Christmas Messages From Henley Mayor & Father Jeremy

Ken Arlett, Mayor of Henley-on-Thames

In May this year I was asked to carry on as Mayor for another year. It would have been unfair for any Councillor that had not been Mayor before, as they would be missing out on all the wonderful functions that take place throughout the year. That said, I do not believe that anyone thought we would be in a similar position now at Christmas as we were in May.

What has come out of this pandemic is the way local residents have banded together to support each other, either through organised groups, such as Emma Hawes Taylor’s Henley Mutual Aid Group, Nomad, Gainsborough Residents and the Day Centre, to name but a few. Residents setting up Whats App groups for their own streets, or people helping their neighbour’s by either doing their shopping or just checking on them. A massive thank you to everyone who  have been involved with helping others over these past 9 months, to help get us through this pandemic.

I should also mention a big thank you to the Town Council staff, in the way they have responded when a problem has arisen due to the pandemic.  Our own Town Ranger, Trish Rae, who after lockdown was out each morning offering support to the Town’s traders.

A special mention to the Henley shop owners who have carried on throughout this adversity, making their premises safe for everyone to shop in.  Hopefully the last few weeks of trading before Xmas will help to make up from our lockdown.

With new shops opening in the town over the past few weeks, and others due in the New Year, hopefully we can keep clear of Tier 3 and all carry on shopping locally.

The River and Rowing Museum is up and running, anyone wishing to find their children something to do then ‘Elmer and Friends’  is a must over the holidays, all tickets need to be pre-booked.

A special thank you to Michaela Clarke (I hope she prints this) for covering the Towns events and creating some great community initiatives throughout the year and writing some excellent articles, which I never get fed up of reading, thank you Michaela.

So as we approach Xmas many families will have a chance to be with loved ones, and possibly very close friends in their bubble.  Please take care, as we have come so far without too many casualties in the town and nearby villages.

With a vaccine now in place, we can now look forward to a more pleasant 2021.

Wishing you all a Merry Xmas and a Happy, Safe and Healthy New Year;

Ken & Dorothy Arlett, Mayor and Mayoress

Father Jeremy Tayler, St Mary’s Church

I have to admit that I dislike all of the headlines about Christmas being cancelled, and for more than one reason.

In the first place, there is the obvious disappointment of shredded Christmas plans, and people left isolated and alone.  No-one can be happy about that.

But the second, and more fundamental reason that I dislike these headlines is that they just are not true.

No government can cancel Christmas, nor can any virus.  Our ability to celebrate Christmas in the way we would wish to may be constrained, but the truth that we celebrate remains.  And more than that, the pain and loss of this year may bring us closer to the true meaning of Christmas.

Believing in God isn’t always easy, and most people of faith will feel moments of doubt, and not only that, but moments of bafflement or even rage at God.  This is a part of belief, and it can be found even within the pages of the Bible.  But the point of Christmas is that in this tiny speechless infant born to a poor and humble family in a downtrodden corner of the Roman Empire two thousand years ago, God enters creation in a unique and direct way, uniting Himself with our humanity, and embracing human life in its joys but more especially in its sorrows: in poverty, in loneliness, in persecution, suffering and even in death.  When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us, and He has trodden this path before.  And so Christmas is not cancelled, it is as vivid and as real as it has ever been.  However you are celebrating Christmas this year, and especially if your plans have be ruined and you are left with loneliness and anxiety, my prayer is that God’s embrace of humanity in the Christ-child may fill your heart with peace.