My Ramblings from the Rectory begin with the Rectory Garden. Although I run the risk that you don’t read any further, it’s a chance I’ll have to take! For the most part, the garden remains dormant, long dark stalks not yet ready for cutting back, buds not yet ready to show their faces. But every so often, there are tiny shoots of something looking like they might emerge in the coming weeks. Having not been here at this time of year before, we aren’t fully sure what we will find. The past will become the present for us fairly soon though. Nic received so many seeds for Christmas that the garden is clearly not going to be big enough. He is busy sorting out the flower gardens, choosing plants to complement what is already there; preparing vegetable plots, tending the early onions. There was also great excitement when Nic spotted seed potatoes in a garden centre!
Staying with the ‘past and present’ theme, have you ever watched the TV show, “Who do you think you are?” where celebrities learn about their good, bad and sensational ancestors? I always find it interesting to watch. Thanks to diligent family historians, I know about several ancestors of my own. Sadly, it appears that nobility is not part of my heritage, though!
Some of my understanding about my background comes from the conversations I’ve had with family members, especially grandparents as I was growing up. For example, an avenue of trees on a rural road near my birth village was planted by my great-grandfather. I never knew him but feel I do because those trees still stand tall and proud over a hundred years later.
These ramblings make me think of others’ memories. This is partly because one of my joys is meeting up with people, hearing their stories and finding out how they fit into the tapestry that makes up the benefice of the three villages. These are rich memories and I love learning about the people and their involvement in church and/or village life, both in the past and the present.
Hearing these stories helps me make sense of the places I now live, work and enjoy. On a recent visit to the Andover Museum, Nic and I were struck by how much seemed familiar because we have been here a while. The museum is a fascinating place to learn about our ancestors and, if you’ve not been before, I would highly recommend it. Having lived in the area for a few months now, I have a better knowledge of the surroundings and learned some fascinating facts about its history. It also made me realise that Nic and I feel like we belong to the story of the area, just as others who move here might. This is our home and the ancient woodlands, Roman roads, village paths and streets help us make connections, to find a sense of belonging. This belonging, shaped from the past and with life breathed through the present deepens our roots here and directs our future.
I feel the same sense of belonging when I enter our churches – with those who come to share in the wonder of Christmas and Easter with us, with those who find the joy in the weddings and baptisms and share their grief at funerals, with those who hear the words from the Bible every week and sing hymns of praise, to those who hear them for the first time. The echoes of prayers and worship over generations are etched deep into the fabric of the buildings and offer a welcome for today and for ever. This belonging permeates into the villages too and sometimes you can’t see where they touch – the stories of church and village too strongly connected. There is something very special about that no matter what someone believes in.
I hope that you find a sense of belonging that gives you hope and joy as the long winter begins to make way for spring.