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Letter from the Vicar (July 2017)

Dear friends,

Rivers are an important and defining feature of any landscape. Without fresh water, we die – and so springs, streams and rivers have always been a pre-requisite for early settlements. Rivers are also of course physical barriers, which have therefore frequently formed boundaries between communities, parishes, counties, and even countries.

As well as providing water for daily life, the rivers became an important means of transport, long before railways and motorways. As we became ambitious without a convenient river to hand, we made one – hence the canal network was born.  Being so much a part of our culture, heritage, and indeed daily life for so long, rivers have inevitably come to symbolise many aspects of life. You can dam a river, creating a lake; you can divert it; but ultimately the water must continue to flow somewhere. It cannot be stopped completely until it reaches the sea.

Hence the river has been used as a metaphor for life itself, including in the Christian context. Right at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 2, Eden is watered by the river which flows out of Eden, dividing to become the four great rivers – Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates – providing life-giving water to the very cradle of civilisation.  At the other end, in the final chapter, Revelation 22, we have the river of life: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” 

In between, in Jewish history, the Nile figures prominently in the plagues through which the Israelites escape Egypt; Moses must create a flowing river to provide water in the wilderness. Crossing the River Jordan becomes the symbolic point of arrival in the promised land, and is then a focal point in Jewish life, so much so that wherever they wander or are exiled, no other river will do.

‘By the rivers of Babylon - there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.  On the willows there we hung up our harps.  For there our captors asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”  How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137)    As a result, the Jordan is also the obvious and essential place for Jesus’ public ministry to be initiated, with his baptism by John.  Rivers are part of our geography, our countryside, our culture, our life, and our faith.

Father Andrew

Revd Canon Andrew Gough

July 2017


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Thought for the Week 24th June 2018

It seems strange that the disciples should turn to Jesus for help during a storm on the sea of Galilee. After all they were the fishermen. They knew the angry waters and the gusting winds. Jesus was a landlubber with no touch of the sea in his veins. How could he help? Somehow they had a glimpse of him as Lord of the wind and sea, as Lord of all. We are challenged by our gospel today to call on him, to have faith in him, to live by that faith with boundless confidence in him because he is our Father.

Canon Andrew

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