Church News – January 2021

From the Sanctuary

As I look out at my garden at this time of year, the cyclamens are in bloom, the snowdrops are peeping through the earth, and the dwarf daffodils are beginning to show their presence. In spite of each of these having had to endure the winter temperatures, they are still blossoming forth, formed by the hardship that they are facing. We can do that too!

We have certainly endured some challenges in 2020. For some, it has been the challenge of what to do with themselves on another day of another lockdown. In my work and ministry, I have had to (very) quickly come to terms with using technology as another way to educate others and enable ministry.   It has been amazing what it can do, but it has also been very stressful to master at times. Others have faced unemployment, uncertainty and loss (in its many forms).

The end of the pandemic, we are told, is in sight – but yet, it still seems a long way off. To help us cope with this situation, social media and the internet are full of advice on how to look after our mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, I haven’t noticed very much there about how to look after our spiritual health – which, for us as Christians, is an important part of maintaining our mental health wellbeing too. The two are very intertwined, in my experience.

However, we do have the Bible, which is full of stories about folk who have had to ‘endure’ and struggle – and we can learn a lot about how to endure, and hold on, from them, which is very useful at this time. Our hymns are also full of wisdom and encouragement too. They express hope, and help us develop our relationship with God and with each other, through love, which are the main things that we can hold onto in these storms of life.

As the hymn says: “Will your anchor hold in the storms of life when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?” And we can reply in faith, “…We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll. Fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.”

So, if you can, try and see beyond the pandemic to the many blessings that surround us. We can still fulfil our potential, as the bulbs and cyclamens are doing. We can still be grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love. So, continue to stay safe and follow the guidance of ‘wash your hands, use a mask, and give others space’. And I wish you every blessing for a wonderful New Year ahead.

Epiphany for today

This month we celebrate Epiphany, when we remember the Magi from the East who followed a star to find the baby Jesus: ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’ (Matthew 2:1).

At the start of a New Year, amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, are we asking the same question? The gifts they offered show us how we can find Him in the uncertainty of the coming year: ‘they bowed down and worshipped Him…and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.’ (2:11).

The gift of gold reflects that the Magi saw in the baby a king, destined to rule over us all. In this coming year we need to remember that Jesus is on the throne, the seat of power and authority in the whole universe. Will we crown Him king of our lives and dedicate all that we are and do to Him?

The gift of frankincense reflects that the visitors saw not just an earthly king, but God in human flesh. Incense symbolises the prayers of God’s people and so this gift reminds us that God is worthy of our worship and prayer. Will we offer our praise and prayer, as we seek God to guide us through the uncertainties of this time?

The gift of myrrh reflects that these astrologers saw beyond the baby’s birth and life, to His death which would secure life for all. Jesus was offered myrrh on the cross and was a spice used in His tomb. As we face the sufferings of this New Year, we can be confident that Jesus knows and understands our experience. Are we ready to trust Him?

‘Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and Sacrifice! Heav’n sings Hallelujah: Hallelujah the earth replies.’ (‘We Three Kings’).

A New Year, but in terms of church gatherings, very much the same as the last one (at the moment)! We are very grateful to Peter for posting our services on line on the first and third Sunday’s of the month. These are available on Zoom and if you have Zoom software, it is an easy procedure to join us. Please let Sue Selby know if you would like to be sent the link in future. Worship on the Web is available on YouTube and on the Church Facebook page. Our calendar for the month follows:

Sunday3rdMorning Worship on Zoom11 a.m.
Monday4thChurch Committee6 p.m.
Wednesday6thM.W.A. Meeting on Zoom7 p.m.
Sunday10thWorship on the Web
Sunday17thMorning Worship on Zoom11 a.m.
Sunday24thWorship on the Web
Sunday31stWorship on the Web

As you may know, our church has been a supporter of Tearfund for many years and this article may be of interest.

Tearfund helping the vulnerable

This past year, with coronavirus spreading in some of the world’s poorest communities, the UK Christian relief charity Tearfund has been busier than ever.

Worldwide, millions of people have been locked down and unable to work, and thus unable to buy food. Refugees are stranded in crowded camps with little access to clean water or basic items like soap to protect themselves against the virus.

Tearfund is working in more than 50 countries, and this past year alone has reached 1.5million people with help of various kinds.  It also installed 1,783 hand-washing stations, distributed 83,476 hygiene kits, and sent out 271,790 personal hygiene messages.

A Tearfund spokesman says: “We are doing all we can to stand with the most vulnerable people at this time. We are adapting our programmes and finding new ways to safely support people in need.”