November has always been a time of festivals and celebrations marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of Winter. In this Parish, it is also a time where through baptism we become members of one another in Christ and also of a company of saints whose mutual belonging goes beyond death. We celebrate this shared longing on All Saints Day at All Saints Church, Middle Claydon on 1st November, and Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) at St Michael’s Church, Steeple Claydon later on the same day.
All Saints Day celebrates the lives of those who have experienced the regular unmerited favour of God. This day provides an opportunity to give God thanks for that grace and wonderful manner in which those lives have been shaped leaving an enduring touch on us, families and friends. We’re encouraged by the work of the saints and their impact on all who live and work here.
All Souls Day also celebrates the saints but in a more personal way. It allows us to remember with thanksgiving before God those who have died – those personally known, those who gave us life, made sacrifices for us and who nurtured us in our faith.
We then come to Remembrance Day commemorated at All Saints Church, Middle Claydon, 1st November, and at St Mary’s, East Claydon, and St Michael’s, Steeple Claydon, 8th November. We explore at these services the theme of memory, both corporate, personal and individual, as we confront the ongoing issues of war and peace, loss and self-sacrifice, memory and forgetting.
Cesane Pareso shared: “We do not remember days, we remember moments”. We remember moments of the sacrifices of our saints and our local heroes. These are the local Key workers, the Swan NHS Practice and other NHS Surgeries, Headteachers and Teachers at East Claydon Church of England School / Steeple Claydon School, Parish Councils, local businesses, emergency services, volunteers and all who live and work here. Since I began ministering in this local Parish ministry, I have journeyed with 22 families in their bereavement, pain and loss of loved ones. All Souls Day is an opportunity for our villages to come together and commemorate those precious and painful moments but to also celebrate those departed lives. We finally remember with thanksgiving and sorrow on Remembrance Day those moments of lives in world wars and conflicts, past and present, which have been given and sadly taken away.
In our collective remembering, we call on the peace of God to sustain our lives using the words from the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”. Precious words that still reverberate in our families and community, not only of those remembered moments but words of hope as we wrestle with the ongoing health and economic impact of Covid-19 upon our villages, nation and globally. It is sad that we are still hurting, anxious and tearful.
Mother Teresa quoted: “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love”. And, in John’s Gospel, that’s what Christ conveyed by His example to our parish churches and all Christians regarding sacrificial love: “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them”. Our duty is thus to share this experience of Christ’s love with all in our community, as beautifully captured in this unknown but timely quote: “Just as there comes a warm sunbeam into every cottage window, so comes a love – born of God’s care for every separate need”.
Stay blessed with love
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of the Claydons