AND THEN THERE WAS LIGHT!
Have you walked through St Giles’ churchyard recently? Then you will have seen (and if not in daylight, benefitted from) the four new lampposts, illuminating the footpath between the church and the hall. These new acquisitions were blessed, then formally switched on by Bishop Edward Holland during his recent visit to St Giles’.
You may be surprised that the project occupied over two years, and was far from plain sailing. (There must be a joke here somewhere about how many churchgoers it takes to change a light bulb..!) Then again, there was funding to be found, and it did entail digging in a churchyard, so councillors and the involvement of an archaeologist were required, as was input from the Conservation Panel and from English Heritage.
Even then, after a long search for just the right style of post for the location, we found that major rewiring was needed before it could be all systems go. But that perhaps, proved to be a blessing in disguise...
For while our electrical contractor Andrew Ericson was hard at work putting things right, there was a serious car accident in the High Road alongside the churchyard. A young girl, thrown forward in one of the cars involved, was knocked unconscious, and other family members were very distressed. Fortunately Andrew, an accomplished first-aider, took control, carrying the girl to a safe place and applying first aid until ambulance staff arrived to take over. His calm demeanour and prompt actions may well have saved the girl’s life. Certainly many of those at the scene – this writer included - felt that the presence of our talented contractor at that critical time was more than mere luck!
WELCOME HOME, BERNIE – TO KIP AND TO ICKENHAM
Gwen and I had four emotional days visiting Kip in the Lai Valley. We lived there for most of the first four of our 16 years in Papua New Guinea (1974-90). We were there in 1975 when Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia, and became, like Australia, a constitutional democracy in the Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. This year on 16th September they asked us to speak at the Independence Day service in Kip church.
Arriving at Kip, garlands were placed on our shoulders and we were led under a banner saying, “Welcome to South Lai Circuit, your home.”
We recalled memories and expressed appreciation of current developments in church life. I spoke of the school children in 1975, dressed in traditional costumes, learning singsing dances to celebrate independence. The head teacher, Raphael Tonpis, said he was a little boy in Kip at that time running around our house to see what we were doing.
Raphael has been on the staff of Kip Primary School for nearly 20 years. The school is run by the United Church as part of the government’s education system. Raphael is also chairman of the church’s South Lai Circuit which has over 20 congregations. He showed us around the school, where he has been able to get funding for classrooms and teachers’ houses, so that nearly all the buildings now have corrugated iron roofs and timber from the local forest.
Broad smiles and some tears were shared with people we knew, though it took a while to recognise some faces we hadn’t seen for over 20 or 30 years. There was Komabe, who is still chairman of the school Board of Management. There was John who, as a new graduate from the carpentry school in Mendi, built the first iron-roofed classroom at Kip in 1978. He is now a deacon of the church. There was Ibopi who was one of our students in the Bible College in Mendi in the early 1980s and ever since has had a leading role in the Women’s Fellowship. And Hinjipol from the next valley who did his initial training in the late 1980s and is now minister of South Lai, living in the house where we used to live in Kip.
Those are just some examples of the many people we met during our 7½ weeks in Papua New Guinea as part of my 3-month sabbatical. Christmas can sometimes be like that, meeting up with friends and family, catching up on old times and new developments, and praising God for the gift of life we share.
RECIPE FOR A STRESS FREE CHRISTMAS
I saw an article in a newspaper that was headed ‘Christmas Stress’ and so I decided to Google the words ‘Christmas’ and ‘stress’ on the internet. Within 0.093 seconds more than 22 million articles had been found. There were headings such as ‘Christmas tips to reduce stress’ (Better Health Channel, Victoria, Australia), ‘Stress at Christmas’ (‘All That Women Want’ magazine), a psychologist telling me that stress at Christmas is often ignored and ‘Top Tips for a Stress Free Christmas’ from those in the know at BBC Norfolk!
I glanced at a few of these articles; all seemed to centre around spending less on presents, managing family relationships, what to do with Uncle Fred who turns up on Christmas Day unannounced, how to avoid drinking too much, pacing yourself and doing breathing exercises...
But not one suggested that you get back to the real reason for Christmas, and study the foundations of the Christian religion and the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet surely it is here that you will find true peace, the peace that passes all understanding.
In the days that lead up to Christmas, why not take time out to hear the Christmas story at the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, in St Giles’ Church at 6.30 pm on Sunday 18th December? And come to one of the services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (see ICN page 1 for times).
Christmas should be a time of great joy and goodwill - and it will be if you put the reason for Christmas at the forefront of your thinking, rather than just the means of celebrating it.
So, give yourself a stress free Christmas by celebrating its true meaning, and a very Merry Christmas to you all.
DROP-IN FOR THE BEREAVED. Third Monday of each month. St Giles’ Church Hall, 2pm to 3.30pm. A friendly, informal opportunity for a chat, over a cup of tea, with other bereaved people and bereavement visitors. The next meeting is on Monday 19th December (then Monday 16th January). Just come along, or ring the Rectory (622970) if you would like to talk to someone first.