Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Heaven breaks into the ordinary

Luke 2:8-20New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks  night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas in Redhill

A full day of Christmas celebrations today in Redhill. Three Nativity services at Holy Trinity, followed by a Community Carol service in Timperley Gardens, then in the evening, a Carol Service in The Belfry Shopping centre.


This morning the all-age congregation at the Nativity Service were treated to the nativity acted out by the Climbers. The congregation were then asked what connected the various pieces of equipment that Lizzie (our Youth Minister) had left around the church for the children to find: a phone. a keyboard, a mobile phone and a letter. The first answer from a child was that they were all 'old'...clearly our visual aids need to be updated.

Timperley Carols in the Scout Hut began with refreshments plus craft activities for children before we sang carols and heard the story of the Christmas Truce and how lasting peace can be found in Jesus. One member told the story of his grandfather, who had served on the Western Front and had been reported killed in action. His grandmother received a widow's pension...up until the time he came home and it became clear that the telegram had been in error. At least she hadn't remarried, as some had done.

Carols at the Belfry? I'm afraid I arrived late and missed most of it, but heard good reports from the people I walked home with!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Carols by Floodlight - mud stops play.

Churches United, a football-related grouping of Churches in Redhill, were due to be the match sponsors of today's Redhill FC v Ramsgate FC fixture. An early pitch inspection this morning led to the pitch being deemed unsafe due to a waterlogged area in one goal area.

I stood at the gates in the lead up to 3pm as a trickle of fans took a look at the sign on the gate and turned their cars around.

It's tough going for Redhill FC at the moment. This is the 4th home game postponement of the season. On Thursday I witnessed the efforts of the Chairman of Redhill FC and others as they wielded barrow and shovel to try and get the pitch ready for today, and now they have to try again for a home match on Tuesday evening.

The cost to the club in terms of finances and good-will of fans must be  high. It's all a long way from the Premier League. It's also a long way from football in the 70's when Derby County were twice League Champions on a pitch worse than the one here at Kiln Brow!

The plan today was to sing Carols at the ground, including at half time as we related the story of the  1914 Christmas Truce and invited the crowd to join in Silent Night. For what it's now worth, here is the text of what I was going to say!

Football clubs all around the UK have been remembering the 1914 Christmas Truce this past week. As Match sponsors today Churches United want to celebrate this event with a few carols and a souvenir gift.
But just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about let me explain. On Christmas Day 1914 Peace broke out between warring factions across the Western Front. In place of the sound of gunfire and shelling there was the sound of a Carol sung in English and German; exchanging of gunfire was replaced by exchanging of gifts; shooting one another was suspended in place of shooting on goal, as the two sides kicked a football around together. Peace replaced hostility. But it was short-lived – the next day they were at war again.
Churches United represents all the churches in Redhill in believing that Christmas offers us good news of a longer lasting peace.
The message of the angels on that hillside over Bethlehem was this: 
‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth on whom his favour dwells.’ 
The baby born at the pub in Bethlehem, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, is God’s offer of peace. It cost Jesus his life, but he gave it willingly. One title given to Jesus is The Prince of Peace.
He comes to bring us news of the peace that this world badly needs, and that so many of us long for. He comes to bring peace with God for those who come to him. 
On Christmas Day in 1914 there was a glimmer of that peace before it was snuffed out. This Christmas in our churches we shall be celebrating the hope of everlasting peace that Jesus made possible by his death.The Carol that was sung by the English and German soldiers in 1914 was Silent Night, and we’re going to hear it sung by a member of Holy Trinity church. The words are in the matchday program, and we invite you to join in. 
Sing: Silent Night 
Churches United wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas. Join us at any of our services – we’d love to welcome you as we celebrate this Christmas.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Encouragement from Zimbabwe

Holy Trinity last night welcomed Bishop Ishmael Mukuwanda to our Sunday @ 7 service
Bishop Ismael is the Bishop of the Diocese of  Central Zimbabwe, and was here as part of the historic link between his Diocese and the Croydon Area of our own Diocese.
His message from Philippians 1 was an encouraging one - the church in Zimbabwe has suffered greatly in recent years, with congregations and clergy being locked out of their buildings, at the same time as enduring economic and political pressures, and yet is thriving and growing. Bishop Ishmael made the connection between the apostle Paul's prison chains which served to advance the gospel, and his Diocese's own sufferings which have served to grow the church and witness to the faithfulness and sovereignty of God.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
 Bishop Ishmael spoke of how the church had grown in reliance on God through their recent difficulties. He encouraged us not to ask 'Lord, why is this happening to us?', bit rather to ask 'Lord how can we serve you here, with what we have?'

The future of leadership in Zimbabwe is still uncertain, but the economy is gradually improving. Bishop Ishmael gave an example of this as he explained that for the first time he had been able to pay his own air fare to the UK, rather than to receive it as a gift from the Croydon Area.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes with a greeting that many of us who were at last night's service would want to echo in relation to the church in Zimbabwe:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

To read more about the link between Croydon and Zimbabwe click on the map below:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Southwark in Derbyshire.

Around 350 Clergy from the Diocese of Southwark headed to St Pancras Station on Monday morning this week - under instruction by the Bishops to gather 'to the left of Platform 1' before boarding a specially chartered train to Alfreton, Derbys. 

The Southwark Diocese 'Hearts on Fire' Conference took place at Swanwick Conference Centre, beginning on Monday and ending today.

The week included morning Bible studies by Rev Esther Mombo, alongside a programme of talks including excellent and thought provoking ones from Rev Dr Mike Lloyd (Principal of Wycliffe Hall) and Rev Dr Sam Wells. Evening social activities included 'Strictly Come Southwark', a quiz, and a scratch performance of 'Joseph and his amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' (I opted for watching a film...). There was also a very well attended meeting of the Southwark Diocesan Union, addressed by Rev Gary Jenkins.

The highlight for me was Mike Lloyd's talk on 'Confidence in our Mission', the basis of which was to point us to the love of God as the ultimate reality behind the universe and the answer to mankind's search for identity and value. 

'What the doctrine of the Trinity is asserting is that the ultimate fact about existence is a relationship. The ultimate reality is the love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So there is nothing so basic, so ultimate, or so surely founded and grounded as love.'
In a world that might be (rightly) suspicious about ideologies that make claims to ultimate truth, and fear how that can be used to exclude and exploit,  Mike reminded us from the Bible that the cross reveals the nature of that love as sacrificial and self-giving rather than domineering: Jesus gives himself up to death in order to win a victory over death. From 1 John:
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
The greatest truth in the universe is that we are loved by God, and are called into relationship with him through Christ. In responding to the good news of Jesus we are drawn into that eternal relationship of love that exists between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. And then we experience the love of which all other love is a pale reflection. 

Mike peppered his talk with quotes from Monty Python, The Big Bang Theory, and this one from the fictional Rev Gerald Ambulance on explaining the Trinity:

How can God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit all be God, if there’s only one God? Look at it like this: once upon a time there were three little bunnies called Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail. One day a nasty man caught them and put them in a rabbit pie. They were still three rabbits, but only one pie. To put it in plain language that even a complete dur- brain could understand, the three persons of the triune Godhead are one in substance, but in three hypostases. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask someone else.’ 

The Theologwarts express has now returned to Southwark. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Vision Weekend at Holy Trinity

This weekend we have been thinking about a 2020Vision for Holy Trinity Church.

On Saturday the Staff, PCC and about 150 others went to Reigate Baptist Church for a day of learning from the Bible, praising God, listening to one another, sharing our recent experiences and dreams for the future, and praying.   
We began by recognising that a vision for a church must begin with the right vision of God – God as he makes himself known to us in Jesus: we read from Colossians 1 and were reminded of  the Supremacy of Jesus Christ.
The first session got us thinking about the present values of Holy Trinity, and asking ’Where are we?’, ‘What values shape us and have caused us to make some of the decisions we’ve made in recent years?’.  The second session of the morning invited us to look ahead to the year 2020 and think about what we might be celebrating and thanking God got for by the time we get there. Jeremiah 29:11 ‘I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’

Sarah Alexander  spoke about the process her previous church in Newbury had gone through as they put together a Vision statement.
Two great quotes from Bill Hybels’s book  ‘Courageous Leadership’  encouraged us to think and plan boldly about the future:
‘If a vision doesn’t scare the pants off you then it probably isn’t God-honouring’.
‘Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion’.
After lunch we heard from members of 4 of our Sunday congregations about what it meant to them to belong to ‘their’ service.
Finally, members of the Building Committee led us through revised plans for the Building Project at Holy Trinity, and how a vision for a building must serve the wider vision of the church. We ended that session with praise and prayer before looking at the plans and a card model of the proposed building.
It was a very encouraging day – great to be together in a different and relaxed environment, and to be able to mix and talk with members of Holy Trinity congregations that we don’t normally spend time with. It was an exercise in talking through some significant things and encouraging one another about what might be possible in coming years under the Lord’s good hand.
In our services today (Sunday) we have looked at a church that was Growing, Giving and Going – the church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-30). No co-incidence that those three words and activities are also ones that are steering us through the next 5 years – unchanging truths from God’s word! The church in Antioch was a church growing in number, in spiritual depth, in generosity and in reputation. 'The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch'.
I personally look forward to what God has in store for Holy Trinity as we look to the future, but may we look back from the year 2020 and be able to report something along the lines of Acts 11:21
The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.’
A great weekend, about to end with a Youth Service at 7pm, and a 17 yr old preacher...

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Anglicans in Amsterdam

We are staying in Amsterdam for the second week of our Dutch holiday, and this morning we walked to Christ Church Amsterdam ( - dodging bikes and scooters on a beautiful route along canals and through side streets.
Christ Church is an Anglican Church welcoming both visitors to Amsterdam and residents, meeting in 3 centers across the city, and 'Making disciples of Christ in Amsterdam from all nations'.
The City Church congregation that we attended meets in a traditional church building and is, I suspect, the more traditional of the 3 services - a mixture of recognizably Anglican liturgy, silence, hymns (on guitar and bongos...) the Word and prayer. Romans 12, and a sermon on worship as a whole-life event was the theme:  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. The point was also made that we 'find ourselves' not by looking inwardly, but by finding our place in the Christian community, the body of Christ: so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 

The service was led by the Chaplain of Amsterdam, Rev James Hill. The notice sheet asked for prayers for the Assistant Chaplain, who is suffering multiple fractures after falling off his motorbike...

As the service ended we were welcomed by a number of people around us and invited to coffee.

There were about 50 people in the congregation including, remarkably, a couple from HT Redhill! Sam and Theresa Appau-Kwateng are here visiting family and were attending Christ Church with their niece and her family - great to have more time to chat with them than we usually do on a Sunday morning. The Anglican world is a small world sometimes, and I left feeling blessed to be a part of it!