February – March 2021 newsletter

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2021

Dear Friends

It was unfortunate that our planned Christmas Service in church on the afternoon of Sunday 20th December coincided with the news of increased Covid-19 infection rates in our area. Only our five elders managed to attend the short service taken by Margery but the absence of other members was fully understandable.

It was good to be back worshipping in church although somewhat strange having only four chairs spread at the correct social distance with a further chair in front for handbags, service sheets etc.  There was of course no singing and we all wore face coverings.  Margery prepared and lead an excellent short service which increased our longing to back in church on a weekly basis.  Margery wore a plastic visor which enabled us to see her face which was helpful to those in the congregation. The only hiccup was when at the end of the service, she tried to blow out the Advent Candles and nothing happened – until she removed her visor!!

The second afternoon service planned for mid-January was cancelled because of the lockdown restrictions.

Whilst in lockdown, I have become more familiar with zoom Elders’ meetings, zoom coffee mornings and communions, even zoom Synod Meetings and Moderator’s Inductions, and have enjoyed an excellent eight-session zoom Bible Course produced by the Bible Society and arranged by Rev Daleen ten Cate for the South Lancashire Missional Partnership. (The final session on Revelation was helpful, as I have never really got my head around this last book in the Bible).

The experience of again worshipping together in Church emphasised the sense of community and togetherness which is more difficult with zoom.

I expect that most of us are coping as best we can with the current restrictions, but it is comforting that those most in need are receiving vaccinations.  As I write this introduction, Jean & I have just returned from our vaccinations in Fleetwood.  Why Fleetwood?  Well a week ago we received a letter offering vaccinations at about fifteen new centres across the northwest. The nearest was Blackburn Cathedral.  A Pharmacy in Fleetwood was next, with good parking and located near to Cleveleys where I regularly used to collect Cynthia Longden when she was preaching at Fulwood. Hence we chose Fleetwood and were successfully vaccinated in a matter of minutes.

I trust and pray that as the vaccinations progress, we have a cause for optimism that things will return to normal in the foreseeable future.  In the meantime…

Stay hopeful     Stay safe      

                                                           Dunsmore, Church Secretary

  

CATCH A GLIMPSE OF GOD’S LIGHT THIS CHRISTMAS

(This article was received too late for inclusion in the December- January edition).

The Rev’d Dr John Bradbury, the recently appointed General Secretary of the United Reformed Church, compares the change in Mary and Joseph’s plan for their firstborn to the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, and God’s presence through it all in this reflection for Christmas.

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”. (John 3b-5)

How are your Christmas plans faring, I wonder?  How did the plans of Mary and Joseph for the birth of their firstborn fare, I wonder?  Whilst our Prime Minister has locked us down, the Emperor Augustus sent everyone out on the road.

As modern human beings, we love to feel in control.  We have pushed death to the margins of life.  Scientific endeavor leads us to believe there is a solution to every problem and a cure for every ill.  We plan strategically and assess our risk.  A tiny virus turned the world upside down.

2020 has been a dark year.  We have mourned, lost loved ones, and been physically distanced from our own flesh and blood.  For some, we have gone nowhere whilst being rushed off our feet.  For others we have sat.  And sat.  And sat.  And the doorbell has not rung.  Human ingenuity has flourished.  Life, love and hope have moved online in ways we’d never imagined.  Culture has found new outlets, and scientist have become celebrities.  Yet we know we have been living a half-life.  The wave and the smile at the camera are not a hug from a loved one.  The hug some long for will never caress them again.

As I write, news is landing of borders closing to stop the mutant Coronavirus spreading from our shores.  In a matter of days, European free movement as we have known it comes to an end.  We are boxed in.  Shut up.  And stare into a zoom lens wearing our ‘this is normal really’ expression.

The world is radically different from that in which Mary and Joseph trekked to Bethlehem.  Radically the same, too.  Viruses, and rulers, and powers and dominions beyond our imagining, wreak havoc upon our delusions of control.  Into this world God came.  Barriers and borders were broken down.  Heaven and earth combined, and God and humanity were united in flesh and blood.  God did not zoom in from afar, withholding physical presence to mitigate the risk.  A certain risk that would lead to the cross. 

God did not come into our midst in flesh and blood to sith with us in the darkness.  Though God does that.  God came into the darkness to transform it.  The other side of Christmas lies Easter.  Death transformed.  Life renewed.  Human powers subverted.  Light overwhelming darkness.  The feast of Christmas celebrates the flesh and blood coming of God in our midst to effect that transformation.  It catches up into the life and light that is for all peoples.  I pray that in this Christmas of darkness you will catch a glimpse of that light, and bear that light, such that it might indeed be life and light for all.

Rev’d Dr John Bradbury

 

URC DAILY DEVOTIONS

Every morning URC Daily Devotions offers a short Bible reading, reflection, and prayer to help shine Christ’s light in our daily lives.  These are written by a team of over one hundred writers of different places and perspectives from around the United Reformed Church.

You can receive Daily Devotion by email by signing at  devotions.urc.org.uk

 

BOOKS OF THE BIBLE

How many books of the Bible can you spot in the following letter?

Dear Sir/Madam,

The Bible is a remarkable book.  Within this letter there are 26 books of the Bible hidden.  Can you find them all?  Have a go at it using a pen or pencil highlighting the ones you find.

The Bible was written by God, using many authors from all sorts of backgrounds, having many different jobs.  God tells us the story of his nation Israel and his son, Jesus Christ, making sure it has been preserved for us through the ages for us to read today.

The Bible outlines the right way to lead our lives, as well as containing many historical accounts.  Moses led Israel through the Red Sea, at the battle of Jericho trumpeters marched round the walls for seven days, Judea saw great wars and captivity, Abishag gained David as a husband.  The Pharisees would act superior to everyone else, perhaps almsgiving for example, but Jesus kept giving them a most stern rebuke.  Jesus also performed many miracles, after receiving the Holy Spirit upon his baptismal achievement, with his first miracle being turning water into wine for the groom at the wedding.  Maybe it was a nice Spanish rioja.  Mesopotamia was an important region in Biblical history, with Ur and Babylon in that area, as was Sudan I elsewhere read.

When studying the Bible it is helpful to look out for any Bible echo.  Searching for them whenever you read as you will see some fascinating things, particularly when reading letters to the various churches, or ecclesias.  Testing what you hear against the Bible is also ver important to show if it is true, for example, if someone suggests that Jesus was born in Suez rather than Bethlehem, you would use the Bible to check its accuracy.  The same applies if you think Paul ate locusts, David played a banjo eloquently for Saul, Barnabas went on missionary work to Dijon, a horse carried Jesus into Jerusalem or Lazarus died of swine flu.  Keep going back to the Bible as you can learn a lot from answers to your questions.

There is no need to put being academic ahead of everything else, though as Jesus said, it is more important to love one another, in a humble spirit.  Jesus gave his life for us and when we are in a spiritual rut his love will give us the comfort we need.

Yours sincerely,
Rev E Lation.

 

PS – If you need a clue, a list of the books can be found further down

 

FACE MASKS DONATED BY THE CHAIYI PRESBYTERY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN TAIWAN

The North Western Synod has a Global Partnership with the Chaiyi Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. The Synod World Church Group has organised has organised several exchange visits including a Youth Exchange in 2015 and return visit in 2016.

At the start of the pandemic we received a generous donation of 10,000 face masks from the Chaiyi Presbytery. You will recall that our members received face mask with the Newsletter last year.

The NW Synod Treasurer, Mike Hart reports that the gift of the masks prompted some wonderful conversations about generosity and hope as he delivered parcels of masks for despatch at his local post office, and of course Radio Lancashire picked up on the gift and he was interviewed on their Sunday Morning programme which provided an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful gift with a wider audience, but also to share something of the fruits of the longstanding partnership between us

 

LECTIONARY READINGS

February & March 2021

February

7th  Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany  Isaiah 40: 21 – 31; Psalm 147: 1 – 11, 20c; 1 Corinthians 9: 16 – 23; St Mark 1: 29 – 39

Everlasting God, creator of heaven and earth, your love causes our hearts to soar. You know the number of stars in the universe – just as you know the number of hairs on our head.  You call each star by name – just as you call us each by name.  You supply the earth with rain to make the grass grow; and provide food for the animals and birds – just as you provide all we need to sustain us.  You care about the details, seeing every tiny part of the bigger picture – just as you care about the tiniest detail in our lives; for you know the person you created each of us to be.  Amen.

 

14th   Last Sunday after the Epiphany (Transfiguration of the Lord)  2 Kings 2: 1 – 12; Psalm 50: 1 – 6; 2 Corinthians 4: 3 – 6; St Mark 9: 2 – 9

Jesus’ divine nature was confirmed on the mountain – he is God’s beloved Son.  He went on to suffer; he died and rose again for us, conquering sin and death.  Now he sits at God’s right hand, glorified in heaven – and thanks to him, we are completely forgiven.  Amen.

 17th Ash Wednesday  Joel 2: 1 – 2, 12 – 17 or Isaiah 58: 1 – 12; Psalm 51: 1 – 17; 2 Corinthians 5: 20b – 6: 10; St Matthew 6: 1 – 6, 16 – 21

 

21st First Sunday in Lent  Genesis 9: 8 – 17; Psalm 25: 1 – 10; 1 Peter 3: 18 – 22; St Mark 1: 9 – 15

Loving, faithful God, your love is absolute, your promises irrevocable.  We look up after a shower of rain, marvelling at the colourful beauty of your rainbow – a reminder of your promise and faithfulness to all generations.  Wherever we happen to be – wilderness, mountain or valley bottom – your Holy Spirit is with us.   We adore you, loving, faithful God.  Amen.    

 

28th Second Sunday in Lent  Genesis 17: 1 – 7, 15 – 16; Psalm 22: 23 – 31; Romans 4: 13 – 25; St Mark 8: 31 – 38

Jesus was handed over to be crucified because of our sins.  He died and rose again to make us right with God. Through him we are forgiven.  Let us follow the Lord our God, giving our lives as he gave his for us.  Amen.

 

March

7th  Third Sunday in Lent  Exodus 20: 1 – 17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 25; St John 2: 13 – 22

We thank you, Lord, for the times when you have knocked us off our pedestals. Thinking we are wise, we have trusted in our own understanding rather than yours.  You have bulldozed our ‘castles in the air’ to bring us down to earth. Praise be that, time after time, you have driven our falseness and foolishness away with cords of truth and righteousness, freeing us to be your Church without walls, open to all and ever expanding. Amen.

 

14th  Fourth Sunday in Lent – Mothering Sunday  Numbers 21: 4 – 9; Psalm 107: 1 – 3, 17 – 22; Ephesians 2: 1 – 10; St John 3: 14 – 21

Heavenly Father, we worship you as the life force of the universe, flowing through all things, sustaining and reviving. We worship you in the light that falls on us unseen, blessing us and guiding us towards you. We worship you for the love that nurtures us. Life, light and love, we adore you. Amen

 

21st  Fifth Sunday in Lent  Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34; Psalm 51: 1 – 12 or Psalm 119: 9 – 16; Hebrews 5: 5 – 10; St John 12: 20 – 33

God, thank you for welcoming us back no matter what we have done; for that initial embrace that welcomed us, though we were sinners; for the forgiveness that greets us every time we turn back to you. Help us to embody your forgiveness in our dealings with one another and with those outside the flock. May our welcome be the sign of the greater welcome that comes from you. Amen.

 

28th  Sixth Sunday in Lent – Palm Sunday  St Mark 11: 1 – 11 or  St John 12: 12 – 16; Psalm 118: 1 – 2, 19 – 29

We give thanks for all the good things in our lives; for times of celebration, when we share our best and give of our best. Praise be to you, Father, for blessing us so bountifully. We thank you for the one who had nothing, who rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. Praise be to you, Jesus, for giving of yourself so richly. As we enter the gates of Holy Week, may we embrace the celebration with all that we have.  Amen.

 

29th   Monday in Holy Week  Isaiah 42: 1 – 9; Psalm 36: 5 – 11; Hebrews 9: 11 – 15; St John 12: 1 – 11

Lord, as we remember your journey to the cross we give thanks that you are with us on our journey, Amen.

 

 

30th  Tuesday in Holy Week  Isaiah 49: 1 – 7; Psalm 71: 1 – 14; 1 Corinthians 1: 18 – 31; St John 12: 20 – 36

Lord, as we remember your journey to the cross we give thanks that you are with us on our journey, Amen.

 

 

31st  Wednesday in Holy Week  Isaiah 50: 4 – 9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12: 1 – 3; St John 13: 21 – 32

Lord, as we remember your journey to the cross we give thanks that you are with us on our journey, Amen.

 

 

April

1st Maundy Thursday  Exodus 12: 1 – 14; Psalm 116: 1 – 2, 12 – 19; 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26; St John 13: 1 – 17, 31b – 35

Lord, as we remember your journey to the cross we give thanks that you are with us on our journey, Amen.

 

 

2nd Good Friday  Isaiah 52: 13 – 53: 12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10: 16 – 25 or Hebrews 4: 14 – 16; 5: 7 – 9; St John 18: 1 – 19: 42

Lord, as we remember your journey to the cross we give thanks that you are with us on our journey, Amen.

 

 

3rd  Saturday  Job 14: 1 – 14; Psalm 31: 1 – 4, 15 –16; 1 Peter 4: 1 – 8; St Matthew 27: 57 – 66 or St John 19: 38 – 42

Lord, as we remember your journey to the cross we give thanks that you are with us on our journey, Amen.

 

 

4th Easter Day  Acts 10: 34 – 43 or Isaiah 25: 6 – 9; Psalm 118: 1 – 2, 14 – 24; 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 11 or Acts 10: 34 – 43; St John 20: 1 – 18 or St Mark 16: 1 – 8

Easter Evening  Isaiah 25: 6 – 9; Psalm 114; 1 Corinthians 5: 6b – 8; St Luke             24: 13 – 49

God of resurrection, ever renewing, ever reviving,
we adore you for your life-giving presence. Son of Man, newly risen, sorrow made joy, we adore you for your sacrificial living and dying. Holy Spirit, breezing among us this Easter morn, we adore you for breathing new life into us. Amen.

 

11th Second Sunday of Easter  Acts 4: 32 – 35; Psalm 133 or Isaiah 65: 17 – 25; Psalm 3; 1 John 1: 1 – 2: 2; St John 20: 19 – 31

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the example of Thomas who had the courage to test the truth of what he’d been told, even if it meant he had to stand alone. We thank you for the example of the other disciples and Jesus, who did not reject Thomas but helped him find what he needed to believe. Amen

 

  

MOVING STORIES

January/February 2021

Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territory (Our Chosen Partner)                                                          

Al Khan al Ahmar Village, Palestine

In 2019 representatives of the URC visited the village of Al Khan al Ahmar. The URC was warmly welcomed, thanked, and fed. We learned about the vital importance of the village to the feasibility of the two-state solution.

Very recently, The Israeli High Court heard a petition calling for the immediate demolition of Al Khan al Ahmar and its celebrated “car tyres” school. The court imposed a four-month period of delay for the demolition, but with no injunction against the demolition orders. This means that the bulldozers may move in at any moment. Due to this emergency, the Bedouin has asked for international support. Jahalin Solidarity has been working tirelessly on the issue.                

Ordinary people who are concerned can do a number of things. Firstly, we can sign the online petition, at https://www.icc.jahalin.org.  Over 24,200 people have joined Jahalin Solidarity in calling on the ICC judges to uphold Palestinian rights. They believe that the forcible displacement of Al Khan al Ahmar and other villages in Area C is a war crime Secondly, we can speak to our representatives and ask what they can do to call the Israeli State to account for its actions.                             

Thank you for your support for Commitment for Life as we work together for justice, peace and equity in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

News in from Diana Paulding: 2019 URC Youth Representative on the URC IOPT trip & Commitment for Life supporter

Thank you so much to Commitment for Life for your support this past year of the Christian Aid Prophetic Activists’ ‘Stop Fuelling the Fire’ campaign.

We petitioned the government to end the use of UK Export Finance to fund fossil fuel projects overseas. Over a thousand people signed the petition and many people contacted their MPs to raise their concerns about the issue. We went to Downing Street on Friday 4th December 2020 with a coalition of organisations for a socially distanced ‘hand-in’ event of all of our petitions.

 

Happiness

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Buddha.

 

On the lighter side

A cat dies and goes to heaven, God meets him at the gate and says, “You have been a good cat all of these years.  Anything you desire is yours, all you have to do is ask.”

The cat says, “Well, I lived all my life with a poor family on a farm and had to sleep on hardwood floors.”   God says to the cat, “Say no more.” And instantly, a fluffy pillow appears.

A few days later, 6 mice are killed in a tragic accident and they go to heaven.  God meets them at the gate with the same offer he made to the cat. 

The mice said, “All of our lives we have had to run.  Cats, dogs and even women with brooms have chased us.  If we could only have a pair of roller skates, we wouldn’t have to run anymore.

God said, “Say no more,” And instantly, each mouse was fitted with a beautiful pair of tiny roller skates.

About a week later, God decides to check and see how the cat is doing.  The cat is sound asleep on his new pillow.  God gently wakes him up and asks, “How are you doing? Are you happy here?”

The cat yawns and stretches and says, “Oh, I’ve never been happier in my life.  And those Meals on Wheels you’ve been sending me are the best!”

(Thanks to Helensburgh Parish Church Magazine)

 

Books of the Bible contained in the letter

Acts, Amos, Daniel, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezra, Haggai, Hosea, James, Job, Joel, Jonah, Jude, Kings Luke, Malachi, Mark, Matthew, Michah, Nahum, Peter, Psalms, Revelation, Romans, Ruth, Titus

 

Commitment for Life – Prayer Pointers

  • Pray for Christian Aid as they work across eleven districts in Bangladesh.
  • Pray as they help to provide food and hygiene packages for the most vulnerable families, as the present need of these people is food.
  • Pray for the 855,000 Rohingya refugees that are currently living in overcrowded, makeshift camps and are highly vulnerable to coronavirus.
  • Pray for health services, as investment in them has been very low, and governments face difficulties managing the Coronavirus in the most vulnerable communities.
  • Pray for protection of women currently living in violent situations in lockdown in Guatemala and El Salvador.
  • Pray for the indigenous communities affected by lockdown and face an uncertain future, with no financial help available from government.
  • Pray for Honduras where corruption is a serious issue. For education, informing and explanation to young people with the intention to change social behaviours and empower people and institutions.
  • Pray for the continued work of EAPPI as they support people at risk, by providing a protective presence at checkpoint crossings at Hebron, Jordan Valley and Bethlehem.
  • Thank God that local communities are feeling safer in their homes and on their land due to the presence of EAPPI.
  • Pray for Christian Aid partners as they respond to the Coronavirus by providing information and support to the most vulnerable communities, in both Arabic as well as Hebrew.
  • Pray for PARC as they work to help farmers to continue to work safely and supply food to people living in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Pray for PMRS as they plan to provide PPE to frontline medical staff and raise awareness of how to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in the region.
  • Pray for new ways for farmers to adapt to climate change.
  • Thank God for the introduction of solar dryers to help dry out fruit and vegetables under the sun in order to produce more food and support families.
  • Pray for the people during the Coronavirus pandemic, as it comes at a time when the people of this country are at there most vulnerable and where the health delivery system is at its weakest.
  • Pray for God’s provision as hyperinflation and cash shortages have left citizens without adequate resources during the winter months. Erratic rains across the farming season have added to rising food insecurity.
  • Pray for the morale of staff working in Christian Aid in the UK, as the organisation is reconfigured and staff either furloughed or made redundant.
  • Pray for protection for Christian Aid’s partners in the four Regions that we support in Bangladesh, Central America, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Zimbabwe.
  • Pray for wisdom and guidance as Christian Aid seeks to confront the climate emergency.

 

 Answers to last month’s crossword

N A T I V I T Y   N  
    R   I   H E R O D
M   E R R   E M O T E
I C E   G R E E D   C
S O   T I E   R   M E
S A W I N A D R E A M
I T   G   P A Y   G B
V   I R I S H   P I E
E L V E S   L E A   R
S A Y S     I   G    
  W   S N E A K E R S

 

All will be well

Over the last few months while our usual activities have been restricted I started the long overdue task of trying to get rid of some clutter (I haven’t got very far!).  When going through some music files I came across a hymn which seemed very appropriate for the current time.  It was written by M Peters, to be sung to the tune Ar Hyd Y Nos (All through the night).

Margery

 

Through the love of God our Saviour
    all will be well.
Free and changeless is his favour;
    all, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us,
    perfect is the grace that sealed us,
strong the hand stretched forth to shield us;
    all must be well.

Though we pass through tribulation,
    all will be well.
Ours is such a full salvation,
    all, all is well.
Happy still in God confiding,
    fruitful, if in Christ abiding,
holy, through the Spirit’s guiding;
    all must be well.

We expect a bright tomorrow;
    all will be well.
Faith can sing through days of sorrow
    all, all is well.
On our Father’s love relying,
    Jesus every need supplying,
or in living or in dying,
    all must be well.

Mary Peters (1813-1856)    84 84 88 84    Used By Permission. CCL Licence No. 634729    Copied from HymnQuest: Copyright Licence Users’ Edition    HymnQuest ID: 62842    CCLI#: null

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