Time, time, time

There is a natural rhythm to the year which, even for those outside of the education process, is based around the academy. The new school year is looming and although summer is hardly a spent force, September brings with it the promise of order – timetables, rotas, schedules. Many parents (and grandparents) will be anticipating a new balance in their lives. Students and teachers may well have a different ‘take’ which the start of term time brings.

St Michael & All Angels’, the parish church of Summertown, will be focussing upon the gift of time in its annual stewardship campaign. This year, less attention will be given to our financial commitment to church life and the increased needs and demands to give materially. Instead, we will be exploring the importance of our time and talents – how we can better balance our lives of faith in all of our various activities which demand our time and attention. We are calling this project Time for God and we are hoping that the community of faith will be able to re-appraise the way in which time is perceived and experienced. For example, there is plenty of talk currently about the need for a work-life balance. It would be good to see how a living faith might expand this concept, seeing time as a gift rather than a hindrance. The work of God is not time-limited, yet we set so many limitations on the work that we do in God’s name. I am struggling with this human desire myself. My mantra needs to be from the verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand.” Psalm 31:14-15
“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand.” Psalm 31:14-15

The dangerous activity of time stewardship begins with a personal audit – how might we become more enlivened and purposeful in things that we do? What is God asking of us in our daily, weekly, monthly, yearly rhythms? How can we enjoy the time that we have been given as gift? We will be presenting suggestions and uploading information on to the church website. So we are being deeply counter-cultural, trying to resist the frantic nature of the 24/7 society. Wouldn’t it be incredible if people started to think of time less as a measurement of captivity (“I’ve only been given 2 minutes to do this…”) and more a sense of time as a free-flowing, recuperating source of mystery.

God only knows one time-frame and that is the present moment. Other than this, God is outside the constraints of time. If we tend to live in the past or in the future, we are denying the potential for spiritual experience, or God’s revelation to us. I know that when I devote time to pray I seem to have more time in the day. In the words of St Richard of Chichester, I have the ability to “know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.” This, then, is the aim of our time challenge – to resource God’s people to use time to become, little by little, more engaged disciples of Christ. Our time challenge will be extended through the month of September incorporating helpful leaflets, sermons and prayer counsel. I will leave you with some earthly wisdom from Albert Einstein, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.