I am not a regular reader of magazines, but I do enjoy looking at “Hello” and “O.K.” when I’m at the hairdressers or when waiting in the doctor’s surgery. I had a hospital appointment last week and the selection of magazines in the waiting room was dire! It was bereft of the usual celebrity magazines I normally go for on such occasions. Hence, I ended up with Country Life, a magazine I wouldn’t normally read. I was just leafing through looking at big, unaffordable houses, when a headline caught my eye, “Familiarity breeds contentment” and the very first sentence made me read on: “If I was forced to select a single aspect of modern life that gets right up my nose (and it is a wide-
I admit I have urged people in sermons to “move out of their comfort zone”, and I am sure there are situations in which we should experience something different or new; but this should not be at the expense of appreciating the familiar and staying with what we know. Jonathan Self describes in his article how he and his family go every year to the same place for their annual holiday.
This is exactly what my husband and I do, and I know some people think it is odd. Since 2002 we have gone at least once a year to the same hotel, in the same place in Crete. The owners have become friends, as have many of the guests. Like Jonathan Self, I know going to the same place means you immediately relax, know the routine, and appreciate the familiar.
It is also wonderful that the owners of a taverna in a nearby village we visit only once a year, greet us like long, lost friends.
We have now lived in Caterham for seventeen years. Prior to this, church ministry had meant we had never spent more than six years in the same place, and sometimes it was as little as two years. The first three decades of my adult life had been all about moving out of my comfort zone, and moving on. I calculate that from being twenty to fifty years old I lived in thirteen different places. Anyone who has been part of a military family will know about moving on and what it does to you. It can be exciting, but I think it is also destructive of community and a sense of place.
St Benedict knew the difficulties and benefits of staying put. One of the core elements of his rule for his monks was Stability. Benedictine monks committed themselves, and still do, to one community, one place and the same group of people.
It gives them security and a sense of belonging, but it also means they have to work things through. You cannot run away from someone you don’t get on with, or escape the loss when someone you love dies. You have to stay put and work it through. By staying put, or just returning to the same place on holiday, we expose ourselves to the risk of hurt.
People we get close to do get ill or die. We have experienced, at our place in Crete, people returning to scatter ashes in the grounds of the hotel. That would put some people off, but for me it just adds to my love of the familiar, and confirms that I am not strange to want to visit the same place and engage with the same people year after year. Other people have loved the place so much that they want their remains to be there forever.
Staying with the familiar means we notice the little things that are new. This year my joy on holiday was a new, young fig tree growing by a fountain in the garden. It was lovely to contemplate – a symbol of new life and fruitfulness. Many of us live busy lives and there is a temptation, even on holiday, to keep doing and experiencing something different.
As well as “moving out of our comfort zone”, the other obsession of modern life that gets right up my nose is the “bucket list”. God save us from the bucket list! We do not have to do or see a thousand things before we die, but simply appreciate what God has given us right here and now. Jonathan Self in his article provided me with the biblical verse to go with this letter “It is in returning and rest that you shall be saved” (Isaiah 30.15).
When you are next sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, look for Country Life, August 2017, and read Jonathan Self’s original article.
I commend it to you.
As briefly mentioned in the October Beacon, we are holding a Christmas Tree Festival in St Lawrence’s church in November. Here are the full details of the Festival which have been sent to me by Mary Mountain who is organising the event.
The Festival will be held on the last two weekends of November, 18/19th and 25/26th and open from 10am to 5pm. The final day coincides with the switching on of the lights on the cedar tree and the church will be the point at which it is planned that children with lanterns will set off to join the singing under the tree. The public will be asked to choose a favourite tree from three groups – children, voluntary groups and businesses. It is hoped the chosen trees will be displayed for a little longer.
Knights of Warlingham have donated a tree to stand outside in the church grounds. Many of the invited groups have also given donations and we would like to thank them all.
Two weeks after the Festival we will be holding the annual ecumenical Carol Service in St. Lawrence’s on Tuesday 12th December at 8 pm. All welcome. We are happy that Members of the Croydon Citadel Salvation Army Band will be playing the carols again for us this year. This lovely service is always well attended so come early to be sure of a seat. As is our custom, the congregation will be served wine and mince pies after the service.
Our church looks and smells sparkling clean, and the Churchyard is much tidier thanks to the hard work of a team of 24 enthusiastic pupils and 3 staff from Year 10, Woldingham School, who came to help us as part of their THRIVE project, this morning (Ed: Tuesday 3rd October).
Thank you Woldingham School for lending them to us! We hope to see you back at St. Mary's in 2018!
Also, many thanks to Martha Ellison and, on the gardening front, John Gilbert, ably supported by Chris Buck and Roger Leserve, for help with organising and motivating our helpers.
Making time to pray together the
first Wednesday of the month
Wednesday 1st November
Wednesday 6th December
St Mary’s Church
Led by Rev. Frany Long
The Beacon -
at St. Mary’s Church, Church Hill, Caterham
Saturday 18th November -
..and visit our Christmas Tree Festival in St. Lawrence’s Church
Parish office: 01883 348751