From the Clergy - June 2017
Pot Noodles or the Meal Deal
Let me start on behalf of James, Pep and I, with many thanks for the warm welcome, prayers, love, cards and support we’ve received over recent weeks and especially surrounding our licensing on 4th May. It has been so encouraging and we have all felt a tangible sense of God’s provision gone ahead of us in so many ways. And to repeat what I said on 4th May, to also give thanks to God for the wisdom and fruitfulness of previous Rectors, not least Richard and to thank all those who have taken on considerable extra responsibility (and work!) during the vacancy. To join a place where things are going well and been led well makes everything so much easier and gives a great springboard into the coming years.
If there is a snack which sums up for me what these coming years may look like for the churches in and around Harborough, it is, perhaps surprisingly, the Pot Noodle. I can’t confess to being a huge fan, but when I was at university, some friends (who were getting married the month after Pep and I) won a luxury honeymoon at a very high end resort in Asia. Whilst they were delighted, it presented a problem: how to afford the meals on a student’s income. They saved hard and worked hard but still felt they could only afford perhaps two evening meals on a very expensive island without any other eating options. So, in the spirit of all good students, they packed one suitcase of clothes and one of pot noodle. Day one, they had a large breakfast and then an evening pot noodle; day two, a wonderful meal out; day three, pot noodle. On day four, they went to check with the hotel their account to see if they could afford another nice meal. The account showed as zero. They questioned, checked, went back and forth, only to be told they hadn’t just won bed and breakfast but all expenses paid! I’m assuming no more pot noodles were eaten that holiday.
With God there is often more than we can realise. So many in our world are trying to get by spiritually languishing in bed and breakfast, rather than enjoying, through Jesus, God’s all expenses paid feast. Our baptismal calling as those who have experienced more of God’s goodness, grace, mercy, love, purposes and calling is not to hoard them selfishly to ourselves, for fear of losing it, but to show the communities God has put us in that, because Jesus rose from the dead, everything is different.
A leading Christian thinker of the last century was once asked why he thought more people in England were not Christians. He said he didn’t think it was because most people thought it was untrue (as if having carefully analysed the evidence on each side of a ledger and reached a conclusion). Instead, he suggested that most people aren’t Christians because they think it is trivial. They look at church and faith and it can appear like a hobby, much like others have bridge, football or a book club, we have a Sunday church hobby. Whilst I don’t entirely concur, and especially not in my limited experience of faith in Harborough, which I have seen lived out with vibrancy, sacrifice and 24/7 passion, the challenge for all Christians is to constantly show how God makes a difference in every part of our lives. To live showing there is more.
How do we deal with the colleagues who no one really likes? How do react when a shop assistant gets an order wrong? How do we draw the best out in others at school? How do we offer to pray for a friend facing a challenge? How do we reflect God’s beauty and creativity in our recreation?How do we serve the poorest amongst us? How do we invite a friend who we sense God might be calling to come to know His love? How do we react when it’s not our turn to wash up or put the bins out and yet it is expected of us? How do we care for creation, even when it costs us more? How do we respond when life is not fair? How are our lives bathed in prayer so that we radiate hope?
In short, Christian’s are called to live in such a way that our lives don’t make sense if God isn’t real.
With God there is always more and when we have even had just a glimpse of dawn, we cannot go back to night; when we have heard that music exists, we cannot go back to perpetual silence; when we have realised that another has paid for us to enjoy all expenses paid luxury, we cannot go back to Pot Noodle!
At the start of this next chapter in our life together, may our prayer be that God would help our town, our villages and each of us to know even more of His goodness and overflowing, generous, unending abundance. Not for the sake of a larger church in itself, that would be mere sinful self-interested imperialism, but for the sake of world which God has trusted us to help transform.
Revd Barry Hill
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
It is some time now since the Quintet Advisory Group suggested that an ‘exposé’ of church finances might be an interesting topic for our readers. The Editor talks to Angie Hill, treasurer of St Dionysius Church, about some of the mysteries of parish book-keeping.
Angie has worshipped at St Di’s since 1999. As Treasurer she works with both the Finance Committee and the PCC to ensure that the church can meet its financial commitments. She is now also Team Treasurer. All the churches in the team now channel their team expenses through Angie.
We know we contribute to the collections, that our clergy stipends have to be met, that we pay our parish ‘share’ and that heating and lighting are ongoing costs.
But talking to Angie showed me that balancing the books involves some complex and sometimes quite delicate issues to be dealt with.
To manage the finances there has to be sufficient money coming in overall. Any shortfalls must be met by adjusting those outgoings over which the committees can have some influence.
Angie works with other treasurers to maintain the cashflow. Garry Davies is treasurer of The Quintet, for example, and pays for printing costs with the Quintet subscriptions. After costs have been met the church hall will make a donation to the general fund as does the income from the 200 club.
The incomings and outgoings are recorded on Angie’s spreadsheet and presented to the Finance Committee every two months. The Finance Committee meets just before the PCC, which receives the report from the Finance Committee each meeting.
The books are not audited as the turnover does not require it but rather ‘examined’ by an independent examiner. At the end of the year a Statement of Financial Affairs is produced on which basis the PCC formulates financial policy for the following year.
That is the process in a nutshell. But where does the money come from? In terms of general categories it breaks down roughly as follows:
Our primary source of income, Voluntary Giving, is from planned giving (Standing Orders), the envelope scheme and the collection plate. These are then enhanced by Gift Aid of 25% which Angie claims. This is by far the biggest category of income.
We also receive donations from charities such as the Richard Wall and Dorothy Smith Foundations and the Friends of St Dionysius (Other Voluntary Income in the graph above); from Events and Activities including the Summer Fête and profits from other events such as cream teas.
Other Income is received from the sale of books and cards, The Quintet, the Fabric Fund and the Community Hall. Significant sums are raised through Angie's management of the Old Grammar School. There is also a small amount of Investment Income in the form of dividends and interest.
On the other side of the equation the PCC decides how the income is distributed. What was referred to earlier as the Parish Share is now the Parish Contribution. Each parish now decides what it can contribute rather than have an amount levied by the diocese.
Next month we will look at the outgoings, the other side of the equation, and see how they are apportioned. - 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