‘New beginnings’ – from Sheena’s service back in the Chapel – 13th September

September is a time of transitions and new beginnings. Memories from childhood arise, of my 1st day at school – I cried! The return to school each year after the long Summer – a sense of anxious anticipation. The pleasure of a new school uniform, the feel of a new exercise book – pages so pristine I hardly dared write.  Memories of going off to University, the first time away from home – both terror and excitement – officially an adult, still feeling like a child. Those who are parents, will know this experience from the other side; leaving your child at school for the first time, depositing your grown offspring miles away at University digs.  And right now in  Covid times, taking your child back not just to a new class, but to new restrictions and a whole new way of doing things!

I’m not a parent, but I remember September from the other side of the desk – as a tutor in further education; that slight heart sink feeling after the Summer break – cranking up to lesson plans and the prospect of new students. Would they like me, would I like them? Would I be able to control a new class of lively, sometimes challenging young adults?  And it was in September that I separated from my 1st husband and started a new life alone.  I have bittersweet memories of September…. I wonder what memories September holds for you? As well as the return to school and college, maybe this month has heralded new careers, births, marriages, deaths?

For all of us, whatever our personal associations, September is that in-between time.  Officially Autumn – but in the last throes of Summer. Warm enough to sit outside – but a bit late for seaside holidays. Still enough light to ripen the fruits – but the Autumn equinox soon upon us. We stand at the threshold of the turning season.

As a Chapel Community, this weekend we would normally open for Heritage Day. It’s a time to consider those who have gone before us and those who will come after us  And today is a new chapter in the life of this Chapel, as we start to meet face to face once more – but in a different way – looking to a future we can’t easily predict. There is a sense of us turning a new chapter in our society and as a human species too, as we negotiate the brave new world that awaits us – during Covid and after Covid.

Next weekend, 18th-20th September is the festival of Rosh Hashanah– the Jewish new year. September in so many ways, is the season of transitions. Whether we are ready or not, whether we like it or not, the wheel of the year, the wheel of our lives – turns – and we have no choice but to move forward with it; remembering those wise words from the Hebrew sage: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven

 seed

Some of you are facing positive changes in your personal lives; others, changes that are bitter-sweet. And all of us our facing changes thrust on us by world in flux. Yet in this crisis, the human-race is being offered an opportunity to start over – to find greener, more sustainable ways to rebuild our society and our world. If only our world governments could see this pandemic as the catalyst for positive change for all – both human and animal species. It may seem an impossible dream – that we as a human race can begin again, after the mess we’ve made of things –  but it’s only ever the dreamers who first have the vision and then act, who bring about true change.

And as we gather today as a Chapel community – a mirror of the wider human community – let’s remember we don’t have navigate this season of change alone. We can encourage and strengthen each other, act as ‘mid-wives’ in bringing to birth new things in our own lives, in the life of this Chapel and in our world. Starting over in our little corner of the world may take every ounce of courage, starting over on a global scale may seem utterly hopeless right now… but as the poet Brendan Kennelly writes:

“Begin again to the summoning birds                                                                                          to the sight of the light at the window…

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.”

In faith and hope, Sheena