Associate Rector's Letter for October

Dear Friends, 

A couple of Sundays ago, the centre of Bury was closed off for the annual Bury 10km run. Events like these can prove to be an opportunity for some and an inconvenience to others: I’ll let you decide which category you fall into! A few of our parishioners ran in the race: one for the very first time, raising money for a very worthwhile cause and achieving her goal of completing the course without stopping, and another who smashed her personal best. So let’s forget how we were put out on that morning for a moment and rejoice with those who rejoice!

I had been hoping to run the race also, but a dodgy knee prevented me (honest). Physical limitations are always something of a challenge, aren’t they. They remind us of the frailty of our bodies and how, at any given moment, something can go wrong. And we’ve been reminded recently and forcibly just how fragile life itself is by recent meteorological events across our world: Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the earthquake in Mexico, mudslides in Sierra Leone and extreme monsoons in the Far East. Lives, livelihoods and lodgings can disappear in a matter of minutes.

A brush with death - that’s something Rev. Dr Giles Fraser had a taste of recently. Giles is a priest in St Mary’s in Newington, London as well as being a journalist and broadcaster. On a recent "Thought for the Day” on Radio 4’s Today programme, he recalled the events of Pentecost Sunday this year that left him hospitalized:

"I had a heart attack. Pain in the arm, tightness of chest, sweating buckets. The ambulance rushed me to St Thomas’ hospital. And when the doctors got to look inside me, they found that the arteries of my heart were solid with gunk. I was about the drop dead, they said. Within days I had been given a quadruple heart by-pass operation, using arteries cut out from my leg."

Whilst in hospital, he was visited by his bishop who comforted him with words that Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:

“We have this treasure in clay jars to show that power belongs to God and not to us.”

In other words, our flesh and spirit may fail. But what we build during our lifetime, if God is in it, will last. The presence of Jesus in a life means that anything can happen, even though we might feel frail and weak. It’s making space for that presence though. It’s saying, as John the Baptist did:

"he (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease."

Or, as Giles Fraser puts it:

"We all know intellectually that we are going to die. But to have that knowledge come alive to us, to stare it in the face - that’s something entirely different. And St Paul has some advice to those of us who have faced this wisdom, that there is a way to place our heart beyond the reach of destruction - and that is, to shift the centre of gravity in our lives to outside of ourselves."

If God has our heart, then we can never be shaken - no matter what might be around the corner.

God bless and keep you!