Dear friends,

This week’s message begins with the sad news of the death of our friend and sister Mary Haines, who passed away peacefully at home earlier today. It was my privilege to visit and to pray at her bedside with her family, who are likewise very grateful for your prayers and sympathy – but request that private messages of support and condolence wait until a little later. Similarly, I will update you as soon as details of Mary’s funeral are finalised. May she rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Indeed, it is with profound hope that we prepare this weekend to embark upon a new church year, and the all-too-short journey through Advent: this, as our first reading will say this Sunday, is a journey of return – of coming back to the Lord our Redeemer, from whom through pride and sin selfishly we stray, but who remains yet ever ready to receive us. We are to recover during Advent a sense of watchfulness, of attentiveness to the Lord: despite (or, indeed, because of) the busyness of the countdown to Christmas, yet this can be a holy season, in which our faith in Christ can be renewed, if we turn our eyes once again to the Lord.

There will be no 6pm Vigil Mass this Saturday (as we are invited to join our friends at St Andrew, Kingsbury for their Patronal celebrations at 4.30pm); and our guest preacher at Mass on Sunday will be Fr Aidan Bartlett, Assistant Curate of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Clerkenwell. Please make every effort to attend this Mass, and to welcome Fr Aidan. From this Sunday, the PCC has also agreed to reintroduce the chalice at Mass: the Precious Blood will be available to those who wish to receive Communion in both kinds. On Sunday afternoon, the Stanmore Choral Society will perform their Christmas Carol Concert at 4pm: tickets are available here.

There are sign-up sheets in church to volunteer for two forthcoming key outreach activities to families and children: next week on Friday, 8 December (also the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – Mass as usual at 9.30am) we will welcome 90 children from Kenmore Park School for a Christmas workshop, in which we will share with them the Good News of the Birth of Jesus Christ through stories, craft activities, music and hospitality. Volunteers are required to supervise the craft activities, and/or to serve refreshments to the accompanying adults: the session proper will run 1pm-2.15pm, but volunteers are encouraged to attend a briefing beforehand at 11.45am, including a free sandwich lunch. Then, on the Third Sunday of Advent, 17 December our Christingle service will take place at 4pm: for this, we require volunteers from 2pm to help assemble the Christingles. A gentle reminder that ‘to increase the number of children and young people… in church‘ was listed by you as your top mission priority in the most recent parish profile: the children will be there – will you?

You can also help us prepare for Christmas by delivering a handful of Christmas invitations to homes in the parish: the invitations, and a list of roads, are available now in church. And/or on Friday, 22 December we will undertake our big Christmas clean (after the 9.30am Mass): if available, do join us to prepare our beautiful church building for us to worship the newborn King.

Hearty thanks to all who supported last Saturday’s Christmas Fair: the hard work and good humour of so many were very evident, both in advance and on the day – and this event welcomed an encouraging number of visitors and raised an amazing £1,200+ for parish funds!

With St Paul, in this Sunday’s second reading, let us ‘never stop thanking God for all the graces [we] have received through Jesus Christ… [that we may be kept] steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

With my best wishes and every blessing for a hopeful Advent,

Fr Richard