Monthly Archives: November 2020

Thought for the week 1st December – Saving Christmas and keeping advent

Saving Christmas and keeping Advent

So now we know; there is a plan to “save Christmas”; up to 3 household mixing for five days. I am aware of the pain of loneliness and isolation that is always especially sharp at Christmas and so I am glad that there will be ways to bring people together. But I am also aware of the risks associated with this; the vaccine is not yet deployed, the virus remains virulent when people mix at close quarters. As the prime minister aptly put it, we need to be jolly careful to have a jolly Christmas and a happy New Year. I’ve recently been pondering the thoughts of David Thompson, a retired Bishop who lives in the diocese of Hereford. I am grateful for David’s permission to use his words.

“[Christmas] is all about …saving us, not us saving it. That is about real light shining perilously in real darkness, not fairy lights on a tree. …. Even if warm hearths and family togetherness are what we long for, they are powerful because they speak not just of a kiss under the mistletoe or a blow-out meal but of a deeper sense that winter will not have things all its own way, of unconquerable light. We’ve been celebrating it since Stonehenge, and we want and need to celebrate it now.

From ancient times Christians kept fasts before they dived into their feasts. They didn’t take the waiting out of wanting: they knew that a bit of waiting, a bit of preparing, a bit of pondering, would make the feast all the more fun.

Cue Advent: not just the Advent of a boozy miniature a day in December, but the Advent that starts 4 Sundays before Christmas and takes us slowly and carefully through the Bible’s story of how we got into this pickle we call life, and how God’s plan to join us in it and raise us from it came to pass. It’s all those readings you’ve heard at a traditional Carol Service, but old school, taken slowly, savoured for all they’re worth. Then at Christmas the Great Twelve Days of Feasting can begin.

So, this year, how about Saving Christmas by Keeping Advent? Look for safe ways to buy the presents and order the food. Give some time to writing some personal cards or messages. Then dust down your Bible and look up the stories for yourself. Light a candle for each Sunday. And enjoy the peace. Peace now, as you give Christmas the best chance it can have of going off well; and the promise of a peace that passes our understanding that can surround us come what may.”

Zoom events and services for week beginning 23rd November

1) Wednesday Home Group, 7.00pm,

For the next few weeks, we are looking at the book of Nehemiah

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Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

2) Friday Morning Prayer, 9.00am

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Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

3) Friday night prayer, 9.00pm

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Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

4) Sunday Morning Prayer, 10.00am 

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Meeting ID: 860 9504 5519

 

 

Thought for the week 22nd November; Church and State

 

Church and State

 

Early in November, in many places, civic and church leaders met together for Remembrance Sunday. The Church of England is part of our state; we recognise the Queen as the head of the church. This Sunday, the 22nd, the Church remembers a different type of authority; we mark the Festival of Christ the King. How do we balance the claims of Christ and the state on our lives?

At the very start of the Second World War, Bishop George Bell pondered this question. Bell is now a very controversial figure due to allegations of child abuse. But regardless of these, his words still challenge me on what the church is for and how it sits alongside the state.

“The State has a function, and the Church has a function. They are distinct. The State is the guarantor of order, justice and civil liberty. It acts by the power of restraint, legal and physical. The Church, on the other hand, is charged with a gospel of God’s redeeming love. It witnesses to a Revelation in history. It speaks of the realities which outlast change. It aims at creating a community founded on love, So when all the resources of the State are concentrated, for example, on winning a war, the Church is not a part of those resources. It stands for something different from these. It possesses an authority independent of the State. It is bound, because of that authority, to proclaim the realities which outlast change. It has to preach the gospel of redemption. [In short, the Church] is not the State’s spiritual auxiliary with exactly the same ends as the State. To give the impression that it is, is both to do a profound disservice to the nation and to betray its own principles…”

 

Thought for the week 15th November; I am a hypercrite

If I’m being honest, I can’t always remember my own sermons from one week to the next. I do a lot of them; once one is finished, I’m on to the next. You may understand that I’m not very good at remembering other people’s sermons either. So when I can still recall a sermon from around a decade ago, it must have made an impact on me.

The sermon in question was at the ordination of a colleague. The preacher got up, turned to those about to become Rev’s and said “You are looking at a group of people who are about to become public hypocrites for the rest of their lives”. He then extended it to all the rest of the clergy present; rumour has it that the wife of one of the bishops was very put-out. I hope that isn’t true, because he was actually saying something really important, which applies to all who call themselves Christians, regardless of whether they wear a bit of plastic round their necks.

Jesus calls us to live our lives as he lived his; to love God and each other as God loves us. That is the love that carried Jesus to the cross; the bar is pretty high. In my life, by my words and action, I try to be true to that. I don’t actually get anywhere near it. So I am literally preaching what I cannot myself practice; I am a hypocrite.

I do this, in spite of my failings, because I am totally captivated by the message of Jesus and the vision of God that is found in the Bible. I get glimpses of life in it full abundance, I catch the shadows of the person I believe I am called to be and I see the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of those around me. Now I see darkly; one day I will see God’s love face to face. I know I will fall short, but for this vision, I am prepared to be a hypocrite. Perhaps there are worse things to be.

 

Zoon events and services for week beginning 16th November

For the Home Group, I’m after ideas on what to do. It’s been suggested that we look at one of the shorter books of the Bible, which is fine, but which one? I can chose (1 John comes to my mind) but I’d like to encourage suggestions. Some books may be best done in one or two weeks; particularly some of the Old Testament books where there is really just one theme.

David

1) Wednesday Home Group, 7.00pm,

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Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

2) Friday Morning Prayer, 9.00am

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https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3592851895?pwd=cksyL0t5TlhFUURRenpxMG9yQTVhUT09

Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

3) Friday night prayer, 9.00pm

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Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

 

 

 

 

4) Sunday Morning Prayer, 10.00am

 

 

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Meeting ID: 860 9504 5519

Passcode: 589249

 

 

Thought for the week 9th November – The People’s War The People’s Love

The People’s War, the people’s love.

The Second World War is sometimes called “The People’s War”. Not only was in fought by an army rapidly formed from the civilian population, with the advent of aviation, everyone in the country was potentially a target. People in Bridgnorth died as a result of German bombs; the orange sky at night to the east provided a grim reminder of far heavier bombing of Birmingham and the West Midlands. At the acts of Remembrance we normally commemorate those of fell in the Armed Services and of course, they did bear the brunt of the conflict. But it was a conflict that was experienced by almost every person in the country, and prayers we use normally acknowledge this.

Now, seventy five years after the war has ended, it is rapidly passing from living memory, but it has made an impression on our nation that will endure much longer; I think of the popularity of 1940s events on the Severn Valley Railway and other heritage attractions. These can give a sanitised version of the event, in which the pain and brutality of conflict is removed, but they do also remind us of a time in which the country seemed largely united in a common purpose, in a struggle that was just. The 1940s events bring people together to enjoy themselves and perhaps there is also a nod to the togetherness of the war years.

Christianity has much to say about how we should lead our lives; Jesus called on his followers to love each other and an early church leader wrote “See, how Christians love each other!”. Of course, there are many times when the church falls short of that, but at its best, its members try to stay faithful to Jesus’s commandment and there have been times when that mutual love has also been apparent in the life of our nation. We can give thanks to the Second World War generation for their example and find inspiration for ourselves as we move back into a second lockdown.

 

Zoom services and events for week beginning 9th November

1) Wednesday Home Group

Nov 11th, 2020 07:00 PM London

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https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3592851895?pwd=cksyL0t5TlhFUURRenpxMG9yQTVhUT09

Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

2. Friday Morning Prayer, 9.00am

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https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3592851895?pwd=cksyL0t5TlhFUURRenpxMG9yQTVhUT09

Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

3) Friday night prayer, 9.00pm

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https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3592851895?pwd=cksyL0t5TlhFUURRenpxMG9yQTVhUT09

Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

4) Sunday Morning Prayer, 10.00am

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Meeting ID: 860 9504 5519

 

 

 

100 Club November draw follows Covid rules

Today the November draw of the Friends of Billingsley 100 Club took place. The draw was made by Helen and witnessed by Paul. A video of the draw will, hopefully, soon be available on the St Mary’s Billingsley Facebook page for anyone to see who wasn’t able to come long. The winning number was 78 with the second and third numbers out of the bag being 16 and 94. The top prize this month was £60 and the runner up prizes were £30 each.

The 100 Club has now been running for three months and has already paid out £360 in prizes. Next month the top prize will be at least £120 with a further two £60 prizes. There are still numbers available for anyone wishing to join. All details can be found on the 100 Club page of this website.

 

Zoom services and events week beginning 2nd November

1) Wednesday Home Group

Nov 4th, 2020 07:00 PM London

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https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3592851895?pwd=cksyL0t5TlhFUURRenpxMG9yQTVhUT09

Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

2) Friday Morning Prayer, 9.00am

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https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3592851895?pwd=cksyL0t5TlhFUURRenpxMG9yQTVhUT09

Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

3) Friday night prayer Time TBA

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Meeting ID: 359 285 1895

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thought for the Week 1st November – All Souls Matter

Earlier this year, a member of the community in Billingsley made a record of all the headstones in the graveyard. This is now on our church webpage, http://www.stmarys-billingsley.org.uk/graveyard-project/. The inscriptions are usually simple; a name, the date of death and perhaps a short inscription. Sometimes we do have more to help bring the deceased alive. In the north-east corner of the graveyard, a memorial to 7-year old Eliza Mary Davies is topped by a statue of an angel; the grieving parents have added, “Girlie”, the pet name of their beloved daughter to the inscription. It is a grave I find very moving. But the memorials we have remember only a fraction of the departed who lie in the grave yard, which has been used for nearly 900 years. Over that time, Billingsley’s departed must run into the thousands; this small patch of ground is their last resting place.

The start of November is when the church remembers the departed. We start with All Saints, those who have been judged to have led lives of particular merit. The following day is All Souls, we move from the spiritual superheroes to the rest of us. It is probably as well not to make too much of the difference; the New Testament often refers to all believers as saints. But how can we possibly remember all those who lie buried in our local churchyards, the vast majority of which we can never name? Well, in all honesty, we are probably most likely to think of our own loved ones, or perhaps at a stretch, people like Eliza, whose lives have been reconstructed by historians. But the Christian church has the perspective of eternity, of a God who is everlasting and whose love is everlasting. At All Souls, alongside our own memories we can give thanks for a God for whom every person who has ever lived, every soul, matters.