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News: January 2021

Thought for the Week, Sunday, 17th January 2021.

Prayer for Christian Unity  18th – 25th January 2021.

The 18th January starts the Week of prayer for Christian unity. When they were asked to produce the material for 2021 neither the sisters of the Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland nor anyone else could have foreseen the pandemic of 2020 and its long lasting impact on the whole world.

What the Sisters produced was ‘an opportunity to engage with a form of prayer that is both very ancient and yet at the same time so apposite for our times. The ancient rhythm of prayer found in many religious orders and their traditions teach us that when we pray, we pray not just on our own or with those who share the same physical space, but with the whole Church, the Body of Christ, of Christians in other places and in different times…This tradition of prayer and spirituality, despite the things that hurt and separate us, invites us into shared prayer and silence together. Surely a most precious gift in troubled times.’

As the Pandemic continues to rule our lives, both our physical and spiritual well being have been challenged. Our Church buildings have been closed and, those who feel able, worship on line while others to listen to the URC Daily devotion services sent out by mail every week, or find other services on-line. Despite the availability of worship services, many are feeling a sense of isolation from God as well as each other. We may well all be asking ourselves what it means to be part of one church, the body of God when the only time we meet one another is on a screen.

This last year has caused us to reflect on our lives before restrictions were placed on where we are allowed to go and who we can safely meet-our priorities and the things and people that we value, that make our lives whole. 

The service prepared for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity may not take place physically but the message it sends out is to make a space in your enforced lock down space to simply “be” in this place and be carried by the prayer and the reality that it is God, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, who carries us and accompanies us: to ‘abide in Christ’. To find comfort in knowing that God loves us and cares for us and is with us in these bleak days. To know that we do not suffer alone but with the whole body of Christ. Only by spending time in prayer can we develop an inner strength rooted and grounded in God’s love for us which will enable us to more confidently face the challenges of life which face us.

We live in a time that is both troubling and magnificent, an often-dangerous time where we are challenged by pandemics, wars, violence, poverty, racism and climate change. Yet as Christians seeking reconciliation, justice and peace, we also know the full value of a spiritual life, have an immense responsibility and must realize it, unite and help each other create forces of calmness, refuges of peace, vital centres where the silence of people calls on the creative word of God. It is a question of life and death.

Let us unite with the rest of the body of Christ in prayer for one another and the whole of creation putting Christ once again at the centre of our very being.

Jesus said to the disciples, “abide in my love” (John 15:9). He abides in the love of the Father (John 15:10) and desires nothing other than to share this love with us.

Yours in Christ


Words in italics and other facts taken from of prayer for Christian unity 2021 resources

Churches together in Lancashire are hosting a service to mark the week of prayer on 24th January via Zoom. Your Elder may be able to give you more details.

Posted: Tue 19th Jan 2021
Posted: Sun 10th Jan 2021

Thought of the Week, Sunday,10th January 2021.

Psalm 29 “The Lord of the thunderstorms”

The Psalm set as part of the lectionary for this Sunday is Psalm 29, which the Revised Standard Version which I use for study entitles as “the Lord of the thunderstorms”! It is a psalm of praise in difficult times summoning its hearers to give glory to God. It is a Psalm full of images of a power, strength and majesty in water, wind, and fire – an elemental combination.

Last Saturday evening, BBC2 showed the documentary film “Amazing Grace” chronicling Aretha Franklin’s recording almost 50 years ago of her gospel album of the same name. This is not an album recorded in a secluded studio but live over two nights in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, with an audience – no with a congregation, at the beginning of the film, those assembled are reminded by the Rev. James Cleveland that this is a church and as the songs of praise rise, so does the audience’s response. If you want to watch even a small element of this, it is available on the BBC Iplayer for the next three weeks.

Perhaps the most incongruous moment of the documentary comes as it moves to the second night and, amidst the Pentecostal enthusiasm of the congregation, for a couple of minutes the camera lingers on two familiar figures at the back of the church – Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts.

I’ve just finished reading a recent book “Being Interrupted: Reimagining the church’s mission from the outside, in” which asks questions, reflecting both on one of the author’s experience of ministry in and Anglican/ URC partnership on an estate in Birmingham but also some stories from Mark’s Gospel, about how the church responds when something from outside its norms intrude. With this reference point as I spotted the familiar figures in the film, I wondered what they made of the scene that was in front of them; and equally how did the congregation view their famous guests.

Seven times in our Psalm, the phrase “The voice of the Lord” is repeated. As I read the Psalm again, I wonder whether those who first heard it felt it as a reassuring comfort of God’s presence, or a challenging assertion of God’s purpose and strength. It is a Psalm deeply rooted in images of nature and the unity of God and creation. At times like ours, I’m sure we feel God’s presence intruding in both those ways.

As we journey through this next week, I hope we can take with us the words of the final verse of this Psalm.

“May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!” (Psalm 29 v11 R.S.V.)


Posted: Sun 10th Jan 2021

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