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.
Orienteering… and Brexit! (Orientation – Disorientation – New Orientation)
I hesitate to mention the “B” word… but here goes…
There was a time, some years ago, when I became involved in the sport of orienteering. For those unfamiliar with orienteering, it’s a competitive sport that could be described as a cross-country race in which each participant uses a map and compass to navigate between checkpoints along an unfamiliar course.
I can’t pretend to have been any good at it, but it was fun, I was young and reasonably fit, and being able to use a compass and read a map gave a sense of wellbeing and security, with the real possibility that finding a way around the course was, at the very least, a comforting possibility!
I remember taking part in an orienteering event staged in wooded countryside in Buckinghamshire. I was running reasonably well, finding the check-points without too much trouble, and managing to keep up with the field… until I flew base over apex with consummate ease and lost my compass in thick undergrowth!
Without a compass, any sense of wellbeing, and of knowing with reasonable certainty where I was heading, completely vanished, leaving a feeling of disorientation. What had started out as a really good experience where I was confident of finding my way around the course, quickly turned into a feeling of helplessness, as I became completely lost in unfamiliar surroundings.
It was a huge relief to eventually find my way back to the starting point through clear identification of a country pub on the map from the top of a hill!
The Brexit process has brought a feeling of disorientation to most of us, and perhaps the best solution really is the simplicity of finding the nearest pub in the hope of gaining a new perspective! And although there’s nothing wrong with this idea, just a word of caution; be careful not to fall base over apex on your way home!
But perhaps faith can help us gain perspective too.
With the approach of Lent and Easter, we set our compass towards a familiar scenario of orientation, disorientation and new orientation.
The disciples had been with Jesus for three years, and had become familiar and comfortable with a certain way of life. Although not always predictable, Jesus had been constant in his love and care for them through his teaching and example, and they’d settled into his pattern of itinerant ministry that often found them in unfamiliar territory on land, and sometimes floundering at sea. But that was OK as long as Jesus was with them, leading and guiding, or just giving a comforting sense of security by the fact of his sheer presence. Jesus gave them a sense of completeness - a sense of belonging that they must have hoped would never end.
That sense of equilibrium began to disappear in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested, the precursor to his being tried and killed. This was completely unexpected by the disciples. Disorientation on a grand scale! Their lives shockingly changed forever; hopes and dreams for the future so inextricably caught up with following Jesus, now seemingly crushed.
The good news is that the disciples were presented with a new beginning that accompanies the reality of resurrection. It took them a while for the truth of resurrection to sink in, but the promise of new life, a new orientation, was now found. Jesus had left the finality of the tomb behind and, mysteriously, he remained with them.
Easter brings a resurrection spirit that moves things on from the place of desolation, through the darkness of despair to the dawning light of Easter Day.
The similarities with Brexit seem all too clear. Pre-referendum orientation, post referendum disorientation, and now the big question, after three years of uncertainty… what will the new orientation look like?
The Easter message gives us a metaphor of hope for new beginnings after difficult times. Hope for a return to some sort of equilibrium, the dawning light of a new orientation where we might begin to realise some kind of certainty for the future. As our future as a nation unfolds, this is my hope and prayer.
Now I’m off to say my prayers in church before heading on down to the pub!