Minister Prayers Sermon

Calling, Character, Community

Dear Friends

I do enjoy the Olympics. The first one I remember was 1968 in Mexico when I would get up in the morning to find out what had been happening through the night. I kept a scrap book full of stories, but was also fascinated by the stories from previous events and learned much of the history. We would then go out and run our own events, turning our street into our own athletics track and cycle course. In the days when cars were at a minimum of course and you could play in the street! I wanted to be Kip Kieno, the little guy outrunning everyone in the 1500m. It was the event I would eventually run at school athletics meetings when before my growth spurt I was always smaller than everyone else. I was quite good, but never ran as well as Kip Keino! 

I love the stories that emerge, the people who shock themselves and everyone else, like the Cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer getting ahead in the women’s Road Race and all the favourites forgetting she was there. The amazement of what a human body is capable of-  in the gymnastics, how can anyone twist, turn, somersault and leap like that? Or the people who have overcome injury, set backs and disappointments to emerge as the best they can be. It’s not always about the winners, it’s about the resilience and determination of the human spirit and this year every athlete has had to overcome Covid in one way or another and then deal with a strange situation where there’s no audience and still create wonderful competition. My resilience comes with deciding whether to stay up late at night or get up in the morning. It’s a hard life, rooted in an understanding of ourselves as being made in the image of God – whether we can run at amazing speeds, deal with adversity by turning towards another new day or bear one another with humility, gentleness and patience. 

Otherwise, we continue to prepare for our own future adventure and our house is beginning to be a collection of boxes. You are invited to a leaving and a welcome; my last service at Ansty Road is on Sunday 15th August, I’ve heard a a rumour of cake, it would be lovely to see people there. My induction in Loughborough is on Saturday 18th September at 3:00pm and there is a general invitation to you all, but they need to know numbers. If you would like to go would you please let Isabel McIntyre or Tony Pedley know by Sunday, or sign the list in the Welcome Area. They also need to know who would need some transport in order to get there. 


Worship for 1st August 2021 


Great God, your love has called us here

as we, by love, for love were made. 

Your living likeness still we bear, 

though marred, dishonoured, disobeyed. 

We come, with all our heart and mind 

your call to hear, your love to find. 

Brian Wren (1936-  ) © Hope  Publishing

CCLI Licence No. 1280770


O God You know each of us well, love us deeply

and are able to sustain us in an enormous variety of ways.

We are humbled by our awareness of Your profound concern

and involvement in our petty concerns and worries,

and your keen interest in our welfare.

Given so many gifts in our daily lives to enrich us

and opportunities for love and companionship,

we come anticipating a deeper appreciation of

and wider perspective of Your grace and power.

We know your mercy for the penitent, O loving God.

Let us experience it once again

as we place the record of our past week before You.

We recall our lack of respect and care for others

and those set in authority over us.

We acknowledge our abuse and neglect of our particular talents and gifts.

We have lived as if the world and its wonders were under our control,

and needed no reference to You.

We have failed to measure up to the standard expected of Your disciples,

and our example has not influenced the world for good.

In certain ways we have lived as if this earth and life upon it

was the limit of our horizons

and have disregarded Your encouragement to strive forward

and live as mature human beings made in Your likeness.

Hear us, O God, as in silence we now confess our individual sin before You.

Listen to the word of promise :

If we confess our sin,

God is faithful and just and will forgive our sin,

so, I declare unto You, our sin is forgiven.

Thanks be to God.

Generous provider of every good gift,

Prod us awake to the opportunities and invitations You lay before us.

Give us magnanimity in defeat and denial,

so that we may trust You rather than our own wisdom and wit.

Give to those who lead,

the loyalty and support they deserve,

and to those who follow,

willing spirits and a sense of purpose of their part in Your plan for this world,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bible Ephesians 4.1-16 


Touch the earth lightly,

use the earth gently,

nourish the life of the world in our care:

gift of great wonder,

ours to surrender,

trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

Shirley Erena Murray

© 1992 Hope Publishing Company, 

CCLI 1280770

Calling, Character, Community

We pick up this letter at its midway point. Paul has used the first part of this letter to remind his gentile readers of who they have been and the way in which coming  to know Christ has changed their identity to those who follow Christ. Now, they are immersed in God’s grace through Christ’s death and so are citizens and members of God’s household. They have become one with Christ, in whom God is uniting the entire cosmos. And they are now members of the Church which is the Body with Christ as its head. Now Paul turns to spelling out what this means for them, “I therefore, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

We are called as individuals to follow the way of Jesus. For some there will be a strong sense of when that first happened for us, and the ways in which that has had an impact on our lives. For others it may have sneaked up on us – and yet to be part of this community of Christ we have made decisions along the way, that bring us into this particular community at this particular time.

Paul reminds us that however we arrived in this community we are “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called”   and then pulls out a list of qualities he expects such a calling to produce. Perhaps this is the preacher, preaching to self. Leadership requires a certain arrogance to be able to assume that you have something interesting to say or that your decisions are worthy of being followed by others – so Paul reminded us (and perhaps himself) that there needs to be a humility, gentleness and patience  in the way we encourage people to follow Christ, a humility to accept that the whole community has something to contribute, a gentleness in the way we treat one another – sometimes we can be too robust in the way we make our point or try to ensure that we are heard, a patience with one another,  some people may not be ready to make changes as quickly as others, and that can be frustrating for some and a cause of anxiety for others. The suggestion here is that the mark of a Christ centred community is one in which all people are valued and in which we maintain unity and the bonds of peace.

This sense of everyone being valued develops through into another list, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” We have reached a point in the life of the church where we are having to re-think how we function and what roles we expect from people. There was a time when we were very good at sharing these roles around a number of different people, of expecting different people in the life of the church to take on these roles. Yet,  at some point we came to an expectation that the person called to be the Minister of Word and Sacrament would be the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher and so when we reach a point where we are saying to churches that we can not afford to provide a Minister to every church, then for some churches that sounds like a crisis for there is no one to fulfil these roles. In 2004, the URC received a report to general Assembly in which the focus was to change to the final role on Paul’s list “equipping the saints.” It was an acknowledgement that we could not carry on in the way ministry had developed, that the responsibility for effective ministry had to be shared across many different people and that any Minister of Word and Sacrament who is available to a particular church would bring there own specific gifts rather than be expected to be able to do everything on their own.

I believe you have the ability to work together to continue growing this church and fulfilling your calling to be God’s people in this community. Often when we think about church growth we imagine it only refers to the number of people who join the church but one commentator suggests that “church growth involves how the one Church and its multiple members are equipped by Christ to reflect the qualities of its unity and growth in love (note how “love” bookends the focus on growth in verse 15-16). So the more we grow in love for one another the more that we reflect Christ and the more fruitful we become. 


Put peace into each other’s hands

And like a treasure hold it

Protect it like a candle-flame

With tenderness enfold it

Fred Kaan © Words: Stainer & Bell Ltd

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Minister Prayers Sermon

Discipling like Mary of Bethany

Dear Friends

It is Wednesday as I write this. Chris has gone off for her last day at school and I am on the last two days of the course that I have been engaged in this year. We are talking about how we make good endings and I’m trying to pay attention! 

When Chris started at work forty odd years ago, she didn’t expect to be working with children. Her love of numbers had led her initially to work as an audit clerk and then switching to being a Finance Clerk. I interrupted that work, but in Bolton she quickly got similar work in the Rates Office before finishing to raise our children. It was when she looked to return to work that she began working with other children, initially childminding as it fitted well with caring for Graham and Hannah whilst I worked shifts and then went to College. She took her NVQ’s, yet despite discovering she was good at working with children, when we moved to Rochdale she tried to return to finance related work – but it had all moved on to computer and Chris hadn’t. Now her experience and skills made getting work with children easier than working in finance and so she moved into a family Centre Playgroup setting, and then into being a Teaching Assistant and has discovered a love of seeing the way children grow and thrive, and has done so herself. Sometimes the path we set out on isn’t the one we end up on.  Yet, life takes us where it takes us and hopefully we can all grow and learn along the way. Now that work is coming to an end and she has ideas for retirement – but who knows whether it will map out the way we plan and what opportunities that lie ahead. Only time will tell.

Worship for 25 July 2021


Light of the minds that know Him

May Christ be light to mine

My sun in risen splendour

My light of truth divine

My guide in doubt and darkness

My true and living way

My clear light ever shining

My dawn of heaven’s day


May it be ours to know Him

That we may truly love

And loving fully serve Him

As serve the saints above

Till in that home of glory

With fadeless splendour bright

We serve in perfect freedom

Our Strength our Life our Light

Timothy Dudley-Smith

  • © 1976, 1984 Dudley-Smith, Timothy (Admin. by Oxford University Press)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770


God of peace

In our hearts

in our lives

in our flesh

in our souls

May peace break out within us and around us,

May peace break through dividing walls

May peace break into dwelling-places

May peace break the chains that bind.

God who reconciles

heaven and earth

life and death

near and far

us and them


May your cross create one humanity

May your cross put to death hostility

May your cross proclaim love

May your cross make peace.

God of friendship

among strangers

among citizens

within households

in your holy places

May the household of God embrace humanity

May the household of God embrace creation

May the household of God embrace peace

May the household of God embrace hope.


God who forgives

we bring brokenness

we bring hatred

we bring misdeeds

we bring divisions

May your mercy flow within us

May your mercy shine in our hearts

May your mercy blow into relationships

May your mercy grow peace.

So then we are no longer strangers and aliens, 

We are citizens with the saints 

members of the household of God, 

built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, 

with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. 

The whole structure is joined together 

Growing into a holy temple 

in whom we are spiritually built together 

into a dwelling place for God.


God of grace

we praise you

we thank you

we follow you

we dwell within you.


Ephesians 2:11-22

Bible Luke 10: 38 – 42  John 12:1-7


Come all you vagabonds,

Come all you don’t belongs,

Winners and losers

Come people like me.

Come all you travellers,

Tired from the journey,

Come wait a while, stay a while

Welcomed you’ll be.

Mark Edwards | Phil Baggaley | Stuart Townend

  • © 2011 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Integrity Music Ltd)

CCLI Licence No. 1280770

Discipling like Mary of Bethany

Making time for Jesus

Mary could have spent the time rushing around with her sister getting the house ready, cooking for at least 15 and whoever else turns up – as Jesus has a habit of gathering a crowd. But we find her making time to ensure she is in the best place to listen to whatever Jesus is going to say this day. Sometimes the easy option is to keep busy, to fill our time with activity and make our excuses when we don’t have time to listen. We each have different ways of doing that – in my case it comes with the pressure of finding something to say each week. The theory is that I speak in the name of Jesus, but I know that sometimes there are so many deadlines to keep that I don’t make time to listen and I simply rely on something I’ve heard or what I think needs to be said. Each of you will know the ways in which you do not have time for Jesus and claim “Busy, too busy!” 

To be a disciple is to be one who makes time to listen to the one we follow. To do so expands our horizons, lifts us out of our own self-contained world and allows us to see the world from the perspective of the one we follow. The first step in that process is to make sure that we have time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. 

Making space to learn

Mary could have taken the option of staying on the edge of the crowd, listening from a distance, perhaps whilst still doing a bit of the housework that Martha was demanding. It would be the hospitable thing to do, ensuring that their guests had the best seats in the house. But instead she creates her own space to learn. We will each have different ways to do that, those that like to be at the front of the class under teacher’s nose, those at the back who don’t seem to be paying attention. Those who like their papers and pens all set out very neatly with the right colours to make appropriate notes and those who manage with whatever scrap of paper and pencil  they pull from their pocket. At Greenbelt there is an older man who always ensures that he sits at the foot of the stage. sometimes he leans back on it, sometimes he lies on the floor. He usually has his eyes closed and when I  first spotted him a number of years ago,  I wondered what he was doing there or whether he was capable of following the talks. But sometimes, in the Question and Answer sessions he will ask to speak and when he does he is articulate and learned with a keen sense of social justice. He clearly follows the many talks he is present at with a keen interest having ensured that he is in a space where he can make himself comfortable to do so. 

To be a disciple is to make space to learn. It is being aware of our own learning styles and ensuring that we have the opportunities to make best use of them. If is being aware that we are always learners and there is always something new to discover when we are the disciples of Jesus.

Creating beautiful moments

In Luke’s gospel, Mary seems to be a very passive soul, who doesn’t even get a speaking part in her own story as Jesus and Martha talk over her. It’s the sort of belittling behaviour that can happen to a child, or a wheelchair user or someone who we don’t believe can talk for themselves. In Johns account we get a different view of her – active, brave, creative – shocking those who don’t expect such behaviour from sweet little Mary. In doing so she creates a powerful image of commitment. That smell must have lingered for weeks and weeks as it clung to clothing and memory. 

To be a disciple is to throw our lot in with Jesus, it is to respond to extravagant love with extravagant energy and to create memories that people will talk about for as long as the memory lasts. I remember the people who have shown me how discipleship brings moments of great joy – sometimes in the midst of great difficulties. I think of the stories I’ve had the privilege of telling, the people whose lives have been full of grace and wonder. It is these moments that carry me forward, even amongst those who are always complaining about the cost or the embarrassment. May those who create beautiful moments always be a blessing for us.


A prophet woman broke a jar

By love’s divine appointing.

With rare perfume she filled the room

Presiding and anointing.


The Spirit knows, the Spirit calls

By love’s divine ordaining,

The friends we need to serve and lead

Their powers and gifts unchaining.

The Spirit knows, the Spirit calls

From women, men and children,

The friends we need to serve and lead

Rejoice and make them welcome

Brian Arthur Wren

© 1993 Stainer & Bell Ltd

CCLI Licence No. 1280770


God our Shepherd

May all who hunger for nourishment

find green pastures.


May all who thirst for peace & justice

find still waters.

May all uncertain about the next steps

be led along the right path


We remember those walking deep valleys

– may we fear no evil

– may you walk with us

– supporting and comforting.

– may we find healing, 

– may we stand proud amongst your flock


We remember those who meet with enemies

May peace come to our world 

where nations and communities are at war, 

sit behind walls and fences, 

May you anoint them with grace


We remember those who sit down to eat 

with those who abuse them, 

assault them,  

exploit them.

May they find refuge and sanctuary

May abusers know justice


We seek the goodness and mercy you promise

The gift of your indwelling

The promise of home our whole life long.  



God is love: let heaven adore Him;

God is love: let earth rejoice;

Let creation sing before him,

And exalt him with one voice.

He who laid the earth’s foundation

He who spread the heavens above,

He who breathes through all creation,

He is love, eternal love


God’s eternal loving-kindness

holds us fast and guides us still.

Sin and death and hell shall never

O’er us final triumph gain;

God is love, so Love for ever

o’er the universe must reign.

Timothy Rees Public Domain



May the God of peace,bring peace to this house.

May the Son of peace, bring peace to this house.

May the Spirit of peace, bring peace to this house, this day and all days.