Monday, 28 November 2011

Advent

It has become a practise of mine to blog daily during Advent.

If you fancy something to think about, pray about or meditate on for five minutes each day during this holy season, then click on the photo below and join me as we make our way, full of hope, through Advent.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Newness

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I know myself well enough. In the past I have tended to be overly ambitious, without realising that I have set myself up to fail. There have been a number of years where what I have committed myself to lasts barely into the New Year at all!

Yet all of us have a desire to be new at the beginning of a New Year - slimmer, fitter, better off, with more time for family or friends, new hobbies or activities and so on. Whether we do manage to be slimmer, fitter with more time for others or not we are still essentially us.  We aren’t any more beautiful - even if ‘you’re worth it’ according to L’Oreal, even if Tesco would have us believe that ‘every little helps.’  But at this time of year especially, the church reminds us that the newness that we all long for, is possible, and is promised to us by God.

During the season of Advent we are encouraged to look forward to a time when God will make things in life and in the world new - better, fairer, more just.  At Christmas we hear again of the birth of a baby, who when grown, not only talks about this newness, but lives it and encourages others to live it too. In Epiphany, the true identity of this baby is revealed - He is none other than God Himself amongst us and at Candlemas, we hear of God’s ultimate offer of newness - that He came amongst us, so we can be where He is and like He is. God thinks we’re worth it!

It seems hard to believe, in some ways, that I am still relatively new here are your Priest in Charge. In these early weeks you have been very forgiving when I have got things or names wrong! Please continue to bear with me as we settle into working and worshipping together.

At the last PCC meeting we began some new work together, using the future hopes and dreams that many of you told me about in the group meetings I had with you in the early weeks of my time here.  We spent time discerning what areas of our life together as a parish we would put some special energy, resources and prayer into.  Out of my visits came 10 broad themes: 1. Church growth across all ages, 2. Deepened faith, 3. Engagement with families, kids, youth, schools, 4. Higher profile of church in community/connecting with community, 5. Renew/review our worship, 6. Study/house groups, 7. Making buildings work for us, 8. Working together as a parish, 9. Social life and 10. Communications. Out of that list the PCC decided to focus down on exploring 3 areas over the next year or so:

Communications - how we communicate in & between the churches and the wider parish
Deepening our faith - esp focussing on launching Advent and Lent study groups initially
Reviewing and renewing our worship


Some work on these areas has been done by a small PCC sub group which will present to PCC, but in the New Year we will want to know what you all think and want and hope and dream about in these specific areas. It would be great, in time, to know your thoughts.

In early January, we are holding a special service which is often held before Christmas, which celebrates the newness and renewing that God offers us and His world. On 8th January at 3.00 pm at St Peter’s we are holding our Christingle service. It is a beautiful service for everyone and reminds us of all that we long for especially at this time of year: the orange is the world, the red ribbon is the love of God for us all, the candle is Jesus the Light of the World, the cocktail sticks with the sweets/dried fruit are God’s prvision for us and the gifts He gives each of us to serve Him and others. It would be wonderful to welcome as many of you as possible to that service.

I wish you a happy and holy Christmas and fruitful New Year when they come and please do pray for our life together as we journey with God into a new season together using the Living God’s Love prayer from the Diocese:

Living God,

draw us deeper into your love;

Jesus our Lord,

send us to care and serve;

Holy Spirit,

make us heralds of good news.

Stir us, strengthen us,

teach and inspire us

to live your love

with generosity and joy,

imagination and courage;

for the sake of your world

and in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

November - the month of memory





Someone once described November as a month of memory. For me personally, the month is full of family memories - there are a few significant birthdays and my Grandparents’ wedding anniversary.

For us as the church, there is the feast of All Saints which reminds us of our heavenly home. The place that has been prepared for us is brought into our present as we remember those faithful men and women who, through Christ, have gone before us and are with God. The commemoration of All Souls is the day we remember those who have died and whom we have entrusted to God’s eternal keeping. We remember them and indeed each of us in prayer, that God would transform us all more and more into His likeness, and ready us for eternal life.

November is also the month, in which we as a nation remember those who gave and continue to give their lives in the name of war and in the cause of peace.

St Augustine of Hippo says that when we remember we literally re-member - we make present things that were once only in the past. In November, in that sense, we may well find ourselves surrounded by a great crowd of people and a swirling mist of emotions, noting that what separates life from death, heaven from earth, holy from earthly, is often very thin.

As All Saints turns towards Advent, the church dwells more on God’s call to people to be holy. For Christians this is never as simple as going to church. Nor is it the holy day or holy man or woman. Holiness is perhaps most simply understood as to do with the presence of a Holy God, something into which all of us are called, and into a relationship with Him and therefore each other.

Holiness is something we need to work at through the normal stuff of life - our marriages, friendships, decisions at work or in the home, on the board of directors and in trades unions. Holiness requires a daily application, but it’s never something we do, rather something God does in and through us - inspiring us to reveal in and around us the holiness of Christ and of those whom we call his Saints.

As a result, God calls us to holiness from where we are, not where we will be. He doesn’t see our anger, for instance, as something that detracts from our call to holiness. Rather He takes it and uses it as the raw material of our holiness. Nothing is too negative to be transformed by God into something posative, that’s what Christ’s life, death and resurrection mean.

Friends, as we enter this season, and hear again the call of a Holy God to be His holy people, we would do well to remember words of Mother Julian of Norwich about the way God sees us - He turns our wounds into worships.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Harvest Festival 2011

Tomorrow, 9th October 2011, St Peter's Mill ENd is holding it's Harvest Festival. There are 3 services that you may wish to come and join us for:

8am - Said Eucharist
10.30am Family Eucharist and Parade
6pm - Harvest Songs of Paraise

Please bring with you traditional harvest produce but especially tinned foods and baby care items sucha s nappies and wipes as we seek to supposr the Catholic Worker Farm in West Hyde.

Please also come prepared to give generously financially too as we support the Bishop of St Albans Harvest Appeal this year. Here is more information about it:

Friday, 2 September 2011

Homily for Roy Underwood

Here is a copy of what I will be saying later at the Memorial and Thanksgiving service for the late Roy Underwood...


Those words of Bishop George Appleton, inspired by words of the Indian poet Rabindrath Tagore, resonate with the words and sentiment of St Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 which Rob read for us earlier. They are words that were clearly an inspiration to Roy. And as we gather to thank God for for him and all that he has and will continue to be to us, the themes of faith, hope and love are ones that we rightly focus on today.

Many of us will have received love from Roy and Brenda over the years, whether professionally or personally. Roy could only give of what he had received, from God. Roy knew and had experienced the love of God for himself in Jesus Christ - a love which knows no limit or boundary or end, that not even death on a cross could contain. It is a love which calls us to love not just those whom we like, but all. And Roy did in every aspect of his life.

Roy’s love, most often demonstrated in action, was built on the foundation of a strong faith, something that shaped his life as a husband, brother, father, friend, mentor, teacher, colleague neighbour - in so many ways. Roy’s relationship with Jesus Christ was something that sustained and resourced him and gave him hope. Whilst I did not have the privilege of knowing Roy as well as many of you, even in the last weeks as I spent times with him, I saw hope spring eternal.

Jesus meets with us today offering us the same relationship with Him that Roy knew, transforming not just our future but also our present. If faith in God through Jesus Christ is only an insurance policy cashed in at death, it is almost worthless.

Roy reminds us that Christian faith is about God transforming our lives, knowing that Jesus calls us to follow Him, to live and to love better in the now - loving others as we love ourselves, to reach out and support all in what we do, in what we say, and in who Jesus is making us to be.

If we like Roy place our faith in Him our hope will not be disappointed. As we thank God for Roy, today must be hallmarked with faith, hope and love; the love that God has for all of us, demonstrated by sending Jesus, and through faith in Him the hope that Jesus therefore offers each one of us still.

Today must be about faith, hope and love. Faith in God as a central theme of Roy’s life - lived out in a love that impacted so many people in different but very tangible ways. Leading to a hope that reached it’s fulfillment by faith, through death.

In Roy we have seen and experienced so much, and as we thank God for his life, I believe he says to us - borrowing Bishop George Appleton’s words: ‘...I will offer my recognition of the Lord who comes to me in the guise of death, to lead me to the home he has prepared for me...’ Amen

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Catholic Worker Farm

As I made my home after evening prayer at St Thomas' tonight I met Scott Albrecht. Scott and his family live, work, worship and I guess lead the Catholic Worker Farm (click the link to see their own website) just off the Old Uxbridge road in West Hyde.

The Catholic Worker Farm are working to support and accommodate destitute women (whom they call 'Guests'). These are vulnerable homeless women and children, unentitled to benefits or work permits, are literally "street homeless". Together they try, with the guests, to live each day by the love and values of Jesus Christ.

 From their own website: '...The Catholic Worker movement began simply enough on May 1, 1933, when a journalist named Dorothy Day and a philosopher named Peter Maurin teamed up to publish and distribute a newspaper called The Catholic Worker. This radical paper promoted the biblical promise of justice and mercy. Grounded in a firm belief in the God-given dignity of every human person, their movement was committed to non-violence, voluntary poverty, and the Works of Mercy as a way of life. It wasn't long before Dorothy and Peter were putting their beliefs into action, opening a house of hospitality where the homeless, the hungry, and the forsaken would always be welcome. Over many decades the movement has protested injustice, war, and violence of all forms. Today there are some 185 Catholic Worker communities throughout the world. `The aim of the Catholic Worker movement is to live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ. Our sources are the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures as handed down in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, with our inspiration coming from the lives of the saints, men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses to Your (God's) unchanging love...'

At the heart of what they do at Lynsters Farm lie very traditional Catholic works of mercy which all Christians could subscribe to.


I hope that in the weeks, months and years that lie ahead we can find ways of working, worshipping with, praying for and supporting this work of divine mercy on our doorstep.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

New prayer resource

I recently rediscovered something that we promoted elsewhere in previous years.

For those of you who work at a desk (however often) the ReJesus website (which is a brilliant site anyway!) produced a fantactic resource that you can print on stiffened paper or card and have some quiet prayerful time in the middle of your working day.

It's easy to print and make and easy to use. To down load it just click the image below...

Monday, 1 August 2011

Meeting Simon...

As many of you know, I wanted to meet as many of you as possible as soon as I could after arriving in the parish. The Wardens therefore very kindly organised some meetings in people's homes over the first few weeks of me being your new Priest in Charge.

These have proved a great success so far, and I have had the opportunity to meet many of you already and for you to begin to get to know me too.

There may be some of you who haven't signed up yet or who know others who haven't done so. I would like to try to encourage as many of you to try to get to one of these as possible. They are informal, a chance for me to tell you a bit more about me and the chance for us to talk together and get to know one another.

Upcoming groups are being held on the following dates:

3/8/11 at 10.30am at John and Jane Cameron's house

10/8/11 at 7.30pm at a venue to be clarified - watch this space!

If you would like to know more about where these groups are being held andsome more general information, please do contact the Parish Wardens.

I have really appreciated the 8 groups that I have been to so far, and enjoyed spending time with the people attending. This wont be the only opportunity to meet in a more informal way like this, but it is a good opportunity. Don't miss out!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Quick Poll


Come As You Are

In the cycle of the church year, we are in the season that is rather blandly called Ordinary time. It falls into a few chunks over the year, but we are in the longest section over the Summer. In these weeks and months, post-Easter, we hear again of the life and ministry of Jesus, and in so doing we are called to follow Him afresh and to grow in faith and trust.

Jesus generally met people in the ordinary places of life - by the well, on the road, on the lakeshore, in the countryside and He took them as they were.  People who spent time with Jesus in the Gospels usually discovered that those encounters were far from ordinary as they tended to be healed, to have their horizons broadened, to have their faith challenged and strengthened and to have their preconceived ideas about God blown apart. People encountering Jesus were changed and many went on to tell others of the goodness and love of God that they had encountered in Him.

Jesus still takes us as we are, as ordinary people, and through the Scriptures speaks words that challenge and encourage us in faith; in sharing the Eucharist He both welcomes us to eat with Him and feeds and sustains us.

At the end of the Eucharist each week we pray, 'Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the Body and Blood of Your Son Jesus Christ. Through Him we offer you our souls and bodies as a Living Sacrifice. Send us out in the power of your Spirit, to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.' Filled with Jesus Christ, we too cannot but leave those encounters unchanged.  Like those who met with our Lord in first century Palestine, we too are sent out, compelled in all sorts of ways to tell others.

In the Autumn we each have a chance to do just that. On September 25th we will be joining thousands of other churches as we take part in ‘Back To Church Sunday.’ It is an opportunity for each of us to go out from church and  invite back, one person who hasn’t been to church for a while for a special service - an opportunity to encounter our Lord in Word and Sacrament again. Invitations will be given to you all in due course, in the meantime please spend some time thinking and praying who you would like to invite.

Actually we shouldn’t need to have a special service to do this. God’s offer of eternal life is such good news, we should not be able to help ourselves, telling others and inviting them to discover more. We need to trust that God is already encouraging people to explore faith for themselves; we need to trust that God hears and answers the prayers we pray asking Him to make clear to us who to invite; and we need to trust that we can do the inviting!

It is said that the most important person in any successful company is the receptionist. because it is the quality of the welcome that they give that encourages others to use the company again. The same is true of God’s church - it is the quality of the welcome that we each give that goes a long way to encouraging people to take the Gospel seriously.



BTCS at St Mary's Whittlebury from Back to Church Sunday on Vimeo.