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Candlight Carol Service

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Mission News

Advent Gatherings

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Macmillan Coffee Morning 23 September 2017

Come along for a nibble and a natter, Hopefully we will be out on the front lawn enjoying the sunshine!

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Bastille Day Quiz Night

Come and join our a Quiz Night in which the questions will test your knowledge of many things French and you will be tempted by some hearty English Puddings.

Don’t worry if you can’t make up a team – I’m sure we will be able to put some together.

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Mission News

Feasts & Festivals: A Lent Gathering

So if Lent is a fast, why is our Lent Theme all about Feasts and Festivals?” Well, partly because the United Reformed Church is following that theme in various guises throughout the year, but also because Lent is as much about feasting as it is about fasting. Each Sunday is a feast day, and not counted in the 40 fast days of Lent. Our Lent Gatherings will be a time to reflect on the way our journeys can take various turns, that some are feasts and others fasts but all take us towards the greatest festival of all … Easter.

The sessions have been inspired by the wonderful prayers in this years Prayer Handbook, for example

We pick up the stones

of the hurts of the world

violence and poverty,

disaster, and starvation

wanting you to turn them into bread;

Carol Dixon, URC Prayer Handbook 2017

God so loved …

this home for humanity,

rich varieties of shape, colour, language, identity, story

that God sent his son not to condemn but to save.

May we value all of humanity with the same love,

share the same willingness for sacrifice

and make the same risks

that God makes for us

                  Vaughan Jones,  URC Prayer Handbook 2017

In the midst of a fast, we will enjoy a feast of poetry, song, prayer and discovery. We will touch, look, taste and imagine. We will roam from wilderness to garden, pausing at a well as darkness falls and we catch our breath. Come and join in

be blessed, Craig

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Let Them Eat Chaos

I used some Christmas Book Tokens to buy a poem called “Let Them Eat Chaos” by Kate Tempest. she takes us to one street in the early hours of the morning – 4:18 to be precise and tells the moment for 7 people awake in the night; their thoughts, fears, worries, concerns, confusion. It’s a brilliant poem wonderfully portraying the way we live parallel disconnected lives – lost in our own thoughts, emotions and experiences, perceiving life in very different ways.

For these seven people there is a brief moment  – a passing storm draws them into the street,

Strangely dressed, one shoe and one slipper, socks falling off, smiling,

gathering slowly, tentatively in the middle of the road.

Shielding their eyes at first

but then

tipping their necks back, unhunching their shoulders

opening their bodies up to

the storm

And their hair is flattened against their heads

or puffed madly outwards

And their hands

slip off their chins and cheeks

as they clutch their faces

open mouthed

Amazing! they shout

You seen?! they shout ….

And in the morning when it’s over and they start their days as usual

They will be aware of this baptism in a distant way.

It will become a thing they carry close like the photo of a dead parent

tucked away in the inside pocket

Fading like the heartbeat.

It is in such shared moments that communities are formed and grow together. It is why it is so important to come together to share the storms and the sunshine. When Jesus calls disciples, they are not called into isolation – but into community with one another, they are not called to be separate from the world, but in and of and part of the world – eating the chaos together.

Kate Tempest concludes;

The myth of the individual

Has left us disconnected     lost

and pitiful.

I’m out in the rain

it’s a cold night in London

Screaming at my loved ones

to wake up and love more.

Pleading with my loved ones to

wake up

and love more.

Amen to that, Craig

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Mission News

Advent Songs

We will celebrate Christmas in song. No surprise there – whether in the four songs of Luke’s Nativity story, or our carolling traditions or the constant soundtrack of popular favourites – we will sing our way through Christmas.

In choosing our carols I try to ensure that across each service most of the favourites are sung but will also include something rare – it might just be or become someones favourite. It means that I get to sing everything at least once and hopefully congregations will as well. I have a particular liking for Carols that have strong harmonies and descants (I can’t sing them but love to be there as better voices soar) and those carols telling the story of Jesus and sharing hope, wonder and joy.

On both counts “Hark! the Herald Angels sing” hits the mark. It speaks of glory, peace, mercy, reconciliation, joy, adoration, incarnation, and a restored relationship between God and creation all set to a wonderful tune that reaches new heights when the descant amplifies the final verse

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Sun of righteousness!

Light and life to all he brings

risen with healing in his wings …

But in different ways, I also love to be reminded that “God surprises earth with heaven, /coming here on Christmas Day” The hymn that takes us there is so modern, asking the questions that challenge so many assumptions,

Who would think that what was needed

to transform and save the earth

might not be a plan or army

proud in purpose, proved in worth?

It is sung to such an innocuous tune in Scarlet Ribbons, that we could be tempted to dismiss such offering as unbecoming in worship – yet it reminds us that if we seek to follow this story through into our everyday lives, that God will surprise us, calling people to live in ways that challenge a world so often deaf to God’s wisdom.

May God surprise you this Christmas;

May you hear the angels sing;

and know God’s blessing for the New Year

Craig

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Building Questionnaire

The sale of the Stoke Chapel building in Harefield Road has realised a significant amount of money.

“Our task now is to make good use of that money.  To explore how we might still serve the community in Stoke, whatever becomes of our former church; to use the proceeds of sale wisely in ways that express gospel values; re-develop Ansty Road in ways that will serve us well for the foreseeable future and ensure that we are serving God in those discussions and not Mammon.”

The first step in the process of exploring ways we may wish to re-develop the Ansty Road building is to gather the views of all interested parties.  This questionnaire will help us to understand what church members, congregation and building users would like to see change, if anything, and what they hope these changes will achieve.

We would be grateful if you could take a few minutes to complete and submit the questionnaire by 8 January 2017 by any of the following means:

  • By email to anstyroadurc@btinternet.co.uk.  An electronic version is available to download on the church website www.anstyroadurc.org.uk
  • In person to any of the building re-development group – Janette Cobble, Mary Jones, Nigel Sprigg, Roger Linney
  • In the post box on the table in the church

The Questionnaire can be found on the following link:-

building-use-questionnaire

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Mission News

Remember November

November: Remembrance month – All Saints Day, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Sunday swiftly following. Each bringing their own memories and rituals. Memory is an important part of who we think we are, hence, when we are unable to remember, or we are faced with someone who seems to have forgotten themselves, life is painful.

At Greenbelt I heard Professor John Swinton ask “Who Am I When I Forget Who I Am?” He was presenting his book, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.

He talked about a three-fold self in which firstly we bring our experiences of living, secondly we bring the stories our social roles tell and thirdly we have an identity given by our community. Hence, the difficulty of dementia is we lose personhood when the community loses us. He argues that the problem is not that people become forgetful but that they are forgotten. Hence it is important that someone holds our memories well. If Mum seems to have forgotten who you are, don’t forget who she is and things she has always enjoyed. Remember that our bodies hold our memories just as much as our minds – so a song. a smell, a ritual takes us into emotion and open hearts just as much as an ability to still tell our stories. For all of us memories change over time, we live in the present tense and the future is before us all, still with a sense of call and vocation. If we struggle to articulate our past so be it, we are still experiencing this moment.

So our memories are held by those who remember us and amongst those who remember is God. Even if we seem to forget God, God does not forget us. None of which negates the difficulties of dementia, but it is a reminder that we must not define people by their condition. Each person still knows the experience of living, still have social roles, are still part of the communities that hold them close and are still beautiful children of God. The task for each of us is to participate in the stories we have been given,

Remember in November and be blessed
Craig

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Telling Stories

We are just back from a double bill of London shows. The first was “The Play That Goes Wrong” – I was crying with laughter, it is brilliant – full of slapstick and beautifully observed humour. It is a Murder Mystery Play by a Student Drama Society in which the set falls apart, relationships shatter, props explode and the players desperately try to deliver their lines and tell the story whilst the audience collapse in laughter. The second was “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” We are brought into the world of an Autistic boy trying to make sense of a dead dog and his parents separation in a world that is loud, where words are confusing but numbers make perfect sense. It was a poignant reminder that this is the way that some of the people served by St. Columba’s view the world.

Story telling’s many forms has the ability to get to the heart of human existence, to open our hearts and give us a glimpse of a different place. Jesus of course told many stories, and they have been re-told in many ways. They open up spiritual experiences and moral dilemmas and share a world enlightened by God’s goodness and kindness, grace and mercy. Yet stories can also be spun into hate and confusion. I write this a week after the Orlando murders, two days after Jo Cox MP was assassinated – each carried out by people who it seems heard a different narrative, one that spoke of fear, hatred, the need to rid the world of those who are different. In any difference of opinion we need to be careful of the words we use, minded that some people are going to take throwaway remarks literally, will not hear any nuanced discussions, and hatred will find space to breed.

We need to keep telling stories of love, grace and mercy; acting with kindness and care. We need to laugh and cry together even when everything seems to be falling around our ears. We need to find ways to communicate across all that divides us and open our spiritual experiences to those who tell a different tale. Reflecting on this week I was reminded Desmond Tutu’s words, “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness.” They seems like good words to carry into tomorrow.

Be blessed, Craig