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News: May 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 31st May 2020.

Acts 2 v 1-21
 
Today, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, one of the most important festivals in the Christian calendar, but perhaps one whose significance to our faith is overlooked.
I want to take as my starting point an observation that Sally made in her reflection a fortnight ago, when she wrote:
“hopefully we have conveyed the message that the community of faith to which we belong is one of grace and welcome – that God is available to all and affirming that, through Him, all people “live and move and have their being”.
 
As you read the Luke’s account of the events of the day of Pentecost, what are the things that strike you? Yes, I know we all raise our eyebrows about the view that the disciples were drunk.
The first thing that draws my attention is the equipping of the disciples with the Holy Spirit. If we are to understand what they are being equipped for we need to go back to the accounts of Jesus’ ascension in Luke chapter 1.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Luke 1 v 8 RSV)
 
If you read through both volumes of Luke’s work you will find a recurring emphasis on the spirit as an enabler of mission, starting with the account of Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3 v22).
The second point that the passage emphasises is that no longer is God’s message limited to a chosen few, but is now open to all – the disciples preaching in many languages is as though the Genesis story of the tower of Babel has been reversed. God in Jesus is a God for all.
Have you ever located on a modern map the places from which those who heard the disciples preaching had come? It’s a guided tour of some of the most divided places in our world; Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya as well Turkey, Italy, and Greece. Sally wrote about the church as a place of refuge and support for those at times of grief, trauma, and unimagined difficulties, but as well as compassion, the Gospel calls us to a mission of peace and justice.
 
For all of us adapting to new situations is difficult, particularly at a time when many of the traditional patterns of our lives seem to have been shattered by the extended restrictions on what we can and can’t do. On Sunday, it will have been 75 days since I last worked in the Synod Office or met face to face with any of my colleagues. We have had to adapt our ways of working to use the technology we have available – I’m becoming adept at video meetings; to establish new routines for working at home around the demands of a full household; to become more aware of the patterns in which each other work, and so on. It’s not been straight-forward and I’ve certainly had days when I’ve missed the 40 mile commute down the M61, but I try and whisper that quietly, and the fellowship of being with people engaged in the same mission.
 
As you’ve probably worked out, I’ve found this an opportunity to read, one of the books I’ve recently finished is Jim Wallis’s latest book Christ in Crisis, in it amidst the challenges to our witness, Jim reminded my that the most repeated phrase in the Bible is “Do not be afraid”. For those who are counting it appears 365 times. The coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at that first Pentecost should give us the confidence as we move to the next stage in the life of our church, that God will equip us and we should not be afraid.
 
A couple of weeks before lockdown began, I attended a workshop for worship leaders exploring new hymns set to familiar tunes. As we celebrate Pentecost and look forward to new life, I want to leave you with some words from one of those hymns written by John Bell and Graham Maule. If you want to sing them, they are set to the Sussex Carol.
 
“God’s Spirit came at Pentecost
to folk who feared their hope was lost;
inspired by wind and fire of grace,
they faced a crowded market place.
There speaking in tongues, unlike their own,
they preached the Gospel Christ made known
 
Even now as on that earliest day,
we feel uncertain. So we pray:
Lord, give us Pentecost again
through city square and country glen.
With or without new tongues of flame
make your church worthy of your name”
 
Copyright Wild Group Resource Group
 
Mike Hart
Posted: Sat 30th May 2020

Several Church members joined others from the North Lancashire Partnership for an on-line Communion Service via Zoom last Wednesday.

 

Posted: Sat 30th May 2020

Communion Service For Pentecost.

Daleen ten Cate invites you to join her for a Communion service by Zoom on Wednesday 27th May at 10.00am.

Download Zoom on to your PC, laptop, tablet or phone and click on the invitaion web address below.

Topic: Daleen ten Cate's Zoom Meeting
Time: May 27, 2020 10:00 AM London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82196423171?pwd=Uk9QWDZWUFRJakVTOHNnQ0hZTDFSdz09

Meeting ID: 821 9642 3171
Password: 670672

Posted: Sun 24th May 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 24th May 2020.

Ascension, (Matthew 28: 16-20, Acts 1:6-9)  What are you waiting for?

For forty days after his resurrection, Jesus appears and disappears and reappears, preparing his disciples for the next phase of God’s plan, and their new role in it. After this preparation, Jesus is taken up into heaven, in a scene that was completely different from what happened at Calvary. The disciples know that it was the end of a period, and a beginning of something new. First, they had to go back to Jerusalem, and wait for the full reception of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It was essential that they wait, as the new beginning would take them into frightening situations, and into places where they were inadequate to carry on without the help of the Holy Spirit. In the new phase they were reassured that even though Jesus would no longer be with them in a physical way, he will always be present with them.
Waiting is a common experience that impacts every aspect of life. Currently, we find ourselves waiting for the Covid-19 global crisis to come to an end, with some drug to successfully treat it. Due to the crisis and the resultant lockdown, some are waiting for medical appointments and treatments to be rescheduled, for employment opportunities, for jobs to recommence, for memorial services for deceased relatives, for celebration of special events... Some are waiting more patiently than others, but collectively, we are all waiting for the ‘what is yet to be’. There is a Chinese proverb that says: one moment of patience may ward off great disaster, one moment of impatience may ruin a whole life. So, let’s be encouraged to wait patiently, and in hope for God’s timely intervention in our varying circumstances.
Also, just as it was for the disciples, we too, could use the waiting period to consider where God is wanting us as individuals, and his church to be after lockdown. In the coming new phase, we can in the power of His Holy Spirit, discover Christ anew in our daily living. Then as we go about, with confidence we can heed his call to be people-centred, reaching out to others in our words and actions with the message that: Jesus lives! Jesus saves! We do so in full assurance that Jesus’ living and loving presence never ends. He is with us through all the changing scenes of life- And I will be with you always, to the end of the age – Matthew 28:20.
Stay Safe and Blessings,
Irene John.

Posted: Sat 23rd May 2020

Thought for the Week, Sunday, 17th May 2020.

As I sat in my garden this afternoon [Friday] I realised that the birdsong I had become used to as the only sound I heard was now accompanied by the ‘thrum’ of traffic. Cars going where? Work, garden centres or just out for a run? After 7 weeks of isolation I know people are desperate to get back to ’normal’. Many need to earn a living again or just get out of the house to stop themselves going ‘stir crazy’ but with self distancing still required of us what will we accept as ‘normal’ and how long before, if ever, it becomes the normal we had before the virus took hold of the world?
As the lock-down was loosened slightly this week the URC sent out a document to the churches called ’The New Normal’.* It aims to help churches make a plan now to carry us past lock-down and into a healthy future. As well as considering the practical aspects of the return, Elders and management teams are encouraged to ask ‘Do we need to do things differently, and live differently as we work through the pandemic and emerge into this new set of circumstances in which we unwillingly find ourselves?’

Will everything be the same as before or will we want to stop doing some things and instead adapt and include others we have learned to do in lock-down? Slowing down and connecting with others more are two of the things I have appreciated and hope to continue with.
In Acts 17:24-27 Paul said
God who made the world and all that is in it… does not live in temples made by human hands… he is not far from any one of us. Indeed, it is in him that we live and move and have our being.
Yet in the past perhaps we have been guilty of having made God appear available only to a select few. We might be guilty of having implied that God can’t be found except within our church buildings. As we have adjusted to life in lock-down, spoken to our friends and neighbours over the phone or across the fence more than before; shopped or collected prescriptions for someone else, if we have been able, hopefully we have conveyed the message that the community of faith to which we belong is one of grace and welcome – that God is available to all and affirming that, through Him, all people “live and move and have their being”. Imagine what it would be like if, in our new ‘normal’, the Church was the first place people turned to in times of grief and trauma. If our church communities became a place of refuge and support for those who find themselves in unimagined difficulties through no fault of their own.
We have seen God’s spirit moving in all sectors of society where people have been selflessly giving of themselves to help others. May we recognise that God is at work and present in the most unexpected and surprising places… not just in our church buildings!

Prayer: Without You, Lord Jesus, we would be lost in a dark and despairing world, without joy and without life. Without You, Lord Jesus, we would be frozen in a cold and meaningless existence, without hope and without a future.
But, You are the Risen and Living One Who leads us out of our tombs of despondency & fear and fills our lives with rejoicing. And so, we give You our gratitude – in the words we speak, in the songs we sing and in the lives we live, wholly filled with You. AMEN John van de Laar, sacredise.com

*Ready for the new “normal”. A discussion paper from The United Reformed Church. See the website www.nwsynod.org.uk ,or contact your Elder or Gordon Bell for more information.

Posted: Sun 17th May 2020

From Daleen Ten Cate.

Dear Friends,

Over the last few weeks I attended the “Church on the Margins” zoom meetings. In one of these sessions we were invited to reflect alongside Deirdre Brower on how does “walking alongside” God’s people look like in our current situation. She said the following: I’ve always thought it was an important Christian virtue to cross the road towards people. The Good Samaritan and faithful responses to need make me think that Christians should be those willing to move into a space where danger has been and help the most vulnerable. Where we do all we can to defy our stereotypes, reject our impulses of pure and impure, touchable and untouchable – and be those who touch – in the right way – the most bloody and battered of travellers. And yet, here we are in a space where the kindest action, the most just, the most right, is, in many cases, to cross the road away from people... I’ve always admired the notion of the courage of Christians continuing faithfully to meet – in spite of all instructions against that. Christian heroes met at 4am in secret, slinking through back streets in defiance of the empire and its alternative rules. The long history of Christians meeting in underground churches, early morning or late night rituals of faithfulness – expressions of gathering in Jesus’ name, of being fearless, of resistance, of knowing that death is not our worst defeat has always resonated and moved me. And, YET here we are, in a space where the most courageous display of our faith is to express solidarity differently and NOT gather, in secret or otherwise, and keep worship in physical distance from a community of bodies who follow Jesus.

In Christian Aid week we are ask to walk alongside the most marginalized people in the world. However, we cannot come together as we did before, for the Big Brekkie, Soup Lunches or our door to door collections. I think many of us who express their faith in the do-ing (faith in action) feel a bit off- balance and sometimes frustrated in the current climate, me being one of them. However, I have to say I find comfort in the events building up to Pentecost, many years ago. In the same way the disciples were ordered to stay in the upper room and pray until the time is right, we are today. Some of us maybe feel scared, anxious, frustrated or lonely but this monastic way of living can become the place where the Holy Spirit fall afresh on us and inspire us. When a person on a serious inner journey to their own vulnerability is also in immediate contact with the vulnerable of the world, then some form of community will almost always result. Without an interior life and a love of justice, most communities just serve themselves. The idea of a beloved community emerged from the deeply contemplative activities of a besieged people.


In the midst of the social distancing necessitated by this pandemic, people have nevertheless come together in creative and loving ways. Some have called this virus a massive “trigger event” with the potential to change everything. As individuals and communities, we can respond with justice and compassion, as we have seen in the Many Good News Stories across the NW Synod. How can we “walk alongside” and show solidarity in lock down?
- By praying and raising our awareness of the many projects that Christian Aid and Commitment for Life support.
- By donating money to Christian Aid via their gift page or e- envelopes
- By writing letters of thanks and appreciation to care home staff, funeral directors, your bin man, milk man, your local school’s teachers or local shops.
- By making that phone call to an isolated or lonely Elderly or refugee

In order to raise our awareness for Christian Aid week, I would like to share this Christian Aid and Commitment for Life service with you. Many of you have met Rev Dr Kevin Snyman during his recent visit to the NW Synod regarding his role with Commitment for Life. With permission and their blessing, he and his wife, Rev Nadene Snyman would like to share this service with you.
Please find the link: https://youtu.be/Ys_R62lNjsA


May we all use this time wisely for the greater glory of God’s Kingdom.
Every blessing,
Daleen

Posted: Wed 13th May 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 10th May 2020.

Christian Aid Week, 10th – 16th May

The story is told of a mum, who praying with her young daughter, would always finish with the words: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all your days Psalm 23:6. One morning after prayers, the curious girl asked: Who is Shirley Goodness, and who is Mercy? And why are they following me?’ The mum responded: You are special to God, and to Mummy and daddy! Daddy, Mummy, Nana, Papa, and everyone else who is there for you, showing you love, kindness and care are God’s goodness and mercy following you, on and on and on!’

We all experience the goodness and mercy of God in the kindness and care shown to us by others. In return, we equally should extend it to others in real and meaningful ways. This is Christian Aid week – Sadly, fund raising activities are mostly shelved, or have moved online due to the pandemic. Now more than ever kindness and care are needed by the poor and vulnerable in the places where Christian Aid operates. For millions living in the poorer countries around the world, the global pandemic is a further threat to the already existing one of climate crisis - People find themselves living in appallingly cramped conditions, suffering from poverty and deprivation, with food and water shortage, and in grave danger of catching, and dying from Covid-19. Christian Aid, through its partners on the ground is providing essential support, helping those in need to stay as safe as possible. Please let’s support the organisation with our prayers and giving. For further details about online giving please visit - caweek.org/payin. Alternatively, save your donations in an envelope until an opportune time. I leave you with a prayer for this week:

On this Christian Aid Week, we pray for and with communities across the world who are most vulnerable to coronavirus. We pray for people living in refugee camps and city slums, with limited sanitation facilities, who are unable to wash their hands regularly, and have little opportunity to isolate from others. We pray for Christian Aid partners working to provide soap and buckets, communicating clear, accurate information, raising the voices of the most vulnerable and ensuring they are kept as safe as possible. In Jesus name. Amen.

May goodness and mercy continue to follow us, and may we extend it to others.

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sat 9th May 2020

Daleen Ten Cate has invited us all to join her for another virtual Coffee Morning on Wednesday, 13th May at 10.00am.

To recieve an invite, please email her at Daleen.TenCate@nwsynod.org.uk.

Two weeks later she will be holding a virtual Communion service during the week before Pentecost on Wednesday,27th May also at 10.00am. Again to recieve an invite, please email her at Daleen.TenCate@nwsynod.org.uk.

Click on the posters below for more details.

Coffee Morning Poster     Communion Service Poster

Posted: Sun 3rd May 2020

URC Sunday Service and Daily Devotions

During the Covid-19 emergency, while URC church buildings are closed, we are providing a weekly Sunday service in a radio-style / podcast with hymns, readings, prayers and a sermon, provided by churches around the denomination. It begins at 10.00am every Sunday morning but you can listen to it anytime after that. You need never be late for Sunday Worship again! You can even pause it to sort out lunch or fast-forward if you find the sermon not to your liking.

To listen to the service, click the link below.

https://devotions.urc.org.uk/

 

Leprosy Sunday

With Churches closed, the Leprosy Mission has produced a virtual service for Leprosy Sunday. Paul Moores, who came to preach at our church is giving the sermon. 

You can watch it anytime, pause and even fast-forward by clicking on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2RJVJw8w-o&feature=youtu.be

Many thanks,

Mary Thornber

Posted: Sat 2nd May 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 3rd. May 2020

Reading Acts 2 42 -47

I don’t know whether you’ve settled into a new routine after nearly six weeks of the current restrictions. At least on weekdays, my routine includes my work for the Synod, and ensuring I keep time to take my daily exercise, usually walking our Miniature Schnauzer, Maisy. Having read a couple of articles early in this period, about the experiences of people whose jobs require long periods of isolation or restrictions (including a Submarine Captain) I try and ensure that the weekend has a different routine.

Alongside continuing to support local churches meet their present challenges my job, working with colleagues in our Synod and also across the five Northerly Synods of the URC, is starting to turn to thinking about what will need to be done when churches are able to open their doors again.

With that as a frame, I found John Bell’s (from the Iona Community) Thought for the Day on Radio 4 on Monday fascinating. John started by talking about the inspiration he drew from prophetic figures, from the Bible like Isaiah, or more recently such as Martin Luther King. John spoke about how these figures did three key things:

  • They analysed the present situation
  • They expressed empathy and solace with those affected, and
  • They reimagined the future

Our reading for today from Acts, is a well-known one that sets out in a wonderfully succinct way the features of life in the early Church. Different commentators analyse this is different ways, but I like one which reflects on how the early church responded to God’s grace and the example of Jesus in four ways by the principles of justice, community, fellowship (including worship) and service.

I’m sure like me, you are finding plenty of time at present to reflect and as all good prophets do analyse the present situation. As we look ahead and reimagine the future for ourselves and our church, perhaps now is a good time to start to ask ourselves what are the things we’ve discovered in the last six weeks that we would not want to lose in the new world.

From my reflection so far, I have found more time to read (in great variety) and reflect on that reading, and I will return to one recent book in the next newsletter. I’ve also joined a virtual reading group which is a great stimulus to both of these and I hope will be an encouragement to continue reading more. Looking more broadly, there are many aspects of the current community togetherness and mutual support, which I would be deeply sorry if we didn’t find ways to perpetuate in the future.

I offer these words adapted from a hymn as a prayer for us all in this time.

“In our learning, praying, caring
may your word spring into life;
in our time of doubt and challenge,
may its truth affirm belief;
and in days of pain and darkness,
may it heal our guilt and grief.”

Take care,

Mike Hart

 

Notes 

If you want to listen to John Bell’s Thought for the Day it is available on BBC Sounds until 27th May on https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08blt8d

Prayer (adapted from “In the name of Christ we gather”, by Shirley Erena Murray, Hymns of Glory Songs of Praise 677)

 

Posted: Sat 2nd May 2020

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