From the Clergy
Harvest Festival 2019
All Good Gifts Around us … Revd Barry Hill and the Team explore the notion of generosity
This April we had our first bi-annual Vision and Giving Sunday across the team where, rather than focusing on bills and boilers, we explored Christian principles for giving in the context of our wider vision to serve the whole of our communities as a Resourcing Church Team.
The results were encouraging with year on year increases of 7%, 10% and 18% across the Team. Any increase in giving comes at a cost and we give thanks to God for everyone who reviewed their giving and the difference this will make. Whilst there is still a long way to go (the need is greater than we can currently address, we are not yet paying our way and there is still a relatively high proportion of regular worshippers who are not giving through planned giving, so it can be budgeted for and tax can be reclaimed), this is a big step for us as churches and the vision of what God calls us to.
As promised, there’ll be another opportunity to review giving at our next Vision and Giving Sunday, this time coinciding with Harvest Festival. This time the theme is generosity as we explore seven ways God calls us to be generous (only one of which is financial). Do come along to Harvest Festival to receive a special leaflet to find out more.
This year we are trying something a little different for Harvest, something which we hope will directly bless those we know in need in our villages and town. For it to work it needs to be a bit of a surprise so you are invited to bring your financial gift in cash for harvest festival to one of the services below and find out then what will happen with it!
Ø Sunday 29th September, 10:00am, joint all age Holy Communion for Harvest for St Nicholas and St Hugh’s at St Hugh’s (replacing the 9:15am and 11am that day)
Ø Sunday 6th October, 10:30am, a joint all age Holy Communion for Harvest & the Patronal Festival at St Dionysius (replacing the 8, 9:15, 11 and 6pm that day) to mark Patronal Festival and harvest, followed by church lunch
Ø Sunday 13th October, 10:00am family service at All Saints in Lubenham and 10:30am all age service at St Peter & St Paul, Great Bowden
If you can’t make it to a Harvest Festival money can be given to a Treasurer or Clergyperson in advance or left in the collection plate in an envelope marked ‘Harvest Festival’ in the weeks beforehand. Please can you include your name inside the envelope for the ‘surprise’! Do contact your Vicar if you have any questions.
To help us prepare to think about generosity, the staff team are delighted to offer this short article on Biblical Generosity from Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood, the new National Advisor for Giving for the Church of England, which has greatly helped our thinking:
There are more bible verses on money, wealth and possessions (2,450) than anything apart from love, with four times more than on faith or prayer. Jesus warns explicitly about the danger of focusing on wealth, as does Paul. 16 of the 38 recorded parables are about money and possessions. One of our challenges is that, whilst we as a church often hate talking about money, Jesus never stopped. Giving is not adiaphoron (neither forbidden nor commanded by scripture), but wholly integrated within our discipleship, our following of Jesus, and our desire and calling to be Christ-like. Generosity is a hallmark of a lived-out faith and a testament to it.
With so many references to money in the Bible, it is sometimes hard to see the wood for the trees. So, in this short paper I will explore some of the passages that I find particularly helpful.
Firstly, God calls us to be generous in response to his generosity and to share his generosity with others. Mission has been described as the overflowing life and love of God. It’s a wonderful description, conjuring up an image of love as living waters, cascading down, swirling around and through us into our communities, and God gives us his gifts to enable this to happen. God does not see our money or our possessions as ours but as his. We receive God’s gifts and are called to sensibly manage them. As the Methodist Covenant Prayer puts it:
“Let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.”
The Greatest Commandments
In Mark 12 Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is. The man who asks is a “teacher of the law”, so he knows his stuff – but although he may know his stuff, does he know what it means? Jesus says:
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The teacher of the law’s response suggests he does have a pretty good idea what it means:
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
And then Jesus acknowledges the teacher’s wisdom and says:
34 “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
What a wonderful thing to say. You’re not far. Keep going, you’re on the right lines. Love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength. Love your neighbour as yourself. That is what matters, far more than what we give as offerings. Love completely.
Later on, in the same chapter, Jesus rams home the point in case the disciples missed it first time around:
41 Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
The original Greek says “she has put in her very life”. God doesn’t have a calculator where he tots up our generosity, he looks to our hearts. How much are we loving him, and loving the community around us? To do that requires a generosity of spirit, freely giving of ourselves and what we have. Some translations of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 – “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” - use the word ‘generosity’ instead of ‘goodness’. Generosity is itself a spiritual gift, a gift from God.
The Look of Generosity
But what does generosity look like? The bible shows that God’s generosity is wonderfully reckless. When Jesus turned the water into wine, that was equivalent to 700 bottles of wine. Enabling the entire village to get merry is funny and points to reckless generosity. The manna from heaven is similarly generous, as is the feeding of the 5,000 – there is always more than people need. Jesus commends Mary’s generosity when she anoints his feet with perfume that cost a year’s salary, and Zacchaeus for giving half his possessions away. The ultimate generous act was, of course, God giving his son. God’s generosity is extraordinary generosity.
The Challenges of Living Generously
How do we achieve the kind of generosity we are called to? It is not at all easy. Whilst, yes, we know in one sense that everything is God’s, in practice it is really hard to live in our culture with that attitude – we live in a world which tells us we are what we earn and what we own. That is quite some way from Mary who, after anointing Jesus’ feet, Jesus said would be known not for what she had, but by what she gave away. There are also many, many enticing ways to spend ‘our’ money. There are huge social pressures and expectations over what we should buy and how we should live. We also live in a time where many in our society struggle with debt, and where tiny houses come with huge mortgages.
To add to the challenge, it’s not just us that then forgo things in order to live generously, but it may also be our partners, our children, our wider family and friends. We need to have a shared understanding with our loved ones of what generosity we are being called to, and that in itself can be hard to discern and agree.
Our relative wealth can also make generosity harder. The more we have, the more our lives can revolve around it – the greater time we spend managing it, the more opportunities and demands it places on our finite lives, and it can also buy us lives that are more and more separated from others.
Living a Generous Life
To live a generous life, we need to break that cycle. We can do this by slowing down, and by intentionally and purposefully focusing on God and our community. It is this attentiveness that enables us to really see how we can love and care for others, it is in the noticing that we can become generous. Spending time in prayerful contemplation enables us to notice God and his heart, and to see and accept what he wishes to do through us.
To live a generous life is itself a generous gift from God, for we cannot do it on our own. We may well feel the sickening lurch in the stomach as we see where we currently are, and where God is calling us to, and despair of ever making the leap from one to the other. We realise afresh that to be the generous people he calls us to be is an act of his grace, it is through him giving us the spiritual gift of generosity that we can live the generous life he is calling us to.
Similarly, it is also an act of grace that enables us to love our neighbour as our self. We should, as the Quakers so beautifully put it, “Attend to what love requires of you”. But this love needs to be a brave love, because we need courage to live a different life, one that others may not understand, or which seems at odds with how others see life should be lived.
Mary’s act of generously anointing Jesus’ feet points us to the fundamental truth of living a generous life – it all stems from her relationship with Christ. It is that relationship that inspires and shapes the generosity, and her generosity is in response to it. “We love God because he first loved us”. The more we discover God’s love for us, the initiator of the loving relationship we have, the more we love in return. We cannot live generous lives because we feel we ought to. We live generously because we cannot help it. Our lives have been transformed by the love that first loved us.
For a copy of the full article, including footnotes and references please contact the Team Office.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 email@example.com for further details.