This edition of The Link marks a departure. For the first time in many years it covers the period until October; this means that the next edition will cover November and December, with a view to starting a new year with a January/February edition.

Usually there has been an edition that bridges the end of a year and the start of the next – a December/January Link. Whatever else this has meant, it has meant that we have to start thinking about January in November. Speaking personally, I find it hard enough to think about Christmas more than a couple of weeks before it arrives, never mind what happens afterwards!

Still, nothing’s finally decided. The Church Meeting will have its say in the autumn. One consideration is whether The Link should include any date/diary information at all – whether a separate “diary” might be more useful.

It set me thinking about deadlines. As a recent quotation on our notice board put it, “I love deadlines; I love the swishing sound as they rush past”. Few of us, I guess, actually love deadlines at all, but few of us can avoid them altogether. They can be a real source of pressure and worry; many folk in their daily work struggle to meet deadlines, and many’s the story of someone being expected to work impossibly long hours to meet a totally unrealistic deadline, only to find that when they succeed no one notices or the finished piece of work lies in a pile on someone else’s desk for weeks.

On the other hand, without deadlines, little would be achieved at all. Speaking as someone who, without deadlines, would procrastinate endlessly, I’m glad that the routines of life bring many points by which things just have to be done. Some things can be put off for some periods of time but – well, in my life, at least once every week a deadline is absolute. I have come close on occasion, but not yet have I had to stand at the front on a Sunday and say, “Sorry folks, didn’t have time to prepare anything this week”.

As I write, many people – academics and teachers, students, parents of schoolage children – will be beginning to turn their minds from the “deadlinefree” rhythms of the summer towards the looming deadline of the new academic year – new courses to be delivered; new uniforms to be sorted; the excitement of new stages to life; the mix of hopes, anxieties, expectations, plans, bewilderment, anticipation… spare a thought for those who approach this either with dread or with mounting levels of stress; for those who are excited and can’t wait – and for those who, perhaps because of retirement, illness, or redundancy, are beginning already to miss the mix of pressure, excitement and, even, stress, that such looming, lifechanging deadlines bring.

In the church year, September is a significant point, but there are others. At Tyndale, this year, the start of Advent at the end of November will be significant – and is already looming as a deadline to be met; we are planning to start a new, weekly, approach to encountering and engaging with the stories of the Bible, and with the story of faith, using resources and ideas from the “Godly Play” movement – watch this space, as they say.

Deadlines – some filled with potential for good things; some bringing with them worry and concern – health tests and procedures, for instance.

At the heart of the Christian story is, perhaps, the most significant deadline of all. Jesus, as he embarks on his ministry, displays an awareness (perhaps it grows in him with each passing day) that his destiny is to go to Jerusalem, to meet with death. It’s not, I suppose, a fixed deadline from the beginning, but it approaches inexhorably and, as opposition builds, as his fame spreads and, we can imagine, as the tensions between an increasingly repressed people and the Roman authorities rise to a fever pitch, he “sets his face” toward Jerusalem. The deadline is not to be put off – for all that in Gethsemane, on its eve, he struggles to accept what by then he must know is coming.

It duly arrives; and his death on the cross is, really, a microcosm of the fate that awaits us all. I wonder if our mixed feelings about all the deadlines in our lives are but small intimations of our mortality. As Larkin said, “most things may never happen; this one will”.

The way that Jesus approached his “deadline”, coped with it, and the glorious consequence, is the source of all our hope, and our living by faith, whatever the deadlines and pressures that come our way.

Michael Docker