Church Life

By Revd. Judith Sweetman

I thought it might help if I took this chance to introduce myself, having been licensed to the Reepham and Wensum Valley Team as part-time honorary associate priest.

I retired to Reepham, with my husband Rufus, in 2018, My evolving faith journey has been varied: a small free church, meeting in a home and school; an urban Baptist Church – 200 attending; four small country parish churches – churchwarden and lay reader for 10 years; three years in my curacy church – high church tradition,100+ attending; and finally, eight years as priest in charge of five, mainly rural parishes in Suffolk.

When I came to Reepham, I hoped to be involved in church life and support Revds. Keith and Helen Rengert, so I took occasional Sunday Services and helped cover holidays.

In spite of this, I felt I had more to give and missed having a pastoral role in the community. This coincided with Keith and Helen swapping roles and Keith wanting to devote more time to Reepham High School and College, as chaplain.

From our discussions came the idea for a new voluntary role within the team, in which I could support these changes and fulfil my wish to be more active, with a focus on pastoral care, mainly in the Reepham area.

So, I am now available to the benefice more fully, with three ministry days: Friday (when Keith and Helen now have their rest day), Saturday and Sunday, when I will be taking services more regularly.

It is strange to take up this post when pastoral visiting and care is difficult due to Covid-19. Nevertheless, I hope I can still find ways to be a channel of God’s love, comfort and concern.

We all need to experience those, especially at this time of the church year. At All Saints and All Souls, we remember – and may still be grieving for – loved ones who have died, and at Remembrance, we give thanks for the sacrifices of many, but also lament, and are appalled by, the continuing tragedies of war, conflict and suffering, across our world.

The Christian faith, though, shines its strong, radiant light into these darker times, with its hope of eternal life in God after death.

And we end the church year by celebrating the Feast of Christ the King, that joyful promise that, ultimately, through the working of God’s Spirit, transforming each of us and our world, Christ’s Kingdom of justice will be established, good will prevail over evil, and life over death.

By Revd Helen Rengert

As I write this I am very aware of much sadness in the world, such as Beirut, Yemen (very unreported), Muslims in detention in China (also underreported), flooding in Bangladesh, Syria and its refugees, plus so much more.

Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with it that I wonder, please God, get us out of our mess.

I have had so many conversations about why God allows suffering. And it’s a question I ask, too. What is this all about?

Perhaps the question we should ask is why we allow suffering, not why God does.

I wonder about our responsibilities to make any small differences that we can. We now have to think globally; it can’t just be about our patch of the world because we together are the world.

It seems ridiculous that some people have superyachts while others die in inflatable dinghies, escaping difficult regimes and much more. What are we about: self or each other?

Of course, one the great commandments of Jesus was to love God heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.

This is global thinking; it’s about each other, and we have seen the best of people as they help out during the pandemic, but then selfishness when we ignore restrictions to protect others.

Fight or flight is our natural instinct; so is to be kind. Being kind is our deep communality. It’s when we lose that ability that we lose our very sense of humanity.

There are some people, governments and organisations that have lost kindness, working for self-interest only. We have to call these out: write, lobby, protest and join organisations that have kindness at their core (many do).

Large corporations and organisations need to be held to account as necessary. I was heartened by a retail company that didn’t overstretch its finances and has been able to retain jobs and buildings. This company is good and has kindness written all over it.

So what was the plan? God’s plan was Eden, God’s plan was beauty and abundance and for us to share and look after it.

So be kind and think of others. Shout if you need too, rage if you need too and demonstrate if you need too, but do so with compassion and care and with the hope of change.

In our small (and sometimes big) ways we can be activists for kindness to the world and to each other.

Revd Helen Rengert, Team Vicar
Reepham & Wensum Valley Team Churches
The Bircham Centre, Market Place, Reepham NR10 4JJ
Tel: 01603 871263

By Revd Helen Rengert

It was such a joy to be at a wedding this week. There is something special and beautiful about two people making vows to each other in front of witnesses (28 allowed at the time of writing) – and of course in church. Love is God.

Like Revd Keith said in his talk at this wedding, in English we only have one word for love. We love our jobs, we love our kids, we love a good pizza.

When love is defined so broadly it loses its significance. We may confuse friendship, commitment or lust with love; God intends us to experience something far deeper.

Love is so much more: in the Hebrew Song of Songs love poem there are three words – Raya, which basically means a friend, a companion or soulmate (Song of Songs 4:7); Ahava, which means a deep affection, a desire that is unquenchable, a wish to be with the other person that makes your heart ache (Song of Songs 8:7); and Dod, which means to carouse, rock or to fondle (Song of Songs 1:2) – the physical passion and romantic feelings that are a part of a love relationship.

The four types of love in Greek are Eros, Phileo, Storge and Agape. Storge roughly translates to family loyalty, while Agape is an unconditional love. Eros is what we typically think of as romantic love, while Phileo means things like fondness, enjoyment and friendship.

When we combine love and all these expressions of love – loyalty, friendship, commitment and passion – it is good, as Revd Keith said it becomes a love that will last.

Lasting love is what we all long for and hope for. Weddings are such a joy to attend and to lead as a vicar. It is always an honour and a privilege to meet a couple, to get to know them and to celebrate their day with them.

It is also lovely to see anniversary posts on social media seeing lasting love. We also love to do wedding blessings and other celebrations and also to help if needed. Do get in contact.

Revd Helen Rengert, Team Vicar
Reepham & Wensum Valley Team Churches
The Bircham Centre, Market Place, Reepham NR10 4JJ
Tel: 01603 871263