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.
From the Clergy - October 2018
Who is our neighbour?
Revd Alison Iliffe reflects on her spiritual journey to Market Harborough and what it might mean for all of us
On Thursday 13th September St Nicholas’ Church was full as people from across the Market Harborough Team and beyond witnessed my licensing by Bishop Guli, Suffragan Bishop of Loughborough welcomed me as the new Vicar of the Parish of the Transfiguration. Members of the Churches of St Hugh and St Nicholas who together make up the Parish worked really hard to make this a special occasion, thank you for making everyone feel so welcome and included.
I was born in Groby where I attended the church of St Philip and St James with my family. I was baptised there, prepared for confirmation from there and enjoyed being in the church choir and learning to ring the bells. Bellringing is still a big part of my life, my husband Terry and I enjoy the physical and mental challenge of ringing and have made many friends this way – the irony therefore of me being vicar of the two churches without bells rung full circle hasn’t been lost on many!
After University and a time away from church (apart from bellringing!) I moved to Kibworth from where Terry and I were married in 1991. It was the birth of our sons and my mum dying which caused me to revisit my faith and ponder just what I did believe. Our sons, Matthew and Daniel were baptised at St Wilfrid’s in Kibworth and we gradually became more involved in church life. I began to explore and learn about my faith through Alpha, a Home Group, Cursillo and a diocesan ECLF Course (The equivalent of JiF which is running at Great Bowden this year). I felt God was calling me to ministry and so I trained as a Reader. Although I enjoyed this ministry I felt that there was something more for me, eventually I heard the call to ordained ministry and went off to The Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham to full-time Ordination Training and Formation.
In 2015 I was ordained Deacon by Bishop Tim at Leicester Cathedral and we moved as a family to North Kilworth where I served my Curacy in the Avon-
Swift benefice with Revd. Emma Davies who was previously Curate here in Market Harborough! Ministry in the 11 rural churches in Avon-Swift was Eucharistic and also relational in these small communities. Schools work and Occasional Offices were important parts of my ministry.
Over the years I have been involved in prayer ministry, including 24/7 prayer, until recently I was a Trustee at The Well in Kibworth which was birthed out of 24/7 prayer and over the last three years I have been involved in ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ an annual call for Prayer across the world. I continue to be part of the Cursillo movement in the Diocese, if you want to know more about Cursillo please ask me about it.
As a family we enjoy climbing mountains and walking with our dog Benson, and have begun to explore the green spaces and footpaths around Market Harborough. Moving away from the community we had quickly become part of in North Kilworth and into a new community has, as you might expect, been exciting as well as a little challenging. We are grateful to everyone from the parish and wider team who have helped us to settle in, and to our immediate neighbours in Northampton Road who have made us feel so welcome.
Being new in a place has got me thinking about who my neighbour is. In the bible (Luke 10:29-37) a Lawyer asks Jesus this same question “who is my neighbour?” In reply Jesus tells the parable of The Good Samaritan, the story of a Jewish man who was left for dead on the side of the road. Two people of his own faith passed him by, but a foreigner stopped to help him. Jesus ends the parable by asking “Which of these was a neighbour?” The Lawyer answered, “The one who showed him mercy” and Jesus told him to “go and do likewise”.
At my licensing service Bishop Guli talked about how, as Christians we are called to treat others as we would want to be treated and I believe this includes reaching out to anyone in need. That might be the people around us, our immediate neighbours, those who might struggle to care for themselves as winter approaches or be finding family life challenging. Our neighbour might equally be those who live a long way from us, perhaps people we see on the news who we will never meet but who we can show mercy to through prayer or in whatever way we can.
Across the Market Harborough Resourcing Church Team this coming harvest, our harvest offering will be used to support the work of South Leicestershire Community Sponsorship, a local project dedicated to welcoming and resettling a refugee family in our area within the next year. It seems to me that supporting this initiative is one way we can be neighbours to one family new to our area. More locally, food items brought to any of our Harvest Festival services will be given to the work of the Jubilee Foodbank which supports families across the town and beyond – please see their website as a guide to what they need.
Thank you for your welcome to us as a family and for showing us what it means to be a neighbour. We look forward to becoming part of the community here in Market Harborough and especially in the Parish of the Transfiguration. As the nights draw in and people naturally spend more time indoors, I encourage us all to look around us and ask the questions “who has been a neighbour to you?” and “who could you be a neighbour to?” in the days and months ahead.
Revd Alison Iliffe
School of hope for life
In June Julie Fagan was preparing for her visit to Tanzania sponsored by Tearfund. She tells us of her experiences there.
In August I set off on a journey of discovery to Tanzania and Zambia, a very new experience. First stop was to a Church Mission Society supported school and community in central Tanzania, flying to Dar es Salaam where I was met by Grace Kanungha, friend of one of my sons and mission partner there with her husband Festo. (See Grace’s blog to read their amazing story https://festoandgrace.wordpress.com )
Two German gap year students had also come, to help in the school nursery, a wonderful gift. The last part of our journey was an 11 hour air conditioned coach journey to Kilimatinde, a village that perches on the edge of the Rift Valley.
August is in the long dry dusty season, with cool mornings and evenings and warm weather during the day, sunrise and sunset being around 7 am and 7 pm. It was only in the last decade that main roads were properly surfaced. The coach driver weaved in and out of the traffic, so close to vehicles at times that it seemed only a whisker separated us from the vehicle in front.
We were staying in the recently built guest house in the care of Stephen Hatch, another CMS mission partner. Stephen introduced us to some of the quirks of the building. No hot water yet but there were cold water showers. We were at the end of the water supply pumped up from the water tower in Solya village next door, which meant that there might not be any water at times when the students were washing or cleaning.
We had a water container fitted with a filter so that we didn’t have to use bottled water. There is no recycling system locally so all rubbish is burnt including plastic, a huge environmental issue common to many countries.
Although there were snakes in the area, we didn’t see any. There was a leopard about at night sometimes, possibly two but Grace and Festo’s dogs scare them off.
Education faces two main challenges. Primary education for 7 to 13 year olds is provided by the Government but the amount paid doesn’t cover all the fees, uniforms, books and supplies and families struggle to pay their contributions. It also means that some of the children don’t go to school. Primary education is in Swahili but changes to English at secondary level .
The other challenge is that secondary education has to be paid for. A lot of children finish their education at primary level because their family can’t pay the fees.
Over the next 6 days, I was shown round the school which now has about 250 students who are resident there.
I visited the nearby bible school for adults. It is a huge sacrifice for them (with only two women students amongst them) because of the fees and leaving their families and farm for the three year course.
I visited the nursing and midwifery training school and heard about their training. Students have to pay for their training, the majority of who are male. Staff go out to the community clinics to provide antenatal care, weigh the babies checking for malnutrition and giving vaccinations.
The doctor who was in charge of the small hospital next door, showed me round the wards which were very sparse. They include a ward where women and their families could come and stay at no cost, providing their own food, whilst the women waited to go into labour.
Distances from some of the villages are lengthy and in the rainy season, the roads become impassable; coming ahead of time has saved many lives.
I saw the newly opened burns unit, necessary because of the open fires and accidents especially with children. The Kilimatinde Trust here in the UK (see https://www.kilimatindetrust.org.uk) had provided the funds. They are also researching provision of solar panels for cooking.
Families care for their relatives and cook their food - maybe an answer for our cash strapped NHS?
One afternoon I attended the Mothers Union meeting with Grace, and heard the song they were preparing for their annual conference of bible teaching for 4 days, meeting with lots of other MU groups.
The song is about the journey of the Israelites escaping from slavery in Egypt and travelling through the wilderness, on to our own life journeys that can be hard and how God carries us through. Their harmonies and drumming were beautiful to hear.
They were planning what food to take on their trip as they do their own cooking and take cooking pots and bedding too. Their families manage without them! It is a huge affair with 1000 – 1500 people attending, sleeping on church hall floors etc.
Grace enjoys attending the local meetings and sharing fellowship with the members and was speaking about ‘Zumm’ on the Saturday at the conference.
Traditionally parents don’t speak much to their children so that by the age of three when they start nursery, their language development is limited. Zumm teaches them how to interact, and its benefits.
There are two vocational training courses on the site to provide students (and eventually villagers too) with work skills - mechanics and tailoring. There are about 10 sewing machines that need repairing so if you know of anyone who could spare a few weeks to go there and train some people in how to repair them that would be wonderful.
What did I learn in this first part of my journeying?
I learnt that people worshipped God wholeheartedly and joyfully. They always started meetings with songs of worship.
I learnt that Grace, Festo and Stephen live frugally and sacrificially to work there. They all need more regular funding for CMS to be able to pay them fully for even a basic standard of living.
That Zephaniah and William are able to wander around freely and help with the goats, pigs and hens (Festo is a farmer as well as headteacher).
However they don’t have the beautiful schools that our schools have, with more relaxed teaching methods.
That God has provided funds all along the way for the building projects – people are prompted to give.
That the team have a strong sense of calling to the work because of the love of God they have experienced personally and want to share with the children and young people, providing good education so that the young people may flourish and have a future, to help them and their families out of poverty.
I am very grateful to them for hosting me and to my family who helped me with my preparations, for all the people who remembered me in their prayers and to God for enabling me to make the journey and for keeping me well and safe.
Next stop Ndola in Zambia with Tearfund, a very different experience.
Beneath the Cassock
Revd John Morley is one of our ‘retired’ clergy who leads services in the parishes from time to time. The Editor talks to him about his 50 years as an ordained minister.
“I regard myself as a dentist”, said John. “I do the fill-in’s!” As an ex-choirboy, church organist, bell ringer and team vicar it is hard to think of a role that John could not ‘fill in’.
His ministry, though, was not an automatic choice. Given his upbringing in the church, much more common when he was a boy than it is now, the path was not difficult to see. But a great deal of thought went into the final decision. That came during his time working in a primary school, which was another natural pathway for him as his grandmother, his aunt and his mother had all worked in school.
Finally deciding to combine teaching and calling he applied to be accepted for ordination but was too late for that year. So he took a job in a gent’s outfitters.
“That was quite interesting”, he said with a smile.”It also sold the town’s school uniforms. The children I had just been teaching all trooped in with their parents to kit themselves out for their secondary schools.”
Another childhood interest he followed up was scouting. He has been a lifelong member of the Scout Association and says he was privileged to be chosen as one of the UK contingent to attend the 1959 World Jamboree in the Philippine Islands, the first to be held in Asia.“I held just about every leadership position in the scouts”, he said, “ending up as Commissioner for British Scouts in Western Europe”.
“Has your scouting background given you an enduring love of things outdoors?” I asked him.
“Not really”, he replied, “but I do still enjoy my leadership roles with that sort of organisation. I am chaplain for the local Sea Scouts. I am sailing with them this evening actually but that sounds braver than it is. I shall be in the boat with the engine in!”
In his younger days, his local church in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, was very much at the heart of his family life. His father Frank was superintendent of the Sunday School numbering around 100 children, a post he held for 27 years. John was a chorister, altar server and bell-ringer and three services each Sunday was the norm, as it was for many in those post-war days. At secondary school he learnt the organ which has proved useful in some of the parishes he has been in!
After four years as a curate and a vicar he looked for his next step. Probably influenced by his scouting experiences he became an RAF chaplain in 1977, serving in Germany and Belize with the Harrier force and spending some time in Ascension Island after the Faulklands War when a trouping point was being established there.
After 16 years as an RAF chaplain he returned to more conventional ministry in the church. His ministry lasted over 40 years during which time he has had parishes in Coventry, Birmingham, Oxford and St Albans dioceses. From 1999 to 2002 he was Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Nicosia in the Diocese of Cyprus and The Gulf. With his wife Kathie, they have had 14 changes of home in the 50 years of marriage which they celebrate this month.
Kathie became a member of the Quakers. The Religious Society of Friends, 5 years ago and attends most Sundays at Kettering Meeting. John is also a member of the Friends, thus becoming a ‘QuAnglican’ of whom there is a goodly number!
Whilst visiting his two sisters in Market Harborough one time he was browsing the estate agents’ window and saw a house that appealed to him and Kathie. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Do you miss full time ministry?” I asked him.
“Yes and no”, he replied. “I enjoyed my ministry, particularly working in the RAF. There was a great sense of camaraderie, especially amongst the chaplains there. But when you retire you have got choice. I chose to apply for Permission to Officiate in the Diocese of Peterborough and Leicester.
I ‘fill in’ in many village churches which I enjoy. I am President of the local branch of the Royal British Legion; still Chaplain of the Sea Scouts; Kathie and I belong to the national Home Sitters Association which takes us to many different places. Next week we are volunteering a stewards for the National Quaker Tapestry in Kendal”, he told me.
“I say we are ‘fill in’s’ but it is more than that. It keeps our connection with the church and the ministry very much alive and, of course, our connection with God”. Until recently John was Spiritual Director to Leicester Anglican Cursillo, which he says he will explain to anyone interested.
In June John presented St Dionysius with the chasuble and stole which was made for him on the 25th anniversary of his priesting.
“It was made in Ironbridge”, he told the congregation. “It is nice to think how such beautiful and exquisite work came out of a place which was once the heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution”.
This month, a further 25 years on, the church will mark a double celebration for John: his 50th anniversary and the Golden Wedding of his marriage to Kathie.
A special service is being held at St Dionysius on Sunday 30 September at 6.00 pm to give thanks for John's ministry but focussing on God's call to each one of us to put our Christian faith to work in every part of our lives.
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.
Tanzania and Zambia
Julie Fagan ‘girds her loins’ for a profound and adventurous experience
On the back of the Tearfund quarterly magazine there was a photo of two little girls. The older one was trying to console the younger one who was crying inconsolably because she was so hungry – a deep hunger I have never known. My two granddaughters are of a similar age and they often hug lovingly and console one another. The photo made me weep.
Another painful picture is of a parent holding a dying child, dying for want of clean water or through malnutrition or the disaster of climate change with floods or drought and famine. And then there are people living in war zones too and their terrible suffering or trying to migrate to escape. I can’t begin to imagine their anguish and sense of powerlessness.
How can people hold on to their faith in these circumstances? How does God help them? (I know he weeps with them.)
Tearfund invites people to go to one of the projects they work with, to learn and help as much as possible. It is something I have wanted to do for some time. My caring role prevented it until recently but now I can manage it.
The only project I could visit in August (to fit in with term time responsibilities) was in Zambia for two weeks at the Jubilee Centre (See www.jubileecentre.org ) an HIV/Aids support project. (The alternative was a craft project in Peru! With my total lack of craft skills maybe not!)
My application was accepted and to help me prepare I’ve attended a weekend of training in a youth activity centre in Wokingham, where most of the people were under 40. It was great to be with them. There are five of us going to Zambia and the weekend gave us a chance to get to know one another.
Team building, thinking about poverty, culture, hearing about the project, practicalities, safety – don’t swim near hippos – and the like; it was interactive with a lot of humour, inspirational too.
Tanzania - When I first said I was looking into going abroad, son Jonathan suggested I visit Tanzania to see the educational project that he has been supporting financially from some of the 10% he donates from his company’s profits. Son Jeremy’s friend Grace runs it with her husband Festo Kanungha. Jeremy got to know Grace through the Penzance Venture children’s mission when he went as a helper.
Looking at the map of Africa, I noticed that Tanzania was geographically next door to Zambia so Jeremy made contact with Grace and Festo, Church Mission Partners, who said I was very welcome to visit. See www.churchmissionsociety.org (CMS) and look for Festo and Grace Kanungha there to read about them and their project. It looks inspirational. (CMS requests that they organise their own financial support. They have reached 60% of what is needed.
If you can help them by regular giving, however small the amount, they would be very glad of your support. It can be set up through CMS. St Dionysius Church supports Freda Carey a Church Mission Partner in Pakistan and she is also very grateful for financial support. Many thanks if you can help them. Freda is back in the UK at present.)
The preparations continue and I am well outside my comfort zone! Vaccinations, visas, travel including how to journey across Tanzania to Ndola in Zambia, (I have a new appreciation of our public transport systems) and all the rest is slowly being sorted plus being personally ready, setting off on 7th August and returning on 1st September. And yes, I will be glad of your prayers!
There is a worship song called Oceans. It is about stepping out on the water, based on Peter asking Jesus to join him when Jesus walked on the water to reach his disciples, just before dawn. (Matt 14 22 – 33). You can watch it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy9nwe9_xzw The song feels very relevant.
Welcome to Andy Giles – new Resourcing Church Curate.
Barry has announced the appointment of Andy Giles to the team from July. Here Andy introduces himself and his family.
I am delighted to introduce myself to you all as your soon to be Curate. Having experienced at close quarters the life of a vicar due to my father being one I was determined never to become one myself. Instead, I spent 20 very happy years in the Outdoor Education industry, which is how I met my wonderful wife Jo.
I grew up in Surrey and Jo in Northampton, but we both had a deep love for sea and hills, so we felt incredibly blessed to live in the places our work took us - North Wales, North Devon, Scotland and for the last 15 years, Cumbria.
Jo was very clear when I asked her to marry me that her ‘yes’ was on the condition I would NEVER become a vicar.
So how did I come to be an ordinand in the Church of England? Well, it’s a long story which you can ask me over coffee, but the short version is that God took a long run up and gave me a massive kick which my wife had pre-empted by only 2 days before telling me that although she had made me promise never to do it, she actually thought I’d make a good vicar and I ought to consider it.
I had quickly dismissed Jo, however God wasn’t quite so easy to dismiss, my calling was too direct to be ignored. It took the Church of England slightly longer to agree to have me, but here we are.
Although, Jo says she’d not have given God the idea if she’d known he’d send her back to the furthest point from the sea and hills, but the tea and cake shops of Market Harborough are slowly winning her over.
We have 4 wonderful children Lucy - 16, Ellie - 15, Lydia - 12, and Caleb - 11. We also have a very energetic Cocker Spaniel called ‘Rubbly’. They all agree that their Father used to have a cool job, now they are decidedly vague when anyone asks what their dad does!
The move to Market Harborough will obviously be an emotional rollercoaster, Cumbria is all our children have ever known as home, but we know it is where God is calling us so we trust him for the rest. We are excited to come and be part of what God is doing in and through you.
Revd Andy Giles
Parties and Prayer
“They do go together,” maintained Bishop Martyn at a first of its kind service at St Dionysius last month. The Editor, along with many other townspeople, attended a special service of thanksgiving for local food and drink producers.
The best ideas are generally hatched over a glass of wine. So it was last November when Bishop Martyn, Barry Hill and James Pickersgill visited Duncan Murray Wines in Harborough ostensibly to find out a little more about local trading. It would be unkind to suggest that the visit provided a warm escape from a chilly evening.
But given that wine is mentioned 233 times in the Bible (yes, I googled it) and food many more times it was probably destined that the conversation would lead to the idea of celebrating the creation and subsequent production of man’s sustenance.
Local wine merchant Duncan Murray who helped to organise the evening commented, “The idea came up when I met James, Bishop Martyn and Barry over a glass or two of red wine in my wine bar prior to Christmas and it just seemed a bit different and a lot of fun. “
The discussion became a project with Taste Harborough which culminated in this unique thanksgiving service. It is surprising how many food and drink producers are in the region. Beer, wine, cider and gin were all represented as was local farming, food and coffee.
The service began with each of the producers placing something an item that they use on the altar and giving us a small insight into their craft.
A verse or two from the bible and a prayer followed each short presentation linking us back to the Creation. The hymns and the short entertaining address from Bishop Martyn focussed on the enjoyment of God’s creation in all its forms.
The whole evening turned out to be “a bit different and a lot of fun”. As the Church enters ‘Ordinary Time’ we were reminded by Barry that, “the Church is called to show how God offers to transform everything we do Monday to Saturday and not just on Sunday’s”. We should give thanks, he reminded us, for the ordinary things in our everyday lives.
Nothing, I suppose, is more ‘ordinary’ than eating and drinking. Stalls for the food and drink producers and suppliers were set up in the church and we were able to sample something of what they all had to offer. The community came to the church and all present thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Roy from Welland Park Cafe said “It’s really good that everyone can get together like this. It’s been a great evening”.
Kirsty from Waterloo Cottage Farm teased: “It’s nice that there’s not just grey hair here this evening!” (looking at mine, I think).
Bishop Martyn summed up the whole evening: “It’s wonderful to celebrate God’s creation with so many local producers,” he said.
The service was an undoubted success. It was a success too for the Street Pastors, present at the service and for whom a collection was made to support their work. What organisation could represent better the concept of outreach to the community than they do?
What comes next?
Derek Williams probes life’s deepest mystery
My friend is dying of untreatable brain cancer. Driving north I call in to see him. What do I say? More importantly, what do I think? As his wife makes me coffee, he asks tearfully, “Why has God allowed this?”
He is a progressive, visionary pillar of a lively outgoing church. I give him the response he himself has given to countless people he has helped over many years. We don’t know, but God is still there. “We don’t know,” he repeats thoughtfully, looking away into the garden.
We catch up on family news and he doesn’t pose the question I had expected: What’s next? What happens after we die? My answer would have begun, We don’t know, but God is still there. Later I rehearse the bullet points I would have added if we had had one of our occasional theological discussions. One day, I’ll need them myself.
We do know there will be something. Death is not the end. Jesus rose from the dead, the first instalment, Paul said, of what will be true for all (1 Corinthians 15:19,20). Further, Jesus assured the disciples, “I am going to prepare a place for you [and] I will come back and take you to be with me” (John 14:2,3).
But beyond that, we really don’t know. There are many mythical ideas, fanciful conjectures and hopeful assumptions in circulation, but you’ll find only vague hints in scripture.
We can forget sitting on puffy clouds strumming harps. Mercifully, we can also forget the heavenly equivalent of an endless church service; and a futuristic city with streets paved with gold.
These are biblical metaphors, not a sneak preview of God’s photo album. They portray an unimaginable spiritual realm in the only terms we can imagine.
Jesus’ resurrection body was a preview, though: real, tangible, and yet very new, belonging to a different dimension. Maybe physicists and sci-fi writers are not so wrong to speculate about many dimensions or multiple universes.
We don’t know. But God will be there.
It will be delightful. Paul said that to die and be with Christ was better than anything. But he didn’t want to go there yet because he had more work to do (Philippians 1:21-26). This life – every minute of it –before death is important in God’s economy; it’s not a mere waiting room for the last train to Kingdom Come.
Above all, it will be unblemished. John’s vision in Revelation, written for Christians suffering political aggression and social cruelty, assures us that “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”.
Everything will be made new and timeless: no more sun and moon, an ageless continuous present (21:4,5).
We don’t know. Then, however, we will know: our questions will be answered (see 1 Corinthians 13:12). However, it will be a community, not a hermitage. Other people will be there, some of whom we currently can’t stand.
As God loves them as he loves us, we need to practise loving them as God does. Now. And if we’re going to live in God’s presence for ever, then we need to get to know him better, too. Now.
Derek has an extended article about life and death at https://gentlerword.blogspot.com/2018/06/whats-next-after-this-life.html
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