I trust that we have been keeping well and safe in this new world to which we are becoming accustomed and have coped with changes imposed without too much stress. I hope that we are longing to return to church as soon as it is safe to do so.
I have watched church services on television from various parts of Wales and Manchester where there has been no congregation present and hymns recorded in previous years providing the singing. Others have watched services on-line provided by other local churches, or more generally on YouTube. The Daily Devotions produced by the United Reformed Church and written by ministers and members from all over the country have also been helpful. With advice from Margery, I have attended an on-line Missional Partnership Communion service, narrowly missed an on-line Coffee Morning, both on Zoom and arranged by Rev Daleen ten Cate. I watched on YouTube, the Induction of Rev Brian Jolly as Moderator of the NW Synod. Contributors appeared on screen generally speaking from their own homes from Cambridge, Carlisle, Yorkshire and places much nearer. In the circumstances a timely experience, but not as moving as the three previous Moderator Inductions I have attended in Cathedrals or larger churches.
These experiences reminded me of an article I read two or three years ago, which at the time I found very amusing. It in was included in Penwortham St Mary’s Church magazine I have managed to find it and have reprinted it on p4. In the light of the current pandemic it no longer seems quite so far-fetched.
However when we are able to return to worship in church, I expect some things will need to be different.
Last week the Prime Minister announced that churches would be able to reopen for worship from 4th July subject to conditions. Advice just received from the URC Moderators includes: carrying out a Covid-19 Risk Assessment; providing hand-washing and hygiene procedures; and maintaining appropriate physical distancing measures for the foreseeable future. Once the Elders’ Meeting has accepted our proposals, appropriate documents must be sent to the Synod Trust. Additionally, new hiring agreements must be completed before any hirers can use our premises.
Margery has explained some of the issues for members and has given you the opportunity for your comments.
Finally today’s prayer written by the Rev John Proctor, The URC General Secretary taken from the URC Prayer Handbook
Praise to Jesus, who comes to meet us
Not tangled in complication,
not above our minds or beyond our powers,
but opening our hearts, as a child’s,
to discover the gentle wisdom that guards our living
Praise to Jesus, who comes to meet us
Not to burden us, damage or weary us,
not to crush us, clash with us or compel us,
but to take our hand, as a friend’s
and refresh to refresh us in the work we do with him.
Praise to Jesus, who comes to meet us
Not to lock us up in religion,
but to bring us to the reality of God
in the midst of our living,
and to beckon us forward, as disciples,
embraced and energised by heaven.
Praise to Jesus, who comes to meet us.
Stay hopeful Stay safe
The observant among you may have noticed that this issue of the Newsletter is for July 2020 and not the normal two-monthly issue. For some years, we have said October is too early to be writing about Christmas, and that Christmas should not spent producing the January -February edition. Because thing are changing rapidly at the moment, the next Edition will be August-September 2020.
CHURCH SERVICES IN THE FUTURE
How will services at your church run in the years to come?
…. Like this?
PASTOR / PRIEST & OTHER CELEBRANTS: “Praise the Lord!”
PASTOR / ETC: “Will everyone please turn on their tablets, PC, iPad, smart phone and kindle Bibles to 1 Corinthians 13:13 and please switch on your Bluetooth to download the sermon“
“Now, Let us pray committing this week into God’s hands“
Open you Apps, BBM, Twitter and Facebook, and chat with God “
“As we take our Sunday tithes and offerings, please have your credit and debit cards ready”
“You can log on the church Wi-Fi using the password “Lord 909887”
+ The ushers will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the worshippers.
+ Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers at the rear of the church.
+Those who prefer to use iPads can open them.
+Those who prefer telephone banking take out your cellphones to transfer to the church account.
The holy atmosphere of the Church becomes truly electrified as all the smartphones, iPads, PCs and laptops beep and flickers!
Final Blessing and Closing Announcements…
This week’s ministry cell meetings will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out.
Thursday’s Bible study will be held live on Skype at 19.00hrs GMT.
Please don’t miss out
You can follow your Pastor this weekend for counselling and prayers.
Thanks to Penwortham St Mary’s Church Magazine
When I was little, ‘zooming’ meant moving very quickly around, race cars zoomed around the track usually accompanied by a lot of noise. When I was older, I enjoyed photography but was often disappointed that I couldn’t always get close enough to what I wanted to photography so I saved up and bought a zoom (or telephoto) lens that I could attach to my camera. Distant views were brought closer and taking close up pictures of flowers was much easier.
Since the lockdown Zoom has taken on a whole new meaning! Instead of travelling to Manchester for some committee meetings I can sit in my lounge with my slippers on ‘meeting’ the other members via my laptop! We can see each other on the screen, hear and join in with the discussion. There has been a series of Elders trainings delivered by Zoom and I’ve also had to learn how to set up and convene a meeting online.
I’ve joined in on-line Communion services where we each provided our own bread and wine (Vimto looks the same as wine!), the Minister leads the service and we can all join in at home. There have been Zoom coffee mornings beginning with a short act of worship after which we are put into ‘breakout rooms’ with a small group of people for discussion and chat – a bit like sitting around tables in a real coffee morning. It isn’t like the real thing and if there are a lot of people joining in, it is difficult to see everyone on one screen but it has been a good alternative during the pandemic.
Churches have been encouraged to do as much as possible online and those who have put services on YouTube or Facebook have reported that more people have viewed these than would normally attend church but it has excluded those who don’t have access to the internet.
What is the way forward? I hope that we will be able to resume services in church because there is more sense of fellowship being in the same room as others but it would also be good for there to be online opportunities for those who have started ‘attending’ services this way. I’ve been happy not needing to negotiate the M60 at rush hour to go to meetings in Manchester and it spending nearly two hours travelling but I think some meetings would be easier if we were all in the same room and I miss the time to chat as we ate our packed lunches.
I pray that Churches, and their committees, learn from this experience and take the best of the new practices forward without losing the best of the traditional ways so that everyone can feel included in Christ’s Church.
I had to buy a new lawnmower this year and it reminded me of something Eric Morecambe once said:
My neighbour asked if he could use my lawnmower and I told him ‘Of course you can, so long as you don’t take it out of my garden.’
PS – My neighbour has his own lawnmower!
EIGHTEEN TO EIGHTY
A contribution from Rev Nigel Lemon
If things had been normal this year, I should have been conducting services at Fulwood in late-June and Penwortham a month later. Slightly facetiously, I had considered preaching under the title which heads this piece: “Eighteen to Eighty”. Unlike twelve or forty, neither of those numbers has a strong Biblical pedigree: so perhaps as usual, the sermon title would have followed one of the Sunday’s main readings. But why “Eighteen to Eighty”?
Those June and July appointments would have been my first after I had turned eighty. And long after first reading lessons in church, the rather younger eighteen describes my initial full service, sermon included, as an “On Trial” Methodist Local Preacher.
Preaching has changed considerably since November 1958, for almost everyone. Then, most sermons started from some particular Biblical verse; rarely did non-Conformists work from a set Lectionary; not infrequently might successive visiting preachers use similar or favourite themes in the same churches. These days, I almost always work from a reading set for the day; and instead of some single Biblical text, I will start from a title, hopefully one that poses questions.
I’ve been privileged to lead worship in more than a hundred places: in Methodist Circuits in Kent, Huddersfield, Derby and Chester; for Congregationalists in Chester, and then the Cheshire United Reformed District; here in the Lancashire URC Area; among Anglicans and the Churches of Christ; and some individual places like Chelsea Methodist or the Sussex URC where my mother was a member. But unlike some, I have not kept records of every service or sermon.
The situation today means that I cannot tell when, where or even whether “Eighteen to Eighty” will become a reality. Nonetheless, two verses from a favourite hymn express what I can believe as a certainty:
I know not where his islands lift
I know not what the future has
their fronded palms in air;
of marvel or surprise,
I only know I cannot drift
assured alone that life and death
beyond his love and care.
God’s mercy underlies.
LECTIONARY READINGS JULY 2020
As there are still many things to be considered before we return to worship together in church, this month, in addition to listing the Lectionary readings for each week which you can read for yourself, a prayer for the week has also been included courtesy of ‘Roots on the Web’.
5th Genesis 24: 34 – 38, 42 – 49, 58 – 67; Psalm 45: 10 – 17 or Song of Songs 2: 8 – 13 or Zechariah 9: 9 – 12; Psalm 145: 8 – 14; Romans 6: 12 -23; St Matthew 11: 16 – 19, 25 – 30
Lord of life, thank you for all that you teach us: in the ways of your Son; in the words of your Scriptures; in the lessons we learn throughout life.
Lord of love, when we encounter you on life’s journey, let our eyes and ears be open to your teaching. Help us to see beyond what we think we know; break into our shuttered lives in new ways.
Lord of light, shine your understanding upon our way; lift our eyes from the mud to the stars. May we not be earth-bound in our thinking, but ever looking heavenward in hope. Amen
12th Genesis 25: 19 – 34; Psalm 119: 105 – 112 or Isaiah 55: 10 – 13; Psalm 65: (1 – 8), 9 – 13; Romans 8: 1 – 11; St Matthew 13: 1 – 9, 18 – 23
In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray for those who follow the crowd, looking for leadership and guidance, for those who seek easy answers and simple explanations.
We pray for those with entrenched views that prejudice them to the cry of those in need. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray for those who sow seeds on rocky ground, looking for instant gratification, for those who seek happiness in the things they possess.
We pray for those who chase false dreams of wealth and fame. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray for those who sow seeds among thorns, looking for things that will not bring them peace, for those who seek to escape from the pain in their lives.
We pray for those who are lost to themselves. We pray for wisdom, for happiness, for peace, for all those we have prayed for this day, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
19th Genesis 28: 10 – 19a; Psalm 139: 1 – 12, 23 – 24 or Isaiah 44: 6 – 8; Psalm 86: 11 – 17; Romans 8: 12 – 25; St Matthew 13: 24 – 30, 36 – 43
Lord God, we pray for our world and its people. So many different cultures, colours, languages – but we are all your children, all special in our own right. Whatever our gender, race, colour or creed, we all belong to you. We all need your love.
We pray that we might learn to live in harmony with each other, to recognise that even someone halfway around the world is still our neighbour in your sight. Far or near, we all belong to you. We all need your love.
With today’s technology we have access to news from afar, almost before it happens. Help us not to become blasé about the situations we see, but to pray and care faithfully for all concerned. In war or peace, we all belong to you. We all need your love.
We pray for those near and dear to us: protect them, wrap them in your loving arms, and in sorrow and in joy, be with them. Near or far, we all belong to you. We all need your love. Amen.
26th Genesis 29: 15 – 28; Psalm 105: 1 – 11,45b or Psalm 128 or 1 Kings 3: 5 – 12; Psalm 119: 129 – 136; Romans 8: 26 – 39; St Matthew 13: 31 – 33, 44 – 52
Lord, as I go on my way this week, whether in town or country, inside or outside, among people or own my own, alert me to signs of your kingdom. Even if I can only see a small patch of sky out of a window, remind me of the possibilities of your kingdom.
Lord, I pause before you to contemplate the things I see as valuable in my life. Help me to hold them lightly and to be ready to give them up at the sound of your call. Amen.
2nd Genesis 32: 22 – 31; Psalm 17: 1 – 7, 15 or Isaiah 55: 1 – 5; Psalm 145: 8 – 9, 14 – 21; Romans 9: 1 – 5; St Matthew 14: 13 – 21
Lord, today, we pray for people who have little or nothing: for those who feel trapped in their situation, and can’t see the bigger picture, or even any tiny glimmer of light.
We pray for people who are hungry: for parents who struggle to feed their children, and themselves. We thank you for the work of food banks, and pray that they would have the resources to continue to meet so many needs.
We pray that you would give us an appreciation of our food: the work that goes into producing and distributing it. Teach us not to be wasteful, but to preserve and pass on the goodness of your earth. Amen.
9th Genesis 32: 22 – 31; Psalm 17: 1 – 7, 15 or Isaiah 55: 1 – 5; Psalm 145: 8 – 9, 14 – 21; Romans 9: 1 – 5; St Matthew 14: 13 – 21
Lord God, we come before you to pray for all those people for whom taking risks is a way of life.
We pray for our emergency services – paramedics, the police, the fire service – all who daily face difficult situations as they seek to help to protect us and make our world a safer and more peaceful place.
We pray for people who work in troubled areas – the armed forces in war zones, those who bring humanitarian aid into areas of natural disaster, and many more.
We pray for people who take risks in your name, Lord Jesus – those who take your word where it is most needed – and for people who grapple with faith and doubt.
Lord, reveal yourself to them and keep them safe. Amen