Categories
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
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
Categories
Minister

Easter Hope

I’ve just come home from an AGM that focused on hope, it told inspirational stories whilst knowing the harsh reality of human life, yet looked forward to the future; that spoke of hope as part of the human condition, as a partner that walks through life with us; that throws open its arms and welcomes; that transforms our lives and speaks our language.

This is the hope that we speak about at Easter with death overcome, love conquering hate, the opportunity to begin life afresh, to tell inspirational stories, to be overcome by God’s spirit bursting into tired, frightened lives – the language of transformation that creates a culture of hope even where we struggle to believe that such things can happen.

The inspirational AGM was hosted by Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, looking back at the work of the last year, listening to refugee stories that burst with emotion. That reminded us of human inhumanity, whether in the places they flee or within the bureaucracies to which they come. They spoke of communities torn apart and of people piecing life back together. They gave us hope and they looked to the future as a hope-filled journey. For CRMC that journey is going to take them into a new centre, this year they will move from Bishop Street to Norton House, renovating a tired building, creating modern office space and a community hub that will welcome those in need and encourage integration into this city which has such a long history of welcoming the stranger. To do that they will need financial help and have launched an appeal which can be found at http://covrefugee.org. The theme of the appeal and the years ahead is Hope.

In this Easter season it was good to remember that hope comes in many forms, to many people. That where we engender hope then we build new lives. As we tell this Easter story we do so in the love of Christ who transforms lives by opening our capacity to hope and calls us to speak the language of hope.

be blessed

Craig

Categories
Mission

Silent Garden

In the silent garden,

we stood with graves laid out

as if disbelief could turn back time.

 

Sometimes, silence is all we have to express ourselves;

awed, astonished, ashamed, ashen,

silent as the grave.

 

In the hushed corner plot,

woeful folk quietly plant raised beds

as if peace could descend with new blooms.

 

Sometimes, silence sings collusions victory dance;

soft, scented, scared, scarred,

hushed with inaction.

 

In the secret terrace,

weans play a raucous hide ’n seek

as if solemn tongues could break into laughter.

 

Sometimes silence is the comma, as life explodes –

caught, caressed, carried, carved,

gleeful Easter’s fête.

 

In festival garden,

world-weary ones feast on merriment,

as if lament will be heard no more.

 

Sometimes, silence proclaims extravagant garlands,

plaited, pretty, presented, pricey

fanfare of rebirth.

 

Craig Muir  March 2017

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

I wanted to write something that viewed Jesus’ burial site as a garden – as that would be the natural place for Mary to meet with “the Gardener”  But I found myself imagining a park where different activities go on alongside one another and yet still told a story that takes a community from despair to delight.

In one corner is a burial area, – so often there is little to be said  after the formal words – we say little but are reluctant to move away.

in another corner people are gardening – finding some healing in doing so – but it also contrasts the way silence can be companionable with the times when our failure to speak out colludes with injustice.

In another corner the children (heard but not seen) play (weans is not a natural world for me but it allows the part rhyme of we/wo/we/wo to begin each second line) children really allow life to remain quiet for long – they are the reminder to us that life goes on – that so many moments that seem like a full stop – are really just a comma, as the story unfolds. (And couldn’t resist the homophone of fête with fate) 

In another corner, it’s time to party, parade, feast, festival – Easter time!

 

Categories
News

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

Categories
Mission News

Talking Mission

Here we are, our first month as Ansty Road United Reformed Church, there has been much to do and we have been focusing on some of the practical issues of merging the two churches and leaving Harefield Road. At our forthcoming Church and Elders’ Meetings it will be time to think once again about Mission aims and objectives.

We began the process last August when we discussed six themes drawn from our existing mission statements and grouped them with some biblical characters that emerged from the discussions we had around the Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church during 2015. The conclusions we come to as we look forward may be very different but for the moment I would like to continue working with these themes.

Praying like Hannah,  1 Samuel 1

Hannah’s prayer was soaked in pain, bitterness, anguish and grief. It produced praise, power, potential, prophecy, proclamation. Prayer will be at the heart of who we are, it will be place where healing begins, it will be available through the labyrinth, regular prayer times and in an encouragement to spend regular time with God.

Growing like Mary of Bethany, Luke 10, John 11 & 12

Mary is the disciple who learns and worships at the feet of Jesus. Discipleship is about growing faith through learning from the bible and for each other. We will create regular opportunities to explore the bible, make a faithful response  and create discussions that help people think about faith and spirituality.

Welcoming like Martha, Luke 10, John 11 & 12

Martha; housekeeper, theologian, disciple, witness – who together with Mary creates a culture of welcome and worship. We will be committed to creating welcome, hospitality and friendship where people are inspired to worship and witness.

Encouraging like Barnabas: Acts 4, 9, 11

Barnabas is an encourager, he eases tension, finds the best in people, goes out of his way to welcome people into the church. We shall encourage people to make new beginnings and develop their skills. We will put our prayers and biblical pondering into action, emphasising a care for the vulnerable.

Witnessing like Mary Magdalene: Luke 8, 24, John 20

Mary, first witness to the resurrection, yet has been misrepresented through history and sidelined by patriarchal narratives. We will seek ways to witness to Jesus however much the message may be sidelined or ignored. We will explore developing a new centre in Stoke. We will network and partner with people of good will in creating loving communities.

Celebrating like the dancing cripple: Acts 3

A man’s life is turned around when he meets the risen Christ through Peter and John. His reaction is to dance with joy and amaze those around him. We need to celebrate life’s moments, celebrate the good news of Christ, celebrate a love shared. As Dory told us one day, these moments are like a comma changing the flow of a sentence – so let’s find reasons to dance.

So be prepared to share your hopes and ideas. Be open to the way the Spirit is moving, join with us as we explore God’s Mission for Ansty Road United Reformed Church.

be blessed

Craig