By John Ellis
My Easter celebrations were in Redditch where I enjoyed generous hospitality from former Assembly Moderator John Marsh and his wife Jackie, and led morning worship at Emmanuel jointly with local Methodist stalwart Stan Taylor.
The theme of the visit seemed to be renewal, often in response to what at first seemed unwelcome change. As an overture, alongside John and Jackie’s house, which was purchased with the help of our Retired Ministers’ Housing Society, is a wood that was shaking off winter and renewing itself with a growing carpet of bluebells. Redditch as a town was in previous generations the Midlands centre for the manufacture of needles and a tapestry in the church marks this. But changing economic forces meant the town had to renew itself.
One aspect of the renewal was the creation of a new town centre 50 years ago, which required the demolition of the Congregational church. Its renewal came through uniting with a nearby Methodist fellowship and moving into a new Ecumenical Centre spaciously laid out above ground floor shops. Another Methodist congregation joined in 2003 to form the present united Emmanuel Church.
The prime site has enabled a great variety of work in the community to be offered from the premises, often alongside people who are in need of many different sorts of renewal in their own lives. From the second floor worship area the preacher can see the neon signs of the adjoining Kingfisher shopping centre as a reminder that the Church’s work is always set in the midst of the world. On Easter morning a striking visual reminder of God’s ultimate act of renewal was provided in the worship area by decorating a large bare cross with fresh flowers.
Even Stan’s grandfather clock reinforced the theme. A fine specimen by a Redditch clockmaker from the early nineteenth century, it had suffered badly from an accident on the stairs of his previous home but had been fully renewed. This had special resonance for me as in the Ellis family home there is a contemporary clock which had to be renewed after a similar episode. The clock known as Grandfather Ellis (to distinguish it from the other grandfather clocks) took a nasty tumble down the stairs several decades ago. This was not wholly unconnected to the boyish games of a future Moderator, but the insurance company decided to categorise it as an “act of God”.
For however many years or centuries faithful clocks tick on, the critical and genuine act of God at Easter stands to remind us of God’s renewal at a point in history and, one day, at the end of history too.