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:
God of all,
We come before you today just as we are
We lift to you the joy of being alive
We praise you that we are part of your amazing Creation.
Plant in us an ever-growing love for you
Let worship and praise burst from our hearts
Let the fruitfulness of our lives bring glory to you.
(Taken from The Vine)
Reflection from 25 April: The good shepherd
Readings: John 10:11-18 and 1 John 3:16-24
The image of Jesus as the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep is a very well-known and familiar one. At the heart of this reading is the relationship between the good shepherd and his sheep. The shepherd knows his sheep and they know him. They recognise his voice; they trust him completely. If one of the sheep gets lost, the shepherd searches high and low to find them again. If the sheep are put in danger, the good shepherd will do whatever he needs to do to protect them.
The hired hand, on the other hand, does not have the same bond with the sheep. Looking after the sheep is merely a duty. The sheep are not seen as individuals – there is no sense of relationship. Looking after the sheep is fine as long as it is easy – but when things become challenging, difficult, dangerous – the hired hand deserts the sheep.
How often in life do we do the same? It is easy to be there for others when things run smoothly, when life is good. But when troubles come, when tragedy strikes, how much harder is it to be there with someone else? To sit through our own discomfort, the times when we don’t know what to say or do, or how to help – how much easier it is then to just turn away. We don’t always mean to, but still we turn away. And I’m sure many of us can relate to being on the receiving end of those times – finding that those who we thought would be there for us in times of trouble aren’t always the ones who stay by our side.
Being more like the good shepherd comes at a cost. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The reading from 1 John 3 tells us that we are called to do the same – to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Very few of us are called to take that to the ultimate level and die for others – and I suspect, if you’re like me, that you hope you won’t be one of those people that God calls to make that ultimate sacrifice.
I don’t think laying down our lives means that we actually have to die for someone else though. Perhaps it isn’t so much about dying for someone else though as it is about living for someone else. What if rather than being all about one big sacrificial gesture of love, it’s asking us to do countless small acts of love where we put our own selves aside for a moment to focus on the needs of others. Putting their needs ahead of our own as an act of love. Laying aside our own lives – a few minutes at a time.
For us too, this comes with a cost. Sacrificing our own needs, our own busy schedules for a time so we can focus on the needs of someone else. Taking time to listen to someone who is hurting, or to give up something that we think we need in order to help someone whose need is greater than ours. Giving that comes from the heart rather than being something that we do out of duty. Giving not as a generous benefactor and others as a poor recipient of our generosity but seeing them instead as a brother or sister in need; recognising that every person we encounter is a beloved child of God who brings value to the world.
One of the things that I noticed at the start of the pandemic was that sense of community, of people pulling together to help others. Making sure they picked up the phone to check on friends and family; those who were able to be out and about picking up groceries for those who were shielding. There was a sense that we were all in this together as we clapped on our doorsteps for the NHS and looked forward to a time when life would go back to normal.
As the months went on and pandemic fatigue set in, the phone calls and offers to help lessened. I suspect I’ve been more like the hired hand than the good shepherd over the last year. Starting off with good intentions of helping others and then letting them fall by the wayside as the exhaustion of just getting through this time started to take its toll.
As I often remind myself though, you can’t pour from an empty cup. We too need rest and renewal; we can’t do this on our own strength alone. That’s where we need God’s help, to be able to come to God in prayer, to allow God to strengthen us and help show us the way forward.
Over the last year, we’ve all been asked to lay aside our lives, to give up so many little everyday things in order to help others by helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus. I am sure that most of us have found this very hard at times. I know I have. Because one of the biggest things we have had to sacrifice to some extent is relationship with others as we knew it and trying to find new ways of keeping that relationship together.
Now that things are opening up and we are able to start coming back together again, how do we rebuild those relationships and that sense of community? What are the needs of our brothers and sisters in our church and in our community, and what do we need to do to meet them? What is God calling our church to be and do as we move forward once more? How are we challenged to truly show “the love of God in the heart of Uxbridge” – not with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.
Our readings for this week
John 15:1-8 (NIV)
The vine and the branches
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Acts 8:26-40
- Psalm 22:25-31
- 1 John 4:7-21
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 service this week will be a communion service led by Rev’d Andrew McLuskey.
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.
At last week’s Bible exploration group session, we were reminded that prayer is simply a chat with God and doesn’t need to be complicated although people may not always find it easy to pray. Our latest church window shares some challenges to encourage us to incorporate prayer into our daily lives.
If you’d like to join us in praying together, you are very welcome to come along to our prayer meeting on Wednesday evenings at 7pm on Zoom. We appreciate that not everyone is comfortable to pray aloud with others and it is fine just to come along and sit quietly with us as we pray together.
Church charity news
We have been fundraising for ‘HOPE not hate’ for about a year now and back at the beginning of lockdown we resolved to keep this as our charity till the end of 2021 due to the limitations of fundraising when we could not meet together in person. 2022 will see us fundraise for Halo Children’s Foundation who support grieving children locally.
Over the last year we have had a virtual sales table, an auction, a quiz, a beetle drive and even a murder mystery night. We have had fun over Zoom in aid of our charity.
So what next? We would like to throw this question over to you. Life is opening up and many have had at least their first vaccination, if not both, giving us the option of doing more in person. What do you think would be a good idea? A picnic in a church member’s garden has been suggested and we could always have an in-person event like a quiz or another murder mystery later in the year. Maybe you have something you have made during the last year that is in need of a home. But don’t confine yourself to things we have done before; we will consider every suggestion.
So let us know what you fancy happening. Just because you suggest it does not mean you have to run it although your help is always appreciated. You can either email email@example.com or use your church directory to contact any of the team (Joanne, Cathy and Denise).
You can find more details about our church charity fundraising events and items on our virtual sales table here.
To make a donation to our church charity online visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Hopenothate-Christchurch
What we’ve been reading lately
Stephanie has been reading the following books:
- The Madness of Grief by Rev Richard Coles. Written following the sudden death of his partner, Rev David Coles, this is a beautiful book which is sad, touching, funny and thought-provoking.
- Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson. A really lovely, gentle read set on the canal – and Uxbridge plays quite a big part in this story even if it is described as being “not far from the sea”! If you’ve ever been on a canal holiday, I think you’ll really enjoy this book.
If you’d like to share which books you’ve been reading lately, or anything that you’ve been watching that is still available to view, please let Louise know so we can share them in future newsletters.
Back in our first issue of ‘Look-In’ in Lockdown, we invited you to create your own ‘coronavirus square’, measuring 21cm square. If you’d like to join in and create one to bring along to church when you feel ready to return, it would be lovely to see them.
You can use any medium. This could be paper, card, fabric, wool, plastic, crazy foam, polestyrene etc. (in fact anything that would stand being hung up on our green boards in the vestibule). You may decorate your square in any way that you like. Perhaps you could write a poem or a prayer, draw or paint a picture, or weave, knit, sew or crochet a pattern or a picture. A piece of A4 paper is 21cm x 30cm so you could cut the square from that.
We have a couple of squares up on the display board already but it would be lovely to have some more.
Reminiscences of an organist: Part 3 – Life in the States
In September 1962, I set off for Boston, Massachusetts – my first experience of flying. In my previous letter I omitted mentioning (due to space considerations) that whilst at Cambridge I had, during the summer months, for three years running played in a band for Holiday on Ice summer reviews thereby managing to put aside a little pocket money. A British musician studying at Berklee, Graham Collier, had previously corresponded with me and so, from the start, I had a place to stay – fortunately. Boston came as somewhat of a culture shock but one quickly adapts. Thanks to a kind person I met on the plane I was put in touch with a Baptist minister Pastor Eugene West. Dr and Mrs West had recently returned to the USA having spent time in Hong Kong. Their church needed an organist and so it was that I, newly arrived, became organist of Winthrop First Baptist Church. In all I spent a year at Berklee studying composition and arranging – training which was to later prove useful when I returned home. Last, but not least, there were evenings (many) spent playing the Hammond Organ in hotels and restaurants. In all, I spent four happy years in Boston – a time never to be forgotten.
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- South Harrow Methodist
- St Margaret’s & St George’s, Harlesden (URC/Moravian)
As we go through the week,
may we abide with God,
grafted and rooted and pruned.
Lord, help us to stay connected to one another and to you,
bearing fruit wherever your love takes us.
(Adapted from Roots)