From the Clergy
Transformed by love
For the first Christians in the pagan Roman Empire, the decision to ask for baptism was momentous. It transformed one’s identity. Most early Christians had to break with their families and become estranged from their contemporaries and friends. Baptism often led to one’s death. This is still true for Christians in parts of the world, but today in the West when ministers of religion baptize babies, they may wonder whether they will ever return to church until their funeral, and at neither event will they have an active participation. For many people, baptism hardly seems to matter.
Extract from Taking the plunge by Timothy Radcliffe.
By the time you read this article we will probably have held our 2015 ‘Team Day’ and launched our theme of ‘baptism’ for the year. The ‘particular’ amongst you (and there are a number – of which I’m one!) will no doubt have already had a moan about why the posters and information about our theme don’t have a capital ‘B’ for baptism. There are various reasons, but chief amongst them is that we’re not principally referring to an event, the one-off service of initiation into the Church; but instead we want to focus on living the baptized life; baptism as something ongoing and vital to who we are as people, as Christians; something essential to our identity.
Timothy Radcliffe’s remarks are sadly all too true. However, they are not inevitable. His reminder of the situation in the world Church is so important. It is criminal and an international tragedy that Christians today are persecuted for their faith, evicted from their homes and lands and frequently murdered. This is about more than intolerance, it is about injustice.
The plight of our brothers and sisters in Christ is a challenge to us about how seriously we live out our baptism; a reminder that we should never take it for granted. So what does this mean? It means living our lives in the relationship of unconditional love that God has for us. It means trying to live lives worthy of that love. It means looking to Jesus - the living love of God – and desiring to learn from his ways and his words. It means constantly seeking to grow in love in all our relationships: with those closest to us, our friends and acquaintances and yes, those we find hard to love at all, even our enemies.
The Spirit of God in our lives through baptism is there to help constantly transform our lives from what they are to what they can be. This is what we are called to in baptism, this is part of the extraordinary gift of God in baptism, this is part of the Christian life, being transformed by love.
Rev Richard Brand, Team Rector
Soul Space Continues
It is nearly a year since ‘Soul Space’, the monthly Sunday evening service at St Peter & St Paul, started. I am delighted to report that Soul Space is continuing!
The first ever Soul Space took place on 2nd March 2014, a Service of Light. Bright candles lit the Church and we listened to a wide range of readings, as well as beautiful music, with plenty of space to reflect.
There have now been eight Soul Space events, culminating on 7th December, when we engaged with the Advent theme of waiting: what are we waiting for? The concept is to provide an open space for people to meet with God. Soul Space attracts both those within our congregations (it’s a Team initiative) and those within the wider community who may be non-churched. It is lay led, and a team of us meet under James Shakespeare’s leadership, to take forward Soul Space for each season. So far we have explored some deep human themes: loss, reconciliation, food, the beauty of creation, ways into meditation. We have listen to some profound music, explored the arts, sat in silence, and been challenged to experience God in a deeper way.
It is striking how people have been significantly moved by what they have experienced, and moved on in their human journey. Also it is good to draw on such a wealth of lay talent across our Team. Soul Space is now firmly established as a new monthly congregation.
We didn’t manage to plan a Soul Space for January, due to the pressures of Christmas (apologies if you got the wrong message). However I can now inform you of the next series of Soul Space. Each one is at 6pm at St Peter & St Paul church, Great Bowden:
Sunday 1st February. Candlemas: ‘Lighting a candle of Hope’
A journey from the darkness of this world into the light of Christ.
Sunday 1st March. Lent: ‘Who is Jesus?’
Exploring the narrative of Jesus & images of Christ from different world cultures.
Sunday 5th April. Easter Sunday: ‘Transforming relationship’
Encountering the risen Christ in such a way that it transforms our faith & relationship with others.
Everyone is welcome, whether you have some faith, lots of faith or struggle with faith! No expectations. Just be there. There is usually a significant space for quiet reflection.
Thomas Merton, the 20th Century monastic writer from the Abbey of Gethsemane, Kentucky, wrote this: “There is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question. Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand.”
Come and experience the silent beauty of ‘Soul Space’.
Rev James Shakespeare
After lunch Clarti Kotecha gave a very disturbing talk that Jeannie found very distressing to listen to. SAFE, which stands for Support, Advocacy, Freedom, Empowerment, is an organisation to help and safeguard young women from ‘gender violence’, which we know as female genital mutilation (FGM).
The practice has been illegal in this country since 1985 and yet up to date there have been no known prosecutions. In the UK approximately 170,000 young women, some as young as eleven or twelve years old have been through this ordeal. A senior female member of the family or a friend usually performs the mutilation but sometimes girls are sent overseas. Usually, to carry out this procedure, several girls are gathered together and it is frequently a call for celebration in a close-knit community. Because this barbaric practice is not done in surgeries but in non-sterile conditions in their own home, without the aid of surgical instruments and as far as we know no anaesthetic, the outcome is often serious infection and mutilation that many of the young girls do not recover from.
Clarti told the audience that there is nothing written in the Koran or any other religious publication that states that this procedure is necessary, it is purely cultural and nothing to do with religion. Groups who believe in ‘gender violation’ are often surrounded by myths passed down through generations.
The SAFE organisation operates in Leicester and is funded by Leicester City Council, but this funding is limited.
When asked, Clarti said that she didn’t know how many other councils in the United Kingdom found funding for this work.
Q. What can we do?
A. Please pray!
Reported by Doreen Brown