Members of All Saints Church in Wokingham, where I am the Rector, as an Advent discipline are reading the book Sleepers Wake: getting serious about climate change by Nicholas Holtam, (SPCK, 2022). A bishop in the Church of England, Holtam was its lead bishop on the environment from 2014 until 2021. The book provides daily reflections, through the pre- Christmas season, on the climate emergency from a perspective of Christian faith.
Today’s refection focuses on how the Christian call to be awake always to the truth of what’s going on requires people of faith to make every effort to know and understand the true scale of the impact of current human activity on the climate, its consequences, and how urgently and comprehensively we need to respond.
I was struck in today’s piece by his clear-eyed statement that whilst on the one hand the IPCC process especially COP 26 is a major achievement of global cooperation to tackle the problem, yet also “it is nothing like enough”. This is a way of describing the COP process which perhaps both boosters of it and detractors of it might accept?
This afternoon I was in my local Post Office to purchase a book of twelve first-class postage stamps; wearing my clerical collar. The counter assistant said she assumed I didn’t want the Christmas stamps because they’re not really about Christmas – since they depict pantomime. She apologised to me for this. However, later today, on opening my emails I got this via friends who had received it from the communications director of the Church of England Diocese of Guildford:
“Christmas stamps for 2008
This tickled us and may be of use to you. It was sent to Mark Rudall by Norwich Archdeacon and Comms Specialist, Jan McFarlane:
“You may already be aware of this, in which case do press delete now. But I thought it was worth mentioning that the Post Office is producing two sets of Christmas stamps this year. One set has a pantomime theme, the other the Madonna and Child. You have to ask specifically for the Madonna and Child stamps. Is it worth reminding our congregations to ask for them?
Call me an old cynic, but I imagine a day in the not too distant future where the Post Office say they don’t produce Christmas stamps with a religious theme any more because no-one ever asked for them…
You do have to persevere though. I asked at our PO for “the religious Christmas stamps”. The girl dived under the counter and eventually emerged saying, “We’ve got some with a lady and a baby on. Will they do?”
Revd Mark Rudall Director for Communications Diocese of Guildford
About this time I surrender to the inevitability of the advance of Christmas. For the next week it simply takes over my life. Not only do I have family preparations for the great festival but also church ones too. Basically I might as well put on hold any serious work on other things until January.
I read in the Christmas edition of New Stateman magazine a piece by Richard Dawkins, the celebrated atheist. Despite his antithesis to religion he still prefers to call the season Christmas rather than simply “holidays” which is what the Americans do. Of course using the phrase “holidays” is not a secular as it appears because the word derives from the idea of “holy” days. Dawkins also wants us to remember 25th December as the birthday of Isaac Newton because he is one of the greatest scientists ever. This looks to me suspiciously like Dawkins is falling prey to the same spiritual needs for investing time with meaning that faith commmunities are meeting when they designate certsain days for the commemoration of the saints!
All Saints was illuminated by candles only for its Advent Carol Service led by All Saints Church Choir last night. Over 150 worshippers took part in the service of Scripture readings, carols sung by the choir, and congregational hymns. The Reverend Colin James led the service with David Rance Director of Music conducting the choir. Members of All Saints Flower Guild prepared the special candle arrangements.
The Church of England has an official online calendar here with stories about Advent from a different person each day – beginning with Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. http://www.adventstories.org/