Rev. Alan Howe – retirement

Our current Priest in charge – The Rev. Canon Alan Howe – will retire from this parish as of 6th June. This will be last Sunday service that Alan will lead for us.

We wish him a happy retirement.

Tower Project – latest

The first phase of the Tower rennovation project has been completed, interior work including the removal of an asbestos, removing of rotten timber and replacing of wooden flooring, installation of a new tower and the wooden slated windows replaced.

The recent funding campaign has been a success and now allows us to move forward with phase 2 of the project: exterior work.

Sunday Reflection – 21/3/21

Dear Church Family

Carol and I hope you are all well. I am posting this a little early this week to share some welcome good news. After discussion with the church wardens and the PCC, we have decided that we can begin the process of returning to a service in church. With the COVID rates falling and the most vulnerable of the congregation having had at least one dose of vaccine, we feel it is appropriate to take this step.

Our first Sunday service will be in just ten days on Palm Sunday, March 28th at 10 a.m. We will again follow the pattern of social distancing by only using the marked seating, wearing masks and listening to recorded music rather than singing.

It will be lovely to see many of you again after two months of online contact.

There will be no gathering on Good Friday, but the church will be open for private prayer and some printed resources will be available. I will also repost the document from last year for private reflection (several of you said you found it helpful).

We also heard at the PCC, that considerable progress has been made on the tower renovations and the gap between funds raised and funds needed is narrowing encouragingly.

This Sunday is Passion Sunday, and we are in the lead up to Easter. Today’s passage has always been a favourite of mine. It tells of the quest of some Greeks who want to see Jesus.

(John 12:20)  Some Greeks were among those who had gone to Jerusalem to worship during the festival.

(21)  They went to Philip (he was from Bethsaida in Galilee) and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

(22)  Philip went and told Andrew, and the two of them went and told Jesus.

(23)  Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory.

(24)  I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains.

(25)  Those who love their own life will lose it; those who hate their own life in this world will keep it for life eternal.

(26)  Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am. And my Father will honour anyone who serves me.

(27)  “Now my heart is troubled—and what shall I say? Shall I say, ‘Father, do not let this hour come upon me’? But that is why I came—so that I might go through this hour of suffering.

(28)  Father, bring glory to your name!” Then a voice spoke from heaven, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.”

(29)  The crowd standing there heard the voice, and some of them said it was thunder, while others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

(30)  But Jesus said to them, “It was not for my sake that this voice spoke, but for yours.

(31)  Now is the time for this world to be judged; now the ruler of this world will be overthrown.

(32)  When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.”

(33)  (In saying this he indicated the kind of death he was going to suffer.)

In the mixed economy of the Roman world different people found themselves in different places for political or commercial reasons. Just like today, some spectate on the lands they visit and some made an effort to engage with the culture. We know from Paul in Athens that Greeks have great curiosity in the area of religion and worship, and it is totally in character for Greeks to try out the local religious festivals.

If we wanted to give a 21st century name to these folks I guess that a good one would be ‘seekers’. Perhaps they were aware that for all their multiplicity of gods their culture had not provided for them anything that satisfied. They were there to taste and see what Judaism had to offer.

Many Greek gentiles were drawn to Judaism because of the clarity of monotheism (as opposed to the confusion of a plethora of gods) and the strong sense of moral right and wrong that was almost completely absent from the worship of Greek gods.

What had brought them that day we can only speculate on but it might have gone something like this.

Some traders had set up home in the Greek quarter of Jerusalem and from time to time they would gather and talk about home. Because of the policy of dispersing conquered peoples all over the empire they had known some Jews back in Athens and the stories those Jews would tell of the great festivals. Passover was a religious holiday and there was a window of opportunity for them to take in elements of the feast. However, there was another sound on the wind and they had been hearing it ever since they arrived. A man called Jesus had been drawing crowds and it was said that when he spoke and taught the words could turn you inside out. People would travel for days just to hear him and right here and right now he was in town.

We are not told how many Greeks there were. I guess for some reason I had always pictured just two but there may have been a dozen. It may also have been that they were influential figures in the community because when they did tie the disciples down what on the face of it seemed to be their simple request threw the disciples into a spin.

Just listen to this tizzy: –

21  They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: 22  Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus.


They clearly were not sure what to do with a group of influential gentile seekers. But they did deduce that Jesus would know what to do and what to say and sure enough he did. He used it as a teaching opportunity to outline his mission. And when the sermon came it was a sermon with signs following.

So, Jesus says, all my life I have known this moment would come. I will not back out now. You Greeks have actually turned up at the pivotal moment because you have come on the day when I declare I need  to make the hard choice that will bring greatest glory to my father in heaven.

Something exciting is about to happen!

It was a cliff hanger moment.

What followed was the voice of God into the situation.

In 2021, we are like the Greeks. We want to know what God is saying to a world, a nation, a village, a church seeking to emerge from a Pandemic.

Our village/parish may be on the verge of the biggest change it has ever faced.

This Easter we seek the voice of God and we want to know how God will be glorified as we seek to build the kingdom where we are. May we have ears to hear what The Spirit is saying to the church.

May God bless us and keep us.

Alan Howe

In the place of next week’s reflection, I will be posting the text of the sermon after the Sunday service. I hope to see many of you there.

Sunday Reflection – 14/3/21

Dear Church Family

This is the 5th time we have spent Mothering Sunday together! It also marks another anniversary because Mothering Sunday last year was the first Sunday when we were unable to meet due to COVID. It is sad that twice in a row the very service where we would love to be together to celebrate Family in all its’s aspects, we have not been able to share together in person. The PCC meet on Monday and we hope to settle on a date when we will return to meeting together and it will not be long now!

Over the years we have explored how the tradition began. It had nothing to do with celebrating Motherhood but rather about seeing the church as a centre of a family of faith.

In the past I have reminded us that the original festival was a time when it was thought to be a good idea to visit your cathedral as the mother church of the diocese. Another practice was to see it as a time when you went back to the church where you were baptised.

Then the Victorians invented the card industry and it was not long before cards were being sent to Mothers.

You can now get them for grandmothers and great grandmothers.

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I attach a picture of a lovely card made for Carol by two of our grandchildren (the two in the picture)

It is never a bad idea to thank God for good things and no one deserves thanks more than mothers because of the love, care and hard work that they put in to bringing up children.

It is good to reflect again on all the things that make a family a family and on the way in which someone becomes a member of a family.

There are fifteen members of what sociologists would call my nuclear family.

We have actually added two during COVID year!

Even in a nuclear family folks come into it in different ways. 43 years ago there was only me. After marriage four of these people were added by birth into the family over the next 12 years. Ten years after that; three wonderful ladies were added by marriage. One more was added by being born to my oldest son and daughter in law. Carol was added when she married me. Another son was born to my oldest son. Then another one born into a different family but added to ours by adoption. Three more grandchildren have been added since then. I still look forward to a first cuddle with my latest grandchild as soon as regulations allow!

So, if today is about the family of the church, the family of faith, God’s family then we reflect on what the scripture says about how we become full members of that family.

An old chorus goes like this.

Father Abraham has many sons

Many sons has father Abraham

And I should know because I am one of father Abrahams sons.

Paul in his letters stressed that this is not about being born a Jew but about becoming a Jew by faith. There are a couple of really vital biblical words that speak into this. I want to reflect briefly on each of those words. The first comes from the gospel of John

Believe

John 3 verse 16

(Joh 3:16)  For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.

It is important to know what Jesus meant by believe. The book of James makes it clear that it is not believing about. He says even the devil believes in God. I can believe for example that the number 19 bus goes from Tollerton to Melton Mowbray but I have never actually done it. When we take a bus we surrender one freedom. That Freedom is the freedom to walk where we choose. We sacrifice it for another freedom; the freedom to get where we want to go and to place our trust in a driver to get us there.  The biblical word ‘Pistos’ for believe carries that extra meaning.  So a better translation would be.

Whoever believes and places their trust in Jesus to take them on a journey they could not travel without him will have that eternal life. It is that act of getting on the bus, of transferring trust to Jesus, that actually makes us Christians.

The other word comes from Ephesians.

(Ephesians 2:8)  For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.

Grace.

Grace is about receiving a gift. The oft quoted definition based on an acronym of Grace is

GOD’s RICHES AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE.

Our place in the Christian family is offered to us as a gift. Just as no one had to pay to be members of my 15 strong nuclear family, so no one has to pay to be part of the family of Christ.

The entry fee has been paid already by Jesus. Over the next few weeks the story of how he did that will be retold as we approach Easter.

We thank God that we are part of the family.

That we have come to believe and trust in him.

That we have accepted the free gift of eternal life.

A Prayer

Lord we bless you and thank you that we are part of a family 2 billion strong across the world. Help us to be full members of that family and to always be ready to encourage others to join.

May God bless and keep you all.

Alan

Sunday Reflection – 7/3/20

Dear Church Family

We hope you are well and encouraged by the gradual arrival of Spring. I have attached three pictures from the churchyard. Two of these show some beautiful spring flowers in the early morning sun and the third shows you that work is going forward on the tower. Thank you again for the generosity of all who have contributed financially and for the generous grants from various bodies (thanks also to Norma who has worked so hard on this). Gifts are still welcome, from all sources, as we close the gap between what we have and what we need.

We are just a few days away from the next step on the road map back to greater normality, with schools reopening on Monday. Please pray for teachers, children and parents during this transitioning time.

The PCC meet (via Zoom) on March 16th to talk about our own path forward and when we hope to return to meeting in church for Sunday worship.

The improving COVID statistics are encouraging. It is important to continue to pray for our key workers, many of whom are totally exhausted, and for all those living with employment uncertainty. Norma has forwarded a link from ‘The Friary’ (one of our support links) about the excellent work they are doing and I have attached it. If you would like to further support their work the link is www.justgiving.com/campaign/friarywinterappeal2020

In Start the Day this week, Bishop Paul and Sarah speak about David’s complaint in Psalm 64 and how to pray when you experience cruel words spoken against you – hear me, hide me, hold me!

My reflections

Preachers are constantly on the look out for good stories and there are always new ones to discover even if you have been preaching for 45 years! The two I want to share with you today emerged from the ‘Bible in a Year’ programme that Carol and I have been following during Lockdown 3. The first story picks up on the bible passage from last week.

(Mark 8:34)  Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

(35)  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

(36)  What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

An awesome story about self-denial comes from a book by Shane Claiborne from his book about Mother Theresa called ‘The Irresistible Revolution’

He writes ‘People often ask me what Mother Teresa was like. Sometimes it’s like they wonder if she glowed in the dark or had a halo. She was short, wrinkled, and precious, maybe even a little ornery, like a beautiful, wise old granny. But there is one thing I will never forget – her feet. Her feet were deformed.

Each morning I would stare at them. I wondered if she had contracted leprosy. One day a Sister explained, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them. And years of doing that have deformed her feet.” Years of loving her neighbour as herself deformed her feet.’

When people are asked about the person whose life they most admire, so often the answer is ‘Mother Teresa’. She made the most of her life. It is a paradox, because her life was a life of self-denial, taking up her cross and following Jesus.

Life is an extraordinary and wonderful gift. In the Bible we are constantly urged not to waste this gift, but instead to make the most of our lives.

The next story is also about having an attitude that inspires and brings about transformation.

This story is a wonderful illustration of the following verses.

(Mark 9:35)  Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

(36)  He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,

(37)  “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

This story of the faith and example of a little child moved me to tears.

Hattie May Wiatt, a six-year-old girl, lived near Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia, USA. The Sunday school was very crowded. Russell H. Conwell, the minister, told her that one day they would have buildings big enough to allow everyone to attend. She said, ‘I hope you will. It is so crowded I am afraid to go there alone.’ He replied, ‘When we get the money we will construct one large enough to get all the children in.’

Two years later, in 1886, Hattie May died. After the funeral Hattie’s mother gave the minister a little bag they had found under their daughter’s pillow containing 57 cents in change that she had saved up. Alongside it was a note in her handwriting: ‘To help build bigger so that more children can go to Sunday school.’

The minister changed all the money into pennies and offered each one for sale. He received $250 – and 54 of the cents were given back. The $250 was itself changed into pennies and sold by the newly formed ‘Wiatt Mite Society’. In this way, her 57 cents *kept on multiplying. *

Twenty-six years later, in a talk entitled, ‘The history of the 57 cents’, the minister explained the results of her 57-cent donation: a church with a membership of over 5,600 people, a hospital where tens of thousands of people had been treated, 80,000 young people going through university, 2,000 people going out to preach the gospel – all this happened ‘because Hattie May Wiatt invested her 57 cents’. 

I hope these two stories encourage you as much as they did me.

May God bless us all as we continue on through this strange Lent and hold the ‘Easter hope’ of ‘new beginnings’ and ‘new life’ ever before us.

Yours in Christ

AlanDownload all attachments as a zip file