Thought for the Month (July 2007)

"A Postcard from Cromer"

Dear Friends,

As I write this, Diana and I are enjoying our annual holiday at the seaside. Sun (some rain), sands, one pier, a dozen crab-boats and, for those who know me well, not one but three second-hand book shops what joy!

This holiday experience is a bit different, especially for Diana, who three weeks ago broke her leg. Steps to the promenade become a different proposition when you have your leg in plaster and you are on crutches. We have both become very aware of the problems some people face in gaining access to places and buildings.

As Selwyn Hughes, that great Bible commentator and pastor once said, "Empathy an objective awareness of another's feelings or behaviour differs from just sympathy, which is the subjective identification of the feelings or behaviour of another." It's getting right inside another's head and experiencing the pain yourself. Come to think of it, that's just what God did, when through the incarnation and in the person of Jesus Christ, He took upon Himself our human form and endured all that suffering and even death death on a cross for us.

We've met some lovely people here on holiday, some, like us having a break, some working. It's so much easier when you can communicate in the same language, even if it's spoken with a Norfolk accent. Just recently we met Vilma and her husband covering a Saturday duty in a charity/Christian book shop. Retired, they both travel from Norwich to help out. They describe themselves as semi-detached Methodists.

Vilma shared a story with us. One Sunday morning they were at home, intending to visit and worship at a small country chapel in the afternoon. Finding herself at home in the morning, Vilma sat down with her Bible to read about the promises of God.

Later in the afternoon, they found they were running a little late, and by the time they got to the chapel they thought the service would have started so they would creep quietly in and sit at the back. Imagine their surprise when, on opening the chapel door, a lady cried out "Alleluia, praise the Lord! The preacher has arrived!" It turns out the visiting preacher who was to have taken both Sunday services was taken poorly after lunch and had returned home. In fact, the congregation had gathered, believing that someone would be sent to bring them the 'Word of God' and that someone was Vilma, who spoke on the promises of God. Vilma told us she's not really a preacher, but that God had blessed and used her that day.

Should we be surprised? I don't really think so, for down through human history God has amazed humanity with His concern, love, grace and mercy, which He has poured out on us.

We thank God for giving us a holiday, and we hope and pray that you will be able to enjoy some of the same this summer in order to refresh yourselves.

Thank you to all our three Churches in the Tunbridge Wells group, where I have recently been in the past months. It was good to be with you, and to share in worship and fellowship. Thanks also for one of the best-attended Songs of Praise services at Hawkenbury. Well done to everyone concerned.

Well, that's all for now. See you all soon when we get home.

God bless,

Pastor Richard and Diana Blackwell

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church