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Cllr Sue Livings the Chairman of Harlow Council held her Civic Service today.

It’s an annual event and an important one in the civic life of the town. We have Mayors and Chairmen from accross Essex come to the town to see and hear about the very best of HArlow.

This year the children of Downs School Choir were particularly good.

I was given the honour of being asked to give the first address.

Here is what I said:

  • It’s quite fashionable these days to be thankful. Actors, on winning an Oscar or a BAFTA thank their managers, their fans, their families and their loved ones. An MP winning a seat at a General Election thanks his agents and campaign team, the police, the people who counted and supervised the vote and, most importantly for us politicians who must never forget them, the new MP thanks the people who voted for him to get him in power in the first place. If someone buys you a present, you thank them (or at least, you should thank them, even if it’s your Aunt who’s bought you yet *another* horrendous jumper for Christmas).

    Here in Harlow who should we be thankful to? There are the obvious people – the men and women who look after Harlow and its people day after day. The street cleaners and refuse workers who work long into the night after we’ve gone to sleep to make the town tidy for us when we go to work. The bus drivers who get us to and fro where we’re going every day. The civil servants in the civic centre and elsewhere who make Harlow run on a day to day basis. The Armed Forces who put their lives on the line to protect our. Health professionals who keep us well or look after us when we’re not. Fire and Rescue people who help us in emergencies (and I think the residents of Berecroft are particularly thankful for their help these past twelve months) or the Police who try to keep the streets safe. Perhaps you’re thankful to your neighbours and friends, the ordinary men and women of Harlow who so often go out of their way to help an elderly person who needs their shopping doing or just provide companionship to those in need.

    Or maybe when we think of Harlow we should think of those like the architect Sir Frederick Gibberd who did so much work in the late 40s and early 50s helping to plan and design the wonderful town that we live in today. Over half a century later we are still the beneficiaries of his design to have a town where everybody could get to a park within walking distance of their front door, and where today we have one of the most extensive cycle networks in the country.

    Yes perhaps it is right to thank those who made the town in which we live. But if that’s so, then there’s someone far more important today to thank for Harlow. As I prepared this speech I was reminded of a joke I was told a while back which I think makes my point for me.

    Some scientists went to God and said, “God, we’re so capable now we don’t think we need you anymore. We think we can do all the things you can do. We can make humans in test tubes. We can recreate the Big Bang in a laboratory. We can see to the end of the Universe. We just don’t need you anymore”.
    “Alright then”, said God. “I tell you what. Let’s have a creation contest. If you can make a man like I did, out of the dust of the Earth, then I’ll agree that you no longer need me and I’ll go away and leave you to it”. The scientists had a quick discussion, worked out a way to make a human from some dust and quickly agreed to the contest.
    The next day God and the scientists met and in full view of the gathered TV cameras and newspaper reporters the contest began. The referee counted down, “Three, two, one” and blew his whistle.
    At that sound, the chief scientist crouched down to the ground and was about to scoop some of the dust off the floor into a test tube when God coughed loudly. The chief scientist looked up and God said, “Hang on a minute. You get your own dust”.

  • This afternoon, while I’m thankful to the men and women and children of Harlow who make this such a great town to work and live in, and while I’m thankful to those who lived in the years after the Second World War and planned and built this amazing place, I also want to give thanks to someone else. While we humans build with bricks and mortar, God builds with atoms and souls.

    Before the beginning of time God knew that we would be gathered here today and as the leader of Harlow Council I want to acknowledge and give thanks today for his love and care for us. While sometimes I don’t understand some of the things that go on in God’s world and why he lets evil things happen, I know that I’m thankful that he loves us and that he loves all the people. I’m thankful that through Jesus all things were created, all things in heaven and on earth, things invisible and invisible, all things powerful and things weak; our homes, our families, our friends – everything was created by him and for him. And I’m not ashamed to say that I’m thankful that through Jesus’ death and resurrection I can know him and that I can be with him forever.
    Thank you God for all that you have done, are doing and have still yet to do in Harlow and in the lives of the people of Harlow. Amen.

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