During these times of great anxiety and disruption, it is good to keep in touch. Never in our lifetime have we celebrated Easter as we did this year. It has made the solitude and suffering on the Cross even more poignant and meaningful. I am finding my old school motto PERSEVERANDO very challenging at the moment.
However, thanks to technology, we are all able to communicate and we are clinging on to St Ignatius Loyola’s prayer
Teach us good Lord to serve thee as thou deservest,
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do Thy will.
Best wishes to you all.
Anna and David.
I am delighted to report that our Lent Appeal for 2020 has raised a magnificent total of £1540. This is 50% more than our Lent Appeal for 2019 and represents an excellent effort by the church congregation in what are extremely difficult times. The two appointed charities: Jacob’s Well (sponsored by Elizabeth Lyle) and The Zimbabwe Synod of the United Congregational Church (sponsored by Vuli Mkandla) will each receive £770.
Despite the present situation I have managed to deliver Easter eggs to our special friends who were most appreciative of them and the fact that we continue to remember them. The Refuge were holding an Easter Egg Hunt on the Thursday so our eggs were well timed. They are very grateful for our continued support and send everyone their thanks and best wishes.
A big ‘Thank You’ to Sue for, yet again, acting on behalf of us all and remembering children for whom life must be harder than ever at the moment.
‘Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
Matthew 28.18-20 (NIVUK)
As I was reading the magazine from Stainbeck URC last month, some words of Rev Angela Hughes, not in her opening letter, but later on, caught my eye. To quote (without her permission, but I trust she won’t mind:) “It is a hard thing to close the doors of a church but it certainly reminds us that the Church is not a building but the people.”
We are blessed to have such a wonderful building, peaceful worship area, high quality organ and piano, financed by the generosity of many of us and those gone by, and kept so well by the Management team and our dear caretaker. And we miss it during this time.
Yet the Church is not all of that. It is the people. As the little children’s ditty with actions goes, which I couldn’t help thinking of and maybe has come to your mind too, ‘This is the Church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and here are the people’ – we all need a little light-heartedness now and again.
It is difficult to imagine Church without building. Yet here we are, unable to come and go from our building as we please, and so what Church is really all about can take a more prominent place in our thoughts.
Worship of course is an important aspect of Church. We’re told in the letter to Hebrews (10 vs 24-26), not to give up meeting together, ‘as some are in the habit of doing’, but to encourage one another and spur one another to love and good deeds. Well, we can’t meet together, but we can encourage one another. One of those encouragements to me has been that I know so many are worshipping on their own at home using the same material.
The physical Church building can represent for us the fellowship we enjoy with one another, and I’m sure we miss that even more at this time. Yet fellowship isn’t confined to a Church building, because it is about people communicating with each other, and joining together in discipleship and pastoral care.
One of the main things on our minds is how we connect with each other and look after each other while we can’t join together physically. In my thoughts are those especially who are not so able to connect via social media or use the internet, those who are far from home among us without the usual support systems of family, as well as those who are experiencing life’s ups and downs.
For me too, in this season of Easter, the Church is about how we are as people, shine the light of Christ. That’s not easy stuck indoors. But it’s those little conversations over the phone we make to reach out to others, or the waving to others as we clap the NHS and key workers on a Thursday at 8pm, or talking to a neighbour at a safe distance over the garden fence. There are some among us who are working in care, putting themselves at risk for those who are unable to help themselves.
We have the picture of the Church together in the New Testament. We’ve not picked up on Holy Habits at the moment, but it’s all about growing together in discipleship, as well as personally. The reading at the top of this is Jesus’ commission to the apostles. They didn’t have a Church building. They just had people’s homes. They grew together and in numbers. But they started so small, and they were to go out from their homes to make disciples of all nations.
To me, those thoughts of Church without building lead me to think about the purpose of the Church, the people, the body of Christ, as those going out to others. At the very end of the month, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the coming of whom enabled the disciples to go out to tell the good news. It’s called the birthday of the Church. We don’t know by then if we’ll be able to go out freely then or whether we’ll be able to worship together.
I wonder though what your thoughts are of what the Church, the Church as people and our calling by Christ to be His body in the world is to you. Let me know by the week before Pentecost, and I’ll endeavour to collate your thoughts. Send me an email or give me a call.
With love in Christ,
For those who haven’t been able to venture past the Church, Brenda and David put up this splendid banner in support of the NHS and key workers the first week of applauding the NHS. Lots of people look at it as they go by. It’s still good to have a physical presence in the community!
A very big THANK YOU to all our members and friends who have sent donations to the FOODBANK directly to the warehouse, through the Church and through cheques to me.
All except one of the Distribution Centres remain open but they are functioning on skeleton staff. We are using cars as well as the van to comply with the 2 metre distancing rule and the warehouse and office have been changed round. The Supermarkets are delivering in-store donations to the Warehouse. This is very useful and thank you to the people who are donating that way. I was able to do a large shop with the donations sent directly to me and Morrison’s management were happy to allow me to have goods. I delivered a cheque and the extra cash to the warehouse this week and have since received a further donation.
Unfortunately I have had to withdraw from the warehouse but am keeping in touch and will return as soon as it is safe to do. FoodBanks are classed as an ‘Essential Occupation’
I have received a ‘Thank You” letter from the Food Bank Trustees. This is for donations for the year ending 31st March 2020. The church has donated £50.00 in cheques & £125.00 in cash. A lot of cash donations to myself are spent on food so are recorded with the weight of food donated but I have not yet received a note of that weight of food.
Up to 31/3/20, a total of 89 tonnes of food was donated. This provided food for 11,712 people including 4,434 children. We have also provided some food to PAFRAS and St. George’s Crypt. We have noted an increase of 30% from last year and have opened 2 more Centres during the year.
Julie Brownrigg’s letter ends: “ We really appreciate your help in maintaining our service through your generous support. We look forward to continuing to work with you, as long as our service is required in the communities we work in.“
Njube Congregational Church, Bulawayo, Synod of UCCSA
Many of you will remember supporting Njube Church in past Lent Appeals. Vuli tells me that the church, along with other church buildings, is presently being used to help treat victims of the Covid19 epidemic. We are proud to be able to support the Congregational Church in Zimbabwe – through Vuli – in these difficult days. Doreen celebrates the world church in her poem.
Not one, not two, not five, a score
But many, many more.
Not fifty, not a hundred, then
Just double that and start again.
How great a number have you got?
A hundred thousand, quite a lot.
God’s churches, town and country wide,
Stained glass and spires and more beside
In distant lands, sweet voices raise
Above tin roofs, with hymns of praise.
Both near and far, where people dwell,
The calling voice and tolling bell
Bring folk together, there to pray
In countless churches on God’s day.
Rejoice, rejoice! How blessed are we,
No matter what the total be.
We praise Our Father, and the Son
And realize, the Church is One.
We offer our condolences to Brenda and all her family on the sad news that her brother, John McIntosh, passed away suddenly in the early hours of Monday, 20th April. He was an invaluable member of the team at St Chad’s serving as their caretaker for many years. The family always joined us for Brenda’s Bonfire Party and he will be sadly missed by the extended family and his friends and colleagues at St. Chad’s.
THIS BREATHLESS EARTH
We bolted every door but even so
We couldn’t catch our breath for very fear:
Fear of their knocking at the gate below,
Fear that they’d find and kill us even here.
Though Mary’s tale had quickened all our hearts
Each fleeting hope just deepens your despair:
The panic grips again, the gasping starts,
The drowning, and the coming up for air.
Then suddenly, a different atmosphere,
A clarity of light, a strange release,
And, all unlooked for, Christ himself was there
Love in his eyes and on his lips, our peace.
So now we breathe again, sent forth, forgiven,
To bring this breathless earth a breath of heaven.
Malcolm Guite wrote this sonnet for the first Sunday after Easter when the Apostles hid themselves away, frightened for their lives and unable to face the future despite the assurance from Mary that Christ had risen. He has written the poem for this Easter, to reflect the fear and isolation that so many of us are feeling.
I have included Malcolm Guite’s work from time to time and he is happy to have it reproduced, free from copyright, in this way. You may also wish to look at his website malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/ where you will find other poems, including one which celebrates his small local church, Hatley, St George and whose doors are presently locked. Following major repairs to this 14th century church in the 1960’s, the church now has an East Wall with an arched window of clear glass which, as in our own church, opens to the trees beyond. His thoughts on being in that ancient church, I feel sure will reflect your own on visiting other village churches, where you feel surrounded by all those who have worshipped there before you, and the past and present meet in prayer.
I am sure many of you will have enjoyed ‘being together’ on Sunday mornings through our own church services that Clare has arranged for us and Ian Lawrie has compiled each week. Brian, Clare’s husband, also enabled the ‘Zoom Video Conference’ which joined people together to celebrate the Service of Tenebrae on Maundy Thursday. We thank them all for their skills and patience and, perhaps, the ‘learning on their feet’ that has kept a feeling of unity when we are in physical isolation.
This has been a particular tour de force for Ian who is trying hard to find hymns and music we can use without any infringements and we thank him for his dedication. If you can help Ian in any way, by reading a lesson or prayer, or have music you have played and recorded yourself, please do contact him. He would welcome your support.