Thursday, 14 December 2017

Holy Trinity at the Borough council meeting!

To the Town Hall tonight for a meeting of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council.                                                                                                                                I was one of two Holy Trinity members called into action at short notice...                                                                                                                                              First substitution: The Mayor, Cllr Roger Newstead, had fallen ill and so called on his Deputy Mayor - and Holy Trinity member - Cllr Frank Kelly to chair tonight's meeting of the council.                                                                                                                                      Second substitution: The Mayor's Chaplain also phoned in sick and - as if he hadn't got enough on his mind - Frank had to look for a quick replacement. So he called his Vicar.
My part was to open the meeting with 'a few words and a prayer'... 
I chose to read from Luke 2:1-7, which sets the Christmas narrative in the rule of Caesar Augustus  and 'Quirinius...governor of Syria' and sees the business of national and local government taking place as a census is called and people register for the gathering of taxes. 
We prayed that the Council might be part of the greater purposes of God at work in the world, and that members might follow the example of his Son who exercised authority with gentleness and humility (symbolised by the manger).
The agenda was a packed one, with items on air pollution, the welcoming of Syrian refugees into the Borough, a draft policy on identifying land for building necessary new housing, an item on Boundary changes, and the delicate matter of Councillors' allowances. It was all conducted in a very civilised and generous spirited manner. 
Frank did a sterling job - he was a very capable Chair and handled procedures with apparent ease. As Deputy Mayor, he has had a taste of life in the hot seat!
The evening ended with an invitation to mince pies and Christmas Carols in the Mayor's Chamber...though by the time I left, the singing had turned to 'On Ilkely Moor bah't 'at', which isn't very Reigate and Banstead.  

Monday, 11 December 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Carol services and Nativity plays have commenced in Redhill!

Carols in the Belfry 2017

Hundreds of people gathered in the centre of town tonight for the annual Churches Together Carols in the Belfry.

The event brings together churches from across the town - and wider - to mark the season with a joint service of Carol singing, Bible teaching and prayer. 

In addition to carols and readings from the Bible, we had two choirs sing to us, we had a message of welcome from the manager of the (sparkling) Belfry Shopping Centre, and a stirring message from Luke's gospel telling us about One Unique Moment, One Unique Voice and One Unique Hope (thanks to Mike Williams of Reigate Baptist Church!)

It was a great event, and a joy to celebrate with members of other churches across town.

Scratch Nativity

Earlier in the day (at our Sun@9.15, Sun@11 and Sun@4 services), we retold the Nativity story, and thought about 'What are we expecting?' when it comes to Christmas. Members of the congregation had responded well to the invitation to come dressed as Kings, Angels or Shepherds (we also had sheep, camels and stars), and we gradually added to the tableau as the story was told. 
Aneal spoke about the One promised by God through Isaiah:

    He shall be called 
The King on the left has to check his own post
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.

The words of a new song that we had heard earlier in the service summed up the sense of wonder that this Mighty God and everlasting King should be born as a fragile human being:

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
that we could hold God in our hands,
giver of life is born in the night,
revealing God's glorious plan
to save the world
(You can listen to it here)

And in other Nativity news...

We had celebrated with the Under 5s earlier in the week at their Christmas Nativity service on Tuesday, but it was the Friends of Jesus who kicked it all off on the previous Saturday with their Christmas Party and telling of the Nativity!


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Life Essentials in Dorking and Redhill

Holy Trinity's Church Weekend Away (at Home) had been a long time in the planning!

So it was with great excitement and anticipation that around 180 members of all ages travelled to St Paul's Church in Dorking for the 'away' leg of our weekend. 

Our speaker was Lee McMunn, known to some of us from his 'Identity' course that we have used over the past few years at HT to help people think through the claims of the Christian faith. He has since launched a website called Life Essentials with that same end - to help people find a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

He is the Minister of the newly planted Trinity Church in Scarborough, and came to us to encourage us ahead of our Year of Mission in 2018.

Lee spoke to us from Psalms 95 to 97: 'Captivated by God' (Psalm 95), 'Commanded by God' (Psalm 96) and 'Convinced by God' (Psalm 97). It was a tremendously encouraging time as we were reminded of the sovereignty of God, the call to respond to him in worship and to make him known in the world. 

The children and the Friends of Jesus enjoyed their own activities and Bible teaching - as did Focus (who also managed a trip to the Ice Cream shop in Dorking, plus a delivery of Dominoes pizza...)

The encouragement of the Psalms is to 'sing for joy to the LORD...shout aloud to the rock of our salvation' and we were led in praise and sung worship by the band - the singing seemed to increase in volume as we heard more from the Psalms...

There was free time mid-afternoon to wander around Dorking, to join a more ambitious walk in the fields around the town, or time to just enjoy being together with other members of HT in a different setting. St Paul's have recently connected their ancient church building to a brand new church centre - similar to the plans we have at HT.

The day ended with fish and chips - very Scarborough!

The Home leg of the Weekend Away at Home was here at HT today. We heard from Luke 12 and Luke 13 on 'What is a successful life?' 

For me there are two highlights from this weekend:

One was Lee's clarity and conviction as he taught the Bible, proclaimed Jesus and urged us towards a response. He stated from the outset that his purpose was to give us a renewed conviction that the word of God in the Bible has power to change lives - and there was evidence this weekend that God did that among us.

The other is the knowledge that, God willing, Lee will be back with a team next year to help us in our mission. I for one will have confidence in inviting folks along to hear the gospel explained by a gifted evangelist. 

All Lee's talks will soon be on our website - click here for HT sermons:

Monday, 13 November 2017

It all started last Christmas, Bishop...

Last night was an evening of celebration and Confirmation at Holy Trinity. 

Eight candidates from Holy Trinity were joined by others from All Saints, Merstham and St Margaret's, Chipstead as they were confirmed by the Bishop of Southwark.

For a number of reasons I believe this service will stick in my mind for some time to come:

The first was the care that Bishop Christopher took to sit down and spend 30+ minutes with the candidates before Confirming them. He invited them to talk together, then talk in the group, about how the Lord had worked in their lives to bring them to this point of publicly confirming their faith in Jesus. It led to some very honest and powerful testimonies about how God had worked through life experiences - including tragedy / loss, and the arrival of children - and through friends and family members to bring them to church. In each case they spoke about how the church had welcomed them into the community and how they had found courses, sermons, conversations with others the means by which God had spoken to them and drawn them to himself. 

Christmas was a critical moment for at least 5 of the candidates. Coming to church for children's Christingle services, or to a candlelit Carol Service was the entry point for them - and they had continued to come and to grow in faith to the point of wanting to be confirmed. What was so good about this was the way in which each of the candidates was able to articulate what God had done in their lives in the course of less than a year. It's also a great encouragement as we plan and prepare our Advent and Christmas services for this year!

Last, and not least, it was a great joy to see Gary and Katie Pullam (above) confirmed together. Gary was baptised at Timperley Church two years ago - you can see his story here - their 5 children were also baptised a couple of weeks ago, and last night both were confirmed. God is good!

A prayer from the service of Confirmation:
Defend, O Lord, these your servants with your heavenly grace, that they may continue yours forever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more until they come to your everlasting kingdom. Amen.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Arp and the art of re-membering


To Margate yesterday, and the Turner Exhibition 

The main attraction was Tracey Emin's unmade bed: My Bed famously features the Margate artist's own bed and gives a snapshot of her life after a traumatic relationship breakdown. Emin has chosen some of JMW Turner's seascapes and stormy skies to be displayed alongside the chaos of her bedroom. Apart from the vodka and tights (and Turner paintings) it reminded me of a scene from my flat before I got married...

The second exhibition was 'Arp - The Poetry of Forms': Hans Arp was a German / French sculptor, painter and poet. He was active either side of the 2nd WW and exhibited alongside Henri Matisse. You can see more of his work here (it's worth a click!).

I wandered into that exhibition without much expectation, but came away deciding to completely rewrite my sermon for today's Family Memorial Service in the light of how Arp had responded to his own experiences of bereavement and loss. 

What really grabbed me was a painting called 'Torn Drawing' (see below) and the story behind it. 

There were two periods in Arp's life – times of trauma and loss – when his art took a different form. One one occasion he lost his mother and close friend in quick succession – and in his grief he took some of his own material and tore it up, cutting it up into pieces and making something different with it...sometimes just letting the pieces fall to the ground to see what emerged.  His wife and fellow artist (Sophie Taeuber) painted 'Torn Drawing' to depict this. 

A few years later Sophie herself died in a tragic accident – part of Arp's response to that was to tear up some of her works and create something new from the pieces as a kind of last act of their work together. (Hard to know what she would have made of that…)

On my mind as I was wandering around the exhibition was the group of people that I knew I'd be speaking to today - those who have recently suffered bereavement and would be coming to remember their loved ones at our Family Memorial Service. 

Here's (part of) what I made of it this afternoon:

...maybe as people who are here this afternoon because you have lost someone you love, you can begin to imagine what was on Jean Arp's mind.
Bereavement and loss make their mark on us – sometimes very deeply indeed. To the point that we can almost say that we’re not the same people that we were before our loss. 
You’ve come to remember and give thanks for those who you have loved and lost. We’ve remembered them as their names have been read and we’ve lit a candle. They were and are still part of our life-story.
But remembering has another meaning – re-membering is the process of putting thinks back together again. Taking the members, the parts, and re assembling them when they have been torn or broken like a dropped plate or cup.  Picking up the pieces, is the way we sometimes describe it. In this kind of re-membering we begin to retell our story in the light of our loss, and slowly try to make sense of it. Our lives that feel torn and broken we begin to re- assemble - and something new slowly begins to emerge. We don’t get over a close bereavement – we learn to live with it and we’re changed in the process. 
I went on...
In the gospels we read that God re-members the world he made – he has stepped in at great cost to himself. In Jesus he has come to restore a broken world and put back together people who recognise their brokenness and come to him. 
In our reading we heard these words, spoken by Jesus  – ‘Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’  The gospel tells us that Jesus, God made man, laid down his life on a Roman cross.  At the foot of the cross his mother, his disciples, his family stood watching – confused and broken by events. What did Jesus’ death mean? – why was it happening?  – it wasn’t what they had imagined or hoped for. The last 3 years of their lives had been given to this man that they had got closer to and put more of their trust in. And now, death. The end of hope.
But of course there was an even more life-changing event to follow - Jesus’ death is followed 3 days later by his resurrection – God the Father remembering his Son and raising him from death to life.
Not the same but a new creation, and as Jesus steps out of the tomb on that first Easter morning he brings about a new promise of resurrection and restored lives for those who come to him.It was life-transforming news for those who had grieved at the foot of the cross. They themselves were not the same people following the death of Jesus, and even less so after they met the risen Jesus...
In Jesus, God bore our pain and suffering –  our brokenness – he did it not for his friends alone, but even for those who initially rejected and crucified him. He did it in order to re-member, to restore a broken world suffering because of its broken relationship with God.   God remembers the world he loves.
The good news for you and me – particularly in the face of loss – is that God longs to put back together broken people who come to him through Jesus. 

There was more...but that'll do for now.

I recommend a trip to Margate, and the Turner Contemporary!

Jean Arp, Etoile

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Large Church Leaders

There is potential for misunderstanding here, particularly in the light of recently publicised holidays for the larger person...but around 120 leaders of churches with a regular Sunday attendance of 350+ gathered together last week for the National Larger Anglican Churches Consultation. 

It is a bi-annual Consultation rather than a Conference, encouraging participants to talk together around issues and opportunities peculiar to leading larger churches. This is the 4th NLACC I’ve attended, and each time I've come away full of ideas and encouragement. 

The organisers are CPAS, and the event was ‘co-hosted’ by Chris Green (Vicar, St James, Muswell Hill) and Sheila Porter (Senior Minister, St George’s, Deal.).

No larger church seems to have escaped a large building project - I met one Vicar who is currently in the middle of a relocation and new-build costing £16M... 

Among those who addressed the assembled clergy was Dr Ian Paul, who writes the Psephizo blog that I and others on the staff team at HT follow. He has since blogged on his contribution to the event (see here: What did Large Churches ever do for us?) The 4 axes that he refers to are ones that we may use with our PCC here at HT to do some thinking about the future - very helpful stuff! 

One feature of the changing landscape of British church life is that there are an increasing number of larger churches - with a corresponding strengthening of smaller churches and decline of medium sized churches (see the Psephizo blog for more). It seems to reflect a loyalty to local parish churches on the part of some, whilst those who get in a car to find a larger church (for a variety of reasons) are increasingly more likely to settle in a larger  church than a medium-sized one. We spent time discussing how larger churches (typically in towns) can be ‘resource churches’ to smaller parish churches (typically in villages or outlying areas) - sometimes referred to as the Minster model. More food for thought for HT...

One spin-off of this growth in the number of larger churches is that the venue we have always used (High Leigh, Hoddesdon - above) is becoming too small to accommodate the growing numbers of clergy eager to attend, and 2019 will need to find a larger venue. Either that, or High Leigh will need a building project of its would have no shortage of clergy to offer advice. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Halloween at Holy Trinity

I realise that anyone who expresses reservations about the way our society has embraced Halloween runs the risk of looking like a party pooper on a par with Scrooge and the Grinch who stole Christmas. So, far from being negative, see below for the ways in which Holy Trinity is offering alternative ways of marking All Hallow's Eve, running into All Saints Day...

But first, see this excellent video by Glen Scrivener on why we might choose to celebrate light rather than darkness, life rather than death...  You'll want to watch it more than once.

On 31st October we have a Family Movie Night, with pizza and popcorn - see poster below for details. If your kids are keen to dress up and go out, then bring them along to join in the fun! Call the church office on 01737 766604 to book in.

When the Trick or Treat visitors come to your door, rather than shouting Bible verses at them through the letterbox or hiding behind the sofa, why not give them one of the following?:
  • Sweets - give them what they want! Buy yourself a pack of fun-sized Mars Bars / Haribo and pick up a sheet of stickers from the foyer to decorate the choc. 
Let's join in the celebrations by pointing to Jesus the Light of the World!

'The vict'ry lies not with the forces of night, 
but dawned with the one who said "I am the Light".'