The Welland-Fosse Benefice: Prayers and Notices.  Sunday 31 May 2020:  Pentecost (Whit Sunday)

The Welland-Fosse Benefice: Prayers and Notices.  Sunday 31 May 2020:  Pentecost (Whit Sunday)

The Welland-Fosse Benefice: Prayers and Notices.

 Sunday 31 May 2020:  Pentecost (Whit Sunday)

 

  • Please remember in your prayers those who are sick: Bishop John and his wife and Janette Saunders (all with Coronavirus), Barry Broughton and Derek Barker.
  • We pray also for all those who put their lives in danger to serve others suffering from Coronavirus.
  • Why not join us via Zoom for Morning Prayer each day at 8.30am – or Compline on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7.30pm? Our prayers have never been more vital!  If you wish to join, download Zoom on your computer and obtain the Daily Prayer App on your mobile phone and email Simon Aley (sialey@aol.com) who will send you an invitation to the group.
  • Sunday worship is at 10am, presenting a service with music and brief address.  Join us in the usual way via Simon’s email address.

SOUTH LUFFENHAM

Janet has found a recipe for Goosenargh cakes, a shortbread traditionally made for Whitsun in the north of England. Look out for her biscuits on The Village Green on Sunday! Thank you Janet. 

Thank you, too, for ongoing Foodbank donations – another three tubs this week. Please email me if you would like me to collect anything from your doorstep – sally@saltlane.com

 

TODAY’S MEDITATION

Plants left on the windowsill in this hot weather are in danger of baking – as are young plants in the ground.  I have just revived some precious runner-bean plants which have been left for more than a day without water. With water they flourish!  It is a miracle how those limp specimens change their nature when given water to drink!

So God acts in our world to bring out the best in us and in his creation. He acts mostly through normal channels to provide for us.  Where would be without water?  However, water is not one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit commonly used in the bible.  The Spirit is normally depicted as breath (critical for life) or wind (with violent effects) or fire (which both warms and purifies). All of these symbols were present at that first Pentecost. But we identify water with baptism and new life because water was so scarce in the Middle East where Christianity was born. If you were close to water, then there was a chance of survival.

What aids our survival today?  We are in the middle of a drought which is not too critical for us in Rutland – unless you are a farmer.  We are also in the middle of a pandemic, so water is essential for washing our hands, as is clean air. And the air is clearer now than it has been for years everywhere in the world.  This change has come at some cost both financially and in human life.  What will we passionately wish to hang onto in the ‘new normal’ when it comes?  What vehicle brings the unifying power of God closer to us? How will your life-style change to allow God’s Holy Spirit greater access to you?

 

See wellandfosse.org for much more information, including contact details for

The Very Rev Christopher Armstrong and the churchwardens

 

What does Zoom Church look like? This!

What does Zoom Church look like? This!

The Benefice is now holding Sunday Service ONLINE each week and ANYONE can join in, including people who don’t have the internet (who are getting a leaflet about this).

This is what our new Sunday Service looks like – just click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtNRfGWw17U&feature=youtu.be

You can join in ‘face to face’ via a PC, Mac, iPad or a Smartphone. Let Simon Aley have your email address and he will invite you, sending you a link to click on each week.  Contact him at sialey@aol.com

If you don’t want to do that, or don’t have the technology, you can PHONE IN FROM A LANDLINE, by calling 0203 695 0088 or 0203 966 3809 and when prompted, use your keypad to enter this number and the hash symbol:  4761164739#

If you join by phone only, your face won’t be seen, but you’ll be with us in real time. 

Join each week a few minutes ahead of 10am, so that any tech issues can be resolved with Simon’s help.

Sermon for the Sunday after Ascension: Lockdown Gardening

Sermon for the Sunday after Ascension: Lockdown Gardening

24 May 2020

Borders and Edges

I’m a willing amateur when it comes to gardening. I tend to go for the straightforward things like clean soil, veg. in rows and neat stripes on the lawn. Well, ‘lawn’ is a bit of an exaggeration; it’s really mown meadow. The border is also a bit of an overstatement.  We grandly call it ‘The Western Border’. It used to be a thick bramble hedge until Les and I tore it out with crowbar and axe. But the contrast between lawn and border is clear, even from this photo. The edge divides the two: predictable grass on the one side and an eruption of surprises on the other.  A gardener has been here before and each year we discover some new addition: shrubs, bulbs, bluebells. We even have some planned fruit and veg. of our own among the surprises.

I spend quite a lot of time on the border – the border between humankind and God. That’s part of what clergy do. Border activities include prayer; scanning the contours of that mystery we call God; developing the community’s interaction with Kingdom values; translating divine movement; staring into the divine fog. And at this Ascension-tide, the line between humanity and divinity is most marked. The Ascension celebrates the end of those extra-physical appearances of Jesus.  We believe that Jesus returns to the company of The Father in order that together they send their councillor, their advocate, their Holy Spirit to support us in the on-going work of Christ here on earth. Through The Ascension, the local can become the universal presence of Christ.

Images of The Ascension

Our reading today tells the story of the Ascension. Luke is the only gospel writer who records the event but even he, with his medical precision, struggles. And so do we. The whole canon of Christian Art on the subject is quite frankly laughable so I’ve asked Joss Jordon, aged 7, to paint us the scene and she’s done a great job. It’s bold, colourful, precise and has that vertical dimension about it which was so important for the 1st century mind. For them, heaven was above; hell was below. Joss’s picture is far more sophisticated than the Chapel of the Ascension at Walsingham, where a pair of plaster feet are screwed into the ceiling!

This boundary of Jesus’s earthly life challenges us. Our minds are stretched to the limit; language seems inadequate.  We are faced with this boundary between earth and heaven, between the physical and the spiritual which Jesus crosses and unites them in himself.  But also in us, The Body of Christ.

Monty Don, writing last week about the loss of Nigel, his beloved dog, points towards this mystery in which we are united

“Part of the pleasure of gardening is the connection to the rhythm of something deeper than our daily lives. It connects backwards and forwards to something of which we are only a part.”

Witnesses

Back to my border.  There’s a big contrast between the rough grass and the teeming border. With the help of my gardening friends, I can tell you what is in the border. I can step into the border and weed, mulch, plant and harvest. And there appears to be a heavy crop of soft fruit this year and I shall be sad if I cannot share it with my jam-making brother who lives in the north. But I can tell him what to expect if the lockdown ends. I can witness to most plants in that border: the shrubs which God has thrown up and the stuff I continue to plant.  I know what’s there.

As Jesus ascended he told his friends that they must be witnesses to all that has happened. They must tell of all the good things that Jesus accomplished here on earth – his teaching, the miracles, befriending of the poor and the speaking of truth to power. It was costly, we know that, but The Ascension beckons us upwards too, to continue that work as he equips us to do.

We too are called to witness to the good things we have experienced directly or indirectly from the hand of God: relationships healed, the lives saved from agony, different directions taken, new skills discovered, a new life, a peaceful death. At The Ascension, Jesus encourages us to explore beyond the border, for the treasures to be found there will colour life on my patchy lawn. Amen.

The Welland-Fosse Benefice: Prayers and Notices. Sunday 24 May 2020:  Easter VII

The Welland-Fosse Benefice: Prayers and Notices. Sunday 24 May 2020:  Easter VII

The Welland-Fosse Benefice: Prayers and Notices.

 Sunday 24 May 2020:  Easter VII

 

  • Please remember in your prayers those who are sick: Bishop John and his wife and Janette Saunders (all with Coronavirus), Barry Broughton and Derek Barker.
  • We pray also for all those who put their lives in danger to serve others suffering from Coronavirus.
  • Why not join us via Zoom for Morning Prayer each day at 8.30am – or Compline on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7.30pm? Our prayers have never been more vital!  If you wish to join, download Zoom on your computer and obtain the Daily Prayer App on your mobile phone and email Simon Aley (sialey@aol.com) who will send you an invitation to the group.
  • Sunday worship is at 10am, presenting a service with music and brief address.  Join us in the usual way via Simon’s email address.

 

SOUTH LUFFENHAM

Thank you, once more for the Foodbank donations – 4 boxes collected this week! 

 

Today’s Meditation:

 

ASCENSION

 

Many of you will remember the sketch by John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbet about class in 1966 about looking down on and looking up to other people (probably not politically correct now). There has always been a sense that anyone who is above us either at work or in other hierarchical institutions somehow has power and authority. We talk about “putting someone on a pedestal”.

Jesus had appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection but this was not a situation which could continue. He had been with them and now it was time to leave. He took some of them onto the Mount of Olives and there ascended away from them, a sign of divinity.

 

The disciples could have been bereft once again at the loss but Jesus had told them that he would not leave them comfortless and until the Holy Spirit came to help them. The disciples were energized because Jesus was their friend as well as their King.

 

We, too, may be feeling bereft at this time; tensions in families and loneliness and despair for others. Jesus is still a friend and is with us as he was with the disciples, waiting for us and willing to comfort us.

 

Loving Lord, we look for you in heaven and wait for you on earth. Give to all who wait for you, the joy of approaching you, King but friend and by our side. Amen.

 

See wellandfosse.org for much more information, including contact details for

The Very Rev Christopher Armstrong and the churchwardens

5 Steps to Kick-start Prayer

5 Steps to Kick-start Prayer

5 Steps to Kick-start Prayer

 

Introduction.

  • I’m no expert. The practise of prayer has been with me for most of my adult life and yet I consider myself to be green; not a guru.
  • On the other hand, what are clergy to do if not to pray? These are merely observations which have lodged with me along the way. If any of the following steps help, then we have succeeded!
  • There are masses of books on the subject; some are worth reading. This is not a book, merely outlines of significant steps in prayer. The best use of your time is to start with step 1.
  • But before we start, a definition of prayer might be helpful. This one by Archbishop Michael Ramsey is a good as any: prayer is to consciously put ourselves in God’s company. (1)
  • I’m very happy to discuss any of these points further with you, either on line –armstrong60@yahoo.com -or by telephone, 01572 748634.
  • If these 5 steps are helpful in any way, we can continue with a further 5 steps but it would help to have your comments.
  • So, let’s get going!

 

Step 1: Motivation.

  • The urge to pray does not lie in the heart of everyone but by clicking on this link you have taken the first step. It is one of the most difficult of the lot in my experience and you have done it. Congratulations! It may be small – perhaps only driven by curiosity – but it is hugely important.
  • I believe that there is an innate curiosity in most people to explore mystery and there is no better vehicle for doing that than prayer. Through it we can discover something of the contours of that mystery we call God, something more about ourselves and thus how we might relate together.
  • Motivation comes in many guises: curiosity, desire, aggression and many other forms but it is there. It moves us forward towards God: the impetus behind this search is secondary and should not distract us.

 

Step 2:  Place.

  • Where should we pray? It is important to find a space which is comfortable but in which you can be alert.  Trying to pray in bed is fraught with difficulties! What about a comfy chair or a garden bench?  It’s useful to go to the same spot each time. I find it difficult to pray when I’m uncomfortable so be gentle with yourself, especially if you’re over 21.  Spiritual gymnastics are for the young!
  • Praying in church is a huge advantage as the architecture and decoration also speak to us of God, ‘where prayer has been valid’.(2) But this pandemic has forced us to exercise our faith at home, where God is also present.
  • You might want to focus on a living flame, an icon or picture. It will help when your mind begins to wander, as it surely will. You will regularly struggle but that struggle is also part of your prayer, just as rushing across Victoria Station to meet a friend is also an element of your friendship.

 

Step 3: Time.

  • In this lockdown we have plenty of time but it if is not organised it runs through our fingers. Mornings slide into afternoons; days get confused. Some form of order is required.
  • Prayer is no exception. We need time to reflect, to ‘centre down’ as they used to say. How long should that be?  We are all different. If you have itchy feet or a pressurized diary, then all you might expect of yourself is to say The Lord’s Prayer gently, with deep breaths between each phrase. But if you are more inquisitive – and I hope you are! – then aim at 10 minutes, even though your mind might start to wander.
  • If your mind is focussed on intercessory prayer then it is only fair to give each subject – your poorly friend, your grieving uncle, the famine in Yemen – some of your mental energy. Mull each one round your heart and mind for a few moments. Extract the juices. Is there an impulse there which might suggest that there is something you can do to alleviate the suffering?

Step 4: Language.

  • In the gospels, Jesus addresses God as, “Abba, Father” (Mark 14.36). It’s the language of a child: ‘daddy’! Begin the conversation. Tell God how you feel: elated? Sad? Angry? Guilty? These are all classic parts of prayer. (ACTS is a useful mnemonic: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). But if you feel that such an approach is too forward or disrespectful then chose the verse of a hymn, The Lord’s Prayer or psalm to begin the conversation.
  • Find your most comfortable mode of being consciously present with God. We are all different! For some of us words stream forth as verbal diarrhoea; for others, they will be star-struck , diffident, more formal.  Yet for others, words are no use at all. What is necessary is just to be with God, consciously – like two wordless lovers.
  • Most of us start with intercession, in ordinary language. Nothing wrong with that! However, you might like to classify your requests under 5 headings, suggested by praying hands together: those nearest and dearest (thumbs); those who point the way, carrying authority (index finger); those at the top of society; the weakest and finally ourselves (the little finger). Kids stuff really but it does help to spread out our concerns before God.
  • In this lockdown situation, it is worth taking note of those who consciously opt for a solitary life such as the monastic community. A lovely introduction to prayer can be found at alonetogether.org.uk

Step 5: Ouch!

  • ‘Pray as you can, not as you can’t’ is one famous piece of advice given by a monk to an enquirer. If none of the above seems to fit, then just sit with God consciously and allow him to caress you in the silence.
  • Anglicans especially are so fixated on words and structure. “Poor little talkative Christianity,” bemoans E.M.Foster. We find silence threatening, even in our worship which saddens me. ‘Has the vicar forgotten’? You can be alone and silent with the God who created you. He knows the secrets of our hearts and will not ask of us that which we cannot deliver.
  • But prayer is essential to our maturing, to our communities, to God’s world so keep on keeping on, whichever way you chose to do it. “Prayer the Churches banquet” (3). It is vital for us and for the work of the church.

 

  • Michael Ramsey. ‘Be still and know’ page 73.
  • S.Eliot, ‘Little Gidding’ 1.46.
  • George Herbert’s poem, ‘Prayer’ – a wonderful subject for meditation!
CHURCHYARD MAINTENANCE AT BARROWDEN

CHURCHYARD MAINTENANCE AT BARROWDEN

Help needed at Barrowden Church with

CHURCHYARD MAINTENANCE

 

We have had in place a maintenance programme with Elms Landscaping to cut the churchyard during the summer months.  However, as the church has been closed as a result of the coronavirus, our income has been considerably reduced and as we need to conserve church funds we have found it necessary to cancel the contractor in the short term.

 

It is our intent to maintain the churchyard in good order, and we have in place a small team of volunteers who are cutting the grass with the church petrol mower in between maintenance cuts.  However, our greatest requirement is for someone with a sit-on mower to assist in cutting the areas around the back of the church once a month, together with someone with a strimmer to trim around the gravestones.  An additional two or three people to help spread the load of the current volunteers using the petrol mower would also be welcomed.

 

Please contact David Lovering, tel no. 747670, if you are able to offer any help as it would be greatly appreciated.

 

Sunday 17th May 2020 TALK FOR THE ONLINE SERVICE ON ZOOM.

Sunday 17th May 2020 TALK FOR THE ONLINE SERVICE ON ZOOM.

TALK FOR MAY 17TH 2020

 

Six hundred years before Paul arrived in Athens there was a great plague. To try to sort this the people let a herd of sheep loose and where they fell they were offered to the nearest god’s altar and if there wasn’t one around, they offered it to an unknown god. It was said by Xenophon that Athens was “one great altar”. Paul could have just taken the tourist trail because Athens was a centre for architecture and culture. But he found the altar to the Unknown God and used it to tell the people of the God that he knew and loved so well.

Many of those who listened were unhappy with the gods that were worshipped but had no option. Many listened to Paul as he talked to them about the God he loved so much. He told them that “God is actually not far from any one of us” and that we are all his children. Many were searching for something more in their lives.

Isn’t this true of the situation we find ourselves in today? We cannot understand Covid 19 but we need something positive to cling onto and what is more positive than the love of Christ for each one of us in whatever situation we find ourselves. People are searching now and this is reflected in the numbers who are watching the services being streamed; far more than ever go to our churches. As people search so must we be willing to be open to God and speak to others of the gospel news that Christ is risen, alive and waits for each one of us to turn to him. In the Gospel reading for today which is John ch 14 v 15-21, in v 18 in various versions Jesus says “I will not leave you as orphans, all alone, comfortless”. And that is the greatest promise which we can accept. Our God is not unknown! A short poem that I found and would like to pass on to you:

Because
Because he emptied himself of all but love, you can be filled.
Because his body was broken, your life can be whole.
Because his blood was shed, your sins can be forgiven.
Because he submitted to injustice, you can forgive,
Because he finished his Father’s work, your life has worth.
Because he was forsaken, you can never be alone.
Because he was buried, you can be raised.
Because he lives, you don’t have to be afraid,
Because he reached down to you, you don’t have to work your way up to him.
Because his promises are always true, you can have hope.  Amen.