From the Clergy
Revd Pep Hill looks at the value of friends and personal contacts to support us through our faith and belief
If there’s one thing that has helped me in my life, it’s been good friends who have encouraged me when I’ve been feeling down, stood with me in despair, and celebrated every little step forward with me.
This has been particularly true when it comes to faith – it’s often easy to get knocked and I remember one occasion where my level of faith was so low I was questioning everything. I couldn’t bear to go to church services because I simply didn’t believe any of it any more.
But I had one friend in particular, Nikki, who wasn’t prepared to let me just drift off, and met up with me for coffee, not to try to talk me into coming back to church, but just as a friend. After a few months, I was able to understand God and faith on a much deeper and more mature level, which I wouldn’t have been able to get to without those months of desolation, but it was my friendship with Nikki which held me in a place where I could learn that without spinning off into turning my back on God entirely.
These honest friendships are so important, even more so at church. Maybe our work colleagues, family and other friends don’t share or understand our faith, and we can easily feel isolated in it. Maybe we feel like we don’t know many people well, or would like others to know us better. Maybe we struggle to know support or how to live well in a rapidly changing world.
If you’ve been to any of our churches recently, you may have seen the launch of ‘Connect Groups’. In one way, there is nothing new in these – there are already some groups running, from bible study groups to simple companionship, some have been running for years and others are newer. Many of the people who attend these groups really value the friendships they have built through them.
So the hope is that these new Connect Groups will build on those foundations to create a wider, more accessible network of small groups, all helping us live out faith Monday to Sunday, but some meeting in more traditional ways (cup of tea and discussion), some based around hobbies or things that we like to do irrespective of faith, some on our life circumstances, but all–
· Helping us build honest and close relationships with each other so that we can look out for each other, encourage one another, a place where we can know and be known; and
· Through that, to go deeper in our relationship with God, and in service of others in our town and villages
You may already be in a small group, but if you’re not, I encourage you to have a think about what would interest you, and when you can commit to coming. Most of the groups are short-term, so you don’t have to sign your life away! And they will be run at different times of the day and on different days of the week, so hopefully everyone will be able to make it to something.
If you already know what you want to do, why not see if there’s a few of you who share that vision? Even if you don’t feel able to help lead a group, would you be able to host one in your home, or provide refreshments? There are more details about the groups, some frequently asked questions and how to get involved later in the magazine.
Our hope is that everyone will be able to join one of these groups, and through that, everyone will be able to draw closer to God, understand more of who he is and his love for each one of us. And that even if we feel we don’t really belong anywhere else, we can belong there.
The Bible encourages Christians to give special respect, deference and honour to those who have the wisdom of years or, as the book of Proverbs puts it, “grey hair of experience is the splendour of the old!”.
Age is largely irrelevant as far as God – and the Church – is concerned. Our value is not based first on what we do, or have done, but on God’s invitation to be his daughters and his sons, loved and treasured for ourselves. But when we get older, we can feel left behind. A bit like the Psalmist who prayed, “In my old age, don’t set me aside. Don’t forsake me now when my strength is failing.”
Throughout the Bible, and the later story of Christianity, God often deliberately chooses people who are older, and even frailer, to fulfil his purposes. Think of Abraham and Moses, for example – they were pensioners before they even began their work for God!
All we do is open to all
There are 14 congregations across the five churches in the Harborough Anglican Team. People of all ages are welcome at nearly all our activities, ministries and services. But the Bible encourages Christians to “consider the years of all generations” and to give special respect to those who have the wisdom of years. We know that there are particular needs and opportunities that advancing years can bring.
So across our churches, we offer a wide range of small groups, events and support to help you be the person you were made to be. Our hope is that each person can echo the words of Ruth in the Bible, “Praise be to God who has not abandoned us ... He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age.”
Come and see for yourself!
A special booklet with full details of the wide range of events, ministries, groups and services we host or help to lead for those with the gift of years is available to download from here.
Paper copies are available at the back of each of the five churches and Braille or Large Print versions are available by contacting the Team Administrator: email@example.com or 01858 469330
These items are extracted from the church's monthly magazine 'The Quintet'. You will find many more itmes of interest in the magazine itself. It is available from the back of each church at a cost of 70p per issue. You can also subscribe to the Quintet for £7.00 per year, which is a saving of the cost of two copies per year. Just give your name and contact details to a member of the clergy and we can set you up. You can also contact the editor, Richard Pomeroy, 01858 462273, who can help you.
Bridging the generation gap
Derek Williams meets our new Team youth work apprentice, Josh Tayler
Looking back to when I was barely 20, I cannot imagine myself or my contemporaries ever saying, “Older people have wisdom and experience to share with young people.” We were too busy dreaming with Martin Luther King, mourning John Kennedy, dancing with the Beatles, and marching against apartheid and the Vietnam War. Older people were the problem, not part of the solution.
But it’s what the Anglican Team’s new youth work apprentice Josh Tayler says, from personal experience and not merely politeness. One of his own mentors is a retiree. “I’ve met many older people full of fun, wisdom and knowledge, who are non-judgemental and caring.” Times have changed.
Josh is passionate about community. “I want to include inter-generational links in my work, to help the church become more family-like. I don’t see much interchange at the moment.” Which, of course, is two-way. “Young people have different skills to share with others” – if they’re given the chance. One of his aims is not only to increase the number of young people associated with our churches but also to encourage greater involvement of them in church life, worship and mission.
Young people do think and talk about spirituality, he claims. Hosting events that celebrate God, life and all God has given us can help show younger people what Christianity is about and that it can be a lot of fun, he suggests.
That of course requires older people being willing to listen, adapt and accept fresh approaches; “fun” is not always the first word that describes traditional faith and worship. “Older people need to take initiatives,” he says. “Invite young people out for coffee. Ask how things are going.” But young people also need to take initiatives “to ask older people for time. They don’t always value what they can bring.”
Josh Tayler grew up in a Christian family, first in Northampton then on an army base in Germany before moving to Corby where he still lives. Both parents are teachers and attend Hope Church in Corby. His own spiritual journey has had the inevitable teenage fluctuations. His best friend at secondary school was an ardent atheist and Josh drifted from Christianity. In 2015 his parents took him to the Christian festival Soul Survivor “which made me think I ought to look into it again” and in 2017, back at Soul Survivor, he gave his life to Christ.
In the sixth form “there were a lot of Christians” (who he admits to missing since they migrated to university). For a gap year (paid for by various jobs including sous chef) Josh went to Canada with a Christian project Soul Edge. It was “the best experience I’ve ever had. Before, I hadn’t lost my faith but I hadn’t invested in it.” He came back with a strong urge to make such investment and especially to help young people with mental health issues. In association with the Leicester Diocese, he hopes to pilot a mentoring programme for young people.
So what does the world look like through his eyes? Josh cites the obvious pressures: economic factors, exams, political and environmental crises, a sense of helplessness. The general loss of faith (not restricted to young people) “leads to a loss of identity, and people start to question their existence. If there’s no purpose to life, why am I here? Christianity gives people an identity and a purpose.” Indeed it does.
The role of youth work apprentice and the training Josh hopes to receive over the next four years was described in the October Quintet.
Remember Remember ….
We all know how that saying is completed and about the exploits of the man behind it but in a time of religious turmoil what was the influence of his faith? I must admit it is a question I have never addressed. To explore it is quite interesting.
Guy Fawkes was born on April 13th 1570 in Stonegate in York to a Protestant family. He was educated at St. Peter's School in York. His father died when he was 8 after which his mother remarried a Catholic.
Though he was born a Protestant the influence of his stepfather was probably significant in his conversion to Catholicism when he was about 16.
Guy Fawkes and the other members of the Gunpowder Plot were all Catholics. The infamous plot was a response to the repression they experienced at the time. They were also opposed to England being ruled by a Scot (King James I of England was King James IV of Scotland, the first monarch to rule both nations, a situation which would later go on to create what is now the United Kingdom)
It is often said that converts are amongst the most devout of their faith. Guy Fawkes was no exception, so much so that although he didn't fight for his country, he fought for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years' War against Protestant Dutch reformers in the Low Countries. Guy Fawkes became an experienced soldier and this was where he gained experience with explosives, and also where he decided to call himself Guido.
Religious denomination then, and xenophobia, were his reasons for joining forces with the small militant group of Catholics headed by Robert Catesby who planned the celebrated and infamously failed gunpowder plot.
They were aware that some Catholics would be present at the opening of Parliament, which is when the deed was to be executed, so anonymously they wrote to one of their number, Lord Monteagle, to warn him not to attend. One of Monteagle’s servants leaked this information and the rest of the story, as they say, is history.
Naturally he was tortured when imprisoned. During the four day process at the end of which he ‘cracked’ he is not only reputed to have prayed every day but also to have told his torturers that since the beginning of the plot he had prayed every day for the advancement of the Catholic faith and to save his soul.
His gory end is also well known but he was only ‘drawn and quartered’ after his death. We can therefore speculate that at least one of his prayers on the scaffold was answered. He managed to avoid the agony of being drawn and quartered, the fate of his fellow conspirators executed immediately before him. By somehow falling (roped or not I am not sure) and breaking his neck, he was killed instantly.
So … Remember Remember.
Mission Trip to Zoravan
Lucy Giles tells of her visit to Armenia
This summer I went on a mission trip to a small village called Zoravan in Armenia. It is a very small village, where the villagers live off one meal a day consisting mainly of bread and sweets. We went out there with the hope of running an evangelistic sports camp for the kids ages 6-15, where we could show them love and acceptance, teach them bible study and English lessons, do crafts and sport, pray for them and worship God together.
We also were able to provide them with two meals a day with the money we fund raised which was really special to be able to share with them.
I absolutely loved the trip, being able to see the children grow throughout the week and build real connections with them was so special. I led a group of 13-15 year olds in activities and throughout the week we built such a wonderful relationship despite the difficult language barrier.
There were many challenging factors of the trip. Twelve girls sleeping on the floor in one small room with no air con in 45+ temperatures was definitely one of them. However, we bonded as a team and supported each other throughout.
The culture there is very different compared to ours so it was very hard trying to be accepted into the community and not accidently offending the villagers.
For example, a normal thing for us in England is whistling. However we quickly found out it is very offensive in Armenia and has a quite different meaning to England. Another thing we had to ensure was that we dressed appropriately, for example all trousers and skirts had to be mid-calf length and tops had to be loose fitting with just above elbow length sleeves and in 40+ heat doing sport this was not ideal.
When it was coming near to the end of the week we were invited to some of the homes of the kids in our group. It was crazy to see the contrast in wealth there. While the majority of them live in extreme poverty and often don’t have enough to eat, there was one family which was obviously quite wealthy and they fed us a feast.
Although we were overwhelmed by their generosity it was very difficult to eat knowing most of the children we had got to know would never get to eat that amount of food.
Although it’s a predominately Christian country their theology is extremely legalistic so we had to be really careful how we behaved because their understanding of grace and forgiveness is very different to ours. If they think you are doing something wrong they don’t believe you are a Christian. This meant we had quite a responsibility to uphold the reputation of the pastor who had invited us so that he could continue his work there after we’d gone and keep their trust.
One of my favourite memories of the trip is when a team from our mission group and a team from the village had a football match one evening. Many of us gathered to watch and join in it was so special despite the language barrier that we could bond with them in such a way and the joy it brought the kids to be able to watch and take part was unexplainable.
It was an absolutely incredible experience in which I gained so much from. Although we were there to help them I also feel like I learnt and received so much myself. It has made me so keen to do more long term mission in the future. I recommend to anyone considering short term mission to go for it!
I would really like to thank everyone who gave so generously making it possible for me to have this amazing experience in Armenia.
Children, Young People and Families
Another step forward as a Resourcing Church:
Dawn O’Connell announces our new youth worker
It is with great delight that we can announce the successful recruitment of Josh Tayler as an apprentice youth worker. He will be part of the Harborough Anglican Team supporting our young people and youth work initiatives across the town. It has been a long-awaited appointment surrounded with much prayer, discussion and testing but we are confident that the timing is right.
Over his first five weeks Josh will visit each of our churches to introduce himself and give you a chance to meet him. I know we will welcome him well because that is what we are good at so please say hello and introduce yourselves. Josh will also want to put time in his diary to introduce himself to the young people and their parents in each of our churches.
So what will Josh be doing for the duration of his apprenticeship?
The first year for Josh will involve him building relationships with the churches, secondary schools and community groups in Market Harborough. It is important that we are always looking for ways to work with others and share our resources as we all work for the benefit of young people.
During this first full time year Josh will also be training with The Bower House. He will start this term on their Introduction to Counselling course with a view to continue next term on their Certificate in Counselling Skills course. These are both recognised qualifications that will give Josh some of the skills he will need for working with young people.
For the following 3 years Josh will study for a degree in a youth work related subject. During this time he will continue to work with us part time for 22 hours per week.
Young people’s well-being is a hot subject because there are so many needing support but so few people equipped to work with young people with mental health concerns. We continually hear in our news of young people being let down by the services currently available. This apprentice programme aims to support young people through one-to-one engagement, courses that build life skills and mentoring schemes. This year Josh will be talking with schools, churches and community groups to see where and how these aims can become a reality and we are keen that Josh is in each church regularly enough to share the stories of what God is doing and how all can be involved.
We are all aware of the year-on-year fall in the number of young people in our churches. It is heart breaking that statistically half of all our young people will not continue with faith as adults. Josh will work with our churches, young people and parents to establish ways for young people to continue to grow into a faith that is resilient and lifelong. Although his role will be very hands on, if it is to succeed he cannot do it alone. He will help us as churches to think about how the whole people of God can be more involved. It takes a whole team to serve young people.
Participation and leadership will be high on Josh’s agenda as he looks for ways for young people to become more actively involved in church life. He will also be involved in building a new youth-led congregation and work with other churches and The CUBE for the benefit of all our young people.
Over the next six weeks we continue to look to recruit a second apprentice who, if appointed, will join Josh later in the year (otherwise we will adjust expectations and outcomes accordingly). We appreciate each parish has made a big financial commitment to make this possible so, as well as regular updates, please contact any of the Staff Team with any questions. I will continue to be responsible on the Staff Team for our strategy for work with 0-18-year olds and will line manage Josh day to day. We are also very grateful to the Leicester Diocesan Growth Fund and The Harborough & Bowdens Charity for their very generous support of this project.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with your youth, I'm really looking forward to starting my work with them in a couple of week’s time. I've always had a strong desire to work with people and help and guide them through struggles. I've recently completed a Gap Year called Soul Edge where it came clear to me that my calling is to work with people.
Coming out of school and a gap year, this job will be a huge change for me and I'm so excited, but your prayers would be really valuable to me and really appreciated to support me as I move into this next stage of life.
I don’t understand – but I still pray
Jo Giles tells of how she coped when her prayer wasn’t answered as she expected.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine was diagnosed with lung cancer. Unfortunately due to a previous misdiagnosis of asthma, the cancer had already spread to her liver and the prognosis was bad. She refused chemotherapy but sought healing in various other ways. One day, I asked her if anyone from the church had prayed with her. She said the local minister was praying for her but had never offered to pray with her. I asked if I could bring my minister so we could pray with her. She happily agreed, so a few days later we spent an hour talking and praying with her.
It was a special time during which she gave her life to Jesus and we also prayed for healing. The presence of God was tangible in a way I have never felt before or since. As we were leaving, her husband said he had felt incredible peace as we had been praying. I went home feeling drained but believing for healing.
A week later she died. I was devastated. Not only was I grieving for my friend, I also felt terrible that I had offered them hope of healing that had come to nothing. I was angry that God hadn’t healed her and couldn’t understand why he would have left three young children without their mother. At the funeral, I hugged her husband, and told him how sorry I was for giving them false hope. He stopped me and assured me that wasn’t how he felt at all and he thanked me for going to pray with them. I later learned that she had been extremely peaceful as though the fear of death had left her.
I still don’t understand why God didn’t heal her. But I know my friend went quickly and peacefully. She was at peace with Jesus, and the Bible teaches that salvation is the greatest miracle of all. Beyond that I can only trust that God is always good.
Has this experience stopped me praying in faith? Absolutely not! I pray about everything, large and small. I have prayed for my daughter whose foot was riddled with verrucas and they disappeared. I have prayed for lost pets that have then been found (and a hamster that was never found). As one of the contributors on the Alpha videos says, “when I pray coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t!”
When we pray for our own and others’ needs, we are being obedient to the Bible’s teaching. Prayer is primarily about relationship with God who, like an earthly parent, wants his children to ask for what they need. Jesus says “Ask, seek, knock …Is there anyone among you who, if you child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for fish, will give a snake?… how much more will your father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:7-11). However, God’s greater “good” may be different to our limited human desire.
We’re called to be like children recognising our dependence on our Heavenly Father and to rejoice with one another over answered prayer. But at the same time, we comfort one another in the pain and disappointment of seemingly unanswered prayer. After all, we are citizens of heaven, but residents of a fallen world.
Jo Giles is shortly to be licensed as a Reader in the team. Pete Grieg’s book God on Mute and Philip Yancey’s Disappointment with God explore this topic further.
David Johnson illustrates some of the history of stained glass windows with some local examples
Attitudes to stained glass in churches and ecclesiastical buildings have changed considerably over the years. In earlier times when people were less literate than now decorated windows were often used as teaching aids and means of communicating stories from the bible in much the same way as medieval wall paintings. Many expansive east windows covered episodes in the life of Christ, as the great Hardman east window of St Dionysius. Such pictorial identities can often elude modern worshippers.
Rood screens depicted apostles and local saints, and some of these have survived particularly in East Anglia. In some cases this led to the glorification of individuals as saints, and as such they and similar stained glass frequently fell victim to Protestant influences in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Others sought to illustrate the progress of Christianity such as Jesse windows tracing lineage back to Adam and Eve, or present an image of important stages in the gospel story or the early Christian church.
There was a huge revival in the installation of stained glass under the Victorians, but the motivation by then had changed. Such windows commemorated worthy individuals, even whole families, who had died, with appropriate biblical references as to character. There is an excellent example in the chancel of St Dionysius – eight windows dedicated to members of the Saunt family. It was a huge and costly family statement.
The same church has a window devoted to music, in this case commemorating Bill Wright, its longest serving organist. Another in Little Bowden church was devoted to the youngest son of the Redlich family, who was drowned in the river Jordan in 1939.
Later, memorials to organisations were common, with several commemorating those who fell in the two world wars, or served in the armed forces (Great Bowden). In the 20th century stained glass windows marked fund raising efforts, as at the east end of the south aisle in St Dionysius, or sought to reflect a particular artist or group of artists – even a whole genre of artistic endeavour.
Our appreciation of them has changed too. We categorise their value according to the quality of the design and craftsmanship, even the merits of the artist, rather than the message they convey.
Recently there have been two successive gospels in St Dionysius which have told stories illustrated by two of the church’s best windows in the chancel – the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ visit to the sisters Martha and Mary. Perhaps we need to use these as examples when they illustrate our readings, rather than as attractive adornments which simply beautify our churches.
Stained glass is now largely ignored in the modern church where people matter most. Perhaps we should take more notice of them in our services.
Team Vision Day: ‘It’s not about us – it’s about our Community!’
How can the five Anglican churches most effectively reach out to the 93 per cent – the huge majority of the 23,000 population in the parishes who don’t yet have a living faith in Jesus Christ? Lin Ball focuses on this question as she reports on Team Vision day last month
That was the big question facing all those who gathered for the Team Vision Day in June.
Team Rector Barry Hill reminded everyone of the Archbishop William Temple quotation: ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’
He said he wanted us to challenge the statistics that said that across Europe someone is 33 times more likely to join a new church than an existing one, and 33 times more likely to become a Christian in a new church than an existing one. Developing both ‘what is’ alongside ‘what could be’ will be key, he stressed.
Like the mustard seed
The Church, said Barry, is like the mustard seed – it’s small, but it grows deep roots so can grow bigger; it makes a big difference; and it re-seeds itself.
During a number of group discussion times during the day, members from the different congregations had opportunities to say how they felt about progress since the last Vision Day 18 months previously, and what excited them about ideas for the future.
Generally, it was felt that the passions people outlined in January 2017 remained, and that progress had been made. These passions were broadly defined as:
· Being more inclusive and welcoming
· Offering more people the opportunity to become disciples of Jesus
· Discipleship – deepening our faith
· Serving the community and being a witness
· Tackling social injustice
· Working more closely with other churches and Christian organisations in the town
Most people felt positively about recent changes, such as the influx of newcomers to the new 9.15 service at St Di’s, and ‘changes in gear’ to activities already happening across all five churches. Plans or discussions are in hand for:
· Starting ‘café church’ at Great Bowden
· Potentially a new youth-led worshipping community across the Team (possibly based at St Hugh’s)
· Further development in serving those who are older and more isolated
· Giving more opportunities to grow as disciples
· And (longer term) several other new worshipping communities.
Desire for unity
Concerns were expressed throughout the day about how to develop more unity within and across the congregations and churches, as well as becoming much more prayerful. Also, fresh challenges to outreach could be identified, particularly with the new housing planned – 600 new homes in the Transfiguration parish and 1500 in Lubenham.
And many people were concerned that more should be done to connect with teenagers, at a time when there was real worry about the mental health of young people.
Barry explained that it was hoped to extend Dawn O’Connell’s role as Children and Families Development Worker. Her current 3-year contract will finish in August but, after consultations over the last year with each PCC, the children and young peoples’ steering group and Team Council, a proposal has been agreed for her role to become permanent.
Dawn will take on strategic oversight for 0-18 year olds across the Team alongside the appointment of two Apprentice Youth Workers (each working 22 hours a week).
Half the money for this is being bid for, from the Diocese and a local charity, along with the five churches needing to sacrificially and generously increase giving (the cost locally being £100,000 over the next four years). Barry described this as a ‘significant step of faith’ to help meet the needs and opportunities across the town and villages.
In an exercise to discover what were felt to be the attitudes and behaviours that would help or hinder forward momentum in fulfilling the churches’ vision, people voted that the most helpful attributes were being welcoming, accessible and open, with devoting more time to prayer coming a close second.
In terms of attitudes and behaviours that hindered, the vote went to being critical, inflexible and grumbling as being the most unhelpful.
All responsible for growth
Bryony Wood, Team Vicar at Great Bowden, took up the theme of how the responsibility for growth rests with all of us.
‘Within the Body of Christ in Market Harborough, you are all called and chosen,’ she told everyone. ‘You are appointed and anointed; and when God calls, he equips.
‘Our purpose and passion are not about wanting a job or a title, but about being children of God, loved unconditionally, and called to be a blessing to our community. If we don’t, who else will?’
Countering the impact of loneliness
It’s a sad truth that many people spend their days with only their TV or
their cat for company. Loneliness, said Mother Teresa, is a terrible poverty. In western society, with its increasing emphasis on the individual, the consequent loss of community feeling has a great impact – and that is felt particularly keenly by the elderly among us.
Tea@Three aims to alleviate loneliness and isolation in Market Harborough by providing a warm and welcoming gathering on Sunday afternoons – regarded by many as the time when being alone feels hardest.
‘I like to get out of small flat on a Sunday for what can be a very empty day,’ says one regular guest. ‘I particularly enjoy singing some of the old tunes.’
Another says, ‘It’s great to be in company and mingling with people who are in similar situations. And it’s good to be getting some mental stimulation!’
The programme for Tea@Three on the last Sunday of each month is a varied mix of music, games, fun activities and interesting speakers – always accompanied by plenty of cups of tea and delicious homemade cakes. In the summer there is an outing to a local place of interest. The meetings provide an enjoyable opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.
The venue for Tea@Three is St Dionysius Community Hall, on Coventry road next to the Harborough Medical Centre. As a number of those who attend have mobility issues, many are collected on the community minibus, with a qualified driver and his able assistant.
Although linked to the church, not all who attend Tea@Three are churchgoers. Some perhaps attended many years ago. No distinction is made, but all are warmly welcomed. No charge is made, though a number are happy to make a donation to running costs.
Please contact David Palmer on 07505 968767 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.