Old Town Week will soon be upon us and I’m looking forward to being involved as an honorary Old Towner for the first time.
It should be a wonderful week of celebration as we emerge from Covid restrictions. We have lots of church-based events planned ranging from our special Old Town Service at St. Clement’s on the August 1st (10am) to a Teddy Bears’ Picnic and what we call ‘Aprayeratif’. Full details may be found on our website calendar at Calendar – Hastings Old Town Parish (oldtownparishhastings.org.uk) .
I’ve now been the priest-in-charge since October but, of course, lockdowns have imposed severe limitations on Old Town life. Nevertheless, I have met a few of the Old Town’s many characters and look forward to meeting the rest! I’ve also become aware of the great kindness and concern for each other that exists here as well as the energy expressed in its commitment to keep this as a living community. Hastings Old Town has not suffered the fate of some other places and become little more than an advertisement for English Heritage.
Self-congratulation is good for us in boosting our self-esteem but sometimes genuine self-examination is even better.
Our Old Town Week service will be a celebration of our community and different organisations have been invited to offer a representative item to be placed on the altar at the beginning of the service. In so doing we will offer our communal life to God and ask his blessing upon it.
There is, however, a danger in all this. I have sometimes been asked to preach at the Foundation Day services of independent schools. The self-congratulatory note of some schools has always meant that my sermon warned against the danger of the school worshipping itself. There has been much to celebrate – and for which to be thankful – in such schools and so a celebratory note is absolutely appropriate. That should not , however, cause an induced ignorance of aspects of school life that might call for rather more self-examination.
Self-congratulation is very much a dominant aspect of the modern mindset in which individuals and institutions are encouraged to proclaim just how wonderful they are. Some school magazines have been transformed from a record of school life into little more than recruitment brochures and it seems to be quite commonplace to apply an adjective such as ‘wonderful’, ‘amazing’ or ‘fantastic’ when mentioning another person on twitter.
There is now a need to ‘sell yourself’ in a job application; whatever happened to the factual CV and references?
We shall certainly be celebrating the communal life of the Old Town – and justifiably so – because there is so much to celebrate. But in this modern world of hyperbole and self-congratulation, I hope that we will not lose sight of how we as individuals and as a community may sometimes fall short. Self-congratulation is good for us in boosting our self-esteem but sometimes genuine self-examination is even better. Perhaps we should congratulate ourselves if we manage the latter.
The Reverend Paul Hunt is the part-time priest-in-charge of St. Clement’s and All Saints in Hastings Old Town. All Saints is open for public worship at 8am and 10am on Sundays.