UNITED REFORMED CHURCH
31st March 2021 Edition 28
Our Newsletter’s first birthday came in Easter week, a time when we consider the crucifixion, the resurrection and the accompanying messages and symbolism. However we are putting a birthday candle on our page as a celebration of achieving together something challenging in difficult times.
With your encouragement, support and practical help this Newsletter has been easy to produce and distribute, so a big thank you and if you have a cake, please have a slice to
celebrate with us.
A final instalment of Sylvia Meredith’s memories from the war offers snapshots of life, at school, at home, in the town and of VJ Day, an oft-forgotten day of celebration. Soon after war started our village school was filled with children and teachers from Walton, an area of Liverpool. These were the evacuees – we found this really exciting – especially as it meant we had to walk to the village hall for some lessons as the classrooms overflowed. The village hall was good for hide-and-seek at playtimes. The newcomers found us very odd, just as we found them, Shropshire v Scouse! But we soon all settled down and became friends.
Our war was so far from the terrible trauma and destruction in our cities. Except for the odd bomb dropped on the return journey of bombers, we knew nothing. We had a large hanging lamp in the living room with a big white shade (no electricity). This shade would rattle when the German planes were going over, loaded with bombs destined for Liverpool. I do remember that low droning sound. We were all silent, praying our “blackout” was perfect.
During the war, blind veterans were relocated from Brighton to Church Stretton, this was St. Dunstan’s. Mr Harry Ruscoe had a cycle shop in Church Stretton and also had a tandem. Often on Sundays he would use it to bring one of these young men to our house for tea.
VE Day escapes me completely. I suppose only being a dozen or so scattered dwellings, we didn’t get to the village parties. But I do remember VJ Day – we had a huge bonfire with baked potatoes. We children had Corona to drink (a treat) and the grown ups had Mum’s blackberry wine. The reason I think for this celebration was because a son of one of our neighbours had been held prisoner by the Japanese. I do remember how very very thin and poorly he looked.
WEIGHTY WORDS from the BIBLE
It’s good for us to be reminded that all words are symbolic. They point to a reality beyond themselves. For example, you can’t eat the ‘word’ apple – but you can eat the reality to which the word is pointing. Weighty words of the Bible are there for us to weigh up; and get a ‘taste’ of what they are pointing to.
The word I want to ‘weigh up’ is RESURRECTION. This word plays an important part in the last chapter of the Christian story, where the main events are Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. But if we are to find an acceptable meaning for the word ‘resurrection’, it is the Christian story itself we need to re-examine.
That’s because the ‘old, old story’ as we have received it, has solidified in the Church’s unchangeable Creed; and there is need for a ‘new, new’ interpretation. We are familiar with the Gospel account that tells us about God and Jesus. We have grown up with it, but without asking too many questions. The one question we need to ask is this … is there a God in heaven who needs the sacrifice of his only Son, before he can be forgiving? Even to start pondering that question would be an insult to our spiritual intelligence. Nevertheless, that is the doctrine we have to say we believe, if we want to belong to the Church. To question the doctrine will need courage and honesty – even though many in the Church at Easter will be singing … On the cross when Jesus died / The wrath of God was satisfied. We need to be delivered from any ‘wrathful’ God, who punishes sinners in the torment of hell.
The message of Jesus needs saving from the clutches of a religion which manipulates people with threats of judgement and condemnation. Christianity itself needs liberating from the fundamentalism of those who believe that every word of the Bible is literally true. We can begin by not thinking of resurrection as the resuscitation of a dead body; which later in the story ‘ascended’ into heaven by shooting off like a space rocket (and which we now know, would either have gone into orbit round the earth, or still be travelling through space, not yet having left our galaxy!). Instead, we can think of resurrection as the Spirit of Jesus coming alive in the hearts and minds of his disciples; and the teaching of Jesus becoming for them … the Way, the Truth and the Life.
We should not be concerned with speculating about any after-life. Is there an after-life? Was there a before-life? We don’t know, and can’t know. The ‘new, new story’ is not a set of words to be believed: it is an experience to be lived … trusting, loving and hoping.
NEW EVERY MORNING
By Susan Coolidge
Every day is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.
THE JUDAS TREE
The Judas tree weeps tears of blood
For the traitor who would
Have turned the clock back
If he could.
He led the High Priests to the place
And kissed Jesus on the face.
Jesus asked “do you betray?”
As he was taken away.
Judas was to blame,
He felt the shame.
He tried to pay back
The silver coins.
There were thirty,
But the priests now called
The money dirty.
Grabbed a rope
And found a sturdy tree.
They found him hanging there
At last, of guilt, he was free.
Since then in early Spring
We see the strangest thing.
Before the leaves begin to grow
The dark pink flowers
Are the first to show,
Dripping like blood
From the wood
Of the hanging tree,
Tasting bitter sweet
Where joy and sorrow meet.
|ABOUT THE JUDAS TREE
The Judas tree is a fascinating plant. Its Latin name is Cercis Siliquastrum and it is native to much of the Middle East, especially Judaea. In Israel it is a protected species. It blooms direct from the wood in Spring with spectacular florets, often blood red and with hanging seed pods.
Janet Longstaff brings a close to our wartime memories for now with reflections she has called:
FORGIVE AND FORGET
I was 5 just after the end of WWII. My best friend was Carol and we lived in a large village in Lincolnshire. Carol’s uncle had served in the war. When he returned he brought with him a German wife and a little boy of 3 or 4 called Dieter. As far as I can remember, everyone accepted them.
Contrast his experience with mine in 1999 in Dorrington 53 years later. I had a part-time teaching job at the primary school. One boy in the class had a German mother. Another lad in the class said “I’m not to speak to you because you are German”. Perhaps this child had a grandfather who had suffered at the hands of the Germans – but why carry on hate to a third generation?
Not long after the end of the second world war an ex-Luftwaffe pilot and an ex- RAF squadron leader could be seen sharing a joke in Church Stretton. Peter Wolffe and Ernie Ainscough were both instructors at our local Gliding Club. Peter had been a PoW after his plane was shot down over Wales. He had been given work at a local farm and married the farmer’s daughter. Ernie had flown in WWII and it was quite possible that he had been responsible for Peter’s crash. I flew with each of them when I was being checked out for flying solo. The war was in the quite recent past but both men had not only forgiven their old enemies but had almost forgotten the war as they were so involved in the HERE AND NOW.
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Production & Distribution Team
Janet Longstaff, Sheelagh Wilson, Gill Jackson, Jennifer Thomas, Roger Wilson.
Produced for Church Stretton URC