23rd June 2020
A message from the Manse
This may seem like waiting for a bus, you wait and then three turn up, I have not sent any messages for a few weeks then you receive one every week for three weeks, this is because from the 26th June I will be taking 2 weeks annual leave, although this will be with a slight difference as most of the time I will be at home. During this period, I will not be responding to emails or answering the phone. If you need to contact someone urgently, please contact our Superintendent Revd. Mark Sherman
Tel 01507 603402
Circuit Service 28th June at 2:00pm
Following the success of the circuit Pentecost service on Zoom there is another circuit service this Sunday 28th June, you can access this service either with the internet or using one of the phone numbers provided below then entering the Meeting ID followed by the password when prompted.
Dial by your location
0203 481 5240 United Kingdom
0131 460 1196 United Kingdom
0203 051 2874 United Kingdom
0203 481 5237 United Kingdom
Meeting ID: 824 3244 9117
Latest from the government regarding Churches reopening.
As I have been writing this Mr Johnson has been speaking about lifting restrictions on the reopening of churches amongst other businesses, however before the decision can be made by the Churches, we need to await guidance from Connexion and District.
News from Connexion, District and Circuit
This week sees the opening of the Methodist Conference over Zoom, the first time this has happened.
Circuit Meeting News: from the meeting on 18th June 2020 extracted from the East Lincs Link
This was held over the internet using Zoom.
• Following much discussion in CLT about the difficult financial situation many chapels find themselves in and issues with meeting the assessment, the Circuit Invitation Committee met via Zoom on the 10th June and reluctantly decided that the Circuit could not financially continue to sustain 3 presbyters. They therefore recommended that we do not enter the stationing process this year as would have happened given that Rev Phil Greetham’s extension comes to an end in 2021. This was agreed by the Circuit Meeting. Prayer and discussions will continue as to how pastoral ministry will be organised, but lay pastors are one possibility. Mark will take on Withern and Alford and Graham Phil’s other churches. Please pray for Phil and Glenda as they seek God’s will for the future, and for the Circuit as we find our way forward.
17th June 2020
Church reopening update
It’s only a week since I sent the last ‘message from the manse’.
There is a considerable amount of work that needs to be completed before the churches can be ready to reopen, reading through the Re-opening of Buildings Checklist which is produced by the Methodist Church is very comprehensive, which covers everything that needs to be done from airing the building to completely flushing all the water as that’s been standing in the pipes for 3 month to checking the heating and electric circuits. That is before we consider the precautions that need to be in place to allow worship to take place, some of which come under the Covid-19 risk assessment that will need to be completed, which included the government requirement for hand cleaning stations, people to keep a safe distance from each other at the time of writing this is 2 metres, as an example of the difference that makes to how many we can get in the church. Skegness Chapel was measured, where under ‘normal’ conditions we could comfortably seat around 50, this number under current social distancing rules is reduced to around 12. There is the need to ensure that the church is cleaned before and after use.
It is for those reasons along with other considerations that we are still not in a position to open the churches, however I will continue with the ‘message from the manse’ and worship material, as well as keeping you informed with what’s happening throughout the circuit and further afield in Methodism.
09th June 2020
A message from the Manse
I have been looking back to when the coronavirus lockdown started on 23rd March, things have certainly changed since then. Whilst we have been told we can spend more time outdoors the message remains the same that we need to be alert, alert to those around us, I would also add keep alert to the news. Hopefully we have started on the long path back to normality, although some of this will depend on what happens over the next few weeks. When I have been chatting around the churches, I have found a whole range of emotions where some are looking forward to the churches reopening and on the opposite end some are concerned about the reopening of churches.
From the circuit
Following the positive feed back after the Circuit service on Zoom on Pentecost Sunday 31st May, it has been decided to hold another Circuit Service on Zoom on 28th June at 2:00pm. This is a great opportunity for you to join in with the circuit in worship, details will follow.
From District and Connexion
Later on this month the Methodist Conference will meet on Zoom, albeit with a paired down agenda, which will include stationing. Please pray for those ministers and circuits where there is change this year, there will not be the opportunity for the churches and the ministers to say their farewells, and there may not be the opportunity for welcome services to take place
Re-opening of churches for private prayer.
As part of the governments plan to get things up and running again, churches will be allowed to reopen for private prayer from Monday 15th June. For this to happen there would need to be various precautions in place which includes completing a checklist for the reopening of church buildings and a Covid-19 risk assessment. Although I am not aware of any of the Methodist churches being left open for private prayer prior to the lockdown on 23rd March. Perhaps something to look at in the future.
Re-opening of churches for worship after July4th
The next major change in coming out of lockdown happens on July 4th when the Government proposes to allow churches to open for worship, amongst a host of other areas being allowed to open. This is provisional and dependent on the 5 markers that the government has set being met. I have been holding telephone meetings with the stewards of each church where we have discussed when to reopen the churches for worship. There has been some prayerful consideration as to when this can take place, along with the stewards consulting church members. Following a second telephone conference with the stewards the decision has reluctantly been made not to open the church for worship on Sunday 5th July. When it is felt appropriate to open the church for worship everyone will be informed.
Southern Cluster get together
You may recall that I have spoken about a get together of the churches under my pastoral oversight in the southern Cluster of the Circuit on Saturday 18th July. As we will in all likelihood still be having to maintain social distancing, I feel that is something that needs to be postponed until such time when there is no social distancing requirement.
Reflection on Luke 14:25-33
In this part of Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus talking about the cost of discipleship, with the need to plan ahead and consider all that is involved. As we look to the future, we look at what’s happening now, and what happened before Lockdown. I think that in a few years’ time we will look back at this as a defining time in the history of humankind, we might even refer to it as Before Lockdown (BL) and post Lockdown (PL). As the world gradually moves towards PL it’s a time to reflect on what is church, what we did before and as we gradually move to reopening what can we do to improve on things in a Post lockdown era. Connexion, Districts and Circuits are discovering the benefits of online meetings, I have discovered the benefit of telephone conference meeting with the church stewards, some circuits have virtual coffee mornings on the telephone and telephone bible study. This does not compensate for face to face meetings, but it will no doubt become part of everyday life as some of the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
I Look forward to the day when we can all meet face to face
19th May 2020
Greeting to you all
I hope you all managed to spend some time on Friday 8th May thinking about and remembering
the events of 75 years ago when victory in Europe was declared. In Skegness we marked the
day as best we could, we did hear some music playing locally around 4:00pm, I think there
was a group having a street party nearby where each family had a tea party in their front
gardens, for me it was a time of giving thanks that Peace had once again found its place in
Europe. It was an opportunity to remember all those who lost their lives during the war, along
with those whose lives were damaged by the war.
You will find the usual reflections for use on Sundays, the readings and reflections for 24th
May has been provided from an online Methodist resource, this material is made available
throughout the connexion, as you read through this on Sunday 24th you will be joining with
others from across the country. The following Sunday 31st May will be Pentecost, the material
provided for this Sunday will be in a slightly different format, as it will be a full order including
hymns of a service that the circuit will be transmitting via Zoom at 3:00pm. Information will
be emailed to those whose email addresses I have nearer the date. If you do not have internet
access, or you may prefer not to use the internet for Zoom, the full-service sheet is provided
with this mailing. This is not as prefect as joining together to celebrate what we think of as
the universal church birthday, we can at least join together in worship if not physically we will
be together in spirit.
Finally, I have included the service sheet for 7th June which is Trinity Sunday which has been
provided by the Methodist church, again people throughout the connexion will be using this
for worship in their own homes.
As you are aware the lockdown that we are in has been eased slightly as part of stage one of
the governments easing of restrictions. During the past weekend we have noticed more traffic
noise along with some of the sea front kiosks opening for business. The local park has seen a
greater footfall, the good news is that people are getting out to enjoy the open air on this first
stage towards things returning to what we consider normal. Amongst the easing has been a
proposed date of 4th July when Churches can reopen for worship which is stage three of the
easing of restrictions. There may still be social distancing in place along with extra precautions
that need to take place to ensure that those who wish to attend church for worship are kept
safe. I hope to be able to send to the church stewards guidance on opening the churches. The
decision to open the church will depend on government guidance alongside being able to ensure all conditions are met, and the church feeling confident it can be done in a safe manner.
When we allow the use of church buildings for mid-week activities and other users’ needs to be carefully considered to ensure that the social distancing guidelines are maintained, some activities may need to be on hold for a few more months.
If you do have any concerns, please feel free to call me
In the meantime, keep safe
5th May 2020
As usual this letter accompanies various other items some to help you in your weekly devotions. Just a recap I send this to everyone in the churches under my pastoral oversight as listed in the letterhead. I send this out via email to those able to access it and Royal Mail for others. As the attached reflections take us up to and including Sunday 17th May, I will be sending out the next communication to arrive in time for Thursday 21st May, Ascension Day, amongst them will be additional material for Aldersgate Sunday and Pentecost.
Thinking forward to June 14th which is marked in the Methodist calendar as Methodist Homes for the Aged (MHA) Sunday, a time set aside to think about the work of MHA, and to raise money for the MHA either through envelope giving or special fund raising events. It is also a time when we pray for the work of MHA. This year may prove to be difficult for us to do much for MHA as we do not know when the government will start to lift their restriction. What we are aware of is the amount of loss of life there has been in care homes across the country due to covid-19, last week we were made more aware of what was happening in residential care homes. In my previous circuit I was privileged to be involved with 3 residential care homes, the care homes are tight knit communities. It is in these communities where the care home staff are the front line workers, some have taken up residency in the care home or in a caravan adjacent to the care home so that the care home is kept isolated. MHA rely and benefit from the support they receive from the Methodist Church either financially or practically, please remember the work of MHA in your prayers.
Looking towards the future, we are entering a period of time when some of the restrictions on gatherings and movement are being reviewed, with some restrictions being lifted. Understandably the Government will be taking a cautious approach to this no doubt allowing time between lifting restrictions to monitor the effect on Coronavirus. One method of enabling face to face meetings is Zoom which is a system of video conferencing over the internet, the circuit is using Zoom today to hold a Circuit Leadership meeting.
In the meantime, keep safe
Welcome to the message from the Manse, as we know the government have decided that the lockdown should continue for at least another 3 weeks, the current rules state that there must be a review every 3 weeks. In one sense this can seem frustrating as we find new ways to cope with having to stay within our own homes and gardens apart from a daily walk and shopping or other essential trips out. If during this time you find yourself struggling please feel free to call me or call other members of your church community.
The Circuit is putting together the next preaching plan for June to August in anticipation of the current restrictions being lifted by then, although that may not be the case. We are all in this time of uncertainty, which is affecting travel plans, there is wisdom planning for the times of freer movement so that we are not caught unawares. Gaynor and I have booked two weeks Holiday for the end of June beginning of July, we hope to be able to get away in our caravan during this time but if the travel restrictions are still in place we are thinking about alternative plans.
Looking back to the Easter weekend Skegness was very quiet with all but a few locals who were taking advantage of the sunshine for their daily exercise. The quietness enables us to appreciate some of the finer things of nature, we can hear bird song. One evening Gaynor stood outside after walking Gideon listening to the sea, usually there is background noise so we cannot hear this. On a similar note towns and cities are now experiencing cleaner air as there are less cars on the road, even the sky’s look different as there is not the vapour trails from aircraft, and I heard of one report that said the canals of Venice have become clearer where people can see the fish in them. Nature seems to be recovering from years of abuse, perhaps this is a sign in itself that when the lockdown is lifted, we should not go back to how things
were before. There seems to be a reordering as we discover what is really important, although I have a feeling that deep down we were already aware of what is really important but the current situation has brought us face to face with what is and is not important.
As we are still in the Easter season, I thought I would share a few thoughts with you on the resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Luke 24:13-35 The walk to Emmaus
Two people at the end of the day walking back to their home in Emmaus, talking about what they had seen and what they had heard over the past few days. They were part of the wider circle of followers of Jesus, that is not part of the twelve disciples. They were concerned about what they knew
and what they had heard, was it true that Jesus had defied
death? Or had someone stolen the body? Any number of
questions would be going through their minds, they we
that engrossed in their conversation that they did not see
Jesus come alongside them, they were prevented from
recognising him. At this point the poem footprints comes
to mind where the person is looking back on their life and
seeing only one set of footprints through the troubled
time of their life and thinking that at those times they
were on their own and Jesus had deserted him. Jesus
reminded him that it was at those points that Jesus was
carrying him through the difficult times although he was
not aware of it. Jesus walked along side those two
troubled souls talking to them easing their minds and
setting their minds at rest, giving them a sense of peace.
When they arrived at Emmaus with the Jesus making as
if to go on, they offered him a place for the night.
Hospitality formed a part of the culture of the time, there
were no Holiday Inns or such like to find a bed for the
night. It was then at Supper that their eyes were opened,
and they recognised Jesus.
It would have been easy for Jesus to make himself known
as he joined the two on the road to Emmaus, but they
would not have had that same conversation as Jesus
explained why events happened as they did.
Life can be like that, when something happens it is not
until after that we learn the reasons for things happening
as they do. We can indeed be struggling with a situation
not knowing or understanding why things are happening
as they are, we can feel that Jesus is far away. We may be
having similar thoughts regarding the current situation
that the world is in at this moment with Coronavirus, we
could be struggling to find the right answers, through
faith we know that God is at work in the background.
John 20:19-23 Jesus appears to his Disciples
We read that it was on the evening of the resurrection that the disciples had gathered in a house,
this was the first time they came together as a group following Jesus death and resurrection.
The early church learnt the importance of meeting together in an intentional way these being
the first intentional communities. When we meet on Sunday it is an intentional community,
where we fellowship over tea/coffee, where we hear about each other’s concerns and can offer
support. It is through the community that we can grow together and become resilient. We are
now in a situation where we are learning how to be community in different ways, keeping in
contact via the internet or phone plays a large part in our new ways of being community. Using
this method of communication where you receive this via email or Royal Mail is my way of
keeping in contact with all of you in the Southern Cluster of Churches. If you have news that
you would like to share amongst the community either church or further afield, I would be
pleased to include it in this mailing that comes out now approximately every two weeks
In the meantime, keep safe.
Holy Week Greetings
Greetings to you during Holy Week, the previous two Messages from the Manse were an attempt to keep everyone in the Southern Cluster informed whilst at the same time proving material to use at home during this difficult time. By using the material provided we can feel connected to our friends from church who will be doing the same as us. I aim to continue in this for the duration of the time we are in “lockdown”, although they may be coming out less frequently say, once every two weeks.
I have included in this mailing, An Easter letter from our Superintendent Minister Revd. Mark Sherman, a prayer card, and a few of my reflections on the resurrection. You have already received a link to the connexion magazine, extracts from the magazine will be printed and posted out to those receiving this via Royal Mail.
Link for Connexion Magazine https://www.methodist.org.uk/media/16619/the-connexion-magazine-issue-18.pdf (Some may have had this delivered, it is full of interesting articles well worth a read. I want to drawer your attention to the article on pages 24,25 which is about the period between Ascension and Pentecost. Which for a number of years has been called Thy Kingdom Come, this year with a theme of praying for 5 people to help you with this there is a prayer journal available.)
Link for Rev Mark Sherman's letter
I have included a prayer card with two prayers on it which I find helpful during this time of uncertainty, on one side is the Methodist Covenant Prayer which is central to the covenant service, on the other side is the Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr, which I find echoes the theme of the covenant prayer. If you find them helpful, please use them.
(the prayer card appears on the worship page of this site - click here)
Reflections on the resurrection
When Mary stood at the tomb in which the body of Jesus had been laid on Friday, the last thing that she expected was to see Jesus standing beside her, despite the fact that Mary along with the rest of the disciples had been told by Jesus more than once that he would rise again on the third day.
One of the reasons that Mary did not recognise Jesus is that it was out of context, she knew that Jesus had died upon the cross, she had seen his body laid to rest in this tomb, there had been a stone rolled over the front of the tomb. The Gospel of Mark (Mark16:3) records the women worrying about the heavy stone rolled across the entrance of the Tomb, as they went to the tomb in the early hours of the morning just as day was breaking, saying to each other “who will roll the stone away for us from the entrance of the tomb.”
There can be a number of reasons that makes it difficult for people to be recognised, a change of hair style or colour, changing the clothes we wear. Wearing contact lenses instead of glasses or wearing glasses when you don’t normally wear them. Seeing people out of their usual situation can mean that it is difficult to recognise them, I have had embarrassing moments when I have been out and about when someone comes up to greet and speak to me, as I speak to them I am searching through my memory as to where I know
them from, is it from one of the churches I have oversight of, or do they go to one of the other
churches in the circuit I have been to, or is it someone I have met elsewhere? I hope that in the
conversation a clue comes up to help me.
We are not told what the difference was in Jesus appearance that made it difficult for Mary to
recognise him. She thought that it was the gardener standing behind her, had she seen the
gardener on a previous occasion? Even from a distance, she no doubt expected a gardener to be
present, where as she did not expect Jesus to be standing behind her. It was only when Jesus
said her name that she realised who it was and the veil of despair had been lifted from her.
Mary went to the garden Tomb not expecting to encounter the risen Jesus, this as much as
anything contributed to her lack of recognising Jesus. Mary was not looking for Jesus in the living
sense. When we go about our daily business whether its work, rest or recreation, whether we are
in the green grocers or supermarket, or opening the door at home to an unknown visitor, whatever
we do we need to do it with the expectation of seeing Jesus. By going about our daily business
with the expectation of meeting our risen Lord, we will find it easier to recognise Jesus, in the
hands of the hairdresser, in the eyes of the stranger on our doorstep.
During these strange times we are seeing and hearing of people who are going out of their way to
help others less fortunate, neighbours offering to do the shopping, hospital and care home staff
having to work in a difficult contagious environment, others going about their daily work from those
on the farm to transport workers and factory workers. Just as Mary eventually recognised who it
was standing next to her so it is that we are seeing the value in the people around us
A letter from the Manse, Delivered via email or Royal Mail
We are now back from a week’s holiday at home, on Monday Gaynor started working from home with a video conference. One of the advantages of not going away is that we found time to do one or two things around the manse garden ready for the summer. We have replanted our strawberry tubs with 27 strawberry plants where we hope to enjoy the fruits of our labours during the summer, as well as a general tidy up round the garden.
One of the strengths of Methodism is that we are part of a connexion, churches are part of a circuit, circuits are part of the district and districts make up the conference which enables everyone to be kept informed which is important at times like this. During this time of self-isolation, I will be using these messages from the manse to share any information etc with all of you who are connected to the five churches under my pastoral oversight. This will be in addition to any devotional material that I include in the mailing. If you have any interesting news items or stories or simple crafts that can be done at home that you would like to share around the churches, please feel free to contact me either through email or telephone.
As we move towards Palm Sunday on April 5th, we start on a journey through Holy week which can be likened to a roller coaster ride of emotions from the exuberance and excitement of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through to Maundy Thursday where the Passover meal would have a festive feel as they remembered and celebrated the time when Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to freedom. later on that same evening with the arrest of Jesus and the disciples scattering in fear. Then when the Disciples woke on Friday which would become a day when they saw their way of life with Jesus torn apart as Jesus was tried, mocked, and whipped then having been condemned to death on the cross was taken to Golgotha where he was raised up on the cross suffering the same fate as criminals. On the day of the resurrection, a day which would begin with uncertainty and fear and end in joy and thanksgiving as they became witnesses to the resurrection. Although the impact of the resurrection and what it would mean for the disciples would be gradually
revealed over the weeks ahead. I have included further resources to help in your
reflections during Holy week.
Churches together Sunday evening prayers
You may recall or have heard about the Sunday evening time of prayer with the
placing of candles in windows at 7:00pm which took place on Sunday 22nd, an
initiative started and led by Churches Together in England, (CTE). They have
progressed this with the invitation to display a poster of a candle in your window, live
prayers and services being streamed at 7:00pm on Sunday evenings. You will find a
poster in this mailing with the encouragement that it is placed in a window as a
reminder to the few passers by that the church is united in prayer during this time. St
Paul tells us to pray continuously, I suggest you could spend a time of prayer,
remembering those who are suffering through the Coronavirus, the doctors and all
who work in the health service, those working on farms, distribution warehouses,
lorry drivers, in retail, along side the less obvious people like the refuse collectors
and other council officials, this is just a few suggestions you might like to add others
to your prayers.
That’s all for now don’t forget if there’s something you want to share contact me.
Burgh Le Marsh, Chapel St Leonards, Skegness, Thorpe Fendyke, Wainfleet All Saints, Methodist Churches
Rev. Graham P Miles B.Th.
A letter from the Manse, Delivered via email or Royal Mail
The government response to the coronavirus is moving at a swift pace, the churches find it challenging to keep up with Government directions which are changing daily as self-isolation is imposed. Very likely by the time you read this there may be government legislation to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this virus.
As you know all Churches have closed for worship and mid-week activities. In line with government guidelines I have cancelled the Saturday coffee mornings at the manse until normal life resumes.
For those with access to the internet there are many resources available to enable you to take part in worship. If you do not have the internet, BBC have revised their Sunday programme to include an act of worship at 11:45 on BBC1, whilst BBC Radio Lincolnshire will be transmitting a service earlier in the day. To help you in your home devotions I have included some Methodist resources that can be used with a bible and a copy of Hymns & Psalms, I hope you find these useful, they can be used on Sunday and daily. I suggest it would be helpful to set aside a time each day to use these resources, and to remember all those who are working hard in dealing with the Coronavirus. If you are not sure how to use them, please contact me.
Last week I spent time encouraging the churches to set up phone partners or phone support systems. There may need to be some tweaking before we have a satisfactory working system, hopefully this will provide a good platform for keeping in contact with each other in addition to this I will also be spending time each week phoning round to keep in contact and to ensure all is as well as can be expected under the current circumstances. If you need anything, please feel free to contact me.
Below is a prayer written by the President of conference
Keep safe, and keep in contact
A Prayer by the President of the Conference:
If we are ill, strengthen us
If we are tired
Fortify our spirits
If we are anxious
Help us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
Help us not to stockpile treasures from supermarkets in the barns of our larders!
Don't let fear cause us to overlook the needs of others more vulnerable than ourselves
Fix our eyes on your story
And our hearts on your grace
Help us always to hold fast to the good and see the good in others.
And remember there is just one world, one hope,
One everlasting love, with baskets of bread for everyone.
In Jesus we make our prayer,
The one who suffered, died and was raised to new life,
In whom we trust, these days and all days. Amen
New Year Message
We have had the Christmas celebrations and in the early part of the new year we have had an Epiphany service. The churches are now moving to the period where we hold our annual Covenant service, this year I started with Skegness on the first Sunday of January. Most of the Sundays over the next few weeks will be taken up with Covenant services, a time when we reflect on our relationship with God and with one another across the world.
Australia is having many bush fires like never before with record breaking temperatures, other countries are experiencing monsoons like never before, bringing loss and damage to property and loss of life. Unusual weather patterns in this country bring about an unusually mild winter at the time of writing. Some of what is happening was predicted by scientists years ago as a result of global warming.
How does this fit in with us, with our covenant relationship with God? What can we do to help alleviate the effects of global warming and the pollution of our planet. We are aware of the effects of plastic in the oceans. Most of this seems a colossal task too big for the individual to even contemplate.
There was a story floating around the internet about a couple who had a holiday on a remote beach in the tropics, one night there was a storm, when the man woke early in the morning he got up to go to see what effects the storm had had locally. On the beach he saw a huge pile of star fish that had been washed up on the shore, there stood a boy who was picking a star fish up and throwing it into the sea. The man told him that there was too many starfish and he would hardly make a difference. The boy replied as he picked up another starfish, “It’s making a difference to this one.”
Most days when I walk along the beach I can find plastic washed up on the shore line, I take a bag with me to collect it up and put it in the bins, whilst it does not make a difference in the huge scheme of things, if everyone who walked along the beach collected discarded plastic and other rubbish it would make a bigger difference.
Returning to the covenant service, there is the promise made at the covenant service which helps remind us of the relationship that we have with Our God the creator of this planet and universe:
I am no longer my own but yours. Your will, not mine, be done in all things, wherever you may place me, in all that I do and in all that I may endure; when there is work for me and when there is none; when I am troubled and when I am at peace. Your will be done when I am valued and when I am disregarded; when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking; when I have all things, and when I have nothing. I willingly offer all I have and am to serve you, as and where you choose.
The covenant covers all aspects of daily life, whatever I may be doing, whether I am walking our dog Gideon, on the beach or leading worship in church it is with the covenant prayer in mind. If you do nothing else this year, might I suggest you keep the covenant prayer close to hand.
A Christmas Message
A few years ago we went on holiday to France; we had booked on the Saturday morning ferry from Portsmouth to Caen. As we did not want to drive to Portsmouth in the early hours of the morning, and then drive 200 miles through France on Saturday afternoon we booked a room at the local Portsmouth Travel Lodge using the internet. When we arrived at the Travel Lodge early Friday evening during their busiest period as it was the start of the school holidays, there was a queue of people seeking rooms with many being turned away. As we had pre-booked a room, there was no problem, for us it was straight up to the room and then something to eat. But for those who had not booked they had to start the wearisome task of driving round a strange town looking for a room for the night, or driving on to the ferry terminal and trying to get some sleep in the car. Sometimes it is difficult to plan ahead or book a room ahead.
When Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem for the census (Luke 2:1-7) they did not have modern means of communication. There was no way a room could be pre booked, they had to rely on chance that there would be somewhere they could rest safely for the night. Joseph and Mary were turned away at the inn, as Luke writes ‘because there was no room.’ Such a simple statement, we are not told if they tried other inns or homes for shelter for the night, but we are told that they found their way to the place where the animals are kept overnight. They took refuge in a stable, where the Son of God was born; Mary laid him in a cattle feeding trough, wrapping him in bands of cloth possibly torn from their own clothes or blankets. It was in the manger that the Son of God was displayed in all humility identifying Him with all humanity.
There is something immensely humbling about the birth of Jesus. God did not want His Son to be born in a privileged household where he would grow up as a prince in a palace surrounded by guards, where the world would be viewed from a distance. In such places there is a filtering system in place which prevents all people having a deep personal relationship with the prince. One of the extreme examples of privileged isolation is seen in times of the Chinese Emperors of old, who grew up and lived inside the Forbidden City surrounded by their entourage, where they were not only aware of conditions outside the forbidden city, they did not experience at first hand the conditions on the other side of the wall. It was here in Bethlehem one of the less important towns, in one of the least imaginable places where God chose to make his presence amongst humankind known, where the first to visit the infant were one of the least noble professions the shepherds. Who would be followed by foreign wise men who came to pay homage. These were not the kind of people that you would expect to find first in line to honour a new-born baby who would eventually be known as King of the Jews.
The birth of the Son of God brings hope to the world, the hope comes in knowing that through the humble birth in a stable, and the humble life amongst ordinary folk, God aligns himself with all of humanity, where God experiences the hardship of life at first hand. It is through Jesus experience that God is with each one of us no matter what we experience, and if God is with us no matter what our circumstances may be, God is there for us.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year
A time of remembering
As the year moves on November starts with a time of remembering, Nov 1st is marked as All Saints day. It was the tradition of the early church of marking the day of death of Christian Martyrs. November 1st was the date which was fixed in the calendars during the time of Pope Gregory III (731-741), when he consecrated a chapel to all the Martyrs in St Peters Basilica. With All Souls day, November 2nd commemorating the souls of all the faithful departed.
With the burning of effigies on November 5th England commemorates the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes in blowing up the Houses of Parliament. Then on November 11th we commemorate all the fallen of two world wars and many wars in-between and right up to todays armed conflicts. Throughout each one of these dates we are encouraged to remember.
On Armistice Day we remember the time when fighting stopped on November 11th at 11am in 1918. When this day was first set as Remembrance Day it was hoped that by people remembering the death and destruction of the First World War, the world would think more carefully about any future armed conflict.
Remembering is part of our faith, each Sunday we remember and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and every time we share bread and wine we are reminded of Jesus instruction to ‘do this in remembrance of me.’
To remember something is to give it value, remembering the fallen of the wars is to give their sacrifice value, remembering the Saints who were martyred is to give extra value to their life and death. Even remembering Guy Fawkes reminds us of the extremes people will go to when they are not happy with how things are run.
Greater value is put on memories if we learn from them. After the First World War governments got together to draw up an agreement known as the Geneva Convention so that when there is armed conflict there would hopefully be less human suffering.
The early Christian Martyrs were prepared to stand firm in their faith even if standing firm meant death inspiring successive generations to stand firm for what they believe in. Sometimes we are called to go the extra mile whether it is standing out for our faith or standing up for the weak and vulnerable and those without a voice in society. The difference for we Christians is that we can do so in the assurance that God is with us.
Harvest Festival and ‘Gods First Cathedral’
It’s coming around to that time of year, some churches have held their harvest festival, we at Skegness will be holding ours on Sunday 13th October where there will be a lunch put on after the service. I look forward to meeting and sharing in the harvest celebrations with you.
Thinking back to harvests past, I have the memory of going into a church that has been decorated for harvest my senses are overwhelmed with the sight and smell of fresh produce as a sign that all is safely gathered in. I know of one Church, long since closed, where some of the lady’s used to polish the apples with furniture polish so they had a good shine on them! Although I am not sure what happened to the apples after the harvest festival as most produce was either auctioned off or was sent round to some of the housebound in the church. Nowadays we collect tinned food to pass on to the food bank for the less fortunate in our community.
Even so its at this time of year where there seems to be a greater connection with Gods created world as described in the book of Genesis where we are reminded that we are stewards of creation entrusted with caring for Gods wonderful world.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to pick a theme for the next 12 months for the church after some careful thought I opted for the title ‘Gods First Cathedral’. A title that I discovered some years ago when researching eco churches. If we read through Genesis and the first part of Exodus there is no mention of worshipping God in Temples or Synagogues. The first time we come across an enclosure for worshipping God is when Moses relayed to the Hebrews instructions for the construction of the ‘Tent of the Lords presence’. Up until that point worship was conducted in the open. We now worship in our churches cocooned from the elements. Because of this we seem to have lost our sense of awe and wonder of living in Gods created world. Therefore, over the next 12 months I invite you to spend time outside, in the open, you may already do this. What I invite you to do is to stop look around you, and to ponder on the world we live in, spend time looking closely for small insects and birds, open your ears to the bird song and the noise of the breeze through trees and grass, and breathe in the smells of the flowers and the sea and even grass. To just marvel at Gods created world, giving thanks to God for his created world in all its diversity.
Hello and welcome from the manse, this will be hopefully the start of regular messages from me.
At the time of writing this we are taking a bit of a break from unpacking boxes after moving here from my previous circuit of Gloucestershire serving churches from around Churchdown. I find when moving home its amazing the amount of stuff that we accumulate over the years, I wonder how much of what we have do we really need. When Jesus sent the 70 disciples out on mission he told them to only take the shirt on their back and not even worry about taking a back pack with them and to rely on the hospitality of the towns and villages they visited.
Hospitality was a constant theme throughout the time Jesus spent with his disciples. Sharing meals together helps us to get to know each other. Its when we get to know each other through conversation and fellowship that we begin to understand each other. Some of the aggression we see in the news and in our communities is because assumptions are made due to our lack of understanding of each other.
Over the coming months I hope to get to know the communities in which the churches are located, as part of this getting to know you I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you a little about myself and my wife Gaynor. This will be my 16th year in Ministry and my third circuit. My previous circuits were in Norfolk and more recently Gloucestershire where the circuit covered the whole of the county. In both circuits I served in a variety of churches, from town churches to smaller village churches reaching out to all age groups.
For relaxation I enjoy spending my time in the kitchen where I can be found making sausages curing meats or producing various culinary delights. Some of our holidays are spent visiting my daughter Andrea and her family near Tamworth, who is looking forward to visiting us on numerous occasions.
I don’t want to say too much now, I am looking forward to the next few years as we seek fellowship together.