Things are very happy right now at Church in the Valley.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated St Matthew's Day, combining it with Back to Church Sunday, and had a very encouraging response. Though several core congregation had warned me they would be away on holiday, we still had attendance well into the 70s, a dozen guests had responded to the official invitations, and a good crowd of children joined in procession and kept us awake and joyful... I kind of thought that might be the highspot of worship this autumn and was duly grateful for all the hope and promise it represented.
Today was Harvest Festival - and having celebrated Harvest well and truly with Valley Church School on Friday I didn't anticipate a huge turnout, particularly as we'd encouraged the children to make a special effort for the community Medieval Fayre later.
However much I may know that it's not about numbers, it is very encouraging when people want to come together to celebrate God's goodness and build community here. There were some returners from Back to Church Sunday, some newcomers who promised to come again (one bought the most lovely flower arrangement round yesterday as her contribution to Harvest) and more children than I had hoped for in my wildest dreams. Today is the first Sunday of the annual head count of "Statistics for Mission" so the sidesmen were jubillant as they relayed the figures. We even had (possibly, though not exclusively,for the benefit of the Herring of Christ (TM)) "the bit with a dog" - as Dennis the Guide dog puppy came and helped with the talk, which focussed on St Francis and his recognition of the whole of creation praising God.
All that jubillation was followed by the auction of harvest produce - nearly £80 raised for USPG and alot of enthusiasm along the way...Valley Church is not wealthy but the faithful know about generosity, as they showed today.
I feel privileged to be part of that community.
And then on to a further community celebration - the Medieval Fayre...This is the second year that a splendid local councillor has mustered all and sundry to gather in the park on an autumn afternoon, dressed in all sorts of approximations to medieval finery, with no aim in view beyond building community. The procession from school to park was made bright by splendidly costumed children (I'm so glad my own are well past the "I need a medieval costume by tomorrow" stage)...and the emphasis was very much on families having fun together. We worked alongside our Methodist friends and the church corner, featuring free helium balloons (them) and free gingerbread pigs to ice or illuminated initials to decorate (us) drew a steady stream of children all afternoon.Many were familiar faces, children I see every week at school and know by name .Some were children I meet on walks with the dogs. Many of the parents I did not know at all, and this was a wonderful opportunity to explain what Messy Church does, to assure them that that too is free, and to give out our calendars and info leaflets while the children had fun. Mostly, though, it was time to enjoy making connections, celebrating friendships, and just being glad to be part of things.
I was specially pleased that Messy Church won "best stall" at the fayre. Good PR for us, and a well deserved prize of Fair Trade choc for the Dufflepud, who had nobly made all 100 gingerbread pigs, once it became obvious last night that yet again his mother had failed to master the art of bi-location.
I do love this job.
Just wish there were more time to really enjoy it - Harvest supper tonight!
Pictures to follow