We are a group of four Anglican parish churches who enjoy working collaboratively in serving the people and communities of Beech Hill, Farley Hill, Grazeley, Riseley, Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Three Mile Cross. Our four parish churches are delightfully different in history and character, each offering a different take on what it means to be active, forward-looking, community-focussed churches of the 21st century. Each church also has its own style of worship, weekly activities and pattern of services that continue to evolve. You should find all you need to know about us as you engage with our website, but if you’d like to meet and talk something through in person… don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Babies, and the language of communication
The main delight for my family, during what turned out to be a glorious, long, hot summer, is that Gill and I became grandparents for the first time. Little Nancy came into our lives in early August, and as new grandparents with so many things to learn and re-learn, it’s all been very exciting. So far, I’ve managed to regain some competency in controlling the trajectory of a pram, had a modicum of success in feeding and winding, and convinced myself that I’ve received my first smile and giggle (or was it a gurgle?) I confess that I haven’t yet taken the opportunity to change a nappy, and am in no particular rush for this to happen, but I’m sure my time will come…
Communicating with Nancy is an interesting process. Trying to understand an increasing range of gurgles, squawks, yells and heart-rending cries, is an art in itself, and with no dictionary of baby sound meanings to help, trying to interpret her needs can be tricky. For me, with no semblance of maternal instinct to call upon, trying to second-guess what Nancy wordlessly communicates is purely a case of trial and error. But the sounds that she makes are natural, unlearned, and quite beautiful, for they speak of Nancy, and are currently her expression of who she is. Thankfully, her mum and dad are beginning to understand her increasing vocabulary through their closeness and experience.
This set me thinking more broadly about how we communicate, and looking beyond the language of words, when we consider the language of music and art, perhaps pondering its innate ability to wordlessly communicate ideas that touch us in deeply moving and profound ways, we enter into a different vocabulary of understanding. Classical composers such as Mendelssohn and Rachmaninoff wrote some wonderfully lyrical, yet wordless songs, that speak to the soul.
Anyone who’s tried to learn a different language will understand how complex a process this can be. I’ve been learning French for the past year, and I’d describe my progress as being steadily patchy. I grapple with conjugations of regular and irregular verbs, and am being made aware of grammatical terms that I seem to have completely missed while at school! It transpires that I don’t know very much at all about the structures of the English language, and yet I’ve increasingly used it to communicate since my first words…mama…dada. I understand and I am understood. At least I hope that’s at least sometimes the case. But to be honest, whether speaking English or French, it sometimes seems just too easy to be misunderstood.
When it comes to an understanding of the language of the Christian faith, both living it out as well as speaking about it are equally important. But sometimes, through the vocabulary and terminologies that are used to describe Christianity, we make it sound so complicated, and God can seem to be distant and unreachable.
Quite simply, the Christian faith is founded on a vocabulary of the love of God, divine love fleshed out in fully human form through Jesus Christ, a real and living person, just like you and I. Jesus, who began life in a crib in which he must have gurgled, squawked, yelled and uttered heart-rending cries as the holy infant, grew into the man whose words and actions continue to speak to us today, and made our faith easier to connect with and understand when he said that there are only two rules to follow:
1. Love God with all your heart, mind and soul…
2. Love your neighbour as yourself.
This simple vocabulary is at the very heart of the Christian faith.
Be blessed, and know the peace and love of God.