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Minister Prayers Walking the Way

30 May 2020 – Pentecost

On Sunday we will arrive at Pentecost. It is the Sunday that remembers and celebrates the birthday of the church – when (according to Luke) the Holy Spirit arrived 50 days after Easter and gave the disciples enough courage in their hearts and fire on their tongues to emerge from the upper room where they had been hiding and to proclaim the good news that Christ was risen and the world had changed.

This Pentecost may feel similar to us. We are being encouraged to venture out from home a bit more, to gather with a few more people but still to take care. More businesses are being encouraged to open to the public and we wait to see just how effective that will be and whether this will allow us to live with this virus or whether it will all be too much. But, even with restrictions gradually lifting, we are not yet allowed or being encouraged to open church building. However, the delight is that all across the country the church has proved itself open for business in a variety of new (and old but slightly adapted) ways. Long may we continue to speak God’s word in new ways.

As I explained last week I’m going to spend this month engaged in old customs (slightly adapted for modern times) by walking our streets in prayer. I hope those of you who are allowed out and are active will do the same. You can plan your own prayer routes and make your own commitments to walk a particular area. The way to do so is to go to https://www.openheavencoventry.org/the-app, register, and mark the roads that you wish to pray for. When you have done so you go back and click on it to say that you have prayed for those roads and pick some more. If you find that there are no streets to pray for in the area you can access, then go and walk them anyway and pray for them again.

My plan this Monday, (1st June) is to start from Ansty Road church about 10am, walk to the Forum, cross the road and walk back up the hill all the way to B&M’s, cross back over towards the westbound side and walk back to the church. I think it will take a couple of hours, but you might want to send some time following the route on a map and somewhere along it we will have prayed together, I am aware that some who are housebound have committed to joining me in this way.

On Tuesday, I will start from St. Columba’s about 10:30am and go into Drapers Field, and then along the canal to Electric Wharf and back along Sandy Lane. It’s not quite so far, but I have a meeting before and after. Join me where you can.

Prayer

May God’s Spirit dance in our hearts, sing from our mouths and rest in our minds. May God’s Spirit fill our souls with joy.

Hymn

She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,

hovering on the chaos of the worlds first day;

she sighs and she sings, mothering creation,

waiting to give birth to all the Word can say

Bible Acts 2:1-4

Reflection

I love words (you might have noticed) –  the sound, the feel on my mouth, the way they can surprise, shock and be misheard. The way they take you somewhere else altogether. I love to know their meaning – I discovered this week that the Greek word we translate as hospitality is philoxenia – literally “love of strangers”. It is the exact opposite of xenophobia. Wow, that puts a different perspective on how/who/when we give hospitality. I love how words can convey solid ideas and wild imagination. The way they bring me up short, inspire me forwards or make me think again about which words to share.

Of course words can be dangerous things – when they are twisted, slanted, weaselled; when they conspire to create lies and half-truths; when we are reminded that some words are never kept. Sadly, my words are on the whole English. I have a splattering of other languages, but I’ve never been adept at retaining them and have forgotten almost as much as I’ve ever learnt. Even when I think I know another language, I go blank when I have to use it and sigh with relief when I can revert to English – a Scots/Mancunian English that conveys harsh consonants, short to the point vowels and the lilt we called home.

When the disciples emerged into the Jerusalem streets, their listeners heard their mother tongue, the dialect that had been whispered in their ears as infants, the sounds they had learnt on their home streets. They know the nuances, inflections, intimacies and they understand this brogue in a way that they could never quite understand the language of empire and oppression that was supposed to bind them together, but in truth whispered lies.

On this Pentecost, we hear the Holy Spirit in our own tongue. We hear God’s truth become embedded in our hearts, we see the excitement of people hearing good news for the very first time, we share the passion of those being confronted by grace once again. In his commentary on Acts, Willie Jennings calls these verses “The Sound of Intimacy”. What a wonderful way to become aware of God’s Spirit alive in peoples lives.

Prayer

May God’s Love bring us together

May Christ’s peace be shared with all people

May the Holy Spirit blend our voices in one healing breath.

 

Hymn

She dances in fire, one with God in essence,

waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;

she weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,

nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.

John Bell & Graham Maule

© WGWG. The Iona Community

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Minister Mission Podcasts Prayers

Praying with Questions

Our final podcast of this Easter to Pentecost series finds us playing with questions and responding in prayer. We hope you have found them useful, we will return if we feel we have something to say.

Credits: Music – “Spirit of God” © Ray Stanyon

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Minister Podcasts Prayers Walking the Way

Pausing for Breath

The fifth in our series of conversations explores our response to John 17 and the prayer of Jesus for all who would walk the way of Jesus.

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Minister News Prayers Walking the Way

Sunday 24 May  Sixth Sunday after Easter

I wrote last week about the way in which this time has created a new routine in the way I work. But routines can’t last for ever and already it’s time to change to a new pattern. Throughout June we are going to join with churches across the city in praying for Coventry. This is going to be done by walking every street whilst we pray. When this was planned we had no idea that it would coincide with a time when we have been unable to go out unless absolutely necessary, and just at the moment when those who can are emerging to look around a world that feels very different to the one we knew in March. Yet, it is still a time when we are unable to open our church buildings – so how apt that before we can imagine going back into our buildings we must walk through our communities and pray for them. 

So I am going to commit myself to a prayer walk every Monday and Tuesday through June. So there will be no time for Podcasts, or the Bible Study unless something new emerges whilst I walk and pray. I would love you to join me in this enterprise. We could walk as two or three together, but you can also plan your own prayer routes and make your own commitments to to walk a particular area. The way to do so is to go to https://www.openheavencoventry.org/the-app register with it and mark the roads that you wish to pray for, when you have done so you go back and click on it to say that you have prayed for those roads and pick some more. If you find that there are no streets to pray for in the area you can access, then go and walk them anyway and pray for them again. 

But the other way that you can support this is by following the route I give you each Sunday, follow it on a map and pray with me. I will begin on 1st June by walking the whole of Ansty Road and on 2nd June by walking from St. Columba’s and around Drapers Field. Each Monday I will be somewhere around Ansty Road and on Tuesday’s around St. Columba’s. 

But this week, we finish our May routine. On Tuesday will be the final bible study in our 1 Peter series join us at 7pm on Tuesday at  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4043156568. And next Sunday will be our podcast for Pentecost bringing that series to an end. We will return at another time having listened for something new to say. And at Ansty Road another change will begin, on Monday the builders will move in and so whenever we return to church it will be to something new. It means that none of us can go in the building without first checking with the builders. Please do so through me. But also, how exciting, nothing stands still. 

be blessed, 

Craig

 

Prayer May Jesus be glorified through the life of his people. 

May God be glorified through all who know God’s presence in the world

Hymn I heard the voice of Jesus say

‘Come unto me and rest;

lay down, O weary one, lay down

your head upon my breast.’

I came to Jesus as I was,

forlorn and faint and sad;

I found in him a resting place,

and he has made me glad.

Bible John 17:1-11

Reflection This is the prayer of Jesus for disciples who are going to negotiate the world without him. In some ways this is the real Lords Prayer, the one we know by that name was a teaching aid. Here in John, Jesus is commending disciples into God’s care. They know God’s name, that Jesus has come from God. They have been given God’s word and know the truth that comes from God. They will remain in the world and so need God’s protection in order to remain a united community of God’s people. 

This is a prayer for people who are going to be pulled so many ways by so many different demands. The pull of family, religion, and tribe. The complications of work, loyalty and ambition. The love of pride, wealth and status. These are people we recognise, facing similar pressures to those we face and Jesus fears that these fragile disciples will crumble under this pressure and yet also knows what he has trained them for. I can remember when I was first ordained as a minister, so full of expectation and hope, ambition and ideas. Suddenly I was faced with an enormous pastoral situation, a baby was born with severe brain damage and lived just six short days. I found myself with these parents I had only just met, grandparents I met in the lift on the way to the ward and I didn’t know what to say or do or even if I could cope. I didn’t know if my training had equipped me for this situation – but discovered it had. Somehow I ministered to them (and they ministered to me) and we discovered that God had given us just enough resources to live the next day. And every June for the last 22 years we remembered Ella and her short life amongst us. 

Prayer Righteous God, though the world does not know you, we know you, and we know that you have sent Jesus to make you known to us, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for us may be in all people and that Jesus may be in them.’

Hymn I heard the voice of Jesus say

I am this dark world’s light;

look unto me, your morn shall rise

and all your day be bright

I looked to Jesus, and I found

in him my star, my sun;

and in that light of life I’ll walk,

till travelling days are done.

H Bonar (1808-89)

Categories
Minister Podcasts Prayers

Welcoming Another’s Truth

The fourth in our series of conversations explores our response to John 14 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.” 

We explore some issues around mental health, suicide, asylum and violence. So if those are issues you need to stay away from or be warned about before you listen, then please be cautious.

Poem: “Lesson”  © Craig Muir

Music: Gonfalon Royal (And Art thou come with us to dwell) played by Brenda Beauchamp

 

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Minister News

For 17 May 2020

As we come to our 9th Sunday without being able to meet in the churches, I have found myself in a new routine that now works towards having these letters prepared to catch the last post on a Thursday. Sadly, last week I didn’t factor in the bank holiday and so I believe that for many of you the posted version arrived on Monday morning. I hope you still found the reflections useful, if a touch late to be used on Sunday morning.

Life has shifted online, meetings (work and social) using Zoom – a video conferencing platform that has done very well out of this pandemic. Join us for a Bible study 7pm on Tuesday https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4043156568 

My brother and our cousin are spending the time going through old family photographs and posting them on Facebook. We are currently looking at photographs from the mid-1920’s and trying to work out who is who. I must admit it’s sometimes a distraction when I’m supposed to be working, but also a lovely way to remember our grandparents and their cousins & siblings enjoying life as young people. But also that some of these relationships were complicated – who is that man with Aunt Jeanie?

In our Podcast this week, (chat through some ideas on Tuesday, write on a Wednesday, record on Thursday) Kirsty and I are thinking about the Spirit of Truth that Jesus promises to send to advocate for us, and the way truth can appear different from another perspective. That can make life complicated but if we are to welcome people into our lives, then we also need to love them for who they are, and the truth of their life.

As to returning to church, we will be cautious. The government advice suggests that we will not be able to do so until at least the beginning of July. We also have a document from the URC that the Elders will need to work our way through. The big issue is how we keep one another safe, and how we clean up after every use of the building. This will be less complicated at Ansty Road by the commencement of the building works on 25 May, which will mean that the building can not be accessed during the week and so the only thing we need to judge is whether we feel it is safe to return on a Sunday and whether we wish to do so if we still need to maintain social distancing and perhaps not sing. At St. Columba’s, we will need to work out the way each group can return to using the building, and whether we also wish to return on a Sunday morning when so many of the congregation will remain in the vulnerable category. When you speak with Elders it may be something that you wish to discuss to help us in our deliberations. 

But one thing that we can continue to do wherever we are is to pray. Earlier in the year churches across the city began planning to prayer walk every street in the city during the month of June. We did not realise how well timed that would be – but God did. Next week I will be able to share some plans.

 

Sunday 17 May  Fifth Sunday after Easter

Prayer Risen Jesus, through our interactions may we recognise someone else’s truth and learn from them.

Hymn

And art thou come with us to dwell

our prince, our guide, our love, our Lord?

And is thy name Immanuel,

God present with his world restored?

 

The heart is glad for thee, it knows

none now shall bid it err or mourn,

and o’er its desert breaks the rose

in triumph o’er the grieving thorn.

Bible John 14:15-21

Reflection “If you love me …” says Jesus and I wonder how conditional our love is. Must we prove our love by our behaviour or do we only love those who love us? Can we love those who are very different from ourselves or can we only draw close to those with whom we have a connection? 

In looking at old family photographs with my cousins we are looking at the young faces of our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles – we are sharing family stories, but aware that each family will have a slightly different version passed down. Sometimes that story wasn’t told in that family. We are talking about people we love – but we know that sometimes the relationships were difficult. At my Grandpa’s funeral I described him as cantankerous – because most of us had fallen out with him at some point or been at the sharp end of his temper. But my Australian cousins never heard a bad word said about him – he was far enough away to be a friendly letter or photograph. Which was the truth? Well for each of us, something a little bit different because our relationship was different. But, he loved us and we loved him – sometimes that was why his tongue was so sharp! 

Jesus promises to be revealed to those who love him, perhaps it is only when we love one another that the real complexity of a person is known, the public face is put away and we welcome another’s truth.

Prayer Loving God, may we see you in the lives of all who seek to dwell in peace and love. May we see you in the welcome we give to one another. May we see you and know you as you sanctify each precious, holy life.

Hymn

Thy reign eternal will not cease;

thy years are sure and glad, and slow

within thy mighty world of peace

the humblest flower hath leave to blow.

 

The world is glad for thee; the heart

is glad for thee, and all is well

and fixed, and sure, because thou art,

whose name is called Immanuel.

Dora Greenwell (1821-1882)

Categories
Minister Podcasts Prayers Walking the Way

Dwelling with Prejudice

Our third podcast explores John 14 and the ways we dwell with prejudice.

Credits

Lemn Sissay “Colour Blind” in Gold from the Stone

Alison Phipps and Tawone Sitholé “border crossing in Togo (insert place of choice) in The warriors who did not fight

Piano played by Brenda Beauchamp.

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Minister Prayers

For 10th May 2020

 

This coming Sunday we arrive at Christian Aid Week and so the worship material that we have produced comes to us from Christian Aid and will allow us to focus on matters beyond our immediate situation and into the wider world where this virus can not be managed with expensive ventilators, a well funded health service amongst a population who have the means to isolate in small units.

Coronavirus has shown us that our futures are bound more tightly together than ever before. And now it is spreading across the world’s poorest countries, putting people living in poverty at great risk.  These people are already facing a lack of water, food and healthcare. Some are homeless. Some are living with underlying health issues such as HIV. As coronavirus infection rates speed up, they will feel the impacts of the virus deeply. We must respond now. Coronavirus impacts all of us. But love unites us all.

Together with our local partners, we are working quickly to limit the impact of coronavirus in some of the most vulnerable communities around the world.

  • We are drawing on our experience from the Ebola crisis and helping communities to prevent and delay infection.
  • We are providing essential soap, water and handwashing training.
  • We are ensuring urgent health messages get through to help keep people safe.
  • We are working through our networks of church partners and faith-based organisations to reach the most vulnerable at this critical time.

Christian Aid is responding to the coronavirus outbreak in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. We’re working together with partners and faith leaders to inform people about the risks, offering hygiene and hand washing sessions, equipping health facilities with supplies and providing training to frontline aid workers.  We’re providing food packages to some of the most marginalised families and ensuring protection for women affected by domestic violence.

To support Christian Aid we have had to change our methods of raising money. We can not do the door to door collection from Ansty Road, or Soup & Roll at St. Columba’s. We each need to take responsibility for making our own donations rather than relying on the church taking collection and submitting it for us. Those who received this electronically should also receive an e-envelope. Please respond as generously as you can. To those who receive this as a letter, please ask someone who can make online donations to do so for you at https://www.christianaid.org.uk. 

Sunday 10 May  Fourth Sunday after Easter

Prayer God of all the earth, be present with us in each of our homes, as we connect together. Build us a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to you through Jesus Christ, our risen redeemer and healer. 

Hymn Let us build a house where love can dwell

and all can safely live.

A place where saints and children tell

how hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,

rock of faith and vault of grace;

here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

all are welcome in this place. 

Bible Psalm 31 & John 14:1-11

Reflection Look at your hands. Have a good look. Our hands really are the most remarkable and useful tools, involved in so much of what we do and how we do things, even in these days of social distancing. The psalmist writes of committing their spirit into God’s hands, and at times of being in God’s hands. They also describes the desire to be delivered from the hands of oppressors and from a hidden invisible net that threatens to entangle them.

Our hands have become even more significant in these days of physical distance. We might long to hold the hand of a person we can no longer touch. We pray for the hands of medics to bring healing and comfort. We are grateful for hands stacking shelves and delivering groceries and post. And we are extra wary of everything our hands touch that comes from outside our own home.

This Christian Aid Week we also think of how our hands can be far from idle. They can still reach out virtually to our neighbours around the world. Neighbours in refugee camps and cramped living conditions, neighbours without adequate hand-washing facilities, neighbours who face the devastating impact of coronavirus with even less of the medical resources we have struggled to access here.

We reach out by clasping our hands together in prayer, and holding our hands open before God as we declare our needs and concerns for all communities.

Prayer God our refuge, we come with open hands, some of us with hearts full of questions, bruised by bereavement, fearful of what the future holds, stunned by the events of this year. Draw close to us in each of our homes as we place our honest questions and hopes into your open, resurrected, scarred hands.

Hymn Let us build a house where all are named,

their songs and visions heard

and loved and treasured, taught and claimed

as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries and laughter,

prayers of faith and songs of grace.

Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

all are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen © Gregorian Institute of America GIA Publications Inc

Categories
Bible Study Minister Podcasts

Living as Gatekeepers

The second conversation taking us from Easter to Pentecost explores John 10 and the role of gatekeepers.

Categories
Minister News Prayers

for 3rd May 2020

Over the last month I’ve had the rare opportunity to listen to others preach and see the way they lead worship. It’s interesting. Last week I began during my morning walk listening to Bill Young’s blog https://revdbill.uk  “for and from North Coventry Group.” Bill spoke about recognising Jesus “in the every day, in normality, in community.” As I walked along the River Sowe, contemplating the rubbish that collects under London Road bridge, it was good to be reminded that this is the world Jesus loves. Once I was home and breakfasted, Chris and I settled down together to listen to the service from Downing Place, Cambridge https://youtu.be/30MMouFqMiQ where John Bradbury was preaching his last sermon before moving to become General Secretary. He used the Emmaus Road experience to talk about the conversations with his colleague Nigel Uden to bring their two churches together, and all the conversations that had happened across the churches to bring them to a point where they are one church ready to move into a newly renovated building. It reminded me of the steps we took to become Ansty Road and the conversations that will be necessary if St. Columba’s and Warwick Road are to make a similar journey. A thoughtful message was enhanced by music from their talented musicians. Both of those were pre-recorded. The week before we had been to a Zoom Service, about 100 people connected by Video link led by some friends from the North West. It was immediate, interactive, slightly chaotic and a chance to meet up with some friends. But I’ve also looked in at some cringeworthy offerings and others that are worthy but uninspiring. I guess that is just ordinary church week to week. 

Last week saw our first attempts at offering something more than a weekly letter. Kirsty and I produced a conversation “Walking with Strangers” that can be found on the websites. It does not attempt to replicate the worship that is already available, but to add something a little different. But within it, there is a prayer and some music that will point you towards a hymn. We also hosted our first  Zoom Bible Study. It was lovely to see people and to see the effort some of you had made to be connected. Please try to join us again on Tuesday when we look at 1 Peter 2 and what it might be to be Living Stones. The link remains https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4043156568. If you want to try it out before hand let me know and I will try to help you. It is best on a tablet or laptop that has microphone and camera. But if you can see and hear us there are also ways of interacting. 

You are God’s chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into God’s marvellous light.

be blessed

CraigSunday 3 May  Third Sunday after Easter

Prayer Risen Jesus may we always know your voice, and follow the one who leads us through the gate. 

Hymn The King of love my shepherd is, 

whose goodness faileth never. 

I nothing lack if I am his, 

and he is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow, 

my ransomed soul he leadeth; 

and where the verdant pastures grow, 

with food celestial feedeth.

Bible Read John 10:1-10

Reflection What comes to mind when you think of a Gatekeeper? Are they welcoming or threatening figures? Do they hold the door open for you and bid you good morning, or do they block the way and enquire about your business? I suspect that we have all known both kinds of gatekeeper, but some of us will have experienced one more than the other. How does it feel to be denied access to somewhere we want to be? How might it feel if that happens time and time again – may there be some prejudice at work?

And how often have you been the gatekeeper? Deciding who gets access to a building, or power, or resources. How does that feel? Do you welcome the responsibility or cringe at the thought of it?

Jesus likens himself to the gate, through which we are to enter and find pasture. The gate does not decide whether it is opened or closed, locked or left unattended. But the gatekeeper does.

Jesus also likens himself to the shepherd, for whom the gate is opened so that the sheep can follow the voice they know and trust. This Jesus is not a stranger he is the one to be trusted, the one who will lay down his life for the sheep and gathers them from many folds into one flock.

When we find ourselves in the role of gatekeepers, may we allow the sheep from many folds to follow the way of Jesus, who is the good shepherd, the trusted gate to good pasture.

Prayer Incarnate Jesus, may we know your voice and follow you through the gate into abundant, fruitful life.

Hymn And so through all the length of days, 

thy goodness faileth never; 

Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise 

within thy house forever.

Blessing To God’s scattered people … 

Grace and peace to you in fullest measure.