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 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:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(From Psalm 100)
Update on reopening our church
Dear members and friends of Christ Church
We are pleased to announce that the church building will reopen for Sunday services from Sunday 18th April in line with the next step of the Government ‘roadmap’ easing restrictions from 12 April. Our services will continue to be broadcast online as they have been throughout the last year and therefore will continue to be available for those who do not wish to attend services in the church building.
Please note that we will be following Covid-secure guidance to ensure the safety of those attending and therefore the following points need to be noted:
- A record of those attending will be kept for the purposes of track and trace.
- Face coverings must be worn by members of the congregation while in the building.
- No hymn books, service sheets or other material will be available for issue. If you wish to have a Bible please bring your own.
- There will be no congregational singing of hymns
- Social distancing must be observed in the building and the seating in the chapel will be arranged accordingly.
- Movement around the building will be limited and there will be no access to the kitchen or meeting rooms.
- There will be no refreshments available and at the end of the service all should leave the building with as little delay as possible.
Please note that numbers in the chapel will need to be limited due to social distancing requirements. If you are planning to attend services and are able to let Louise George know by mobile phone or email at email@example.com by 5pm on Friday a seat can be reserved for you. Advance notice is not required but please be aware that we are unable to let more people into the building once capacity is reached.
We pray God’s blessing on our continuing life as a church, and look forward in hope as we maintain our witness and service in his name.
Reflection from 4 April: Easter Sunday
Readings: Isaiah 25: 6-9, Acts 10: 34-43 and John 20: 1-18
Here we are on Easter Sunday, in this strangest of all times, still in the midst of the worldwide pandemic. Here we are, hoping for a gradual opening up of life – opening up of shops and offices, of the possibility for meeting up with family and friends again, of travel – at least in this country.
When we gather on Easter Sunday, we come to celebrate that life has already been opened up for us, at one time and for all time. Life has been opened up, not in a simple and easy and pain free way. Life has been opened through the death of Jesus on the cross and his rising again. We each face the reality of death, as we have done over this past year, sometimes with close family and friends. At Easter we come to see the reality of the new life that God offers, life that is possible even in the midst of the sadness and grieving of death.
Easter is the heart of the Christian year. Easter marks the ultimate overcoming of death and despair. It does so in a way which is not just about optimism, but is about hope being fulfilled. It’s about hope being fulfilled, because it is a specific movement from the darkness of death, the suffering of the cross, the pain of Good Friday, to the reality of new life on the third day, the rising again of Jesus. Isaiah points the struggling people of Israel to the promise of what is to come, when he prophecies ‘God will wipe away the tears from all faces’.
From outside the faith, people could well say – aren’t you just living in the past? Anything that happened took place 2000 years ago. What’s the point of revisiting an event from such a long time ago, every year? For Christians, the history of faith isn’t just about a straight line, progressing from one event to the next, leaving behind the last event as soon as it is over. The history of faith is about the continual renewal of a specific past event in each present moment.
Jesus had broken the bonds of death itself. His new life was released into the world at one time, for all time. Easter is not just about commemorating the past, it’s believing that this risen Jesus is still present, through the Holy Spirit, with us today, and will be with us in whatever lies ahead. We celebrate the past, not because we want to live in the past, but because we trust in Christ’s transforming presence with us in the here and now.
Today when we celebrate Easter, we go back to the stories of particular people who encountered the risen Jesus. We start with Mary Magdalene. Here’s a woman who’s been the subject of some debate. Was she a prostitute? Or was she a wealthy woman? Was she condemned by those who were critical of women?
Filled with grief at the loss of the one who has already given her the promise of new life, she walks in the garden and encounters someone she thought was a stranger, probably the gardener. It’s only when she heard her name called, she realised who was speaking. She saw in front of her the risen Jesus.
Jesus begins by appearing, not to the powerful or successful of this world; not to kings or governors, not even to the male apostles. Instead, he appears to a woman. I’m interested that in recent years Pope Francis has referred to Mary Magdalene as an Apostle to the apostles. The Resurrection is not about confirming the status quo of this world, but overturning the ways of the world so that people can see and experience life in new and unexpected ways.
Easter is about the transformation of the old ways of death and vengeance and anger and hatred, into new ways of life and love and hope and peace. Jesus comes to us as we are, he speaks to us in our need, he responds to our individual personalities, he addresses our strengths and weaknesses, he comes to us in our doubts and our bewilderments as well as our joys and our faith.
In the Acts passage we heard the words ‘God shows no partiality’. This new life is equally opened up for all – for women and men, for people of different ethnicities and genders, for people we get along with and people we don’t get along with. People then have the freedom to accept or reject this new life.
Easter is about the ultimate meaning of life and about a different set of values than those which the world around so often offers. We celebrate today the truth of all that Jesus brings, overturning the values of earthly power and raising up the poor and the oppressed and those on the margins.
Easter is not just about and event in the past. It’s about living each moment of our lives today in Jesus’ way, knowing that he is present with us in the here and now. Easter is not just for us in our inner lives, it’s about how we’re called to live in this world, and the way in which we’re given the strength we need to live Jesus’ new life.
In John’s account of the resurrection, highlighting Mary with Jesus in the garden, two phrases stand out that still bring home today the meaning of Easter.
Firstly, the simple way that Jesus’ speaks Mary’s name. Mary can’t believe that the one she sees is Jesus. She thinks he’s the gardener. It’s when he says ‘Mary’ that she recognises him. The present reality of Easter is about God speaking each of our names. When God speaks our name, it’s not just a name, it’s about the whole of who we are. That same love and encounter that Jesus had with Mary are opened up for us once more on Easter Sunday.
Secondly, Jesus says ‘don’t hold on to me’. He has yet further to travel in his risen life. He hasn’t become one person’s possession. He’s there for all people. Jesus is present with us in his risen life today. Yet we can’t hold on to him in the sense of possessing him for ourselves. Jesus is always calling us onward, he’s always other than us, he’s always bigger than us – we can’t pin him down to make him fit our size.
Today’s a day of celebration – that Jesus is alive and is with us – in the community of God’s people, in the broken bread and the poured wine, in the offering of worship. Today’s a day of witness to life that is ever being made new: the past is present, the present is transformed by the past, and the future is opened up to us. Today’s a day of witness to others, that this new life that Jesus offers is for all people, and most of all for the vulnerable and the suffering.
So today, in this pandemic time, let’s not just look at the things which pin us down and confine us. Let us rise again with Christ to his unpinnable down new life, which sets us free.
Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch
Reflection from 11 April: Doubting Thomas
Reading: John 20: 19-31
Information has never been so easily available; you are only a few clicks away from all sorts of information – recipes, routes and timetables or what show that actor was in before? Or facts like how many cities are there in the UK? 50, 100, 150, 1000? Google will tell you in an instant. However not all information is true. We also live in a world of fake news and misinformation, where uncertainty, fear and hate can be spread very easily. We do need to check out facts and not believe everything we read, see or are told. Don’t confuse this with just things we disagree with or don’t believe in. We can believe that the right way to eat scones is to have the jam on top but is that a fact? There are, after all, plenty of references outside the Bible to a man, a human historical figure called Jesus that lived in Israel in the 1st century and for many it is our belief that he was the son of God. It is right and healthy to respect others’ beliefs even if we disagree. It’s even ok to discuss and challenge in a positive way those differences but just because we disagree doesn’t mean we need to ridicule, oppress or hate.
Thomas was in a difficult position. While he was out, Jesus had appeared to the disciples and he had missed it. Thomas had probably been out doing something important. The disciples had been in hiding, afraid of what might happen to them in the aftermath of Jesus’s death so if Thomas had been out it must have been important, maybe he had gone for food or other provisions, who knows? Unsurprisingly, Thomas was sceptical that they had just imagined it; it was some practical joke, that he had missed, that what the women had seen it and now the disciples. He was excluded from it; he had missed it and somehow that made him less. I bet he got angry, defensive, grumpy and demanded proof. Demanded to put his hand in the holes in Jesus’s body. Thomas is very easy for us to relate to – he wasn’t perfect; he had doubts.
Thomas is often painted in a negative light, but in our day and age of mass communication a little scepticism is often a good thing. If I told you there were 150 cities in the UK would you believe me or doubt me? You would be right to doubt me as there are around 67 give or take a few depending on the definition, about 50 of which are in England. So maybe Thomas had some justification to doubt, to think the disciples had got carried away somehow, were seeing things or imagining things.
Jesus however in time went to Thomas, where he was, offering for him to touch and see it was really him. Kind, understanding and taking time to let him see it really was Jesus. I doubt very much Jesus did it in an “oh, you silly boy for not believing” way but did it in a loving, caring way. Thomas then believed. He had seen it for himself, touched and spoken to Jesus his friend and Lord. He knew it was a fact and he believed.
From this act we get the wonderful phrase Jesus used: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That is us. We have not seen Jesus in the flesh, but for most of us, we have believed. That’s in part, down to the way Thomas had, at first, not believed and because Jesus had come and given him the opportunity to see it for himself. I don’t think that makes us better than Thomas and the disciples, just coming from a different place and different time. When we are together either in the flesh, online or by the written word, we are together, and we can believe in the Jesus of the resurrection.
Last week we celebrated the Easter story, behind the closed doors of lockdown for the second year running. Like Thomas only going out because we need to, because its important. Maybe venturing into the garden to meet people outside in the cold, but cut off from each other physically. Maybe you enjoyed the long weekend off work or the start of the school holidays. While we may still be eating the last of the chocolate and the hot cross buns, can we still recall the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the arrest and trial and the eventful and eventual crucifixion? Then the joy of the resurrection. Witnessed first by the women and then the disciples and then finally Thomas.
But this last couple of weeks along with the Christmas story form the cornerstone of our faith and Thomas is part of that cornerstone. He questioned, he doubted, and Jesus came to his uncertainty, just as he can come to ours in these uncertain times. I hope you felt the joy of the Easter story in the last couple of weeks and the sweet revisiting of the resurrection and the hope that brings.
However, we are still battling with the pandemic. You may have been sad not to be with family and friends. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one or a celebration that has not happened for a wedding, anniversary or significant birthday. You may have found your mental health has suffered or you are worried about “getting back to normal”. We have certainly had a very unusual and for many a traumatic year. As Jesus came to that room and declared “Peace be with you” both when he first came to the disciples and again when he came for Thomas, Jesus can now come to us through the Easter story with peace for us. However, Jesus came not just to say ‘peace’ and ‘hello, I’m alive, let’s have a catch up’. He came with a challenge for the disciples, he sent them out to continue his work.
So, what does “doing his work” mean in a post pandemic world? I was sad to hear, in a recent Zoom meeting with safeguarding officers, of so many churches that will not reopen after this pandemic. Aging congregations and lack of income among other issues have taken a heavy toll on our churches. Although I have also heard, that for some places, the Zoom services of the pandemic have allowed several churches in an area to come together and get to know each other allowing an easier transition as two or three churches become one.
Christ Church has been very fortunate: newsletters, zoom coffee morning and online services have all helped along with our family attitudes and the efforts that many have put into allowing us to stay connected. We have a firm financial foundation in our Trust. It was formed of land in Uxbridge, that the early “dissenters” acquired for the church back in the mid-1700s. We are also fortunate for the history of community groups that use our buildings; they will give us a way forward and life as we reopen. The “us” is not just the elders, the Church Council or even just the members, but everyone that worships with us and uses the building will be a part of what is Christ Church is going forward. How do you see our future?
I dream of an inclusive place where God dwells, where the anxious, the uncertain, the angry and the Thomases can come and find kindness and nourishment. Where the grieving and the hurt and all can find peace. Where we can build our faith. Where community can flourish and we can do his work. We can’t know the future and if the last year has taught us anything, it has taught us that. However, spring is here, the daffodils are out, Easter and the resurrection has been celebrated, the vaccine is being rolled out to millions, the shops and sports facilities are reopening and soon we will be able to come here, to church if you want to. I find myself hopeful, that these changes are like Jesus letting me touch his wounds, I find I can now stop doubting and believe.
Our readings for this week
Luke 24:36b-48 (NIV)
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Acts 3:12-19
- Psalm 4
- 1 John 3:16-24
We meet at 11am for our Sunday services, which are also live-streamed on our Facebook page. If you wish to view our services online, you can find them at www.facebook.com/christchurchuxbridge. 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. Our Easter Sunday service will be a communion service led by URC minister Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch.
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.
Holy Week activities
Community Easter project
Thank you to everyone who made decorations for our Easter tree. These are now hanging on our Easter tree in our church window along with the white flower cross of remembrance.
It’ll be over soon
Alas dear friend I knew you well,
But behind that mask I simply can’t tell
Are you happy to see me with a smile on your face?
Or are you gnashing your teeth because I’m in your space?
You seemed to accept my fist bump greeting
Unconventional I know in the way we are meeting
Your muffled speech is a little unclear
Too much material makes it hard to hear
I try to think of something positive to say
A smart witty ditty to brighten your day
But I look at the weather and it’s cold and dark
The news on repeat is depressing and stark
I haven’t done anything interesting of late
Got up, watched the clock, went back to bed at eight.
But I’m here and you’re here, this truth has unfurled
We’re survivors keeping safe in an unstable world
My hidden smile says I love you my friend
Keep in touch, soldier on and one day this will end.
Church charity news
Thank you to everyone who attended our murder mystery evening on 10th April. We had a fun evening trying to guess whodunnit and raised £110 for our church charity in the process. Our fundraising total so far now stands at £994.85
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.
Reminiscences of an organist: Part 1
1939 saw the outbreak of World War Two. It was also the year when I was born. Two years later, my father, an Air Force pilot, was killed while on active service. My mother was left with two small children to bring up in Nottingham. Food was rationed. But in 1946, there occurred a momentous experience – tasting ice-cream for the first time.
Thanks to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, I was sent to boarding school(s) from the age of seven: first the Dolphin School Notts and, at age thirteen, Hereford Cathedral School. That I was sent to the latter school was doubtless due to my interest in music. I had already fallen in love with the theatre organ but hearing the cathedral organ, as played by Meredith Davies, came as a complete revelation. Happily, arrangements were made for me to have lessons from the assistant cathedral organist Michael Illman. I was fortunate in being allowed to practice every evening from two hours on the small pipe organ in the cathedral’s Lady Chapel. Homework had to be completed during breaks/free periods and, as time went on, I was excused games (hoorah!). After four years of daily organ practice I was able to play several of Bach’s organ works and was accepted as a student at the Royal College of Music. My teachers were George Thalben-Ball for organ and Frank Merrick for piano. My musical journey had begun.
Can you find the key words about feelings from today’s Bible passage (Luke 24.36b-48)? Some letters have been filled in for you.
2. When you get a big surprise.
5. When you are worried about things
which might go wrong.
7. When you are not sure what to believe.
1. When you feel very afraid.
3. When you feel at peace.
4. When you feel really happy about
6. When you feel afraid.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Ruislip Methodist
- Gerrards Cross URC
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Peace be with you’ –
they responded with turmoil.
Jesus said, ‘Have you anything to eat?’ –
they served him fish.
Jesus opened their minds –
they became his witnesses.
So, Lord, may we too find peace in your service,
with opened minds and hearts on fire.
(Taken from Roots)