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Dear Friends

The pandemic has derailed and played havoc with many cherished annual festivities, not least this month, when we would normally be celebrating harvest thanksgiving. We shall still have a harvest-themed service on the first Sunday in October at 10.00am, but, sadly, we shall have to forgo our annual harvest supper with entertainments and communal singing!

As I write during September, we have just enjoyed a low-key, but still very meaningful patronal festival for the Birth of Mary, our patron saint. Sunday School leader and Churchwarden, Chris Field, gave a most interesting talk on the definition of the word ‘patron’, and, of course, we had our ‘blue set’ of hangings and vestments on display since blue is traditionally the colour associated with Mary.

Over the centuries, Mary has been depicted in many different ways, and most art galleries have a crop of ‘Madonna’ pictures, in which she is usually shown wearing a blue overmantle. Sometimes her husband, Joseph, is also included, although he is olten shown as elderly and trail, perhaps as a subtle indication that he would have been too old to sire children, and therefore highlighting the miraculous nature ofthe incarnation ofthe child, Jesus.

One exception to this tradition is to be found in the National Gallery of Scotland; it is The I10/y Family with a Palm Tree by Raphael, dated c1507. ln this instance, a youngish Joseph (perhaps in his 30s) is tenderly supporting the boy Jesus, who is looking interestedly towards his guardian. Mary looks as if she is not quite sure whether to relinquish her normal, protective hold on her child in favour of Joseph. Commentators often remark on the number of Madonnas which Raphael undertook. This was doubtless mainly because many of his works were commissioned by churches, but there may, also, have been a personal reason, since Raphael lost his own mother while she was still young, so perhaps his continual reversion to this subject was, in part, compensation for his own sense of loss.

Whatever the case, Mary, as our patron saint, continues to inspire us by her example. As Chris Field suggested in her talk, although biblical references to her are not numerous, her faith, in times of adversity as well as in joy, shines through, and gives us hope that we too, with God’s help, can liilfil his purposes for us, even during the most challenging times.

Stephen