Vicars Letter July 2017

Dear Friends,


The TV series ‘Who do you think they are?’ is into its 13th series.  If you have never seen it, it is a programme in which celebrities ‘trace their ancestry, discovering secrets and surprises from their past’.  It seems that knowing more about their past helps people understand who they are.  It is a popular programme and as long as they don’t run out of celebrities, I suppose, they will keep making it.

Human beings like to think in story form.  When the people of Israel were in exile in Babylon they too asked who do we think we are? And so, they wrote down their story, tracing their ancestry back to a loving creator God who made man and woman and who later brought their ancestors out of slavery into a promised land.  These stories helped an exiled and oppressed people remember who they were and to answer the existential question they faced, ‘Can we continue to hope in the face of the oppression we are experiencing?’ The stories gave the people of Israel confidence that they were loved by a God who had created all humanity and who would one day liberate his people.

And then in the New Testament we read the story of a man who was laid in a manger as a baby and who died on a cross.  A man who cured the sick, said he was the son of God, and told more stories about a Kingdom of God – a Kingdom of peace and justice.  These stories also answer the same existential question, ‘Can we have hope amidst the suffering and uncertainty of this world? They give us faith that God loves all of us and will one day give us eternal life reconciled with him.

It is the mission of the church is to help people understand how their story fits into these stories and how they can participate in the ongoing story of God’s transformation of the world.  To do that, we have to be able to answer the question, who do we think we are?

Even before I came to Alderley Edge I knew the story of the wizard of the Edge.  I had read Alan Garner’s modern reworking of this story The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  So, I knew this was a place of stories – stories about the struggle between good and evil and the return of a King who would save the world.


What I didn’t know until recently was that this community supports a thriving local history group that meets on a regular basis to discuss and explore a long history that stretches well past the Victorian village built around a railway station, back through medieval times to the Roman and pre-Roman mines up on the Edge. Many of the lives of people who live in this community have become intertwined with St Philip and St James church, since it was built in the 1850’s.  People often remark on it.  At funerals people will say they were married in the church.  At weddings people will say they used to come into the church when they were at school.  Or somebody will mention a great uncle whose name is on the war memorial.


It is for all these reasons that we have set aside the back of our church as a heritage centre.  The Alderley Heritage Centre will come to include digital displays, photographs and archives covering all aspects of the story of this community.  The centre will be officially opened on Monday 24th July at 7.30pm and our speaker will be the consummate storyteller, Alan Garner.  All are welcome to attend and all suggestions about what we can display in the heritage centre are also welcome.


Then on Sunday 30th July at 10am we are holding a service of thanksgiving and dedication for the spire which we have put so much energy into restoring.  The service will be led by the Bishop of Chester.  It will be a very fine occasion and we hope that many people in our community, and especially those people who have helped us rebuild the spire in one way or another, will be able to attend.  Why not come and see how your story fits in with the stories that our church and our heritage centre are telling?


May God bless us all.


Sermons and Letters
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