You will notice something new about this month’s letter .. it’s from all the clergy rather than just me. I couldn’t help notice that having a letter that contained contributions from only one person could hardly be described as ‘inclusive’. So, in order to be more inclusive (though I understand that this is by no means fully inclusive) the monthly letter will now include contributions from Jeremy, Marion, Keith and Graeme as well as me.
One of the benefits this offers is that we can reflect things going on in the churches rather than only having information that is relevant to all three churches, which will hopefully increase the sense of community across the parish and our level of communication within the churches. I trust you will think this is a good thing and one which, as it develops, will not only be more ‘inclusive’ but also enable the content to be more ‘life-giving’ as well.
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, 22 February. We have three services in the parish that day:
- St Peter’s 9.30 am Communion (said) following the regular format
- St John’s 10.00 am Communion (said) with Ashing
- St Peter’s 8.00 pm Sung Eucharist with Ashing and Incense
Lent gives us a chance to try something different: in the past this has been framed as ‘giving something up’ but now we are encouraged to ‘take something up’ instead. If you’ve not done this before why not try and set aside 5 minutes in the day to sit quietly and think about our parish values, and to consider how to make them more evident in our everyday lives.
Also look out for the REVISED Opportunities for Lent leaflet which should be at the back of all three churches. In it you will find details of courses on biblical interpretation, spirituality and the essentials of our faith. There is also an invitation to spend an hour in Lent having a Spiritual MOT with one of the priests in the parish.
Do have a look at what we’re offering for Lent this year and feel free to pass on our leaflets to your friends and neighbours who may be interested.
The next round of Church Forums are upon us. These meetings are one of the ways we are trying to communicate better so please do come and make your views known.
- St Margaret Sunday 5 February
- St John Sunday 12 February
- St Peter Sunday 19 February
Finally, please do let me know your views on this new format.
I’m pleased to report that we had a good 2011 at St.John’s. Numbers continued to increase, our giving went up, more people became involved in the life of the church…all encouraging signs. And in addition, we continued to find ways of reaching out to our community through our involvement in the setting up of the Amersham Road Cooking Club (ARCC) and the Lower Caversham Community Partnership (LCCP). There are too many people to thank each one individually by name but I do want to take this opportunity to say a particular thank you to the wardens, Ann Deane and Richard Purkis (the latter who stood down as warden in April after many years service and who also helped out as treasurer last year) and to members of the Church Leadership and Fresh Expressions Teams.
So what lies ahead for 2012? I want to focus on one particular opportunity which people from across our parish have to serve others in our community, namely the events being organised by the Churches Together in Caversham ‘More Than Gold’ (MTG) steering group. MTG is the name of an umbrella organisation set up to help churches find ways of using the Olympics to engage with their local communities through hospitality, outreach and service. I’m delighted to say that Churches Together in Caversham have entered into a partnership with Readipop for the Caversham Festival on Sunday July 8th. The festival is a large local event, attracting around 10,000 people, based at Christ Church Meadows. As churches we are planning a morning service for all ages, followed by free funfair rides, a performance space for local schools/sports clubs, and providing a couple of Christian bands to play on one of the stages. We are also expecting to hold an Olympic themed children’s holiday club, hopefully during the first week of the summer holidays (23-27 July), as well as encouraging people to consider hosting the family of a visiting Olympic athlete through MTG’s ‘athlete family homestay’ programme (see www.morethangold.org.uk). Exciting stuff, I hope you’ll agree, which requires our prayers, giving and hard work. So if you are willing to act as a steward for the Caversham festival or be a volunteer for the children’s holiday club, do get in touch with me.
It promises to be an amazing summer!
Candlemas is the point in our liturgical year when everything changes. It is the point of inflexion when our direction of travel is altered. Having prayed through Advent for the coming of the Messiah, and joyously welcomed him in our Christmas celebrations, we are led into the Temple at Candlemas as Mary and Joseph offer the Christ-child to God. After this, nothing is the same again; we leave behind the babe in the manger, and hear the claims, consider the actions, and witness the Passion and Resurrection of the god-man, Jesus Christ.
Before speeding along into Lent and Holy Week, then, why not ask a question of yourself: am I ready for the Christ-child to grow up? Just as many parents are not so keen on their own children becoming adults, so Christians can become unnerved when they hear their God answer back.
In many ways, it’s easy to celebrate Christmas: God gives a gift of innocence, and our role is to receive it in faith. But in Lent and Holy Week, we begin to hear of the purpose of this gift, which is intended (literally) to scare the hell out of us. God did not show himself in Christ so that humanity would stand around and give him a round of applause. We meet God in Christ, that we might meet God in ourselves. The question is: am I ready?
The Olive Branch is working!
St Peter’s family have responded to our new venture which hopefully will help our pastoral team care for the churches family in time of need. But care must come from all of us, how can we all be a caring community? There is no PhD in caring it’s not delegated by experts. Our modern society is used to calling in ‘specialists’. When unwell a doctor is quickly sought, when confused we are encouraged to find a counsellor, when dying a priest. Even when prayer is needed a minister is often looked for.
Everyone has the gift, though often hidden, to care, to be compassionate to become present to the other. To listen to hear and receive. If that gift could be set free and made available miracles could take place! Why is it that we often keep this great gift of care so well hidden?
When we dare to care, then we discover that nothing human is foreign to us, but that all the hatred and love, cruelty and compassion, fear and joy can be found in our own hearts. We need to recognise our human sameness. To care means first of all to empty our own cup and to allow others to come close to us. It means to let down so many of those barriers that we use to keep ourselves apart from others.
If you would like to be part of the Olive Branch pastoral group please talk to me.
Snippets from St Peter’s
If you are coming to St Peter’s Church for 9.45 service please bring some pennies with you to add to the Sunday School’s collection in aid of Water Aid. You’ll find a bucket at the back of church ready and waiting for your donation.
And if you haven’t been to a Parade Service recently can I encourage you to come to the next one on Sunday 26 February. I hardly dare say this, but I think we’ve cracked the constant noise at Communion!
Choral Evensong on Sunday 12 February will include the following music: Smith Responses; Canticles sung to Stanford in C; Rutter’s Gaelic Blessing; Teach me O Lord- (Thomas Attwood) and Beethoven’s version of Hallelujah Chorus. Dan Tyndall will be the preacher.
The Sung Eucharist for Ash Wednesday will start at 8.00pm and will, as last year, include both an opportunity to receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads in ash and the use of incense. The choir will sing Allegri’s haunting setting of Psalm 51 (Allegri’s Miserere) along with the Lent Prose and Franck’s Panis Angelicus. The service will be sung to the setting Darke in F , Dan Tyndall will preside and Marion Pyke will be the preacher.
Sunday 26 February, Rev Wing Commander Jan Taylor, a chaplain at RAF Benson, will be our visiting preacher at Choral Evensong at 6.30pm . The choir will be singing the Lent Prose, Canticles by Fayrfax, Civitas sancti tui by Byrd and Rutter’s Clare Benediction.
One place suits one person
One place suits one person, another place suits another person. For my part I prefer to live in the country, like Timmy Willie.
Beatrix Potter ‘The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse’.
Edgar Reitz, the German film director, tells a story of how he went home with a friend to visit his mother and while they were there his mother told a story he had never heard before. The story was of a man from their town who had left his house one day saying he was going up the road to the local inn for a drink. He never returned home and no one ever heard of him again.
Reitz was so intrigued by why some people leave the place they belong, never to return and what draws some back home that he made an epic 15½ hour long film on the theme called ‘Heimat’ (Homeland). This film is a chronicle of one family living in a small German village. They are born into a particular memory that associates them with people and places and little stories. They are able to call on all this, which gives them a sense of belonging, and a hold over their identity. The film shows how, in the passage of time, that sense of belonging slowly disappears.
As a 17 year old I left home to commence training as a junior site engineer at the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station on the East Coast of Essex. Whilst I was away I dreamed and longed for all those past home comforts. A year later I returned but to my bitter disappointment it seemed that home was not as in my dreams. I had changed, had grown up and home seemed to have changed. This film therefore strikes a particular cord in my memory.
St Luke tells of Jesus returning to his home town of Nazareth, the place that gives him the identity as a Nazarite. ( Even today, throughout the Arab countries, Christians are referred to as ‘Nazarene’.) By the time Jesus returned to his home his reputation had gone before him and at first he is listened to. ‘All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.’ But then they remind themselves of his identity. ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ They will not allow Jesus to grow up and try to lock him into the past and into a former identity. Perhaps they have a vested interest in who Jesus was to them rather than who he is now. Perhaps it was much easier having an ordinary carpenter around rather than a confident prophet, much easier talking about broken chairs than broken lives.
Jesus reminds them that no prophet is accepted in his homeland, and as if to prove him right the local crowd become so enraged they try to throw him off a cliff. Jesus escapes and it is no surprise that he never returns home again.
We all need a place to belong to and people we can call our own. We usually call this home where we are accepted in love for who we are but also encouraged to become the person we could be. Very often the last people to accept our change are those who have lived with us over the years; they are so used to the old ways and find it difficult to accept real change.
Jesus had to leave home to become the person his Father wanted him to be. He could not rely on his own neighbours to foster his new life and new mission. So, he established a new community, a body of people who would recognise, as St Paul says, their need for each other. That is us! We are Home for each other, pledged to support the growing and changing life of the Spirit in each of us. Not perhaps as we might expect or want but as the Spirit moves in each one of us. As we gather together as Christians (Nazarenes), each one of us should have the freedom to grow and change into the person one was meant to be and to feel at home.