Latest Rector’s Letter

My Dear Friends,
I have thought of calling this The Rector’s Rambling Reflections. ‘Oh no!’ some will say, ‘We get half an hour of those every Sunday!’
This time, twenty years ago, I was packing boxes. The Cuttell family were moving into Astbury Rectory! Liz and I were both still in our thirties. We brought along two children aged eleven and eight, four guinea pigs and a three-legged dog. I had had twenty-three addresses in thirty-nine years of life. I had never lived under the same roof for more than four years at any one time. My life experience had been urban; I had been a convert to radical Christianity in my twenties; my faith roots were evangelical and charismatic. Astbury was rural, central in churchmanship and traditional in practice. You wouldn’t expect it to be a happy match. But it was. Admittedly, the affection has at times resembled that between the Reverend Geraldine Grainger and her congregation in the village of Dibley, but I believe it has been good for us both.
It is a very important lesson. You don’t have to be the same to be happy together. Most good marriages reach that conclusion early on. And every happy family must accept the reality of being quite different from each other and yet belonging together. It is our great strength that we have ‘muddled along’ and ‘got by’.
I have consciously chosen never to have a specific ‘vision’ for Astbury Church – which may horrify you! If I have had a strategy, it has been one of ‘incremental steps towards improvement’ rather than ‘great leaps forward’ – which I think has been OK for the period in question. Great leaps forward are associated with Chairman Mao’s disastrous ideological ruination of China; incremental improvement has been the model pursued by British Cycling and Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford.
One was a philosophy that led a great nation into famine, the other, a pragmatism which produced a feast of success.
And so, being pragmatic, recovering from the disastrous financial situation we were in a few years ago, I am now very pleased to observe that our church finances have had a second solid year. In each of the last two years we’ve not only stayed in the black, but we’ve been able to accommodate an urgent challenge costing tens of thousands: new boilers last year and an organ refurbishment this year. This all feels like ‘a platform’, ‘a foundation’, but not ‘a success’. This is not what
success looks like; this is what survival looks like.
Now survival is not to be underestimated! Astbury is jolly good at survival. But then a crocodile is a survivor. It has been around hundreds of millions of years
– but it has something of the dinosaur about it! Our challenge in the future is not how to remain a cold-blooded living fossil, but how to steadily evolve into an intelligent and advanced life form! . . .
I am probably over-pressing the analogy at this point and may be better abandoning it before I go too much further – but I hope you get my point? As a church, we have had a continuity of generations of congregations that has survived reformation and revolution, plague and progress. Society has known famine and flourishing, the church has seen periods of great building and survived times of great battering.
The thousand years we have behind us, sets us up well for the thousand years ahead . . . if, under the guidance of God, we are prepared to adapt and adopt, to challenge and to change.

Jeff Cuttell