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North Wingfield Team Blog:

The Coronavirus, Church & You Survey

You are invited to take part in this national survey…details below

The Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had a profound effect on churches. The lockdown has severely restricted ministry in areas such as pastoral care, fellowship groups, and serving the community. On the other hand, for those with online access, worship has taken on new and creative forms over the last few weeks. Many clergy and ministry teams have risen to the challenge of operating in the virtual environment.

As we pass the most severe period of lockdown, it seems a good time to assess how churchgoers have responded to the experience, and what they think the future might hold. How well have people coped with the pandemic? Has it strengthened or weakened their faith? How has it been for clergy and ministry teams trying to work in this new environment? How have those receiving ministry found this novel experience? Will virtual ministry become part of the post-pandemic landscape, and will this be a good move for your church?

We have developed a survey over the last few weeks in discussion with bishops, clergy and lay people which we hope will enable you to record your experience of the pandemic, the ministry you have given or received, and what you think will happen to churches in a post-pandemic world.

In an article to launch the survey in the Church Times, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, wrote: “This survey is an attempt to go beyond anecdote… It will capture evidence of both excitement and fears for the future, of where stress levels have changed, and whether personal faith has weakened or grown.”

This is an online survey, which we estimate it will take you about 20-30 minutes to complete. Most of the questions simply require you to tick boxes, though there are options to specify your particular circumstances, and an opportunity at the end for you to tell us your views in your own words. Alongside questions about the pandemic and ministry there are sections which ask about you: these are important because they will allow us to see how the lockdown is affecting different sorts of people in different contexts.

The survey can be completed on mobile phones, though it is more quickly completed on devices with larger screens such as tablets or computers. Information

Please forward this link to any churches or churchgoers you feel might want to take part in the survey and support this research. We should have some initial results within a few weeks and will make these available as widely as we can.

 The Revd Professor Andrew Village, York St John University email:  a.village@yorksj.ac.uk

 The Revd Canon Professor Leslie J. Francis, Visiting Professor York St John University

God gives His gifts where He finds the vessel empty enough to receive them. - ib C S Lewis, writer

Whit Sunday -  Day of Pentecost: Whit Sunday

Pentecost took place on the well-established Jewish festival of Firstfruits, which was observed at the beginning of the wheat harvest. It was seven weeks after Easter, or 50 days including Easter.

A feast day to celebrate the country’s wheat harvest does not sound exactly world-changing, but that year, it became one of the most important days in world history. For Pentecost was the day that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit - the day the Church was born.

Jesus had told His disciples that something big was going to happen, and that they were to wait for it in Jerusalem, instead of returning to Galilee. Jesus had plans for His disciples, but He knew they could not do the work themselves. They would need His help.

And so, they waited in Jerusalem, praying together with His other followers, for many days. And then on that fateful morning there was suddenly the sound as of a mighty rushing wind. Tongues of flame flickered on their heads, and they began to praise God in many tongues, to the astonishment of those who heard them. The curse of Babel (Genesis 11: 1- 9) was dramatically reversed that morning.    

That morning the Holy Spirit came to indwell the disciples and followers of Jesus. The Church was born. The Christians were suddenly full of life and power, utterly different from their former fearful selves. The change in them was permanent.

Peter gave the first ever sermon of the Christian Church that morning, proclaiming Jesus was the Messiah. His boldness in the face of possible death was in marked contrast to the man who had denied Jesus 50 days before.  And 3,000 people responded, were converted, and were baptised. How’s that for fast church growth!

Of course, Pentecost was not the first time the Holy Spirit had acted in this world. All through the Old Testament there are accounts of how God’s Spirit guided people and strengthened them. But now, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, He could INDWELL them. From now on, every Christian could have the confidence that Jesus was with them constantly, through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

Joan of Arc: saving France from the English

How far would you go to respond to God’s call on your life? When, as the daughter of a peasant family in Champagne in 1426, 14-year-old Joan heard heavenly voices calling her to ‘save France’ from the English, she decided to obey the call, no matter what the consequences. 

Teenage girls who want to rescue their country from foreign troops were considered every bit as crazy back then as they would be now. But Joan eventually came to the notice of the Dauphin (Later Charles Vll) who decided to make use of her obvious ability to inspire people – in this case, the French, to fight. And so Joan, dressed in white armour, rode at the front of the French army when they relieved Orleans in April 1429.  Her presence and belief in her divine calling to get rid of the English, did wonders for the morale of the troops, who loved her even more when she sustained a wound in the breast, and made little of it.

A campaign in the Loire followed, and then in July the Dauphin was crowned at Rheims with Joan at his side, carrying her standard. More battles followed that winter, until Joan was captured and sold to the English. They attributed her success to witchcraft and spells, and imprisoned her at Rouen. She was brought before judges, where her spirited and shrewd defence were outstanding.

But the judges declared her false and diabolical, and she was condemned to die as a heretic. She was burnt at the stake in the marketplace at Rouen on 30 May 1431. Joan died as she had lived; with total faith in God and certainty that she was obeying His will for her life. She died with fortitude, looking at a cross and calling on the name of Jesus. Her ashes were thrown into the Seine.

Joan’s integrity and courage are what shine down the centuries. Here is a patron saint for you if you feel that God is calling you to do something extraordinary: something that is way, way beyond your comfort zone; but something that could right wrongs and make a difference in the world. Are you up for it?

Mothers’ Union offers range of resources

The Mothers’ Union has made a very practical response to the coronavirus.

As their website explains, “We know that our work and experience in re-building communities and supporting family life is going to be more important than ever once the threat of COVID-19 subsides. Our members will be some of the first in line to support those around them.”  

In the meantime, MU has drawn together a range of resources to “help nurture our members and their friends and neighbours through this challenging time.”  The resources will “help combat feelings of loneliness, to nourish faith and to help you continue to feel connected to your friends and community.”

These include: rainbows, prayer cards, prayer resources, puzzles resources, and Bible study resources.

Information

Mend and make do

According to handicraft expert Kirstie Allsopp, a missing button was the number one reason why 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothing may end up in UK landfill this year. 

But that was before lockdown.  Now you have time to make do – and mend!  Rescue and reuse your clothes.  After all, it saves money and the planet. 

What kind of stress do you have?

These are stressful days.  The towering storm clouds of coronavirus and financial trouble are casting a long shadow over all of us.

Many of us deal with our stress by expressing it. Loudly! We lose our temper, swear, shout and even throw things at our loved ones. We over-react to various personal setbacks because we can’t retaliate against the virus or the stock market.

But some of us do the opposite: we under-react. We display ‘quiet stress’.

“We quietly hold our stress within: we don’t speak up about how we feel.  And crucially, we become inert. We don’t act on situations that require action.” So warns Jillian Lavender of the London Meditation Centre.

“We stay in unhappy relationships and unfulfilling jobs. We feel overwhelmed, yet we ignore important admin tasks. We procrastinate.  Quiet stress creates an emotional paralysis that keeps us ‘stuck’ in unhappy situations.  Inaction is just as much of an inappropriate response to stress as over-reaction is”

A further danger of ‘quiet stress’ is that instead of taking positive action, people can withdraw into themselves, and turn to comfort eating or drinking too much. This further lowers their immune system.

The Valley of Dry Bones has a future hopeThe Valley of Dry Bones has a future hope

 ‘A dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones. An' I hear the word of the Lord!’

At this time of global pandemic, we live with stark reality of death and life. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (37:1-14) was given when God’s people were in exile in Babylon. They felt dead, being separated from home and God! The vision answers God’s question: ‘can these bones live?’.

We can also feel cut off from God, facing the loss of job, business, home or health, with churches unable to meet on Sundays. This vision assures us that God has power over death and can breathe new life into what is hopeless.

When Ezekiel is told to ‘prophesy to the bones,’ God brings them back to life: the bones come together and are covered with muscles and skin. He then prophesies to the wind, from the four corners of the earth, to bring the bodies alive. The physical bodies are then filled with God’s breath to bring new life. The miracle of this story is that God not only makes these bones live, but also brings the life of His Spirit. 

The Covid-19 virus robs people of their life by suffocation, so that they can’t breathe. Our hope beyond the pandemic is that the gift of God’s Spirit will bring new life to our lives, churches and world. Life will certainly look very different in the future, but we can be assured that God is with us and that we are safe in His hands.

‘I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’(vs14)

Christians and the bubonic plague of London

The Reverend Richard Peirson was one of the exceptions.  Most of the other clergy in the City of London had fled the Great Plague in 1665, but Peirson stayed behind to look after the parishioners of St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, where he was Rector. The parish was densely populated and the pandemic was catastrophic. The church’s register records 636 burials that year in the month of September alone, with 43 interred in one day.

Houses of infected people were marked with a red cross on the door, with occupants kept inside for 40 days. Handcarts were pulled along the city streets to cart away the bodies; the drivers’ cries of “Bring out your dead”, became etched in the memories of subsequent generations. Relatives were banned from attending funerals.

The official count numbered 68,596 deaths in London alone, but other estimates suggested two or three times that number. Bubonic plague – for that is what it was – was incurable. Poor people were fatalistic about it but complained that even their ‘spiritual physicians’ had abandoned them. Clergy of the Church of England were often supplanted by non-conformist preachers.

It wasn’t just the St Bride’s Rector who put his life in jeopardy by staying at his post. While most wealthy people, along with King Charles II and his court, escaped the plague-ridden city, Churchwarden Henry Clarke also chose to remain at the church. When he succumbed to the illness, his brother William took over. William survived for a fortnight.  

Plague cases continued to occur sporadically at a modest rate until mid-1666. That year the Great Fire of London destroyed St Bride’s Church and much of the City of London. It was rebuilt to a design by Christopher Wren, but almost obliterated once more in 1940 during World War II before being restored yet again.

Today’s Rector, Canon Alison Joyce, says that compared with her predecessor Richard Peirson, she has it easy. Like everyone else, she is confined by the lockdown rules to her Rectory next to the church. But her pastoral work continues, and she collates sermons and archive music to create a Sunday webcast service. Alison writes, “these days it is a ministry of telephone calls, emails and Facetime. I offer such practical help and support to the vulnerable as I can . . . I keep a candle burning before our main altar and continue a ministry of prayer.”

Alison says she is surprised when people regard the faith as a kind of celestial insurance policy against bad things happening to them. The first followers of Jesus knew that in dedicating their lives to following the crucified and risen Christ, their discipleship would take them into the very heart of darkness, not away from it. 

She adds, “Hope is no hope at all unless it can engage with utter despair and meaninglessness.”

John & Charles Wesley, evangelists & hymn-writers

John and Charles Wesley were the founders of Methodism. Two of 19 children born to Samuel and Susannah Wesley of Epworth Rectory in Lincolnshire in 1703 and 1707, their father was the local rector, while their mother was a spiritual inspiration to her many children.

Both John and Charles went to Christ Church, Oxford (1720 and 1726). John was ordained, and Charles and some friends formed a ‘Holy Club’ while still at college. It consisted of men who dedicated themselves to Bible study, prayer, fasting and good works. Such regular disciplines soon earned Charles the nickname ‘Methodist’. The name stuck.

Both Charles and John felt called to the mission field, and so in 1735 they sailed to Georgia. Their time among Indians in America was not a success – they struggled for any real spiritual authority in their ministries. Feeling failures, they returned to England in some depression. John summed it up: “I went to America to convert the Indians; but, oh, who shall convert me?”

Then the Wesleys made friends with some Moravians. They stressed that salvation cannot be earned, but must be received by grace through faith in Christ.  Charles was the first to experience this ‘true’ conversion, when on Pentecost Sunday, 21st May 1738, he wrote that the Spirit of God ‘chased away the darkness of my unbelief.’

Only three days later, on 24th May, 1738, it was John’s turn. As he wrote in his journal: “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.”

John and Charles Wesley then devoted the rest of their lives to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. In doing so, they turned England upside-down. When the established Church threw John out, he took to the fields, preaching to coal miners and commoners. His itinerant evangelism took him 250,000 miles on horseback and to preach over 40,000 sermons.  His small ‘societies’ attracted some 120,000 followers by the time of his death.

Charles became the most prolific and skilled hymn-writer in English history, writing hymns that are sung widely today, such as ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.’ In all, he wrote more than 6,000 hymns.

The legacy of the two brothers lives on. As well as Methodism, their teaching has widely impacted the holiness movement, the Pentecostal movement, and the charismatic movement.

St Alban, helping a stranger in need

Alban should be the patron saint of anyone who impulsively offers to help a stranger in need… and finds their own life turned upside down as a result.

The story goes that Alban was a Roman citizen quietly living in England in the third century.  Then, miles away in Rome, the emperor, Diocletian ordered a persecution of the Christians. Nothing to do with Alban… except that suddenly he found a desperate priest on his doorstep, being hunted down by local soldiers. Alban decided to give the priest shelter, and within days was converted to Christianity himself, and then baptised.  

As if this was not brave enough, when the soldiers arrived, Alban decided to take the priest’s place. He dressed up in the priest’s clothes to enable the priest to escape. Not surprisingly, the soldiers then arrested Alban himself. Now a Christian, Alban refused to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods, and so was condemned to death.  

But the story doesn’t end there, for Alban went to his execution with such holiness and serenity that one of the executioners was converted, and the other executioner’s eyes fell out (or so the story goes). Alban was buried nearby, and the shrine built to his memory was soon known for its healing powers. Alban’s cult extended all over England, and nine ancient English churches were dedicated to him.

One-line quiz questions

 1. What time of day was Adam created? - Just a little before Eve.

 2. Who was the fastest runner in the race? - Adam. He was first in the human race.

 3. Why are atoms Catholic? - Because they all have mass.

 4 Why didn’t they play cards on the Ark? - Because Noah was always standing on the deck

 5. Why didn’t Noah ever go fishing? - He only had two worms.

 6. Did Eve ever have a date with Adam? - No — just an apple.

 7. Why did the unemployed man get excited while reading his Bible? - He thought he saw a job.

 8. Does God love everyone? - Yes, but He prefers ‘fruits of the spirit’ to ‘religious nuts’.

 9. Why couldn’t Jonah trust the ocean? - He just knew there was something fishy about it.

 10. What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth? - Absolutely ruthless.

 11. The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose. - Mosquitoes come close, though.

 12. What’s so funny about forbidden fruits? - They create many jams.

21st May - Ascension Day: 40 Days with the Risen Christ

40 days after Easter comes Ascension Day. These are the 40 days during which the Risen Christ appeared again and again to His disciples, following His death and resurrection. (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; and John 20.)

The Gospels give us little of Christ’s teachings and deeds during those 40 days. Jesus was seen by numerous of His disciples: on the road to Emmaus, by the Sea of Galilee, in houses, etc. He strengthened and encouraged His disciples, and at last opened their eyes to all that the Scriptures had promised about the Messiah. Jesus also told them that as the Father had sent Him, He was now going to send them - to all corners of the earth, as His witnesses.

Surely the most tender, moving ‘farewell’ in history took place on Ascension Day. Luke records the story with great poignancy: ‘When Jesus had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands - and blessed them.’ 

As Christmas began the story of Jesus’ life on earth, so Ascension Day completes it, with His return to His Father in heaven. Jesus’ last act on earth was to bless His disciples. He and they had a bond as close as could be: they had just lived through three tumultuous years of public ministry and miracles – persecution and death – and resurrection!  Just as we part from our nearest and dearest by still looking at them with love and memories in our eyes, so exactly did Jesus: ‘While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.’ (Luke 24:50-1) He was not forsaking them, but merely going on ahead to a kingdom which would also be theirs one day: ‘I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God...’  (John 20:17)

Disciples at the Ascension

The disciples were surely the most favoured folk in history. Imagine being one of the last few people on earth to be face to face with Jesus, and have Him look on you with love. No wonder then that Luke goes on: ‘they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.’    (Luke 24:52,53)

No wonder they praised God! They knew they would see Jesus again one day!  ‘I am going to prepare a place for you... I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ (John 14:2,3) In the meantime, Jesus had work for them to do: to take the Gospel to every nation on earth.

Nature out and about

The lockdown this Spring at least gave Nature a brief respite. Wild goats, herds of deer, sparrowhawks, stoats, snakes, badgers, spawning toads and songbirds all seemed to have enjoyed the peace and quiet. 

We, in turn, have enjoyed watching them from our windows. As Mark Thompson, a presenter on Stargazing Life, said, “This lockdown is giving people a chance not just to connect with our families, but also to connect with Nature around us.  It has given us the change to recalibrate.”

St Sofa’s

We worship at St Sofa’s now
Since Covid came to stay
We don’t dress up or do our hair
But still we come to pray!

 

Our Vicar is a clever chap
A Zoom with his IT
And so we sit down ev’ry week
And meet up virtually!

 

Our Parish Church stands empty
With praise she does not ring;
But still her people gather round
To pray, and praise, and sing!

 

The virus is a nasty thing
Yet it has helped us see
The church is NOT a building
But folk like you and me!

Over 6,000 calls in first 48 hours to Daily Hope

A free phone line offering hymns, prayers, and reflections 24 hours a day while church buildings are closed because of the coronavirus received more than 6,000 calls in the first 48 hours.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recently launched ‘Daily Hope’ as a simple new way to bring worship and prayer into people’s homes, during the lockdown period..

Dalily Hope phone detailsThe line – which is available 24 hours a day – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services in mind.

The service is supported by the Church of England nationally as well as through the Connections group based at Holy Trinity Claygate in Surrey and the Christian charity Faith in Later Life.

 

Within 48 hours the line had received more than 6,000 calls from across the country, with many being referred by friends, family or members. Calls have so far spanned more than 50,000 minutes, with some of those accessing the service listening to the music, prayers and reflections for up to 50 minutes at a time.

The Revd Canon Dave Male, the Church of England’s Director of Evangelism and Discipleship, said: “The volume of calls shows that Daily Hope is meeting a need.

“We have a duty in these strange and difficult times to find new ways of bringing prayer and worship to people wherever they are, and this is one more way of helping people to connect with God from their own homes.

“This is such a simple idea – planned and launched all within a few short weeks by a small dedicated team – but I pray it will bring real comfort, hope and inspiration to people at this time.”

Callers to the line hear a short greeting from the Archbishop before being able to choose from a range of options, including hymns, prayers, reflections and advice on COVID-19.

 Options available include materials also made available digitally by the Church of England’s Communications team such as Prayer During the Day and Night Prayer, updated daily, from Common Worship, and a recording of the Church of England weekly national online service.

C of E Weekly Service

Join the celebration of nurses and healthcare workers in an online service on 10 May by clicking above. Bishop of London and former Chief Nursing Officer Sarah Mullally lead the service, with contributions from the current Chief Nursing Officer and many more, in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

St Matthias, the replacement apostle

If you’re saying to yourself, ‘Who?’ you’ll be in good company. May 15th is the feast day of St Matthias the Apostle, and in describing him thus we have said just about all there is to know about him. He gets just one mention in the Bible, in the first chapter of Acts, immediately prior to the day of Pentecost, where it tells us that he was elected to take the place in the ranks of the twelve apostles recently vacated by the betrayer Judas Iscariot.

Eusebius, in the fourth century, says in his history of the apostolic era that Matthias was one of the 70 disciples sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1), and that seems reasonable. When it was necessary to fill the vacancy among the apostles it would be natural to turn to someone who had followed Jesus from earlier years, as well as being a witness of the resurrection. Two names were suggested and prayed over. Then the apostles cast lots, following the Old Testament practice of the high priest’s Urim and Thummim, one assumes. When they did, ‘the lot fell on Matthias’.

Casting lots to fill vacancies on committees or councils, or even to appoint bishops, might seem to us to be rather risky. The Victorian preacher Campbell Morgan even suggested, that the 11 acted in haste and pre-empted God’s choice of Saul (later known as Paul), who at that time was busy persecuting the Church, arresting Christians and having them thrown into prison. He hadn’t yet travelled the Damascus Road.

Be that as it may, Matthias was elected, and for us he can stand for all those excellent, consistent, reliable and faithful servants of Christ who never make a headline, not even in a blog or parish magazine. Yet still he was chosen because he could be a ‘witness’, and so are we.

Doubtless he fulfilled that responsibility admirably, without, as we say, ‘setting the Thames on fire’. Let’s salute him on his day - the ‘Unknown Apostle’.

#FaithAtHome aims to make prayer a household habit

The Church of England has recently launched #FaithAtHome, a new programme which it is hoped will “make prayer a household habit once again.”

#FaithAtHome will feature weekly video content to help families to talk about faith and pray together. The videos will be led by children, young people, staff and school leaders from across the country.

The #FaithAtHome programme will run for an initial 11 weeks, until the end of July, and can be accessed at churchofengland.org/faithathomeIt will explore themes including courage, patience, generosity, resilience, love and hope.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “The aim of these resources is to offer simple ways for families and households to approach complex and difficult topics, such as illness, fear and bereavement.  The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to confront difficult and painful questions that none of us can explore on our own.

“My hope and prayer is that #FaithAtHome will not only equip children and young people to engage with difficult questions, but also inspire them.”

The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders said: "Home is the new normal, and faith at home is a habit we need to rediscover. #FaithAtHome will offer people of all ages and faith backgrounds a chance to pause, think and reflect, and to rebuild lost habits of prayer and faithful reflection in the home.”

Psalm 34

Amid the current coronavirus pandemic, we all live with fear and uncertainty. How do we deal with fear? I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.’ (Ps 34:4). In this psalm, David expresses real fears. He was on the run from Saul, who was trying to murder him! Yet David points to three simple habits that help overcome fear.

Praising God always: I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. (1). It was David’s pattern of life to praise God daily, whatever his circumstances. He was acknowledging God’s lordship over his life. Praise affirms that my circumstances are in His hands and He is with me in all that I am going through.

Seeking God continually: ‘This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.’ (6). David looked to God, who released him from all his fears. It’s easy for our fears to overwhelm us and rob us of the assurance that God loves us and wants the best for us. When we seek God, He hears us and responds, as He is not powerless to act.

Finding refuge in God: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.’ (8). David’s personal invitation is to taste and see that God is good. Our fears often tell us that the opposite is true for us. Fear tells us that God cannot be trusted and that He will abandon us. We can make God our secure refuge and not be afraid.

This psalm helps us to see fear from a totally different perspective: ‘Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing.’ (9).

Creative things you can do with your Bible

Bible Society is urging people to make good use of their enforced time at home by using their creativity to read the Bible with better appreciation. To help with this, Bible Society is offering a range of creative Bible-based resources to help people learn new skills, such as journaling, colouring or doing crafts that are Bible-based. 

These include: 

Bless Our Nest (£5.95) - a colouring book filled with Bible verse designs, featuring colour charts and tools for Bible journaling.

Faithful Papercrafting (£12.99) - now you can create note cards, gift tags and scrapbook paper, mini cards, bookmarks and envelope templates full of inspiring Scripture.

Complete Guide to Bible Journaling (£14.99) - offering new creative techniques for Bible journaling.

Go here

Sometimes we need occasionaly to have a laugh so here are some items put in church notice sheets.

This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs Brown, our children’s minister, to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

 Baptisms: after Easter, the North and South ends of the church will be utilised. Children will be baptised at both ends.

 Coming up:  Theological Open House. We discuss thought-provoking topics. Your opinions are hardly welcome.

  Next Sunday Mrs Brown will sing a solo at the morning service before the vicar preaches on the subject of ‘Terrible experiences and how to survive them’.

 Players picked for St Andrew’s darts team will be pinned to the board on Thursday.

Also what the teacher says and what the teacher means….

If you have ever wondered what the teachers really think of your child, you may enjoy these snippets from real reports….and the thought behind them!

James has a remarkable ability in gathering needed information from his classmates. (He was caught cheating on an exam.)

Karen is an endless fund of energy and viability. (Your hyperactive monster can’t stay put for five minutes.)

Fantastic imagination! (He’s one of the biggest liars I have ever met.)

Margie exhibits a relaxed attitude to school, indicating that high expectations don’t intimidate her. (The lazy thing hasn’t done one assignment all term.)

Sue is a real athlete, with superior hand-eye coordination. (The little creep stung me with a rubber band from 15 feet away.)

Nick thrives on interaction with his peers. (Your son never shuts up.)

Nancy’s greatest asset is demonstrative public discussions. (Every time I give an assignment, she responds by sparking a classroom argument over it.)

John enjoys the thrill of engaging challenges with his peers. (He’s an incorrigible bully.)

Jane is an adventurous nature lover, who rarely misses opportunities to explore new territory. (Your daughter skipped class and nearly drowned trying to catch wriggly things in the school pond.)

What does church look like - send us a photo.

Send your photos to: colin_rosemary@outlook.com and we will put them on this website.

Terry Waite - on coping with lockdown

Terry Waite spent four years in solitary confinement in Beirut. He says: “In isolation, it is easy to become introspective and depressed. All of us, when we are honest and examine ourselves critically, will discover things about ourselves of which we are not especially proud. I had to learn how to grow a greater acceptance of myself and work towards a deeper inner harmony. 

“…. Today in lockdown, it’s important to keep yourself well. Don’t slob around all day in pyjamas and a dressing gown. Dress properly and develop a routine. It’s important to have a structure – get up at a certain time, eat regular meals and so on.

“If you have faith, then that will give you resources to draw on”, especially if you know some hymns, psalms and prayers by heart. “When I was captured, they were there to call on.”

Dalily Hope phone details

How do you feel about your health?

Having a religious faith may well make you feel better about your health, according to recent government figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published data linking religious belief and health in an effort to “understand the circumstances of people of different religious identities.”

It found that 66 per cent of Muslims, 68 per cent of Christians, 69 per cent of Sikhs, 71 per cent of Buddhists, 72 per cent of Hindus and 77 per cent of Jews were satisfied with their health between 2016 and 2018.

In contrast, only 64 per cent of non-religious people reported being satisfied with their health during that time.

Michael Wakelin, chair of the Religious Media Centre, said: “I guess this has something to do with an attitude of gratitude.  If you are of the opinion that God loves you and He created you, you are more likely to be grateful for what you have.

“Also, if you have a faith you are more likely to be hopeful for a better future, so that even if things are a bit tough now, they will improve in God’s time.”

We can claim the gift of sleep

Many of us have had our sleep patterns disturbed in recent weeks.  After all, a pandemic, lockdown and growing financial crisis are hardly conducive to relaxation.

But the fact is that, whatever is happening out there, we desperately need our sleep. It is vital for the proper functioning of our brain and heart. Anyone who has ever been deprived of sleep for a period will remember their ever-diminishing ability to perform complicated tasks.

Sleep can also help us solve problems. We go to bed struggling with a decision to make or a relationship to resolve, and we wake up to find a solution presenting itself. The old advice to ‘sleep on it’ is true: we see things more clearly after sleep.

The Bible considers our sleep as a blessing from God.  As Christians, we can calmly commit ourselves to His loving care, secure that He who watches over us “will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps 121:4). Knowing that God is with us, we can let ourselves go.

If you are having trouble sleeping, why not memorise one of the verses below, and repeat it to yourself as you lie in bed tonight?

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. (Ps 3:5)

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Ps 4:8)

 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat for He grants sleep to those He loves. (Ps 127:2)

 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.  (Prov. 3:24)

 ‘I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.’ (Jer. 31:25)

As the writer George MacDonald so aptly put it: “Sleep is God’s contrivance for giving man the help He cannot get into him when he is awake.”

Lockdown, you and IT

How are you getting on with technology?  The coronavirus pandemic has driven hundreds of millions of us to use it more than ever, as we sit at home in frustrated isolation.

If you are used to digital meetings and Zoom, it is not a problem, but for millions of grandparents wanting to see their families, or non-techie people wanting to see their friends, it has been quite a learning curve.  So, is there a patron saint of computers and electronics and all the difficult stuff?

Some people say the patron saint of the internet should be Saint Isidore of Seville, a Bishop and scholar in the Seventh Century who wrote a book called Etymologies or The Origins, in which he tried to record everything that was known. That seems to be a good basis for sainthood, or at least for the internet.

Another candidate is Saint Eligius who lived about the same time. He is quite busy already as the patron saint of goldsmiths, metalworkers, vets, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), horses and those who work with them. His main qualification seems to have been his ability to make things.

Another suggestion is Zebedee. No, not the character from The Magic Roundabout but the father of James and John.  After all, consider this: “James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John…were in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. (Matt. 4:21)

Ok, it is not the internet, but Zebedee knew about mending a net which would have had both good and bad stuff all over it. 

Certainly, whenever one gets in an IT muddle during this lockdown, we would welcome any patron saint that was willing to help us!

Coping in the Storm

‘Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.’ (Mark 4:39).

What started out for the disciples as a routine trip across the Sea of Galilee, ended up with a storm threatening to overwhelm their boat! Jesus was asleep in the boat, so little wonder they feared for their lives: ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ (38).

Who would have thought two months ago that the world would be overwhelmed by the Coronavirus pandemic and our lives turned upside down! Self-isolating and self-distancing are now part of our daily vocabulary, as we live in an uncertain world. What does this story say to us in our circumstances?

Firstly, we read that Jesus calmed the storm: ‘He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’’ (39). He is the Lord of the storm and holds our circumstances in His hands. We are called to trust, not fear, being assured that He is with us to protect us. ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (40). Nothing is outside of His control.

Secondly, despite the calm, the disciples were still terrified: ‘They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’’ (41). Like us, the disciples were asking why Jesus, who loved them, had allowed the storm to happen! Our circumstances provide us with an opportunity to understand more deeply who Jesus is. We can’t control Him and we don’t always understand His bigger plans for us and His world. We are called to overcome fear and insecurity, by living lives of peace, faith and hope. How contagious can we be for Jesus in a stormy world?

At this time of global pandemic, we live with stark reality of death and life. Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (37:1-14) was given when God’s people were in exile in Babylon. They felt dead, being separated from home and God! The vision answers God’s question: ‘can these bones live?’ We can also feel cut off from God, facing the loss of job, business, home or health, with churches unable to meet on Sundays. This vision assures us that God has power over death and can breathe new life into what is hopeless.

When Ezekiel is told to ‘prophesy to the bones’ (4), God brings them back to life: the bones come together and are covered with muscles and skin, and then filled with God’s breath to bring new life, by the life of His Spirit. 

The Covid-19 virus robs people of their life by suffocation, so that they can’t breathe. Our hope beyond the pandemic is that the gift of God’s Spirit will bring new life to our lives, churches and world. Life will certainly look very different in the future, but we can be assured that God is with us and that we are safe in his hands.

‘I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’ (14).

All Souls Prom Praise

The above is available on line - click above.

Take exercise for even half an hour a day – and lower depression!

Here is some good news for us all: if you are feeling low, get moving. A recent study at Harvard has found that even just half an hour of exercise a day can lower the risk of depression by 17 per cent.

So – even though we are told to stay home at present, do a work-out in your living room, run around the garden a dozen times, or run up and down your staircase 20 times -anything to get your heart pounding and your body moving!

Tearfund – still working around the world

“As you would expect, Tearfund's work will continue through our amazing network of courageous Christian partners and churches around the world.”  So says Nigel Harris, CEO of Tearfund.

“We are doing all we can to follow Jesus where the need is greatest, bringing practical help and powerful hope to the most vulnerable people, just as we have been doing for over 50 years.

“We are asking for God’s protection and His wisdom to deal with this unprecedented global situation. We would greatly value your prayers in the months ahead.

“At a recent Tearfund Prayer Day, we received a prophetic word about the ship that leaves a safe harbour to go out into rough waters, with the promise that our Lord will be with us. This feels very real as I write to you today. And it is a huge encouragement to me personally to have the reassurance that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.  We have a God who loves and cares for us. He has told us, ‘Do not fear, for I am with you’ (Isaiah 41:10). 

“I am daring to dream that this could be the opportunity in our generation for the Church to be known globally for its brave and compassionate response, putting the needs of others before our own, just as Jesus did. We know this is possible. We see acts of heroic love every day in the countries where we work.

“In the coming months, we may need to ask you again to dig deep to enable us to continue meeting the needs of the world’s poorest communities. Myself and my whole team at Tearfund will be digging deep into our own reserves of time, energy and resources to enable our vital work to continue.”

More at:
Tearfund link

Prayer

 If a prayer can move a mountain
If a prayer can stop a war,
If a prayer foster love and peace
……….Where hatred ruled before,
If a prayer can conquer hunger
If a prayer has power to heal,
If a prayer can mend division
……….Why are we so slow to kneel?
Offering prayers up to our maker,
Throughout each brand new day
To change things for the better,
……….In every kind of way.

Two books which we have not read but you may be interested in them:

Book - Hope beyond Coronovirus Hope beyond Coronovirus By Roger Carswell, 10Publishing.

This is a very helpful evangelistic tract you can bulk-order to share around, or you can download it free in an A4 pdf at:
10 0f those link

 

 

 Book - Where is God in a Coronavirus WorldWhere is God in a Coronavirus World? By John Lennox, The Good Book Company, £2.48

We are living through a unique, era-defining period. Many of our old certainties have gone, whatever our view of the world and whatever our beliefs. The coronavirus pandemic and its effects are perplexing and unsettling for all of us. How do we begin to think it through and cope with it?

In this short yet profound book, Oxford mathematics professor John Lennox examines the coronavirus in light of various belief systems and shows how the Christian worldview not only helps us to make sense of it, but also offers us a sure and certain hope to cling to.

John Lennox is an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College. He is also an Associate Fellow of the Said Business School and an Adjunct Lecturer for The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He has been part of numerous public debates defending the Christian faith against well-known atheists including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Peter Singer.

ITV News journalist and presenter Julie Etchingham, a practising Christian, has defended the role played by journalists during the Coronavirus pandemic
She told the Christians in Media website, “Reporters are coming in for a lot of flack for the questions they are asking government. But what else are we for?  We all get that this is a crisis like no other; that few in government have ever had to navigate such a challenge.br>“But, if we’re still attempting to function as a democracy in the face of this, then scrutiny is clearly crucial.  Many in our frontline services and the wider public are demanding answers. We are there on their behalf. We don’t always get it right. This isn’t a moment to trip people up, but urgently to get to the truth.”
Now is the time for truth and accuracy to be at the centre of all our communications.
So, yes, we need to be praying for and supporting the front-line health service staff, the public health experts, the scientists researching vaccines to combat the virus, and the key workers keeping our societies running.
But we also need to be praying for and supporting the men and women working in and with the media to publish, upload, broadcast and distribute the most accurate information, without spin or distortion.
So here is a prayer for the media in these challenging days.
Loving God,
We pray for everyone working in and with media in these challenging times.
Encourage all who seek to explain and interpret the fast-changing world around us.
Embolden the truth-tellers, truth-seekers and fact-checkers.
Promote coverage that builds our shared humanity and where everyone has a voice.
Bring clarity where there is confusion
Bring knowledge where there is speculation
Bring wisdom and insight when the way ahead seems unclear.
And bring us all to a knowledge of truth that sets us free, and helps keep us safe.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.

We are your people:

For the Christian community
We are not people of fear:
we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:
we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.
We are not people of greed:
we are people of generosity.
We are your people God,
giving and loving,
wherever we are,
whatever it costs
For as long as it takes
wherever you call us.

Loneliness

From one who is ill or isolated
O God,
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me 
from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Caring for the sick

For hospital staff and medical researchers
all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.
Strengthen them with your Spirit,
that through their work many will be restored to health;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Heal them

For those who are ill
Merciful God,
we entrust to your tender care
those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens
your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe.
Comfort and heal them,
and restore them to health and strength;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Be our hope

God of compassion,
be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation;
in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light;
through Him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Give us strength

Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour,
and to care for those in need
as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength
to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick,
and to assure the isolated
of our love, and your love,
for your name’s sake.
Amen.

Time of distress:

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Christians coping with Coronavirus

Leave your dandelions alone

When mowing your lawn, avoid cutting your dandelions.  That is the advice of the president of the British Ecological Society, Prof Jane Memmott. It will help to save the bees.

She explains: “Dandelions are a fantastic source of pollen and nectar for the early pollinators in particular. If they were rare, people would be fighting over them, but because they’re common, people pull them out and spray them with all sorts of horrible things when they should just let them flower. If you leave the lawn to three or four inches, then dandelions, clover and daisies can flower and then you end with something like a tapestry, and it’s much nicer to sit there and watch the insects buzzing about.”

Prof Memmott encourages everyone to get a bee hotel for their garden. “There’s nothing nicer than being sat in a chair with a glass of wine and watching the bees going in and out of your own personal little beehive. Even just a potted plant on a doorstep will provide lunch for a bee or a fly or a butterfly.”

Church Mission Society launches a ‘lament space’ for those in pain

Church Mission Society has opened a space on its website for anyone to use.  It explains: “Our world, and our lives, have changed radically. Are you sad? Angry? Scared?

 “Well, then you’re not alone. Lamentspace is a place where we share our grief with God and each other. About the big things as well as those that may seem trivial.”  Go here

Psalm 34

Amid the current coronavirus pandemic, we all live with fear and uncertainty. How do we deal with fear? I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.’ (Ps 34:4). In this psalm, David expresses real fears. He was on the run from Saul, who was trying to murder him! Yet David points to three simple habits that help overcome fear.

Praising God always: I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. (1). It was David’s pattern of life to praise God daily, whatever his circumstances. He was acknowledging God’s lordship over his life. Praise affirms that my circumstances are in His hands and He is with me in all that I am going through.

Seeking God continually: ‘This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.’ (6). David looked to God, who released him from all his fears. It’s easy for our fears to overwhelm us and rob us of the assurance that God loves us and wants the best for us. When we seek God, He hears us and responds, as He is not powerless to act.

Finding refuge in God: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.’ (8). David’s personal invitation is to taste and see that God is good. Our fears often tell us that the opposite is true for us. Fear tells us that God cannot be trusted and that He will abandon us. We can make God our secure refuge and not be afraid.

This psalm helps us to see fear from a totally different perspective: ‘Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing.’ (9).

Jesus’ appearances after His Resurrection

 The following list of witnesses may help you put all those references in order….

 Mary Magdalene                                Mark 16:9-11; John 20:10-18

Other women at the tomb                Matthew 28:8-10

Peter in Jerusalem                             Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5

The two travellers on the road        Mark 16:12,13

10 disciples behind closed doors    Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25

11 disciples WITH Thomas              John 20:26-31; 1 Corinthians 15:5

7 disciples while fishing                   John 21:1-14

11 disciples on the mountain           Matthew 28:16-20

A crowd of 500                                  1 Corinthians 15:6

Jesus’ brother – James                      1 Corinthians 15:7

Those who saw the Ascension         Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8

From church notice-sheets:

This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs Brown, our children’s minister, to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.

Baptisms: after Easter, the North and South ends of the church will be utilised. Children will be baptised at both ends.

Coming up: Theological Open House. We discuss thought-provoking topics. Your opinions are hardly welcome.

Next Sunday Mrs Brown will sing a solo at the morning service before the vicar preaches on the subject of ‘Terrible experiences and how to survive them’.

Players picked for St Andrew’s darts team will be pinned to the board on Thursday.

EasterEASTER Sunday: the most joyful day of the year.

 Easter is the most joyful day of the year for Christians. Christ has died for our sins. We are forgiven. Christ has risen! We are redeemed! We can look forward to an eternity in His joy! Hallelujah!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is a message so simple that you can explain it to someone in a few minutes. It is so profound that for the rest of their lives they will still be ‘growing’ in their Christian walk with God.

Why does the date move around so much? Because the date of Passover moves around, and according to the biblical account, Easter is tied to the Passover. Passover celebrates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt and it lasts for seven days, from the middle of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which equates to late March or early April.

Sir Isaac Newton was one of the first to use the Hebrew lunar calendar to come up with firm dates for Good Friday: Friday 7 April 30 AD or Friday 3 April, 33 AD, with Easter Day falling two days later. Modern scholars continue to think these the most likely.

Most people will tell you that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is broadly true. But the precise calculations are complicated and involve something called an ‘ecclesiastical full moon’, which is not the same as the moon in the sky. The earliest possible date for Easter in the West is 22 March, which last fell in 1818. The latest is 25 April, which last happened in 1943.

Why the name, ‘Easter’? In almost every European language, the festival’s name comes from ‘Pesach’, the Hebrew word for Passover. The Germanic word ‘Easter’, however, seems to come from Eostre, a Saxon fertility goddess mentioned by the Venerable Bede. He thought that the Saxons worshipped her in ‘Eostur month’, but may have confused her with the classical dawn goddesses like Eos and Aurora, whose names mean ‘shining in the east’. So, Easter might have meant simply ‘beginning month’ – a good time for starting up again after a long winter.

Finally, why Easter eggs? On one hand, they are an ancient symbol of birth in most European cultures. On the other hand, hens start laying regularly again each Spring. Since eggs were forbidden during Lent, it’s easy to see how decorating and eating them became a practical way to celebrate Easter.

Easter Saturday, on the Christian calendar, is the Saturday following the festival of Easter, the Saturday of Easter or Bright Week. In the liturgy of Western Christianity it is the last day of Easter Week, sometimes referred to as the Saturday of Easter Week or Saturday in Easter Week. In the liturgy of Eastern Christianity it is the last day of Bright Week, and called Bright Saturday,

The Bright and Holy Septave Saturday of Easter Eve, or The Bright and Holy Septave Paschal Artos and Octoechoes Saturday of Iscariot's Byzantine Easter Eve. Easter Saturday is the day preceding the Octave Day of Easter (also known as St. Thomas Sunday or Divine Mercy Sunday).

Easter Story

The thud of nails on open palms,

‘Father forgive’ was all He said,

‘Finished’ was His final cry,

As death approached God bowed His head.

 

Born of a woman He entered our world,

Fully man yet fully divine,

Such is the mystery beyond comprehension

That One such as this should step into time.

 

He came to die and rise again

The firstfruits of the Father’s love,

That man should follow in His train

On wings of light to realms above.

How do we say goodbye to someone who we have known for many years and enjoyed their company? We arrange a farewell party!

 When Jesus prepared to leave, it was very different. He arranged His last meal and it was no party. His disciples were in for a shock. Jesus brought His friends together and then said one of them would betray Him! He then said Peter would deny Him.

Although Jesus was the host and should have been honoured, He changed His role and became a servant. He got up from the meal table, removed His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. Jesus humbled Himself and washed the feet of His disciples, much to their dismay and Peter’s objection.  

Hot Cross BunThe hot cross bun marks the end of Lent and different parts of the bun have a certain meaning, including the cross, representing the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices inside signifying the spices used to embalm him at his burial.

The most expensive hot cross bun was baked in 1829 in Stepney, London, UK. It was bought by Bill Foster (UK) for £155 at the Antiques for Everyone show at the NEC in Birmingham, West Midlands, UK, in April 2000.

Palm waving

It was Palm Sunday, but five-year-old Jamie stayed at home with mum because of a bad cold. When his father and sisters returned, they were carrying several palm fronds. His sister explained: “People held them over Jesus' head as He walked by.”

“That’s not fair!” Jamie protested. “The one Sunday I don't go, and He shows up!”

Visit the C of E online page:

There is now a range of digital resources for to you connect with God at this difficult time.  These include:

Time to Pray app:  Go here which is free and has an accompanying daily audio offering on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Mental health reflections: Go here

Tips to tackle isolation: Go here

Finally, there are the Church’s smart speaker apps, which provide a range of Christian resources:  GO TO  In March alone, the number of people using the Alexa app rose by more than 70 per cent.

 More details at: Go here

On the Covid Frontline

I work in Radiology in a hospital in the East of England – a region that is yet to experience the covid-19 virus with quite the same ferocity as colleagues in London and Birmingham, and certainly the situation is nowhere near as bad as that in China, Iran, Spain and, of course Italy.  But patients are coming into the hospital in increasing numbers experiencing the respiratory distress of a covid-19 infection. So, I’m finding out what it’s like to be on the front line during an epidemic.

As I write the country is in so-called ‘lockdown’, and the virus is impacting upon every aspect of all our lives. The News outlets report the best in people and the worst in people - examples of selfish behavior, especially in and around supermarkets, but also examples of people going well out of their way to help people who become very vulnerable during this period. I’m privileged to work alongside the very best.

Fear is almost the defining feature of this crisis. Of course, the patients themselves are frightened, our hearts go out to them, and though we are separated from them by our protective equipment we can still show that we care, and that we are doing our level best to help them.

The staff are frightened, too. I have heard long-serving, experienced staff tell me how very frightened they are. The conflict between their duty to our patients and their desire to protect themselves and their families is, at times, overwhelming. I'm spending a great deal of my time trying to be reassuring and trying to keep a grip on an ever-changing situation. It's the same across the hospital. Yet, every day, these wonderful people come towards the danger when their instincts tell them to run in the opposite direction.

Am I frightened? Yes, indeed I am frightened. I'm frightened that it will get as bad here as it has been in Italy. I'm frightened that some of my staff will become seriously ill, or worse, because so many healthcare staff seem to be getting sick despite all the protective equipment that we use. And, of course, I'm frightened for the people I care about. Maybe it’s OK to be frightened, because that is better than being blasé, overconfident, and foolhardy.

However, I think our faith in our God is a way to turn fear into calm. It connects us to others across the ages who have faced far, far worse situations than this. No-one is trying to drop high explosives down my chimney. There was only basic equipment and medicine during the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918-1920. The bubonic plagues of the Middle Ages took a much higher death toll, and the medicine of the time had absolutely no answer to it.

For our generation, who by the grace of God have only known peace, and for whom life has gone on much the same for several decades, it is a terrifying experience.

So far in most of our lives, we have not had to rely on God to quite the same extent as former generations but maybe, just maybe, this crisis will bring us closer to each other and to the God who loves us so dearly.

Five Tips for Tackling Loneliness and Isolation

 The Church of England has published a leaflet giving five tips to help loneliness:Libk to dealing with loneliness and isolation

Pray. Light a candle, if safe, and pray for hope, faith and strength to keep loving and caring for each other during this time of struggle.

Talk about how you feel. This may be difficult if you are self-isolating, but do use the telephone, internet, and social media. If you need to contact a counsellor this can be arranged by your GP, or via local agencies, or privately. Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, every day, and it’s free to call them on 116 123.

Focus on the things that you can change, not on the things you can’t.

Look after yourself - physically, emotionally, spiritually. Plan in things that you enjoy at regular intervals during the day – a TV programme, a phone call, a book, a favourite dish, a game.

Look after others. Even if only in small ways, but do what you can: a smile, a kind word, writing a letter or an email.

Passion Week: The events of Easter took place over a week.

Palms artworkIt began on Palm Sunday. After all his teaching and healing, Jesus had built a following.

On the Sunday before he was to die, Jesus and his followers arrived at Jerusalem. The city was crowded. Jewish people were arriving from to celebrate Passover. This commemorates how they had escaped from slavery in Egypt nearly 1,500 year earlier.

Jesus rode into the city on a young donkey. He was greeted like a conquering hero. Cheering crowds waved palm branches in tribute. He was hailed as the Messiah who had come to re-establish a Jewish kingdom. 

The next day they returned to Jerusalem. Jesus went to the temple, the epicentre of the Jewish faith, and confronted money-changers and merchants who were ripping off the people. He overturned their tables and accused them of being thieves. The religious authorities were alarmed and feared how he was stirring up the crowds.

On the Tuesday, they challenged Jesus, questioning his authority. He answered by challenging and condemning their hypocrisy. Later that day Jesus spoke to his disciples about future times. He warned them about fake religious leaders; the coming destruction of Jerusalem; wars, earthquakes and famines; and how his followers would face persecution.

By midweek the Jewish religious leaders and elders were so angry with Jesus that they began plotting to arrest and kill him. One of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, went to the chief priests and agreed to betray him to them.

Jesus and the 12 disciples gathered on the Thursday evening to celebrate the Passover meal. This is known as the Last Supper. During the evening, Jesus initiated a ritual still marked by Christians – Holy Communion – which commemorates his death. Jesus broke bread and shared it and a cup of wine with his disciples.

Judas then left to meet the other plotters. Jesus continued to teach the others and then went outside into an olive grove to pray. He even prayed for all future believers. He agonised over what was to come but chose the way of obedience. The Bible book, Luke, records him praying, ‘Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done’. Minutes later Judas arrived with soldiers and the chief priests and Jesus was arrested.

Pray for your neighbours – lift them to the Lord!

Thank Him for all that they have done for you!

Claim for your friends the promise of His Word;

In intercession we find strength anew.

 

Ask of the Lord, and surely you’ll receive

Seek now His will, and surely you will find

Knock at His door, and truly we believe

In intercession we see God is kind.

 

Come to the Lord, for He is always there!

Our worries, cares, and our concerns we bring;

O waste no time, just come to Him in prayer

In intercession we find God the King!

Ever wonder where the prayer … ‘May I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day’ comes from?  Richard of Chichester, a bishop in the 13th century, wrote it.

He began life as Richard de Wych of Droitwich, the son of a yeoman farmer.  But Richard was a studious boy, and after helping his father on the farm for several years, refused an advantageous offer of marriage, and instead made his way to Oxford, and later to Paris and Bologna to study canon law.

In 1235 he returned to Oxford, and was soon appointed Chancellor, where he supported Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his struggles against King Henry III’s misuse of Church funds.  After further study to become a priest, Richard was in due course made a bishop himself.  He was greatly loved.  He was charitable and accessible, both stern and merciful to sinners, extraordinarily generous to those stricken by famine, and a brilliant legislator of his diocese.  He decreed that the sacraments were to be administered without payment, Mass celebrated in dignified conditions, the clergy to be chaste, to practise residence, and to wear clerical dress.  The laity was obliged to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days, and to know by heart the Hail Mary as well as the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed. 

Richard was also prominent in preaching the Crusade, which he saw as a call to reopen the Holy Land to pilgrims, not as a political expedition.  He died at Dover on 3 April 1253.  In art, Richard of Chichester is represented with a chalice at his feet, in memory of his having once dropped the chalice at Mass!  One ancient English church is dedicated to him. 

And, of course, he is author of that famous prayer, now set to popular music, which runs in full:   “Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly, day by day.”

Coping in the Storm

‘Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.’ (Mark 4:39).

What started out for the disciples as a routine trip across the Sea of Galilee, ended up with a storm threatening to overwhelm their boat! Jesus was asleep in the boat, so little wonder they feared for their lives: ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ (38).

Who would have thought two months ago that the world would be overwhelmed by the Coronavirus pandemic and our lives turned upside down! Self-isolating and self-distancing are now part of our daily vocabulary, as we live in an uncertain world. What does this story say to us in our circumstances?

Firstly, we read that Jesus calmed the storm: ‘He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’’ (39). He is the Lord of the storm and holds our circumstances in His hands. We are called to trust, not fear, being assured that He is with us to protect us. ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (40). Nothing is outside of His control.

Secondly, despite the calm, the disciples were still terrified: ‘They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’’ (41). Like us, the disciples were asking why Jesus, who loved them, had allowed the storm to happen! Our circumstances provide us with an opportunity to understand more deeply who Jesus is. We can’t control Him and we don’t always understand His bigger plans for us and His world. We are called to overcome fear and insecurity, by living lives of peace, faith and hope. How contagious can we be for Jesus in a stormy world?

Paul Woolley of the Bible Society.

Coronavirus: a lesson from the past.

'So many people died that cities and villages in Italy … were abandoned and fell into ruin.'

That’s not a report about the impact of coronavirus, but an epidemic of smallpox that infected the Roman Empire in 165 AD. A second, equally devastating plague, possibly measles, swept the empire less than 100 years later.

Rodney Stark’s work The Rise of Christianity looks at the way Christianity spread in such a difficult context. The question is: How did this happen? Stark gives three reasons:

Firstly, Christianity offered a more satisfactory account of the world – and a better hope for the future – than the dominant pagan and Hellenic philosophies of the day.

Secondly, the Christian values of love and charity which characterised the early Christian community were also ‘translated’ into social service and community solidarity. In other words, those early Christians took care of the sick and vulnerable.

Stark quotes the early bishop Dionysius: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…” And the Romans marvelled at these Christians.

Thirdly, during the epidemic people lost the 'social bonds', the peer pressure, that had previously discouraged them from rebelling against prevailing ideologies and embracing the gospel.

Stark goes on to note that frequently in human history, crises produced by natural disasters have translated into crises of faith where the religion of the day is considered inadequate to the reality of people’s life-experience. In response to these failures of religion, societies often look elsewhere and adopt new faiths.

Of course, this all raises an important question: in light of coronavirus, how should Christians respond today? Inspired by those who have gone before us, perhaps I can offer three suggestions:

Firstly, we should use this period of 'social distancing' to reacquaint ourselves with the big story of the Bible. In the unfolding story of God and the world that we see in the Bible, we are presented with a robust and life-giving account of who God is, what the world is like, and what it means to be truly human.

Secondly, we need to 'translate' the Bible into our everyday lives. We need to practically live out 'love of God and neighbour'. We should support our neighbours by offering to do shopping, collect parcels, post mail, and ensure they have someone to talk to on the phone.

Thirdly, we need to be sensitive to the fact that the current situation will unsettle people and, uninhibited by their social bonds, prompt them to think about God and the purpose of life, perhaps for the very first time, and we need to be ready for conversations about this.

In the second century, the Christian community responded to the smallpox epidemic not by being anxious or fearful, but by being courageous, prayerful, and deeply, and lovingly practical. We need to do the same, secure in the fact that 'God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.' (Psalm 46.1, NIV)

This may be found on the Bible Society: website

 

 

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