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Forthcoming festivals

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					Forthcoming festivals


Dear Colleagues,

There are a number of religious festivals in these next few weeks. Obviously
Christmas is coming upon us very quickly! Many churches will be holding special
services for children with a crib or Christingles (oranges with a candle in the middle
which are decorated to represent God’s love for the world). At Christmas we
celebrate God’s coming into the world, born, not into luxury and security, but into a
country occupied by the Roman Empire and in turmoil. When he was still a very
young baby, Jesus and his parents escaped as refugees into Egypt to avoid the violent
killings of King Herod. His parents were ordinary, humble folk coping with the
scandal surrounding the unusual conception of Jesus. At Christmas many churches
will be remembering, praying for and supporting those who are poor, homeless,
asylum seekers, or refugees as we are reminded of the uncomfortable circumstances
of Jesus’ birth. Amidst the beauty of a candle-lit midnight mass the harsh realities of
life for many people will not be too far away.

 For Christians, the season of Christmas ends on Sunday 6th January when we
celebrate Epiphany. The word means ‘showing’ or ‘revealing’ and the story of the
wise men coming to visit the child Jesus is narrated. The gifts that they bring of gold,
frankincense and myrrh are symbolic and reveal something of the nature of Jesus: his
Kingship, his divinity (that he is God), and his death.

For Muslims the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, begins on Wednesday 19th December.
Once a year, Muslims of every ethnic group, colour, social status, and culture gather
together in Mecca and stand before the Kaaba praising Allah together. It is a ritual
that is designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood by
showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah. The Hajjis or pilgrims wear
white simple clothes called Ihram. During the Hajj they perform acts of worship and
they renew their sense of purpose in the world. Mecca is a place that is holy to all
Muslims. It is so holy that no non-Muslim is allowed to enter.

At the end of the Hajj, on Thursday 20th December, Muslims celebrate the holiday
known as the Eud-Ul-Adha or festival of the sacrifice. This festival celebrates the
obedience of the Prophet Ibrahim when he was ordered to sacrifice his son Is’mail.
Ibrahim proved his love and devotion to Allah by showing his willingness to kill his
beloved son if Allah wished it. In the end Ibrahim did not have to kill his son as Allah
gave him a ram to sacrifice instead. Each Muslim, as they celebrate, reminds
themselves of their own submission to God, and their own willingness to sacrifice
anything to God’s wishes. Meat is served and distributed among family, friends and
the poor, who each get a third share. There are also prayers and presents.

The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest
celebrations in the world. The Norsemen saw the sun as a wheel that changed the
seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, ‘houl’, that the word yule is thought to
have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank sweet ale.
The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was
celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic
priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing.
Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in
the dark winter months. It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule
log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter
and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring
luck for the coming year. Many of these customs are still followed today. They have
been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

World Religion Day was instituted by the Baha’i Community in 1950 to help foster
interfaith understanding and harmony. It falls on Monday 21st January.

At the Chaplaincy we are keen to support people of any faith or of no particular
religious faith. We want to work with staff to help them to identify the spiritual needs
of service users so that whatever gives people hope and strength during difficult times
in their lives may be accessible to them during their time with SCT. We have recently
celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid and the Hindu festival of Diwali with parties at
the Longley Centre and Michael Carlisle Centre, and look forward to other religious
celebrations next year. Our new chaplain, Khalil Kazi will be joining us early in the
New Year and will be focussing on our Muslim service users but also covering
generic chaplaincy responsibilities along with the rest of the team. We are very much
looking forward to welcoming him as part of the team. In the meantime there will be
plenty of opportunities for carol singing and Christmas celebrations in the next couple
of weeks. Our main services will be held on Christmas Eve: 10.30am at the Michael
Carlisle Centre and 1pm at the Longley Centre. Any members of staff are most
welcome to join us.

Finally, we want to wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas.

With good wishes to you all,

Julian Raffay (Chaplain Team Leader)
Sheila Kennedy (part-time Chaplain)
Sally Ross (part-time Chaplain)
David Middleton (part-time Chaplain particularly working with people with learning
difficulties)

				
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