I’m pleased to be back with you after such a long time away. I want, first, to express my sincere thanks for all the wonderful messages of condolence and the cards, flowers and other sustenance we have received, following the death of my father.
It really does make a difference.
It was also a great comfort and support to see some of you at the funeral. I was asked by my family to preach, and was glad to do that, for their sake. It was a difficult task, but also quite cathartic. (I guess I would probably have been very critical of anyone else’s sermon!) St. Matthew’s Cheltenham was where I was baptized and worshipped as I grew up, and Dad designed the “New” church in the 1960s. John and I were married there, and Dad was a church warden there for 47 years. Mum and Dad have attended for more than 65 years, and four generations of the family are still parishioners there. (Mum, my sister, Sue her daughter Deborah and her husband, and their seven-year-old daughter.)
As I reflected on my father’s life and work, I realised anew the important part symbolism plays in worship. Dad’s work as an architect always involved symbolism – no matter what purpose the building would serve. His style – the “Organic” of such greats as Frank Lloyd Wright – is now often gathered into the broader term “Modernist”. I still call it Organic, because of the use of natural timbers, stone and glass, which echoes the environment, and creates a place of light, simplicity and beauty for those who use the spaces.
How relevant for us as a parish, as we continue to enjoy, and learn how best to use the new spaces at St. Mark’s, and as we eagerly await the unveiling of the new window at St. John’s, and get used to using the wonderful new vestry there. When we walk into a place of worship, the history or prayer and worship surround us in many ways. We feel the peace and the holiness, or the presence of God and of those we have known and loved.
Someone mentioned, in a lovely sympathy card, that this death in my family has left a “Dad-shaped” hole in our lives. It is very true, and a beautiful way of expressing it. I am aware that there are many others in our community at present, who are living through similar times. How good to be involved in this loved and loving church community, where so much support can be shared.
It is clear this year has also been a devastating time for colds, flu and other infections. I know many of you have been ill. I hope and trust that things are improving now, as we get a few warmer days.
God bless you all