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:
In the closing weeks of this year at Christ Church we are having a sermon series on what it means to be a caring church. The series is also running in parallel with a Life Group course on the same theme. What is called pastoral care in the church is when we look out for, get alongside and make connections, offer practical support, and most especially, pray for those experience challenging times in their lives. It might be relationship issues, unemployment, debt, health issues, or perhaps the death of a loved one or close friend.
Our sermon series and Life Group series quite simply looks to the example and teaching of Jesus and the Scriptures.
This sermon and Life Group series coincides with the publication of the pastoral care survey which was undertaken in July this year. The multiple choice question responses are collectively shown at the end of this article. It does not show the optional written responses which remain confidential. The survey shows our apparent strengths, but also where we, as a church can seek to undertake pastoral care in more connected and co-ordinated ways. It is incumbent upon us all in the “Body of Christ” to do our very best when people have need. To answer the call – who cares?
The members of the PCST (Pastoral Care Support Team) are very grateful for the response to the survey and look forward, as surely we all do, to the future development of pastoral care in Christ Church and beyond.
Norman Richards Associate Minister.
Results of Pastoral Care Questionnaire
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28 vs 19
At the end of the gospel of Matthew chapter 28, Jesus leaves his disciples with the great commission to “Go and make disciples.” It was both an incredible opportunity, and a challenge as they sought to share the message of Christ.
As a Christian, I am convinced that knowing Jesus is the meaning of life, and deeply brings joy, peace and of course, eternal salvation. Whether some have a dramatic conversion to Christianity, or a gentle journey, there is no doubt that the impact of a real relationship with God upon someone’s life is powerful.
Recognising that Christ Church is a growing church, there is a need to think through how we continue to help people to find out more about Jesus, and grow in their discipleship. Over the past eighteen months, a team in Christ Church has been helping to develop its strategy for evangelism. The aim is to embed evangelism into the DNA of the church with each activity and ministry within Christ Church having a part to play in this. To complement our existing ministries, there will be a regular, co-ordinated and well publicised annual evangelism programme. This programme will include a range of different events aimed at people seeking to know more about Christianity as well as follow-up activities for new believers wishing to deepen or refresh their understanding of the Christian faith. The evangelistic strategy team members are Andrew Du Boulay, Chris Evans, Richard Jarvest, June Jarvest and Caz Rolls. Continue reading
It’s that time of year again. December has come and with it all the joys of Christmas. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets? Is this really Christmas?
For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don’t have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmastime when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons. Turkey dinners may be only a wish and not a reality for some. Continue reading
I am so excited at watching and being involved in CAP. We have been running as a Debt Centre and Money Course for four years in January and it has been a privilege to get to know clients and supporters through this amazing work.
As the Bible says there is a time for everything. Unbeknown to me, my time at CAP has rather surprisingly come to a change. I have been asked by Soul Survivor to be their Conference Manager and am going to be working in Watford three days a week. Soul Survivor and Watford have quite a bit of history for both John and me. As many of you are aware John was a youth worker before vicardom and we used to take young people each year to Soul Survivor. It was at one of these conferences that John felt the call to ordination and the Vicar adventure begun for us.
I have worked for Soul Survivor twice in the past, as their Church Secretary when John and I were first married and as PA to Mike Pilavachi when we moved to Ware.
We are delighted that our youth here at Christ Church go to the festival each and every year and are delighted that both our children are going next year – something that we have been praying for even before we had children. (Nothing like praying in advance!!)
Working alongside Sam has been amazing. She is a gift from God to me and working with her in doing God’s work we have laughed, loved, as well as cried together over many situations.
I have made so many good friends in our clients. One client rather proudly brought me her baby at three days old. I hugged her and then proceeded to tell her off as to why she wasn’t in bed. I have giggled with clients who have phoned and had to confess that their animals had eaten their paperwork. I have celebrated clients who have gone from not having anything in their cupboards to eat to bumping into them in Tesco and saying in a very cheeky way – is it in the budget?! I have met with past clients who have gone debt free and started a new job and wanted help with organising their budget.
Sam and I have recently been to ‘The Gathering’ in Harrogate and whilst we were there we were given a wooden disc with “just maybe” on one side and “always hope” on the other.
JUST MAYBE. In my work with CAP I have met people and just maybe their life can change. Just maybe they can go debt free. Just maybe they can get a job. Just maybe life can get better. In my work with CAP I have seen clients whose lives have changed. Clients who have gone debt free. Clients whose lives have got better and in some cases they have met with Jesus and have learnt that there is ALWAYS HOPE.
I’ve seen people get hold of hope in so many different ways. Answer their phones, getting out and about, begin a college course, get a job. In working for CAP I have truly and deeply learnt that there is ALWAYS HOPE.
Footnote – By Sam: I wish to take this opportunity to record my thanks to Heather for all her support in the last four years we have worked together. As she said, it has been an amazing journey and I am immensely grateful for her wisdom, her diligence, her kindness, her prayerfulness and her willingness to challenge and just get stuck in! We have learned a lot together and have been blessed by the opportunities that God has given us to be a part of the lives of others, both clients and supporters and I think we have seen glimpses of what God’s kingdom looks like.
Thank you, Heather, for being you and for keeping Jesus as the focus of all we have done. We pray that you will continue to experience God’s blessing in your new adventure with Soul Survivor.
It was at a MADD meeting in the Old Bulls Head, early 2017, that Bob Barker asked if the men of MADD could come up with any ideas for a fundraising event for CCW. It was tentatively suggested that they might be able to organise a ROCK CONCERT!
The date would be September 23rd 2017 the first rock concert to be held at Christ Church. One church member had received a vision two years previously that such a concert would happen and so it came to pass … It was to be called WareReaction.
Much preparation went into the event. The MADD Men became busy selling tickets, Catriona designed a logo for the event. The bands were rehearsing, Sam Woodward was working on various lighting sequences. Numerous people at Christ Church came together to make sure that the event would be successful, until finally, the big day arrived!
At 7.30pm on Saturday night, Peter Wall the Event Manager, gave a warm welcome to an audience of approximately two hundred people. The first band was introduced and INSTINCT got the concert off to a great start with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. Sam Woodward and his tech team were doing a great job with flashing lights, smoke machine and glitter ball. It all added to the great atmosphere inside Christ Church. Instinct’s set finished with a rendition of “Run to the Hills” an Iron Maiden song.
Our own JESSIE DIPPER singer/songwriter was next on the stage. She commenced with “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone and then continued with some of her own compositions. “Beans on Toast” was my favourite, and she finished to a great round of applause.
GRACE, TALITHA and ROSIE were the next band to perform, one of their songs being “Barcelona” by Ed Sheeran. Just like the previous performers they received a very good welcome and were cheered off.
SAM & ROBIN gave us yet another musical genre with a lovely performance of “Autumn Leaves” with Sam on the violin and Robin on guitar.
REDEEMING FEATURE really got the place rocking with one of their own compositions “Alright OK”. RF made no apologies for being a Christian band and performed songs about God’s love for us through his son Jesus. Half way through their set Chris Peirce played Tocatta & Fugue in D minor, beginning on guitar and changing to the church organ to finish his tribute to JS Bach.
THE CCW CHOIR were accompanying Redeeming Feature on some of their songs, especially on the reggae version of “Swing Low” and the last song “Together We Stand”. All the performers joined RF for the Grand Finale and made what can only be described as an incredibly loud and joyful sound. Praise the Lord!
I have heard rumours of a repeat concert for next year, we’ll just have to wait and see!
Hello, from children’s church and big “thank you” to everyone who volunteered to help at this years “Light Party” Our alternative Halloween party.
Halloween is always a tricky (excuse the pun) time of year for parents that do not want their children to be involved in the usual Halloween activities.
My heart for Halloween has always been to glorify the name of “Jesus” and offer children a safe fun environment that has been soaked in prayer and praise. Thanks to your prayers and Jessie Dipper (our music intern) we were able to worship and glorify Jesus’ name on a night where we know there are real spiritual battles going on.
For the “light Party” we encouraged everyone to wear bright colours. Visitors were met by our welcome team accompanied with bubbles. The church centre was the main entertainment room whilst the memorial hall was transformed into a chill out zone, where children wrote their beautiful prayers.
The night was a success, fun was had by all & best of all we were able to glorify God!
The Church God Wants – New Wine Week 1
RT Kendall spoke on generosity and gratitude….and tithing
Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Continue reading
The constant refrain of Christmas, in carols and readings, is that God is with us. In whatever situation you find yourself this Christmas, God is with you – you need only turn to Him and ask to know His presence.’ So says the Archbishop of Canterbury, in introducing this year’s Christmas campaign by the Church of England. There is lots to enjoy throughout December, as this year’s campaign has three key elements:
Firstly, there are three videos that tell the story of the joy of going to your local church at Christmas, which are being released throughout December on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
There is also help in finding a church near you, where you can find a Christmas service or event taking place in one of the 16,500 Church of England churches.
Find out more at www.achurchnearyou.com
Finally, you can enjoy Your Christmas Journey, a series of short reflections throughout December and into early January 2018, introduced by Archbishop Justin Welby. The reflections have been written by people who are new to faith and to help us all grow in our love of God. You can receive the messages as texts, emails, on social media and also in a booklet (Church House Publishing). The booklets would be ideal for Christians to give to those attending Advent and Christmas services. So, as December begins, why not sign up and get your friends and family to join the Your Christmas Journey reflections, by texting GodWithUs to 88802.
As we approach the end of the year, we want to thank you for your generosity during 2017 and to give you some more information about the income of the church and also how this money is invested in growing the Kingdom.
It currently costs £5,700 per week to run Christ Church and the vast majority of our income comes from your committed, regular giving. Thank you to each and every one of you who has responded to God’s prompting by giving to the ministry here.
In all that we do, we seek to put God at the centre and to follow where we believe he is calling us. This requires the PCC to exercise faith that God will provide all that we need and this is shown in the above chart as an amount of “unknown” income. If you would like to be a part of fulfilling that “unknown” then do take a look at christchurchware.co.uk/giving for more information or pick up a leaflet at the back of church on giving to Christ Church or speak to the treasurer (Sam Rich e:firstname.lastname@example.org).
The majority of our expenditure is on mission, evangelism and enabling ministries to flourish and grow. We understand this to be investing in the kingdom. We have the privilege of seeing the fruit of this, for example, as we baptise and confirm those who have come to faith through the work at Christ Church.
As we near the end of this year, our income is forecast to be around £10,000 below our budgeted expenditure. There are many reasons for this: from changes in circumstances for some of our regular givers to our activity income from the halls being lower than originally expected due to the building works. Please pray for the PCC as they discern the right way forward and seek to steward our resources well. Particularly, please pray that we discern correctly all that God is calling us to do and that the resources will follow. Thank you for being a part of all that God is doing and for your gifts of finance, time, energy and support in prayer!
Holey, Wholly, Holy!
God is the potter, we are the clay. He can remould, break and repair cracked parts and make them more useful.
Although we may be crack pots or holey vessels He can still use us as we are, but He wants us to be wholly committed to Him as He is wholly committed to us.
We may be holey people but God tell us we are a “holy people, a royal priesthood”, and He can help us become that if we wholly commit ourselves.
God has given us His Holy Spirit to enable us to spread His message to those who don’t know Him. As holey people we may, like cracked pots, spill some of it as we journey through our lives, but think how much more we could deliver if we allowed God to remould us, break us, repair us and make us whole.
God gave Himself wholly on the cross for our salvation; the least we could do is live our lives wholly for Him.
We can’t become holy people by ourselves; It is God’s Holy Spirit in us that can change us from holey people to holy people, if we allow Him to do His work in us and through us. We may be holey, but He is still in us, and we can show that not by what we say, but how we live. Then others will see that out God lives.
May we, as HOLEY people be WHOLLY committed to God in order for us to become HOLY people.
I recently decided to switch energy providers – I’ve done it loads of times so surely it wouldn’t be a big deal to sort out. My new provider asked me for meter readings. Simple enough but my current provider decided a while back that I should have a smart meter.
Smart would surely mean better. Smart means I don’t have to submit readings. Smart means a simpler life for me!
The problem was the new smart meter doesn’t actually give you a meter reading and the meter itself was blank. The provider’s app was no help and wanted to direct me towards a web chat thing, which seemed like a pain so I rang them up.
Once through I had to punch in my account number, date of birth and postcode, generally a couple of times as the automated voice kept saying it hadn’t got it. I then got put through to that nice Michael Bubble who serenaded me a song until I got to a real person.
I told the real person that I needed them to give me the reading that the meter was beaming to them but wouldn’t share this with me. He said he would need to transfer me. I got more of Michael and a song about being unstoppable. Continue reading
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
Next year, Christ Church will be 160 years old. For those newer members of the church, it may not yet occur to you to think of those who came before, who funded the stones of the building, the stained glass windows, the fixtures and fittings that surround us each time we visit the church building. Those who have been part of this church for many years may well be able to look back over a lifetime of previous members of the church and remember how much each of them gave of their time and resources as they invested in both the buildings and the people. Yet even those with longer memories would struggle to think back 100 years or more. We might have an impression of those people living in black and white, old-fashioned times very different from our own. But though much may have changed in over 100 years, many things are the same, and humans behave in very similar ways. We would recognise their hopes and fears and struggles as being like our own. They were flesh and blood like us. This can be difficult to realise if all we see left of them are names inscribed in stone that we walk past every Sunday, or an organ, or a memorial hall (who knows anything about Henry Page, in whose memory the Mem’ Hall was built?). Yet what would we do without that hall, without the sacrifice those names represent?
This magazine is our own record of concerns for today, which may be read by those who come after us. In the same way, we can read the concerns of those who came before us, in their church Parish Magazines and Annual Statements.
In 1881, when the vicar Alfred Oates was a year into the job, his annual accounts record: “The break-down of the heating apparatus at the beginning of the winter was the only misfortune of the year. A special appeal for contributions to secure its immediate and thorough repair was generally well responded to. About £60 had to be expended on it” That would have cost us around £3000 today. The heating seems to be a recurring problem at Christ Church!
Rev Oates stayed for more than 30 years, and even when he left, continued his association with the church. The new vicar, W E Daniels, must have felt in his shadow, and faced the challenge of starting his ministry in 1914, as the First World War broke. Rev Oates was invited back to give the sermon on Jan 3rd 1915, which had been declared a special day of intercession for peace throughout the country. In his sermon he says:
It has been a strange and wondrous year. The very elements have been uneasy. A hurricane of quarrelling swept over the land. Even our sport was demoralised. Our religion had fallen from its high estate: many of our people were living without God in the world. It was becoming civilisation without Christ; democracy without an inspired guide-book; secularism without a Christian conscience; a House of Parliament hired to meet and vote. As once on Calvary there was darkness over the land during high day and a cross was faintly seen, and One hung on the cross to whom Barabbas, a robber, had been preferred, so, during the year which has gone, the cross of Him whom the Father sent to be the Saviour of the World was shrouded in the gloom of a deposed faith, a pleasure loving life, an angry self-will, an impaired national character.
Are these sentiments we recognise today? We are fortunate in many ways. The church listening to that sermon, and reading it in their church magazine, were in the midst of a terrible war. Subsequent magazines contained the names of church members who would not be coming back from the front line in France and Belgium, and whose names are now engraved on a plaque beside the altar. Think of the people we know who come and help with children’s church each week on a Sunday, and imagine having to put a note in the church magazine to say that one of our regular helpers has been killed in action so more help would be needed. A 1915 article reported that Private Percy Huggins ‘had been looking forward to resuming his work in the Sunday School on his return. He has now been promoted to a higher Service’. I wonder if those reading that in their church magazine gave thanks for those still able to help, or wondered if they should offer their services?
The day before war had broken out, Christ Church had begun a daily service of Intercession held at noon, which continued through the war and was attended by two or three each day. Rev W E Daniels wondered at this in the church magazine in April 1915: “At such a time as the present, surely the Church should be crowded” he says. He continued the theme in other magazines ‘Intercession ought to have a stronger place in our daily duty’
In spite of the concerns of war at this time, Christ Church still wanted to share the gospel with local people. In 1915 they continued with Open-Air Services. Reverend W E Daniels wrote in the church magazine in May that “There is surely no work nearer the mind of Christ than this. He Himself was an open-air preacher of the Galilean hills and lake.” He concludes by asking the congregation “to support this work with your prayers; where possible with your presence. Give it, at any rate, your cordial sympathy, and I claim it on the ground that we are doing the Master’s Will; second, that we are seeking the lost; third, that our own faith is being strengthened; and fourth, that prejudices may be removed and men and women drawn into the House of God.” In collaboration with the other Churches in Ware we will continue this work with our ‘Escape!’ evangelistic event at King George Field on 15th September next year, so look out for details of that after Christmas.
Christ Church Annual Statements show that, besides repairing and maintaining the church and paying for all the elements of the church (vicar, organist, organ blower, choir, verger, bellringer, heating, printing, washing, etc.) money given was also spent on the school, the Mission Room in Amwell End, a Penny Savings Bank scheme, a children’s shoe club, a clothing club, a coal club (most would still have coal fires at this time), a soup kitchen, and many other ‘parish works’. Behind the figures in the accounts are no doubt stories of children going shoeless, families unable to afford to heat their home, people without enough to eat.
We know from the 1881 census that Amwell End was home to over 1000 people in just six yards with tiny dwellings. There was no National Health Service until 1948, so the church also funded a nurse for Ware. But those unable to support or care for themselves could end up living and working at the Ware workhouse. Life inside was cruel. Families were separated. Everyone was expected to work long hours and do difficult jobs in return for food and a bed, such as breaking stones and scrubbing floors. It may be that the generosity of the people of the church at this time was the only compassion shown to people in need. We may think it sounds Dickensian – workhouses, shoeless children, a soup kitchen. But people need food, clothes, shelter, always have and always will. Christ Church people faced war, loss, shortages of their own, and yet they continued to give to the different parish works, because it was what Christ had called them to do, to share his love. Rev F Hobson opens his Annual Statement of Accounts for 1926 saying that “…they record the result of much self-sacrificing giving for the maintenance of the Church’s work, for the relief of the Sick and Needy, and for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom in the world”.
Hopefully we continue today to meet the needs we see around us, and those needs aren’t so different. Our CAP debt centre helps those struggling with finances, and the Christ Church people support and encourage those who come to us, showing them compassion that the world sometimes seems to lack.
The Bible, as we are hopefully seeing from our Bible Challenge, is one story, the story of God and His plan to save the world through setting apart a group of people whose role is to demonstrate God’s love, holiness and power. Though we see that they cannot do this in their own strength, the centre of the story is how Jesus sacrifices his life to bring them back into relationship with God, and shows them how to live the life they are called to, for the sake of all the people of the world. This is the continuing story of Christ Church, from its founding almost 160 years ago, to the present and on into the future: we are to live for others, to show them God’s love and to sacrifice for them. When we struggle and fail, we are to come back to the centre, to Jesus, and remember the forgiveness he has bought for us and the example he is to us, and how he has equipped us with the Holy Spirit. We are to remember God’s faithfulness, His promises and prophecies fulfilled, from the Bible, from our history, and from our own lives.
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”. Ezekiel 36:25-26
So as we have fleshed out what concerned Christ Church people in the past, their struggles, their sacrifices, all that they tried to do in the name of Jesus, do we think about this crowd of witnesses with which God has surrounded us and give thanks – for those from the distant and near past, and those around us now? Do we consider ourselves to be one of that crowd cheering others on in the race of life as they attempt to throw off those things that hinder them? Do we think of how we can continue to bless those who come after us, and be those that Christ Church members of the future might look back on and say “Thank God for their generosity, for all that they gave in time, money and resources, for the way they built up the people of Ware, for the way they proclaimed the name of Jesus in word and deed, for their faithfulness in praying continuously”?