Getting on a bit!

Like myself and many of my friends and neighbours, St Augustine’s is getting on a bit!  In fact on November1st the church celebrates its 110th Birthday, no mean achievement even if the church, like the Vicar, is showing signs of some ageing!  On Sunday November 5th the Bishop of Guildford will be joining us as we offer thanks to God for the past 110 years and look forward to all that lies ahead, and yes there will be a Birthday Cake! The ’new’ church, designed by Sir Thomas Jackson RA, replaced the old iron mission church which opened in Denmark Street in 1880. Original drawings show  much more elaborate designs than the church local people could afford to build in 1907; the spire would have been nice but the building’s architectural merit  must lie in its simple beauty, earning it the description of  a ’Hampshire treasure’!

As I have remarked before, I often meet people with fond memories of St. Augustine’s; ‘do you remember… that’s where we first met at a dance at ’the Saints’.. we were married  there 50 years ago… I was christened there 90 years ago… I was a brownie in the 60’s, I went to the youth club in the 70’s… I remember the Mother and Toddler Group… do you still have? Yes times change but from the very beginning when the church was running a soup kitchen for local army families during the Zulu wars of the 1880’s up until the present day when we raise money and collect gifts for local charities like ‘The Vine’, St. Augustine’s has always tried to be at the heart of community life and, as a church, offer a welcome to all. Engaging with people and trying to be here for everyone, has never been an end in itself, rather it  is because we believe in the transforming power of God’s love and his son, Jesus Christ, who came into the world to show us the depth and meaning of that love. The Church is called to proclaim that love, the good news of the Christian Gospel to every generation; not just to those who come to church already but to everyone, to our community, to our nation and to the world! This is a work in progress, a few steps forward, a few steps back, the Church’s mission, both locally and globally, is never over as the Diocese’s latest initiative, ‘Transforming Church, Tranforming Lives’ daily reminds and challenges us!    

As I said in my opening remarks, like the church, many of us are getting on a bit, and that is equally true of the congregation at St.Augustine’s, particularly as a number of our ‘younger’ families and ‘about to retire’ couples have decided to move away from Aldershot to pastures new!  Nevertheless there is  a general  determination to carry on our work of mission and the ministry we offer to the wider community, it just means we might have to be a little   more modest with  some of our plans; however enthusiastic people may be, we have to be realistic about the resources, human and material, that are available to us! That said it is quite amazing just how much some of the elderly members of our church family do to keep everything going, not least the distribution of this leaflet!  Why do they bother, obviously because they believe in what we are doing, our mission, but also because the church provides a ready vehicle to use the many oft ignored skills the retired and elderly possess!  Retirement is not all about how big your pension is going to be or who is going to look after you, the subject of much discussion in the media, but rather how content and fulfilled you feel NOW! Are you one of those elderly people in the parish who feels lonely and isolated, who perhaps, through changing circumstances, no longer has the support of family or close friends near at hand? The world can seem a very harsh place when you feel you are on your own, acts of kindness sometimes feel very few and far between! Perhaps its not too late to start coming to church, not just to join in our somewhat traditional worship, but to find a warm welcome and make new friends… you are never too old to try something new!  Hopefully St Augustine’s will be here for some years to come, why not  come  along and be part of that future? Worth thinking about maybe?

                              your friend and priest,      Father Keith