The Israelites crossed the Red Sea & set off into the wilderness, hoping eventually to arrive in the Promised Land. They took a long time arriving at their destination. On the way they bickered, succumbed to idolatry, were tempted to go back to the onions, melons & cucumbers of Egypt & to slavery, demanded meat & got angry with their leaders. Finally when they got to its borders & saw that its inhabitants were tall & strong, most of them lost their nerve. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we are seen to be like them, travelling in our wilderness, waiting to enter the Promised Land which is God’s own rest. The Church remains much like the people of Israel in the desert. We seem to be going round in circles, bickering, demanding strong leadership then rejecting it if we get it. We too suffer from crises of confidence & faith, fearing that God has forgotten us, & maybe be tempted to give up the whole adventure & settle for whatever Egypt has to offer. Pilgrims can’t be weighed down by excess baggage. We shall have to shed much of it if we are to travel, beginning with images of God. We may have to let go of images of the Church. It doesn’t turn out to be the community of radiant charity that we hoped for, but a crowd of unimpressive people who are often unsure & afraid, inclined to make shameful compromises & do not dare to tell their doubts & uncertainties truthfully. God’s holy people don’t seem so holy after all. But this stripping away of our illusions is also part of the journey to the Promised Land & we must give each other courage for the journey. In 1833 the young John Henry Newman was becalmed off the coast of Sardinia. He was depressed, exhausted & could not see his way forward. So, with nothing else to do, he composed poems, most famously the hymn “Lead, kindly light” Lead, kindly light, amid th’ encircling gloom, lead thou me on; the night is dark, & I am far from home; lead thou me on. Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me. [Take the Plunge; Timothy Radcliffe OP]
Last weekend, after end of the latest lockdown, we celebrated Mass again with lower numbers at our 6pm Sat Vigil Mass  our 4pm Sunday Mass at OL&HA  & fine turn out at 10am at OL&SB . The arrangements for our Christmas Masses 6pm & 830pm on Christmas Eve, & 9am & 11am on Christmas Day, all at OL&SB, are on an enclosed separate sheet, giving details of how to book a place, & asking for volunteers for the vital ministries at each Mass. Please let as many people as possible know that it is essential to book a place at each of these four Christmas Masses. We need to keep to a minimum those who will come unannounced & find there is no room to accommodate them.
BATA engineers have done sterling work this week in installing our new heating boiler in the Church so we look forward “warmly” to having the Church ready & toasty for this coming weekend. We have had an additional external light put on the east wall of the Church, above the graveyard tap, so that those of you coming through the graveyard after dark should have designated external lighting from the Main Road down to Back Lane.
In the absence of a Vicar for the Benefice, I took Neil Lawson’s Funeral at St Hilda’s Church on Wednesday. Neil did great joinery work for the Abbey & College for many years when I was Estate Manager then Procurator, & he & his dog Badger will be sadly missed in & around the Village. Please keep him & his family in your prayers. I will enclose the homily from the Service in this Outreach.
I discussed with representatives of St Hilda’s Ampleforth & Holy Cross Gilling the possibility of Carol Services in each Village. Given the usual elderly attendance with low numbers, with the likelihood of much reduced numbers this year due to the covid risks & not being able to sing carols, nor hold a social gathering afterwards, we will not hold a designated Service this year, when the risks to each & all of us remain high.
As I explained in Outreach last weekend, our Christmas Masses arrangements will have to be very different this year because of covid restrictions & much reduced capacity at each of the four Masses. You will find a sheet of explanation with booking arrangements with this Outreach, & I would be grateful if you could email your preferences back to me as soon as possible, as we try to meet the expectations of as many of you as possible.