Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. Hope that you are all continuing to keep well and stay safe. We are back in lockdown once more and unable to meet together; however we are continuing to try and maintain our church community as best we can. Our newsletter will continue to be sent out regularly to help continue to maintain contact and a sense of community while life continues to be restricted. You can find previous issues of the newsletter here. We would love to hear from you and are looking for uplifting and encouraging content to share in future issues of this newsletter. If you have any ideas or content that we can share, please do email them to Louise (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We start with our opening prayer:
Lord of the light, Lord of the darkness,
Lord of the day, Lord of the night,
call us to you,
whether we are happy or sad,
whether we are ready or not,
call us to you.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflection from last Sunday: Faith, Hope and COVID
What a very strange year this has been for us all. Who would have thought it at the start of the year, when we were looking ahead and planning our church activities: the rotas for Sunday services, flower arranging, coffee morning, dates in the diary for events, weekly activities, our church life ticking along as normal. And then in just a few short weeks, life as we knew it changed completely. All those little everyday things that many of us took for granted disappeared. Our routines, our time with friends and families, our ability to come together on a Sunday morning in worship.
Having life change so completely, almost out of the blue, is incredibly unsettling. All of sudden, we find ourselves standing on shifting sands, the present unfamiliar and unnerving; the future uncertain. When will it all end? Will life ever go back to how it used to be?
For some of us, times like these bring doubts and questions. Where is God in the storm? Why do our prayers that the pandemic will end seem to go unanswered? We may feel lonely and isolated, and far from God. And those questions are not easy ones to answer. I do believe though that God is big enough to take our questions and our doubts and we should feel able to bring those to him if we need to.
For others, turbulent times like this bring us closer to God. We find comfort in our faith that God is bigger than all our fears, our worries and our concerns; that in these uncertain times when everything we knew seems to have completely changed, God does not change. As Psalm 136 repeatedly reminds us – God’s love endures forever. And in Romans, we are reminded that nothing can separate us from the love of God:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We might find comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our faith; that we are part of a church family and although we may not be able to physically be together, we are still connected through our faith and our love for God and for each other.
Staying connected in these times can be a challenge though. As a church we have had to find new ways of being church together; of being part of a church family together. We have had to become more creative about our worship. Who would have thought at the start of the year that we would be sharing our services online and reaching new people through online services? Or that Zoom meetings would become a regular occurrence for so many of us – bringing us together for prayer, for Bible exploration, for virtual coffee mornings, church meetings or social events. Like most people, I’d never heard of Zoom before the first lockdown!
Virtual services and meetings have enabled us to maintain some sense of church community, but they can only reach those in our church family who have the technological skills and equipment to be able to access a virtual world. For many of our church family, this isn’t the case. It is important that we keep connected with all our church family – not just those who can go online. In a time when so many people are feeling isolated and alone; unable to see family and friends, those connections are even more important. Thank goodness for the telephone and for the postal service, and for brief chats on doorsteps. As a church, we have tried to find ways to reach those in our church family who are unable to connect online – through sending out our newsletter in the post, sharing readings, prayers and sermons in printed format and services on memory sticks for those who are able to watch the services in this way. It’s not really a good substitute for being able to meet in person and share together, but it’s something.
We’re starting to see a glimmer of hope though that this time when we are distanced and apart will come to an end. There is good news with regards to developing an effective vaccine and although I suspect we’re in for a winter where there will be periods of easing restrictions, followed by tightening them again, there will come a day when the restrictions will ease off more fully. When we will be able to see our friends and family again, meet together in church to worship God together, be able to enjoy a coffee and a chat in person after the service and be a church family together once more.
One of the worship songs that I heard for the first time during this pandemic sums up my feelings towards God in this time:
Faithful One, so unchanging.
Faithful One, you’re my rock of peace.
Lord of all, I depend on you.
I turn back to you, again and again.
I turn back to you again and again.
You are my rock in times of trouble.
You build me up when I fall down.
All through the storm, your love is the anchor.
My hope is in you alone.
(Music and lyrics by Brian Doerksen)
All through the storm, God is our anchor. Unchanging and constant, always there to hear our fears and our worries. We can always turn to God and take our worries to him. He may not always answer our prayers in ways we expect, but I do believe that he hears, he listens, and he is holding us all in the palm of his hand during this time.
Our readings for this week:
Mark 13:24-37 (NIV)
24 ‘But in those days, following that distress,
‘“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
26 ‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[b] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The day and hour unknown
32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[c]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Isaiah 64:1-9
- Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
- 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Although we cannot meet for worship in the building at present, our services continue to be live-streamed on our Facebook page at 11am each Sunday. If you wish to view our services online, you can find them here. You do not have to be a Facebook user to watch them – our services are publicly viewable. You can also view a recent service on our church website here. This week’s service will be led by Rev’d Andrew Pottage, Methodist superintendent minister.
We meet via Zoom immediately after the service for a virtual ‘coffee and chat’. The link for this will be shared in the comments on Facebook during the service.
Please note that although lockdown restrictions are due to end on 2nd December, there will be no church service in the building on 6th December and the service on this day will be broadcast online only.
If you are unable to join us in person or online for our Sunday services, but would like to receive a recording of them on a memory stick to watch at home, please let us know.
Church charity news
Virtual games evening – Saturday 12th December
We will be having a virtual games evening via Zoom on Saturday 12th December at 7.30pm in aid of our church charities. Come and join us for a fun evening of games such as Pictionary, word scatter or online bingo. Suggested minimum donation of £2, Zoom meeting details will be sent out via email once your donation has been received.
You can find more details about our church charity fundraising events and items on our virtual sales table here. Gifts and donations can be made online via Virgin Money Giving or by cash or cheque made payable to Christ Church and clearly marked for the church charity.
The Passage Big Give Campaign
The Passage is raising funds through the Big Give from 12 noon Tues 1st December – 12 noon Tues 8th December to support its work Helping Homeless People this winter. Double your Donation, Double your impact. This is a matched giving scheme for online donations. If someone (can be company, individual or trust) gave £10 online matched giving of £10 would bring the Gift up to £20 (and for individuals to £22.50 with Gift Aid with higher rate tax relief it may cost the donor less than £10). For more information contact Andrew Hollingsworth (tel: 020 75921886, email: email@example.com)
You can give online at https://tinyurl.com/PassageBigGive
A note from the Circuit Superintendent
This winter the country is probably going to go through another really challenging time with both winter flu and coronavirus. The government is battling desperately to get the virus under some kind of control. Due to this there has been speculation that ’Christmas may be cancelled.’ Let me explain that this is physically not possible. The kind of Christmas most people in this country understand; lights, presents and all the razzmatazz may be substantially different but the actual festival of Christmas will go ahead as planned.
Christmas as we know, starts and ends with Christ. I love that reading usually near the beginning of the annual carol service from Isaiah: ‘for a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9: 6, NRSV). This year, the church has been given a unique opportunity to help recalibrate and reclaim the festival of Christmas for what it truly is a celebration of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
There have been a lot of negatives arising from this pandemic but one of the positives is the realisation of many people of what is important in life. There has been a growth in ‘attendance’ at church services, an increase of traffic of Christian websites and an increase of interest in the general message of Christ. Therefore the church should use this resurgence of interest to its full advantage and help spread the true message of Christmas to as many people as possible.
This Advent and Christmas time, may we as Christians reconnected with God and help focus our resources and that of the churches we serve in this direction so people who previously didn’t know the truth, come to learn the real and the true meaning of Christmas.
May I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy and Peaceful Christmas focused on the Christ child for you and for those you love and pray for.
Happy Christmas and have a Blessed New Year,
In the Saviour’s Name,
Revd Andrew Pottage
(Taken from the Circuit Life newsletter. You can view the full newsletter online on the circuit website here)
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Northwood Methodist Church
- St John’s, Northwood URC
May we go out disrupt all that is wrong, unjust and hateful in this world.
May we nurture and plant seeds of love.
May we celebrate your coming amongst us, Immanuel. Amen.
(Taken from The Vine at Home)