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.
Remembrance Address 2019
During the month of November, we remember all those who have fallen in conflicts since the First World War. We keep faith with the promise that we shall remember them. We honour the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice for you, for me, for our parish, our county, our country.
I like to think these men and women did not die in vain. In many ways, I believe they triumphed. You and I live in the very freedom won by their sacrifice. We benefit from an international order which, while far from perfect, has ensured a greater degree of peace and co-operation than any preceding it. In a broad sense, their sacrifice has given us life. This is their costly and enduring gift to us.
But they also see another gift they have made us, somewhat smaller in scale than these just mentioned but, in many ways, more tangible. And that gift is seen at every parade at every war memorial across the benefice. It is the gathering of people of all ages, races and backgrounds, united in community. We are united because of those who gave their lives. They have brought us together and continue to bring us together. We are their victory. The Remembrance Day gatherings, while solemn, are also in that sense, their joy.
And when we gather before God at the Cross of Remembrance, we think of another who gave his life in the ultimate sacrifice: Jesus. Like those whose names are inscribed on the war memorials, Jesus died a young man. He died fighting in the great conflict between good and evil. The only perfect man who ever lived, he died painfully on a cross. He was a gift of love for this world and said ‘greater love has no person than this than he lay down his life for his friends.’
And like those we honour during this month, Jesus did not die in vain. His death brought an unimaginable freedom. He gave us freedom from the power of death. When you and I lose a loved one, don’t we wish they could rise again? Don’t we wish that those we love and those whose names are inscribed on countless tombstones and memorials could be restored to us? Because of the gift of Jesus, that deep desire is no longer just a dream. God raised Jesus from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep him in its clutches. Death needs no longer be the end. Eternal life is the gift of God to all who honour Jesus, all who become his friends.
Just as the lives of the fallen draw us together in unity during this season, so, one day, Jesus will return to call together all who honour him in this life - a great multitude of people from every nation and tribe and people and language. He will call them to live with him forever in perfect peace. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
And so, this month, you and I honour the ultimate sacrifice made by the people of this benefice and we are also granted the opportunity to stand here and recall the ultimate sacrifice made by the greatest of men, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. It is for each of us to decide how we will respond to so costly a gift.
Pastor Nathan Hunt