Pastor’s Thoughts – October 2014

Dear friends,

I’ve commented before on the tendency that Italians have to want to hunt and forage for anything that might make a tasty meal. This results in thousands of Italians taking to the woods, fields and forests every weekend in search of delicious morsels. One consequence of this is that every year a number of Italians die because their love of fungi is greater than their ability to determine which ones are safe to eat!

Collecting wild fungi is something of an obsession and people are truly not always aware of the dangers. During my last trip to Italy, the debate was not about whether the fungi were safe to eat but the experience of another mushroom collector, who was so focussed on the fungi that he didn’t notice something else about his environment.

In 1999, in an attempt to re-establish them in their traditional environment, 10 brown bears from Slovenia were released into the wild in Trentino and Sud Tirol. This region of the Italian Alps includes the Dolomites and the German speaking area of Italy that borders Austria. What the mushroom collector failed to notice was that as he searched the ground he had wandered between a female bear and her cubs. The result was an attack which he only just escaped with his life. The debate that raged afterwards was between locals who were in fear of their lives, and the lives of their farm animals, and environmentalists who believed that the bears should be allowed in their traditional habitats.

I guess that most of us restrict our foraging to collecting a few blackberries or maybe the odd field mushroom. Certainly the dangers of meeting an enraged squirrel don’t seem quite as fearsome as a brown bear. In truth most of us forage at the local supermarket and the most dangerous thing we do is reverse out of a parking space!

That’s one reason why, once a year, we take time to celebrate harvest. Whilst Harvest Festival was at one time about giving thanks for what you had to see you through the winter, and recognising what was ahead of you for the coming year, nowadays we are in the happy position of being able to go to a shop and buy food at any time.

Of course, that only works if you have money. In recent years we have seen the need for the Food Bank and we shall again be supporting its work with our donations. We recognise that we live in a country where food is plentiful and where others do most of the hard work for us. It is right to remember that with gratitude whilst recognising the need that others have in this country and overseas.

Getting between a mother bear and her cubs is always going to provoke a big reaction. Parenting is often seen as an instinctive thing. I suspect that it’s a bit easier for bears than for us – there’s a lot less to teach! This month we are going to begin a season focussing on parenting but don’t imagine that this will only be relevant to parents. Whilst the two courses that we are going to run are specifically for those facing the challenges of parenting, the Sunday series that goes with them will look at parenting from a different angle. We will not only be thinking about the core responsibilities of bringing up children but at how we live as God’s children.

Jesus called the children to him and said,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” – Luke 18:16

My prayer is that this may be a series that releases many of us and brings healing where we have been hurt in the past.

Yours in Christ
John