Friday, 27 May 2016

We 'Circled The City'!!

On Sunday a group of us from AFC ‘Circled the City’ – that is we took part in Christian Aid’s sponsored walk in the City of London – and it was a really good event.

After trying to preach on The Trinity at church I did a quick change and we took the Tube to Moorgate eating our picnic lunch en route.

We then registered at St Mary Le Bow and began our six mile walk – along with maybe two hundred others.

Our first stop was St Paul’s Cathedral and after having our card stamped the guide invited us in for a free tour, finishing at the side altar containing Holman Hunt’s famous painting of Jesus as The Light of The World.

In fact that sort of welcome was indicative of all that was to follow at every church we visited.  At St Giles, Cripplegate, right in the middle of The Barbican, we were given coffee and cake, at Moorgate Catholic Church we saw a ‘prayer river’ being created down the nave, at St Botolph’s Without we wrote a prayer card and placed it on their board and at St Mary Woolnorth we were told about their former vicar, the famous hymn writer, John Newton.

The whole afternoon was full of laughter, banter, gentle smiles exchanged with our fellow walkers and a sense of purpose that with every step we were raising funds for Christian Aid.  And in all of this there was a feeling of partnership with our Church Community back home in Amersham who had so generously sponsored us to over £400.

There are times when I simply love being part of the Church – belonging to a caring, compassionate and dedicated movement of people – and Sunday was one of those occasions.

And...as we got on the train to go home, only then did it start raining!

Best wishes,

Ian
Ps Blog Holiday next week.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Trinity - an Enigma?!

Last week, on what surely must have been one of the wettest days of the Spring, a group of us from AFC visited Bletchley Park.

It’s been a few years since I was last there and in that time the place has benefitted enormously from an £8 million Lottery grant.

Churchill called Bletchley ‘The goose that laid the golden egg’.  He was, of course, referring to its secret war time work in code-breaking, especially deciphering the messages sent out via the famous German Enigma machines.

By the end of WWII Bletchley had 9,000 people on site and their top secret work is estimated to have shortened the conflict by two to four years – saving hundreds of thousands of lives in the process.

Last Wednesday, whilst in one of Bletchley’s famous huts, I watched a DVD presentation of some young sailors who swam across to a sinking U Boat in the hope of capturing an Enigma machine.  Of the three who attempted this mission – two went down with the submarine and only one returned.

As the film concluded I met a friend of mine who was also on the trip out in the corridor.  He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said: We must never underestimate the value of a single life.

It was a moving and precious moment between us.  We spoke of profound truths with an economy of words.  Our hearts met in affirming the value of human life – and then we moved on to greet the rest of the day.

I believe something of God was in that encounter.  For the truth is we meet God in all sorts of places and people.  God is never exclusively in our prayers and churches, but can somehow be experienced in the everyday and the non- ecclesiastical.

This week my thoughts have been drawn to this idea that we encounter God in a multi- sensory sort of way as I’ve been gearing up for the sermon this Trinity Sunday.

Strikes me that God is eager to bless our lives with the divine presence of love, light and peace and that we can and do meet God in creation, in Jesus and in the daily activity of The Spirit in just about any and every situation.

This Sunday I want to affirm my belief in
The God of Creativity
The God of Humanity and
The God of Community

And give thanks that the experience of the Divine can come to us at the most unexpected of moments.

Happy Trinity!

Ian

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Pentecost - A God Given Conspiracy!

It’s Pentecost in a few days time, on the 7th Sunday after Easter – the year is marching on!

It’s a day when Christians remember that mysterious manifestation of God as a rushing wind or flames of fire.  It’s painted by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles – called by one preacher ‘The Gospel of the Holy Spirit’ – as a dynamic moment which seems to have enlivened those early disciples of Jesus giving them fresh and enduring courage and vision.  No wonder it’s sometimes referred to as the ‘Birthday of The Church’.

Until 1978 Pentecost – or Whitsun – was marked by a Bank Holiday – today that’s been replaced by the more utilitarian one called ‘Spring Bank Holiday Monday’! 

In England, particularly the North West, it was the tradition for the Sunday School to get out their banner and parade it through the street, often following a brass band as they did so.

The Bible has many titles for the dynamic activity of God – they include: Comforter, Eternal Spirit, Spirit of the Living God, Holy Spirit of Promise, Spirit of Truth and Spirit of Wisdom.

In the Hebrew Scriptures the word used is often ‘Ruarch’ sometimes combined into the title ‘Ruarch Ha-Kodesh’ meaning Spirit of Holiness.  By itself ‘Ruarch’ means wind or invisible moving force.  

In her wonderful book, Home by Another Way, the American Episcopalian Preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor speaks of The Spirit as ‘breath’.  She notes that the word ‘conspire’ literally means to breathe together – so if we were to breathe in and out at the same time as a group we’d be launching a ‘Conspiracy’ – and even as we say it we can hear the shorter word ‘spirit’ within the longer one  ‘conspiracy’.

What, I wonder, does it mean to conspire with the spirit? – To breath together with the breath and life of God.

I think being aware and grateful for that life of The Spirit, God’s dynamic life, means when we come together for worship in church something life –giving happens as we unite together in singing, praying, listening and remembering.

I think being aware and grateful for that life of The Spirit, God’s dynamic life, means when we serve God in our community something life-enhancing blesses our world.

In one of the churches I used to serve in my congregation sometimes paid a lovely tribute to my predecessor – they said that during his ministry he had ‘opened the windows’!  What, I think, they meant by that was during his time amongst them they had become much more conscious of the breath and wind of God blessing and enlivening them.

So, let’s rejoice that all of us can be part of this God Given Conspiracy as we too open the windows and marvel at the blessing of God’s life and energy moving among us bring healing, wholeness, peace , justice and joy.

Best wishes,

Ian

Friday, 6 May 2016

'Vibrations of Goodness'

It was Ascension Day yesterday and quite a busy one here in Amersham!

In the morning I was very pleased to receive an invitation to join St Michael’s for their Ascension Day Eucharist in the Lady Chapel – and this was followed by a Clergy Lunch for those of us who minister on ‘The Hill’.

The next three weekends at church have a certain pattern that never changes from year to year: Ascension Sunday followed by Pentecost Sunday followed by Trinity Sunday.  That last one ushers in a liturgical season that basically lasts right up until November and the beginning of Advent!

Trinity (sometimes called ‘Ordinary Time’) lasts for almost half the Church’s Year and it’s a long season with only Remembrance Sunday and Harvest to break it up – we seem to put all the major festivals in the first half.  To avid ‘stole’ watches this season’s liturgical colour is green!

I suppose in a way I celebrated Ascension yesterday with music.
In the evening we went to St Martin in the Fields as part of the congregation for the BBC Radio  4 live broadcast of ‘A Celebration for Ascension Day’ – it was great fun being ‘rehearsed’ before hand and singing up when the red light came on!  It was a great service as it included a jazz setting of communion composed by Will Todd who was present with his Ensemble. 

The Bishop of Liverpool preached the sermon which included inspirational one liners such as ‘the earthing of heaven’ and ‘a faith with two horizons’.

During the journey into town on the train I listened to a fascinating podcast from Radio Wales’ Sunday Morning Programme presented every week by a former President of the Baptist Union, The Revd Roy Jenkins.  In this particular podcast he was interviewing the composer Margaret Rizza.  Over recent years many of us have grown to love the church music of this Opera singer turned composer.

Margaret is also a Patron of The Retreat Association and her music has a certain spiritual quality about it that makes it both hauntingly beautiful and profoundly moving.

She has come to composition ‘late in life’ – that’s her description – and she spoke with such conviction of her desire to unite music and prayer and hopes that both are a force for good in a fractured world.  In fact Margaret’s description (and longing) for her music, and her prayers, is that they might carry ‘Vibrations of Goodness’.  Isn’t that a stunning phrase and one that, I think, says so much about what we believe is the value of worship and prayer – that somehow in their communication something of God’s presence is communicated. 

But perhaps my abiding memory of Ascension Day 2016 is that of sitting up in the gallery of St Martin’s watching the pure delight on my eldest son’s face as he listened to the last piece of music in the service – a jazz rendition of Sing Hosanna - to which we were all tapping our feet.  For me it really did feel like a ‘Vibration of Goodness’ moment – and I thank God for it!

All good wishes,

Ian    

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