“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thess 5:11
Whether the World Cup, Wimbledon or athletics, there is a scene on television that is the most moving… it is of the crowds cheering and spurring the athletes on. Throughout the New Testament the image of a race is used, not a short sprint, but a marathon. The race is a long one, the race of life. For us to live well, to run well, we all need people to encourage and support us on the journey.
The other day I received an e-mail out of the blue from a church leader in Hong Kong that I had helped to bring to faith 24 years ago. It was so encouraging to be reminded of something that God had done through me. As a church we are reading through the Bible in a whole year and one of the things that strikes me in the New Testament is both the need for and the use of encouragement. In Rom 12:8 there is a reminder of the gift of encouragement. All of us at some level can be encouragers. Maybe this month let’s pause to think of someone who has impacted our lives in the past and send them text or e-mail about it, maybe just think of a way of encouraging one of your friends or family. It maybe a Life Group leader or a ministry leader, or maybe a colleague at work.
Genuine encouragement is powerful, it can help to pick up the broken, heal the weak, and sustain those who are running well. The world is being changed and will be changed by those who encourage and affirm. Let’s be people of encouragement and find an opportunity to pray for and encourage someone this summer.
With my thanks and prayers for you.
God Bless, John.
Our Church Building Reordering project is wholly dependent on us having the money to pay for it
In this second article about our Church building Reordering plans, I will give you the hard facts about what is needed in the building; about what your money will be spent on; and about the plans we have in place for getting the best value for money.
Re-ordering the Church building is essential because Continue reading
St. John’s House, a former Church of England Nunnery and orphanage, provides a Christian presence and a green oasis of peace and calm in the heart of Alum Rock, an urban multi-faith area of East Birmingham. Or at least it was peaceful until, in May this year, when members of MADD descended upon it and turned it into a phrenetic hive of activity. The six of us, Andrew du Boulay, Roger Tiffin, Neil Pearce, Peter Dane, Ron Porter and myself, had been invited by James and Mel Lynch who work with Interserve at St John’s and have been mission partners with Christ Church since they left All Nations in 2007. Continue reading
Greenbelt is different from other Christian festivals. For starters it doesn’t even describe itself as such in its publicity material.* Yet the whole festival stops everything onsite on Sunday morning for an open-air family-friendly communion service attended by thousands. For us it is one of the highlights.
At other times you may find us in a packed out venue listening in to a talk by a distinguished speaker with whom we don’t necessarily entirely agree….
Or attending a small worship and/or reflective service led by Christian Aid, Taize, the Northumbrian or Iona communities or other.
Or sitting on a high bank overlooking the glorious lake leading up to the beautiful Boughton House in whose grounds the festival is sited. This bank is designated a quiet zone and a lovely spot in which to soak up God’s peace and presence.
Or queuing up for some time in order to find a seat for some comedy, slam poetry, theatre or other extravaganza. We usually manage about 20 minutes of one of the bands before our eardrums start to protest. Continue reading
Christy Wimber and Katharine Welby will be leading on the theme of Wholeness.
Saturday, September 22, 2018 – 10:00am to 4:00pm
All Saints Church, Woodford Wells
Sharing their own story, their own struggles and their own insights from seeing healing as well as not seeing healing take place. Meeting people from all kinds of backgrounds who, for the first time, felt heard and encouraged by the Church in addressing their struggles without fear of rejection. They have welcomed and encouraged many Church leaders providing them with helpful insights and materials for the local Church.
These events give us all the opportunity to see how we, the Church, see the world in front of us. How we serve those God sends along our path, still believing God is Rapha, our healer, yet not disregarding the many who fight chronic illness or various conditions where they haven’t seen God heal.
During our time together, we will look at the meaning, the purpose & the goal of healing. Christy and Katharine will be working together to share various insights and stories concerning the health of the whole person. Together, they will teach about what it looks like to step into our communities, breaking stigma to become places of refuge & healing. We’ll be taking time to look at different areas of healing (physical and emotional) as well as time to minister in the power we so desperately need to serve as God has called us to love and serve.
Whether you have mental illness, are caring for someone, are a Church leader, health care worker or someone who would like to learn how to serve the world around us by ministering in healthy ways, this day will surely encourage and equip you.
Tickets cost £25 per person.
To book tickets visit
It is now less than seven months before we are due to move out of Christ Church and the work on redeveloping the building commences!
Many people and groups are working on moving the project forward, including:
• The Building Management Committee drawing together all aspects of the project.
• The Building Committee and subgroups working on the final details of the plans to be ready to offer contractors to tender for the work. Continue reading
How it works
• When we receive a prayer request we will email the request to the Prayer Chain and activate the phone Prayer Chain.
• One of the Prayer Chain co-ordinators call the first person in the phone chain and share the request. They then ring the next person with the request and so on until the last person receives the request. The last person rings the coordinator to confirm completion of the chain.
“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” – Oswald Chambers
• Please pray immediately. Continue reading
For the last four and a half years, we have been in partnership with Christians Against Poverty to provide a free debt counselling service to our local community. During that time, we’ve seen God answer prayers, change lives, bring freedom, restore hope. It’s never an easy road though and it usually has some fairly big bumps along the way, but for those who are able to stick with it, the freedom that comes when debt is gone is worth the difficulties.
When we first started out, we met some others who were already running a debt centre and we were inspired by one centre that was running a weekly drop-in. At the time, we didn’t feel able to offer that ourselves but at the start of this year, we decided we were ready to give it a try and opened our weekly CAP Café.
So what’s the point? Most of all, it’s a place build friendships! The Café is open to present or former CAP clients (and friends!) and to the CAP support team and it is to create a space where we can fulfil an important part of being church – we connect others to the God who loves them. Continue reading
‘Our church is an Eco Church’ If someone asked you, could you tell them what Eco Church is all about? There have been several reminders this past year filling you in, but I wonder whether you have picked up the emphasis: WE are part of Eco Church. It’s not just that our church is an Eco Church, but we are an Eco Church.
Yes, that’s right, you and me, we are all in this together.
Read on to discover more about how you can be actively involved.
(If this is all news to you see later for a summary of the story of the last two years…..)
In April we invited Simon Brown from
A Rocha to preach and he gave a clear call to redoubling our efforts to confront how our western lifestyle is causing serious damage to the global environment including the UK. He taught from scripture how God has called us to work to care for his environment, and to become champions of the cause.
Getting Drastic on Plastic
Following David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series on TV, in this past year we have organised two litter picks (one after a delay due to snow in March!) and we have focussed on plastic pollution. Of 14 bags collected recently, five were filled exclusively with plastic waste. We displayed some of these bottles on the notice board outside, and also inside the church, to draw attention to this unacceptable waste, and the environmental harm it is causing.
This has become a No 1 environmental concern because of the harm to aquatic and airborne wildlife, as well as the cost to the countryside. Only this month, a whale starved to death with 80 plastic bags found in its stomach – over 8kg of plastic! This was documented, but many more animals of many more species are affected by this pollution. It has been estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish!
We also invited you to consider a Lenten fast from Plastic (see last magazine). I wonder how this worked for you? Has it begun to change your lifestyle?
Shrinking our footprint and going for Gold! Continue reading
“Enlarge the place of your habitation. Stretch out your cords. You who desire more of Me you do well and I would give you more. But do you not know that I have already come to you and fill all the space you have given Me?
I am He who comes, comes again and ever comes. Yet I am humble. I will not force myself on you, but wait for you to open your door wider… to make more room and to invite Me in.
I am with you. I am in you. Yet when you pray your mind addresses an image of Me that is outside you. As if I was far away and not sharing the life you think of as yours. How can I seem so far away when I am so close? So close that your eyes cannot focus and see Me?
I am the way, the truth and the life. I own your life. It is mine. But your thinking limits what I can do in you. I wait, a well of life-giving water within you that is drawn from at times but flows only a trickle in season.
Enlarge your dwelling place. Stretch out your mind. Enlarge your thinking and look within to the place where I, the Eternal, dwell. Widen your understanding that the trickle may become a flowing river and the river a flood.”
What price, Freedom?
and the padlock springs
and the door swings open
and I breathe uncontaminated air –
No, not breathe –
For it’s scary stuff, Lord, this freedom,
these new upper-case imperatives:
ESCAPE! RELEASE! BE RESTORED/TRANSFORMED!
EMBRACE! RESOLVE! REPENT!
And part of me would prefer to return to
the dark and cobwebbed corners
that have befriended my thraldom.
It’s not as easy as one click –
as easy as ‘Click and Collect’.
In the smaller print, they say – more like –
it’s ‘Click and Pay’.
Is there a price, Lord?
If there’s a ransom or an entry fee –
I can’t pay up.
My child, I know.
I know you can’t.
So I’ve paid the price on the ticket
And, yes, it cost me.
So let me now empower this liberty,
Let me amplify your ‘Yes’,
Let my Spirit breathe the truth of your new status
permeating your story
as you get to know your liberator
and the power of his love.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener:
We’ve all heard the phrase: “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Like many of our phrases its origins are lost in the passing of time.
A Latin proverb cited by Erasmus of Rotterdam was translated into English by Richard Taverner in 1545, as:
“The corne in an other mans ground semeth euer more fertyll and plentifull then doth oure own.” (The corn in another man’s ground seems ever more fertile and plentiful than our own does.)
The poet Ovid takes this further, saying in his “Art of Love” (1 BC) that “the harvest is always richer in another man’s field.”
As far as modern English sources, this idiom has been popular since at least the early 1900’s, evidenced by the fact that a song recorded in 1924 by Raymond B. Egan and Richard A. Whiting carried its wording, “The Grass is Always Greener in the Other Fellow’s Yard.” Continue reading
If you follow me on twitter @hookwayjohn you would have seen this quote at the beginning of Lent. It reflects the hope and purposes of God. At Christmas we remembered that the light has come into the world and the darkness could not overcome it (see John 1:5). Jesus himself became one of us, full of grace and life and truth.
During Lent we get to reflect on who Jesus is and who we are in the light of him. As we look at Jesus, we see someone who brings life, grace, hope, healing, forgiveness and freedom, but we also see someone who entered into life’s sadness and sorrows – its thorns.
We see this acutely as we look at ‘Good Friday’, the one who was innocent (Jesus) taking on the pain and sin of the world. One thing that clearly stands out on Good Friday is the crown of thorns. Why a crown and why of thorns? When everything went wrong as recorded in Genesis 3, one of the results was that there was a distance between God and us, (that death entered the world) as well as the fact that the ground would be cursed and produce thorns and thistles (Gen 3:17/18).
However, because of Jesus’ death, he took the curse on himself (Deut 21:23) and because of his resurrection we too can live. This means that on the cross the curse is reversed, and we see now in Hebrews 2:9, that Jesus is ‘crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.‘
As Christians we no longer need to fear death because Jesus has died for us. In Jesus we have eternal life, but the crown of thorns reminds us it goes further. The very ground, the ways of the world, the thistles and the suffering are not just reversed but they are transformed.
What it means is that for us, any situation can be transformed by the power of God. In any situation, even in the midst of sorrow or thorns. God himself will be with us, can hold us, and we can receive his love.
But beyond that, if God is about transforming thorns into glory, then we, as his followers too, should be about transforming thorns into glory. What we see in the crown is God’s Lordship transforming the world to be more like his kingdom. That means for us, the transformation of our world and community.
As we are embarking on the transformation of the physical building of Christ Church, it too points to our role in transforming our community and of God transforming our lives.
May we take time this Easter to reflect on the transforming power of God, and the opportunities for us to partner with Him in transforming our community.
With every blessing John.
All of us have decisions to make about how we manage our own household finances. For example, we need to buy food every week as, whether we like it or not, we need to eat to survive! However, there are other types of expenditure that require a lot of forward planning and saving. Something really special, like saving for a wedding or for a house deposit. The challenge that we have in those situations is that the cost of daily life still needs to be met, even when we are saving up for the really special occasion!
Church finances have much the same challenge! Together we are saving up for the redevelopment of the church. It’s something really special and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event and it will need all of us to play our part and contribute in whatever way we can. But alongside that, the day to day costs of the church still needs to be met in order to enable the ministry of the church to continue to thrive and to bring the good news of Jesus to the community of Ware, and beyond. Continue reading
“Church reordering refers to the rearrangement and adaption of churches, while retaining their primary purpose as places of worship”
It was in the 1980’s that the first efforts were made to reorder our Church building. Now, 30 years later, we plan to bring this to fruition. Over the next 4 issues of the Newsletter, I shall be explaining the plans that we have in place, detailing exactly what you can expect the reordered building to be like, and highlighting the resources that we need to deliver the plan. This is what you will see in our Church building for Christmas 2019.
As you walk from New Road to the Church building on a Sunday morning, you’ll see the new glass-panelled oak doors, wide open for you to enter through inner glass doors at the west end of the Church. By opening up the west end, we make it easier for everyone to enter the building, with wider access for buggies and wheelchairs , and space in the new lobby to shake off the rain before entering the body of the Church. In the lobby will be two toilets, including one for those with less mobility. It will be a bright and welcoming entrance lobby with a floor mat made from recycled materials. Continue reading
Our service literally saves lives. It keeps families together, relieves stress, restores health, keeps families in their homes, provides friendship and can connect people to church and to the God that loves them.
When financial trouble hits, it’s easy to feel alone and like no one can help, however Christians Against Poverty (CAP) really can help, and is already helping hundreds of people who call up every week.
Combining CAP’s expertise, with the love and message of the church, we have a life transforming mix. Every year, nationally, CAP helps nearly 19,000 people towards freedom from debt and sees over 1,000 people become Christians through the Debt Help work as well as 10,000 people benefiting from our CAP Money Course. There are 156 job clubs, which have helped over 1,000 people find work. And 79 churches are running release groups, helping over 200 people to find freedom from life-controlling additions so far. There are also 93 churches running courses in life skills.
CAP’s debt help service visits people in their own homes, negotiates with creditors and supports people right up until they are debt free. On top of this, the whole service is free of charge and available to anyone regardless of age, faith, gender or background.
Here at Christ Church, we run a debt centre, providing local support to those struggling with debt. We also run money courses from time to time. Springs Church has a job club which meets weekly and has run a few release group programmes over the last few years. Christ Church also uses some of the life skills material for one-to-one coaching. All of this enables us to support one another and our community with life-changing care and support in those times when we are most vulnerable and struggling! If you would like to get more involved with any aspect of this work, do speak to me and I would be delighted to explore this with you.
Disabilities come in many forms and not all are obvious. A white stick, crutches or a wheel chair are obvious but hearing aids these days are very unobtrusive.
Last year I had to admit that my hearing was getting worse and was fitted with hearing aids. While these do help in small groups and face to face, I am still struggling in larger groups and open spaces, and where there is a lot of background noise. This has been said by others with hearing aids too.
So on behalf of those of us with hearing problems please would you bear in mind that it is lovely to be in a group praying together or in a discussion group, if we can’t hear what is said it is somewhat isolating and inhibits participation (has someone said that already, what was that name, problem, date to remember). So please lift your head and possibly raise your voice so as to be heard by all. So speakers that is why we may not laugh at your joke, we didn’t hear the punch line!
One Day Soon
The spring is a time of year full of days set aside to encourage us to remember and celebrate individuals. We all know about the 14th February when lovers are easily persuaded to splash their cash on flowers, chocolates, wining and dining and silly cuddly toys. You can even buy specially boxed Mr Kipling cakes for your beloved; what more could they want? In March, we have Mothering Sunday, when we are encouraged to find time to make our mums feel special. One wonders what happens for the rest of the year. Other days are set aside to encourage us to think about and remember those suffering with illness such as Cancer, our veterans and patron saints.
These days have their origins routed in the laudable premise of taking time to give thanks for those we love and cherish, thinking of those no longer with us and showing solidarity with others as they fight life threatening illnesses.
Added to this list could be Shrove Tuesday (now renamed Pancake Day) and April Fool’s Day, both of whose true origins go way back to the start of the last millennium. Continue reading
A reflection on “Ware’s Got Talent” – Loose it, don’t lose it!
Let me explain
I didn’t get to see Ware’s Got Talent this year; I fell asleep in my armchair! I was originally thinking of entering the show, but I “bottled” it! I think I was afraid, which is not like me; my usual attitude would be “Go for it!”
Are we like this with the God–given talents we are blessed with? Do we worry what people think? We should be more worried what God thinks about us NOT putting them to use!
Let me use the gift God has given me to encourage you to use the gifts He has given you. When I first realised God had given me the gift of encouragement I was a bit reluctant to use it; was it just my thoughts or was God giving me words to use to encourage others? Then one day He said: “Well sunshine, if you don’t try, how will you know?”; so I went for it! And and I’m glad I did. Continue reading
I love God’s beautiful world,
The sunshine on the lake,
The towering mountains
so strong and protective,
The stillness of the shady woods,
The wild flowers along the lane.
They all boast unashamedly
of God’s glory.
Rivers and streams speak
of his overflowing love.
The birds sing out his praises.
They have no problem
accepting God’s goodness and love.
They live for today,
not knowing what tomorrow may bring.
I too am part of your creation.
Help me to accept your goodness and love,
to live for today,
and to believe that I too
am as precious to you
as your beautiful world.
It is time for us to ‘feed the five thousand’ – a parable for the building project
At that time a great crowd gathered in the presence of Jesus, longing to hear more from him about the Kingdom of God. After a long time listening to some amazing teaching, the disciples whom Jesus had chosen saw that the people had needs – practical, physical needs. They urged Jesus to send the crowd away to other places to fulfil those needs but Jesus said that these disciples were to meet them, right here, right now. The disciples were aghast – that would take such an enormous amount of money, which they didn’t have. Jesus asked them to bring to him whatever the people had, which they did, and it really didn’t seem to amount to very much. Jesus blessed what the people had given and when it was distributed, everyone was satisfied. It wasn’t a banquet but it was enough. And there was some left over for the people to take back into their communities and share with others. This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.
There is a great crowd of people in our community with needs – needs which only the presence of Jesus can satisfy. Imagine yourself in their shoes. You have heard that good things can be found in Christ Church… but how do you get into that building if you’ve never been before. It doesn’t even have a proper front door! Also you can’t see what’s going on inside, so how will you know where to sit, what to do? (What if you need the loo? Do they even have toilets in church?) No, it’s too difficult, best not to try to go in.
What if it didn’t look like this to the ‘five thousand’? What if it looked easy to come into Jesus’ presence and be met by other people who look ‘just like me’? What if the atmosphere wasn’t Victorian, mysterious and ‘religious’ but friendly, warm, normal-looking? The sort of place ordinary people gather together. What if it looked fresh and bright and you could smell coffee as you walked in? Wouldn’t that be easier?
It is time for us, right here, right now to meet this need, even though it may look like it will take such an enormous amount of money. It is up to us, the disciples Jesus has chosen, to be active in resourcing this work, giving whatever we can and asking others to do the same. It might not seem to amount to very much but when we offer it to Jesus, it will be precisely enough to do exactly what is needed, with some left over for us to share. This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.
On the Lord’s Prayer
These reflections have been rattling round in my head for a few weeks, after Caz’s sermon, but were only put to paper at 2.20am* on 2nd March 2018: I suppose you could call them Ron’s Birthday Broadcast!
I believe the Lord’s Prayer is a guideline to help us to think when we pray, not just yammer out words to an unfeeling God.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.”:
We start in an intimate relationship with a loving Father, then somewhat paradoxically we are reminded that He is an awesome God. That alone I find awesome; God allows each one of us to have an intimate relationship with Him, the God of all creation!
“Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”: Continue reading
(The inner struggles of a Bible-believing Christian feminist)
In case my interpretation of the terminology is different from yours, I’d better start with some definitions. Radical means from the root. Feminism means advocating for women’s rights on the grounds of gender equality.
I believe that men and women are equal in importance, significance and the contribution they can make to society. I believe they were always intended by God to be so;
Genesis 1:27-28 shows that male and female human beings were given exactly the same job description and that He was delighted with this state of affairs (vs31). In fact, the sole reason given for creating two genders at all was to facilitate relationship, companionship (Gen2:18). The first human was physically divided by God, so man and woman are two parts of the same thing – a human being! (It strikes me that this is a bit like God the Father and God the Son being two divine persons of the one Creator.) Human beings were created in God’s image to be relational, like God. In Eden, they were in perfect harmony with each other, just as they were with God. At the beginning of time, or root, men and women enjoyed gender equality.
After the fall and as a consequence of their sin, human beings were cursed by God. (Gen 3:16-19) All that was intended to bless – childbirth, work and the relationship between men and women, became corrupted. And amongst other horrors, the subjugation of women began. This is not a justification for oppression, it is a consequence of sin and therefore to be resisted.
I believe that men and women are equal in importance, significance and the contribution they can make to society. I believe they were always intended by God to be so
The meta-narrative of the Bible reveals God’s heart. Unlike the surrounding pagan nations, God gave His people laws designed to ensure that the vulnerable, including women, were properly protected. The prophets repeatedly berated the Jewish nation for its injustices towards the powerless. By the time Jesus was born, Jewish religious leaders and the wider culture had a completely degraded view of women. (A prominent 1st century sage Rabbi Eliezer stated that he’d rather see the Torah burned than taught to women.) Into this toxic environment steps Jesus. I think we have lost sight of just how revolutionary his ministry was in respect of women. He spoke to them in public, taught them, ate with them, accepted financial support from them, stayed in their homes, allowed Himself to be touched by them – all things that flew in the face of what a Jewish man would usually have done. He used examples from the everyday lives of women in his parables, He treated them with compassion and dignity; in short, He treated them like human beings, exactly as He treated the men he met. Sounds both radical and feminist to me! Continue reading
From a member of our youth group:
I think of God as the force
He surrounds us
He flows through us
He is always there
We just have to connect with him
We are the spark that will help show God for generations to come. We are the spark that will light the fire.
Jedi is fiction
My God is my force.
David Ronco, former pastor of Hertford Baptist Church, is leading another of his popular introductory trips to the Holy Land next year (April 3rd – 11th).
As well as enjoying a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience walking where Jesus walked the trip provides opportunities to meet local Christians and understand how the Lord is working today through his church in Israel/Palestine.
For more information visit www.christian-travel.com/tours/detail/ronco-hl-19.html
I had just come out of the church service at the Baptist Church in Creighton Avenue East Finchley. It had been a harvest festival service and I was eight and three quarter years old. Leaving the church to go home I suddenly stopped at the tree outside. There was an ant crawling up it. As I watched the ant, God spoke to me and asked what I wanted. “Money, power etc.” No said I, I want the gift of premonitions.
As I skipped home that day I remember thinking, if I have premonitions then there must be a true God. Over many decades I have indeed had many such premonition experiences. Here is just one of them.
In 2001 I was working as a commercial pilot, flying instructor and examiner at Panshanger airfield. Some weeks before I had read that engine failures in aircrafts occur on average every 104,000 hours. I knew this to be untrue as flying instructor, Piers, had had one every 1000 hours or so. He had had seven up to date.
So as I mentioned this to Simon, my student, I suddenly found myself saying, “I’m going to have an engine failure.” He asked when and surprising I answered, in the next few weeks!
The following week, sitting down at the flying club with one of the other flying instructors, I said I shared with Lars “I had a premonition that I’m going to have an engine failure next week and I’m telling you this as normally when I tell someone these things; it usually doesn’t happen”.
The following week, on Sunday, I was picking my head phones and map etc., up out of the boot of the car to go flying. I left my phone in the boot as it hadn’t been charged the night before and it was nearly flat. As I turned to go to the plane I suddenly thought, I will need it, so hastily I collected it from the boot.
As we took off in the Cessna 152 I really didn’t feel like flying, I found myself hanging on to the straps on the passenger side, I couldn’t relax. Just north east of Duxford there was a loud bang and the engine started to vibrate and lose power; the engine revs stabilised at 1700 from the normal 2350. We were coming down at 150 foot per minute. I made a May Day call to Duxford then looked for somewhere to land. Newmarket race course grounds looked a good place to land but I changed my mind as I was sure to get into the papers with a statement such as “Plane narrowly misses £5 million of race horse”
I then saw a field some distance away but didn’t fancy the long walk to the farm house or the large bill to extract the plane!.
Finally I chose a very small field just north of the M11. Unusually we had to land out of the wind, in a north westerly direction, due to a small wood on the north east side. We landed with about 5-6G of landing force deceleration due to the two foot high thick matted Maize crop.
As I got out of the plane there was a man walking towards us who was shouting, I’m a paramedic, are you all right?” I said yes thanks. As all three of us walked to the gate close by at the edge of the field the paramedic asked where I had come from and what did I do. I was eager to fill him in. After some minutes of chat I said I really must get hold of the farmer and get back to the airfield. To my disbelief, the paramedic replied, ‘That’s ok I know the farmer, I’ll give him a ring’. 15 minutes later my student and I were sitting in a very large lovely conservatory, reading the Sunday papers, drinking tea and eating toast and marmalade. Stuart the aviation mechanic duly arrived, arrangements were made to recover the plane and pay for the crop damage.
A true miracle that no one was injured and that, in all the fields in the world, a paramedic had to walk into mine.
Submitted by a congregation member
St Francis? Wasn’t he the one who preached to the birds, tamed a wolf, gave his robe to a leper and also gave away a fortune he would have inherited from his wealthy father? In other words, someone whose life experience is almost totally unrelated to ours in the UK in the 21st century, even more so since he lived in Italy back in the 1200s. Life was so much simpler then; people in those days believed those far-fetched stories about Francis and the animals, and they willingly provided Francis and his followers with food in their begging bowls. It’s very different now. We take these stories with a spoonful of salt and think twice before giving anything to those who beg or even before buying The Big Issue, if we buy it at all.
So what am I doing, writing this article about following Francis in this day and age? I’m doing it because I’m challenged by the radical discipleship of Francis who took seriously much of Jesus’ teaching which we find in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the gospels. About three years ago I became a member of the Franciscan Third Order. A brief summary of Anglican Franciscan orders:
1. The First Order consists of men and women who take vows and live in their own communities but are out and about in the world ‘doing good’!
2. The Second Order consists of women who are enclosed and live a life of prayer (mainly).
3. The Third Order, also known as Tertiaries, consists of men and women, married and single, ordained and not, who live our everyday lives according to the Principles of the Order but with flexibility.
What does this mean in practice? We follow a personal rule or pattern of life which is probably much the same as that of many of you who are reading this. We pray, read the Bible, join others in worship, support those in need, give financially to support the ministry and outreach of the church, get involved in the life of our local community, and so on. The Principles include following the example of Jesus as stated in John 12:24-26; Three Aims; Three Ways of Service; Three Notes of the Order.
1. The Three Aims: to make our Lord known and loved everywhere; to spread the spirit of love and harmony; to live simply.
2. The Three Ways of Service: Prayer; Study; Work.
3. The Three Notes: Humility; Love; Joy.
What drew me to join this Order? I felt the need to be accountable to a group who build bridges, not walls, with those whose experiences and views may differ from my own. (While on this topic, I should mention that Francis lived at the time of the Crusades which he strongly opposed. Instead, he had courteous dialogue with Muslim leaders and those on both sides respected the other, although they agreed to differ.) Issues of justice and reconciliation are important and we try to work for fairness in our society. Franciscans aim to live simply, resisting as far as possible the materialistic pressures of our consumer society to have the latest/biggest items, but also making the most of modern technology to share ideas.
The Three Notes are a particular challenge. Humility, love and joy are fruit of the Holy Spirit and are no easier for Franciscans to cultivate than for anyone else. We can be proud and grumpy too! Yet Francis was known for these positive qualities and we have much for which to be humbly and joyfully thankful.
I’ve run out of space but do talk to me if you’d like to learn more.
The curtain has come down on Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child (OCC) 2017/18 – the shoebox appeal. The Harlow management team, Pat Greenhill, Chris Hopkinson, Andrew du Boulay & Bob Barker, are very grateful to all members of Christ Church who have helped! The good folk of Christ Church made an outstanding effort in the campaign in many different ways. This contribution is essential to the success of the annual operation! Thank you. Please carry on again later this year if you are able, we will need your help again!
The warehouse at Harlow processed 11,060 shoeboxes. Along with the shoeboxes from other processing centres in London and Hertfordshire we exported 28,221 to; Liberia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Two members of the Harlow processing team went on a distribution of the shoeboxes and saw just how much joy the boxes bring to children in less privileged countries. These shoeboxes make a real difference to many children across the world.
Thank you Christ Church!
One thing leads to another.
Having finished fulltime work, I became more involved in Operation Christmas Child at Harlow. During the 2013 campaign I was asked if I was interested in DART? Samaritan’s Purse have an international Disaster Assistance Response Team deployed around the world after natural disasters or other major incidents strike.
In 2014 I was sent to Serbia after the severe floods, I went to Nepal in May 2015 following the earthquake and in January 2016 after very heavy rainfall I spent three weeks in Yorkshire & Scotland.
In autumn 2017 I was deployed to Antigua as part of the disaster response to the devastation caused by hurricanes ‘Irma’ and ‘Maria’. While Antigua was not affected both Barbuda and Dominica were severely damaged. Barbuda, just twenty eight miles away, was evacuated immediately after ‘Irma’ passed through. When I was there only a limited number of people had moved back onto the island. Barbuda is a very small flat island and ‘Irma’ damaged most buildings to a greater or lesser extent leaving many homes uninhabitable. Samaritan’s Purse supplied bottled water and desalination units for drinking water and generators to provide electricity to aid the island’s recovery.
A cog in a machine
As one of a team of thirty, mainly Americans, two from Australia and two other British guys, I was given the job of managing the warehouse on Antigua. I felt like a cog in the Disaster Response machine supporting the operations on Barbuda & Dominica, receiving the NFI (Non Food Items) for distribution and tools for the rebuild stage. Then getting them ready to be flown to the two islands. When the items arrived on the DC8 jet owned by Samaritan’s Purse, it was an indication of just how big Samaritan’s Purse is worldwide.
We received tarpaulins, electricity generators, cleaning kits, mops and brooms by the hundred, together with power tools, for distribution on the two islands. All items had to be weighed for the flights. The load depended on how many passengers were booked on the flight.
I developed a new skill, driving a fork lift truck. I was trained by a person who had been trained the day before! Caution was the name of the game when driving the fork lift near the planes. You can do considerable damage to a plane with a fork lift; putting the forks through the fuselage or reversing into a wing would not have made me popular!
Two pallet loads of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes arrived from America to distribute to the children on Barbuda.
The Tarpaulin Team flew to Barbuda daily as Samaritan’s Purse had not been able to locate a base on the island. The team worked in the heat covering roofs with the distinctive blue Samaritan’s Purse tarpaulins.
I spent a day working the team – a challenging but very satisfying day. At the end of the day we had to clear the runway of horses so the plane could land on Barbuda to collect us.
Church by Aeroplane
On Sundays the team flew to Barbuda for church. The service was in the Pentecostal Church. There was no electricity and the windows had been blown away by ‘Irma’ which helped the breeze through. Singing was unaccompanied, followed by testimonies from the members of the congregation. The theme was God is so good – we may have lost our possessions in the hurricane but we are alive by God’s Grace! A number of the congregation had experienced hurricanes on the island but ‘Irma’ was on a different scale! There was a plea to those Barbudians present to encourage family and friends that had not returned to the island to do so. They wanted to get the school and other services open again. The pastor did caution the congregation that some folk may need longer to deal with the situation and would take more time to return.
After the service our Barbudian hosts treated us to the most amazing hot buffet lunch! Chicken, seafood of many varieties, vegetables and sea food chowder (a meal in itself). Wonderful, bearing in mind what had happened and the conditions on the island!
I had a conversation with a lady, Roma. She had five daughters and five grandchildren. Overnight the hurricane had blown away her wash house and washing machine. The island was fully evacuated after the hurricane because of the damage. Like others she was grateful to survive with her life and praised God for his goodness.
The hurricane did cause one fatality on the island. Parents of a two year old boy were running for shelter when the wind ripped the boy away from his mother’s hand. When they found him in the morning he had died.
It was manual work in very hot and humid conditions. I had to constantly remind myself to keep hydrated. It was a great opportunity creating many memories. Samaritan’s Purse have wide experience of working in such situations. When I was there they were moving from the immediate response stage after the hurricane to the recovery and rebuilding programme. Samaritan’s Purse know what is required and make it happen. For example, on Antigua we took delivery of 400 generators. Within twenty four hours 250 had been flown to Dominica and Barbuda ready for distribution.
A strong memory is the sight of the blue Samaritan’s Purse tarpaulins on roofs across Barbuda as we flew to and from the island (see photograph above).
Supporting and helping folk who have been through difficult or disastrous situations is known as, ‘The Ministry of Presence.’ I saw the appreciation shown by the people of Barbuda. They were very grateful for the generators, tarpaulins and other items, and the practical support. What also struck me was the gratitude to Samaritan’s Purse for being there and helping them on the road to recovery and standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with them in a time of adversary. Barbuda has a long way to go, I expect it will be a difficult road!
‘Peace be with you,’ is at the heart of the Christmas message and the heart of our faith. The angel proclaimed this to Mary in Luke 1:28 and Jesus promised the disciples that He would leave his peace with them, a peace that the world cannot give, in John 14. Throughout the New Testament many of the blessings include ‘peace be with you’.
In today’s age everything can be seemingly growing faster, harder or uncertain. Jesus wants to connect with us again this Christmas and remind us of His peace, that can come to us and live in us.
As we approach Christmas we can both reflect on all that has been great… the church away day, the baptisms, the confirmations, the testimonies, the Bible readings, the people free from debt and the lives changed to mention but a few. We can also pray and prepare, taking time out to connect with Jesus, thinking about how to bless others and preparing our hearts. We can take the time to invite people to the services or for a cup of coffee or mulled wine just for a chat. We could also be praying for the five people on your prayer cards to come to know Jesus and His peace.
And then… we get to celebrate His peace with us, with our families or with our friends, and thank Him for the good things that He has done for us this year.
Then as we reflect again or as Mary did, treasure the good things in her heart, it encourages us to prepare for the next year, in hope expectancy and joy. Where there is sadness we can invite His peace and comfort to come to us, as Emmanuel God with us, into the New Year.
Let us pray for, invite and welcome, our family, friends and community to connect with Jesus who brings His peace to us this Christmas.
With every blessing this Christmas.
I don’t think anyone would describe 2017 as a peaceful year. It started with a nightclub attack in Istanbul, and has seen ongoing Brexit worry, Donald Trump tweeting, terrorist attacks in places like Manchester, London, Barcelona and Egypt, elections, the Grenfell tower fire, hurricane Ophelia, and abusive behaviour from Hollywood to Westminster.
So through our Christmas services, we want to share with people a blessing –
Peace Be With You.
People in the midst of all the troubles of this world look for peace in many different places. They might think of peace in terms of ‘peace and quiet’ and look for ways of ‘getting away from it all’. They might think of peace as being an end of war and conflict.
But God’s peace is not merely the absence of external trouble, it is the presence of a Saviour who cares about the human condition. Peace isn’t the absence of the dark. Peace is the assurance of God’s presence in the midst of the dark. The Jewish word is ‘Shalom’, which means more than just peace; it means wholeness, completeness and wellbeing.
At Christmas, Jesus was born as one of us in fulfilment of the promises God made to His people: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
In the Christmas story, each person faced their own troubles and uncertainties and lack of peace, from Mary and Joseph, to the shepherds, to the people in Bethlehem. Their journeys show that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you can find God’s peace in Jesus. We want to share this message of hope and truth with as many people as possible, so think about who you are going to invite to one of the Christmas Services this year. Offer them a moment of pausing and the blessing ‘Peace Be With You’. Peace is found in our encounter with Christ. All other things fade away in His presence.
There will be opportunities for you to share invitations and the message using Social Media like Facebook and Twitter. Look out for information on the church social media accounts, and share pictures and messages with the hashtags: