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From the Vicar May 2023

From Rev Paul Wignall, Long Wittenham


The last Sunday in May is called, in the church’s year, the Festival of Pentecost, when we celebrate God’s gift of life. The Bible tells it as the story  of Jesus’ followers being overwhelmed by an empowering, burning fire that turned their world upside down.


But has the fire gone out? The church certainly seems to struggle to keep it lit, let alone attract others to come and warm themselves by it, or use it as a light to guide our path through life. The exuberance, the energy, that drove the apostles out across the whole known world – around the Mediterranean, into North Africa, the Middle East, probably even as far as India – and over many centuries across the globe; this fire doesn’t burn like it did, certainly not in our neck of the woods.


It's not, it’s precisely not, about numbers in church. It’s about the deeply, joyfully serious business of finding and offering “life in all its fullness” – as the fourth gospel sums up Jesus’ gift to the world.  Where life is, there God is, but God is a strange comforter. What those first people of Pentecost discovered was that life isn’t about comfort or self-satisfaction, not about keeping rules or keeping safe, not about staying out of harm’s way or just doing enough to pay the bills. Life is for living in all its messiness, uncertainty, commitment, joy, sorrow and the elation – in the end – of being alive in our incomprehensibly wonderful universe. So Pentecost is God’s final demand (like the giving of the law to Moses): be alive or else you will have forfeited your chance to share in the glory of creation.


On the first Easter morning, the followers of Jesus were huddled together in despair. The fire of life had gone out of their eyes. With nothing to hope for they were getting ready to drag themselves back to their old lives, dreams shattered. Then, from nowhere, came life – life that had defeated death. New life for them, new hope, a new chapter, a new journey.


Pentecost is the great explosion: not just life for me, not just for those who are content to huddle together in fear that the accounts won’t balance, that numbers will fall away further and that the roof will collapse. Pentecost is the gift of life, beyond the bank balance, the head-count and the building – out into the world where true life is to be found in all its chaos, glory and challenge. Pentecost is the moment when the church is told to get out there and join in what the world is doing. Because that’s where God is.



The Revd Teresa Stewart-Sykes is Team vicar for The Baldons with Nuneham Courtenay, Berinsfield and Drayton St Leonard.

e-mail: RevTeresa@outlook.com      and tel: 07823 809112

The Revd Jennifer Morton is Associate Team Vicar and lives in Toot Baldon: jennifer@morton8.co.uk.

Our current curate is The Revd Sorrel Shamel-Wood who lives in Berinsfield.

Our safeguarding officer is Sara McDouall: saramcdouall@gmail.com

A clergy person can always be reached in a pastoral emergency by ringing the Dorchester Team Office 01865 340007