Stanwick Group of Churches

November 2017

Dear Friends

As I write we’ve now been living in Aldbrough Rectory for six weeks and the Stanwick Benefice feels much more like home now as faces become familiar and we begin to get to know people. I’ve also been enjoying getting to know the local roads and the landscape as I’ve cycled from place to place. And as I’ve walked up and down the now familiar footpaths between Aldbrough St John and Melsonby and Stanwick I’ve been enjoying gradually getting my bearings and working out where one building or woodland is in relation to another. As the weeks go on and the leaves fall and colours fade, I look forward to the views opening up, revealing new features that were previously hidden.

I am reminded of Carol Klein’s observations of November in her book ‘Life in a cottage garden’. She describes how in November colour seeps out and gradually drains away as, drip by drip, more water is added to nature’s paint palate.’ Yet at every time of year ‘the garden has its own special beauty and the absence of colour, foliage and flowers means the shape and architecture of the plants that remain can be seen more sharply and can be appreciated in their own right,’ and ‘there are more opportunities now to see through plants to new views and vistas.‘ 

November can bring with it a sense of sadness, regret or loss as the colours and activity of summer fade away to be replaced by grey days, dark nights, cold rains and thick fog. But, I think, November can also invite us to see further and gain new perspectives.

The natural rhythm of the seasons invites us to slow down in November and just as the trees release their leaves into the autumn winds, so we can use November as a special time to talk and open up, and to release our weights and burdens, and our fears, doubts, worries and anxieties. And we can use November to reflect on the shape and architecture of our lives. November invites us to re-examine the soul and to cherish all that is central and fundamental in our lives: our home and family, our values, our rootedness in God, and the way we have been shaped and formed by love.

As the dark nights close in November can be a time for dreaming: for seeing beyond our immediate circumstances, for imagining brave new choices for the future, for trusting in something beyond what we know. And a re-awareness of our connectedness with God and the love at the core of our being can help us to touch what God has in his heart for us, and to become aware of the dreams God is putting in our soul.

And November is a time for remembering. A time for remembering all saints, a time for remembering our dear departed loved ones, a time for remembering all who have given their lives in past and current conflicts, a time for remembering the imprint each soul has left on the landscape of this world. It is a time for learning from the past and appreciating our deep and profound indebtedness to those who have gone before us.

Celtic Christianity talks of ‘thin places’, times and places in our world where the ‘membrane’ between earth and heaven seems especially thin. November can be described as a ‘thin’ season when we particularly sense our closeness to the past and to heaven. November may be a time when we can sense more powerfully that we are part of a bigger whole held together in the arms of Love:

‘One family, we dwell in him,
one Church, above, beneath;
though now divided by the stream,
the narrow stream of death.’

       (Charles Wesley)

And I hope that even on the coldest, darkest, loneliest, of nights, November can be a time for seeing and truly knowing that we are never alone.

God bless,


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