Pause for Thought July 2019

Last month I received a letter from a fourth-cousin-once-removed!  I had never met him and indeed I barely knew that he existed.  Whether he had been influenced by the BBC programme, “Who do you think you are?”, I am not sure; but the story actually started earlier, nearly 50 years ago, when my father retired from his professional work.  With time available to pursue other interests, he decided to research our family history, and ended up delving into many old census reports, marriage and death certificates, and parish church records.  The end result was quite a comprehensive account of the Mills family, going back a couple of hundred years or so.  

As part of that research, my father had reached out to various relations, with whom he had later shared some of his findings.  And now, half a century later, one of the latest generation had become curious about his/our family history, found my father’s research, and realised that we had a distant (early 19th century) relation in common.  So he wanted to make contact with me.  


My remote cousin’s letter struck a chord with me, as family history is important to me too.  When our son became engaged to a girl from Texas, we decided that our wedding gift to them would include a chart showing the family structure (several hundred of us!) and where he fitted in.  In retrospect, I suppose that this could have been quite overwhelming or even off-putting to a bride, but the wedding was a beautiful event, and perhaps the gift was at least slightly helpful as she met lots of family members for the first time.  In any event, they now have two lovely children who have been added to the chart!

I believe that family history was important to Jesus too.   Certainly St Matthew thought that it was essential for the readers of his Gospel to know the genealogy of Jesus, as he systematically tells us of 42 of Jesus’ forefathers in the very first chapter of his Book, going all the way back to Abraham.  And there are plenty more references later in that Gospel to Jesus’ family, not only at the time of his birth but also during his ministry on earth.  

But Jesus’ origins go back much further than just to Abraham: remember those words at the start of John’s Gospel, often read out at Christmas services: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…..”  

And St John also tells us, in Revelation, the last Book of the Bible, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God”.   Not only do those many generations of Jesus’ earthly family members go way back into the depths of history, but he himself existed even before the origins of time, and his story will continue into eternity.  My being contacted just by a fourth-cousin-once-removed seems rather trivial compared with that. As a Christian, I believe that here will be a truly massive number of really distant relations to be met one day!

Mike Mills

“Pause for Thought” this month comes from Mike Mills

Reader in the Benefice of Barnack with Ufford, Bainton, Helpston & Wittering


Telephone: 01780 740285