Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are all keeping well and coping as best you can with the current lockdown restrictions. 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:
O Holy One, who strips authority from all our gods,
From all whose falsehoods cloud our minds
With malice, greed, self-righteousness and pride:
Come, blaze with kindly grace; burn off the mists, and help us see.
(Epiphany Antiphon for 31 January – for more details see the Methodist Church website)
Reflection from 24 January: Follow me
Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10 and Mark 1:14-20
You may know more about Jonah. We’ve just heard about the second time God asked him to go to the city of Ninevah which was rife with wrong-doing and tell them about God’s way. The first time he hadn’t wanted to, he’d run away, he’d been thrown into the sea from a ship because he believed his disobedience had resulted in the storm which was threatening it, God had saved him via a whale, big fish, leviathan. He asks him again to go to Ninevah and speak up. This time he does. He tells the Ninevites that their end is near and, lo and behold, the last thing to be expected, they reform and God allows them to live. Sounds reasonable? Not to Jonah! If you read on you find Jonah feels he’s been shown up as a right fool because what he said would happen now isn’t going to, and he wishes he were dead. The rest of the account is about God reasoning with him and asking him to think of others, not of himself. God didn’t give up on Jonah, but I get the feeling that he wouldn’t have minded if Jonah had said yes the first time.
You may know more about Jesus. In fact, I’m sure you do. In our reading this morning he’s at the start of what we call his “ministry” – and from the very start he asks others to be part of it with him – to go through their lives with him as companion, teacher, carer, example, challenger. He strides up to the fishermen and says, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” – in that wonderful eye-twinkling way of his; elsewhere he talks about planks in eyes, camels going through the eye of a needle, Pharisees straining out gnats but swallowing camels. Amusing, yet crystal clear. “I will send you out to fish for people.”
So how are we at this time in the matter of God asking us to take his message to Ninevah or Jesus inviting us to follow wherever he leads?
We, in the third week of a national lockdown, affecting different people in different ways; some have lost their jobs, others are working in very stressful situations; some lonely, some overwhelmed by having young children at home all day every day; many with Covid19 at varying levels of severity, many mourning the death of loved ones.
Or, in the wider world, Joe Biden, the new President of the United States, facing a string of challenges: Covid-19, economic downturn, climate change, injustices highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, violence threatened by political opponents.
Or those whose grief and sensibilities will be heightened this Wednesday on Holocaust Memorial Day. Our local Inter-Faith Network has arranged a special on-line event [details were shared in last week’s newsletter]
I think that possibly one of the most encouraging things in these accounts is that God comes to Jonah and Jesus comes to the fishermen in their ordinary day by day lives. Now our day by day lives may not be what they used to be, but they’re still where the challenges and the call of God through Jesus come to us. And the calls may be to do things quite differently from pre-Covid times – no longer in social gatherings, no longer by personal visits, but individually, phone calls, gifts through the post, doorstep deliveries, Zoom Meetings. And the calls may include to look after ourselves, something we might normally minimise, but now keeping ourselves safe, reducing the risk of passing infection on, not overburdening our health services any further, are surely part of God’s call.
I think we always notice that the reaction of the fishermen to Jesus’ invitation was immediate. Yes, they had probably heard of Jesus and his activities, but this was simple faith and trust. James and John even walked away from the family business and left Dad and the employees to get on with it!
Jesus’ calls to us might not be that dramatic, although some may, but our willingness to do what is asked of us should be like that. Following a leader and rules is always challenging, even without having to cope with changes such as we have to deal with at the moment. But we have one constant – the leadership, the revelation, of Jesus Christ, our friend for ever. And although our response to the things asked of us may sometimes waver, as it did later with those early disciples, we should be listening and willing to respond. What is God asking now of you?
In a few moments we’ll be meeting with Jesus in the very special way he asked us to – again, in changed circumstances. But although you’ll be wherever you are watching this, maybe physically alone, we’ll all be joined together at the table of our Lord, who said simply, “Come, follow me.”
Our readings for this week
Mark 1:14-20 (NIV)
Our readings for this week
Mark 1:12-28 (NIV)
Jesus drives out an impure spirit
21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’
25 ‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Deuteronomy 18:15-20
- Psalm 111
- 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Our services are currently online-only and are live-streamed on our Facebook page at 11am on Sundays. 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. This Sunday’s service will be led by Methodist minister Rev’d Dr R. F. Leão-Neto.
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.
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 beetle drive – Saturday 20th February
Our next virtual event in aid of our church charity will be a virtual beetle drive on Saturday 20th February at 7pm. Come and join us for a fun evening on Zoom in return for a donation to our church charity. 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 grand piano
The grand piano in the chapel is now being used from time to time for the streamed services.
It was purchased from the makers, the Aeolian Company, for the new Uxbridge Methodist Central Hall which was built in 1930, although it may have been made several years earlier, so it is over 90 years old. Records of the building of the Central Hall survive in the Uxbridge Library local studies collection and among the papers is the bill for the piano dated 16th May 1930 – the price was £166.13.4d (£166.67). In 1972 the congregation from the Central Hall combined with the then Uxbridge Congregational Church to form Christ Church and the piano was moved to the new building where it has remained since.
Having received some ill treatment while in storage during the Second World War, and having survived a serious fire in the chapel in 1990, it was refurbished in 2010, including the fitting of new strings.
The piano was made locally in Hayes. Part of the factory where it was constructed survives in Silverdale Road and is a grade 2 listed building. The Aeolian Company originated in the USA and in its day was a serious competitor to firms such as Steinway. They were the leading global manufacturers of pianolas, or player pianos, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and established a factory at Hayes in 1909. The company fell on bad times in the early 1930s and as a result they moved out of Hayes – so our piano is one of the later ones that were made there.
Christ Church in the snow
The church looked very pretty in the snow last Sunday when we arrived to broadcast the service. It was wonderful to see some local children having fun and making the most of the snow in the empty car park. By the time we came out afterwards, they had built a lovely snowman.
What we’ve been reading lately
Stephanie has set herself a challenge to read 30 books this year. So far she has read four:
- The House at Riverton by Kate Morton – a mystery and love story. Set in 1999 the story returns to events in 1924.
- The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah – a Hercule Poirot novel (The author has been authorised by the estate of Agatha Christie to write new stories for the character. This is the third in the series and if you love Poirot you’ll love this – and the other 2 as well!)
- After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell – A story of love and grief – you need your tissues for this one!
- The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves – If you enjoy the TV series Vera, you’ll really enjoy reading this.
Louise has also set herself a challenge to read 30 books this year. Here are some of the books she enjoyed reading in January:
- An American in Paris by Siobhan Curham – a love story set in WW2 Paris with a modern day dual narrative.
- Cover Your Eyes by Adele Geras – the story of two women each struggling with guilt from the past.
- Daughters of the Winter Queen by Nancy Goldstone – the stories of Elizabeth Stuart, grand-daughter of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her four daughters.
If you’d like to share which books you’ve been reading lately, or have any books that you’d be willing to pass on to others, please let Louise know so we can share them in future newsletters.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Cannon Lane Methodist Church
- Acton Hill URC/Methodist
Almighty God, be with us this week.
Meet with us each morning,
and in every situation throughout the day,
whoever we are with,
help us to draw on your strength and wisdom,
that we may be faithful and true
in following the example and pattern
given to us by Jesus.
(Taken from Roots)