July 2013

Where is your treasure?

In George Eliot’s Silas Marner, Silas lives as a recluse with his only interests being his work as a tanner and the gold he has hoarded from his work. This gold is stolen and he relapses into deep gloom, until one winter’s night when a two-year-old girl whose mother has just died in an opium-induced stupor in the snow, enters his hut, and Silas decides to look after her. This changes his life completely. He has been robbed of his material gold, but has it returned to him symbolically in the form of golden-haired girl he calls Eppie. Even when, many years later, Silas’s gold is recovered, he still recognises that the most important thing for him is to live lovingly with his family and friends.

We this month are celebrating a wonderful festival as three of our parishes come together – and I cannot overestimate how productive parishes getting together for ventures can be – for a weekend celebrating Treasures of the Black Mountains. There will be plenty about the details of this festival elsewhere in the Newsletter and I don’t propose to duplicate that here. But it is interesting and significant that the word used in the title is Treasures. What do we treasure? Is it our family? Or our possessions? Or our friends? Or our surroundings? Many, if not most, people will have answered ‘yes’ to all four. There is the familiar exercise of asking yourself, if you were told you had to leave your house forever, what ten things you would take with you: and then if circumstances made you have to abandon five of them, what would you be left with? And then if you had to drop another two, what would be the last three? And then the worst comes to the worst and you are left with only one, what is it? It is an interesting exercise, but brings us close to Silas Marner’s trap of valuing things, when he found eventually that what gave him real riches was the people around him. So it is with us here. We are lucky in living in a spectacularly beautiful part of the world. And I am sure that we value that. But we know that the country needs looking after and I am sure we also value those people who care for it. I hope we also value those people who drawn to live here and contribute to the community. The story of Silas Marner teaches us that what is important is not riches but people who enrich our lives. And the true treasure of the Black Mountains lies not in the mountains themselves but in those people who – probably inspired by those mountains – enrich the lives of all of us. The festival this month is a celebration of those people who in various ways and with their various and remarkable talents enrich the lives of so many here.

I hope that the weekend will be for all of us an opportunity to recognise, appreciate and give thanks for the treasure that is the people here, and that we might perhaps ask ourselves where we really put our own treasure and how much of our lives we spend thinking about riches rather than about ow we can enrich the lives of others.