Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. I hope you are keeping well and staying safe. Our newsletter is sent out regularly to share reflections from services, Bible readings and church news to our church family.
You can find previous issues of the newsletter on our church website at www.christchurchuxbridge.org.uk 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 (email@example.com)
We start with our opening prayer:
Father God, you give us so much, and yet we long for more.
Help us to open ourselves to you today and draw us closer to you.
Help us to be open to one another and draw us closer together. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)
Reflections from 22 May: The Lord is my shepherd
For our service on 22 May, we invited some of our elders to share their thoughts on Psalm 23 and hymns based on it. Here are the reflections that were shared:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Back in the 1970’s as a young girl, in Girls’ Brigade, I learnt this Psalm for a scripture badge. We had to recite it out loud from memory. The alternative was to learn all the books of the New Testament, if I remember rightly. I thought the Psalm would be easier. In hindsight I think that was a good decision. Although I can’t do it from memory any more, I can recall many of the phrases and their meanings.
Another childhood memory was learning to sing “the sheep will safely graze” version, set to a J.S. Bach tune. While as an adult I can look back and see the beautiful words and music, as a 9-year-old it was my idea of torment. We had to copy the words down from the blackboard, a difficult task for a girl with undiagnosed dyslexia. Then we had to learn the words over the weekend, and then learn to sing it the next week in school, with a teacher I disliked. I’m not a natural singer and wander from one key to another as I sing. A warning not to stand next to me in church, if you value tunefulness, as I still love to belt out my favourite hymn, even if I’m out of tune. Learning this version of the Psalm was definite low point for the song. Curiously, it is one of only two songs, out of maybe 20 songs, that I recall learning, with that teacher, that year. The other one, is about a mouse with clogs on.
Somehow looking back, the Psalm has spoken to me many times. Often at low points, I reflect on the promise to be by my side always, no matter what and the promise to do it till the day I depart this life.
Recently I was discussing with someone, the “why does God allow bad things to happen” question. I don’t know the answer to that one, but I do know that God will be with me through the bad things. God will support me, just as the Psalm tells me, and he can make positive things happen as we journey through the bad. The bad are still horrible, and hard, and painful, but his promise is to be with me till the end of the age. So far, I have a 100 percent record of getting to the end of each day. Sometimes on my own, but many times, only because God’s goodness and mercy are with me, giving me strength to get to the end of the day.
Church has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, and because of this many parts of the Bible have become familiar through reading and hearing them. The same is true of many hymns. Over the years I will have read, heard or sung versions of the 23rd Psalm many times.
Having such ‘constants’ is helpful in a world of continuous – and it seems accelerating change. The thoughts and experiences of persons of faith in times past are still helpful, and this includes those contained in scripture, as well as much else that human beings have recorded. The words of the 23rd Psalm are part of this.
For a period during the times of restriction due to Covid I read through all the150 Psalms – roughly one a day. They are a very varied collection – not least in their lengths – and they express a wide range of thoughts about God. He can be a creator, an achiever of great things. He assists greatly in overcoming enemies in battle, a concept I have difficulty with. Complaints are addressed to him about troubles and hardships. He can be a comforter and healer.
In the 23rd Psalm God is ‘my shepherd’. The picture of God as a shepherd occurs elsewhere in the Bible – and Jesus is also referred to as the ‘good shepherd’.
It has occurred to me that however carefully the shepherd looks after the sheep he or she is not looking after them as pets or for ‘fun’. The main reason is to earn a living and provide wool and food. For the shepherd the sheep have a value very much in a financial way. I am not sure where this thought might lead in relation to God being ‘my shepherd’ – perhaps it implies that we have a ‘value’, we have a ‘worth’, we have a ‘purpose’?
The version of Psalm 23 that I have chosen is ‘The King of love my shepherd is’- you could say a piece of high Victoriana. Both the words and the tune were written for inclusion in ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’ – a fixture in many Anglican churches for several generations, and this hymn has been included in most hymnbooks ever since. It gives something of a ‘Christian’ slant to the words – is the King of Love Jesus? – and there is a reference to ‘your cross’.
My favourite setting of Psalm 23 is a well-known metrical Psalm version to the tune ‘Brother James Air’. Brother James was a Scotsman called James Leith Bane, who first published the tune in a New Year’s devotional book for 1915. Although apparently not particularly musical, he came up with a tune that is beautiful in its simplicity with a kind of folk song lilt that I think perfectly complements the pastoral imagery of the words.
We are a reformed Protestant church and, as such, we sing hymns in our vernacular language. The singing of hymns developed as a part of the move towards the whole congregation singing the word of God, as opposed to the chanting of choirs previously encountered in worship. The metrical Psalms were translations made to fit regular tunes with specific numbers of syllables per line and ‘The Lord’s my shepherd’ fits in particularly well as it is in so-called common metre, fitting a great many tunes.
My personal encounter with Brother James Air was at the age of about six or seven. My father was a lay preacher in the Congregational, then United Reformed Churches and, as an amateur musician, often chose to enhance his services with recorded or live music. Having heard me sing a solo in the school nativity play, he decided that I would sing ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ in a service he was leading at our home church. It required a lot of practice and I was fussed over afterwards by all the ladies in hats gathered around, a sight familiar in the early 1970s across many non-conformist churches. The fact that this was not the standard tune to the words did not occur to me until I later encountered Crimond at secondary school, where it formed part of our annual speech day.
Recently I’ve been sorting Dad’s large collection of sheet music and have discovered some real gems. Among the creased and crumbling papers I have discovered choral music sung by his parents as part of the choir at Albert Street Congregational Church, Rugby. Included in the collection is a 1930s setting of the relatively new tune Brother James Air.
Did Dad as a small boy find himself uplifted by the tune that he then passed on to me? Did the choir sing the Psalm during the Second World War, reminding the congregation that in all the trials and tribulations they were enduring, a loving shepherd had their backs, as it were?
The tune takes me straight back to a childhood secure in the bosom of a small village chapel. It swoops and soars above the worries of the world, providing a backdrop to the best and worst I encounter.
The Lord’s my shepherd. I shall not want.
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” and the rest of the Psalm that follows it is one of the most well-known Bible passages. For me, it’s one that covers a whole range of situations in our lives with the reminder that God walks alongside us throughout it all. It starts with a reminder of the importance of taking time out to rest in God – ‘be still and know that I am God’ is the verse that also comes to mind for me whenever I realise I need to stop and rest in God so that I can be refreshed again.
Psalm 23 reminds me that God walks beside us on our journey through life – even when things get dark and difficult.
“4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
Those were words that I held on to in the run-up to my daughter Jessica’s last heart surgery at the end of 2017. It was a very anxious time for us, although we did our best to hide those worries from Jessica, who thankfully had no fear about going into hospital – quite the opposite in fact as she was excited for her hospital sleepover. I held on to that reminder that God was with us throughout the journey, that we weren’t alone and that God would comfort us and give us strength for the journey.
It was the words of the Stuart Townend worship song version of this Psalm that ran through my head as I paced the hospital corridors while she was in theatre having her surgery. While the chorus is an addition to the words of the Psalm, the words were another reminder that Jessica was in God’s hands and I had to put my trust in him too.
“And I will trust in you alone. I will trust in you alone. For your endless mercy follows me, your goodness will lead me home.”
I held on to that trust as Jessica got through her heart surgery that day, and as she recovered. God had walked beside us through the dark valley and just when I thought we might dare to look ahead to the future, Jessica died. And although I still tried to hold on to that trust, and the reminder that God was still with us as we walked through the valley of the shadow of death, there were many, many times when I felt very, very alone on that journey. Times when I doubted and shouted at God and asked if he was even there.
The words of the Psalm didn’t comfort me as much as they once had, but there was still a small glimmer of comfort in them. Four years on, I can see that God was still there, giving us strength and comfort in those raw early days of grief. I can see how we were surrounded by the love of friends and family, and am reminded of those who kept praying for us along the way.
As the words of the next hymn put it:
“And though I walk the darkest path –
I will not fear the evil one,
for you are with me, and your rod and staff
are the comfort I need to know.”
Even in the darkest of times, I am not alone. Somehow God gives me the strength to keep moving forward, taking me to places that I never expected to go and while I may not yet have regained the confidence I once had in trusting in Him alone, I am gradually building up that trust and becoming more open to where God might be leading me.
Readings for 29 May
John 17:20-26 (NIV)
Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Acts 16:16-34
- Psalm 97
- Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
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. This week’s service will be a communion service led by URC minister Revd Maggie Hindley. You can find the order of service here.
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.
29 May – Revd Maggie Hindley (URC minister) – communion service
5 June – Christ Church worship group – Pentecost
12 June – Christ Church worship group – parade service
19 June – Mr Ken Pearce (member of Christ Church)
Platinum Jubilee Civic Service
There will be a civic service at St Margaret’s Church on Sunday 5th June at 3pm to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. This will be followed by a Jubilee tea. All are welcome at this service of celebration.
Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend
The church will be closed on Thursday 2nd June and Friday 3rd June for the Platinum Jubilee bank holidays. There will be a Platinum Jubilee-themed coffee morning on Saturday 4th June which will be in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. There will also be a cream tea after the service on Sunday 5th June to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Church charity news
5K sponsored walk for Halo Children’s Foundation
On 4th June 2022, Louise, Michael, Sophie and Thomas George will be taking part in a 5k sponsored walk at Barra Hall Park, along with other bereaved families, to support Halo Children’s Foundation. Halo Children’s Foundation is a wonderful local charity which helps to support bereaved children and their families through providing support through their regular group sessions, and opportunities to create new happy memories through days out and events. They have been brilliant in helping to provide support for our family, particularly Sophie, since Jessica died in 2018.
If you would like to sponsor us, you can find our online sponsorship page at:
You can find more details about HALO Children’s Foundation, our church charity for 2022 at:
To make a donation to our church charity online visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/christ-church-halo2022
Brigades’ Annual Display
This year’s Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade Annual Display will take place on Friday 1st July, 7pm – 8.30pm. Please do come along and support our young people.
From the Methodist Circuit
The latest issue of Circuit Life is now available and can be downloaded here.
URC 50th Anniversary
The URC is 50 this year, and there are many ways to join the jubilee. As well as your prayers for the jubilee services, events and activities taking place in churches and Synods across the UK, an Open Church House event and a Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration is taking place on October 1 at United Reformed Church House, 86 Tavistock Place, London, and at Methodist Central Hall Westminster, where the URC began in October 1972. There is also a guided walk between the venues on the day. For more information about 50th anniversary events visit https://urc.org.uk/who-we-are/our-50th-anniversary/
The Inclusive Church newsletter for May is now available to read and can be found online at https://www.inclusive-church.org/inclusive-church-newsletters/
Can you find the following books of the New Testament in the wordsearch?
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Hayes Methodist
- Ealing Green (URC/Methodist)
May the love of God free you to live with confidence,
the example of Jesus free you to serve those in need,
and the power of the Holy Spirit help you to overcome all that would darken the world. Amen.
(Taken from Roots)