Saturday, 24 June 2017

Congratulations to Peter Churcher!

To Croydon Minster yesterday for the Ordination of Priests. 

I was invited to support Peter Churcher, who is now Curate at St John the Baptist, West Wickham

I (and the rest of the family) have very happy memories of working with Peter in Woodmansterne, where he was our Youth and Children's minister. 

During that time Peter met Josie, and it was my great joy to conduct their wedding.

The Ordination service was a reminder that it is God who chooses, equips and sends out people into ministry. We are dependent on him for all we need to carry out the role - here is part of the Ordination prayer:

'Through your Spirit, Heavenly Father, give these your servants grace and power to proclaim the gospel of yur salvation and minister the sacraments o the new covenant. Renew them in holiness, and give them wisdom and discipline to work faithfully with those committed to their charge. In union with their fellow servants in Christ, may they reconcile what is divided, heal what is wounded, and restore what is lost.'

And my favourite part of the service comes at the end, as each person is handed a Bible - not because they don't already have one (Peter has plenty), but as a reminder of where their authority to minister comes from: 
'Receive this book, as a sign of the authority which God has given you this day to preach the gospel of Christ and to minister his holy sacraments'.

Go do it, Peter!

God bless Peter, Josie, Sophie, Faith, Izzy and Zander in this new chapter of life and ministry! 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Where will the goats live? 

Yesterday, Sunday 11th June, we launched our Connected Building Project across all of our services at Holy Trinity.

We watched a video, containing an architects ‘virtual tour’ of the proposed building - enhanced by some superbly creative editing from Aneal Appadoo - and a script from me to describe the main features and potential of the building. The video helped us to think about how a Connected building will enable and enhance mission and ministry on this site for years to come. 

You can watch the video by clicking here.

We followed up the video by thinking about how God has given us two tools with which to build: Prayer and Finances, both of which we will need to put to use in faith.

At the end of each of our services yesterday there was opportunity to chat about the presentation over coffee and doughnuts, and members of HT were invited to use post it notes to respond to what they'd heard. Children had the opportunity to write or draw on on a graffiti wall.

My own hope and prayer is that we will reach the end of this project not just rejoicing in a new building, but in the God we have encountered along the way. Churches like Holy Trinity have seen God answer prayer in remarkable ways as they have set out on a project like this, providing in ways that they could never have anticipated.  We are at the beginning of an exciting and challenging journey...

There was one question that I hadn't anticipated:

I'm pleased to report that the plans for the building don't include any alterations to the goat shed - Rose and Doc will watch the new building take shape from the end of the church garden. I'm also delighted at this depth of detailed attention to the project from one of our youngest members.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Groaning (again) in hope

There was, not surprisingly, a sombre atmosphere at our morning services yesterday. 

London Bridge and Borough Market are very familiar - for some, daily - locations for people in Redhill. There were some people in church who had been eating in the Market the previous evening, and another church family had caught the train from London Bridge to Redhill just minutes before the attack began. 

Pentecost songs and readings reminded us of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of God, who draws alongside, comforts, and reminds us of the true nature of God in Jesus Christ. But there wasn't the usual sense of celebration that comes with Pentecost. 

But it was good to be together - to pray for the victims and all caught up in the attack. To pray that those who would love to destabilise our society - particularly in this election week - might be frustrated. To be thankful for the Police and the emergency services, and to pray for those who are dealing with the aftermath. 

More than that, though, we gathered as we do every week as those who have hope, and who believe in the victory of God over evil through the cross and the resurrection of Christ - those who are submitting our lives to be changed more into the likeness of Christ so that the world might see him through us.

This morning's Scripture Union bible study notes - presumably written months in advance - couldn't have been more appropriate. 
The reading was Romans Chapter 8:18-39 - entitled 'Present Suffering and Future Glory' and I recommend reading it before taking time to read Bishop Graham Cray's notes on it below:

'Teach me to carry the pain of the world to the heart of God in prayer, for it to find its true healing in Christ.'

What is the Father’s family business? What is our inheritance in Christ? It is the restoration of the whole creation (vs 19–23). The church is the hope of creation. The created order needs the ‘freedom and glory of the children of God’ (v 21). Creation longs for what the children of God already have. The church is a sign of hope – but hope involves suffering before the full glory of creation healed can be achieved.

The suffering is expressed in the word ‘groan’ (vs 22,23,26). The creation groans because of its decay and futility. If it could speak it would say, ‘It’s not meant to be like this!’ 

However, the church is part of creation, part of its present condition and of its future in Christ. Because our bodies are not yet redeemed we can identify with the frustrated cry of creation, but we are bearers of hope. We know that one day creation will not be like this. 

The pain of creation is more than we can bear, but the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers and responds ‘with groans too deep for words’ (v 26, ISV). This responsive Spirit dwells, not far away in heaven, but in the church. The church lives in the midst of a broken creation as a sign and communicator of hope. Our privilege as Christ’s fellow heirs is to turn the groaning of creation into the labour pains of the new creation.

In the light of this vocation, Paul assures us that God is at work to make us like Christ, that God will provide what we need, that he will protect us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God (v 39). We are to give ourselves to a broken world assured that we are secure in the love of God.

Graham Cray

You can find Scripture Union Daily Bible Reading notes by clicking hereImage result for word live scripture union

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Choosing the light

Today's news has been increasingly hard to bear.

From the first reports of an incident last night at 11pm, through the estimates of the number of dead and injured, to the agonising radio interview with a mother still awaiting news of her missing 15 year-old daughter in the cold light of a Manchester morning.
And then the release of the first couple of names, and ages, and photographs...all more real and unbearable. 8 years old. A dark day.

Thanks to the prompting of 2 HT members early this morning (thanks, Steve and Jane) and the rallying round of a small team, we have been able to open up the church for prayer and keep it open all day. 

When I was eventually able to take advantage of the space and the quiet myself I was overwhelmed. I'm probably not the only one to sit and cry, and pray, and ask 'why?' today. It's been repeated in homes and schools and churches around the country, no doubt.

Words will provide the answers in due course - I don't doubt that. But there is 'a time to weep...and a time to mourn', there is a time just to stare into the abject darkness of an act like this and ask what is going in and why doesn't God act like I would do if I had all the power.  Sometimes you've got to stare into the darkness of not knowing all the answers to begin to see the light, and today feels like one of those days.

I'm writing this whilst sitting in a silent Holy Trinity Church, whereas less than 24 hours ago I was here along with 200+ others joining in heartfelt prayer and praise as HT hosted the annual Archdeacon's Visitation Service (could do with a snappier title). 
Most were here because they were being licensed to serve as Churchwardens, or commissioned as PCC members in churches of the Reigate Deanery. People who give their time and skills, often at no small cost to themselves, to see their local church functioning as a beacon of light in the darkness, and to see others coming into that light as they hear the gospel of Jesus. A couple of hundred people moved and motivated and energised by the self-sacrificial love of God that they have understood and experienced through their own encounter with Jesus. 

You can make the contrast yourselves between the beauty of God in Jesus Christ, and the imaginary god of the bomber. (The bomber has just been named as a 22year old - tragic in itself). 

Today I (we) pray for those bereaved, for those injured and receiving treatment, for parents waiting to hear news, for paramedics, Police and children who witnessed horrific scenes last night and for those involved in the long process of bringing physical, emotional and spiritual healing. But I (we) may also pray thankfully that in Jesus Christ there is hope and light to counter the darkness. 

Many of us will be back in church on Thursday evening for an Ascension Day service. 
Luke, the writer of Acts tells us that Jesus, having been crucified, buried, and raised to life, then returned to heaven. The ascension teaches us that the crucified and risen one is now in the close presence of his Father from where he will one day return as judge and king over a renewed heaven and earth. What will that look like? Revelation 21 gives us a glimpse so that we can stare into its light and find hope...

'I heard a loud voice from the throne saying "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" 

There is hope in Jesus and faith means waiting in that hope and choosing to live in the light rather than despairing over the darkness.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Good Friday in Redhill

An estimated 300 members of various Redhill Churches joined in our annual open-air Good Friday service this morning. 

We came from all directions carrying crosses from our own churches to gather at the steps of the Harlequin Theatre. 

It was Holy Trinity's turn to lead this service, and so:

  • I welcomed the crowd and led us through the service
  • Sarah Alexander spoke from the Bible (of which more, below...)
  • Paul Taylor led us in prayers for the world, for Redhill and for those in need
  • A member of HT gave a moving account of how her faith in Christ and the support of her church family has brought her through a hugely difficult time.
  • Others spoke about why the cross of Christ is so important to them

Sarah's text was Romans 5:6-8, and was illustrated with imaginative use of road-signs...  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It was a great event, gathering together Christians from numerous churches and denominations as well as a few curious passers by around the cross. 
We ended with an anticipation of Easter Sunday as we sang 
'Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son; endless is the vict'ry thou o'er death hast won!'

Thank you to those who worked behind the scenes to make the event possible, not least of all Robert Burch for the sound equip't, the Churches Together Orchestra for the musical lead, Paul Puzey from Churches Together, Redhill Methodist Church for the hot cross buns (!), the staff and management of the Harlequin Theatre, and the very willing co-operation of Reigate and Banstead Council in clearing the area of building works.

A few more shots...

Sarah and Hayley

Ian and David

Jenny and a bun

Chris and his cross

Hayley and me

Stainer's Crucifixion at HT

The choir of Holy Trinity led us last night in Stainer's Crucifixion. 

Rev W.J.Sparrow-Simpson, who wrote all the words to The Crucifixion (his Tim Rice to Stainer's Andrew Lloyd-Webber), followed the reading of Jesus' cry from the cross - 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do' - with these wonderful words as the opening verse of a hymn: 

Jesus the Crucified, pleads for me,
while He is nailed to the shameful tree,
Scorned and forsaken, derided and curst,
See how His enemies do their worst!
Yet, in the midst of the torture and shame,
Jesus, the Crucified, breathes my name!
Wonder of wonders, oh! how can it be?
Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me.

It was a reminder of the staggering truth that Jesus,
as he hung on the cross prayed for those who crucified and mocked him.

The writer to the Hebrews teaches us (at the end of a rather complex few verses about Melchizedek the priest in the Old Testament), that Jesus, now raised from death and at the right hand of the Father, continues to pray for his people. On the basis of his own sacrifice in the place of those who look to him, Jesus intercedes / appeals to the Father for our salvation. 

'because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:24, 25

It is a truth that brings great assurance and peace: God the Father is constantly reminded of the fact that Jesus died for me.

Jesus, the Crucified, breathes my name!
Wonder of wonders, oh! how can it be?
Jesus, the Crucified, pleads for me.

That is just one of many good reasons for calling it Good Friday!

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Congratulations to Chika and Charles!

Holy Trinity Church Centre was, last night, the venue for an evening of ceremony and celebration as Chika Okeke and Charles Adijahun were married in a Nigerian ceremony that will shortly be followed by a church ceremony. 

It was a uniting of two families, one from east Nigeria and the other from the west, and was conducted in two languages - some of the ceremony had to be spoken in the Igbo language, and the remainder (inc my prayers...) in English. 

Music, dancing, several changes of clothes for the bride and groom, a magnificent 'set' that transformed the church centre, food and much laughter made it a spectacular and memorable event. At the heart of it was praise and thanksgiving to God for his goodness to the families: 'God is good, all the time - all the time, God is good' was a regular, spontaneous response led by the MC (yes, there were 2 MCs, one from each family), and the 'most important gift' (among many!) that the groom's family brought was a bible.

There was an extended period of waiting as senior members of both families went out to a separate room to negotiate the 'Bride Price' - but it seemed to go well and they all returned smiling.

It was delight to see the Okeke family celebrating in this way, and a personal privilege to be invited to be part of it. May God continue to bless these 2 families with his goodness, and may Chika and Charles' marriage bring many more occasions for celebration.