Some Thoughts on Mission

The poem “Crossing the Bar” was read and sung at a funeral here in May and it got me thinking of many things, and particularly brought my mind back to when we lived in Branscombe, Devon. There, we used to enjoy sitting out in the garden on a warm summer night when the wind was from the South East because we could hear the sound of the sea on the shingle beach some half a mile away. It was a soothing sound – a kind of audio-massage – de-stressing at times when life was busy.

That sound was mentioned, too, in another poem, Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” where it says, “Listen! you hear the grating roar /Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,/At their return, up the high strand, /Begin, and cease, and then again begin, /With tremulous cadence slow, and bring /The eternal note of sadness in.”But I had forgotten that it goes on to say, “The Sea of Faith /Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore /Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. /But now I only hear /Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, /Retreating, to the breath /Of the night-wind,/ down the vast edges drear /And naked shingles of the world.

Today we live as Christians in a world from which the tide of faith has withdrawn. So what can we do? Arnold’s lament at the passing of the full tide of religious faith was reflected by my grandson. He enjoys surfing, and for him the outgoing tide meant no more fun. He sat on the beach chuntering away. I told him to be patient and wait for the tide to turn. But for his sister, low tide opened up a fascinating new world in the rock pools – crabs, sea anemones, star fish, razor shells and many other wriggling delights. She was happy in this new world revealed to her and was absorbed for hours.

Thinking back, my grandchildren’s reactions to low tide were like a parable of how the church looks at today’s world.

Are we sitting in Faringdon waiting for the tide to turn, chuntering because the church and faith no longer have the status they once had? Are we hoping for a revival of the past, when it seemed from our full churches that everybody believed? Or, can we realise and recognise that the new world revealed by the retreating tide is just as full of God’s glory and presence as was the old world in which faith played a more overtly prominent part? People in today’s world aren’t the naturally religious animals they apparently once were. So should we stop trying to impose our faith upon people and agree that the Christian faith is a private world-view equally valid with all other world views?

Attractive as this idea may be, it is impossible to hold it and be true to the Gospel. God is present everywhere, already – if he was absent from anything it’d cease to exist. And it would be arrogance to think that it was the work of Christian mission that introduced God into a situation. But the witness of the New Testament is that we must grasp two things: the fact that God is king over all his creation and over his people, and; that we can enter into a loving relationship with him. So I see mission has a double task.

First we have to help people realise that they are loved and cared for by the God and Father of Jesus, and that the acknowledgement of the God who is present everywhere sets people free. The light which has dawned on the people who lived in darkness, is the new situation which has come about through the presence of Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is close at hand, Jesus proclaims that God rules over all. This doesn’t, of course, mean that Jesus thought that God had not always been king, but that, with his coming a new age was dawning in which the true nature of God’s Lordship could be understood and acknowledged.

Secondly, our mission task is to encourage people to enter into a saving relationship with God. Jesus challenged his disciples, and through them, challenges us to be ‘fishers of men’. One of our primary tasks as Christians is to share in the missionary work of the church. And that means not only supporting the work of those who are full-time missionaries, but also recognising that each of us is commissioned by Christ to proclaim the God who is present wherever we live.

But we can’t go on using past methods in today’s world. It is inescapable fact that the sea of faith has ebbed to a new low water mark that is probably unique in history. Just as in the past our overseas missionaries’ first priority was to learn the languages of the people to whom they went, so we must give time and effort to the job of learning. We must learn what makes western secular society tick. We must engage with the underlying philosophies by which our lives are unconsciously shaped, and measure them against the Gospel of Jesus.

As Paul struggled to interpret the Christian message for the Greek speaking world, so we must struggle to interpret the message for our culture.

Max Young

JESUS . . . “Will come again in glory . . .” (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

The Return or re-appearance of Jesus, with the subsequent Judgment and final new unending Kingdom is by far the most difficult section to grasp fully, i.e. with an understanding that accords with every aspect of our Faith, and makes sense of all that we have come to believe about the eternal God. In the next article we shall specially think about the Glory and the Judgment.

In this series we thought first about the One and only true God as Creator and Father. Next his unique and only Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer, who lived amongst us giving all for us. Then the Holy Spirit of God who makes all this true and real in our lives just as he did for the very first Christians. That same divine Spirit also reveals the whole plan and purpose of God stretching across all time and eternity. So now we think about the great end goal; the glorious final purpose of God. To sum up: our first two articles dealt with the Christian doctrine of the Creation: “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1); now we look at the grand conclusion, or as we might briefly say, “in the end God”.

So let’s take a well-known verse from Scripture as our starting point. Writing to the Christians at Colossae St Paul makes this key statement of faith and hope: “Your life is hid with Christ in God [and] when Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:3-4). This is short hand of course, and like many passages in the New Testament speaking about the second coming or ‘coming again’ of Jesus (the first of course being his birth), it has been interpreted in differing ways. Moreover it has often been completely misunderstood, and then taught as true doctrine by many people and groups within the church, and outside the church.

The New Testament itself does show development in the meaning of Christ’s teaching and promises about the end times, and with differing emphases. Like much of our holy Faith, it rings real and true in our innermost heart and feelings, yet makes full rational, thought-out understanding very difficult. We are wrestling with crucial truths of faith with limited human language and knowledge; with beliefs that relate to both our natural order and world and the supernatural at the same time. The things of time and eternity intertwine and overlap, so it is far from easy to find adequate words to express these important beliefs; yet are nevertheless totally real and true. We have to hold in balance two different but related perceptions and consciousness of life here and life hereafter.

Hence the important question we now have to consider is this. How far (especially in our scientific and rightly critical era) must we take literally these Second Coming passages in the Gospels and other writings? For plainly they do speak of the physical return of Jesus which every human eye at that time would see. (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7; etc). Indeed, in the early years after Pentecost such a coming again was regarded by most Christians as imminent, even longed for, and might well actually happen in their own life time (Mark 9: 1; 2 Peter 3:8-10; etc). Note also that the Kingdom which Jesus would inaugurate at his return is sometimes expressed as a glorious transformation of this present world order, yet also and most emphatically, is also seen as totally other and beyond our created world. (Revelation 21:1-6; 7:9-17; John 14:1-6; etc).

Jesus did not return soon as first expected. And the church’s prayerful reflective thought in the New Testament era and the following centuries gradually lifted belief in his Return from purely physical and down-to-earth concepts, to something absolutely real, but spiritual; within time indeed, yet transcending time and this created order, linking it to the eternal world of heaven. The new Kingdom is also seen as inexpressibly wonderful and perfect; all beautiful and lovely, unfading and unending; and above all, close to and somehow within the very heavenly life of the Holy Trinity.

About all this, apart from symbolic picture language, we are given little further explanation. And though future in one sense, we are linked to it now by faith and anticipation, looking forward to its complete fulfilment. This is because we are forever “hid with Christ in God”. Our lives are indeed firmly placed in this good world with present urgent tasks of love, but our eyes are also focussed on a far far greater future.

To sum up, after the Ascension and Pentecost Jesus did return again and again in countless good and wonderful ways; and whenever he came all was put right. (We shall think about the final putting right and ultimate judgment in our next article). Supremely this coming again was experienced at its most real and deepest in the Christian Eucharist (1 Corinthians 10: 16-17), in the Fellowship and the Prayer (Acts 2:42; Matthew 18:20), and as God’s nurturing Word of Holy Scripture is opened up (Colossians 3:16-17). All this is the first phase of the great final unending Kingdom: the very Kingdom of God ushered in by Christ for which we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. To this very day Jesus still returns to us, again and again and again.

At some point in time there will be a final Return and a final putting right of all things, though actually when and how that will be, and just what it will be like, we have no detailed knowledge. It is pointless to speculate about it, because we do not know God’s timescale or his full detailed plan, nor the future path of our Universe, or the progress of the human race. We do know however, with firm confidence, that within the sovereignty and loving purposes of the Eternal God everything from the beginning to the end is securely and safely within his hands and power. Nothing but nothing, within the time and space of our great universe of infinite capacity, and everything beyond all this in the heavenly eternal world, is outside that great Saving Love revealed in Jesus. The Incarnation, and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus with the glorious Ascension, confirmed and sealed at Pentecost, are the sure proof and guarantee (Romans 8:31-39).

One day, in God’s good time and merciful purpose, when our human life here is ended, you and I will indeed be taken to our eternal home by Jesus (John 14:3;1 Thessalonians 4:14). We will truly share in the ecstatic mystery of the final glorious return of Christ our King, seeing our beloved Lord face to face in joy forever (1 John 3:2). We will share eternal joy too with countless Angels and Saints (Hebrews 12:22-24; etc); with our loved ones already there, and with Mary the blessed mother of our Incarnate Saviour who at incalculable cost gave himself for us so that all this might be so.

Praise be to him! Amen.

George Abell

Steve Writes . . . Why is it easier to jump off a cliff backwards than to talk to my friends about God?

So begins an article on a brilliant website www.thykingdomcome.global which helps us to take part in ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. Thy Kingdom Come is a special time of prayer between Ascension Day, 25th May, and Pentecost, 4th June. It’s the initiative of our Archbishop Justin Welby. He’s inviting us and all Christians across churches and countries to pray specifically for people we know to become Christians.

At All Saints’ we’ll be offering special opportunities to pray for friends and family to discover a living faith in Jesus (see the weekly notice sheet in May). There are great resources for individuals, churches and families at the website mentioned above.

We’re not alone in struggling to talk about our faith to our friends – indeed Archbishop Justin recently spoke about his difficulty speaking about his faith when at university. He relates how a mission was being planned at his university and how there was someone he was wanting to ask to come along. He explained, “I was terrified, absolutely terrified, and I prayed for him every day but I couldn’t quite get up the nerve to ask him to one of the talks.” The mission started and he still hadn’t asked him. He described feeling like a complete failure because he hadn’t had the courage to invite his friend to one of the events. But God had been at work and his prayers were answered in the strangest way.

During the week of the mission he was in the library when the friend he had planned to invite came up to him. Welby recalls, “He said, “Oh Hi, Justin… I hear there’s some kind of Christian thing going on this week in the university.” and I said, “Yep, yes there is.” He said, ‘Is there any chance I could be allowed to go to it?’ And I said, ‘Yes… you can come with me if you like!’ He said, ‘Oh, can you spare the time?’ I said, ‘Yes.’

The friend went along and through that mission he found Christ and is still walking with Him today. According to the Archbishop, “The Holy Spirit is the one who opens ears and warms hearts, not us.”

No need to wait until 25th May to start praying for friends or family to come to know Jesus, but watch out for what All Saints’ is doing for ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.

Yours in Christ,

Steve

Missions News May 2017

News from Church Mission Society 

News from the Church Mission Society

We have just heard that Lynn Treneary has been welcomed into the church and the college on Easter Sunday as a Lay Reader. Our congratulations have been sent to her and our prayer support as she extends her work in South Sudan.

You will have read on the notice board in the Barber Rooms about the continued fighting in South Sudan. It has also been on the BBC News and in the newspapers. Now there is a drought in East Africa to add to the problems. We can only pray for the mercy of God and for guidance to the church to know how to help bring those who are fighting together – to make peace.

CMS is also working with those in camps in the Middle East, where there are almost 5 million refugees from Syria. The conditions are not good and many have lost all hope, so much so, that, according to the papers many are committing suicide. One Lebanese couple living in the UK felt that God was calling them to return to Lebanon and help these people. They did not know how they could help and prayed for God to show them what He wanted them to do. They felt that God said to them,

“One day I will have you stand in front of my throne and I will ask you: ‘I was marginalised, and what did you do, I had nothing, I had no school, I was a child stranger, what did you do?

This couple set up a school for 80 children in the camp from ages 3-15 years. CMS is providing their living costs as they carry out this work.

Other couples are doing a similar work in the refugee camps in Iraq, Jordan and Egypt. For safety reasons they  cannot be named or written about,  and some have to be careful how they witness to their Christian faith. But, along with their setting up schools or health centres, they work to bring hope to those who have none, and to show them that they are loved by God and they are not alone.

It costs £36 a day to support these brave couples and make their work possible. Will you pray for them. We cannot support every request we receive, but pray to know if this is your call. Any gifts can be sent to Church Mission Society, Watlington Road, Oxford, OX4 6BZ

Date for your diary

The Revd Colin Smith, from CMS will be preaching on 11th June at the 10.30am service at All Saints’. This will be followed by a Bring-&- Share lunch with him in the Barber Rooms and a chance to talk further.

Members of our congregation meet every third Wednesday of the month at 10.30am at 8 Coach Lane to pray together for Lynn and CMS. Do join us any time, Jesus called us to pray together as well as individually. We look forward to more taking up the call to pray.

Joan Plumptre

The Revd Elizabeth Tyndall

27th June 1930 —13th April 2017

Elizabeth and her late husband, Nick Tyndall, came to live permanently in Faringdon in 1992 after they retired. Elizabeth had been in full-time ministry as a Parish Deacon in Feltham.

On Saturday 16th April 1994 at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon, she was Ordained and Licensed as priest to serve in the Vale of the White Horse. For Elizabeth this was indeed a ‘crowning moment’ and she was one of the first Anglican women priests. It was not the idea of being equal with men that made her rejoice, but rather she felt that women also have a vital role to play in God’s ministry. As a Non-Stipendiary Minister she soon became involved in church life – taking services in All Saints’ and also throughout the Vale. She was the first woman priest to preside at Eaton Hastings and Buscot and was a great help in putting together their first Deanery Review. Members of the church at Coleshill remember her with great affection.

When a group, which focused on contemplative worship and led by Father Leo of the Blessed Hugh, came to an end, Elizabeth re-formed another based on the style of Julian of Norwich.  A thriving Group continued for a number of years and continues today. Elizabeth was also a Committee Member of the National Julian Meetings and valued the experience of silent retreats and often led them.

Elizabeth will always be remembered as a calm, wise and well-loved friend, whose advice and support were always available. Having taken a problem to discuss with her meant there was a way forward after all.  She and Nick ran a welcoming home, with invitations to join them for coffee or a meal or simply to call in for a chat. Family gatherings or holidays were action-packed and always involved board games and, on one occasion, they even hired a horse-drawn caravan as transport!

When Nick died, in 2006, Elizabeth already had dementia; a Pilgrim Friends Society Nursing Home (Framland) in Wantage was chosen for her. Their care and compassion were no less than outstanding, a true Christian witness.  Indeed, they loved her and even quite recently one member of staff was able to make Elizabeth laugh.  It is good to know that Elizabeth still retained her sense of humour.

She is survived by their children, Simon, Sally, Rebecca and Daniel.

Joan Whittaker and Janet Deane

APCM 2017

All Saints’ Annual Parochial Church Meeting

All Saints’ APCM was held after the 10.30am service on Sunday 2nd April.  At the APCM the officers are elected for the coming year, the Annual Accounts are accepted and the reports from the previous year are presented.

The following people were elected:
Church Wardens:               Katie Foot and Jim McGowan
Assistant Warden:             Andrew Sargent
Deanery Synod Representatives – to serve from 2017 to 2020:
Peter Foot, John Seedell, Margaret Starr,
David Wilson
PCC Members – to serve 2017 to 2020:
John Coleman, Kate Crebbin, Joanne Raybone,
Wendy Tynan

PCC members already serving are:
Until 2018:                  David Barber, Jon Chamberlain, Geoff Edgington
Until 2019:                  Kate Butcher, Julie Campbell, Elaine Cox,
John Hignett, Ibby Southerden, Peter Southerden
Invited to attend:       Bruce Garfield  (Buildings Consultations)

Our Licensed Lay Ministers also serve on PCC:
Graham Scott-Brown and Helen Wilson

The bi-monthly PCC meetings are chaired by the Vicar

Independent Examiner:       Gill Garrard was appointed

A short meeting of the above members took place after the formal meeting and the following were appointed:
Honorary Treasurer:            Dave Wilson
Secretary:                              Beryl Begg

In his summary of the Annual Accounts, the Treasurer, Dave Wilson, said we are recovering well from the building of the Barber Rooms in that the loans are now paid, the Parish Share of £63,248 was paid in full, we made donations to Missions and Charities which were over 10% of our income, and with improvements in the value of investments in the Stock Market we are now in a good financial position.

However, we should not be complacent as in the coming year we face an increase in the Parish Share, Quinquennial repairs to the Church, and the need for a new heating boiler before next winter.  Dave asked everyone to carefully consider their giving, and maybe continue with pledges made to the Barber Rooms, which would enable us to deal with the maintenance of the Church and outreach to our town.

In his report to the meeting, the Vicar the Revd Steve Bellamy, thanked everyone for the warm welcome he and Wendy had received on their arrival. Thanks were also expressed to all those who help with the running and outreach at All Saints’, particularly Joy Blake, who is to retire after 40 years dedicated to the music at our Church.

Steve urged us to look forward to where God is leading us, and to identify His mission for us. This may mean changes that we will need to dig deep to fund, and work hard to fulfil, but by being committed, prayerful and open to the Holy Spirit we can achieve great things together, as we witness to the people around us.

Joy Blake’s Retirement

At the Civic Service on Sunday 23rd April, Joy Blake was presented with a crystal bowl by the Church Wardens to mark her retirement after 40 years as Organist and Choirmaster.

There was full congregation of Church members and many civic dignitaries to thank her for all she has so willingly offered to God and his people at All Saints’ over the years.

We all wish Joy all the best in her retirement

Never Volunteer

You would have thought that in my seven years in a Royal Naval school and over twenty years in the Army I’d have become inured to withstand requests to volunteer for anything. They say the Army teaches soldiers two things: “If in doubt, put down smoke and go left”; and “Never volunteer for anything”.

“Never volunteer” – when asked for volunteers, soldiers become poker-faced, apparently deaf, and learn to reply, without havering or putting up questionable excuses that they regretted their inability to volunteer for this very worthy task but, unfortunately they already had a commitment. (probably confidential – need to know and all that.)

I’m afraid, I failed not to volunteer on a number of occasions – sorry for the double negative! One of them was back in about June last year when Margaret Starr cornered me and said something to the effect that she needed my expertise (flattery) – she had heard me telling of my time as an Army caterer. Within a very short time I found I had accepted the responsibility of assisting to produce a supper meal for sixty in the Barber Rooms at the end of November. And what a production team it was! Margaret was boss with Jeni Summerfield running the kitchen and a goodly team of cooks and helpers. Then Margaret suggested that it made good sense that the diners were given something to take home after the feast and that I should conceive and organise this ‘gift’. But what gift could I give? A number of possibilities crossed my mind – a bottle of water from South West Uganda? a small pack of Cheese straws? a block of chocolate moulded into the WATSAN Logo?, . . . .  or what? It was, I suppose the word ’gift’ that made me think of our God-given gifts or Talents and a very short hop from there to the parable to be found in both Mark and Luke.

But who would put down the ‘seed money’ for this venture? There were a number of possibilities, and happily, the first person I approached said they thought that their contribution would be rather like handing out starters for sourdough loaves, part of it would be combined with more flour and water and made into a loaf – and so the YEAST PROJECT  was born. YE Are So Talented!

Unlike the recipients of the Talents in Mark and Luke’s version of the parable, the Yeast Project recipients were self- selected and as in Luke’s version given the same amount each. The other difference is that to reduce any pressure on recipients, no names or records were kept – the counting was done in the same way as the counting of the collection of envelopes is carried out each Sunday with complete confidentiality. We know there were some big bags of talents from a number of volunteers, including one of £500! We also know that we/they enjoyed the challenge and met it in a number of different ways – using the money to buy blank CD’s and selling recordings of their work – making marmalade, cakes and  biscuits – using the talent to buy sausages and selling ‘bangers and mash’ lunches – giving talks – making sacrifices by gathering funds from what would have been normal expenditure and putting it in the ‘yeast pot’ instead – Running a stall on a Saturday morning – perhaps the envelope fillers could let me know what they did to achieve what was, in the end, a magnificent result.

Yeast Project envelopes counted thus far raised £2,131 – so WATSAN and the fund for Parish Mission in Faringdon will each receive £1,065.

Many, many thanks to all involved in any way with the Yeast Project, your efforts have been magnificently successful. Here’s what we prayed when the Talents were received and blessed on Easter Sunday:

Heavenly Father, we offer these gifts, raised through the talents you have given us, to help with the work of WATSAN in South West Uganda and here in our Mission in this parish. Half these gifts will go where we cannot go and help those we cannot see or reach ourselves in Uganda and; half will be used here with those we can both see and reach. Through these gifts may the ignorant be taught, the thirsty for water and the knowledge of Jesus be satisfied, and your Kingdom increased. We ask your blessing on these gifts, on all those who accepted the challenge to grow their talents and those who supported them – and on the work of WATSAN and our Mission here.  We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Max Young

JESUS . . . Ascended into heaven . . . seated at the Father’s right hand

Exploring the Nicene Creed

The Ascension or return to heaven of Jesus marks the completion of the greatest life ever lived on this earth. There will never be a life like that again: indeed never again will there be need for such a life! Jesus, the eternal Son of God had for some 33 years shared our human life in all its fullness. He had adopted servant-hood for all our sakes, for all people and for all time (See Philippians 2: 5-11). Truly one of us, as the Son of Man, he had made possible the world’s salvation: that we might be “ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven” saved through Christ forever.

This was reconciliation desperately needed with our Father God: restoration of freedom and liberty, and the essential goodness of creation and humanity, marred and damaged by sin and evil. It was achieved only by the unlimited, unconditional, freely given, utterly generous love of Christ our Saviour.

The cost had been very high, nothing less than the shed blood of Jesus in Sacrifice on the Cross. And what seemed the most terrible tragedy ever turned out to be the greatest possible victory over all evil, sin and death. We celebrate that at Eastertide and in a special way at Ascensiontide, and every single day.

Now, having successfully completed the Salvation task Jesus would leave the disciple band he had loved and nurtured. He had patiently trained these men and women for worldwide mission to carry forward to every place the Good News of God’s Redemptive Love. He had left the throne of heaven to achieve all this. The day had come for him to say good bye to those loyal friends firmly promising his continued presence in a new and different dimension. They would have the very presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit; a charisma and dynamism that would continue century after century until the end of time and final second coming of Jesus. We shall think more about this in the next article.

The Ascension also meant the enthronement of Jesus or as this Creed expresses it: “seated at the Father’s right hand”. It’s an assertion of his divine Kingship; of his authority and power over all creation and all people; of his great High Priesthood, and his perpetual intercession for the Church, his body, bride and love. (See Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:8-11; Romans 8: 34; Hebrews 1:3-8; 4:14-16 & 7:25; Revelation 22:17).

The actual manner of that departure is beyond our full comprehension and so difficult to describe. As in the 40 days after his resurrection from death Jesus’ comings and goings though real and tangible were quite mysterious. One minute he was with them, the next he had vanished and was absent. In telling the story of those dramatic days the Gospel writers had only human language to speak of events which were both natural and supernatural at the same time.

In an earlier article I tried to explain how in the Nicene Creed some of its truths are expressed in a down to earth way, i.e. in a concrete or literal manner; but that some truths cannot be expressed that way at all. The statements then have to be much more that of symbol, metaphor or analogy. The Resurrection did happen. The Ascension did happen.

They are truths of sound and coherent faith built on actual events and circumstances seen and witnessed however hard to explain. They conveyed deep vital meaning and transforming power which those first followers of the Lord and countless millions since have experienced, and still do so. Jesus, my Lord and my God; ascended, glorified, reigning; my Saviour, my King and my all.

Again they give worthwhile purpose for living and new hope in an oft confused torn world, and they give greater love for our creator God and for each other. They also carry a very special meaning, pointing to and assuring us of our resurrection in Christ, of our ascension to be with him one day. For these we have real certain foretaste now. The Gospel Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are real outward signs of this. Baptism confers the gift of new eternal life. Communion nurtures that gift, nourishing it throughout our lives until we see Christ in heaven, sharing also his final return in glory.

To sum up, the Ascension means the presence, not the absence of Jesus. The apostles firmly believed that he would still be with them by his Spirit. After the Ascension they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy”, not an emotion you feel if you have lost your best friend! (Luke 24:50-53). The Ascension meant gain not loss. Jesus would be closer to them than he ever was before. And he left Mount Olivet to be with us also, and in every human heart and place the world over, including Faringdon and Little Coxwell.

He was taken from human sight so that he might come to us wherever and however we are, as friend and brother, companion, guide and Saviour. He is as close as the quiet prayer we say in trustful faith, or the loving act we show to another person. Though we cannot see him we cannot lose him once we have opened our hearts to him (Revelation 3:20-21). Closed or barred doors still mean nothing to Jesus! He finds endless ways to break into those hearts that do not believe in him or would try to shut him out and reject him. In the end, I believe he will win every single soul without exception. (John 6:39). Such is his powerful Love and his infinite mercy.

A Litany of Praise to Jesus

For his holy Incarnation and victorious Cross: Blessed be Jesus our Lord and God.
For his triumphant Resurrection and glorious Ascension: Blessed be Jesus.
For the gift of his Spirit and the holy catholic Church: Blessed be Jesus.
For the gifts of grace in Word and Sacrament and Fellowship: Blessed be Jesus.
For the triumphs of his Gospel, the lives of his Saints, and yours and mine: Blessed be Jesus.
For joy or for sorrow, and in life and in death: Blessed be Jesus.
For the hope of eternal glory with him and with each other: Blessed be Jesus.
From now until the end of the ages: Blessed be Jesus our Lord and God.
Alleluia. Amen.

George Abell

Which Bible Character are you most like?

This was one of the challenges from this year’s Lent course, to help in our discussions with others when talking about our faith – I’d like to share with you my experience….

Playing around on the internet I found the perfect online quiz to help me with this. After answering 10 multiple choice  questions, it pronounced I was definitely a Deborah. Well, I know sometimes I can be quite determined, and maybe even want to use a tent peg other than for pitching a tent sometimes, but I wasn’t sure this was quite right.

I talked to a colleague about the ‘Faith Pictures’ course, and asked her if she would agree with the character – immediately she replied that I wasn’t a Deborah (whatever was I thinking!), I was quite clearly an Esther. Oh! I hadn’t thought of her . . . so I asked another colleague, “Am I a Deborah or an Esther?” Again, no hesitation, I was an Esther.

So I asked another colleague who agreed to give it some thought over the day – just as I was leaving work she told me that she could think of no-one better than Esther to describe me! I was beginning to feel a bit unsettled by this, whatever was God telling me?

At the Lent Group that night I was telling this story to a church member that I didn’t know very well, but didn’t give the character’s name. She looked at me and said “Did they all say you are an Esther?”! Oh my goodness, God was trying to tell me something. I had such a visceral reaction to this, I went so cold and goose-bumpy, I thought I had better start praying and finding out more . . .

The first description of Esther I read said “Esther was undoubtedly beautiful …”  – I didn’t need to read any further! (I’m not that daft, I carried on reading!). Esther was a woman chosen by God to do his work, but in a measured way, sure of her commitments and her place in the situation in which she found herself. She was considered in her actions, and looked for ways to undertake her task whilst still respecting and understanding those around her. She strikes me as having a well-developed Emotional Intelligence, an understanding of how people ‘tick’, and a clear sense of wrong and right.

Most importantly she knew what she believed to be right, and determinedly and loyally followed her actions through to achieve the desired outcome, showing a resilience and surety that I would like to possess.

I am still not sure what it is that God is telling me, and am praying hard for Him to make it clearer, but I would value anyone’s insight to help me to develop my understanding of whether I really am an Esther, or whether you think I am more like a different character. The course has certainly given me food for thought, and challenged me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Kate Butcher