I write this after the wonderful Pentecost service we had back in the building, and am reflecting on the theme of new life. New life comes in many different ways. It is in the birth of a child, or the birth of any living creature. We see it in Spring, in all creation, with shoots coming up out of the ground, and flowers beginning to bloom. The photo above is one I took in the church grounds last year, of the roses in full flower, sometime later in June. There’s a rich variety of flowers coming into bloom for many months in the year, all reminding us of new life.
The lifting of full restrictions in the UK is nearly here, later this month, all being well, when we can at last meet freely. I think there will be cautions, as not everyone can have a vaccine who have various health issues, but mostly things will be more as we remember. We may feel that we have new life again!
In our faith, we see new life in the resurrection of Jesus, in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost breathing life into the believers, and in the renewal we experience daily when we spend time in God’s presence. We can think about new life as we come back together to worship, to listen again to God’s call for the months to come, and God’s vision for us for the future.
New life is what we experience in Christ, and yet it’s not just for ourselves, for our benefit only, but for others. It’s in the image of the bread broken and wine poured: as Christ’s body, we are to offer ourselves as broken and our lives poured out for those around us.
As I was looking for pictures to put with this letter, I came across the picture below with a verse on it from my database of images I was given on a URC course years ago. The picture is pretty, but it was the verse that struck me. As people living in new life in Christ, what we do and how we are, makes a difference to those around us. This verse talks about us being a fragrance.
I hadn’t thought of that before, or noticed the verse before, but we are the fragrance of Christ, spreading out around. We can all imagine the droplets of a fragrance filling the air. At this time of year, I love the fragrance of lilacs and azaleas, when a gentle breeze blows it from where the bush is to where we are. Or we can recall the fragrance of a person walking by, which even with face masks on, can fill our nostrils, sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not.
Living in new life is about giving off the fragrance of Christ, a pleasing fragrance, so that people can know of him, through our lives. As a fragrance, we are the presence of Christ to those around us. In new life, lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray we can all keep that fragrance fresh and beautiful for him.
In Christ’s love, Clare <><
A CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF LEN BOWER
We hope that you will all have received an invitation from Jane Bower to join in a celebration of Len’s long and interesting life on Saturday, 3rd July at 2pm.
‘This will take the form of a selection—half-concert, half-service—of music and words, including Dad’s own, and I am aiming for a relaxing afternoon of peaceful memories and gentle humour. An afternoon tea will follow from around 3pm to 4pm, and there will be the opportunity to view Dad’s drawings and purchase them if you wish, in return for a donation to his favourite charities. All members of the congregation are warmly invited, but we will of course have to abide by whatever rules are in place at the time regarding Covid restrictions. I would ask therefore that you contact me to say if you plan to attend. I’m sure you will also understand that if numbers prove higher than we are allowed, priority will be given to those who were unable to attend the service in January.’
Jane’s email address is Janefirstname.lastname@example.org or you can also let Susan Bollon know if you plan to attend.
This month’s prayer meeting is due to be on Wednesday 9th June, from 10.30-11am as usual. Do join us in the comfort of your own home to spend the time in prayer for those in our church and those we know who are unwell, bereaved or need prayer for other issues.
|SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP
|Rev Phil Chilvers
|Rev Phil Chilvers
Including the Sacrament of Holy Communion
|Rev Clare S Davison
A reminder that the next worship@4 on Zoom will be on Sunday 30th May.
The one in June will be on Sunday 27th June, details of where to be decided.
BACK TO CHURCH
What a joy for us to be back in church to worship together after such a long period of separation, loneliness, and, for many, great sadness and anxiety. But . . .
We understand that many ‘non-regular churchgoers’ have also enjoyed the on-line worship available and we hope some may now find the courage to join us. So here are a few suggestions to help them on their way:
Beds – for those who say Sunday is their day to sleep in
Safety helmets – for anyone who fears the roof would fall in if they entered a church door
Blankets and hot water bottles – for those who find our church too cold
Fans and ice cream – for those who find our church too hot
Cushions – for anyone who finds our seats too hard
Bicycles – for those who exercise on Sunday mornings
Hearing aids – for those who find the minister speaks too softly
Cotton wool – for those who find the minister speaks too loudly
Score cards – for all who want to rate the hymns/sermons/coffee
Ready-meals – for anyone who can’t come because they have to cook Sunday lunch
Some flowers – for those who prefer to seek God in nature
Christmas poinsettias and Easter palms – for all those who have never seen the church without them.
See you Sunday!!
BRENDA’S WALK FOR WHEATFIELDS
Congratulations to Brenda and family and supporters for their successful walk from the church to Golden Acre—and back!—while collecting for Wheatfields. They have been sponsored both directly and through the ‘Just Giving’ site and so far have collected £1,661.46 with further cheques on the way and additional support from Gift Aid. Thank you, Brenda, for your generous idea and all your effort.
How beautiful the world around me now
God must have had a flair for light and shade.
An artist’s pallet must have been to hand,
So colourful this lovely world he made.
The golden gorse that mellows tattered hills
The gentle green that clothes the leafing trees,
The pinks and blues of blossom and of sky,
Lord, from what pallet did you conjure these?
The purple shadows as the sun gives way
To softer patterns, as the evening nears,
And every moonlit corner of the world
Shines with God’s radiance, as night’s dark appears.
Lord, Lord, our thanks for colour and for light,
For life that ends, that it might start anew,
For birds that sing, for every lovely thing,
We offer up our heartfelt thanks to you.
The United Reformed Church Finance Committee
All members and adherents of United Reformed Churches and our Local Ecumenical Partnerships
It would be fair to describe the year-and-a-bit since March 2020 as having been “different”, wouldn’t it? Lots of us have experienced loss of loved ones, loss of income and perhaps jobs. All have experienced periods of lockdown; periods without ‘non-essential’ shops; and continuous and extensive disruption to our ‘normal’ social interactions and relationships. The world we thought we understood and could take for granted has been utterly transformed. How many of us imagined at the start of 2020 that we could go months without a haircut or without people not in our ‘bubble’ entering our homes?
As members of United Reformed Church congregations ourselves, we understand much of what your church community has experienced since March 2020. The absence of what is now regularly labelled “in-person worship” for much (or all) of this time has compelled us to turn to other ways of being church. Buildings in which we used to praise God regularly have been shut, both to regular worshipers and others who might have sought solace within their walls during these desperate and troubling times. It has been hard to maintain close fellowship with people we only meet over Zoom (or the like) – if we are digitally enabled.
Financially, things have been extremely tough too. Plate offerings have collapsed; some regular givers have had to reduce or entirely stop giving to support God’s work; and those churches which hire out their premises have seen income from that source disappear.
At denominational level, we feared that these financial troubles would spell disaster for the URC’s Ministry and Mission (‘M&M’) fund through which the URC has always supported and developed our stipendiary ministers and Church Related Community Workers. It would have been all too easy for congregations to forget that for almost 49 years this fund (under various names) has provided stipends, pension contributions and training for all ministers throughout the three nations in which the URC operates: so that ministry reaches where synods judge it to be most needed and is paid for according to each congregation’s ability to contribute (though the ways of determining that vary from synod to synod). It was all very well to remind ourselves that the M&M fund is meant to be the first call on every congregation’s resources if the undertaking to financially support our ministers is to be honoured. We feared that drastically reduced income would make that impossible and that, because the need was less visible than the other calls on your diminished resources, payments to the M&M fund would have stopped first.
We are sorry if we ever doubted you.
It quickly became apparent that, although some congregations had to reduce their pledged giving to the M&M fund, many more of you were continuing to meet the 2020 commitments you had made during better times, despite the struggles that required. At the start of that year we had been expecting churches and synods to contribute around £18.5 million to the fund. By the year end, all but half-a-million pounds of that had been received. Since Church House staff and committees managed to reduce their budgeted expenditure by almost £1 million, your money enabled us to meet the full costs of our Ministries, Education & Learning, Children’s and Youth Work and Mission departments in 2020 as well as covering amounts spent on safeguarding, denominational governance and communications.
What is perhaps even more amazing is that, collectively, you have pledged to give £17.3 million during 2021 despite the financial problems caused by the pandemic being fully apparent well before your offers for this year were made.
We are always grateful for the financial support given each year to the M&M fund by all of you; but this past year has been phenomenal.
Thank you to those of you who have been able to maintain or increase financial support for your church congregation through this difficult time. That has enabled those responsible for your congregation’s finances to keep more money flowing to the M&M fund than we expected.
Thank you for all your previous financial support to those of you who, after prayerful consideration, have had to reduce or stop giving in response to your changed financial circumstances.
Thank you for the pledges your congregation has made about contributing to the M&M fund during 2021 even though you were by then aware of the impact the pandemic was having on your local congregation’s finances.
Thank you in anticipation for what you agree to offer to the M&M fund during 2022 to enable the denomination to deliver ministry, education and learning, children’s work and mission activity on God’s (and your) behalf.
We are aware that synods have played a significant part in encouraging and supporting many congregations with their contributions to the M&M fund. We have separately written to Synod Treasurers to express our thanks to them and their colleagues too.
Of course, our giving for God’s work is in response to the amazing generosity and love of God which we see in Jesus. Nonetheless, it is important for us to thank every one of you for what you do for God, your congregation and its and our denominational finances.
If you have any questions or comments arising from this letter, please speak to your church treasurer who has been provided with more detailed information. If they are not able to help directly then they can get in touch with the finance team at Church House.
Yours in Christ,
Ian Hardie (Treasurer) and John Piper (Deputy Treasurer)
On behalf of the whole United Reformed Church Finance Committee
|IMPORTANT FUTURE DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
|Annual General Church Meeting following Morning Worship
|SATURDAY: Moderator’s visit and Coffee Morning
|Sunday Afternoon: Harrogate Male Voice Choir Concert
in aid of Wheatfield’s Hospice