The Window on an Anniversary – Hampton Park United Reformed Church

It was a long journey by train from Paddington to (and from) Hampton Park United Reformed Church in Hereford. But it was worth it! I lost count of the number of stops, not to mention the usual weekend dilemma of maintenance work on the track. Such long journeys do provide an opportunity to catch up on my reading, reflect and prepare drafts of those outstanding pieces of writing on my “to do list”.

Hampton Park United Reformed Church was celebrating its 43rd anniversary on Sunday December 9th. It was also an opportune occasion to dedicate their refurbished Stained Glass Window in memory of the late Revd Ann Sheldon who was a long standing member and elder of Hampton Park URC. I knew Ann from my West Midlands days. So it was good to see many familiar faces from across the Synod and colleagues who travelled all the way from Beulah Road URC where Ann grew up as young child.

Joyce Busby (secretary) was excellent in her preparation work, providing me with all the necessary information I needed to plan a meaningful and timely service on the 2nd Sunday in Advent. I was particularly interested in the description of every piece of architecture/liturgical furniture and its significance in the life of this local congregation that she provided me with.  I was also ably assisted by Vivienne Haines (elder of duty), Revd. David Clarke, and the Revd Roger Woodall.

The Stained Glass Window is a large display that you will notice as you approach the Church. However, its beauty is best captured when you are inside and especially upon leaving Church. What caught “my eye and imagination” (and which I reflected back to the gathering on this occasion), is the fact that upon leaving church the window with its view beyond and outside reminds us that worship (and the liturgy) continues as worshippers head out into the community. Depending on the angle and intensity of the light, the simplicity of the design and choice of colours spoke powerfully of transparency, possibilities, vibrancy, joy and hope.

Using the baptismal font and the lighted advent candles, I reflected on John the Baptizer’s call to repentance as an interruption and counter-script, especially when one of the greatest temptations before the Church is that of becoming hooked on “normal” and “normativity”. And in the process forgetting who we are and our vocation to share and embody God’s offer of abundant life for all, however uncomfortable this may be. I suggested that John’s call to repentance, located around water, reminds us that baptism is a counter-script. It points to an alternative context for living out our lives. No wonder that at baptism we are asked “whether we able and willing to renounce evil”! I reminded Hampton Park URC of our need to repent and turn away from the scarcity stories we tell of ourselves and imagine a different world which is already given by God in Christ. We all need to live as though we are already part of it.

Mindful of the nods and attention I got, you would not be surprised that there was much to converse about during tea which followed the service!

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