Parish Magazine June/July 2020

As the Parish magazine is not being published on paper, we are publishing extracts on this page throughout the month.  The latest extracts will be at the top of the page.  Scroll down for earlier articles.

11th July -  St Benedict, author of the famous Rule

 

St Benedict (c.480 – c.550) was an abbot and author of the famous Rule that bears his name. Because of his Rule, Benedict is also the Patriarch of Western Monasticism, and Patron Saint of Europe.

 

Surprisingly little is known about his life. Born at Nursia, Benedict studied at Rome, which he then left before completing his studies to become a hermit at Subiaco. After a time disciples joined him, whom he organised into twelve deaneries of ten. After an attempt on his life, Benedict moved on to Monte Cassino, near Naples, where he wrote the final version of his Rule.  

 

Benedict’s Rule is justly famous and respected: not only did it incorporate much traditional monastic teaching from revered monks like Basil, but Benedict went on to modify this in a way characterised by prudence and moderation within a framework of authority, obedience, stability and community life. 

 

Benedict’s great achievement was to produce a monastic way of life that was complete, orderly, and workable. The monks’ primary occupation was liturgical prayer, which was complemented by sacred reading and manual work of various kinds.   

 

Benedict’s own personality shines through this Rule: wise, discreet, flexible, learned in the law of God, but also a spiritual father to his community.  Benedict’s Rule came to be recognised as the fundamental monastic code of Western Europe in the early Middle Ages. Because of his Rule, monasteries became centres of learning, agriculture, hospitality, and medicine. Thus, Benedict came to influence the lives of millions of people.

 

Why sometimes you need a broken heart

 

There is a Hasidic tale which evokes Deuteronomy 11:18, and seems especially apt for now:

 

‘The pupil comes to the rabbi and asks, “Why does Torah tell us to ‘place these words upon our hearts’? Why does it not tell us to place these holy words in our hearts?”

 

‘The rabbi answers, “It is because as we are, our hearts are closed, and we cannot place the holy words in our hearts. So, we place them on top of our hearts. And there they stay, until, one day, the heart breaks, and the words fall in.”’

 

It’s often the case that our own breakthroughs seem to happen when we, ourselves, break open, isn’t it? 

 

This has been, without doubt, a time of breaking open; if not for us personally, then almost certainly for some of those we know and love.

 

And we’re all affected, in different ways. We’ve all experienced disorientation. We’ve all lost direct contact with people we love. Many still have no physical contact with others. There’s a place for keeping calm and carrying on, but there’s time enough to honour sorrow, too.

 

The words of the Aaronic blessing have flowed so beautifully through the world, in song, this season. So often, it’s when ‘all is well’ that we perceive God’s blessing in our lives. But how resonant, those words, from within a place where all is not?

 

Perhaps we can treasure those words that may have rested gently on our hearts, awaiting the time they fall a little further into place. May we thus be open, within this historic opening?  And may, indeed:

‘the LORD bless you

and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face towards you
and give you peace.’

 

Christian Aid’s concern for women during Covid-19

 

The ACT Alliance, a network of 135 faith-based actors and churches operating in 120 countries, has called attention to the gendered dimension of Covid-19.  It is urging that the international community, including churches and religious organisations, should take this into account.  

 

Women are afforded fewer rights than men worldwide, and although the disease itself might cause higher mortality amongst men, it is clear that the social impacts of Covid-19 will impact women the most.

  

Women living in poverty do not have the ability to take time off work, do not have adequate access to housing to self-isolate, and cannot stockpile provisions. 

 

Poor women, girls and vulnerable groups are least likely to be able to access healthcare and treatment. The situation will be critical for women migrant workers, women on the move and those living in refugee camps or slums. 

 

Daniela Varano, Communications Officer at ACT Alliance said: "Domestic violence cases have risen dramatically as women and girls across most countries have been quarantined, often with their abusers. It is crucial that all governments put in place affirmative actions and inclusive policies that level the playing field.”

 

ACT Alliance, together with its members, has launched a Global Appeal to support the most marginalised communities during this crisis.

 

This series is written by Dr Ruth M Bancewicz, who is Church Engagement Director at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge. Ruth writes on the positive relationship between Science and Christian faith.  

 

A Scientist Reflects: Suffering and the Image of God

 

As I write, volunteers are distributing food to people who have been deprived of their usual ways of earning an income during the lockdown in a Majority World country. I became involved in raising money for this initiative very recently, and saw videos from the first people to receive packages. There were expressions of happiness, hope, quiet sadness, resignation, desperation – most often a mixture of several of these feelings at the same time. 

 

I believe that our cries for answers at times like this, and our deep longing for things to be better, kinder, more just, less painful and chaotic, are a sign that we are made in the image of God. The Bible describes God creating men and women, instructing them to rule over the earth, and giving them the freedom to choose what they will do. The world God made was described as “very good”, but human wrongdoing caused a rift between people and God, and also between us and the rest of creation. 

From a scientist’s perspective, it seems that the potential for accidents, disease and death – for both animals and humans – may have been part of God’s very good creation, and there was a real threat of famine, albeit far rarer than in our current mismanaged version of creation? How would we have managed life in what Genesis describes as an un-subdued world if our relationship with God hadn’t broken down, and evil hadn’t been unleashed? Maybe painful experiences would have been experienced as challenges that brought us closer to each other and to God, rather than bringing us the experience of suffering (which I would define more particularly as involving distress, isolation and fear)? Of course, these are theoretical questions that no one can answer, but perhaps they are worth exploring. 

 

God has already responded to suffering at a root level by taking it on Himself. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus broke the power of sin and death. We do not yet see the final results of those decisive actions – the end of suffering for all those who trust Him – but we can already feel their impact. For example, many people have experienced the wonderful effect, either in their own lives or by receiving kindness from others, which is described by these words: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). 

 

Some of the people who received food yesterday were, in the words of the community team leader, “really desperate”, but yet they still trust God to meet their needs. My hope is that the worldwide Church will, with God’s help, be part of the answer to their prayers – demonstrating our true status as people made in the image of God.  

 

All in the month of July

 

95 years ago, on 10th July 1925, was the start of the Scopes Trial.  John Scopes was prosecuted for the crime of teaching the theory of evolution, in a case that's quickly branded 'the Monkey Trial.' For fuller details please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopes_Trial

 

80 years ago, on 10th July 1940 to 31st October 1940: The Battle of Britain took place.  British victory.

 

35 years ago, on 10th July 1985, the Greenpeace ship 'Rainbow Warrior' is sunk in Auckland, New Zealand, by the French secret service.

 

80 years ago, on 11th July 1940, World War One hero Henri Petain becomes head of the collaborative Vichy government of France.

 

25 years ago, on 11th July 1995 that the Srebrenica Massacre took place. The Bosnian Serb Army seized control of Srebrenica and massacred 8,000 men and boys.

 

Gardening Against the Odds?

 

The Conservation Foundation has relaunched Gardening Against the Odds as a virtual network and is getting some excellent interest. 

 

As a result, it may be making a radio series soon, featuring some of the projects it has discovered over the years which show how people combat ‘odds’ – mental, physical and environmental - by gardening, even when they have no garden.  

 

These people plant seeds which they watch grow, eventually producing growth leading to flowers and fruit. Sometimes they work alone, sometimes there is an opportunity to share, producing a sense of community.  All this is nothing new, but many people are discovering the benefits of gardening as a result of lockdown – discovering how gardening can help combat loneliness and depression with a sense of caring and wellbeing sometimes with life changing results.

 

This is a very topical issue and so if you have discovered the benefits of gardening recently – or know someone who has – the Conservation Foundation would love to hear from you as soon as possible. Please contact : davidshreeve@conservationfoundation.co.uk. Facebook @gardeningagainsttheodds  websitehttps://conservationfoundation.co.uk/projects/gardening-against-the-odds/

 

23rd Psalm for the hard-pressed student 

The Lord is my real instructor and I shall not want. 
He gives me peace, when chaos is all around me. 
He gently reminds me to pray before I speak and to do things without complaining.
He reminds me that He, and not my school, is my Salvation. 
He restores my sanity every day and guides my decisions that I might honour
Him in everything I do.

Even though I face absurd amounts of social isolation, live streaming and exams, I will not stop - for He is with me!

His presence, His peace, and His power will see me through. 
He will raise me up, even if I fail to get a good grade. 
He claims me as His own and knows that I have done my best.


His faithfulness and love are better than any A+. 
In eternity it won’t matter what degree I got. 

When it's all said and done, I'll be working for Him a whole lot longer than
I'll be in school (even when it doesn't feel like it) and for that, I bless His name!

 

A prayer about the outbreak

Keep us, good Lord,

under the shadow of your mercy

in this time of uncertainty and distress.

Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,

and lift up all who are brought low;

that we may rejoice in your comfort

knowing that nothing can separate us

from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

 

Coronavirus:  For the first time in history, we can help save the human race by lying in front of the TV and doing nothing.  Let’s not mess this one up.

7th July -    St Willibald, the first ever Anglo-Saxon travel writer

 

Where would you like to go on your summer travels? If you enjoy including a Christian element to your trips, such as making a pilgrimage, or visiting places rich in Christian history, then St. Willibald (d. 876) is the saint for you this month. He was one of the most widely travelled Anglo-Saxons of his time.

 

Willibald began life in Wessex, becoming a monk at Bishops Waltham (Hants). But he obviously had the curiosity that besets all keen travellers – what is it like over there…just over the next hill, round the next corner? And so Willibald set out… for Rome, Cyprus, Syria and above all, Palestine. It was an amazing achievement, just to survive such journeys back in the early 8th century.

 

In Palestine, Willibald made his way round all the Holy Places associated with Jesus, as well as the numerous communities of monks and hermits living there. On his eventual return to Europe, Willibald decided to tell his story. He dictated an account of all his travels to a long-suffering nun, Hugeburc, who wrote it up under the title of Hodoeporicon – the first ever travel book to be written by an Anglo-Saxon.

 

After a long stay in Constantinople, the year 730 found Willibald back in Rome, where he settled at the monastery at Monte Cassino. Under his reforming influence, the monastery began to prosper. That got Willibald ‘noticed’, and soon Boniface asked Pope Gregory III to send him on to Germany, where Willibald was made bishop of Echstatt.  Here he founded a monastery that became an important centre for the diffusion and development of monasticism.  After 45 years as Bishop at Echstatt, Willibald died in c. 786. His relics remain there till this day.  

 

New Archbishop of York to be confirmed

 

Bishop Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell will be confirmed as the 98th Archbishop of York this month.  

 

The service, at 11am on Thursday 9th July, will be broadcast entirely via video conference due to the Coronavirus restrictions. 

 

The service, which had been due to take place in York Minster, will be in two parts. A legal ceremony with readings, prayers and music, will be followed by a film marking the start of Bishop Stephen’s ministry as Archbishop of York.  

 

Bishop Stephen Cottrell says: “I am looking forward to beginning my ministry as the 98th Archbishop of York. This isn’t quite how I imagined it would begin. It is certainly the first time an Archbishop’s election will have been confirmed via video conference. But we’re all having to re-imagine how we live our lives and how we inhabit the world. 

 

“These are difficult times. My hope is that through this service the love of God that is given us in Jesus Christ will shine out, perhaps even to those who while never attending a service in York Minster, might have a look online

 

Following in the footsteps of my many predecessors, I look forward to serving our nation and bringing the love and peace of Christ to our world, especially here in the north.”

 

The service will be available on the Church of England website. Arrangements for Bishop Stephen’s enthronement service will be announced later in the year.

Now too frightened to go out

 

Agoraphobia, the fear of open or crowded places, is on the rise. That is the warning from two charities who work to help those with anxiety problems. 

 

Calls to mental health organisations such as Sane and Anxiety UK have rocketed in recent weeks.  Both have extended their helpline hours in order to offer support.

 

Sane has reported a 200 per cent rise in calls for help, and warns that residents of tower blocks and substandard housing are going to experience ‘more and more’ fear of going outside.  

 

Anxiety UK has reported more than double its normal calls and has recruited a large number of new volunteers to cope with the increased demand.

 

If you would like to contact either, go to:  http://www.sane.org.uk or https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk

 

All in the month of July

 

90 years ago, on 7th July 1930 that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British writer who created the detective Sherlock Holmes, died.

 

15 years ago, on 7th July 2005 that the London Bombings took place.  A coordinated series of four suicide bomb attacks on London’s transport systems during the morning rush hour killed 56 people, including the four bombers. More than 700 were injured.  It was the worst-ever attack on Britain, and the country’s first attack by suicide bombers.

 

65 years ago, on 9th July 1955 that the song ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and His Comets reached #1 on the Billboard chart in the USA.  It remained there for eight weeks. Although not the first rock & roll song, it is considered the song that brought rock & roll into the mainstream.

 

The man who created Sherlock Holmes

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the multi-talented writer who created Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most famous detective, died 90 years ago, on 7th July 1930 at his home in Sussex, probably of a heart attack. He was 71.

 

He had been born in Edinburgh to a prosperous Irish-Catholic family with a dysfunctional father and a loving mother who had a talent for inventing stories. He spent seven years in a Jesuit boarding school in England, which he loathed, and qualified as a medical doctor at the University of Edinburgh. He added ‘Conan’ to his name at that stage. 

 

He wrote the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, in 1887. In all, he wrote nearly 60 novels or short stories involving Holmes and his sidekick, Dr Watson. He did not regard them as his best work – he wrote prolifically on many subjects – but their characterisation and ingenious plotting made them by far the most popular.  

 

He was married twice – first to “gentle and amiable” Louisa Hawkins, the sister of one of his patients, and then, after she died of tuberculosis in 1906, to the “strikingly beautiful” and talented Jean Leckie. Towards the end of his life he developed a strong interest in the occult and spiritualism. He was knighted in 1902.

 

Book Reviews

 

Q & A Bible Verse 5-Year Journal – blue edition

Edited by Carol Petley, SPCK, £10.49

 

This devotional journal enables you to reflect on your spiritual journey over a period of five years. Approachable and encouraging, it offers a brief Scripture reading and a question for each day, on topics such as praise, faith, prayer, worry, creation and forgiveness.

As you record your responses over the years, you’ll discover how difficult things can be used by God in ways we cannot foresee. Most valuable of all, the journal helps you to find time to be with God for a few minutes each evening as you contemplate the events of the day.

 

My Sour-Sweet Days – George Herbert and the Journey of the Soul

By Mark Oakley, SPCK, £6.99

 

Mark Oakley reveals George Herbert as a fine companion with whom to examine the journey of the soul. His poems are 'heart-work and heaven-work', embracing love and closeness, anger and despair, reconciliation and hope. There is, too, an appealing and audacious playfulness about Herbert: he seems to take God on, knowing God will win, confident God will not abandon him. This sense of relationship with God as primarily friendship is one of many intriguing and healing aspects we are invited to consider. 

This book contains 40 well-chosen poems by George Herbert (widely considered the greatest devotional poet in the English language), each of which is followed by a short reflection by Mark Oakley. 

 

Patterns in the Psalms – a colouring book

SPCK, £9.99

 

This summer, if you have time on your hands, why not colour your way through the beautiful imagery of the Psalms? 

This book contains 30 illustrations with a corresponding verse, all designed to appeal to an adult market. The designs include animals, flowers, leaves, waves, stars and other patterns. Readers can enjoy the creativity and freedom of adding colour to these intricate designs, whilst scripture provides inspiration and reflection for each page.

 

The Link-It-Up Bible

By Bob Hartman, SPCK, £9.99

 

Highly visual and interactive, this book of more than 60 stories, highlights the links between stories and draws attention to the wider themes of the Bible.

With arrows zipping across the page, pull-out text boxes asking the reader questions and illustration elements bringing each story to life, this book sees the whole Bible linked up and connected to show the bigger story at work - and the God behind it all.

 

A Fruitful Life: Abiding in Christ as seen in John 15

By Tony Horsfall, BRF, £8.99

 

This book will point you back to the simplicity of a life lived out of relationship with Jesus Christ. The branch bears fruit only because it abides in the vine.

 

In John chapter 15, the famous 'vine' passage, Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure and describing how they can be effective witnesses in a hostile world. Just as His instructions revolutionised their lives, so a proper understanding of what He is saying can revolutionise our lives also. It is the heart of the gospel message: the only way to live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in us and through us.

 

Faith in Children

By Ronni Lamont, Monarch, £9.99

 

This book offers a window into the process going on inside our children and enables those who work with them to understand what makes a particular child 'tick'. With insights into a range of teaching methods, learning styles and the unique spirituality of children, this book suggests how adults can truly learn from children as they learn from us. 

 

There are also tips for ministers and educators on how this precious teaching and nurturing resource can be sustained and used to work with children in a more effective manner. Through this increasing knowledge and understanding, adults can come closer to understanding children understanding God.

 

God Made Animals

By Stephanie Bryant, Elizabeth Henderson, and Steph Marshall, Lion Hudson, £5.99

 

“God has given us lots of clues about how He made animals. This is how we think He did it…” The ‘God Made’ series encourages young children to explore and discover more about the world around them, and tells them about the loving God who made it all. Scientific ideas about how everything came to be are simply explained through the lively narrative and amazing illustrations, leaving children full of wonder at God’s creativity, love, and power. 

 

With input from The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, and fun experiments for curious young scientists to try, this series is an ideal way to help children engage with and celebrate God and His universe.

 

Freedom From Fear – overcoming worry and anxiety

By Neil Anderson & Rich Miller, Monarch, £9.99

 

If you find it hard to sleep, are anxious about tomorrow, are paralysed by fear of failure, then you are not alone. Anxiety disorders are the main mental health problem in the Western world. We are suffering a 'blues' epidemic. 

 

Neil Anderson and Rich Miller contend that the only satisfactory long-term solution is a knowledge of God, and a right relationship with Him. The authors identify how mental strongholds of fear and anxiety develop, then reveal powerful biblical strategies for defeating them in Christ and finding home for tomorrow. This careful, well-researched book is rooted in pastoral experience over many years.

 

Learning to Walk in the Dark – because God often shows up at night

By Barbara Brown Taylor, Canterbury Press, £12.99

 

Barbara Brown Taylor explores 'the treasures of darkness' that the Bible speaks about. What can we learn about the ways of God when we cannot see the way ahead, are lost, alone, frightened, not in control or when the world around us seems to have descended into darkness?

 

Contemporary culture throws many brightly lit distractions at us to divert our attention away from the dark, but Barbara Brown Taylor combines her great grace, sensitivity and insight as a writer and priest with the deep wisdom of the biblical and Christian traditions to discover how God is more present to our vulnerable, open night-time selves than to our pre-occupied daylight selves.

 

Grace of Waiting – learning patience and embracing its gifts

By Margaret Whipp, Canterbury Press, £10.99

 

This wise and beautiful book draws on the experience of unchosen waiting - in sickness, in old age, and in the struggles and frustrations of everyday life - to explore the challenges of waiting and the skills it demands.

 

It may help anyone who finds themselves in a time of waiting, chosen or unchosen, or accompanying others through such times, it shows how the paradoxical gifts of patience point to the God who kindly waits for us.

 

The book explores four vivid metaphors for life's waiting times:

* Wilderness - the practices of surrender and struggle; the gift of sustenance

* Winter - the practices of resilience and rootedness; the gift of renewal

*Winepress - the practices of constancy and compassion; the gift of consolation

* Womb - the practices of nurture and noticing; the gift of newness and naming

 

If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain - struggling with evil, suffering and faith

By John Dickson, 10ofThose, £5.99

 

Can we still believe in God in the face of all the suffering and pain in the world? 

 

John Dickson looks honestly at the question and provides some compelling answers. He looks briefly at the alternative explanations for suffering provided by Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Atheism, before turning to what the Bible itself says about God, justice and suffering. 

6th July -    Thomas More, Reformation martyr

 

These days, lawyers and politicians are held in the lowest esteem by the public, along with tabloid journalists and estate agents. St Thomas More was both a lawyer and politician, who is today much admired for holding steadfastly to his faith-based principles. He lived in dangerous times, when anyone, even queens, who displeased King Henry VIII could find themselves in a condemned cell in The Tower of London.

 

Sir Thomas More held the office of Lord High Chancellor and at one time was the king’s most trusted adviser. But when King Henry took personal control of the Church in England in order to divorce his first wife, More courageously opposed him. 

 

Thomas More was a social philosopher and the author of ‘Utopia’. This book described an imaginary republic governed by an educated elite who employed reason rather than self-interest for the general good of everyone. He was himself one of the pre-eminent scholars of his age. 

 

As a Christian theologian he supported orthodox doctrine, vigorously opposed heresy and argued strongly against the new Protestant ideas taking hold in Europe. Although holding the highest political and legal office he was far from being a pragmatic politician and opportunist lawyer. In every matter he was a man who held firmly to what he believed was right in God’s eyes.

 

When Thomas More fell from favour with the king, as a result of his unflinching views, he was falsely accused of taking bribes. When this charge failed, his enemies accused him of supporting a celebrated seer of the times who was strongly critical of the king. This too failed. He was then required to swear to the Oath of Supremacy, acknowledging Henry’s position as head of the Church of England. This he could not do in conscience. 

 

He was put on trial and condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered for his treason, a punishment later changed to beheading. He died in 1535 and on the scaffold his final words were ‘I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.’ He has been officially declared a martyr saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

 

7th July -    St Boisil of Melrose, patron saint for ordinands?

 

Have you ever noticed how life-enhancing good ministers are? St Boisil (d.c.661) should be their patron saint. He did nothing spectacular, but he did everything that mattered.

 

Boisil was a monk who became abbot of Melrose, in the Irish monastic tradition. Boisil knew about God – he had spent years in study, and this earned him respect. Boisil walked with God – his transparent holiness made people love and trust him. Boisil could hear God speak – he was so open to God’s Spirit that he was even given the gift of prophecy, which is God speaking through one person into specific situations in other people’s lives.   

 

Knowledge of God, obedience to God, and a prophetic gift from God. It is faithful Christians such as Boisil who have kept the Church going over the centuries. Sadly, in 661 Boisil caught the plague. He spent his last hours on earth reading St John’s gospel with Cuthbert, another Celtic monk, who also caught the plague. Boisil prophesied that Cuthbert would live, but that he would die. But this did not trouble him: Boisil knew in whom he believed and was looking forward to finally seeing his beloved Master, face to face.

 

Michael Oh, Global Executive Director / CEO of the Lausanne Movement, shares some encouragement to those who are facing trouble because of coronavirus. This article has been adapted from a longer article.

 

Ask Him for ‘pandemic grace’

 

There are hardships you and your family might be facing, as you try to respond well to the challenges brought about by this COVID-19 pandemic.

 

At the 2nd Lausanne Congress in 1989 in Manila, a Chinese brother shared the story of his imprisonment in a labour camp in China because of his faith. The authorities thought that the best way to reform and torture him was to make him empty the cesspool of human waste. All the human waste collected from the entire camp stagnated in that cesspool. He shared these words:

 

“I had to walk into the disease-ridden mass to empty it, and all the time I had to inhale that horrible stench. My captors thought it was the best place for a Christian leader, but I enjoyed working in the cesspool because I liked the solitude. 

 

“In the labour camp, all prisoners were under constant surveillance. None of us could be alone. Only when I worked in the cesspool could I be alone, then I could pray to our Lord as loudly as I wanted. I could recite the Scriptures and psalms of the Bible that I still remembered. No one would come close enough to protest. In those years, one of my favourite hymns when I worked in the pit was ‘In the Garden’. And when I sang this hymn in the cesspool, I understood the meaning of garden, and I knew where God was. I met my Lord in the garden of the cesspool.”

 

That Chinese brother could be thankful for the cesspool. There, he experienced ‘cesspool grace’. That is a grace that can only be experienced in a cesspool. I am sharing this story with you because I think it holds some real perspective for our lives today. 

 

Because of coronavirus, you may be facing some very heavy challenges in your life. Maybe it is the loss of a loved one to Covid-19, maybe your business has collapsed, or your job disappeared. Maybe you can no longer pay the rent or mortgage.  Maybe you or a loved one is struggling with depression or anxiety and stress. In these days of global pandemic, we are facing circumstances and challenges unlike anything that we’ve experienced before.

 

It is my hope and prayer that, if you are in trouble, you will turn to God and see and experience the unique grace that is offered to you in that circumstance by your Heavenly Father, your faithful Heavenly Father. Anxiety grace. Unemployment grace. Depression grace. 

 

Like our brother in the cesspool, in every circumstance, you too can have the opportunity to experience the closeness of God in your suffering in a very unique way.  

 

Today, if you feel overwhelmed with the challenges the pandemic has thrown at you, may God would grant to you COVID-19 grace—a grace that you can only experience in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. May God be with you, my friend.

 

 

 

All in the month of July

 

75 year ago, on 5th July 1945 WWII leader Winston Churchill lost the British General Election to Clement Attlee’s Labour Party.

 

70 years ago, on 5th July 1950 that Israel’s Knesset passed the Law of Return, which granted all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel.

 

40 years ago, on 5th July 1980 that Swedish tennis player Bjorn Borg won the Wimbledon singles championship for a record fifth consecutive time.

 

485 years ago today Sir Thomas More is executed for refusing to accept Henry VIII as head of the Church of England.

 

335 year ago in the last major battle on English soil, James II defeats James, Duke of Monmouth at Sedgemoor.

 

60 years ago, on 6th July 1960 Aneurin (‘Nye’) Bevan, Minister of Health (1945-51) who led the establishment of the National Health Service, died.

 

15 year ago today, London was selected to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, narrowly beating favourites Paris.

 

The Ven John Barton writes in praise of our health service.

 

The NHS – bearing one another’s burdens

 

“Save the NHS” was the slogan chosen by the British government when the coronavirus began to spread.  Meant to evoke public compassion, and compliance with emergency regulations, it sounded as though the NHS was an endangered species.  In fact it was the public themselves whose lives were in jeopardy; the National Health Service existed solely for their benefit.  The slogan did manage to stir gratitude for a service which had been taken for granted, as well as appreciation of its 1.5+ million staff, many of whom were now putting their own lives at greater risk.

 

The idea for a countrywide medical service came from the Beveridge Report, instigated by the coalition government during World War II.  “Medical treatment covering all requirements will be provided for all citizens by a national health service”, is how it was defined, though it had to wait until 1948 for its implementation to begin.

 

It was part of a programme for reconstruction, aiming to eliminate Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.  Sir William Beveridge, who gave his name to the report, was close friends with two other social reformers: R H Tawney, and William Temple, who was to become Archbishop of Canterbury.  Today’s Archbishop, Justin Welby, wrote this about the trio: “Drawing on Christian understandings of justice, generosity and human dignity, they described the kind of country that they felt reflected God’s values better.” 

 

St Paul couldn’t have thought he was providing a slogan for a welfare state when he wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ”, but that is a neat summary of the way the National Health Service works.  We all pay in when we can and we all benefit when we need.

 

One estimate of the cost of the NHS today is £158.4 billion, which in real terms is 10 times as much as in 1950. In the meantime, it’s no longer completely free for all.  Prescription charges and dental fees have been introduced.  The development of ever-more sophisticated life-saving drugs and medical procedures will inevitably mean higher costs - and a heightened moral dilemma.  Must there be further limits to the provision of “medical treatment covering all requirements”?

 

The colossal task of rebuilding a shattered economy in the years to come may compel the British people to choose between what is essential and what is optional.  The Christian principle now sounds particularly demanding: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ”.

 

Smile Lines

 

Pancakes

 

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, five, and Ryan, three. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the chance for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.'”

 

Quick as a wink, Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus!" 
 

Seagull


A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. "Daddy, what happened to him?"

 

"He died and went to heaven," the father replied. 

 

The boy thought a moment and then asked: "Why did God throw him back down?"

 

Lost in translation

 

Last year, some friends took their six-year-old on a car trip to France. To help pass the time on the way down to the Channel, they encouraged their son to practise his new reading skills by calling out road signs.

 

He fell asleep just before they entered France. When he awoke, he saw the French motorway signs and said in a worried tone, "I think I forgot how to read while I was asleep."                          

3rd July -    St Thomas the Apostle, confused and doubting

 

Thomas, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, was an impulsive, confused, honest sceptic. Jesus could understand and work with such a man. Thomas’ impulsiveness was evident when Jesus prepared to visit Lazarus in Bethany. It was a dangerous trip to make, because of the Jews, but Thomas urged his fellow disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16) Instead, Jesus brought Lazarus back to life.

 

Thomas’ confusion is shown in later talks with Jesus. He was not really sure where Jesus was going long-term (John 14:5). But Jesus accepted this confused commitment, and began to untangle it, patiently explaining: “I am going to my Father”, and “No one comes unto the Father but by me.”

 

Finally, Thomas’ honest scepticism is revealed after the Resurrection, which he flatly refused to believe - unless he could touch the wounds of the risen Jesus. Sure enough, Jesus appears - but instead of scolding him, shows him the wounds. Thomas responds: “My Lord and my God”(John 20.26ff). 

 

Thus Doubting Thomas’ honest doubts, turned to honest faith, have become a reassurance for thousands of men and women across the centuries, who also want to follow Jesus, but who require some proof of this amazing event - the Resurrection. In Doubting Thomas’ complete affirmation of faith, after meeting the risen, crucified Christ, they can find support for their own faith.

 

Ancient legends tell how Thomas went on to India as a missionary.There are rumours that Thomas even built a palace for a king’s daughter in India, and thus he is the patron saint of architects. It is believed that he was martyred by a spear on 3rd July, 72 AD in Mylapore, near Madras. 46 ancient churches in England were dedicated to him.

 

4th July -    St Elizabeth of Portugal, compassion for prostitutes

 

St Elizabeth of Portugal (1271 – 1336) could be the patron saint of all well-to-do women who have compassionate hearts. As wife of Denis, the King of Portugal, Elizabeth became a byword for her acts of piety and charity to the poor. She founded convents, hospitals, and shelters for prostitutes.  After Denis died, she became a Franciscan tertiary at a Poor Clare convent.

 

Reflected Faith Series:  a ‘Holding Cross’

 

Many churches today are using social media to hold public services – either together at the same time or uploaded so you can listen and watch at any time and worship in your home when it is convenient for you.

 

I find that having a ‘prayer space’ when I join, as well as when I pray alone, enables me to enter into that time of holiness quicker and more fruitfully.

 

It’s like when you physically go to a church building for a service. Your hand holds the door handle and you choose to enter into a sacred space.

 

Not many of us have the luxury of a separate space where we currently live, and in many ways I prefer not to distinguish prayer life from everyday life.  After all, where does one end and the other begin? God is everywhere; in every room in the house.  He’s no less in my home or yours than He is in our locked church buildings. He’s with me when I pray and when I eat, or cook, or watch TV and so on.

 

One item I appreciate is a cross that I can hold. Ideally one that completely fits into my hand.

 

There are wooden ‘Holding Crosses’ that you can make or buy especially for this purpose, but you can use any material. Perhaps you could make one out of felt and stuff it, to give it form and solidity.

 

I have one made from an old plastic book binding strip, which I cut to size. One piece slots into the other, to form the cross shape.

 

What I appreciate about the holding cross is its firmness, it reminds me that Christ is my firm foundation; that God is solid and dependable. It reminds me also that whatever happens I will cling to Him. And it tells me that as I hold that cross in my hand so I pray that He will hold me forever, never letting me go or fall.

 

This month:  See what materials you have from which you could make a Holding Cross.  What feelings and thoughts come to you as you use it in your prayer and worship time?

 

I have two, one that I helped make when we made them for everyone going on the Millenium pilgrimage that Churches Together in Pontefract went on to Wakefield Cathedral and another that Mary Cass made for one of St Michael’s Coffee Mornings.

 

All in the month of July

 

It was 175 years ago, on 4th July 1845 that Thomas Barnardo, Irish humanitarian and philanthropist was born. He founded Barnardo’s, a charity which cares for vulnerable children and young people.

Tim Lenton considers the founding of an important charity.  You could make this local by asking if any of your readers support any children’s charities, and if so, which ones and why.

 

Remembering the man who founded Barnardo’s

 

It was 175 years ago, on 4th July 1845, that Thomas Barnardo, the humanitarian and philanthropist, was born in Dublin. He founded Barnardo’s, a charity which continues to care for vulnerable children and young people. 

 

The son of a furrier, he worked as a clerk until converted to evangelical Christianity in 1862. He moved to London, intending to study medicine and become a missionary in China. He never qualified as a doctor – despite being known as Dr Barnardo – and soon decided that his real calling was to help poor children living on the streets of London, where one in five children died before their fifth birthday. 

 

He opened his first home for boys in 1870 and soon vowed never to turn a child away. Most Victorians saw poverty as shameful, associating it with poor morals and laziness, but Barnardo refused to discriminate. He made sure boys were trained and found them apprenticeships. 

 

When Barnardo died in 1905, he left 96 homes caring for more than 8,500 vulnerable children, including those with learning difficulties. Because he believed that children should ideally grow up in a family setting, in 1887 he introduced an early form of fostering – boarding out children to host families.

 

Tidal wave of sales coming

 

“This summer will be an absolute bonanza for shoppers, and they should be selective and patient… discounting will continue throughout the summer.”  So says Clive Black, a retail analyst at Shore Capital.

 

He explains that billions of pounds of winter stock is coming over to the UK in ships, but the retail warehouses are still full of unsold summer stock... “The magnitude of what has happened has never been seen in modern times.”

 

No wonder, then, that some analysts predict that shops will offer up to 70 per cent off throughout July, August and September. 

 

The Revd Dr Jo White continues her series on symbols in our churches.  This began in March and will run for the rest of 2020.

 

Poem based on the Book of Numbers

 

Nigel Beeton writes:  Shirley, my Mother-in-Law, was 92 on Friday 26th May. She can't walk well, so copying Major Tom's feat of 100 trips around the garden will not be possible, nor even 92, but she set herself a lockdown challenge of reading through the Bible. Facing the book of Numbers, I said that if she'd read the book, I'd write a poem based on a passage from Numbers! She's now in Deuteronomy, so here's my poem, from Numbers 20:1-13!

 

Speak, don’t Strike!

 

Now Moses, a prophet of old

Was obedient wise, and quite bold

The Israelites he

Led through the Red Sea

(They generally did as he told.)

 

To get to that great Promised Land

They had to cross miles of sand

The Desert of Zin

Caused them to grow thin

No water or food was to hand.

 

The people, at this, then rebelled

At Moses and Aaron they yelled,

“You and your thick head!

“We wish we were dead!

“For drinks and good grub are withheld!”

 

For Moses, this wasn’t that nice;

He turned to the Lord for advice,

“To the rock you must go,

“And tell it to flow,

“And water will come in a trice!”

 

So Moses went out straight away,

But the people had caused such dismay

That he disobeyed God –

Struck the rock with his rod,

But the water came out anyway.

 

Said God, (disappointed, of course):

“I told you to SPEAK to that source,

“You won’t go, as planned

“To my promised land,

“You should have used words, not brute force!”

 

By Nigel Beeton

 

A prayer about the coronavirus outbreak

 

God of compassion,

be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.

In their loneliness, be their consolation;

in their anxiety, be their hope;

in their darkness, be their light;

through him who suffered alone on the cross,

but reigns with you in glory,

Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Smile Lines

 

Beware
 

As you prepare for the school holidays, remember this: children are natural mimics. They act like us in spite of all our attempts to teach them good manners.

1st July -    St Theobald, choosing God, not money

 

If you are thinking of turning your back on wealth and privilege, in order to do something that you feel God is calling you to do, St Theobald (1017 – 1066) may be the saint for you. He was born into an aristocratic family at Provins in France. But he became a hermit with a fellow ex-soldier in the Pettingen Forest in Luxembourg. They later moved to Salanigo in Italy. Theobald’s holy life attracted so many followers that he was canonised by Pope Alexander II in 1073.

 

2nd July -   St John Francis Regis, patron saint for relief workers

 

Do you ever admire relief workers? They are hardy folk, who regularly appear on our TV screens, actively seeking out the disease-ridden, starving, destitute people of the world, instead of avoiding them, as most of us try and do.  

 

John Francis Regis (1597 – 1640) could be a patron saint of relief workers. It all began back in the early 1600s when he was ordained a Jesuit priest in Toulouse, a town raging with plague. Instead of fleeing for his life, John Regis decided to stay and minister to the plague victims.     

 

Somehow, he survived, and was then sent by his bishop to do mission work in Pamiers and Montpellier. For years, John taught and preached Christ’s love, and also put it into action: he collected food for the hungry, clothing for the poor, visited prisoners, and even set up some homes for desperate ex-prostitutes.  

 

In mid-September of 1640, John had a premonition of his approaching death. He took a three-day retreat in order to calmly prepare himself for it, and then he went back to work. Over Christmas, while helping the poor, he caught a chill. By 31st December, he was dying of pneumonia, but at peace: he had been granted a vision of heaven, and could not wait to get there. His was a life well lived – he was ‘a good and faithful servant’.

 

The Coronavirus, Church & You Survey

 

You are invited to take part in this national survey…details below

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had a profound effect on churches. The lockdown has severely restricted ministry in areas such as pastoral care, fellowship groups, and serving the community. On the other hand, for those with online access, worship has taken on new and creative forms over the last few weeks. Many clergy and ministry teams have risen to the challenge of operating in the virtual environment. 

 

As we pass the most severe period of lockdown, it seems a good time to assess how churchgoers have responded to the experience, and what they think the future might hold. How well have people coped with the pandemic? Has it strengthened or weakened their faith? How has it been for clergy and ministry teams trying to work in this new environment? How have those receiving ministry found this novel experience? Will virtual ministry become part of the post-pandemic landscape, and will this be a good move for your church?

 

We have developed a survey over the last few weeks in discussion with bishops, clergy and lay people which we hope will enable you to record your experience of the pandemic, the ministry you have given or received, and what you think will happen to churches in a post-pandemic world. 

 

In an article to launch the survey in the Church Times, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, wrote: “This survey is an attempt to go beyond anecdote… It will capture evidence of both excitement and fears for the future, of where stress levels have changed, and whether personal faith has weakened or grown.”

 

This is an online survey, which we estimate it will take you about 20-30 minutes to complete. Most of the questions simply require you to tick boxes, though there are options to specify your particular circumstances, and an opportunity at the end for you to tell us your views in your own words. Alongside questions about the pandemic and ministry there are sections which ask about you: these are important because they will allow us to see how the lockdown is affecting different sorts of people in different contexts. 

 

The survey can be completed on mobile phones, though it is more quickly completed on devices with larger screens such as tablets or computers. You can access using the following link: https://yorksj.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cAYhUS8YSvn0ir3   (You can copy and paste this link or ‘Control & click’ it.)

 

Please forward this link to any churches or churchgoers you feel might want to take part in the survey and support this research. We should have some initial results within a few weeks and will make these available as widely as we can.

 

The Revd Professor Andrew Village, 

York St John University  a.village@yorksj.ac.uk

 

The Revd Canon Professor Leslie J. Francis, 

Visiting Professor York St John University

 

Mike Truman reports on one group badly hit by lockdown.

Lockdown in Bethlehem

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll of death and illness around the world. However, the statistics don’t always tell the full story. 

 

On the face of it, Palestine has escaped lightly, with only two deaths and under 400 cases at the time of writing; but the economic impact on the people has been devastating. 

 

This is particularly true of the Christian artisans in and around Bethlehem, who make their living carving nativity sets, crosses and other souvenirs from olive wood for sale to tourists and pilgrims. It’s a tradition that started early in the 14th century, when the Franciscans first settled in Bethlehem. They brought in Italian wood carvers who taught local people how to make olive wood carvings for pilgrims, and the craft has been handed down within families ever since.

 

A group of Christian pilgrims from Greece brought Covid-19 to Palestine in late February. The first local cases in Bethlehem were discovered on 5th March, and within 48 hours the city was locked down, with no visitors coming in or out, the churches, mosques, shops and schools all closed. 

 

That may seem an extreme reaction, but Palestine’s healthcare system is fragile. If the virus spread through the crowded refugee camps it could be unstoppable.

 

With no tourists coming in, the artisans have no income. They are growing vegetables in their back gardens to survive. The lockdown was in place until early June, but even then, tourists will not be visiting for months, perhaps a year or more. Their only hope is to sell overseas.

 

‘Made in Bethlehem’ is a part-time not-for-profit fair-trade business importing the work of these artisans from two fair-trade wholesalers in Bethlehem.  The prices are set to just cover the costs of buying, shipping and selling. Normally the goods are sold at craft markets in the UK, but these too are closed at the moment. 

 

If you would like to help the Christian artisans of Bethlehem, please visit the online shop at Facebook, @MadeInBethlehem  or email made.in.bethlehem@gmail.com

 

Buttercups – treasure in our countryside

 

Buttercup! What a delicious name! Rumour has it that, as they were frequently to be found in meadows where cows grazed, they were responsible for butter's yellow colouring.  So the name was an obvious choice. 

 

However, since buttercups are poisonous and therefore are avoided as far as possible by our four-footed friends, this is somewhat unlikely. But surely, we all remember having a buttercup held under our chin to see whether the reflection proved that we liked butter! The shiny surface of the petals actually has two real purposes. Firstly, to help attract insects and secondly to act as a kind of mirror to aid the temperature regulation of the plant's reproductive organs. 

            

We are fortunate that buttercups do not suffer from the same unpopularity as other poisonous plants, because if eaten, not only do they taste nasty, but the poison will also cause blisters in the mouth of the consumer. Extensive handling can also damage the skin, but presumably the size of bunch that many of us picked as children did not count as 'extensive'. Fortunately, Health and Safety experts do not yet seem to have forbidden this source of pleasure for little people. Incidentally, the poison is reduced as the plant dries, and hay that includes buttercups is safe for cows and horses to eat.

            

Buttercups help form the traditional view of the British countryside. Differing varieties range in height from small to quite tall and although at their peak in early summer, the golden blooms can often still be seen in mid-autumn. Jan Struther, who wrote 'Lord of all hopefulness' also wrote a children's hymn entitled 'Treasure' It starts:

 

                   Daisies are our silver, buttercups our gold:

                   This is all the treasure we can have or hold.

 

Smile Lines

                                 

New version of Apostles’ Creed

 

When our church began live streaming its services, our minister was at first a bit nervous. Still, he kept his cool, and you would never have known he was struggling until he reached the Apostles’ Creed. Then he firmly announced that Jesus was..."confused by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary..." 

 

New style of prayer

 

Our minister is still getting used to live streaming our church services. Last Sunday he invited us to join him digitally in prayer by saying firmly: "Let's bow our eyes and close our heads."

 

Crazy?


Our minister wanted the title of his next sermon to be posted ahead of time on the church website. He rang our church warden and said that the title was to be: ‘Are Ministers Crazy?’


Not hearing this as a question, the church warden dutifully posted: ‘Our Minister's Crazy.’

© 2018  St Stephen's Church, East Hardwick