Wisbech St Mary and a Big Hairy Challenge

St Mary's church at Wisbech St Mary

I’m off up to St Mary’s Church, Wisbech St Mary to help launch their new roof and masonry repair appeal. Just £100,000 to find. Cheques payable to WSM PCC Restoration Fund c/o Brian Payne, 7 Churchfield Way, Wisbech St Mary PE13 4SY please. It’s an old church that has needed extensive renovations in previous generations, and is now in generally good condition, but needing urgent attention to some basics before the faults set off further damage again. The PCC are looking for 25% of the sum needed to come from donations such as yours.

I looked up WSM on the web and found this whimsical passage in the very useful “Druidic” site which records visits to our local churches:

St Mary reminded me of nothing so much as one of the flat barges used to travel around the shallow fen waterways. It is actually quite a big church: broad, with two aisles, and long. However, it has a flattened-out look. The aisle walls cannot be more than about ten feet high, and the clerestory is even shorter. The walls are stuccoed in a sunny beige colour, and the windows are classic late Perpendicular. Those in the aisles are square-topped with three mullioned lights each, and those in the clerestory have arches so flattened as to be nearly square-topped themselves. There is even a little sanctus bell-turret, which I suppose could serve as a chimney or whistle for the barge as it sails through the waterlogged fields. (http://www.druidic.org/camchurch/churches/wisbechmary.htm)

The challenge will be made a little sharper by the fact that I am also going to be announcing the appointment of their very efficient parish priest, Matt Bradbury, to the post at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Wisbech. He will be excellent there, but a big loss to WSM. So here is a summary of what I’ll be saying about facing the “Big Hairy Challenge.”

It’s a Big Hairy Challenge. It’s huge; and makes us feel tiny; but think how immeasurably “big” God is by comparison. It’s not so easy to get this proper perspective though. The widow of Zarephath in this morning’s OT reading takes two goes to grasp it. She has a sort of faith (this is near Sidon in Gentile territory); she recognises “your God” to Elijah; but it needs to be refined (Zarephath in fact means “place of the smelter”.) She needs to make faith in the God of LIFE her own.

It’s a challenge. But “God is good all the time; all the time, God is good”.Our inability to grasp matched by God’s ability to give. This is what Jesus shows us God is like. It is Paul’s “gospel not of human origins” in today’s Epistle; and what we sing about as “Amazing Grace”. When we are down and out and as good as dead, God steps in to raise us up and give us life

We see the power of his compassion in Jesus himself (raising the widow of Nain’s son in today’s Gospel reading); in the resurrection event itself, of course; and in Paul’s about-turn. And nothing in our faith or in Scripture to say it stops then: we can see it in our lives too.

SO: God is going to be at work in you; in your church community; in your wider community; and  just by himself too [I gave examples].

Even in human terms, we don’t see many half-finished roofs. And when you factor in God in whom all things are possible, I almost want to start the finishing party now!

There is lots of work ahead, and God is choosing to do it the hard way, through you! But you are great and you are stronger than you think; there will be lots of help from others; and above all God will be with you every step of the way.

Photo © Chris Stafford Creative Commons CC BY-SA http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”  http://s0.geograph.org.uk/photos/34/27/342710_718141a9.jpg