Category: Minister’s Letters

This is the archive of our parish magazine’s lead article, which is written by one of our ministers (usually the rector).

Dear Friends

 

Dear all,

Saying goodbye is often difficult but Val and I have had to come to terms with the end of our ministry in the Arden Marches Group of Parishes on January 31st.

As most of you know, back in June, I found that I was suffering from levels of anxiety and stress that I had never experienced before. I have generally thought of myself as being a fairly relaxed character that copes with whatever comes so it came as something of a surprise to me (and even to those who know me well). That feeling that you are struggling just to keep up with the ordinary things of life is one that, I suspect, several of us have known.

I then found that, as a result, of some tests that I had had earlier in the year, I was diagnosed with fronto-temporal dementia. The disease is progressive and no-one can tell me how quickly it will progress, neither currently is there any medication.

At the time, I described it like being hit by a train and for a while I couldn’t think straight. Thankfully I had people around to help, to talk and pray with us. We then took the decision that I should apply for early retirement on health grounds which after medical reports has now been granted.

In such situations perspective is important. The fact is that none of us know what time we have in this life. Every day is a gift and we should cherish it as such.

I had a conversation with someone a few months ago, who asked whether what had happened had challenged my faith. It is very easy when difficult or bad things happen for us to blame someone, especially God. I have heard people say “If God really existed then he would let this happen!” or “if God really loved me…”.

The fact is that we live in a broken world and bad things happen. I am not a Christian because I think it will keep me safe and well – we only need to read the Good Friday story to know that can’t be true! As I have said more than once that is why in that great hymn we sing Blessed ASSURANCE not Blessed INSURANCE.

It is my faith that helps me make sense of such a world and it my faith in Jesus that gives me hope. God doesn’t promise that nothing bad or difficult will happen to us but that he will walk with us and he never abandons us. As it says in Psalm 23

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me”. (v.4)

I’m not sure what the future holds but I have a strong sense of assurance that the God who loves me, and has called me to follow him, walks with me. He heals and strengthens me. Through him I learn to cherish each day and look forward to whatever he has for us.

Of course, I am not just saying goodbye to the Arden Marches I am also marking the end of my time in stipendiary ministry. Over the past months I have reflected on the time, when, as a nineteen-year-old, I sensed God call on my life which led me into parish ministry. I have also thought about the five parishes in which I have served over the last thirty-one years – Walthamstow, Thamesview in Barking, Mildmay Park in Islington, Homerton in Hackney and finally here in the Arden Marches. In that time, I have been privileged to work with and meet some wonderful people.

But ministry does not end – there is no retirement in the Kingdom of God – and I will continue to do whatever I am called to do, it will just be different. We will not be moving immediately and are likely to be in the Vicarage until the end of April when we will be moving to Bidford. So, you are likely to see us around in the meantime,

Finally, Val and I would like to thank everyone for all your love, prayers and support not just over the last six months but for the five and a half years we have been part of the community here. You will always be very special to us. We will continue to pray for the churches here.

With my best wishes

David

 


Summer 2016

So what do I pray for? What should I pray for? What are the right things to pray for?  Some thirty centuries ago a young man called Solomon was facing that kind of choice. He sat facing a whole range of possibilities; Incredible wealth. Power beyond what most of us can even dream of. Recognition, respect, adulation: he could have had it all. He was heir to the family fortune, named by his father as his successor, backed by some of the finest families of the nation, pushed by an ambitious mother.

But there were also some problems, some serious problems coming his way. For all the glamour, all the good looks, all the right connections and the powerful families, there were serious issues confronting Solomon. There was, for example, a half-brother drumming up rebellion against him. There were old wounds left unhealed from his father’s days, for David had not finished all the battles. More than that, there were the defiant, the disobedient, the disenchanted. How was Solomon going to reign and reign effectively with all this going on?

Everything he would want, right there for the taking, but at the same time, serious problems of management, of loyalty, of governing. What to pray for? What do you ask for at a time like that? What do you say to the Lord? Is it, “what about a brand new chariot” or is it something like, “Destroy my all enemies?” Or is it something else?  Most of us know the story. Solomon opted for something else. Not riches and fame; not the crushing of the opposition. But something else — wisdom. Solomon prayed first for wisdom, for understanding and for discernment. “Give thy servant an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil.”

Wisdom, the gift of knowing what to do with your knowledge, your resources, your energies. Not more resources, not more energy or more time, but the wisdom to use what you have already.

What do we need to pray for? Maybe, pray for wisdom.

Now one of the issues in praying for wisdom is that we like Solomon wait so late to do it. We wait until we have tried everything else and then, in desperation, we ask for the Lord’s gift of wisdom.

Consider what had happened already and what King Solomon had done about it. Read the first two chapters of I Kings, though they are not an easy read! You will see how like Solomon most of us are; we will try everything to manage our own problems, even desperate measures, before we get down around to asking God for wisdom and guidance.  The young king does everything humanly possible to do to secure his kingdom, but then finally he turns to the prayer for wisdom.

Listen to Solomon’s cry of desperation, “I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.” Lord, I’ve tried all I know to do, and the people still aren’t behind me, it is still not coming together; all my hard work and all my political manoeuvring and all my struggling: it’s not working. I really need your wisdom.  But how true to human nature it is. How much I would rather pretend to be in charge, how much I would prefer to bulldoze ahead in my own way. We need to take notice of Solomon’s dilemma and start praying for wisdom and importantly recognising that praying for the right things need not necessarily come after we have got things into a mess!

An unknown, unnamed soldier during the terrible days of the American Civil war left behind his own prayer which went as follows:

I asked for strength that I might achieve;  I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.  I asked for health that I might do greater things;  I was given infirmity that I might do better things.  I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise.  I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.  I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things.  I got nothing that I had asked for, but everything that I had hoped for.  Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered; I am, among all men, most richly blessed. 

 

David Silvester

 


June 2016

A few weeks ago about thirty of us from our group of churches spent the day together on our away day. It was a really good time of talking, listening and praying together.

We had the opportunity to think together about the all that we are doing and to ask what do we do well and what do we struggle with. We also spoke about the things that have changed in our community and culture and the difficulties that they bring but also the opportunities that we might have.

Continue reading “June 2016”


May 2016

As I write Val and I are into our third week back after our sabbatical time and what I have learned is that it will take a while to catch on everything – and I don’t just mean emails!!

Three months is quite a long time in some respects. All kinds of things move on and all manner of things happen – so be patient with me.

From our point of view, we had a wonderful time travelling, on retreat, visiting friends and former colleagues and just being able to spend time together.

Continue reading “May 2016”


April 2016

Together as one

‘Many hands make light work…’        ‘Teamwork makes the dream work…’

I don’t know about you, but I associate these sorts of phrases with American-style motivational speakers and managers who like to speak in clichés.  When I hear them, I feel myself wanting to respond:

‘Yes, but too many cooks spoil the broth…’
‘Yes, but vision becomes a nightmare with a big dream and a bad team…’

Continue reading “April 2016”


March 2016

Lent

According to OpenBible.info (a website that tracks references to the Bible on Twitter and Facebook), the most common things Christians say they are giving up for Lent this year are:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Social Networking
  3. Alcohol
  4. Twitter
  5. Facebook
  6. School
  7. Meat
  8. Sweets
  9. Coffee
  10. Fizzy drinks

Continue reading “March 2016”


February 2016

As some of you know, in early January a local boy called Ollie lost his life.  He was in Year 6 at Studley St Mary’s C of E Academy, and had fought bravely against Ewing’s sarcoma (a rare bone cancer) for about 18 months.  I had the privilege to get to know his family – and their extremely happy dog Popcorn – several times over the days before his funeral.  I cannot even try to imagine what they are going through, but we managed to plan a funeral service that I think said a lot about who he was, and what he meant to his family.

Continue reading “February 2016”


January 2016

What a difference we hope one evening will make. The sun sets on 31st December and when it has risen the next morning a new year has begun. All that was of the year past has gone and the New Year is here. New possibilities, new hopes, new ideas and dreams. Making New Year’s resolutions takes the New Year seriously as a new start. In making New Year’s resolutions, many people try to make possible their dreams, ideas and hopes. With the morning of the first of January comes not only a new year but for many of us a hope of a new Me. The trouble is, more years than not, we quickly realise it might be a new year but it’s the same old me.

Continue reading “January 2016”


December 2015

It’s not good to feel like your life’s out of your control. Like you’re no longer the master of our own destiny. To feel powerless. Yet that is often, if we are honest, how we feel. As I was reading this Christmas story in preparation recently it struck me that that’s how most of the people in the Christmas story must have been feeling.

Joseph has just discovered his fiancee is pregnant and it’s not his child! Then he’s told by Roman officials that he has to pack up his things and move all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem so the Emperor can do a census of his empire.

Continue reading “December 2015”


November 2015

As a church we have several frustrations amongst us not least that we don’t reach huge sections of our community with the love of God, especially the younger generations

We continue with several initiatives – Friday Night Outreach, Messy Church, Youth Café, Centrepoint – and they have been successful to a point but we would love to develop them further, but we struggle with space and resources.

Continue reading “November 2015”