PASTORAL LETTER NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2013
To quote Victor Meldrew “I don’t belieeeeeve it!” This is the last newsletter for 2013 – where has 2013 disappeared to? I know some people would say it is a sign of advancing age but I don’t like that idea.
Last year was busy because of all the preparation for Preston Guild so I thought this year might be a bit easier but that didn’t quite happen. Mothering Sunday seemed to follow New Year with alarming speed and then I lost a month or so around Easter when I had glandular fever and then it was summer. There were a few quieter weeks during the school holidays before all the meetings started again in September and shops started to put out their Christmas stock and at church we start thinking about the Autumn Fair and Christmas services. Even though I’m now retired, there still seems a lot to do and too little time so it was good to be able to attend the NW Synod Quiet Day at Newton-in-Bowland at the end of September when the theme was “Being in the Presence”. The opening worship included the Taize chant:
In God alone my soul shall find rest and peace
In God my peace and joy.
Only in God my soul shall find its rest, rest and peace.
Following the worship we were encouraged to reflect on Psalm 139 either with the help of various materials around the room or strolling around the village and appreciating the beauty of the Bowland countryside. After a quiet lunch and another session of reflection the day ended with a Communion Service.
It is relatively easy to reflect and feel the presence of God at an event like this, especially in a peaceful village like Newton or while we were on holiday in glorious countryside. We are now coming up to the season of Advent and Christmas when we should really be able to feel the presence of God but there are so many reminders of the commercialised version of Christmas with adverts for toys and gifts in shops, magazines and on TV or restaurants urging us to book a Christmas meal that it is difficult. However, although it may be easier to feel His presence when we are in a special place we should remember that God isn’t limited to specific places and if we really want to we can find Him wherever we are, whether at Christmas or any other time of the year.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One, is here.
He comes… to minister his grace. In faith receive from Him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.
VACANCY – JOINT ELDERS MEETING
Agreed statement issued by Area Pastoral Committee
On Friday 27th September the elders of Kirkham, Fulwood, Penwortham and Leyland, and Rev’d David Coaker, were invited to come together to discuss the possibility of forming a team ministry to serve the four churches. The suggestion from Area Pastoral Committee is to deploy two ministers including a wider role within the Area. i.e. 175% pastoral ministry alongside 25% interim ministry within Lancashire funded by the Synod. (100% Penwortham and Leyland; 75% Kirkham and Fulwood, with a 25% Area role).
The Area is seeking a way forward to better serve the four congregations and also the rest of our congregations in Lancashire. It is hoped that this will produce a creative way to share stipendiary ministry, enable mission, enhance church life, introduce additional ministry to Penwortham and Leyland, and release and develop the gifts of our elders and members as we serve and live the way of Christ together.
This is the beginning of a series of conversations through which we intend to define and bring forward proposals to achieve these ends which will be placed before all four church meetings for decision. Every effort will be made to introduce additional resources to enable these discussions.
24th Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6; Luke 1: 68 – 79 or Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1: 11 – 20; St Luke 23: 33 – 43
1st Isaiah 2: 1 – 5; Psalm 122 ; Romans 13: 11 – 14; St Matthew 24: 36 – 44
8th Isaiah 11: 1 – 10; Psalm 72: 1 – 7, 18 – 9; Romans 15: 4 – 13; St Matthew 3: 1 -12
15th Isaiah 35: 1 – 10; Psalm 146: 5 – 10 or St Luke 1: 47 – 55; James5: 7 – 10; St Matthew 11: 2 – 11
22nd Isaiah 7: 10 – 16; Psalm 80: 1 – 7, 17 – 19; Romans 1: 1 – 7; St Matthew 1: 18 – 25
25th – Christmas Day Isaiah 9: 2 – 7; Psalm 96; Titus 2: 11 – 14; St Luke 2: 1 – 14, (15 – 20)
29th Isaiah 63: 7 – 9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2: 10 – 18; St Matthew 2: 13 – 23
1st – The Naming of Jesus Numbers 6: 22 – 27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4: 4 – 7 or Philippians 2: 5 – 11; St Luke 2: 15 – 21
1st – New Years Day Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21: 1 – 6a; St Matthew 25: 31 – 46
5th Jeremiah 31: 7 – 14; Psalm 147: 12 – 20; Ephesians 1: 3 – 14; St John 1: (1 – 9), 10 – 18
6th – Epiphany Isaiah 60: 1 – 6; Psalm 72: 1 – 7, 10 – 14; Ephesians 3: 1 – 12; St Matthew 2: 1 – 12
12th Isaiah 42: 1 – 9; Psalm 29; Acts 10: 34 – 43; St Matthew 3: 13 – 17
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 14
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It is when the Benediction has been pronounced that the service really begins.
THE WINDERMERE CENTRE
In these days of multi- church pastorates, the URC, like other denominations, is heavily dependent on Lay Preachers, as well as retired ministers, to conduct worship from Sunday to Sunday. Here at Fulwood URC, we should give thanks for the excellent services we receive from both groups.
The URC lay preachers in this Area have for many years held an annual Conference. For the last two years, worship leaders and members of worship groups have been invited to attend the Weekend Conference at the Windermere Centre. Margery and I have attended both years – this year’s conference was entitled “Creative Worship for Special Festivals” Ernest Wrennall, from Leyland URC remarked that this was the twenty-second consecutive conference he had attended.
It was good to meet friends from other parts of the area and listen to the exchange of ideas. In a particularly interesting exercise, we were charged , in groups of four or five -lay preachers and worship group members- to prepare the outline of a special service, given the lectionary readings and other material .Our group were given Advent 1 Sunday. The ideas, previous experiences, hymn selections and suggestions of the group somehow fitted together to produce a very acceptable outline service. It was interesting to hear one long-standing lay preacher say how productive the working together exercise had been for them, bearing in mind that most of their many services are prepared working alone.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY
Thy way, not mine, O Lord, however dark it be.
Lead me by thine own hand, choose out the path for me.
Smooth let it be or rough, it will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it leads right onward to thy rest.
Choose Thou for me my friends, my sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me, my poverty or wealth.
Not mine, not mine the choice in things of great or small;
Be thou my guide, my strength, my wisdom, and my all.
THE POWER OF PRAYER
In a small town a businessman put in planning permission to build a nightclub not far from the local Church. The Church started a vigorous campaign to block it from opening. The church launched a petition and held prayers in public. Work progressed, however, right up until the week before opening. Then one night a bolt of lightning strike hit the nightclub and it burned to the ground.
The church members were rather smug after that, until the nightclub owner sued them all, on the grounds that they were responsible for the fire. Loudly protesting theft total non-involvement and innocence, the Church members were all taken to court.
As the case began, the judge looked over the paperwork and observed: “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this. It appears that we have a nightclub owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire Church congregation that doesn’t.”
Thanks to Court Hey Methodist (via Colin Biggs)
COMMITMENT FOR LIFE
Commitment for Life is the world development programme of the United Reformed Church.
We are being encouraged to take action, pray and give for people across the world but especially in the four partner countries of Bangladesh, Central America, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Zimbabwe. Central America has now replaced Jamaica where excellent work has been done in recent years. Commitment for Life work in partnership with Christian Aid and The World Development Movement raising over half a million pounds a year from contributing churches.
Fulwood U.R.C. currently support ‘Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory’, but we have been asked to give thought to our ongoing choice from one of these four partner regions.
Bangladesh’s susceptibility to environmental disaster is well documented.
Our partners prepare people for the regular floods, help them when the rains come and work year round to provide sustainable ways of making a living.
Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua)
25 years on from the Central American Peace Accords, poverty, violence, environmental issues and widespread inequality remain serious challenged for the region, with high rates of malnutrition in the poorest/rural areas.
Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory
Commitment for Life’s work with both Israeli and Palestinian partners to help those living in poverty and marginalised in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. From loans for small businesses to reconciliation groups, we follow the mandate that we should work to eradicate poverty and injustice in every place, and promote the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in safety and security.
The average life expectancy in Zimbabwe is less than 45 years. HIV and economic hardship have led to poverty and suffering on a massive scale. Our partners are involved in practical training, water provision, HIV education, advocacy and much more.
We will be reviewing Fulwood URC’s choice of partner at the next Church Meeting on 5th December. Please give the choice your prayerful consideration.
THE BEST POSITION FOR PRAYER
Three theologians at a conference centre sat discussing the best positions for prayer, while a telephone repairman worked nearby. “Kneeling is definitely best,” claimed one, and backed up his claim by quoting a number of texts on humility in Greek “No,” another contended. “I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven.” He quoted a few texts on praise in Latin.
“You’re both wrong,” the third insisted. “The most effective prayer position is lying prostrate, face down on the floor.” He quoted a few texts on penitence in Hebrew. The repairman could contain himself no longer. “Hey, fellas,” he interrupted, “the best praying I ever did was in English, hanging upside down from a telephone pole.”
Thanks to Penwortham St Mary’s
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember the.
from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen
CHRISTMAS IN LOCKERBIE 1988
(At one of the Christian Aid Choir concerts some years ago, I was privileged to be asked by our Musical Director, Christine Medd, to read a shortened version of her experiences in Lockerbie in 1988. On the 25th anniversary of that terrible event, I would like to share it with you – Mac)
On Wednesday December 21st 1988, just after 7pm, jumbo jet Pan Am 103 exploded above the hills near Lockerbie. The nose section landed in a field of sheep just by the tiny church at Tundergarth and the main fuselage crashed on houses in Lockerbie, setting them alight, killing 11 people and forming a huge crater. Altogether 270 people were murdered in an act of terrorism which remains the UK’s worst air disaster, worst terrorist attack and the largest number of people killed in one incident.
I lived in Lockerbie and was at home in the Rectory when the noises started, growing frighteningly louder and louder as they came nearer, and ending with deafening explosions. Looking from the window there was an incredible, even beautiful sight, as both the sky and the land were lit up as if on fire. These words of James Joyce came into my mind, ‘The last day had come! The stars of heaven were falling upon the earth like the figs cast by the fig tree.’ From that moment my life changed. The world was still there, I was still alive – but as I later learned, 270 people had perished and their remains were scattered around a huge area of countryside and in Lockerbie. There was confusion and chaos in the town, but gradually the police took control in each area and people were asked to be in charge of various tasks. Many of the locals were involved over the following days, weeks and months, so I would need to write a book to tell you about how wonderful, committed and hard working they were. Sadly this can only be my story!
During that first night I was on duty at the door of the Town Hall, now turned into a makeshift mortuary. The list of names of those known to be alive from the destroyed houses was pinned to the notice board and changed with each new piece of information. I was asked to support and help those who came looking for loved ones. They included a 15 year old boy who came several times, never to see the names of his family! The first body to be brought to the mortuary was that of a baby, found by a farmer while checking his sheep.
Hundreds of police and soldiers started to arrive, to begin searching the hills, woods and fields. They needed feeding, and that meant getting up at 4 am to help make breakfasts and packed lunches. Sometimes it was back to the school kitchen again to make their evening meals.
All the inhabitants of the houses near the crater had been evacuated. When it was safe for them to go back to their homes I was asked to take a bunch of flowers to each house. This was a very humbling experience and I felt truly privileged to be able to share their grief, horror and feelings of sickness at the number of bodies that had been found in their gardens.
A Requiem Mass was held in the RC church on the Friday evening. All who were there, irrespective of denomination, were invited by the Bishop to receive communion. This gave such a warm feeling of comfort and support and togetherness.
Sunday was Christmas Day, when I played the organ for the televised service in a church full of soldiers, police, doctors, nurses, local people and our own congregation. The usual Christmas activities had not happened – trees weren’t decorated or lit, presents weren’t wrapped and the children’s party had been cancelled. So all the chocolate bars that should have gone to the children were given to those in uniform as they left the church – their only present on that Christmas Day!
Soon the bereaved families from abroad started arriving in Lockerbie. They were all interviewed by the police in order to give photos and identification details of the loved one they had just lost. I was one of a small group who met these families as they came out from the interview, most of them looking traumatised and as if the full horror of what had happened had only then been fully understood. Words were inadequate in these circumstances. The silence in that room could be ‘felt’. Some of the families needed to be taken into the countryside to visit the place where an identification had been made; some were taken to the mortuary and later, back to their hotel.
I tried to get home at some point during these emotionally exhausting days, because the Rectory had become a ‘safe haven’ for any of the relatives who wanted to be away from the media. The door was always open and whenever I went in, there were groups sitting talking, sharing their grief and their stories, safe from intrusion.
Christmas that year was very special. There was righteous anger, but it was love that really overflowed in Lockerbie, from everyone to everyone. To those who ask, ‘Where was God?’ my answer is ‘In Lockerbie, with all those people who desperately needed to feel his presence’. I know that I could not have lived through those terrible days, nor have coped with some of the things I was asked to do, without His guidance, support and strength. Remember the story of the two sets of footsteps, but only one set when God carries you? I didn’t have any footsteps for many months !
…. Perhaps, as you listen to the familiar readings and sing the well known carols, you will contemplate the fact that 25 years ago there was a Herod and innocents were killed. There were blazing lights and a huge star together with many smaller stars. There were angels, lots and lots of them. There were shepherds looking after their sheep on the hills. There were visitors crowding into a small insignificant town that immediately became a household name. There were registers drawn up. There were politicians and members of royal families. There were presents. And there was a baby
Yes, Christmas was very special that year.
‘Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine. Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.’
Thank you to all who supported our Quiz for Christian Aid – the nine teams who entered, those who gave donations , Stephen Garsed who was our quizmaster and brought the Fairtrade supplies, for all who helped and particularly to Margery for devising the questions and preparing the Powerpoint presentation for a quiz that everyone seemed to enjoy. The sum of £301.80 ( of which £230.00 was gift aided which will generate a further £55.00) was raised for Christian Aid and a further £80 for the Fair Traded produce sold. Thanks to all.
On 12th September, Pat Ascroft was as entertaining as ever recalling her recent Trekking adventure across the barren wastes of Iceland. £48 was collected for Mencap, the charity very dear to Pat.
At our October Fellowship meeting, Steve Garsed gave us a splendid talk, illustrated with superb photographs taken all over the North of Scotland. Photographs taken at various seasons of the year on several holidays with Anne, walking, cycling, climbing and conquering Munro’s in the Highlands. £37 was collected for Steve’s chosen charity Christian Aid. Steve asked that this money be added to the results of our Quiz for Christian Aid.
Our next meeting on Thursday 14th November will be a Hot Pot Supper and table top games evening commencing at 6.30pm
On Thursday 12th December, Mr Ray Lea will be giving an illustrated talk on the work of MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship)
As usual, a collection will be taken on behalf of the speaker’s chosen charity Meetings start at 7.30pm and all members and friends are very welcome.
CHURCHES TOGETHER IN FULWOOD & BROUGHTON
At the CTFB Annual Pilgrimage on 14th September, the opening worship at Saltaire URC, was conducted by Valerie Jenkins, the Church Secretary (Saltaire URC is also in vacancy) Thanks to the URC connection, she had been able to contact Margery the evening before who agreed to play for the service as their own organist was ill. During the service, all eighty CTFB members were asked to write down their hopes for CTFB and these have been collected and collated. After the service Valerie gave us a short history of Saltaire and the Saltaire Church. After free time looking round the museum and shops or walking in the park, we travelled to Boundary Mill for therapy ( a cup of tea or shopping) followed by a supper at Banny’s Fish and Chips Restaurant. Our thanks are due to Margaret Thompson, Janet Huggan and Pat Gibson for all the arrangements of an interesting day.
On Saturday 16th November at Our Lady & St Edwards Parish Centre, CTFB are holding a morning of reflection on the way forward for CTFB . The meeting is open to all members. Over the past 25 years of CTFB there have been huge social and religious changes. We are asked to think and pray about how we can best meet the needs of our community and to come and share them on 16th November.
LANCASHIRE AREA OPEN MEETINGS
These are held at Penwortham URC as open gatherings for fellowship, discussion and exploration. They commence at 7.00am with bring and share refreshments on the first Wednesdays of each month.
6th Nov: Christianity as a minority faith
Aftab Alexander Mughal will offer a reflection and enable a discussion grounded in his experience of being a Christian in Pakistan.NW All are most welcome to attend.
FIRE RISK ASSESSMENT
Earlier this year we had a visit from a Fire Officer to advise us on carrying out a fire risk assessment of the premises and this led to an action plan, most of which has now been completed. Precautionary work included installing a heat detector in the cellar near the boiler linked to the smoke detectors on the ground floor, fitting safety lighting in the back corridor in case of power cuts and replacing the kitchen & cellar doors with fire doors which provide 30 minutes protection to allow people to leave the building past these areas. As these doors should normally be kept shut a lock has been fitted on the cellar door to prevent unauthorised access and a self-closing mechanism on the kitchen door. Although a door-stop has been fitted, this should only be used when things are being taken in and out of the kitchen and the door should not be left open when the kitchen is unattended.
We have also had to produce a risk assessment document which includes our evacuation procedures (copies of the relevant procedure will be put up in each room). All users of the premises should familiarise themselves with the procedures and we were advised that we should have two fire drills each year. In summary the evacuation procedure is:
* If a fire is found, notify all users of the building.
* Leave the building by the nearest exit (front door, fire exit in the church hall or fire exit on back corridor near disabled toilet).
* Assemble on Symonds Road opposite the entrance to the car park (to allow access for emergency services).
* Check that everyone in the group has left the building.
* Phone 999.
* Do not use the fire extinguishers unless you are confident to do so.
The person in charge of the group is responsible for checking that all the group has left the building and if no officers of the church are present they should also notify the Church Secretary or myself as Health and Safety Officer.
A CHRISTMAS STORY
One of many stories based on the primary school nativity play is the one in which one of the shepherds, encouraged by their teacher to use their own words to act out the story, says: “Eh, he does look like his dad!”
It’s a phrase he’s heard his mother use as she admired a neighbour’s baby. The audience giggle, but behind the fun there is a great truth. Jesus did look like his dad. His whole life, his words, his actions, were all meant to show us that God isn’t way above the clouds but is down here on earth with us, waiting to enter our lives. Looking at him we can learn a lot about love and forgiveness, and when we change from looking to following he can give us the strength to become more “like his dad”.
A CHRISTMAS PRAYER
Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus,
That we may share in the song of the angels,
The gladness of the shepherds,
And worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to
be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and
Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving
and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen
Robert Louis Stevenson