It was with great delight that St Mary’s (East Knoyle) hosted a Carol Service in support of Clouds House this December. We were so pleased to make this connection with such an inspiring organisation, which sits at the heart of East Knoyle. A superb number attended, including present and former residents of Clouds, staff and supporters, our village choir and bellringers, and many villagers and parishioners from across our Benefice.
It was deeply moving to hear a young man, Jake, speak of the difference between Christmas 2022, just before which he was seriously injured in an addiction-related accident, and Christmas 2023, which he and his family were able to look forward to, as a result of the transformative time he had spent at Clouds. His mother spoke of her deep appreciation for the place which had given her back her son and allowed them all to make a fresh start.
It was also very profound to hear a bible reading introduced by a young woman who is currently resident at Clouds: “Hello. I’m S……….. I’m an addict. This is a reading from Luke’s Gospel.” As a priest I say those words repeatedly, but that night I heard them in a fresh way and truly as ‘good news’ (which is what ‘Gospel’ means). I found her an inspiration – summoning me to acknowledge where I need help and to hear the Gospel as God’s letter of love and hope, to me and to everyone.
After the service another young man, also a current resident, told me he had never been in a church before and that he would have felt ashamed to enter one. I hope that he now knows that he is more than welcome and that none of us needs to ‘qualify’ to come to church. Perhaps his words should challenge those of us who take church for granted, to ensure that others see it as a place of welcome, no matter who they are or what sort of life they have led.
At the close of the service we said The Serenity Prayer which is used at the end of every 12-Step fellowship meeting. I have never heard it prayed with such strength and conviction. Perhaps we should all make it our prayer for a new year:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Revd Kate McFarlane