Message of the month

MESAGE OF THE MONTH (March)  with Revd. Mary Crameri

I wonder if you know how many saints there are? I recently discovered a whole new (to me) number of saints who I’d never heard of! If you Google Saints, or even women saints, you can find unpronounce-able named saints from all parts of the world! Have you heard for instance of St Dorothy, the patron saint of gardens, mostly better known  in the  villages of southern Europe. She lived in the fourth century, but is not  celebrated in the church’s  calendar in the UK.

 So what is a saint? And why do we have them? The dictionary definition of a saint is threefold:

1.   A person who is acknowledged as holy or virtuous and regarded in the Christian faith as being in heaven after death.”

2.  A person of exalted virtue who is canonised by the Church after death and who may be the object of veneration or prayers for intercession.

3.    A very virtuous person.

We are familiar in our church’s liturgical cycle of readings and prayers with a number of saints and it’s refreshing to read or hear about them when something interesting or unusual has happened because of their lives. March is a month when a number of familiar saints are remembered.  The month begins with St David and continues with St Chad Bishop of Lichfield (2nd) and includes Perpetua , Felicity and their Companions (what did they all do, I wonder?) See if you can find out!!

Then on March 17th we remember St. Patrick, Patron Saint of  Ireland.  Patrick was probably born in Celtic Cornwall around 390 CE. He was captured by Irish raiders when he was a teenager, 15 or 16. He was taken to Ireland as a slave, but after some six years he escaped and fled to the continent. He eventually found his way back to his family where his faith grew and matured. He trained as a priest in Gaul (France) and when in his early 40s returned to Ireland as a bishop. He walked all over the country to spread the good news of the gospel, gently bringing men and women to the knowledge of God’s love for them.      He faced fierce  opposition but continued his mission, even travelling across to England to convert people there. He died on 17th March in the year 460.

Each of the four countries that made up the British Isles in times gone by chose a saint as their patron saint i.e. as a special saint whose dates are remembered and whose lives are celebrated in the church’s liturgy. There is a large contingent of Irish people in Birmingham who have a parade on or near to St Patrick’s day. There are many legendary stories about St Patrick and it’s difficult to ascertain what really happened, but we know he brought a strong faith to the people of Ireland as well as probably to parts of Northern England. I find it amazing to think how he and others travelled around by sea, in small boats and survived to teach others about God.

Perhaps they are in our calendar to remind us that we too are called to share the Good News of God’s love in sending Jesus to live in our world, to die on a cross for all our sins. As we begin Lent what better way can we find to learn more about how our faith spread around Europe and the Western world than to learn more about these often missed saints?

 

MESSAGE OF THE MONTH (February) with Revd.David Capron.

                  Mission

I am no academic, but I do like to be in such august presence and I do like to read a well-researched book on a complex theological subject which has been unpacked and re presented in simple and unambiguous English. The local Headmaster of Alcester Grammar School (Andy Shearn) who was subsequently ordained used to tell me that I had too high an opinion of academics and that the most important facet of that particular profession was that of being able to teach! I did do some research into the formative early years of the life of John Newman and was fortunate in being tutored by Fr. Ian Kerr, his internationally acclaimed biographer. But it has always been a struggle for me and I need to cling to some literary jewels that pop up from time to time.

When I was at College the doctrine course was founded on the book called “Principles of Christian Theology” by John Macquarrie. He had been a Presbyterian Minister but came over to the Anglican side on attending an Anglo Catholic service of Benediction. If I do recall correctly, he had very simply put the concept of mission as a service, an action. Mission was the more outward expression of ministry and in many ways, they were basically the same. A simpler definition was given to me by Bishop John Daly who   retired to this diocese some years ago having been Bishop of The Gambia, Gold Coast and finally, Korea, he told me that mission was all about making friends for Jesus!

Without wishing to denigrate prayer, I would want to rearrange some of the basic principles. Yes! I would start with prayer, and then I would move to word, then sacrament and then action. The mechanics of this would be the power of discernment and the lubrication would be a good dollop of God’s Grace.

There is a lot talked about mission in the Church of England, but not so much walked. In many ways the problem is the structure of the Church of England. It has been said before, but it is riddled with too many churches, too many committees, too many PCCs, too many churchwardens, too many  services and dare I say it---too many Bishops. We need to apply the Johannine teaching of pruning the vine and pruning hard.

But examples of effective mission do exist in the Church. I can think of a first-rate example in Shottery and that is the singing carols at the Bell on Christmas Eve. Simple but effective, non-academic, nothing complex, but just the singing of Christmas carols by at least 300 people in the car park who were beginning to overflow onto the road, the pub was packed out as well. I know many people in Shottery who say that their Christmas does not start until they have sung carols at the Bell. Now. If that is not mission, would someone please tell me!

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid! was what I was told once. It still applies. Say your prayers, listen to the word of God, partake of the sacrament and then act. By your coming in and your going out you will influence others and you will make friends for Jesus!

What will that entail? I do not know, but I do know that the Angels will guide you and your heart will be filled with joy. Go on. Give it a try!

 

 

 

MESSAGE OF THE MONTH (December) with Jan Walker, Reader.

 

By the time you read this I will have already finished my Christmas shopping, wrapped presents and probably written all my cards too.  Organised?  Yes I like to think so, as prepared as far is possible.

The arrival of Advent heralds also a season of preparation leading up to the main event, the birth of the Saviour of mankind, the Son of God on that first Christmas morning.  We will hold special services, times for reflection, sing carols, say prayers and generally anticipate the birth of Christ.  God too was one for preparation, he prepared his people, through the old testament , through the prophets, through scripture and even using Angel messengers to proclaim the coming birth.

Preparation is key, and amidst all the increasing materialism and seculariz-ation that surrounds Christmas we as Christians need to put Christ at the heart of our celebrations.  We need to prepare not so much our homes but our hearts and minds to receive anew, Christ.  We need to find time to reflect on the miracle of new life (in general) and the birth of Jesus (specifically ), with all that that entails.

We give each other gifts at Christmas, but let us not forget God gave us the best gift of all, the gift of hope, the gift of love, the gift of salvation and all wrapped up in the flesh of Jesus Christ our Lord.  God’s gift is open to us again and again and it is up to us to prepare to receive and then to open that gift and to give thanks for it.

May I wish each and every one of you a truly happy and blessed Christmas.

 

MESSAGE OF THE MONTH (November) from Revd. David Capron.

I must confess that I have never been keen on having George as the Patron Saint of England. For one thing, I am not into dragons which in this case I reckon are a load of rubbish and this so-called patron Saint was not born here, did not live here, did not work here and did not come on holiday here. Surely the political view in this country is that most foreigners are treated with suspicion? The dragon clearly makes all the difference! But then, which George are we talking about? There are four in the starting gate. Older research reckons on the four being, George of Arabia, George of Cappadocia, George the Monk and George of Laodicea. I would certainly discount the latter as he was condemned as a semi Arian heretic. In case you are wondering what, a semi Arian heretic is or was, then here goes. Somebody who does not express or believe in the fullness of the divinity of Christ. The line taken would be that Jesus was like God but not God! But I could spend ages discussing the relative merits of these Georges, however it is time to move on.

Who might we choose? In the midlands it could be the great St. Chad of  Lichfield who was noted for his pastoral zeal and undoubted holiness. Then there are the Saints of East Anglia who brought the faith there in the dark ages. In addition, there is St Alban the protomartyr and St Osmund if you want to throw in your lot with the East Anglians. There must be the potential for many a dissertation on the Saints of England but I am always called to the crucible of holiness in the wilds of Northumbria. There is almost a North/South divide, but this time it is in favour of the North.

When I was Vicar of St. Clare’s Newton Aycliffe, we used to sing litanies of the Northern saints and also go on A.B.C. pilgrimages! Aidan, Bede and Cuthbert. These Saints, to which you can add many others meant a lot to the people of Durham and Northumberland. There are so many Churches dedicated to the blessed name of Cuthbert, with Oswald, Aidan and Bede keeping them company.   Cuthbert died in 687. He had become a monk at Melrose in 651, having given up a fairly prosperous life on the land. He moved to Ripon and then to Lindisfarne. After a while he felt called to the hermitic life and lived on the small island of Farne for 8 years. His was a life of heroic holiness which touched the hearts and lives of hundreds of people. He was eventually persuaded to be consecrated as Bishop of Lindisfarne. After his death he was buried on Lindisfarne, but there was always the danger of the marauding Danes to  contend with and his burial site was invariably in danger. Eventually in 999, his body was translated to Durham Cathedral where it still lies in a special shrine.

Many signs and wonders are associated with him. Cuthbert himself related that he saw a manifestation in the sky which persuaded him to become a monk. It turned out that this happened exactly at the time of the death of St. Aidan. It is strongly rumoured that at the time of the death of Cuthbert there were also other manifestations.

Quite honestly the only way to experience the holiness of Cuthbert is to go up to Northumbria and visit the island of Lindisfarne. You will feel it there, it pervades the whole place and you get a wonderful sensation. Whatever you do, make sure you respect the time of the tides or you might find yourself shinning up a ladder into a rescue hut. You will save your life but your car will be a right off. My favourite memory is of wading through the low tide with a guide and then coming up onto the beach to the sound of Northumbrian Pipes. We then had an open-air Eucharist in the grounds of the old abbey. And to add to the spiritual ambience, we could see the castle of Bamburgh, nearby to which is the Shrine of St. Aidan and then there is Lindisfarne Castle. In the distance can be seen the Farne Islands and then the tide comes in and you are cut off from the world for a time. It is a wonderful sensation.

Long live the memory of the Saints of Northumbria and especially that of Cuthbert. March 20th is his feast day. That would make a nice break in our Lenten disciplines!               

 

 

 

 

MESSAGE OF THE MONTH (October) from SARAH CUSHING, Reader.

“All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above, then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all his love”.  Those words are from the wonderful hymn “We plough the fields and scatter” and how wonderful those words are.  Autumn is now here, chillier mornings set in, but how many of God’s good gifts are around us, when we look out and see the beautiful changing colours of the season.  Burnt oranges and yellows and pretty reds on the leaves of trees and the hedgerows.  It is a time that reminds we us as we celebrate the Harvest Festival, that from His creation, and all the produce we bring to share with our charities and communities, are all good gifts sent from Heaven above.

The farmer ploughs and scatters the good seed on the Land, from which many things grow by his sowing and harvesting.  All things are planted, seeds and all, they are then carefully watered and weeded and finally when all things grow, by God’s grace, they are harvested.  It is a time when we thank the Lord, for all those in faith where his seed of righteousness and love and humility and goodness has been planted.  We are cared for and as the seed of faith is sown and grows and is nurtured, so good is the harvest of people who believe and give thanks to God for being with them in their lives. 

We are fortunate to welcome Revered Patrick Taylor who will be leading our Harvest Festival morning worship on October 7th.  It is a time when we can give our thanks to God for all the good gifts, when we at Shottery can bring forward to this morning service, our many different items to be shared out to those who are in need.  God’s gift of love for others feeds our spirit, which in turn gives us joy to be able to serve God and help others in this way.

Earlier than in previous times, we will hold our Time to Remember Service on 14 October at 3.00pm, a time when we can come in a moment of reflection and of peace of heart as we remember with love those who have now become a part of God’s heavenly kingdom.

Joan Whyman will be holding our Wholeness and Healing Service on 21 October at 6.30pm.  A time to come forward and receive spiritual wholeness and healing from God, to be renewed and refreshed.

STAY Café will be holding their evening worship at 7.30pm on that same evening, 21 October.  If you haven’t had the chance to come along to this thus far, it is worth supporting.  A different style of worship music is sung and teaching on a particular bible subject or theme is offered, this time particularly working through the wonderful Beatitudes.

When we continue to think about God’s good gifts around us, one of the first places to start is the Bible.  Scripture is an amazing nourishing, seed planting, faith growing and a spiritual awakening element, which can sustain us so much in our daily lives.  Bible Sunday will be approaching on 28October, when Archdeacon Sue Field will be presiding at our morning     worship. 

As we walk, or drive to many places this month, let us view all Good gifts around us, from our autumn colours, to our fellowship with all whom we meet in this church and out in our communities each day, and know that these graceful gifts are sent from Heaven above.  And let us indeed thank the Lord.

 

 

 

MESSAGE OF THE MONTH (September) from Revd. Joan Whyman.

For the last five years the beginning of September, for me, has involved a weekend at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford, an Anglican theological college. I attend as part of a team leading a Vocations Conference for those who wish to explore what they believe to be a call from God to the priesthood. The timetable is  tightly packed and includes an in-depth explanation regarding the whole  process of application and selection for training and, ultimately, Ordination, further talks on mission, and the session on ‘Ways to Pray’ which I deliver. Two priests who minister in very different parishes, one rural, one urban, describe their joys, sorrows and difficulties during a typical week, if there is ever a week in parish life that could be described as such! Opportunities are offered to speak with Bishop Norman Banks, and other clergy and I offer an afternoon of Spiritual Direction sessions.  Each person attending the conference is encouraged to learn to voice their sense of call within a small group situation, and is expected to attend Morning and Evening Prayer and the Sunday morning worship service.  It is a hugely inspiring, if exhausting, weekend, greatly appreciated and enjoyed by both the attendees and the leadership team.

A frequently asked question is, ‘How do I know that my call is from God and not just a fulfilment of my own hopes and dreams?’ This is not an easy question to answer; a call can come in different shapes and forms for different people and this is why the process has to be so intense and thorough.  We only have to take a look at the ways in which God called            various notable people in the Bible. For example, Abram’s call, (Genesis12:1) is a very clear , direct word from God, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”  In Exodus 3:4 Moses was tending a flock of sheep and then was alerted  by what appeared to be a burning bush. ‘When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses, Moses!”

Samuel is only a small boy whom we are told does not at that point know the Lord, when he thinks that Eli, the elderly priest under whom he is serving, is calling to him. Samuel is told repeatedly by Eli to go and lie down, until eventually, ‘The Lord came and stood there,   calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”’  1 Samuel 3:10.

 

My own call came unexpectedly. I had never thought of such a thing occurring in my life. I was attending an evening service at Shirley  Baptist Church, and the lay preacher was taking the Conversion of Saul in Acts 9:1-18 as the subject of his sermon. As he read the  passage before preaching, I began to feel overwhelmed and tearful as I listened to the words, and in fact heard nothing after verse 10: ‘In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”  “Yes, Lord,” he answered.   I knew, strangely, but very surely, that, “Yes, Lord,” was the response God was asking of me.

 

I believe very firmly, though, that God doesn’t only call men and women to serve as priests and ministers, but to all those who profess their faith in  Jesus Christ, he issues His call to serve in the Church and in the world according to the gifts He has given. It is all too easy to be dismissive of our abilities and fail to develop and use them in the  belief that we have little to offer. I often reflect upon the discovery made by the gifted and renowned priest, theologian and writer, Henri Nouwen. He claimed that he learned more about Christ’s great love through the relationship he developed with Adam, a severely  physically and mentally disabled young man whom Henri was called to serve within one of the L’Arche communities, than he ever discovered from anything or anyone else. In one sense, Adam had nothing to offer yet he enabled Henri to learn what he needed to know more than anything else: the fact  that he was accepted and  loved just as he was, for who he was.

We are all called by God in one way or another and gifted to fulfil that call. Perhaps we so often do not hear it because we fail to listen through prayer, silence and the reading of God’s Word! Maybe we all need to take to heart and practice the words of Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)

 

MESSAGE OF THE MONTH (July And August) from

REVD. MARY CRAMERI

 

In his final service in the parish on Tuesday 29th May, James reviewed the 17 years he has been the incumbent here. He highlighted the spiritual growth of many in the parish and recalled the   various activities across the time span. This led me to reflect on how each of us sees any   particular  period of time. We often visit and value  ancient sites and  buildings including churches (he mentioned the mini pilgrimages!) and we marvel at their structures as well as the people who built them and used them in their every day lives.

 There are different levels at work for us as we consider time, and each level has something to say about the way we view time.      Time is a continuum of empty ages filled only by the substance we bring to it ourselves. The value of time lies as much in what we bring to the understanding of time as it does in what time brings to us. It’s our awareness of and interpretations of time that determine our place in the development of the  human spirit. It’s part of the progression of time because we make a spiritual impact today which affects the spirituality of tomorrow. James’ long service of love and duty here at St Andrew’s will undoubtedly leave an enormous spiritual heritage that during this time of the interregnum and further into the future, will feed our spirits and shape our actions. Above all it has provided a stable foundation for us to build on. Time is always an invitation to growth. How will we use the interregnum to grow, I wonder? The temptation is sometimes to try to dwell on what was, to look back, rather than focussing on what is now and what might be in the future.

The time span of the interregnum is unknown at the moment, and will  unfold in due course. How will we use this period wisely? Is it to be seen just as waiting time, until someone else comes as the next vicar?

The church is the Body of Christ, with many parts. (St. Paul).      The opportunities for growth in the interregnum are many, and each one of us needs to reflect on how God is calling us during this time. This is God’s gift to us to use to build the kingdom of God even further among us and those around us. Will you hear God’s call to do His will during this time, regardless of what has happened in the past, but building on the legacy James has left us?

My prayer and hope is that we will continue to gain strength from the past, focus on the present to play our part in continuing to show God’s love and move forward into the future together.

 

 


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