As a local historian, family trees have always interested me. I was occasionally asked as the vicar to help people investigate their ancestors and this involved a lot of detective work (being a priest involves more than taking services and being pious!) and I loved doing it. My own tree (such as it is) vanishes in the mists of time as farm labourers in East Anglia in the 18th century, albeit with the odd member being born on the wrong side of the blanket (I have never told the rest of the Lanhams so please keep this to yourself, they might not be as open minded about it as I am!). But it is a bit vague.
By contrast there is Judy's much bigger one and I was recently given a copy of it. Like my own tree hers begins in the 18th century, in this case in Central Wales (Davis is after all a Welsh name!). Two won the Victoria Cross, in the Crimean and Boer Wars. There are a large number of military officers as it runs in the family (my father-in-law was a colonel, as my nephew in law is - not a vicar in sight!). There was an Admiral (who incidentally attended our wedding and whose son is a good friend of mine). And for many years a genuine Hollywood Oscar was kept in (of all places) the downstairs toilet of the family home until it was kept in a safer place. It was awarded to the legendary actress Dame Margaret Rutherford who married into the family - I used to hold it with awe. And so on, just a few of the many hundreds of members of them. I can read about these figures and see the fading pictures, and they come alive. Local history is fascinating if you are made that way, and investigating ancient records and fading grave stones throw new light on who we are and where we came from.
At the end of October we look ahead to All Saints and All Souls Day, on November 1 and 2 respectively. Family trees remind us of our roots, and these two festivals remind us that we are linked to more than just our present and past relatives. They set us in the context of humanity. All Saints Day speaks of our being part of God's people, past present and future. In the Book of Revelation we read of 'that whole multitude which no man could number' worshipping before the throne of God; I find this both inspiring and comforting. As members of our local church, as members of our family we become united in spirit as one. Then on All Souls Day we especially remember loved ones and people who have especially touched our lives - and we commend them to God's care and keeping. Here on these two days the present and the past meet and we are enriched by them. Perhaps as we think of them we may also think of ourselves as part of all humanity, widening our thoughts still further, for God reaches out to the world, not just to those who believe in Him in the accepted sense but as something or someone cosmic.
We mark one other day this month. On October 10 there is the (secular) World Mental Health Day. Regular readers of Pax will know of my total commitment to this cause, as a campaigner and a former sufferer. Mental health is becoming more and more recognised for what it is and how important it is but so much more is needed, both in terms of improved treatment but also in removing stigma associated with it. May I commend it to your thoughts and prayers, not only on this day but at other times as well?
With my love,