Rector's Letter: May 2001

 It was a dramatic sight in the darkness.  A great funeral pyre perhaps half a mile long defined the western horizon.  An unusually quiet M5 carried us to the West Country and a few days of peace and quiet.  And as the orange snake of the pyre slipped slowly by, even the children watched in silence.

 It was a strange footnote to the day.  Easter Sunday, full of joy and resurrection-hope had gone so well.  And as soon as Evensong was over we excitedly threw suitcases children and dog into the car and set off into the night for a Bank Holiday at the seaside.

 But now, as I looked out the car window, the words of the prophet Habakkuk ran around my head to the tune of the old Sunday school chorus, "though the cattle are dead and the fields empty lie… I will trust in the Lord alway".  I'd always thought it a strange and deep little song.

 It struck me that as a "man of God", this is what I ask of people - just like the Old Testament Prophet did when he came out with the words first time round: "No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get… trust, believe, hope.  Don't be conquered".

 Earlier in the day I'd celebrated our Easter Communion at Astbury's Altar.  In front of me stood the Reredos, its decorative carvings raised over a century ago as an act of thanksgiving following an earlier outbreak of Foot & Mouth.  The Parish Records from the period make stark reading, listing farm after farm: G Goodall, Moreton, 36 stock, 0 left…  And perhaps even harder hit in one way: S Cartlidge, Astbury, 1 stock, 0 left…

 But to me the Reredos had always been a puzzle.  Why was it there?  After all, what on earth had anyone got to be thankful for!  By the middle of 1866 half the cattle in the County had died.  And the green fields around Congleton had been emptied more than most - And then I realised: The Reredos isn't a monument to deliverance from suffering… it’s a monument to the hope that lives on beyond it and despite it.  Just like the bread and the wine I raised in my hands above the Altar.

 The Easter Faith is an ability to see beyond the boundaries of normal sight, to a God who wasn't conquered even by death itself.  We may not be spared the suffering, but faith and hope can see beyond even the grimmest of life's horizons.

 

Jeff Cuttell.

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