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News: September 2020

 As it would be Harvest about now, here are some photos from 2018 to remind us how things use to be and will be again.

Posted: Wed 30th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 27th September 2020.

Love never fails. In times of crisis, love unites us all. (Christian Aid, Autumn appeal 2020)
The above phrase appears in the Christian Aid Autumn appeal 2020, encouraging churches to help their global neighbours who are still facing environmental disasters, due to climate change. Right now, the current global pandemic is posing a further threat to the already existing climate crisis. No matter where we live, we can all acknowledge that there are climatic changes in the natural world. Sadly, those who are worst hit by the impact of these changes are those already poor, and living in the developing world. To give just two examples: There is famine and drought in parts of Africa, where it is estimated that the effects of climate change are being felt by over 580 million people, who rely solely on the land for survival. In Nicaragua, 80% of the population depend on agriculture, with many growing coffee farms which are now in crisis because of climate change, affecting the livelihood and wellbeing of the farmers and their families. Christian Aid is working with local partners to help those in desperate need – to find out more go to caid.org.uk/neighbours.
As this is the season of harvest when we celebrate the bounty of God, we can help our global neighbours, by becoming proper stewards of God’s earth. We are given custody over the created world, not to destroy it, but to live in it, enjoy it, and take care of it. Part of taking care of the earth involves our responsibility to our global neighbours - like us, they are created in the image and likeness of God, we shouldn’t destroy their lives by the way we live ours.
This season, let us all be encouraged to take up the challenge of empathising with our global neighbours who live in parts of the world already experiencing the effects of environmental changes - Enter into their world, and feel the pain and suffering inflicted upon them by these changes. Then, let us play our part in helping, with our donations, but also in taking on the URC eco-challenge: to become a people committed to caring for God’s creation. To be intentional in reducing our carbon footprint, improve recycling, minimise waste, and improve efficiencies on finite natural resources in all our operations (URC Environmental Policy, 2016).

A prayer:

Loving God,
Come now and make us into a global neighbourhood
looking out for each other through struggle and crisis,
reaching out to strangers who become sisters and brothers,
shape us into a caring community, strengthening each other
through every challenge, standing together
until justice comes for all.
In your name we pray. Amen (Christian Aid/Wendy Lloyd)

Take care and blessing
Irene John

Posted: Sun 27th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 20th September 2020.

Psalm 105 v 1-6, 37-45 and Philippians 1 v 21-30

 

As I expect many of you are already aware, not least if you subscribe to the URC’s Daily Devotions, we are in the middle of the Season of Creation Time. This runs from the 1st September to the 4th October (The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi). This provides an opportunity to reflect about matters of the climate crisis and our stewardship of God’s creation.

A fortnight ago today, Jane and I walked a circuit around the island of Lindisfarne. It is a walk we have done a number of times before, but I am always surprised to rediscover the contrasts between the different parts of the island, and how in no more than ½ an hour you can walk from the bustle of the tourists in the town, through the nature reserve and the dunes to the beaches of the north of the island, where people are rare and you are left with vast vistas of sand, sea and sky.

I also over my week’s holiday managed to read James Rebanks’ latest book, “English Pastoral”. Unlike his first book which was very much of an autobiography, this is much more of a reflection on his journey from a recalcitrant teenage farmhand helping his father and particularly his grandfather, to the sustainable farmer that he now seeks to be. The middle chapter in particular describes his journey through the growing commercialisation, the increasing use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and the mechanisation of farming, to his realisation of the balance that must be drawn if it is to done in harmony with nature. In particular, he describes an epiphanal moment following the death of one of the last of the old style farmers in the area. His neighbours intrigued by what they might find sent a soil sample away for testing assuming that it would need plenty of work to become fully productive, as James writes:

“The analyst reported back that the soil was some of the best he had ever tested. Henry’s soil was healthy. It needed nothing. My father found this news a revelation. It shook him, because it said something about what the new farming was doing to the land. The most traditional farmer in the district had the healthiest soil”.

One of the things that many people commented on particularly during the strict lockdown of April and May was the connection that they found with the natural world. I remember someone walking past our drive and commenting on the strength of smell from the blooms of our neighbour’s magnolia bush. We also encountered deer on the A6 in Cabus on one of our walks and of course the audibility of the birdsong. In our garden that means a large group of sparrows (mingling beyond any rule of 6) squabbling over the contents of the bird feeders.

Our Psalm of praise is unusual in that it tells the story of Israel’s journey from Exodus in Egypt to the Promised Land. It is both a celebration but also a call to prayer for us We are called to journey with them from the commercialisation of Egypt through the desert to our promised land. As Andrew Louth commented, “The desert is a threat, a warning, a spur to activity between the Garden of Eden and the City of God. In Philippians, Paul challenges the traditional thinking about getting away from it all – to escape to another place and instead to express the depth and value of living your life right now in hope and in justice. In essence telling his readers that living – the more demanding option – “is Christ”. He reminds us that the contribution we make, known or unknown to the world, will be valued by God.

As a congregation, we have started on a journey as an eco-church to place our stewardship of God’s creation as a key part of our life and witness. It is a journey that we make together, but also individually as we reflect and act prayerfully in our individual lives. 

Let this creation time be an opportunity to recommit ourselves to that work in witness and mission to our world.

Amen

Posted: Sat 19th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday,13th September 2020.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139: 13-16.


To some others, who after last week’s thought, also shared their concerns about children and youths in education within the current situation, the encouragement is that this situation won’t last forever - stay positive in the present, and hopeful for the future well-being of your family members, and of the children and youths of today. Just as the caterpillar is transformed into the lovely butterfly, something good can come out of chaos and change. In addition to her concerns, Val Gill (Hest Bank), shares a good news story of one of her grandchildren, who with the love, care and dedicated support of her mum has seen good come out of the chaos of lockdown and change. Val writes: On a positive note, we have a disabled granddaughter with learning difficulties, age nine, who has gained a great deal from the lockdown experience. Her mother took over her education and …she quickly improved in reading and number skills and in her self confidence and self-esteem … she appears to be valued and is happy.

Val’s granddaughter is a testament to the fact that something new and good can, and does, come out of challenging situations. As Christians we keep hope alive even in periods of great challenge and change, and say with the psalmist: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Our precious lives are in the hands of the God who created us beautiful, and gave us the responsibility to take care of it, and develop it. Wherever we are, and whatever happens God knows and is with us. God will always be there for us, He notices everything about each one of us, and wants the very best for us: For you created me and shaped me, gave me live within my mother’s womb. For the wonder of who I am, I praise you: safe in your hands, all creation is made new (Bernadette Farrell, 1957).
Take care and blessings
Irene John

Posted: Sun 13th Sep 2020

Thought of the Week, Sunday, 6th September 2020.

What lasting memories do you have of Summer 2020?

I asked the above question in last week’s thought. Two of the responses I got, sums up some of the thinking of others. Comments from Jean Rogers (Garstang), includes: I think my memories of 2020 will encompass all that you have mentioned, in fact I feel that this year will stand out on its own for a long time to come.  I know that each and every one of us has been affected by all the situations but I feel particularly sorry for the youth of today. They have been thoroughly put through the mill as they say regarding their education at all levels and Hope and pray that there are no long lasting effects for them.  Just listening to our three grandsons who are still in education (one at University and two at College) it really pains me to see them quite stressed at times just wondering about the eventual outcome of all this and the effect it could have on their future. Jean’s comments would resonate with many who are genuinely concerned about the ongoing uncertainties and chaos, experienced by the children and youths in education, and also in the way they experience life in general, due to the current situation.

There are no easy answers or way forward, but let’s consider, and learn from the butterfly. The photo of this particular butterfly, taken on their flower bed at home, was sent to me by Mary Thornber (Garstang). She was inspired by the words, and photo of the sunflower in last week’s thought, to recall: God’s love and care, and the wonderful natural world that God has given us. Look closely at the butterfly, it has beautiful and brightly coloured wings, resting on the pretty bed of flowers, yet, its wings developed as a result of struggling in the cocoon until it broke free – In the process of breaking free, what was the end for the caterpillar, was a new beginning for the butterfly. 

 

Facing the unknown future, change and the challenges of a new routine, can be an uncomfortable, depressing and anxious experience for many -so, let’s be a source of strength and encouragement to the children and youths that we know, for something new and good can come out of chaos and change. Let us also trust that the God who takes care of the natural world, will take care of us and our families – His promise is: I will never leave you nor forsake you Hebrews 13:5.

And so, dear Father God, we pray for your presence, guidance and support in every way, and at all times, for Jean’s grandsons, and all the children and youths associated with the various church families, and all others within our communities and beyond, who are in education, and all their educators. We also pray that your presence, care and love be felt by all children and youths, and especially by those under stress, and facing great times of chaos and change. In the midst of the challenges, and as they all adjust to new routines and patterns, may the doors of endless opportunities and new beginnings open up for them, today and in the future. In Jesus name. Amen! 

Take care and blessings

Irene John

Posted: Sun 6th Sep 2020

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