Life Magazine - October 2020
The Covid outbreak has put a stop to many events these past 6 months or so, including in our church the live induction of Ana. The restrictions will make our Harvest services a little different, however we can still appreciate God’s abundance of gifts by just looking at the countryside, the flowers and vegetables in our own gardens with the bees collecting nectar, or just looking at a plant on the window sill and praising Him for his goodness to us. We are so blessed!
This month there is a change in ‘LIFE’, it contains ‘Manna’ the Bath and Wells Diocese publication which in the past has been published quarterly and obtained in our churches. It is now being put out as a ‘cost cutting exercise’ through church magazines.
I am holding the deadline for articles for the November magazine until the 3rd Sunday in the month, the 18th October, so we can include some late articles, therefore the November paper copies should be through your letter boxes after the morning of Thursday 29th October.
Even as I finish this article on the eve before printing, Boris our Prime minister has brought in more restrictions for all of us to follow, so we must continue to pray for patience, hope, and guidance in the coming months. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen. Roger.
I was expecting to be on sabbatical as I write this but of course you will all now be aware that Bishop Peter is receiving treatment for leukaemia and thus I am back in the diocese. He is as cheerful as ever and very much values your care, thoughts, prayers, cards, flowers and so many warm messages. Thank you! Please keep praying for him, Jane and the family.
Coping with the ‘unexpected’, whether it is news about health, the pandemic or a personal diagnosis like +Peter’s; or a change of plan such as my sabbatical, can set us in a spin. We don’t always know how to respond. It requires us to adapt, to change, to rethink how we will live.
I’m reminded of the story of Elijah who felt overwhelmed by the circumstances around him. A national drought both from rain and faith left him feeling vulnerable and alone. And although God made Himself very evident in the events of Mount Carmel, Elijah still felt under siege and fearful, wanting to die rather than face the wrath of Jezebel. And so he ran! And in the book of Kings we find God meets with him. First of all bringing him refreshment of body and mind through sleep and food. And then, when his well-being is restored, he discovers the voice of God, not in the strength of storm or wind but in a ‘still small voice’.
I wonder where and how you might hear the voice of God? Across the diocese we are entering into a listening project to hear what God might be saying to us, in and through the strange times in which we now live. We welcome your thoughts so please do share them with us.
Praying God’s blessing on us all Bishop Ruth.
The Rector’s letter.
“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 107.1
Only this week I heard someone say that they would like to write off 2020 and move straight into 2021. It is so tempting to want to do this, particularly with all the negative news that we are seeing each day. There is apparently no end in sight for the pandemic, with all the restrictions and uncertainty and no clear way out. Wildfires, climate change, economic gloom and doom; I could go on, but I am sure you have all seen the stories.
Even in our churches, whilst we have reopened our buildings for worship, the continuing uncertainty gives us cause for anxiety. For those who might want to give up on 2020, I have every sympathy. It would be so tempting to simply give in to the prevailing negative narrative. But, as Christians we are called to be different, to make a stand, to offer hope and reconciliation in Jesus’ name to a broken and hurting world and to ‘be thankful’ even and perhaps even especially in the tough times.
We are approaching the harvest season which of course won’t look like it has in previous years in our churches. Nonetheless, harvest festivals should remind us that we have so much to be thankful for; we have a loving and generous God who has lavished so much on his children. To give God thanks for all that he has provided, whether large things or small, whether dramatic or simple and ordinary. This harvest let us consciously consider adopting an ‘attitude of gratitude’ however strange that may appear in these times.
That is easy to say but maybe harder to do? Yes, our ‘attitude of gratitude’ should point us to praise and worship of the God who gives to us in abundance but might it also point us to that neighbour for whom a kind word or deed would transform their day, or that charity for whom our donation could change a life?
An attitude of gratitude is not just for Sunday and not just for Harvest! Blessings and Peace, Ana
Listen again online We are experimenting with recording our Sunday sermons and making them available via our church website. If you missed a Sunday, or want to listen again, look under ‘Church life’ on the website.
We are on Facebook
There is now a benefice wide Facebook page, called ‘swcd churches’. Check it out and give it a like or follow if you are a Facebook user.
APCM thank you
Our 3 parishes are scheduled to hold their annual parish church meetings at the end of September and early October. Thank you so much to all of those who have served and standing for election as wardens, PCC members and deanery synod representatives. Once the elections are complete, you will be able to find a full list of those elected in each parish on our website. Please pray for them as they serve our churches in this way. Ana Lawrence.
MEET THE RECTOR
Dates and venues for ‘Meet the Rector’ will be published in Lifeline, on our website and Facebook pages. If you want to chat or have a question or want to make a comment, Ana would love to see you. If you want a longer or more confidential meeting, do contact her to arrange to meet.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, " Your God reigns! ". Isaiah Ch 52. v7.
It has been so wonderful to open our Churches after over 5 months. As Ana has said in last month’s magazine, Church looks very different to what we are used to. We have pews and chairs roped off, ways in and out, hand gels in huge amounts and of course the necessary masks. Thank goodness we recognize each other by our smiles even if it is only by our eyes. Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we adapt to new ways to worship together.
Operation Christmas Child.
A simple shoebox packed with love and fuelled by prayer can have a huge impact! The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to show God's love in a tangible way to children in need around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the good news and love of Jesus Christ. Since 1990, more than 178 million children in over 160 countries have experienced God's love through the power of a shoebox.
Now is the time to start packing or thinking about our shoebox gifts, this year a message of hope is needed more than ever. If getting out is tricky for you, please let me know as I am more than happy to shop for you. A big thanks to Joyce Dixon who didn't wait for this article but invited me to collect money to fill shoe boxes for her. She has started us off. I will liase with our churchwardens and Pam and Roger to leave shoe boxes and leaflets in all our churches. The closing week for delivery is
9th -16th November.
I would like to finish with some words I read in my UCB notes a while ago.
"Sometimes life beats you down so much that you give up hoping and believing that anything good will ever happen to you. If that's where you are today, read these words: " I know the plan I have for you,” says the Lord... "plans for good... to give you a future and a hope" Jeremiah 29. 11. I
God has a plan for each of us, but not all of us experience it. Why? Two reasons:
1) We don't realise we have rights and privileges. We believe God can save us and take us to heaven when we die, but don't think He can do anything about our past, present, or future.
2) We live far below the level He intended because we see ourselves in the wrong light.
We believe He can bless anybody -except us - because we are not worthy.
God has clothed you in the righteousness of Christ, so you're worthy in His sight and He has plans ' to bless you as He has promised '. Sandra
Compton Dundon News.
It was a forlorn sight in June after lockdown.Bibles and service sheets had long since been removed, and along with them the leaf shaped prayers that had hung on the wooden prayer tree, poignantly prayers that were needed now more than ever.
Small stones, fragments of leaves and ominous looking black objects littered the ancient stone floor (thankfully on closer inspection identified as dead cockroaches and beetles rather than bat droppings.) It was almost possible to taste the musty smell that pervaded the air.
But what was the most disturbing was not what could be seen but what could not be seen. People, or no people. No chattering
voices warmly greeting one another as they arrived, no news and views exchanged over coffee at the end of the service. Just the dank silence.
It was no longer our church as we knew it.
However help was at hand! We are blessed in the village to enjoy a wealth of kind helpers; indeed our three churchyard volunteers had transformed the entrance to the church path during lockdown. Support once again arrived just when needed – Sarah, our village hall caretaker, offered to give the church a thorough deep clean ready to bring it back to its former glory.So on August 11th, just as Ana was joining us, St Andrew’s as we knew it was restored. Floors cleared, wooden pews sparkling, blue carpet spotless and a wonderful lemon scent to replace the sad stale air. Thank you to Sarah and to the P.C.C. for continuing the preparations so that now here we are in mid September having enjoyed our first two services with a congregation who are relishing being reunited.
It’s not the same, we sit spaced out in alternate pews marked with a blue cross, we listen to hymns, recorded and played, we wear face masks and coffee is drunk at home.
But God never left St Andrew’s and now we are blessed to be able to come together to give thanks and to worship and glorify His name in this place that is so special to our village. Amen.
Walking in a relaxed manner, Jane is with the Sheldon Community
I am half way through my time living as an ‘along-sider’ at Sheldon, which is a small Christian community on Dartmoor. Sheldon provide retreats and warm hospitality on the site of a converted farm at Doddiscombsleigh.
I am having a very special time here; each day begins with prayers in an upstairs chapel. Often during these we say the Lords prayer in a version new to me, which I would like to share with you.
Abba, our Father
Amma, our Mother
Beloved, our God,
Creator of all;
Your name be held holy,
Your domain spread among us
Your wisdom be our guide
Your way be our path
Your will be done well
At all times, in all places,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us the bread
We need for today,
The manna of your promise
The bread of your tomorrow.
As we release those
Indebted to us,
So, forgive us our debts
Our trespass on others.
Fill us with courage
In time of our testing.
Spare us from trials
Too severe to endure.
Free us from the grip
Of the powers that bind.
For yours is the goodness
In which evil dissolves;
Yours is the joy
That sounds through the pain;
Yours is the life
Which swallows up death.
Yours is the glory,
The transfiguring light
The victory of love
For time and eternity. Amen
My work here has been varied. I have been picking fruit in the extensive kitchen gardens, serving breakfasts, managing the dining room and looking after 45 sheep of the Grayface Dartmoor and Manx loaghtan types.
I also love the wise words we say at evening prayers
…my brothers and sisters, as the shades lengthen & the busy world is hushed, Let us rest in the presence of God
Into the keeping of God we put all the doings of today
What has been done has been done
What has not been done……let it be
In October if any of you are in the area you are welcome to pop in for a cuppa.
WATCH - Got Your Windows Open?
Answer - Not always a great idea, especially in wintertime! But, what if I'm speaking like Jesus did, in parables: "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning" was the definition I was taught in my schooldays. Why did Jesus talk like this? His disciples asked him this same question, and Jesus gave a strange answer. He said he was being deliberately obscure so that people
would hear what he said but wouldn't get to understand the real meaning of what he was saying.
But his disciples would. Those with the windows of their souls open. Those attuned to discern the hidden meaning
- the encrypted meaning if you like - which the Holy Spirit reveals to those who make the time and effort
to seek out. You can see this with the parable of the sower and others in Matthew 13.
In verse 43 Jesus says "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand." (NLT).
Similar words are used in Revelation, which is the only book in the Bible to come directly from Jesus himself
- see Revelation 1 v 1. Each of the seven letters to the churches in chapters 2 and 3 ends with the same phrase:
"Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches."
It is not enough just to hear a message from God: we must go away and chew on it, ask God's Holy Spirit's help
to discern what it means for us, and then be obedient to what we have found out.
We are living in historic times: nothing like Covid19 has happened since the 'Spanish flu' pandemic 100 years ago,
but things were very different then, with not even radio let alone television. Even telephones hardly existed.
We must keep our focus on God and what he wants us to learn and do. What new opportunities are there
for spreading the good news of Jesus in our communities today? We have a message, a perspective, that the world does not have because it shuts out the one who created it, who made each one of us in his image, who sustains his creation, and makes his sun to shine on all people, good and bad alike. He is love, and he has shown his love supremely in the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, Emmanuel - which means 'God with us' - who died in our place on the cross, paying the price of our sin so that we can be freely forgiven if we put our faith and trust in Jesus. He offers us his free gift of everlasting life, so that this mortal temporary life is not the end but only the beginning of a life which will go on forever in heaven with God.
What more could we ask? What excuse then is there for not believing in the light of this amazing message from our living, loving God? Neither do we have any excuse for keeping this amazing, awesome, message to ourselves. Bernard.
TWO SNAPSHOTS FROM OUR CHRISTIAN FAMILY IN CHINA
2 church buildings were demolished by the Chinese authorities in late May. Both were state-registered ("three-self") churches. One was demolished late at night to make room for a new road, the other early in the morning to make room for a new canal. The congregations had been looking forward to their buildings being re-opened soon for worship after the coronavirus lockdown had been lifted. "It feels worse than seeing my house demolished," said one church member in tears. Many people believe the road and canal were only pretexts and the aim was to persecute the Christians. Pray that Chinese Christians will not be afraid when they see their earthly buildings destroyed, remembering that their heavenly Father has given them the Kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
Vulnerable Christians across China are being denied government welfare payments because their homes display their faith. An 80 year-old woman was forced to cover up her cross, otherwise her pension would be stopped. A widow in her 60s, who refused when she was ordered to take down her Christian pictures and believe in the communist party instead of God, found her pension subsidy stopped two months later. A paralysed patient in a nursing home was threatened with losing the government support that paid his housing, food and medical care, as officials tore down the pictures of Jesus in his room. Pray for our elderly and infirm brothers and sisters facing such situations that Christ's grace will be sufficient for them, and His power be made perfect in their weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). [Source - Barnabas Fund]
£2 Coins Thank you to all those who have donated £2 coins this year. We have collected £480 so far. The money is for the funds of Holy Trinity and Mission Churches in Street. Please continue to let Pam or Roger Harmsworth have your £2 coins till the end of November. It is not likely that we will be able to have our usual ‘get together’ this year, but hopefully we will be meeting in 2021 for coffee and fellowship Pam Harmsworth]
‘BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.' Matthew 5:8 NAS
Describing how as a child he accompanied his dad to the Texas oil fields, Max Lucado writes: 'The countryside was flat and predictable, that is why the refinery stood out like a science-fiction city. The function of that maze of machinery is defined by its name. A refinery takes whatever comes in and purifies it, so it is ready to go out. It does for petroleum what your heart should do for you – remove the bad and utilize the good.'
Listen: 'The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart …' (Luke 6:45 NIV). When you are criticized or ignored, do you bite back or bite your tongue? When you are on overload, do you blow your top or stay cool? When you hear gossip do you entertain it, silence it, or spread it? When somebody offends you, do you harbour a grudge or choose to forgive? That all depends on the state of your heart.
Jesus said, '… the pure in heart … shall see God.' When your heart has been purified, you will begin to see God at work in people and in ways you never noticed before. We do the reverse by cleaning up the outside first, but it does not work; superficial change is only skin deep. A dirty 'refinery' will always produce an impure product. You only change your life by working with God to develop a state-of-the-art heart.
From the daily readings in ‘The Word for Today’. This booklet of devotional readings is published every three months and is available free of charge through the generosity of supporters, from: UCB Operations Centre, Westport Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 4JF.
Tel: 0845 60 40 401. Email: email@example.com
UCB is short for United Christian Broadcasters, who also produce Christian radio and TV programmes available on DAB digital radio, TV and online. Details at ucbmedia.co.uk
From Lamentation to Hope – a service for all who have been bereaved during the Covid pandemic An online service from Wells Cathedral will pray by name for all those who have died during the Covid pandemic in Somerset.
Families of the bereaved are invited to send in names of those they have lost during the pandemic, and candles will be lit and their names read out during the filmed service.
The Bishop of Taunton, Rt Revd Ruth Worsley, will welcome people to the online service. She said: “So many people weren’t able to attend funerals or grieve properly when their loved ones died in the last few months, because of restrictions imposed by the pandemic. We hope this service will offer people a chance to come together and mourn their loved ones by name, alongside others who have also been bereaved.”
The service will include music from members of the Music Foundation of Wells Cathedral, and prayers will be said by some of Somerset’s hospital chaplains. There will also be a reflection from someone who survived Covid following weeks in intensive care in hospital in Bath. The service will be available to watch on the Wells Cathedral website and the website of the Diocese of Bath and Wells (hyperlink) from Wednesday 30 September. Those who wish the names of their loved ones to be included should send them by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday September 2
News from around the diocese
Tackling modern slavery together. Volunteers from across the diocese are being trained up by Hidden Voices Somerset (HVS) to support victims of modern slavery and exploitation in Somerset.
HVS is facilitated by the diocese with The Clewer Initiative. It’s a local response to modern slavery and exploitation concerned with the provision of victim support and building a self-sustaining anti-slavery network across Somerset.
To find out more about the issue of modern slavery visit www.theclewerinitiative.org To find out how you can play your part in challenging it locally, including volunteering and local training opportunities, contact email@example.com.
Double Eco silver
Two more of our churches have been awarded silver Eco Church awards, Wells Cathedral and Holy Trinity, Yeovil. The awards are made by Christian charity A Rocha, to who want to demonstrate that the gospel is good news for God’s earth. Both churches are working on further eco improvements.
With the Covid restrictions in place, ordinations in the diocese may have been delayed, but following a series of services across the diocese during Petertide we now have 18 new deacons and 12 new priests.
The ordination of the deacons took place at Wells Cathedral, with the priesting taking place in three parish churches, one in each archdeaconry. With only 30 people able to present at each service, it was still not the usual gathering of friends and family in person, but many were able to witness the joyful event on-line.
Interview - Faith and farming
Farmer Rob Walrond is the diocese’s rural affairs adviser and Churchwarden for St John the Baptist, Pitney.
How does faith and farming connect for you?
Around 30 years ago my faith reignited and I gained a greater understanding of creation and my place in it. I came to acknowledge that the success or failure of my business wasn’t a reflection on how good a person I was or how successful I was.
Why do you farm organically?
As my respect for creation grew I felt my role as a steward of creation changed. It was not about what I could get out of the land but more about how I could work with the land.
Does your faith help you with farming?
I still get mad when it rains just before harvest or if I am up to my knees in mud, but my faith helps me look at things with a wider perspective.
Has the pandemic created any particular problems for farmers?
Most have coped really well, but with so few social opportunities the closure of markets and agricultural shows has had an impact. Farmerscomm are used to working in isolation, but we all need social contact.
Do you think people’s view of farmers has changed?
One farmer said, “We’ve gone from being an unwanted nuisance to being key workers.” If we can get a greater appreciation of our food, the work that goes into producing it and the provision and generosity from God in providing the harvest, that would one of the good things that comes out of Covid.