Author Archives: Administrator

16th June – A Prayer for Today

Today in Parliament, under an Urgent Question procedure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be asked to make a statement on the economic outlook for the UK and the Government’s strategy to protect jobs and the economy. As our nation comes out of Lockdown there is so much to do.

Lord,
We pray for all those who have power and influence;
all who bear the heavy responsibility of governance.
May they look with compassion,
may they work diligently,
may they seek consensus
and may they walk humbly;
so that we build a nation where none are left behind
and all have sufficient.
Amen.

Michael Mays

Footnote

On this day, 16 June 1933, the National Industrial Recovery Act became law with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signature. The U.S. New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations. The plan focused on what historians refer to as the "3 Rs": relief for the unemployed and poor, recovery of the economy back to normal levels, and reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression.

A prayer on Methodist Homes (MHA) Sunday

14th June 2020
by Rev. Andy Murphy

This prayer is based on Isaiah 40: 28-31, remembering all those who continue to sacrificially care for others, those who have endured months of isolation, and those who face difficult decisions daily about the care of their loved ones.

Everlasting God, God of old and young,
You are the creator of all things,
your wisdom is beyond our understanding,
your ways are far above our ways,
you never grow tired or weary, although we often do.
Sometimes we stumble and fall,
and yet you renew our strength,
your grace lifts us up,
hope energises us; love finds a way.

We pray for those who are downcast or struggling at the moment.
We pray for all in care homes, nursing homes, sheltered housing, hospitals and hospices, for all who love them, and for those who care or provide for them daily.
We thank you for places where older and vulnerable people are loved and valued – and for organisations like MHA.
And we pray that you will help us to cherish the life you have given us, from birth until the end of our earthly lives when you welcome us into eternity.

In your strength, and in your presence,
may we soar on wings like eagles,
run and not grow weary,
walk and not be faint.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Reflection on the Gospel for the 14th June 2020

Gutted!

When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion for them. (Matthew 9 v.36)

A few years ago, there was a short television series on the work of hospital chaplains in Birmingham; the focus was the work with children and was, of course, multi-faith. My particular memory was of a kindly no-nonsense Methodist minister who had established a special rapport with a young lad who was very keen on his football team. He was pinning all his hopes on attending an event away from the hospital ward, but all depended on his condition. As it turned out, his hopes were dashed, and it fell to the Methodist chaplain to give him the bad news. She broke it to him as best she could, adding her own heart-felt reaction: “I’m gutted for you, sweetheart!”

What has brought all this to mind is the description of Jesus’ reaction to the local crowds. These distant descendants of the Sinai generation, the ones God bore ‘on eagles’ wings’ (Exodus 19 v.4), were now like sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless. In the English translation of Matthew we are told that Jesus had compassion on them. The Greek could be more literally rendered, ‘he was gutted for them’. There was something visceral in the response of Christ, a love which compelled action: teaching, proclamation, and effective healing; no-one in need was neglected.

This is the hallmark of the Gospel. On that the New Testament evangelists are agreed. It was a strong visceral compassion that drove the good Samaritan to take great risks in rescuing the injured traveller on the bandit-stricken Jericho road – no social-distancing for him! In the same way a father risked shame and scorn and ridicule when he spotted in the distance his lost son returning from the far country in the parable of the prodigal. No matter what the neighbours thought and said, he ran out to meet him, flinging his arms around him. It’s Luke who reports both parables, and they are rightly seen as landmarks in the gospel story (Luke chapters 10: 25-37 and 15: 11-32).

Last week was Trinity Sunday when we heard the words of the ‘great commission’ from Matthew’s last chapter. This time the work of outreach is to exclude neither Samaritans nor Gentiles, but the motivation is the same as that described in today’s passage, from the course of Christ’s Galilean ministry. The spring of the apostolic mission, the source from which it flows, is the mission of Jesus himself in teaching, proclamation and healing; its motivation is visceral compassion.

Where charity and love are present, God himself is there, and, though we cannot now see his exalted Son, he is always with us by the Spirit, to the end of the age, calling us to carry on his work.

Trevor Thomas (June 9th 2020)

P.S. Gutted! – a postscript for our time:

There was no social-distancing rule for the compassionate Samaritan on the Jerusalem to Jericho road, so he was free to exercise a moral choice (Luke 10: 33-34). Our Covid-19 situation is different. We do not give our neighbours a ‘wide berth’ out of choice, but in responsible compliance with a necessary Government directive. The disquiet of many people at the social and emotional cost shows how much we know we are missing. But the gospel of divine love is not exhausted. Even in current circumstances the compassionate imagination is finding new avenues for expression, including Peter Arnold’s haircut in aid of the Ambulance Drivers’ Charity. Well done, Peter!

(Trevor Thomas, 10th June)

12th June – A Prayer for Today

For her thirteenth birthday on 12 June 1942, she was given an autograph book, bound with red-and-white chequered cloth, and with a small lock on the front. The girl, Anne Frank, decided she would use it as a diary and she began writing in it almost immediately. In her entry dated 20 June 1942, she lists many of the restrictions placed upon the lives of the Dutch Jewish population. The following month the family went into hiding. She kept her diary for a little over two years, until the family were discovered. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1945.

Who could have imagined that the scribbled thoughts of girl hidden from the world who died aged 15 would be shared around the world? Who could have foreseen that her life would touch the hearts of future generations? May her hopes help to shape our tomorrows:

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank, from her diary.

Lord,
we look back and see
horrors we can hardly imagine:
the machinery of government or commence
misused
to degrade and condemn.
Help us to look forward and see
with equal clearly
the despoliation of our age:
the gross inequalities,
the contamination of lives and planet,
that we might work
to improve our world.
Amen.

Michael Mays

A close shave for charity

Hello Everyone,

Following in the footsteps of Captain Tom Moore, I think I should do my part for raising funds for NHS workers. Walking round my house 100 times before my 100th birthday seems a bit energetic and I would probably get dizzy.

As you may be aware I am very proud of my curly locks (?) but come the end of June it will be four months since my last haircut. As I live alone there is nobody to cut my hair and rather than spoil my boyish good looks with a bad haircut I have decided to shave my head completely on 30th June in the hope that by doing so I may raise funds for the Ambulance Drivers Charity. As we have all saved money during this time by not going to the barbers / hairdressers please support me by contributing to my Justgiving page to raise money for these men and women who are on the front line of the pandemic. When I get to shave my head I shall endeavour to send a photo to prove what I have done. I may even offer to shave it via a Zoom meeting for anyone wishing to jeer me on.

Although the money you pledge will all go to the charity (except for a small percentage for card transaction costs), Justgiving, being a huge profit making company, try to take an additional amount (15%) for their shareholders. Please make sure you alter this. Personally I think 1% is more than enough to cover their costs.

To access my page please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/peter-arnold8

Thanking you all in advance

Peter Arnold (soon to be known as Yul)

11th June – A Prayer for Today

Over the next few days MHA Dementia Care Homes will take the first steps to welcome back family and friends of their residents. It will happen in a thoughtful and carefully regulated way. Behind the decision lies the understanding that such visits are vital to the wellbeing of residents. As the largest charity care provider Methodist Homes for the Aged (to borrow the ‘old’ name) are leading the way, and alongside the carer’s support group John’s Campaign, have put together a booklet for visitors. In this document they address the question that so many have lived with through Lockdown – ‘Will my relative still remember me after all this time?’

“For many people the worry of a relative no longer recognising you can be overwhelming. But it is important to stress that despite the time spent apart many people living with dementia will remember their relatives and friends. However, some people living with dementia may struggle at first. If the person with dementia doesn’t recognise you straight away, try not to worry and give your relative time to remember. It may take more than the initial meeting for those memories to be reconnected to you. Also, you might need to: re-introduce yourself and remind them of the relationship between the two of you; consider taking with you an object that you can give to your relative / friend with dementia which will remind them of the connection the two of you have; talk about the distant past first rather than the recent months …

“If, despite all of your attempts your relative doesn’t recognise you remember that their emotions still remain. They will still benefit from seeing your friendly face, hearing your voice, and enjoying your company even if they are not sure who you are.”

(Visiting a relative with dementia living in a care home, MHA, June 2020)

Lord,
We are thankful for the carers and support staff
who have looked after the old and vulnerable in recent months;
those who have had to tend to practical needs
and offer the love that would otherwise have been absent.

As family and friends return
may they find the ‘right’ gentle words
and may patience and smiles be the markers.
Amen.

Michael Mays

Fairtrade Church news: You’re putting better chocolate on our shelves

Fairtrade Towns title.jpg

We hope that you're staying safe and healthy at this challenging time.

For many of us, Fairtrade farmers and workers included, planning for the future seems daunting right now. So it's important to remember that - together - we can change things for the better.

You, other churches, and the wider Fairtrade community proved this yet again in Fairtrade Fortnight 2020, the second year of our campaign for living incomes for cocoa farmers.

Fairtrade stories reached millions from our congregations to classrooms, supermarkets to stations, and across the press and social media - thanks for being involved!

Without your Fairtrade campaigning efforts, we wouldn't now have almost 1,000 different Faritrade chocolate bars available in the UK.

And we've seen the momentum grow - this year alone, Waitrose and John Lewis have started using Fairtrade cocoa for 100 per cent of their own-brand confectionary. And just last week LIDL launched their amazing new 'Way to go!' Fairtrade chocolate bar.

But there is still a long way to go - as for too many cocoa farmers, the basic necessities remain out of reach. Demonstrated clearly by the coronavirus crisis, it is vital that everyone can access the essentials - like medical care, clean water and food.

This is why we still need your support to campaign for all cocoa farmers to earn a living income.

Interested in learning more about our fight to change chocolate? Sign up for our online webinar. Although the live event is now full, we can send you a recording shortly afterwards. You can also still submit your questions in advance of the panel later today.

Recommit to Fairtrade in 2020

It's not just about a Fortnight, and it's not just about chocolate. Your church can support Fairtrade all year round, when and how it works best for you. In fact, churches remain a large and poweful force at the heart of the Fairtrade movement, 25 years on from catalysing the birth of the Fairtrade Mark.

So, although, you are not currently able to meet, you can still support Fairtade by committing (or recommiting) to being a Fairtrade Church. You find out more about how to do this here.

Please do get in touch with us at faiths@fairtrade.org.uk with the name of your church and its postcode to receive your personalised form.

Best wishes,

Angharad Hopkinson and Hannah Adlington-Goulding
Communities Campaigns Team

4th June – A Prayer for Today

The question of the day: to clap or not to clap (the founder of the UK movement Annemarie Plas, said last week that the 10th week of clapping would be a good time for it to end). Each Thursday at 8pm our streets have been filled with noise as we say ‘thank you’ to our keyworkers, all those who have helped to see us through this pandemic.

There’s a long way to go and we have to make this thankfulness a foundation stone for the future we must shape. So, the question for today is do we clap, like spectators and then close the door; or step out (metaphorically, or socially distanced) into the world?

Lord,
help us to see and to understand
that we are called to be active participants,
not passive audience members,
in Kingdom building.
Be that in:
stay-at-home caring and sharing;
work-a-day decision making;
on the ‘street’ – comforting and encouraging;
or by simply living hopefully.
In all we do may we follow Jesus -
our guide, our strength, our redeemer.
Amen.

Michael Mays

Breath – A Reflection for Pentecost

Pentecost 2020

Psalm 104: 24-34; John 20: 19-23

Breath

All the living beings on our amazing green planet, all the creatures that fill the earth and seas (Psalm 104: 24), depend on the Creator for breath: when it is taken away we die; when it is sent forth we are part of the living creation. In this respect human beings, latecomers to this extraordinary natural story, are just one part of the whole. The author of Ecclesiastes puts it with almost brutal directness: ‘the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity.’ (Ecclesiastes 3: 19)

Genesis chapters 1 and 2, with its two stories of creation, rejects the charge of ‘vanity’. It is not all vanity. For the breath of life was breathed into human nostrils by the Lord God (Gen 2: 7), and, according to the other account, humankind, male and female, bear the divine image (Genesis 1: 27); and this is all part of a great enterprise.

What has all this to do with Pentecost? It begins with the fact that human beings have a certain kind of precious awareness. Not only were we created in God’s image; by grace we may know it. And what is the test? The test is prayer. George Herbert, early 17th Century poet and parish priest, spoke of ‘God’s breath in man returning to his birth’, and this in his great sonnet entitled ‘Prayer’. As a Jewish scholar puts it, the Name of God is unutterable, but we may hear it in the sound of our own breathing (Lawrence Kushner, quoted by Dennis Lennon in ‘Turning the Diamond’, 2002). For Christians prayer is ‘our vital breath’ (James Montgomery, Singing the Faith, 529).

And why is this particularly true for followers of Christ? Because he shows us that all is not vanity, and he does this by giving us his breath – the breath he surrendered in death (John 19: 30) becomes the breath he imparts to his people in their locked room on the evening of that first Easter Day (John 20: 22). For the author of the fourth Gospel that is the start of the new age. “Receive the Holy Spirit”, he says to them, that the world which has treated me as a stranger may know what it means to be a fully human being living and serving in unbroken communion with the God of love.

In another poem George Herbert put all this into four short lines:

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life: Such a Way, as gives us breath;
Such a Truth, as ends all strife;
Such a Life, as killeth death.
(Hymns and Psalms 254)

Trevor Thomas (27th May 2020)

Hymns at Easter: We sing the praise

Ascension Sunday 24 May 2020
'We sing the praise' by Norman Wallwork (STF 315)

The final hymn in this series moves us from the close of Easter onto the threshold of Pentecost. It is We sing the praise of Jesus (STF 315) by Norman Wallwork who is a well-known liturgist and hymn writer and in this hymn sets out in a simple form what we can believe about the Ascension of Jesus.

  • Jesus arrives in heaven as a triumphant conqueror of death and evil
  • We sing his praises with heaven-given joy
  • Jesus prays for us
  • We pray in expectation for the ‘living fire’
  • We are being prepared to worship in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit.

The Ascension myth is a crucial transition stage in the development of the Christian understanding of God. We might remember the stories of Jesus. We may bow before the Cross. We marvel at the Resurrection but there is more going on than just historic events. The activity of God is not a good idea to be considered but an experience to be explored.

This is a special kind of exploration. It is the exploration of prayer. It is prayer based in the theology of love; for we are commanded to love God with all that we are and all that we have; not just believe in God. We know God through the love we are given and from Ascension Day we pray this prayer for all in the Church

Come Holy Spirit
Fill the hearts of your faithful people and
Kindle in them the fire of your love

It is this fire that can flame in our homes and our hearts. It is this fire which can re-create our devotion. A devotion that is not dependent on ‘what happens in church’. It is a loving of God which let’s each day be the Lord’s Day and witnesses ‘earth and heaven ring’ with the praises of God.

This reminds me of the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61) from her poem Aurora Leigh

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees takes off his shoes
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

This hymn and the season it serves invites us to see the Church as she really is created to be – a priestly community open to the world, open to God and connecting the grace of heaven and the need of earth. Truly a Church of the Ascension.

Rev. John Rackley