Categories
Minister News Prayers

Horses & Chariots: 13 September 2020

This has been a difficult week. The last time that we gathered for Sunday worship at St. Columba’s I preached on John 4:34  Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work’ On Tuesday we gathered in St. Columba’s and via zoom for the first time since then. We listened to a hymn, prayed together and then made the decision to close St. Columba’s in December.

It is difficult to feel that we have ever completed the work that God has given us but we have come to a point where the work at St. Columba’s needs to be brought to an end and as a congregation it is time to move on to something new. We might have come to this view without Covid, but the lockdown has forced us to make the decision sooner than we might have liked with the added sadness that we are unable to meet and support one another as we prepare for this change. We trust that God will complete the work from the seeds that have been sown in the community from St. Columba’s.

As I prepared to print and send this letter I learnt that Ken Newborough a previous Minister at St. Columba’s died this morning. We give thanks for his life and his ministry. Please hold Janet and the family in prayer.

At the same time we continue to prepare for a new start at Ansty Road and Ball Hill. The restrictions in place for Covid mean that our restart at Ansty Road will be lower key than it would have been otherwise. We have planned to open Ansty Road this Saturday so that people can see how the work is going and have a preview of the new look building. That will still happen but in the light of the changing Covid situation we will not hold the Afternoon Tea that we had planned. Instead anyone who comes will be given an Afternoon Tea box to take home and others will be delivered. 

On Monday evening Ansty Road will hold a Church Meeting using the zoom link that we use for Sunday worship. It will be good to review our work together and plan for the future. However tentative those plans need to be there is still plenty of work to be done.

Please continue to pray for each other and support one another by your friendly phone calls and bubble visits. It makes a big difference to those who who are not able to get out and about as before. 

Prayers & Reflection for 13 September 2020

Prayer

Give thanks to the God of heaven

For love endures for ever

The stone which the builders rejected

has become the main cornerstone

This is the work of the Lord

It is wonderful on our eyes

Hymn

Guide me o thou great Jehovah

pilgrim through this barren land;

I am weak, but thou art mighty,

hold me with thy powerful hand;

bread of heaven, bread of heaven

feed me now and evermore.

 

Open now the crystal fountain

whence the healing stream doth flow;

let the fire and cloudy pillar

lead me all my journey through:

strong deliverer, strong deliverer;

be thou still my strength and shield.

 

When I tread the verge of Jordan,

bid my anxious fears subside;

death of death, and hell’s destruction

land me safe on Canaan’s side:

songs of praises, songs of praises,

I will ever give to thee.

William Williams  (1717-91)

Bible Exodus 14:19-31 

Reflection

Many lectures from my time at College have been quickly forgotten, but a few made such an impression at the time that I still go back to the notes from time to time. One of those was a bible study by John Ponnusamy, a visiting tutor from Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, Madurai. He took us through all the times horses and chariots are mentioned in the bible. It begins in Genesis 50 when Joseph welcomes the family into Egypt. Horses and chariots were the finest military hardware of the biblical period. They were fast, frightening, formidable. Every time they are mentioned they amplify military power and the might of Empire. Time and again the biblical writers show that God is far more powerful, and Exodus 14 makes the point in a terrifying way. Israel will celebrate whilst Egypt mourns.  

Later, Israel will be encouraged not to follow this path of creating military power, but to trust in God. In one story David captures chariots, but destroys them rather than use them himself. It was Solomon who brought horses and chariots into the life of his Kingdom, ignoring the warnings of the prophet Samuel that militarisation would create a society in which the whole purpose of government would be to feed the power of the army. That would be many years in the future, returning to the Exodus passage we see the forces of Empire destroyed and those who were slaves experience the joy of liberation. A fresh future is before them – what will they do with freedom?

And what do we do with the freedom we have been given? How do we view the consequences of that freedom, especially where people’s lives have been lost? Does it matter if those lives were fighting for the “other” side or do we mourn all that is destroyed through human conflict? 

In destroying the horses and chariots of the Egyptian army, God was leading the people into a life that was radically different to the one that they had left behind. They were not to build a community based on the oppression of some people for the glorification of the few. They were to build a community that trusted in God, and they would live in the wilderness for 40 years whilst those lessons were learnt. Of course, when they do emerge into Canaan they would do so by force and those living there would be conquered. This is not a simple story of peace and harmony. Human relationships are always messy. And so we pray …

Prayer

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world

have mercy on us 

Hymn

For the healing of the nations,
Lord, we pray with one accord,
for a just and equal sharing
of the things that earth affords.
To a life of love in action
help us rise and pledge our word.

You, Creator God, have written
your great name on humankind;
for our growing in your likeness
bring the life of Christ to mind;
that by our response and service
earth its destiny may find.

Fred Kaan  (1929- 2009)

Categories
Minister News Prayers

14 June 2020

It is now almost three months since we were able to meet together in our church buildings and whilst various activities are opening up, the advice from the United Reformed Church is to be in no rush to open. Our style of church believes that private prayer happens in the home, or street or park, we only need buildings to gather together or reach out from. Even if the government advice is that we can gather in the building, we are still going to be cautious. The Elders believe that too many of our normal congregation will still need to be shielded and that the precautions we would need to put in place would make our already small congregation even smaller.

So far, we have encouraged you to use the material on the reverse of this page, along with television, radio and internet resources in order to worship on a Sunday morning. We have produced some podcasts and have gathered online for a bible study. Elsewhere, I have learnt how to use a conference facility called Zoom. It can be accessed by computers or telephones and allows us to see and hear those who use computers, whilst those on the telephone can hear and talk. I have hosted services for Chapel of Unity, sat in on a service with North Warwickshire Group, as well as sitting in lots of meetings from the comfort of my own chair.

At both Elders’ meeting this week it was felt that the time had come to use zoom to create a space where we could be with one another on a Sunday morning and so from this Sunday we are going to offer an online service each week. I will continue to send you a weekly outline for those who do not wish to join with us or find the technology too difficult. But I would also say that many people have been surprised at how easy it is to use – so please give it a go.

To join by phone dial one of the following numbers

0131 460 1196

0203 051 2874

0203 481 5237

0203 481 5240

If you have problems try another number. When asked to enter your Meeting ID key in 831 4268 9496#-  if asked for a Participant key just dial #. If asked for a password it is 512001 

To join by computer,  click on this link  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83142689496

and say yes to the various questions. (It gets easier the second time). 

Meeting ID: 831 4268 9496       Password: 512001

Please come and join us, we will all be learning as we go.

On other matters. The work on the church building has begun. I know some of you have been past for a peek. There have been a couple of surprises once the builders were able to uncover previous work and that has caused a bit of adjustment, but I hope we have found the right solutions. If you are able to support the work financially then that would be helpful. The budget is tight and the more leeway we have the better. So far the grant applications have not been successful. If you can, please send your contributions to Caroline, preferable by a direct payment into our Barclays account Sort Code 202355 Account No 60995746. We also need to meet ongoing costs. We believe we can do that as we have a reasonable reserve but of course all contributions help to sustain that confidence. 

Sorry to end with the begging bit – keep going and I hope you find something much more nourishing.

 

Prayer Powerful God, you strengthen us, no matter what storms we face in this life. We give you the glory!

United Church of Christ, Daily Devotional 10 June 2020

Hymn

Here in this place, new light is streaming 

now is the darkness vanished away, 

see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings, 

brought here to you in the light of this day. 

Gather us in the lost and forsaken 

gather us in the blind and the lame; 

call to us now, and we shall awaken 

we shall arise at the sound of our name. 

Bible Genesis 18:1-15

Reflection Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

Is this a God-incidence? Kirsty is in the process of finalising the details of renting a shop on Ball Hill so that we can start the work there that some of us have been talking about for many years. And I asked, what are we going to call it? What name do we put above the door? As is my want, I then began throwing out suggestions. Amongst the things I played with, was the current address – 185 Walsgrave Road – what if we called it 1/85 or 18:5? I began looking at bible passages that fitted, there are lots of them for 18:5 – and one is the verse above. It comes in the midst of this passage about creating hospitality. God’s self as three strangers is welcomed into the camp. This is what we want to do at our [Unnamed] shop – welcome, refresh, pass on, serve. 

Having dashed something off to Kirsty, I turned to thinking about this Sunday and looked up the lectionary readings. Here we were again, Genesis 18:5. Abraham knowing he has to welcome these strangers – however in the next verse he is mansplaining to Sarah, how to make cakes (Whoops) and then rushing off to instruct servants on picking out some meat to serve. Eventually, he settles down and he has time to hear the message, “Sarah will have a son.” Sadly, Sarah hears this by listening from the tent, but her mocking laughter is noted and her son Issac (He laughs) will be named for that moment.  

For some of us, this has been a busy time. Sometimes it’s been difficult to take time to sit down and listen to God. And yet when I do it is all about the future and some plans seem ridiculous enough to create mocking laughter. Next week Kirsty and I will be at online Ministers Summer School, instead of meeting at Swanwick. There is no planned content in the afternoons and we are being encouraged to rest and reflect. Makes you laugh!

Prayer God, you disrupt our calm. Continue to be our peace. Amen.                                         United Church of Christ, Daily Devotional 8 June 2020

Hymn

Not in the dark of buildings confining 

not in some heaven, light years away 

but here in this place, the new light is shining 

now is the kingdom, now is the day. 

Gather us in and hold us forever 

gather us in and make us your own 

gather us in all peoples together 

fire of love in our flesh and our bone.

Marty Haughen © Gregorian Institute of America

Categories
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 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 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.

Categories
Minister News

For 26 April 2020

It is now over a month since we were able to meet together and we continue to manage this lockdown period in different ways. Many have grown used to working from home, discovering just how much can be done online. But for others it is difficult, trying to manage work, child care, close proximity to one another all at the same time. Last week I was supposed to be on holiday, I did cut back on work related activity – but when you are still on the end of a phone, or looking at e-mails for other reasons, it is hard to do. My thanks to Kirsty for pulling the weekly letter together with some thoughtful worship material. That was one way I had a holiday!

However, it was also a space to think about the different ways we approach this time and Kirsty and I have decided to try some podcasts. These will be discussions based around the weekly gospel readings through to at least Pentecost (31 May) and we hope will complement the other online resources that people are finding. For those who can not access online material, the worship reflections on the other side of this letter, will follow a similar theme. We hope you continue to find them useful and thank you to those who have been writing back to me, it’s lovely to hear from you and to receive letter that aren’t bills!

I’ve also decided to introduce a Zoom Bible Study looking at the First letter of Peter, but will also include something in the weekly letter. 1 Peter was written to people who did not have buildings but were to be living stones wherever they were, The first line is addressed “To the scattered…” Perhaps there will be something we will learn from this old technology, using todays communication methods. 

The first bible study will be on Tuesday 28 April at 7pm, and then same time, same place, each Tuesday through May. If you would like to join me, then please contact me and I will send you the link.

In the meantime, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Sunday 26 April: Third Sunday of Easter

Prayer Risen Jesus in our conversations and in our actions may we recognise your presence amongst us and in the lives of our community.

Hymn

Living God your joyful Spirit

breaks the bounds of time and space,

rests in love upon your people,

drawn together in this place.

Here we join in glad thanksgiving,

here rejoice to pray and praise:

Lord of all our past traditions,

Lord of all our future days

Bible Read Luke 24:13-35

Reflection Do you recognise anything of yourself in this account? Perhaps the confusion within Cleopas and his friend as they found themselves talking with someone they assumed was a stranger. Perhaps they were still grieving, perhaps they were disorientated by the change in events, perhaps they could not quite believe something that is being reported by women, even though some of the men had been to confirm it.  But for some reason they failed to recognise Jesus in the conversation and only saw him in the action of breaking bread.

Who do we believe? and what makes a person believable? How do we recognise Jesus? and what do we bring to our own conversations? How can we recognise Jesus in people whose lives do not fit into nice neat stereotypes.? How do we help people to affirm who they are and to recognise God’s blessing in each person whether they be stranger or friend?

Prayer Incarnate Jesus, you saw yourself in each of us, open our eyes to recognise you in ourselves and our neighbours so that we live and treat one another with love and compassion rather than fear and prejudice. Amen.

Hymn

As your bread may we broken,

scattered in community;

we who know your greatest blessings

called to share Christ’s ministry.

May we gently lead each other,

share our hunger and our thirst

learn that only through our weakness

shall we know the strength of Christ

RS 530 © Jill Jenkins

Blessing To God’s scattered people … Grace and peace to you in fullest measure.

Categories
Minister News Prayers

for 5 April 2020 (Palm Sunday)

1st April 2020
Dear Friends
As I type the date I wonder if somehow a great April Fool’s trick is being played on us, confining us to our homes, whilst somewhere else, life continues as it always did. But in truth I know that it doesn’t and that actually the calm surreal atmosphere I see from my window is very different for those confronted by the sort of medical emergency that we thought was consigned to history.
The strange thing about isolation is the confusion of ways to keep in contact – for those who are surrounded by technology. I’m aware that for those who are not, this world is even more isolating. So thank you for those who are keeping in touch with one another by telephone, by post, perhaps a wave through the window or dropping off supplies for those who need them. I have updated the website, and will look to keep that up to date. I will post on facebook from time to time and would encourage others to do so as well. And I hope to write something most weeks to keep us up to date and to create a service sheet that you might like to use in your own prayers and reflections.
Some of my colleagues have quickly moved into full blown online mode, with live streamed or pre-recorded Sunday services. Others are experimenting with video conferencing for a Sunday morning. I have been a bit slower, sensing that you are content to pick up what is available on television, radio and internet and that there is no need for me to replicate what is already available. But if you want something more then let me know. I have invested in Zoom – a video conferencing app. We used it for our Elders’ Meeting and I have used it to re-start the Wednesday morning prayers for the Chapel of Unity. I am going to produce a videoed reflection for a series that Lillington Free Church are putting together for Holy Week, so will list the link for you. Let me know if you would value something very specially created by or for Ansty Road.
 
 
That is the end of the notices, it is time to worship God
 
My song is love unknown
my Saviours love to me,
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.
O who am I that for my sake
my Lord should take frail flesh and die
 
One of the things that this pandemic has highlighted is our essential workers. Many are in low paid service industries. They are the people who care for our sick, our older people and our children. They are the people who farm, transport and stack food where we can find it. They are the people who keep us connected, informed, cleaned. They are fulfilling many unloved roles.
 
We hold key workers in our prayers – may their frail flesh know life and love.
 
Sometimes they strew his way
and his sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
Then “Crucify” is all their breath
and for his death they thirst and cry.
 
Another is the goodness of praise. It is so easy to criticise, and clearly some have been quick to do so. But praise encourages us onwards, lifts the heart and brings joy for many. We come into Holy Week knowing that the Hosannas will become cries of Crucify, that the acceptance, even excitement of lockdown will become wearying for many, that already Domestic Violence is on the rise and many whose mental health is fragile will be broken.
 
We hold all who are anxious and frightened in our prayers – may they breathe life.
 
They rise, and needs will have
my dear Lord made away
a murderer they save,
the Prince of Life they slay.
Yet cheerful he to suffering goes,
that he his foes from thence might flee.
 
On the one hand a pandemic can strike anyone. We have seen the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales being diagnosed. On the other, privilege still protects the Privileged. The wealthy can be tested, and I can isolate in a comfortable house with the ability to work, connect, eat, be entertained. We brought the Night Shelter to an end a week early, and whilst all our guests were moved into hotel accommodation, it was without the comforts I enjoy. From India there was a picture of people being forced into shared accommodation, crowded together – too poor to be isolated whilst chaos capitalists will make vast sums of money.
 
We hold the poor of our world in our prayers – may they find freedom from suffering
 
Here might I stay and sing
No story so divine;
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
 
My website reflection last Sunday, focused on friendship. And this verse reminds me once again of the friendship we find in Christ. That God comes into our world as one who travels the lanes, shares meals, tells stories amongst friends, and calls us to gather as friends of one another and friends of Christ. This is a relationship that endures through all the troubles of life, through isolation and grief and emerges into new life. Easter may feel delayed this year but it will come.
 
We give thanks and sing for the friendships we enjoy – may each know the sweet presence of Christ
 
Be blessed, Craig
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Minister News

Second Sunday of Social Distancing

Had I been leading worship this morning, my planned theme was Friendship. The gospel reading today was the one where Jesus is called to the home of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. By the time he arrives Lazarus has been dead four days, Mary and Martha are grieving and Jesus grieves with them. This, despite knowing new life is coming for Lazarus. That need for friends to share human emotion becomes central to their relationship and the experiences they share.

Instead, I spent the morning watching/listening to various friends presenting worship via video/podcast. Each had their own ways of doing so, their own emphasis on the passages. But in each case something of the grief of isolation was expressed, of being apart from other human company. It was good to see them all, to remember how each of these friends has played a part in my life, how much their friendship is valued.

This time of social distancing, has emphasised how much being in the company of other people is central to who we are. Yes we can meet online, we can worship via video link, we can meet in video conference, we can work from home and keep in touch via a variety of social media. But none of it compensates for being with people, their presence and their interaction. I’m even missing the odd hug – not too many, but the occasional expression that come only come from human touch. It makes me realise how important social spaces are for isolated people – those who just come for a cup of tea, speak with no one, but value being able to do so. How meeting as a church is as much about the greeting and gathering as it is the content of a prayer or sermon. These are lessons we must remember when we return from isolation.

This mornings Old Testament text was Ezekiel being invited to see dry bones come to life. It reminds us that throughout human history, people have struggled through hard barren times and emerged with hope. we will do so as well.

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Minister News

First Sunday of Social Distancing

It’s 10:30am Sunday morning, the 4th Sunday in Lent, Mothering Sunday, the first Sunday of Social Distancing and I’m sitting in Ansty Road all alone. I’ve put some notices on the outside noticeboards and on the doors, I’ve had a chat with the taxi drivers forlornly waiting for a fare and now the computer is belting out worship songs on shuffle. Church is not meant to be a place where we are alone. It all feels wrong, but I’m glad to be alone, it means that people have received the message that the church building is closed for the moment, that we must put aside our need to gather and take the precautions that we have been told will best protect the most vulnerable to this virus.

But the church is not closed, for the church is Us – wherever we are, whatever we are doing. It is Us when we connect online, by telephone, by post, when we stop to chat with those we see (keeping an appropriate distance apart!)  It is Us when we pause to pray, to sing along to a hymn, be led into worship on television or radio. It is Us when we work from home or when we still need to work in the hospital, the shops, the care home, the school for children of essential workers, the Night Shelter and food queue. 

The computer is playing the song “In love you summon” https://youtu.be/ucIrfFZPDaA

In love you summon, In love I follow

living today for your tomorrow

Christ release me, Christ to enfold me

Christ to restrain me, Christ to uphold me.

Perhaps that is good place to leave this reflection. 

Look after yourselves and one another. 

We will gather together again when we can.

be blessed

Craig

Categories
Minister News

Easter is Coming

I write at a time when the news is dominated by Covid-19 and our response to it. On 17th March, following advice from the URC that was matched by other denominations the Elders decided to close all church activities. It was a difficult very emotional decision to make, not least to suspend all public worship. That means that there will be no services on a Sunday. We will keep the website  and Facebook up to date, we will look to communicate by telephone, letter or e-mail where necessary. There are lots of online resources being produced and we will communicate those to you. And of course the Labyrinth is in the open air and always open for prayer. 
 
These are strange times and so it becomes even more important to temper the language of fear with a story of hope. For Easter is coming, when we tell a great story of new life emerging out of despair and we need to hear and live that story once again. 
Humanity has lived through such moments before; war, plague, disease, economic crisis have taken their turn and people have dusted themselves down and emerged ready to live again. Often that new life has taken a new turn, and that will be the same again for us, can we emerge from whatever isolation we each find ourselves in ready to shape communities that automatically include the isolated and reach out to the most vulnerable? If we do, then our Easter story has to be at the heart –  a small group of vulnerable, frightened people who discover that Jesus is alive and calling them into a living community of faith.
For the last three years we have been working towards redeveloping the church building, it has been a slow and sometimes frustrating process, but at last we are at a point where we have some plans that meet our budget even though we have lost some elements to make that so. We do not wish to delay a decision on that, so Church Members will receive a communication that will still enable us to look to the future and new ventures that can transform the way we continue to be a living community of faith serving our communities. We are moving into a new era, and the future can be as exciting as the past for Jesus stands amongst us, scarred hands open in blessing. 
Please look out for one another, and the needs of your more vulnerable neighbours. Please look after yourselves – it is not a time to battle on if we are feeling unwell. See you post-Easter.
be blessed
Craig