November has always been a time of festivals and celebrations marking the end of the harvest and the beginning of Winter. In this Parish of Wokingham St Sebastian’s, it is also a time where through baptism we become members of one another in Christ and also of a company of saints whose mutual belonging goes beyond death. We celebrate this shared longing on Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) at St Sebastian’s Church on 5th November at 3pm.
All Souls Day allows us to remember with thanksgiving before God those who have died – those personally known, those who gave us life, made sacrifices for us and who nurtured us in our faith.
We then come to Remembrance Day on Sunday 12th November, 10am. We explore at this service the theme of memory, both corporate, personal and individual, as we confront the ongoing issues of war and peace, loss and self-sacrifice, memory and forgetting. Recent atrocities and escalations are deeply concerning at present. The need to pray for God’s intervening peace is ever more important.
A characteristic of November is the shorter days after the UK clocks go back an hour. We respond differently to the annual change in the Greenwich Mean Time and longer nights. For some persons, they experience what the NHS describes as “Winter Depression” because the symptoms are usually more apparent in the winter than the other seasons. My advice in such cases is first to always see your Doctor (or General Practitioner). S/he can carry out an assessment to check your mental health. S/he may ask you about your mood, lifestyle, eating habits and sleeping patterns, plus any seasonal changes in your thoughts and behaviour and provide the relevant support.
If you are able to take part in any local community events, that is just as important. Meeting others, talking about the exciting and mundane things also matters. Why? We’re social beings, and we are not meant to live in isolation. Community is critical for us to thrive, especially for someone with mental illness who is already experiencing the common symptoms of loneliness and isolation, particularly, in the winter months of shorter days.
There is another aspect to light and dark nights, according to the 5th chapter of 1 Thessalonians: “For (we) are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night”. We become light emitters bringing love and kindness into our community in the midst of darkness. Francis of Assisi said: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury pardon; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy”. Children of the light and of the day positively impact their communities and surroundings. We plant love, we pardon, we become light and bring joy within challenging environments. Chances are – you are already doing these things and ought to be congratulated. So, thank you! However, if we are yet to do these things, we have a chance from today of making a difference in someone’s life across the Parish. In the words of Edith Wharton, “there are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it”. We can be both.
We hope you are able to join us on All Souls Day and Remembrance Day, key markers for coming together in the life of our Parish community.
Stay blessed with love
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of St Sebastian’s
Prayer for November
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury pardon;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Saint Francis of Assisi