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Reasons to be cheerful

Posted by Ruth Peet on Friday, February 7, 2020 Under: From the Vicar
This month holds a number of reasons to lift our spirits. Not least the signs of Spring awakening all around us. For some the dark winter nights are anything but cosy, and longer daylight and burgeoning plant and animal life really lift mood and outlook.

Many a poet has captured the heightened appreciation of the beauty of creation that Spring brings about. One of those was Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) in his sonnet ‘Spring’:

Nothing is so beautiful as spring —
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. — Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Hopkins was a Jesuit Priest, who after his death became recognised as one of the leading Victorian poets. He experimented with rhythm, developing something he called ‘sprung rhythm’ which in this poem has the effect of making it pulse with the sounds and sights Hopkins is describing. The sonnet can be seen as having two parts - eight lines celebrate the wondrous aspects of Spring, and then six lines relate those aspects to God: What is all this beauty? Do we sense in some primal way the Garden of Eden before humankind spoilt such perfection? Maybe the need for such connection with creation is so deep within us, that we can begin to understand why it is God’s very purpose to restore us all to its purity, wonder and joy. Hopkins pleads for this restoration, before it’s too late, particularly for the young and innocent. They are Jesus’ (the maid’s child) choice too, he says and so worthy of the effort and actions of Jesus, to restore them, and all of us, to a better way of life.

The ‘effort and actions of Jesus’ were of course, supremely, his death and resurrection, and we begin the journey towards the momentousness of Easter when we reach Ash Wednesday (at the beginning of Lent) on February 26th. We have also been planning the Easter programme, including some new ideas ... a Maundy Thursday Meal with Communion (instead of a later Communion service) and following the fun of our Christmas venture in the Capel Morris Centre, we hope to hold another Family Celebration on Easter Saturday afternoon.

Another reason to be cheerful is that we have 20 wonderful and inquisitive people, making their way through Christianity Explored, on Saturday mornings at the moment. It is a joyful thing to be accompanying each other on our journey of discovery. The journey is sometimes challenging of course, but that’s why sharing it is so good.
Another little reason for me to celebrate is that I will have been here for a year!!! on February 12th. I could say that I’m happy to have survived the onslaught (I have never known a role as busy as this one!) but I am also very happy to be here, and just want to say thank you so much to all the people who have held my hand, explained things to me more than once, not minded when I can’t remember their name and allowed me the space and time to find my way and start to flourish in this place. Aylesford church really is a big and wonderful, caring and compassionate family. Our regular congregation is growing and we are exploring various ways of being the church that our whole community hopes for and needs. It’s such a privilege to be part of it and I would encourage you to come and see for yourself. If you would like to help shape what we’re doing, then put May 16th in your diary, as that’s when we’re going to hold our planning day, open to everyone. More details later.

In the meantime, my prayers and those of the church are that we will all have the space and time to stop and marvel at the signs of Spring around us, and to connect those signs with the loving action of God, through Jesus, to restore all of us to a life of wonder, peace and joy.


‘Spring’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins is in the public domain.
Batchelor, M., The Lion Book of Christian Poetry (Oxford: Lion Hudson plc, 1995), p. 115.

In : From the Vicar