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Sunday, 20 December 2020
Sunday, 13 December 2020
Monday, 7 December 2020
Sunday, 6 December 2020
Monday, 30 November 2020
Sunday, 29 November 2020
Thursday, 26 November 2020
Tuesday, 24 November 2020
Monday, 23 November 2020
Sunday, 22 November 2020
Saturday, 21 November 2020
From 5pm-9pm tomorrow and from 9am-5pm on Monday the church across the Diocese is sharing in a time of focussed prayer for our life and our nation.
Monday, 16 November 2020
Sunday, 15 November 2020
Wednesday, 11 November 2020
at this time of crisis
when so many are suffering,
we pray for our nation and our world.
Give our leaders wisdom,
our Health Service strength,
our people hope.
Lead us through these parched and difficult days
to the fresh springs of joy and comfort
that we find in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Monday, 9 November 2020
I hope you are managing to stay well, especially as we move into a second national lockdown. The aim of this period of four weeks, according to the Prime Minister, is to try to ensure that COVID-19 does not completely overwhelm the NHS's ability to cope this winter. My hope and prayer is that we will follow the renewed call to stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.This feels like a pretty grim necessity as Autumn moves to the darker days of Winter. St John's Gospel reminds us that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. Christ calls us to be individuals and communities of light and hope and there are a number of ways that I'd like to call you particularly to play a part:
The Archbishops and our Diocesan Bishop have called us to prayer. Please will you commit yourselves to joining me in prayer for our neighbourhoods and nation? I'd like us to join together across the parish to do this in a number of ways
- Praying our parish prayer, (the words of which I have enclosed at the bottom) at either or all of 9am, midday, and 9pm every day. The words of the prayer are simple but express much hope.
- Setting aside Thursdays as a weekly day to fast and pray for those driving healthcare policy, the NHS, local government etc. Just as many of us gathered on Thursdays to 'clap for carers' in the first lockdown to show our gratitude to those serving on the frontline of containing the impact of the pandemic, so we as church can do something more meaningful during this second lockdown and pray for the presence and leading of God for those in the frontline of containing the pandemic. I will endevour to share whatever resources I can to feed our prayer on Thursdays on Facebook and the Parish website.
- Stir Up Sunday - 22/11/20 - Bishop Alan is calling on us all to spend a focussed time of prayer on 22nd and 23rd November, asking God to stir up the fruits of the Spirit in the ministry and work of the church in these days. Resources to fuel our prayer will be availabe on the hour on social media and at www.stalbans.anhlican.org. More details to follow.
2. Renewing our Faith.
As part of the ways to contain the spread of coronavirus, the Government has called for the suspending of all public worship across faith communities. This means that our worshipping life will change. As of Sunday 15th November our pattern of worship will look like this:
Sundays - 10am Parish Eucharist on Zoom
Mondays - 8.30am Morning prayer on zoom
9.30am Said Eucharist on Facebook
4.00pm Evening Prayer on zoom
Tuesdays - 8.30am Morning prayer on zoom
4.00pm Evening Prayer on zoom
Wednesdays - 8.30am Morning prayer on zoom
12Noon Said Eucharist on Facebook
4.00pm Evening Prayer on zoom
Thursdays - 8.30am Morning prayer on zoom
9.30am Said Eucharist on Facebook
4.00pm Evening Prayer on zoom
Fridays - 11.00am Service of the Word on Facebook
Please do join (contact me directly for the details.) If you would be willing to read or lead intercessions on a Sunday please do get in touch. We will endevour to make available some prayer resources available in a printed format for those who don't have access to the internet.
During the first lockdown in the Spring we mobilised a group to stay in touch with all of you and make sure you are all doing as well as can be expected, and to offer to support and prayer. This group will resume it's ministry more actively in the coming days. I hope that you feel held by the invaluable ministry of this group as we seek to hold together as as community in these days.
Can I also encourage you to use the weeks of lockdown to ready yourselves for Christmas? There are two online retreats that I'd like to commend to you:
Wait and Hope - A free family advent retreat - 05/12/20 - 10.30am-12.30noon. Further details are here plus information on how to book: https://www.stalbans.anglican.org/event/wait-and-hope-yac/
An Advent Retreat with Poetry and Music - 28/11/20 - 10.00am-1.00pm.
Further details are here please information on how to book:
Reading the Bible Together - 16/11/20 - 7.30pm
The hope is that as we read scripture together and talk about it, our faith would be strengthened and our understanding deepned. We will meet on Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82951109506?pwd=emlZL3llNWNuSHlITU8vNEdybmt1dz09 Meeting ID: 829 5110 9506 Passcode: 494575). We will be reading 2 passages of scripture together - Isaiah 64:1-9 and Mark 13:24-end. You can download them here: https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=469759430. It would be wonderful to see you but could you let me know if you are going to join us.
We are laying some plans for a Community Online Advent Calnedar and an online Christingle service for the parish in early December and some contemplative and thoughtful Advent evening worship. More details in due course. Plans are also prayerfully being made for our worship at Christmas which will be unusual and memorable this year. Please pray for those planning.
I know that there is much to digest here but I hope that you will see the resources as opportunities and blessing in these days.
You are with us in good times and in bad,
in health and in sickness, in light and in darkness;
be with us through the difficulties of this pandemic
and as we look to the future.
May we hear your voice guiding us,
May we know your Spirit inspiring us,
May we feel your strength upholding us.
Show us how to act on what you have taught us through this time,
that our ministry and mission may reveal your love to all we meet.
We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Sunday, 8 November 2020
Tuesday, 3 November 2020
We are gathered together on the cusp of an important weekend for many in our communities, made all the more challenging as we are readying ourselves for a four week lock down. This is the first of two communications from me this week.
~ Remembrance Sunday ~
As COVID-19 continues to spread in our nation and neighbourhoods the Government has asked that all public worship in church be suspended from Thursday 5th November. With that in mind we have taken the difficult decision to ensure the safety of all, to move our Acts of Remembrance online this year. This is not a decision we have taken lightly.
This will make our communal remembering different and 'not the same' but we are living through extraordinary times and sometimes we need to make extraordinary decisions.
Our worship for Sunday 8th November, therefore, looks like this:
9.30am A Sung Eucharist on Zoom.
Please contact the Vicar for joining details and ensure you have joined the service by 9.25am.
10.50am A Community Act of Remembrance. You can join this service via our website www.theparishofmillendandheronsgatewithwesthyde.org.
Names of the fallen from the communities of Mill End, West Hyde, Maple Cross and Heronsgate will be read out and wreaths will be laid. You can follow the service using the service sheet here plus a further resource to aid your remembering available here.
If you would like to remember in your own way, I enclose some suggestions of things you might like to do in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day next week. Other materials are available here.
On Sunday the bells at St Peter's, St Thomas' and St John's will all be rung from 10.58am and will cease at 11.00am to mark two minutes silence to remember those who have died and who continue to die in the World Wars and wars since. The bells will ring again at 11.02am to mark the end of the silence. You may wish to go and stand on your doorstep during this time. You may also find the resources on this page on the Church of England website a source of inspiration: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches/remembrance-day-2020
Please be assured of my ongoing prayers for you all.
Sunday, 1 November 2020
Monday, 26 October 2020
Sunday, 18 October 2020
I also note that Luke writes his two works to Theophilus. We have no idea whether this is a real person or not, but Theophilus literally means God Lover. Luke’s works in scripture are constructed to aid the growth in faith of someone hungry to know more of the things of God. TO fall in love with Him.
Jesus appoints seventy, other than the twelve disciples, and sends them off to where He himself intends to go. There is a strategy to Jesus’ ministry. Whether we understand Jesus’ words as He will have gone before them spiritually to prepare the ground in those communities by the work of God, or whether they are to prepare the communities for His coming later, we will never know. What is key to note is that the work of the 70 and the work of God in Jesus go hand in hand. They are not sent randomly; rather with a focus and a task with Jesus. The Lord of the Harvest sends out labourers - this work is the work of the Lord.
I’ve said elsewhere - I’ve never ministered in a pandemic before. We’ve never been church together in this context. Yet I am more convinced that ever of the need for us to return to prayer, sharing the sacraments and reading scripture in these days. This passage from the Gospel as we recall St Luke today, for me at least, demonstrates why engaging with scripture is so key, especially at the moment.
In the last months we have been sent out from our church buildings and the doors shut behind us. We have been sent to our own communities, staying in the same house to save lives. We have been sent out like lambs and we have had to learn to be quick-footed and resourceful as what we knew as church had to be reshaped rapidly. Sometimes the direction we have taken hasn’t been quite right, but it has been about adapting with speed. We will have to continue to do this together in the coming weeks and months - adapting to live, learn, worship and serve still. Knowing that the mission on which we are sent is Jesus’, that there are some around us hungry for Gospel morsels, and He goes with us.
Luke as he wrote encouraged his readers in their faith. I encourage you to read scripture yourself. Read Luke’s account a small portion every day. Ask - how is what Luke writes seeking to encourage me in my faith today? What can we learn about what it means to be church.
Stay in the same house eating whatever they provide. Part of our being fed spiritually in these days, as continue to largely stay at home, is to read scripture. To find Jesus in the words; to be encouraged by the stories; to ask - what is God saying to me/us to help growth in faith. Amen
Tuesday, 13 October 2020
Monday, 12 October 2020
Here's a version of what I preached at St Thomas' at 10am on 11/10/20 based on Philippians 4:1-9.
In a crisis, everyone prays. Earlier on in the year, when the pandemic first reared its head, the number of online searches seeking information about prayer sky-rocketed. Using Google Trends data on internet searches for the word prayer, for 75 countries worldwide, it was discovered that searches for ‘prayer’ doubled every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19. In fact, the researcher who carried out this study concluded that humans have a tendency to use religion as a way to cope with a crisis.
I have no idea whether that’s because in our current crisis, we have been forced to live neo-monastic lived largely cloistered indoors, with the occasional trip into the outside world, living routines of homeschooling, calling of face-timing relatives and friends, and making more bread than the local bakers; or whether we look as finite beings to the infinite, the horizon our existence when confronted with a crisis, in the hope that God is making his way just over the hill.
It’s true though - we do all pray in extremis - whether it’s uttered namelessly behind that wheel stuck in a traffic jam - don’t let me be late; or at the bedside of a loved one - please God don’t let them suffer. I think this research hints at what we all know deep down.
Paul is writing this letter to the Christian community in a time of what might have been crisis for him. He has been imprisoned, possibly in Rome, possibly in Caeserea, but we don’t know for sure. The letter’s tone doesn't reveal in inner crisis though, rather Paul writes with a sense of hope and maybe even of joy, encouraging the community to keep on keeping on and to pray.
In this section Paul addresses his brothers and sisters - his source of joy, his beloved and then he particularly mentions Euodia and Syntyche and Clement and he alludes to Timothy and others. When talking about the women particularly, it sounds like he’s referring to a disagreement between them, but by urging them to ‘have the same mind’ he’s actually asking them to continue to do what they are already doing, alongside Clement, Timothy and others - they are seeking to still be the church where everyone has a part to play; no one is a passive observer; no one ‘just does this or that’; all are active in not going to church but being church. It was the church community that fed the poor and cared for the sick; it was the church who prayed believing that God would transform the present circumstances of the world in justice; it was the church that radically lived as a new community where the social prejudices of the day were swept aside and a new way being together was demonstrated. But they lived and gathered together like this because their faith compelled them to and not because of a diocesan initiative or a parish vision document. ‘...Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you..’ says Paul to them.
Paul doesn't encourage the church in Caesera Philippi to pray because they or the nation are in crisis. Paul’s call to prayer is not borne out of a fresh realisation of the Philippians mortality. ‘.. But in everything…’ he says, in every occasion, at all times, in all places, pray.
Prayer though isn’t some sort of transaction for the super holy. Paul isn’t encouraging prayer because the Philippians should believe that God will listen somehow more attentively to them. Prior to the encouragement to prayer, supplication and thanksgiving, Paul reminds the church of the nearness of God, and after the call to prayer, he speaks of the completeness of God’s work in them - the peace, the shalom of God - guarding their hearts and lives. Prayer for Paul here feels like a response to sensing God’s nearness; being attentive to or even noticing God present and an ongoing trust in God’s guiding of living and speaking and acting. Paul, even though he encourages the church to make prayerful requests, suggests that prayer aligns lives in God’s peace, will, and purposes.
We may not be at a time when we can find much joy when confronted by rising unemployment, a global pandemic and environmental crisis. Paul’s encouragement for the church to rejoice may seem alien and difficult but Desmond Tutu (whose life has been shaped by much difficulty and tragedy yet seems to be filled with infectious joy) says that to experience true joy we need to bring it to others.
In days that may seem to lack joy, we can each bring it in simple acts of love and kindness to others. In days when it feels like we are having to learn how to be church again - we can keep on keeping on together, with each of us playing an active part. And above all else, we can become a people who pray once more - intentionally attentive to God’s presence, bringing our requests and trusting His guiding of our everyday living.
Thursday, 8 October 2020
Sunday, 4 October 2020
Tuesday, 29 September 2020
Sunday, 27 September 2020
Saturday, 26 September 2020
We celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving in the early part of October.
Monday, 21 September 2020
Sunday, 20 September 2020
The Prime Minister said recently that a second wave of COVID-19 was inevitable and he will be spending this weekend considering whether to tighten restrictions for at least a time which are being dubbed a ‘circuit breaker’.
I am left wondering who this circuit breaker (designed to protect against a short circuit) is designed to protect? We know that the circumstances we are in as we navigate continuing to live with the coronavirus pandemic will affect different sections of society differently. Children who have been schooled at home may have been supported by good lessons on-line. They may have been able to access computer resources. With parental help a small child might have learned to read, learned their tables, learned computer skills. But some children had no computer and no support. Some people had jobs which were essential, some had jobs which could be done on-line from home, and some found new employment arising out of the crisis. But some felt cast aside and unwanted, with no prospect of returning to a fulfilling employment which they had enjoyed. Some elderly people thrived, with accessible internet access, supportive families. Some are in care homes with no visitors, or dying alone of Covid-19 with no access to family.
The future for many hangs in the balance - the reduction in air travel has a huge knock on for airports and aircraft manufacturers. Much of the arts industry remains closed. Restrictions in gathering in groups bigger than 6 may impact on some work and the future of the care home system hangs in the balance. We live and work and worship in uncertain times. This is true for the church in our parish.
We have seen a decline in numbers of Life Events since the last APCM. This has been exaggerated by the pandemic and restrictions on movement and public worship. We have seen a reduction in our electoral roll and in available financial resources, in group activities and outreach, but we have seen a growth in a sense of isolation as the church became dispersed into homes across our neighbourhoods.
As a response we have sought to innovate - pushing our worship, study and schoolswork (up until early August) online (with some paper resourcing too) and we have seen people have gain new skills - not least of all learning how to use Facebook and Zoom adn we have established a Pastoral Care Group to ensure that church members are kept in touch are cared for.
Let me talk briefly about worship. Before lockdown we were holding 4 sometimes 5 services across the parish on a Sunday and 2 midweek services. Attendance at those varied enormously. Since lockdown we have grown a Zoom Sunday congregation of up to 30 people, and with the resumption of public worship in some of the parish, we are seeing similar numbers return to our buildings. It is midweek services that have astonished me though. We have offered a service most weekdays with between 30-60 people taking part/watching/interacting which infers two things - the faithful were looking to be sustained in their faith by something they could rely on - the worship of the church and the presence of God - but also our fringe (people on the edges of the church) were looking for the same.
As we continue to co-exist with the coronavirus we need to look afresh at what it means to be the church and how we minister in these days. This morning’s gospel gives us some hints.
The landowner comes to the marketplace looking for workers. God comes patiently looking for us again and again and again over the course of life’s day, and invests in negotiation with those who are there seeking labour. Even those at the end of the day - though they are dubbed ‘idle’, aren’t - they are waiting in the right place for the employer to come - watching, trying catch their eye, being ready to talk about their skills and see their gifts used.
Now it seems to me is the time for us to be waiting in the marketplace of the church. This doesn’t mean that we stand around idle all day, but rather we hone our skills, ensure we are healthy and well nourished and we are attentively looking for the landowner.
In the year that lies ahead of us I’m calling on each and every one of us to pray; to call out to the landowner, offering our employment. Prayer is the privilege we have of offering the world to God, but also of attentively listening for his voice calling us into His employment. We need to know when we are being called and to what. This autumn I will be making contact with you individually and as groups encouraging you to join me in becoming a people of vital prayer.
If we are to be ready for ‘gainful employment’, (to continue the metaphor), our skills need to be honed - prayer is part of that as it intentionally aligns us with God’s life, but immersing ourselves in scripture is the other. Scripture has historically shaped God’s people’ life and actions. We will be spending time together reading scripture and reflecting on it. We will share a passage together over a period of time to allow us to become familiar with it, to grow in it and for God to speak through it to us.
If we are to be sustained in what God calls us to we need to stay healthy. We need to be fed by the Sacraments of the church. By participating in the Eucharist or a Service of the Word and making our Holy Communion, Christ dwells in each of us, transforming us more into His likeness.
I’ve never ministered in a global pandemic and in some ways,what it means for us to be the church in (and I suspect) beyond these days, will be unknown. Our world is a different place, but by waiting attentively in the marketplace of the church - we are in the right place to seek His call to work, we need to be physically and spiritually ready to work when the landlord’s call comes.