It is all too easy for a church community to become inward looking and complacent, restricted to what happens within the walls of the building rather than what is going on outside the walls. Jesus spent his whole ministry unrestricted by four walls and every church community should strive to do the same. His message to us was a simple one: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.
It is then, a very painful experience, to learn that as a church family we have failed one of our neighbours in that regard. Someone slipped through our net and became what every fisherman will tell you to be; ‘the one that got away’
Recently I had the privilege of conducting the funeral service of the late Winifred May Carter. Winifred lived for many years in Grantham Avenue and I have no doubt that many of you knew her. Her husband Ted died some years ago after what she described as 57 very happy years. Her two sons, Brian and Graham, lived many miles away from her, so apart from her friends and careers she latterly lived a secluded life, and I have to say to my shame I did not know her. Part way through the service her son Brian gave the eulogy, and all the while he did so he held in his hand a little note book. He frequently quoted from the little note book for it was Winifred’s and she had put in to it not only a précis of her entire life but also such useful things as a recipe for Boiled Cake and how to get ‘Street View’ on Google Maps! Now that speaks volumes for a ninety one year old even I am not sure how to get into ‘Street View’ on Google maps. At the end of the little booklet she had left lots of notes telling the boys what to do. Almost all the notes ended with something like ‘Be Happy’, ‘Smile’ and ‘Don’t Cry’ followed by a smiley face! At the very end of the note book, written not many days before she died, she started with the words: ‘A very happy life with Ted, Brian and Graham’ but the very last entry tells a very different story, the last thing she wrote was; ‘I miss Ted’. ‘I feel very lonely and am in a lot of pain’.
Those last terrible words she wrote ‘I feel very lonely and am in a lot of pain’ tore at my heart because they could so easily have been the last words of Jesus as he hung on the cross. He too must have felt very lonely and in unimaginable pain. I feel that by letting Winifred down I have also let Christ down! As Christians and followers of Jesus we must make it our business that no more Winifred’s slip through our net. Our primary objective as caring Christian Church Family is to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. As you may be aware we have started a ‘Home Visiting Team’ here at St Andrew’s with the specific intention of avoiding anyone last words ever having to be; ‘I feel very lonely and am in a lot of pain’.
The team is only small at present and was set up primarily to care for those in our own church family, but Winifred’s last words must be a wake up call to us all. It is our duty as Christians to cast our net into the wider community, and to do that we will need help. If you could give some thought today to looking closely at the people who live near you, talk to people that might be lonely or bring them to the attention of either Heather Smith, who is the ‘Home Visiting Team’ coordinator or myself, we will do our very best to try and help. If you know of anybody who may have time on their hands and would be suitable to act as a ‘Home Visitor’ please let us know their names and how to contact them and we will follow them up. My contact telephone number is 07771922243 and if I am not available to take your call leave me a message and I will get back to you.
Lets all make a promise to Winifred to take up Christ’s invitation to be fishers of men to spread the Good news of God’s love by letting his love shine through us by our example to others, and please, please, lets do our very best to make sure none of the people we live side by side with never have to write the words ‘I feel very lonely and am in a lot of pain’ ever again.
Licensed Lay Minister (Reader)