Changing Times

Jane KenchingtonMany, many years ago I remember reading the phrase, “if you don’t change, you’ll die.” And yet, human beings don’t like change – we often rebel against it. we prefer to stay in our comfort zones even though those zones may not truly lead to our flourishing.

Change is dominating my mind at the moment as we prepare to leave the Sodbury Vale Benefice and move to Solihull. Boxes need to be packed; items long out of use need to be given away; and we are preparing to make the journey from the familiarity of our life here in South Gloucestershire and face the largely unknown future in an unfamiliar place.

At times like this, I often look back over my life and reflect on God’s hand on it. Ever since my ordination in Gloucester cathedral on 1 July 1990, I have found myself in pioneering roles – the first woman to serve a curacy in Winchcombe, the first woman to cause the diocese to learn how to deal with a maternity leave; the first woman to serve on Bishop’s Staff; the first woman incumbent in the Sodbury Vale Benefice. St Alphege’s Parish Church in Solihull, where I am going, has never had a female Rector in its history. It’s somewhat ironic, having worked hard to see women admitted to all three orders of ministry in the church, that just at the very moment, this diocese looks forward it its first female bishop, I am leaving!

These “firsts” have created situations where people (including me) have had to cope with change and the effects of change. Often it hasn’t been easy. But it’s often been immensely life-giving. I am deeply grateful to all the people who I have encountered over the years who were prepared to embrace change and navigate it with me.

Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Life is all about change – that’s an indisputable fact. But in all these changes that we face, God is always with us.

The Revd Canon Jane Kenchington, Area Dean of Wotton & Rector of the Sodbury Vale Benefice

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Sam, Monty and Mabel

Jane KenchingtonSam and Monty have been touching people’s hearts – making some people some people cry, apparently! For those of you who haven’t seen the latest John Lewis TV advert for Christmas, Sam is a little boy who has a best friend called Monty, who is a penguin. They are inseparable. Sam thinks he knows just what Monty is dreaming of for Christmas… something that will make one little penguin’s perfect Christmas day. And on 25 December, Monty is presented with Mabel, another penguin and everyone cries with joy. At long last, Monty has a friend of his own kind.

The reason this advert touches people’s hearts, is, I believe, because we recognise how precious friendship is and perhaps it touches us so deeply because many of us yearn for that sort of friendship and closeness. It’s all very well someone telling you that they have 2000 friends on facebook, but scratch the surface and you find that they don’t have many real friends because they spend so much of their time on social media, stuck alone in a room. We’re often told that elderly people are lonely because no one has any time to visit them or include them in conversations. At this time of the year, single/widowed/divorced people often feel their “alone-ness” even more keenly as Christmas approaches.

Who do we know who lives alone? Could you deliberately carve out half an hour to call on someone who lives alone? As for Monty, he now has Mabel. I hope Sam found some other (human) friends as well!

The Revd Canon Jane Kenchington, Area Dean of Wotton & Rector of the Sodbury Vale Benefice