From the Clergy - July 2017
What a difference a year makes…
It’s Carnival day in Market Harborough and I have just seen the Carnival Queen riding in her carriage. On this exact day last year, my family & I were sitting on Horseguards Parade in London watching the Queen ride in her carriage to inspect the Trooping the Colour Parade on her 90th Birthday.
This time last year, the UK was a full member of the EU. Today, Angela Merkel has said the EU is ready to start Brexit negotiations. This time last year in this country, David Cameron had a Commons majority. Today, Theresa May is expected to finalise her new cabinet after failing to win an overall one-party majority.
This time last year astronaut Tim Peake was still in space for his stay on the International Space station. This week he has feet firmly on solid ground in the US launching his book: “Hello, is that Planet Earth?”
This time last year, not many of us had heard of Fidget Spinners; today they are everywhere! This time last year, we were in Winchcombe in Gloucestershire not knowing where God was going to call and lead us in the future and today, here we are serving in the Harborough Anglican Team in Leicestershire, having been so warmly welcomed by you all as a family.
And, I am sure for each of you, if you stop and reflect on this time last year, a lot would have happened in your lives as well: a lot of change in various shapes and forms; experiences of joy and sorrows, delight and pain, discovery and illness, acquiring and losing. Change in all its various forms is constant in our lives.
But, one of the deep underlying Christian themes, a paradox as well, is that God is “the unchanging God in a changing world”.
God by His very nature is unchanging. While we might see one aspect of His nature revealed in certain passages of Scripture more than other aspects, God Himself does not change.
As we read and study the Bible, it becomes clear that God is the same in the Old and New Testaments. Even though the Bible is 66 individual books written in different countries and languages, over a period of approximately 1500 years by more than 40 authors, it remains one unified book from beginning to end. In it we see how a loving, merciful and just God reveals his character in all kinds of situations, filling us with his spirit and always willing to forgive our sins when we turn back to him.
The Bible is God’s love letter to all people. Throughout the Bible we see God lovingly and mercifully calling people into a special relationship with Himself, not because we deserve it, but because He is a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.
When you walk into town and look at Lloyds bank, their current slogan is a picture of the black horse with the words: by your side: the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that Jesus Christ (the image of the invisible God) is the same yesterday, today and forever and he promised to be with us always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
In the shifting realities of the ups and downs of life, with tragedy and atrocities seemingly never far away, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble, the unshakeable rock on which we stand (Psalm 46) the one who is unchanging and that is good news for us all as we trust in him.
So, take some time to meditate on the Lord’s unchanging character. Whatever change occurs in our lives over this coming year, and it will – of that there is no doubt, as Christian believers we live in the light, power, hope and love of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the one who is unchanging. We can always trust in His holiness, justice, goodness, love and every other attribute of His unchanging nature.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, loving God; thank you that you are the same yesterday, today and forever. Helps us to trust you in all things, even as the world changes and things are not the same as this time last year. Be our constant, by our side, always with us, now and always…Amen.
Revd James Pickersgill
Great Bowden says Farewell to James Shakespeare
James Shakespeare and his family have made a huge contribution to the life of the Team and to the village of Great Bowden in particular. Many packed the church to farewell them and recognise their exceptional service. Peter Crowe reports.
St. Peter and St. Paul, Great Bowden said goodbye to James Shakespeare over the weekend of 6th and 7th May. A farewell event was held in the church and James was presented with a cheque and a statue – The Welcoming Christ – a full-sized version of which features in the grounds of Launde Abbey, the Leicester and Peterborough Diocesan retreat house. A presentation was also made to James’ wife Alison and their children Hannah and Edward.
A packed church enjoyed food and drink and the event was attended by members of the congregation, people from the wider team including Team Rector Barry Hill, and others from the village, from Market Harborough and from other churches in the area. The choir sang a specially composed song to the tune of ‘O Jesus I Have Promised’, describing moments from James’ time at the church.
James’ last service was on Sunday May 7th. James took the communion service and there was a large congregation, again representing both the members of St. Peter and St. Paul and the wider team.
James, who is moving to St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, said:
“It has been a wonderful experience serving as vicar of Great Bowden and within the Harborough Anglican Team and Diocese of Leicester, and we have seen real growth in faith, in numbers and in service of the wider community.”
For further information on the Elderberries Project contact David on email@example.com or ring him on 07505 968767
Figuring it Out
The Editor continues his discussion with Angie Hill on how the finances work in St Dionysius
Last month we examined the income for one Parish Church. This month we look at the outgoings, the largest single item being the Parish Contribution. This is what used to be known as the ‘Parish Share’. The change of name reflects that previously the diocese levied an amount from each church to support the clergy and their work, the diocese and the parish itself. The Parish Contribution is now in the form of a request from the diocese to which the PCC responds based on annual income received. Essentially it serves the same purpose.
Each parish therefore now decides what it can contribute rather than have an amount levied. The Parish Contributes to the costs of supporting the clergy across the diocese and, from 1998, pension contributions. The way the Parish Contributions are calculated varies from diocese to diocese. Much of this comes back to us in the form of clergy stipends and other expense allowances. It also helps to support the diocese of which we are a part and the work of the church generally.
In outline the outgoings are apportioned as follows:
Outward Giving is shown as the net amount after costs. The figure is fixed at 10% of net income. The Running Costs include utilities costs, insurance premiums and general maintenance including the Old Grammar School.
Youth and Family costs are mainly set aside for the Child and Family Development Work and to support the young people’s worship.
Team and Church costs cover the costs of the Team Office, choir and organist and the day to day clergy expenses.
Income Costs are those associated with the initial outlay for income generating sources eg. buying books to sell, printing costs for The Quintet and setting-up costs for events.
The big question came last: “Does the church have any financial problems and how are they dealt with?”
The answer to the first part of the question holds no surprises
“We have a permanent financial challenge,” said Angie. “The church has always had a planned giving model but it has been made more difficult recently by an unprecedented number of bereavements.
Though there are new congregation members taking their place they are proportionately few in number. We have also had a very long interregnum – over 15 months by the time new clergy were installed – and congregations fell off.
“We do get some nice surprises with legacies but they are unknowns. People do give for specific causes but general funds are very important to meet our regular costs”
So how does the church deal with shortfalls?
“Well,” said Angie thoughtfully. “We do have some savings that we can draw on but that is a finite pot. We can adjust the Parish Contribution. Normally the diocese likes us to raise it by 2% a year but this year we have not been able to raise it. St Dionysius is a ‘giving church’, which means that a proportion of income is donated to charities. The PCC does not adjust that proportion. It is sacrosanct.
“We really need to find new givers. We need to increase our congregations by being a welcoming church, having more opportunities for social interaction such as the Cream Teas, bring and share lunches and events that bring people together.
“ If we could increase the number of visitors who donate to us and introduce new people that would all really help.”
Rennie Quinn adds: “We also need to reinforce our fundraising activities. The Fête is an important source of income but the committee who have been running it so successfully over the last few years has now resigned and we need a new group of people to step forward to replace them!”
That is very much a thumb nail outline of the financial affairs of one church. The picture would be similar in other churches, the amount of income they generate relating to the amount of giving and fund raising and, after their Parish Contribution, the outgoings reflecting to the particular expenditure needs of the church.
For those interested the full picture is available in the Annual Report and Financial Statements of your PCC. It gives the background to PCC financial policy, the breakdown of figures for the current financial year and next year’s forecasts. Copies are placed at the back of the church prior to the PCC AGM. Happy reading!
(This article is based on the approach taken to the book-keeping at St Dionysius Church. The other churches in the Team will have a similar approach. With thanks to Rennie Quinn for his input and Gordon Birch for his editorial advice - Ed)
Make “Truth” your 2017 Resolution!
Derek Williams offers some contemporary considerations of this well-used word
Oxford Dictionaries declared that “post-truth” was their word of the year for 2016. It means that objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals. It is a development of a word popularised by US comedian Stephen Colbert. He described “truthiness” as preferring one’s wishes to be true rather than believing what is factually true.
It has long been the case that many newspapers and some broadcasters gear their coverage to pander to the interests and opinions of their audiences. In turn, we tend to buy, or tune into, media that reflect our views. On social media, where fake news is now spreading like fire, and as destructive, we “like” or “follow” those who think and feel like us. So unconsciously we collude with “truthiness” and contribute to “post-truth” attitudes.
It’s not a new problem. The seeds were sown at least as far back as the 1960s, when traditional constraints were questioned and cast off in the name of freedom. Rapid developments in the scientific community revealed that previously-held truths were inaccurate, and demonstrated that with every new discovery we learn how much more we don’t know.
So it’s easy to shrug our shoulders with Pontius Pilate, faced by Jesus on the one hand and a mob baying for blood on the other, and ask cynically “What is truth?” Who knows? And we adopt the fallacy that all “truth” is relative: what is true for you may not be true for me. Hence, “post-truth”: if it feels good to me, it’s true.
That is not what Christians believe. Without needing to become obscurantist, and certainly needing to retain an enquiring and open mind, Christians believe that there are crucial objective truths that never change. And those truths form the basis for successful, meaningful, truth-full Christian living.
They are summed up in the creeds that we recite in our worship. Because they are summaries, they are open to discussion and interpretation. But they are based on some absolutes, not least that God is the supreme determinant of what is true and false, right and wrong. Some truths are not relative, even if our brains, superb as they are, cannot fully comprehend both the what and the why. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
When Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) he meant that he was the truth about God and the truth about life, demonstrated in human form. He spoke and lived truthfully.
The apostles call us to do the same as far as our human limitations allow. Instead of being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” we are to “speak the truth in love” and thus “grow up into Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
So this year, why not resolve to learn more of God’s truth; consider rationally all sides of arguments and issues; and be measured in voicing opinions?
An extended version of this article together with Bible study suggestions is on Derek’s website: www.gentlerword.blogspot.co.uk
New Team Rector Appointed
After a false start and following the lengthy process described by George Marshall in the May edition this year a new Team Rector has been appointed. We welcome the Revd Barry Hill and look forward to his taking up office early next year.
Bishop Martyn describes how the new post will work. We reproduce his letter to the parishes in full below.
“The Bishop of Leicester is pleased to announce the appointment of Revd Barry Hill as the next Team Rector of Market Harborough combined with Diocesan Resource Church Enabler.
Barry will take up his new appointment in Market Harborough in Spring 2017 (working half-time) and this role will be combined with a new half-time diocesan role enabling the development of ‘Resource Churches’.
These are churches committed to the principle of generous giving and to sending people out from the Resource Church to establish fresh expressions of Church and new congregations and to resource mission and ministry across a wide area. Over the coming years, the Market Harborough Team will grow into being the first ‘Resource Church’ in the Diocese of Leicester.
Market Harborough is ideally placed to become a Resource Church both because of its size, its ministry team (which will be further strengthened by the appointment of an Associate Rector) and its location
Barry has worked with the Diocese of Leicester as Diocesan Mission Enabler since 2009. During this time he has overseen the development of fresh expressions of Church across the diocese and has played a significant role in encouraging local churches in their calling to serve their local community. He was previously Curate of Emmanuel Loughborough and has a background in the aviation business.
Bishop Martyn commented: “I am delighted that Barry Hill is taking up this exciting new role. He has been a very effective Mission Enabler in the diocese and this is the natural next step as the diocese commits to a strategy of developing a number of Resource Churches in different contexts around the city and county.
“Market Harborough is ideally placed to become a Resource Church both because of its size, its ministry team (which will be further strengthened by the appointment of an Associate Rector) and its location. I am particularly pleased that our first Resource Church will be in a vibrant market town and will be well placed in the coming years to resource mission and ministry in the rural South East of the county.”
Revd Barry Hill said: “The opportunity of a significant increase in resources for churches in making a bigger impact across a region is a wonderful God-given opportunity as we seek to invite the nine out of ten people who are not a regular part of a Christian community to know the fullness of life Jesus offers.
“I am delighted to take on this new role, working with very able colleagues in serving and leading the five Anglican churches of Harborough, and working in partnership with the wider community, the other churches of Harborough, and the Welland Valley Mission Partnership."
The Diocesan Resource Church Enabler role is being funded by the Church Commissioners and the diocese is hoping to access further funding to develop a number of other Resource Churches around the city and county.
Please pray for Barry, Pep and their two children as they prepare for this significant transition.”
Retreat at Monastero di Bose San Masseo Assisi, 16-19 June 2015
This summer I had an unforgettable experience, staying at a monastery on the edge of Assisi, home of the much loved St Francis. Going on retreat, usually for three days a year, has always been important to my Rule of Life, and a major spiritual resource for my ministry. This year, partly in preparation for receiving a new curate but also because of my life-long love of Francis, I decided to venture beyond our shores and try something new! The opportunity arose for me to visit a unique ecumenical community, now occupying a beautifully restored 11th Century monastery, that Francis himself is thought to have prayed in. The experience was profoundly renewing and will stay with me for a very long time.
I first discovered St Francis at the age of 14, and my vocation is bound up with his influence, the way that Jesus Christ has spoken to me through him. Interestingly, San Masseo sits astride Assisi’s hill, more or less equidistant between the various Franciscan pilgrimage sites.
It is close to the Church of San Damiano (a short walk away), in which Francis, the romantic young knight, first heard Christ call out to him: ‘Francis, repair my Church, which you see is falling down!’ Ten minutes’ walk up the hill, on the eastern side of the city, is the Basilica of St Clare, Francis’ female counterpart, who founded a contemplative order of nuns, living in strict poverty. In this Church hangs the original Byzantine cross from which Francis heard the Christ speaking to him.
Further down the hill, on the Assisi plain, is the large Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, containing the little Portziucola Chapel, restored by St Francis himself. Here he heard, in the words of Matthew, the call to ‘Preach the kingdom, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers… taking nothing for the journey.’ All of which St. Francis, with his early companions, went out to do! He set the world on fire with the love of Christ and showed that the Gospel is first of all a life to be lived.
The last site that I walked to from San Masseo (alongside the dramatic Basilica of St Francesco, which frames the whole city), is the hidden hermitage of the Carceri, some six kilometres walk up into the beautiful hills of Mount Subasio. Here is a place of immense stillness, peace and contemplation, where Francis adored God and his bounteous creation, allowing himself to be equipped for a life of mission and service. I too was privileged to pray there, a still point in a fast turning world. Having walked there in the heat, I was grateful for a lift back to Assisi with some visiting Catholic priests, one of them a Congolese seminarian, who told me about life in his home country.
Let me say a little bit more about San Masseo, where I spent most of my retreat. The monastery is a home of the Bose community, from North Italy, who live a life of prayer, hospitality and manual labour. All guests are welcomed, after the Rule of St Benedict, as if they were Christ. This in itself is a transforming experience. The hours of prayer, in the beautifully simple stone Church, are profound and melodious. I had never experienced the liturgy in Italian before! Lectio Divina is an important part of their life, listening for God speaking through the Bible. Food is simple and wholesome. The monastery is surrounded by vineyard and olive grove, which sounds romantic, but involves back-breaking work for the small community of brothers. Guests are housed in a well-equipped guest house. I truly appreciated, within the context of the liturgy, the gift of silence, for meditation, reflection and writing.
How did San Masseo affect me? It restored in me the simple joy of faith, of knowing that ‘the Lord is near’. I was reminded that at the heart of my active life is prayer, the wellspring from which all else flows: an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I found myself, as an Anglican, strongly connected to the universal church, of which we are a part, and much encouraged by our ministry in Harborough. I found myself drawn to make connections between faith and contemporary life at many different levels. And I glimpsed an outflow of creativity, as I reflected, prayed and read, including the following stanza - part of a longer poem, ‘Pilgrimage of Trust’ - about my time in Italy:
Returning to the fire which first drew me
Landscape bathed in iridescent light
Drawing from the well which first irrigated me
Water cascading onto thirsty ground
Inhaling the breath of wind flowing freely
The Spirit blows where it wills, Assisi fills
Feeling the fertile earth beneath my feet
Bursting with life, flower and grasses greet!
The invitation go on Retreat, joining with a community of prayer, enjoying their hospitality and soaking in the beauty of silence and creation, is a life-changing opportunity. It may take us time to overcome our inner restlessness (it does for me), but it is well worth it. The benefits are immeasurable. Why not try it? God may be trying to show you something.
Rev James Shakespeare
An Amos Trust Alternative Pilgrimage
Two and a half years ago I went on a pilgrimage to The Holy Land and visited many religious sites. I also went to a Palestinian refugee camp and a farm as well as hearing speakers from Palestinian and Israeli organisations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
This time the emphasis was on the plight of the Palestinians living in Israel/Palestine. The pilgrimage was ‘alternative’ because, for the majority of the time, we visited Palestinian projects in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Hebron, the Jordan Valley and Haifa. We did have a couple of days to visit the sites in Jerusalem and Galilee as well.
We learned what life is like for people who have to live in the shadow of the separation wall, are forbidden to drive on main roads, and endure the uncertainly of house demolitions.
The wall at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.
The painted slogan says ‘We can’t live so we are waiting for death’.
The skips are for rubbish, which is infrequently collected and so has to be periodically burned.
Hebron, where Israeli settlers have moved into the Palestinian city. We could show our passports and walk past the IDF soldiers into the settlement. Palestinians cannot do that, or return to their confiscated homes in the area.
A demolished house on the left.
Palestinians have to apply for a permit to build, but these are rarely granted, and so they are forced to build in the knowledge that the IDF can come along and bulldoze their houses at any time and with little warning.
The house on the right was rebuilt with the aid of Amos Trust volunteers shortly after Easter. The family of nine had been living in one room in a nearly refugee camp. Although they hadn’t fully moved in all 35 of us were invited inside, seated and served mint tea! This house is less likely to be served with a demolition order because of the involvement of the international community in its rebuilding
What hope for the future?
Peacemakers like these men, a Palestinian ex-fighter and a Jewish rabbi, who became united in the cause of peace once they started talking to one another – something that just doesn’t happen under normal circumstances - and started the Roots Project.
For more information please visit websites such as:
The Amos Trust - www.amostrust.org,
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - icahduk.org/
The Roots project - http://www.friendsofroots.net/
Ma’an Development Centre