PASTORAL LETTER NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2014
Are you ready for Christmas yet?
This is a question that we will hear regularly over the next few weeks. Restaurants are advertising Christmas meals, supermarkets are stocking Christmas chocolates, biscuits and cakes and Christmas cards are on sale in all sorts of places – at least I haven’t heard adverts for the last posting dates for Christmas yet! The shops will be getting busier with people buying presents and filling the store cupboards with enough food to last a month even though the shops are only closed for one day.
However, as Christians, this isn’t what we should mean by ‘being ready for Christmas’. When I led the Communion Service in October one of the readings was Matthew 22: 1-14 where a king invites last minute guests to a wedding feast because his original guests didn’t turn up. At the feast, one of the guests wasn’t wearing wedding clothes which made the king angry and he had the guest thrown out. As the parable was told as a description of the Kingdom of Heaven it didn’t sound like a welcoming place but one of the explanations I found for this suggested that the parable refers to “the open invitation God offers us, but also includes the responsibility that comes with the invitation”.
I have often said that I don’t start thinking about Christmas until December and feel it is a little odd when Advent Sunday is in November but I should clarify that by saying that I don’t start thinking about Christmas shopping until December. If we think about Christmas being a celebration of the birth of Christ we should be ready for it all through the year and not just leading up to 25th December. It isn’t all about presents and cards and food but remembering that over 2000 years ago a baby was born who grew up to be our Saviour.
So – are you ready for Christmas?
With very best wishes,
LECTIONARY READINGS NOVEMBER & DECEMBER
1st All Saints Day Isaiah 51: 1 – 6; Psalm 131; Hebrews 11: 32 – 12: 2; St Matthew 5: 1 – 12
2nd Joshua 3: 7 – 17; Psalm 107: 1 – 7, 33 – 37 or Micah 3: 5 – 12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2: 9 – 13; St Matthew 23: 1 – 12
9th Joshua 24: 1 – 3a, 14 – 25; Psalm 78: 1 – 7 or Amos 5: 18 – 24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18; St Matthew 25: 1 – 13
16th Judges 4: 1 – 7; Psalm 123 or Zephaniah 1: 7, 12 – 18; Psalm 90: 1 – 8, (9 – 11), 12; 1 Thessalonians 5: 1 – 11; St Matthew 25: 14 – 30
23rd Ezekiel 34: 11 – 16, 20 – 24; Psalm 100 or Ezekiel 34: 11 – 16; Psalm 95: 1 – 7a; Ephesians 1: 15 – 23; St Matthew 25: 31 – 46
30th Isaiah 64: 1 – 9; Psalm 80: 1 – 7, 17 – 19; 1 Corinthians 1: 3 – 9; St Mark 13: 24 – 37
7th Isaiah 40: 1 – 11; Psalm 85: 1 – 2, 8 – 13; 2 Peter 3: 8 – 15a; St Mark 1: 1 – 8
14th Isaiah 61: 1 – 4, 8 – 11; Psalm 126 or St Luke 1: 47 – 55; 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 24; St John 1: 6 – 8, 19 – 28
21st 2 Samuel 7: 1 – 11, 16; Psalm 89: 1 – 4, 19 – 26 or St Luke 1: 47 – 55; Romans 16: 25 – 27; St Luke 1: 26 – 38
28th Isaiah 61: 10 – 62: 3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4: 4 – 7; St Luke 2: 22 – 40
4th Jeremiah 31: 7 – 14; Psalm 147: 12 – 20; Ephesians 1: 3 – 14; St John 1: (1 – 9), 10 – 18
6th Epiphany of the Lord Isaiah 60: 1 – 6; Psalm 72: 1 – 7, 10 – 14; Ephesians 3: 1 – 12; St Matthew 2: 1 – 12
11th Genesis 1: 1 – 5; Psalm 29; Acts 19: 1 – 7; St Mark 1: 4 – 11
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Do you believe in life after death?” the boss asked one of his employees. “Yes, Sir.” the new recruit replied.
“Oh, well that’s okay then!” said the boss. “Because after you left early yesterday to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she called to see you!”
STORIES FROM ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
The one who gives thanks
Hamdan Abdellatif’s name means ‘ the one who gives thanks’ and ‘servant of the gentle one’. Hamdan certainly gives thanks for the expertise shared with him by Christian Aid partner PARC (now called the Palestine Agricultural Development Association) to build a water cistern on his land. It means he is no longer a slave to the land or the weather.
Hamdan, originally a teacher of English, has a small produce business, selling vegetables at the local market in Tulkarem in the West Bank. He and his wife Suadahmed are retired, so their crops are their main source of income. 70% of people in the West Bank depend in both agriculture and a second employment. 25% of West Bank Palestinian families’ main income is from home agriculture. With three sons and twin daughters he needs that income to put them through university. Like so many Palestinians, education is vitally important as it is seen as a way out of their current situation.
Hamdan proudly displays his crop of green beans that is irrigated from water collected in his reservoir during the dry months. This was built with the help of PARC. Hamdan’s reservoir has empowered him; he knows he has benefited from signing the contract and charter with PARC to build it on his land.
“During the winter the reservoir is very useful. In summer, around May, I close the pipe and use the water from the local well to irrigate my crops. When that gets low I can use my reserve rain harvested water. This gives me around 20 days’ supply. The tank will water 3 dunums in the greenhouse. Last year I was able to supply my own water from November to April. This has saved me money too.”
PARC normally supply 100 or 200 cubic metre capacity tanks. If the farmer feels he needs more than this he must pay the full cost for that extra part. PARC pay 75% of the costs of building the reservoir. They have received match funding from the Dutch government for this project. Christian Aid supports PARC with core funding which allows them to train and employ skilled agronomists to work with farmers.
Other members of the local co-operative spoke of their thanks for all PARC has achieved.
“We would like to thank PARC for implementing the ‘building cisterns for rainwater harvesting scheme’. We hope the spirit of the farmers comes through. The 32 cisterns in this area are making the greenhouses an independent force out of season. Instead of pumping directly to the greenhouse the water goes into the pan (reservoir) and then can be used for irrigation later.”
Hamdan’s story is one of hope but, when he says that his biggest regret is that neither he nor his family have ever been able to obtain a permit to worship in Jerusalem, the reality of his situation comes into sharp focus.
“During the winter the reservoir is very useful. In summer, around May, I close the pipe and use the water from the local well to irrigate my crops. When that gets low I can use my reserve rain harvested.
BETTER THAN EINSTEIN
At the conclusion of the sermon, the worshipers filed out of the sanctuary to greet the minister. As one of them left, he shook his hand and thanked him for the sermon and said, “Thanks for the message, Reverend. You know, you must be smarter than Einstein.” Beaming with pride, the minister said, “Why, thank you.”
As the week went by, the minister began to think about the man’s compliment. The more he thought, the more he became baffled as to why anyone would deem him smarter than Einstein. So he decided to ask the man the following Sunday.
The next Sunday he asked the parishioner if he remembered the previous Sunday’s comment about the sermon. The man replied that he did. The minister asked: “Exactly what did you mean that I must be smarter than Einstein?”
The man replied, “Well, Reverend, they say that Einstein was so smart that only ten people in the entire world could understand him. But Reverend, no one can understand you!”
THE WINDERMERE CENTRE – IT’S YOUR PLACE
The Windermere Centre’s mission is “to resource the Church through hospitality and theological adventure”.
As reported in the last edition, I went to a meeting at the Windermere Centre in September where the Management Committee was discussing the new payment and programme planning system. I must admit that I couldn’t understand the new payment system when it was announced but following the meeting it makes more sense. The main point is that the Windermere Centre needs people to stay there or it is not serving the purpose for which it was set up. It may be that you have looked at the programme and seen some courses which interest you but the price puts you off a little. This no longer needs to be a barrier to you attending as you are asked to pay what you think it is worth. If you wish the staff can give you a guideline price based on last year’s charges, but if this amount is more than you can afford you can ask for the difference to be made up from the Hannah Fund (a fund set up to help people stay at the centre) – alternatively, you may think the stay is worth more than the suggested price and you could add a donation when paying the bill which would then help others to go. Obviously this is operating on a trust basis but isn’t that what Christianity is about?
The Centre is also asking for suggestions about what courses to run which would attract more visitors. If you have any suggestions please let me know or visit the centre’s website (http://windermere.urc.org.uk) and scroll down to the “It’s your place” section and add your suggestion there.
Mac & I attended the Lay Preachers & Worship Leaders weekend in October which was very interesting and in a conversation with Ernest Wrennall of Leyland and Elizabeth Fletcher of Kirkham we agreed that it would be good for people from the new Central Lancashire Pastorate to have a couple of days at the centre to get to know each other and think about how we can work together in the future – watch this space for further news.
A preacher went into the pulpit one Sunday morning wearing a pair of new bifocals. The reading portion of the glasses improved his vision considerably, but the top portion of the glasses didn’t work so well. In fact he was experiencing dizziness every time he looked through them. He explained to the congregation that the new glasses were causing problems. “I hope you will excuse my continually removing my glasses.” he said. “You see, when I look down I can see fine, but when I look at you, it makes me feel sick.”
Thanks to Penwortham St Mary’s Magazine
I am sure that most of us have our own favourite hymns –chosen for the words, their memories or their association with particular events or people.
Sometimes the tune appeal to us in a special way and sometimes it’s a combination of the words and the music that speak to us.
One of my favourite hymns is “Dear Lord and Father of mankind” .It’s a prayer about forgiveness… and trust… and quietness… and calm and a still small voice. We usually sing to the tune Repton. We sang it recently at Olive Hurlstone’ funeral at Christ Church Longridge and it was played beautifully and was a very moving experience.
But sometimes, for me it is sung too quickly and loses its sense of calmness – of “that deep hush subduing all our words” and of “the tender whisper of thy call.”
I remember an occasion many years ago when this hymn was played to another tune from the Congregational Hymnbook. The tune was called appropriately “Rest”. The tune oozed peace and calm and for me it was a memorable experience. (I know at least one other in our congregation prefers this combination!)
Recently I had to choose a favourite hymn for the CTFB “Songs of Praise” service and was struggling to decide as I have selected for this service several times in the past 25 years.
One the morning of first Monday in August I was listing to Radio 4. The BBC were broadcasting a church service – I think from Glasgow Cathedral – and it was a special service to Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Start of the 1st World War.
The final hymn was “Son of God Eternal Saviour” which we sing in church occasionally to a tune called Bethany. However, on this occasion it was sung to a different tune which seemed to add emphasis to the words – one of my favourites, the Welsh tune Blaewern. With a full cathedral, a large choir and splendid music I found it to be another moving experience – appropriate to that occasion. If you read the words carefully I think you will agree they are very appropriate to a World War I Service and I think they are equally appropriate for our Churches Together Songs of Praise.
I was surprised to learn this hymn is not included in several hymnbooks used by CTFB churches. However, I was gratified to find it chosen as the final hymn in the communion service at the end of the October NW Synod at St Anne’s URC.
We would be delighted to hear about your favourite hymn(s) to include in future editions of the Newsletter or in a Songs of Praise Service.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HYMNS AND PRAISE CHORUSES
An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big-city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. “Well,” said the farmer, “it was good; but they did something different. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”
“Praise choruses?” said his wife. “What are those?” “Oh, they’re OK. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer. “Well, what’s the difference?” asked his wife.
The farmer said, “Well it’s like this: If I said to you: ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well, that would be a hymn. On the other hand, if I said to you: ‘Martha Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black-and-white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, the CORN, CORN, CORN,’ Then, if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus”
CHURCHES TOGETHER IN FULWOOD & BROUGHTON
CTFB Pilgrimage to Chester
On Saturday 20th September, several of our members joined the Churches Together in Fulwood & Broughton Pilgrimage to Chester. We arrived in Chester around 10:30am and had time to do what we wished until Evensong in the Cathedral at 4:15pm. My friend & I decided we would start with a morning brew. Going past the church of St Peter at the Cross we noticed that they were advertising refreshments and a cake sale so we went in and were served coffee and excellent cake. On our way out we spotted their newsletter so, as usual, we bought a copy.
As the weather forecast had predicted rain for the afternoon we decided to go for a walk in the morning and set off along the walls and onto the riverside to Grosvenor Park. Just by the park is St John the Baptist Church where the vicar is Fr David Chesters (quite appropriate for the location of the church!). St Peter’s & St John’s are a joint parish so no different newsletters there. By now it was around lunchtime so we went to the Wesley Coffee Bar at the Wesley Church Centre for a snack lunch and also collected a copy of the circuit newsletter!
After lunch and a stroll round a few shops we made our way to the Cathedral refectory for a cuppa before attending Choral Evensong with the rest of the group from CTFB. This was followed by the group having soup, sandwiches and cakes in the refectory before getting the coaches back home.
CTFB Annual Carol Singing will take place from 2pm on Saturday 20th December. Your support will be most welcome.
CHURCHES TOGETHER IN LANCASHIRE
Jean Dunsmore and Jo Counsell from St Anthony’s church attended a meeting at Preston Minster on 20th October as one of two representatives of Churches Together in Fulwood & Broughton. The Meeting was called by Rev Anton Muller, the Ecumenical Facilitator for Lancashire and Helen Boothroyd, the Social Justice and Interfaith Development Officer. They were keen to meet representatives of Ecumenical Groups throughout Lancashire. Fifteen representatives attended representing eleven different groupings. Although seventy groups had been invited, the organisers felt it had been a worthwhile meeting and would like to repeat the event annually.
Lancashire Sings Christmas Please note that this will take place on Thursday 18th December in partnership with Radio Lancashire.
We are still asking for ideas for future meetings and/or offers to help in arranging a meeting If you think you could help in this way please have a word with Margery
God of hope, who brought love into this world,
be the love that dwells between us.
God of hope, who brought peace into this world,
be the peace that dwells between us.
God of hope, who brought joy into this world,
be the joy that dwells between us.
God of hope, the rock we stand upon,
be the centre, the focus of our lives
always, and particularly this Advent time.
HOW THE GLOW-WORM GOT ITS LIGHT
A Legend of Christmas by Elspeth Miller
The little glow-worm was feeling very sad.
‘The doves,’ it thought, ‘have cooed the Babe a lullaby. The ox and ass have kept him snug and warm with their breath. But I am such a small animal, I have not been able to do anything.’
Just then it caught sight of a tiny leaf, as green and glittering as an emerald.
‘Perhaps the Baby would like that,’ it thought.
Very slowly and carefully the glow-worm crawled to the stable, carrying the leaf in its mouth.
The child, when he saw the worm and its gift, crowed with delight. Putting out his hand he took the leaf – touching the little creature as he did so.
Happy and proud, the worm crawled back to its corner, not knowing that from this touch it now carried with it some of the glory of the Christ-Child.
Our October Synod meeting was held at our church in St Anne’s on Sea. The congregation offered generous hospitality to us providing bacon baps and toast and jam in the morning and homemade soup at lunchtime. We concluded our business in the morning, hearing a presentation on the wide spectrum of ministries at work in our church, a presentation from Leo Roberts, our Children and Young People’s Development Officer, a presentation from the Revd Philip Books on the Welcoming Church initiative and an update on our finances from the Revd John Piper. We remembered the Revds David Mason and Muriel Jeffrey who had both died since our last Synod and noted the appointment of Andy Braunston as clerk until August next year.
After lunch we hosted a Question Time style event with various local politicians. The Mayor of St Anne’s, Cllr Edward Nash represented the Conservative Party, County Cllr Gina Dowding represented the Green Party, Cllr Simon Blackburn, the leader of Blackpool Council represented Labour and Mr Steven Woolfe, MEP, represented UKIP. Sadly the Liberal Democrats were not able to provide a speaker. Questions to the panel covered religion and politics mixing, the widening gap between rich and poor in our society, fracking and ways in which to stimulate people to become more involved in the political process. We hope that our local congregations will consider how they could mount similar events, ecumenically, as we approach the General Election.
Parking at St Anne’s was not a problem but:
A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space with a meter. So he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: “I have circled the block 100 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.”
When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note. “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.”
DEATH OF EXMINSTER’S OLDEST RESIDENT
Since the publication of last month’s ‘Scene’, we have learnt of the sad demise of Exminster’s oldest inhabitant, Mr Dave Spottle-Slaine who attained the ripe old age of 109 years old.
When interviewed by our roving reporter some months ago and asked for the secret of his long and happy life, he revealed that ever since the age of eight, he had made a point of sprinkling a little gunpowder onto his breakfast porridge each morning. This, he maintained, was the reason for his long life of good health and happiness.
Sadly he died a fortnight ago.
Mr Spottle-Slaine left behind eleven children, twenty-two grandchildren, twenty-three great-grandchildren and a twenty-foot hole in the back wall of the Exeter and Devon Crematorium
Thanks to Margery and St Peter’s Newsletter
Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands, embrace us with Your tiny arms and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)