Perhaps I was having an overly emotional day having been flattened by a particularly nasty case of the flu since Sunday eve. I walked into the church yesterday in advance of Roger and Yu Zhu’s wedding, just to take a quick peek and leave some treasures behind, but what I saw instead was love and beauty beyond measure.
You see, here in rural England, everything we do is a voluntary act. We have a house for duty Priest who came out of retirement, along with his wife June, to lead us, a full year after the departure of the previous full time Priest. We are part of a deanery which is having to make do with fewer paid full time priests and part of the suffering for the deanery means that we, the tiny communities of Coniston and Torver, are not considered large enough to require their own full time priest.
Being small does not diminish the work load at all. In fact we hold a range of services each and every Sunday, weddings, baptisms (one a month in Coniston), home groups, celebrations, festivals and minister to all who come our way, including the 300,000+ people who come into our community every year through tourism. We have an active Fair Trade coffee morning each and every Wednesday a.m. which reaches out to people travelling through as well as to locals in the heart of the community. A mid-day prayer service allows for quiet meditation while all the chatter in the coffee morning is going on.
It takes a lot to support these activities and the on the ground ministry. We have two lay ministers, two church wardens, several voluntary musicians, several deanery synod members, a Mother’s Union, a full PCC, and each and every person on the electoral roll, fully signed up and committed to the community.
Knowing all of this, what I saw yesterday made me realise what a beautiful church family I am part of. The day of Roger and Yu Zhu’s wedding the weather was horrendous. Tears of joy were falling from the heavens. Earlier, all hands would have been inside the church, cleaning, beautifying, laying flowers on each of the candle sticks made by Peter, setting tables, preparing food, making it beautiful and perfect for the wedding.
Before I entered the church, I ran into June, having spent the morning beautifying with flowers, she now on her way to change clothes. As I coughed away, she mentioned that Linda too is ill and suggested we were going to have to stop meeting on Sundays as I thought to myself wryly and Saturday and Tuesday and Wednesday too. I do hate being ill.
I walked into the sound of beautiful music and a scene of total calm and serenity. Pat, the church Secretary was wearing a very smart grey pin striped suit. Both Peter and Tim were dressed in dark handsome suits wearing big smiles. All work and preparation done, nothing missing, everything ready and waiting in eager anticipation for The Wedding.
I walked across the street to deliver a package to Anne and looked back to see Nick, the church Warden, walking into the church, wearing full rain gear on top, morning dress below and carrying a big cooler loaded with the best drink, as only Nick is able to do. My heart melted as I saw him enter the church carrying his bag of goodies. Nothing is too much trouble for Nick. He is always there. Always on duty. Nick misses nothing and expects nothing in return for his service and commitment. He may be one of many, but there are none like him.
Each and every person is involved in other work throughout the community, much of it voluntary. Lives of living daily sacrifice. Only today I don’t see anything but love. Complete selfless acts of love and generosity. I stand in wonder and awe as I look upon my big (in spirit) beautiful church family.