Dear parishioners and friends,
Most of us will be off on our travels during the summer. Perhaps to a familiar holiday destination, or staying with friends, or maybe to somewhere new? Our country and our world are full of varied, interesting places, with so much to discover. I hope your holiday journeys will be enjoyable and trouble free. Our whole life is also a kind of journey, with many twists and turns.
You probably know the hymns Lord of the Dance, When I needed a neighbour and One more step, all written by Sydney Carter. A Quaker, he served in the ambulance service in Egypt, Palestine and Greece in World War 2. Although he died in 2004, these and other lively, thoughtful songs by him remain popular in schools, churches, weddings and funerals.
It’s his song Bird of Heaven which especially appeals to me as a simple, but profound picture of God the Holy Spirit, who is constantly active in the world and in the church. Carter (following the Bible) reminds us that God’s Holy Spirit is like a dove, gentle but not tame. Here is just one verse:
Catch the bird of heaven?! Lock him in a cage of gold?!
Look again tomorrow and he will be gone.
Ah ! The bird of heaven! Follow where the bird has gone:
Ah ! The bird of heaven! Keep on travelling on.
The Holy Spirit cannot and will not be confined solely within man-made cages, including religious forms, buildings or human traditions. The Spirit is like a wild bird, born to fly free and forever wanting us to follow him in new and exciting directions, as He leads us into all truth and helps us to grow.
It is said that many organisations start out as a ‘movement’ but end up as a ‘monument’. The Holy Spirit remains God’s gift for the worldwide church, vital to help us retain God’s own dynamism, energy and life, rather than becoming petrified or frozen into dull predictability and rigidity. We may use and appreciate our buildings, but we are not a monument. We must ensure that we remain a movement of people led by the “Bird of heaven” himself. I hope we can all keep on travelling on with Him.
Rev Fred Olney