Yesterday we braved the elements, and the flooded roads, and drove down to Abbotsbury to see the Olympic Torch pass through on its way to Weymouth. Given the awful conditions – it was absolutely pouring with rain – there were a lot of people, all wrapped up in waterproofs, sheltering under a wonderful collection of umbrellas, displaying that ‘blitz spirit’ that is clearly part of the British DNA. Abbotsbury was festooned with flags and banners, bunting and posters, flowers and objects d’art on an Olympic theme. Quite a lot of the bunting and flags had been put up in time for the Queen’s Jubilee and left there for the Olympic Torch relay – they are canny these Dorsetshire folk, no point in wasting time and energy? Sadly the almost perpetual rain we have been experiencing for the last few weeks meant that flags and bunting were completely sodden and left clinging to flag poles and buildings as they sought protection from even more rain. Nevertheless we all had a great time – even the man selling hamburgers half-price at the village barbecue did so with a smile on his face.
We arrived just in time to get a really good position to see the handover of torches – the kiss as it has become known because the respective torches touch each other affectionately in order for the Olympic flame to be passed on from one torch to another. We didn’t know who the runners were – they were not local people but people chosen from a select list of those deemed good and worthy – but they obviously enjoyed the moment. They were both preceded, and followed, by a cavalcade of buses carrying other runners, stewards, the press, and goodness knows who else. I was struck (figuratively not literally) by the sign on one of the buses that read ‘Moment to Shine’. The sun may not have been shining in Abbotsbury at that moment, but everything else about the occasion shone!
With the Olympic Torch passing through our part of Dorset, the Christian Churches in the area have instigated several projects including a special prayer to accompany the Torch: ‘As this light travels our nation, may your light, O God, shine in the hearts of all who gather to celebrate the energy, skill and dedication of others. Send your Holy Spirit to light up our lives and set our hearts on fire with love for you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’ The Diocese of Salisbury has devised a Pilgrimage Trail, highlighting ten churches of which St Nicholas in Abbotsbury is one. Inside each church visitors can find a leaflet pointing out something interesting and unique about the church in question but also containing a reflective meditation to lead the thoughts of all who follow the Pilgrim Trail. Many other initiatives are also planned to enable the good news of Jesus Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12), to be shared with the thousands of people who will flock to this area for the Olympic Sailing Events.
Speaking of light shining in darkness, Julia’s profile (and mine as well in some cases) has been sent to several Baptist Churches looking for Pastors, this month. Please pray for them, as well as us, and for all the other vacant churches looking for Pastors, and Pastors looking to move. The National Settlement Board of the Baptist Union have a difficult task trying to ‘marry up’ Churches and Ministers, and they get a lot of criticism, but it probably remains ‘the best worst option’. Some churches have been in the settlement process for some time and are perhaps too ‘picky’ – is this person ‘sound enough’ theologically for us; maybe there will someone better in the next list of names we are sent? Some churches are very fearful about the future – can we afford another minister; what will happen if we get it wrong; dare we really consider a woman? As we pray for God’s light to shine in the darkness of our land, let us also pray that God will give light to Diaconates and Search Committees as they seek to discern the way forward – and for us Ministers, that we too may discern the Lord’s guidance.
Thanks for your interest, thoughts and prayers. We will keep you posted as to any progress. Sign up as ‘followers’ for our new web page and be first to get the news.