church looks sober dressed in purple and the season of Advent has begun. The word Advent comes from the Latin ‘Adventus’, meaning ‘coming’, itself a translation from the Greek ‘parouisa’.
Advent is a time in which we prepare for two mysteries. The first is obvious, very simply the coming of Christ at Christmas. There is nothing more special that the concept that God chooses, of his own free will, to become a human being as we are. Advent allows us through prayer, attendance at Mass, and acts of kindness and mercy, to get ready for this feast.
The second mystery we ponder is the life to come. Here we think about our own deaths, and inevitable judgement in the life to come. We are encouraged to think about how we have used our lives so far, and what more we can do to spread God’s kingdom on earth. In the words of this Sunday’s Gospel, “stay awake, praying at all times, for the strength to survive all that is to happen”.
St John the Baptist, Sevenoaks
The Clergy House,
62 Quakers Hall Lane,
01732 451 710