The United Parish of
Chinnor, Aston Rowant, Sydenham & Crowell

Pastoral Letters

JULY

Well hello readers,

I’ve always been fascinated by garden birds.  Indeed, when we moved to Chinnor, one of my first jobs was to erect the bird feeder.  However, my interest has been deepened as a result of the Chinnor Churches goes Wild initiative.  As a part of this, last June, the church undertook a bird survey.  A group of us spent half an hour at each of the four churches, counting the birds. The survey was led by Nick Marriner of the Chiltern Conservation Board, a bird expert.  The results were explained in an article in last year’s July magazine.  Overall, some 30 species of birds were ‘spotted’ in the four churchyards.  This year a repeat survey was held but only 23 species were seen.  Nick didn’t think the difference was significant, the conditions on the two days were very different.  Last year was warm, sunny and bright whereas this year it was cold, raining and windy.  What surprised me on both occasions was that we saw very few sparrows (only 6 last year and 8 this year) yet they are by far the most common bird visiting our feeder, hundreds a day.  Nick explained this was not surprising since they tend to follow human habitation, hence they’re called house sparrows.

  

I was sad to read the other day that sparrows are on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds red list (the most endangered).  Apparently, they have declined by 70% in only three decades due to pollution, pesticides, lack of food, concreting and reduced nesting sites.  I read that house sparrows are the most widely distributed bird on the planet.  I think I knew that anyway, probably helped by the fact that I can remember sparrows being mentioned in the Bible.  I found seven references to them.  It could be more but there is confusion about definitions.  My favourite is Luke 12:6&7, which says ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’   Here, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and to the crowds.  He is saying that God values sparrows but He values us more.  I take comfort from the bit about ‘the very hairs on your head are numbered’.    I imagine God changing His tally for me each day!!  

There’s another dimension to this which I think is relevant.  We live in a digital age.  Instead of being people we are a number on a form or a pin number at an ATM.  However, it is consoling that the Bible quote I referred to above tells us that in God’s eyes we are precious and certainly more than just a number.  Indeed, He invites us to have a relationship with Him, which is what the gospel is all about.  It seems to me that if this is the case, we should recognise we have a relationship with His creation too, including the sparrows. 

So, dear reader, as you go about your business, remember that each person you meet is not a number or an object but just that ...  a person.  I guess I could make a parallel comment about sparrows too.  

Blessings, Revd Brian Griffiths