Fear – Faith – Fortitude

In June I returned to ‘normal duties’ following my sabbatical, which I wrote about in my last letter for Look-In way back in February.  Due to family health problems things didn’t go entirely to plan (do they ever), but having the sabbatical when I did meant I was able to offer a lot more support to my parents and Sue’s parents than I would have been able to do under normal circumstances.

 

Anyway, now life has returned to normal.  Except it hasn’t.  The last few weeks have shown a side of life that is far from normal.  Terrorist attacks on Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and at the Manchester Arena; the attack on worshipers leaving a Mosque in Finsbury Park (was this a terrorist attack?  It was certainly an attack designed to create terror); and the horrific fire in Grenfell Tower; not to mention the Brexit negotiations (oh dear, I mentioned them) have all shown that these are not normal times.

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Bee Active

At our Harvest Service last month, Nick spoke about bees and their importance in providing the food that we eat.  Bees are essential for pollinating crops and other plants and it’s estimated that they play a key role in providing at least a third of the food that we eat, if not more.  What is worrying though is the decline in the numbers of bees since the start of this century – since 2010 alone, the bee population has reduced by 45% in the UK, and this is thought to be mostly due to the use of pesticides.  Two species of bee have become extinct in the UK since the start of the 21st century and several more are now endangered.

A bee on a white flower

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My Childhood – Part 2

The Church played a considerable part in our lives and the family were members of the Old Meeting House Congregational Church. My parents were married there and my Sister and I were christened by the Rev’d Luther Bouch. From the age of five we were taken to Sunday School each Sunday morning and again in the afternoon. At the end of Sunday school in the morning the children filed into the Church but only stayed for the first half of the service; we came out prior to the sermon. When Mother couldn’t take us in the mornings we were taken by Eva Keen, Ethel and Win Bright or Vera Newport; all lived locally to us. From about seven onward I was able to go alone.

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Lenten Sacrifice – Easter Thanksgiving (New Life)

You might have noticed that something was missing in the life of the church during Lent this year (and I don’t mean some of the chairs).  It has become common practice in many churches in recent years to have a special Lenten appeal for a charitable cause or project.  Such appeals are a natural development of the idea of giving up something for Lent to giving up something so that others can gain something.  In recent years we have supported:

 

  • Christian Aid’s ‘Count your Blessings’ plan, daily bite-size reflections to inspire us to give, act and pray to bring justice to our world and change the lives of people living in poverty across the globe.
  • Water Aid’s ‘Jars of Change’ appeal, turning loose change into clean water.
  • Practical Action’s ‘Human Waste’ campaign, tackling problems faced by toilet-pit cleaners in Bangladesh.
  • And some have followed the ‘40Acts’ programme, encouraging people to give back, do good and live generously.

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My Childhood – Part 1

I was born in a house in New Windsor Street in October, 1920. The house was one of a terrace and had three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The bathroom had no hot water and the bath was so large that to get sufficient hot water for a bath would have meant carrying probably 10 to 15 buckets up the stairs. In any case there was no means of heating such a quantity. A tin bath in the kitchen was therefore used for bathing.

 

There were two reception rooms, a kitchen and scullery downstairs. The only WC was outside but actually built into the house abutting into the scullery. The weekly rent was ten shillings. Cooking was carried out on a cast-iron cooking range in the kitchen. As a schoolboy my job each Saturday was to black-lead the range and polish the fire irons with emery cloth. There was a brick-built boiler in the scullery which was used for the weekly wash, and outside the kitchen door was a very large wooden-rollered mangle to squeeze most of the water from the clothes.

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What is the purpose of the Church? A church member responds…

Nick asks ‘what is the purpose of the Church?’ As ever, he was thought provoking and so I’ve been thinking! It’s a huge question and I dissent from nothing that Nick preached and has written.

 

Perhaps the purpose of the Church is to be prophetic? To move ahead of the social climate into accepting the marginalised and the outcast. But, woefully, it is often the Church that lags behind and drags its feet. Its record with LGBT people is poor. It took decades to come to terms with divorce (and the Roman Catholics still haven’t. Methodism for a long time refused its pulpits to divorcees. Its attitude to unmarried mothers has been less than warm. It has been slow to build bridges to those of other faiths and of none. It so often prefers to keep its head down, to be invisible, so as not to be ‘controversial’. Instead it could have outpaced society as it made clear its wish to accept people where they are.

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Good Grief - An exhibition of sculptures by Jean Parker - 12th - 27th March 2016 at Christ Church, Uxbridge

Good Grief

In March we continue the journey through Lent to Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.  The stories we tell at this time of year are vivid and full of powerful emotions.  I’m not quite sure whether it is one of the blessings or one of the curses of faith that we live with the emotions of the moment but we also see the stories of faith with the insight of hindsight.  We know what comes on Easter Day so some of the terror and loss of Good Friday is lost on us.

 

After Jesus’ death his followers were scattered, Judas racked with the shame of betrayal, Peter with the guilt of denial, and the others just lost in grief and fear.  Eventually they come together in a private room, not in anticipation but with the stunned disbelief of those whose world has just fallen apart.

 

The day between Good Friday and Easter Day is known as Holy Saturday.  For the first disciples it was not a day of waiting for resurrection.  It was a day of wondering ‘What now?’  Later tradition imagined Jesus descending to hell on that day and bringing salvation to the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world but before the time of Jesus.

 

But for those first followers this was not a time of hopeful waiting sandwiched between crucifixion and resurrection, death and life.  For those disciples, who had to live in the emotion of the moment and did not have the benefit of hindsight, this would have been a time of desolation, of total loss.

 

I hope that you are by now aware that there will be an exhibition of sculptures in the church in March with the title ‘Good Grief’.  This exhibition provides an opportunity not only to see some powerful art but also to reflect on the emotions that people experience around times of grief and loss – which might be experienced in many situations, not just following a death.

 

Within the programme of events around the exhibition there will be a special service on the Holy Saturday for those who have experienced grief and loss.  I am calling the service ‘Thanks for the memory’.  Hopefully there will be memories to give thanks for but it is important also to recognise that for some the dominant emotion are not always thankfulness.  Anger, bitterness and pain are part of the emotions of the moment that we often cannot see beyond.

 

Without wishing to deny the reality of these emotions it is hoped that the exhibition and the ‘Thanks for the Memories’ service will help us understand that, as in the Easter story, the desolation of death and loss are not the end of the story; God’s love can lead us to a place of healing and peace.

Nick Skelding

This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of Look-In, our monthly church magazine.  To download the full issue, please click here: Look-In Mar 2016

Notices – w/c 28th February 2016

Women’s World Day Prayer

Praying for Cuba at St. Margaret’s Church, Uxbridge at 2.00pm on 4th of March 2016.  All are welcome

 

Open Afternoon – Uxbridge Quaker Meeting House

On Saturday 5th March from 2pm to 4pm.  100 years of  Conscientious Objection Speakers, discussion & tea. Corner of Belmont/York Street UB8 1QW. For more information: wendy.10@icloud.com

 

Good Grief

During the last few weeks of Lent this year there will be an exhibition of sculptures in Christ Church on the theme of grief.

If you are interested in helping in any way with the planning and staging of this exhibition, or just being available to talk with people, then please contact Nick Skelding.

 

Good Friday Walk of Witness

This year’s Walk of Witness is organised by Our Lady of Lourdes and The Salvation Army Church.

Date: 25th March 2016.

Time 11.00am

The walk will start at The Salvation Army Church, Cowley Road, UB8 2LT and finish at Christ Church where refreshments will be served.

All are cordially welcome.

 

Good Friday March 25th

On Good Friday March 25th there will be a Circuit service of word and music, including the cantata ‘Olivet to Calvary’, at Pinner Methodist Church at 6pm.

 

Rehearsals for the choir will take place at Pinner Methodist Church on Sunday afternoons 6th, 13th, 20th March and on Good Friday at 2.30pm. Contact Shirley Askew 1923 821871 asq28@icloud.com.

 

Boys’ Brigade

Don’t forget, we have once again signed up to Sainsbury’s Active Kids voucher scheme. Active Kids vouchers are available every time you shop in store at Sainsbury’s and spend £10 or more.

Active Kids vouchers can be collected from now until Tuesday 3rd May 2016. Please bring them along and place them in our collecting box in the meeting area.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT

 

Life in the Spirit Course: ‘The Gift’ at Our Lady of Lourdes.

The course is aimed at helping us to be able to open the ‘Gift’ of the Holy Spirit we received at Baptism and Confirmation. All are welcome. The meeting will be held on Mondays from 7.30 pm to 9.00 pm on 29th February and 7th /14th /21st March.

 

For more information please contact Lucia Franco at lucia_franco@hotmail.co.uk or Gerard Farrell at mrgfaf@gmail.com or visit the website www.thegiftofthespirit.org

 

New Flower Rota

New Flower Rota is now available so if you would like to donate flowers for a particular week, please sign up.  If you would like to do the arrangement yourself, then please also sign in the Arranger column.  Any further details please contact Mary Glasgow.

 

Christian Aid Week – 15th- 21st  May

Christian Aid Week starts on the 15th May.  If anyone would like to help with the house to house collections and has a suggestion for other fund raising activities for supporting this event , please speak to Peter King.

Good Grief - 12th - 27th March 2016 - a exhibition featuring a set of sculptures by Jean Parker

Good Grief/Bald Statements – 12th to 27th March

An exhibition of sculptures by Jean Parker

From 12th to 27th March 2016, Christ Church is hosting an exhibition featuring a collection of eight sculptures illustrating the feelings of grief and loss.  The sculptures in this exhibition were born as a reflection of Jean Parker’s own experience of cancer.  The eight terracotta heads emerged during the course of a seven-day silent retreat, and present a powerful and unique visual exploration of the grief process.  These relate not only to loss of health, but also to significant loss of any kind.  The hope is that the exhibition will help stimulate discussion and the understanding of powerful emotions, which can feel overwhelming.

Good Grief - a set of sculptures by Jean Parker - Christ Church, Uxbridge 12th - 27th March 2016

To see these images as transitional stages and part of a natural process experienced by many may prove helpful and reassuring, offering glimpses of hope when all seems lost.  The emotions expressed in the sculptures – Denial, Disbelief, Questioning, Anger, Depression, Acceptance, Healing and Peace – are all part of this natural process.

Grief is a journey everyone makes at some time.  It is the aim of this exhibition to enable that to be a journey towards Peace.

The sculptures will be located in the church and can be seen whenever the building is open.  Official opening times are:

Tuesdays, 10am-3pm
Wednesdays, 5-8pm
Thursdays, 10am-3pm
Saturdays, 10am-12noon

Special events include:

Saturday 12th March, 11.00am, official opening, with talk by Jean Parker
Sunday 13th March, 11.00am morning worship, with Jean Parker
Good Friday, 25th March, 10.00am-12.00noon, time for reflection
Saturday 26th March, 1.00pm, ‘Thanks for the Memory’ a service for all who have someone they want to remember
Easter Sunday, 27th March, 11.00am morning worship

 

This article was first published in the February 2016 issue of Look-In, our monthly church magazine.  To download the full issue, please click here: Look-In Feb 2016

 

What is the purpose of the church?

This month we enter the season of Lent that leads up to Easter.  The 40 fasting days of Lent represent the 40 days we are told in the Gospels that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness; days that were really a time for him to explore his experience at his baptism and the direction he would take in life.

 

At the end of that time he went home to Nazareth and on the Sabbath went to the synagogue were he was asked to read the scripture and speak. You can read the story in Luke chapter 4.  I preached on this story in January and was asked to summarize my sermon for Look-In, so here goes.

 

At the heart of the story are the verses Jesus read from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”    (Luke 4:18-19)

Then he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

 

Most scholars agree that the way Luke tells the story suggests this is a pivotal moment in Jesus life; that the words he read in the synagogue are fundamental to his understanding of his mission, of God’s mission.  But to say this passage describes God’s mission still begs many questions.

 

Who are the poor and what is good news for them?  A report published by Oxfam in January this year highlights the global inequality of wealth.  According to the report, the richest 62 people in the world have more wealth than the poorest 50% (3.6 billion people) put together, and the richest 1% have more wealth than the remaining 99% (incidentally, anyone whose total assets are worth more than £533,000 is part of that 1%).  But is being poor just about not having money?  What about those who have lost everything, lost hope, lost home, lost family, lost their future, the outsider and the refugee?

 

In purely financial terms it might be that some kind of redistribution of wealth from the absurdly rich to the abject poor is part of God’s day of favour (or salvation as some versions put it).  But good news for the poor is not just about having more money, it is about having hope and home and future restored.  So, should showing and sharing hospitality to those who have no place to call home be part of that good news?

 

Who are the captives and what is release for them?  People in Wormwood Scrubs or Broadmoor?  Do we want them to be released before their time?  But what about those held captive in Belmarsh and Harmondsworth detention centres?  Could God’s will be that these people find release?  Then there are those imprisoned by grief, regret, anger, bitterness, etc.  What might release from captivity mean for them?  Surely part of it must be to know they are loved and valued.  Is Jesus saying that to show love is the mission of God and, when love is shown God’s day of salvation is fulfilled?

 

Who are the blind and what does it mean for them to recover sight?  Does this just refer to those who have some form of visual impairment?  Or does it include those who choose not to see, those whose hearts and minds are closed, those of fixed opinions, and those who have lost the ability to see the humanity of other people?  In which case, what does recovery of sight mean?  Maybe the day of the Lord is a day of challenge and shock to our preconceptions and prejudices, a day that moves us from our mental comfort zones and forces us to see the limitlessness of God’s love.

 

Who are the oppressed and what does it mean to be set free?  Did Jesus have in mind just those living under a foreign occupying power, as the Jewish people were at that time under Roman rule?  Perhaps we should also include those who live under oppressive ideologies, like that of the so-called Islamic State.  But then there are some pretty oppressive Christian ideologies that scare me, and some oppressive attitudes in wider society that lead some people to think it is acceptable to throw stones and eggs at the homes of asylum seekers, or do worse.  Is the freedom Jesus had in mind a freedom to practice one’s own faith and culture without fear of attack?  I believe God’s day of favour is a day when people live together showing acceptance and tolerance.

 

The passage Jesus read in the Synagogue challenges us about our understanding of God’s mission and what ‘the day of favour (or salvation)’ means; it reminds us that God’s salvation is not about having a place in heaven, but about having a place for God’s attitude in our minds and in our actions here on earth?

 

The root of this vision of God’s kingdom lies in the Old Testament laws.  In the book of Leviticus, in a passage headed ‘Laws of Holiness and Justice’, we find the command:

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt”    (Leviticus 19:33-34)

A simple instruction to treat strangers in our land as if they are our own people.

 

The Old Testament book of Ruth tells the story of a family who twice experienced being refugees.  I highly recommend reading this beautiful short book in one go.  In it we are told how a man called Boaz put the instruction in Leviticus into practice.  Then at the end of the story, when the descendants of Ruth are listed we discover the great King David was her grandson.  From this foreigner, this asylum seeker, came the man most Jews look to as the greatest leader in their history, the man who really made them a great nation.  The point being that by keeping the law to welcome the stranger the nation became stronger.

 

What is the purpose of the church?  Surely it is to continue the mission of Jesus. To work for freedom for the oppressed and to bring good news to the poor is to continue the mission of Jesus. The problems of the world sometimes seem too large for us to do much about.  But global issues always have a local aspect to them.  We cannot solve the crisis in Syria or do much about the reasons people leave their homes to make a new life in a new country.  But perhaps we can help in some small way by showing and sharing love and acceptance and hospitality and support to the strangers in our midst.

Nick Skelding

This article was first published in the February 2016 issue of Look-In, our monthly church magazine.  To download the full issue, please click here: Look-In Feb 2016