Steve writes … Be an inviter to God’s party

As we head towards Christmas, it’s great to celebrate and there’s no way Christians should be party-poopers. Yet we also want to point beyond the crackers and presents and food. We want to highlight the real reason to party especially when 5% of our fellow Britons (rising to 10% in the 25 to 35 age group) believe that Father Christmas makes an appearance in the biblical story of the nativity and over a third of the population thinks the Bible says that December 25th is Jesus’ birthday.

In an act of stupendous grace, generosity and love God acted to bring back men, women and children to know him and follow him. God launched the greatest rescue mission in the world in Jesus, his son. As Jesus came to live a human life amongst us, we see what living as God intended looks like, we also see the lengths God goes to in order to save us from the effects of our selfishness and pride as Jesus died on the cross. Forgiveness and new life are now freely offered to us.

Becoming and being a Christian, knowing life in all its fullness here and hereafter is the best thing anyone could have or receive this Christmas.

So let’s not be slow to offer the invitation to the real Christmas party which doesn’t end when the food and drink runs out. There are lots of occasions to invite folk to including the Town Nativity in the Market Place with three real camels at 6.00pm on Friday December 8th ( best to get there by 5.45pm for a good place), Carols by Candlelight December 17th at 6.30pm, Messy Nativity on Thursday 21st at 4.00 to 6.00pm, where families with younger children can come and do Christmas crafts, then an impromptu Nativity before enjoying a family tea together, and a 45-minute All Age Celebration on Christmas Morning at 10.30am. (see the full list of services elsewhere and look out for the Christmas leaflets to give to others).

Then in the New Year we’ll all do the Alpha Course together to get ourselves in shape for sharing the love of Jesus in word and deed in 2018.

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas filled with the peace and joy of Jesus

Steve

Home Group Meetings in December

New members are always most welcome at all Home Groups – please use the number listed below for more details.

Day and Dates Time Place Contact Subject
Monday
11th
7.45pm 28 The Pines 240 532

Real Hope

Tuesday
12th

2.30pm 13 Fernham Road 240 848

Ephesians

Wednesday
13th

7.45pm 2 Leamington Gate 615 009

Social

Thursday
14th
8.00pm 10B Coxwell Street 242 753

Isaiah

Prayer Calendar for December

Please continue to pray for the life and work of our parishes

Fri 1st Mission of the Month – The Children’s Society.
Sat 2nd “Festive Faringdon” today.
Sun 3rd Morning: NSPCC Toy Service. Afternoon: United Advent Service.
Mon 4th Community activities in Faringdon and Little Coxwell.
Tues 5th Leaders for our young people’s work.
Wed 6th “Life & Mission of God’s Church” prayer meeting this evening.
Thurs 7th For all Prayer and Home Groups in our church.
Fri 8th For all attending the Town Nativity this evening.
Sat 9th Lynn Treneary and the challenges she faces in South Sudan.
Sun 10th Worship and music at All Saints’ and St Mary’s.
Mon 11th Bell ringers practicing this evening.
Tues 12th All who are ill, recently bereaved or in any other kind of need.
Wed 13th Our Bishops Steven and Colin, and our Area Dean David.
Thurs 14th “Open the Book” at the Infant and Junior School this morning.
Fri 15th Flower Guild decorating the Church for Christmas.
Sat 16th “Carols by Candlelight” at St Mary’s this evening.
Sun 17th “Carols by Candlelight” at All Saints’ this evening.
Mon 18th  Steve, Graham, Helen, Barbara, Dick, John, Max & Paul.
Tues 19th Paul Walker, our appointed Curate, his wife and family.
Wed 20th For all who help run our Churches.
Thurs 21st Afternoon: Messy Nativity. Evening: Carol singing Little Coxwell.
Fri 22nd For all on their own or homeless this Christmas.
Sat 23rd Peace in the world where there is current strife.
Sun 24th All attending Midnight Holy Communion.
Mon 25th Christmas Day Services here and throughout the world.
Tues 26th Families and friends as they get together over Christmas.
Wed 27th Wardens, Vergers and Welcomers, Intercessors and Readers.
Thurs 28th Our continued search for a Director of Music.
Fri 29th Our witness to friends and neighbours.
Sat 30th The Wisbey family.
Sun 31st Thanks to God for His blessings in the past year.

Meetings for Prayer in December

All Saints’ seeks to have an active and regular prayer ministry with a number of informal meetings during the month to which all are very welcome.

Friday 1st  7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Tuesday 5th 2.00-3.00pm Julian Meeting (18 Eastfield Court)
Tuesday 5th 8.00-9.00pm Julian Meeting (call 244 905 for venue)
Wednesday 6th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Wednesday 6th 7.30pm Life & Mission of Church (Church)
Friday 8th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Wednesday 13th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Friday 15th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Friday 15th 8.00pm Prayer for the World (Call 240 509 for venue)
Tuesday 19th 8.00-9.00pm Julian Meeting (call 244 905 for venue)
Wednesday 20th 9.00am Morning Prayer (Lower Asset Room)
Wednesday 20th 10.30-11.30am Prayer for CMS (8 Coach Lane)
Friday 22nd 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)
Friday 29th 7.40-8.30am Parish Prayers (20 Market Place)

Life & Mission of God’s Church (1st Wednesday evening):
Steve Bellamy (240 106)

Julian Meeting (Tuesday afternoon):
Pat Tylee (241 039)

Julian Meeting (Tuesday evening):
Beryl Begg (244 905)

CMS Prayer Group (3rd Wednesday morning):
Bob & Joan Plumptre (243 388)

Parish Prayers (Friday am) and Prayer for the World (Friday pm):
Graham & Margaret Scott-Brown (240 509)

Mission of the Month for December: The Children’s Society

The Church of England Children’s Society is a leading national charity dedicated to providing vital help and support for those who are affected by disadvantage and discrimination in their daily lives. Children who are unable to cope, feel unsafe and are unable to find the support, help or understanding they need. The Society also helps those with learning difficulties, disabled children and children in care.

The Society’s Project Workers help children with their problems by listening, supporting and acting to change their lives, working with children one-to-one and in groups to help them stay safe and re-build their lives when the worst has happened to them.

Last year the Society’s Project Workers helped over 13,000 young people across the country and have changed the lives of millions of young people through its campaigning and lobbying work and so far 27 councils have agreed to support those leaving care by providing council tax exemptions.

Its campaigning work is bringing real, lasting change to many lives. Its partnership with businesses, councils and fund-raising bodies is continuing to bring results that allow thousands of vulnerable children to flourish.

The Society’s annual Good Childhood Report, launched last month, produced in partnership with the University of York, revealed very many serious problems which are making young people feel worried – fear of crime, living in a family struggling to pay the bills, etc. The report also shows that too many children don’t feel safe, loved or able to cope.

Your continuing help enables the Society to do its work in reaching out to those in great need. Thanks to your support many young people have been able to access the social, physical and financial resources they need to help them with the issues they are facing. Without your help so many young lives would not have changed for the better.

Very many thanks for your loyalty and support of this worthy cause. It is greatly appreciated.

Hazel Catling
242 355

Missions News

News from CMS

CMS

We were pleased to hear that our Mission Partner, Lynn Treneary, arrived back in Maridi, South Sudan, safely in November. The situation was not good as there had been some fighting in the area during her absence.

She went with our good wishes and some money collected from her Link Parishes to pay for her internet connection. On 13th November we received the following e-mail

Dear Joan,

Thank you for your lovely email.

It has been and still is a real epic of a journey to try and get the internet connected. The short story is the engineers have been with me a week, after I had to send the car for them, and have not managed with two modems. They have given up today. They are going back to Yambio and then returning with a new modem.

I should tell you they are taking a risk as, as recently as Saturday, lootings took place on the road quite near here. Fuel is still exorbitant. I’m so glad I had the collection from you all which is helping me to not stress too much.

I hope to be in touch again before too long. In the meantime please add to your other prayers for a stop to HIV AIDS and Hepatitis B ravaging us like wildfire.

Love to you all  Lynn

During November we collected donations towards the new plane from MAF to be based in Juba, South Sudan. This plane will help Lynn to move around more easily, as the roads are not safe, with armed patrols roaming the area. It will also bring her post and enable her to get to Uganda to her bank.

This magazine will be printed before we know the total raised, but it will be on the Barber Rooms notice boards. Our thanks to those who signed the Christmas Cards for Lynn, they have been posted to her.

I do ask readers to make a practice of reading the CMS board, every time you visit the Barber Rooms. The board is updated most weeks, with topics for your prayers. Our congregation have promised to support Lynn by our prayers for her. Lynn says that she relies on this and knows when God is answering our prayers.

We heard this week of an answer to our prayers for South Sudan from Malcolm, a CMS Mission Partner based in Gulu, Uganda. He had visited a refugee camp in north Uganda, where thousands of South Sudanese from different tribes had fled. There was a strong belief that God was at work there, uniting the different tribes. They hope and pray that, when the refugees are able to return to South Sudan, they will take this spirit of co-operation with them.

Other news from CMS

Six years ago, a young lad called Steve, visited South America with his school. They visited a waste tip in Honduras and met the children, over 100 of them, who spent their lives picking over the rubbish, looking for things they could sell or eat. They had no hope and many died of poisoning from the fumes. Steve met and talked with a young lad of 13, it was his birthday and Steve could not forget him.

Six years later, and Steve has returned to Honduras as a Mission Partner of CMS. During those years, CMS had partnered with the charity, Street Kids Direct and set up a school especially for the children from the tip and called it Love, Faith and Hope. Steve found that Jimmy was there, in the school, now aged 19 and doing well, a changed person.

While Steve was there, a local shoe chain offered to give 100 of the school children a free pair of shoes. Jimmy was one of the chosen ones and he was so proud to show Steve his first ever pair of new shoes

The next weekend Jimmy went with Steve to visit a children’s home in the area, proudly wearing his new shoes. Steve saw him talking with a young boy in the home, then he saw Jimmy reach into his bag, pull out his old shoes and put them on his feet. He then gave his new shoes to the boy in the home.

Steve went over to this boy and asked what was going on. The boy said that Jimmy had said that God had blessed him so much in his life. He had said ” I have two pairs of shoes now and yours are falling apart, and I want to pass on God’s Blessing to you” Jimmy didn’t say anything to Steve, he didn’t say “Look what I have done” he just did it.

It is a challenge to us this Christmas. God has given us so much in our lives and Blessed us. Can we, like Jimmy, quietly pass on God’s Blessing to someone in need.

For more information about CMS contact:

Joan Plumptre (243 388)

 

St Mary’s News

We will be decorating the Church for Christmas on Saturday 16th December from 9.00am. If anyone would like to come and help please call Pippa on 01367 240 050.

St Mary’s Carols by Candlelight will also be on Saturday 16th December at 6.00pm with mulled wine and mince pies afterwards. On Christmas Day there will be a Family Holy Communion Service at 9.00am. As always, visitors are warmly welcomed.

We will be Carol Singing around Little Coxwell village on Thursday 21st December starting at 6.00pm for Crisis at Christmas. If you are interested in joining us, or would like us to sing to you, please contact Pippa for further details on 01367 240 050. We sing for the fun of it!

Just to confirm the usual services – there will be a service the day after the Carol Service on Sunday 17th December, but the service on Sunday 24th December has been cancelled.

Post Christmas and New Year

On 14th January at 9.00am the Revd Paul Winchester will be taking a service for Plough Sunday, the first of the rural services, and tea and coffee will be served afterwards. The remaining services in January follow the usual pattern.

Dates for your diary

Monday 29th January 2017 at 7.45 pm PCC meeting at Gorse Cottage.

We believe the Holiness and Unity of the Church (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

In this article we shall think first about the Holiness of the Church then its Oneness.

What does holy and holiness really mean? In Old Testament Hebrew the word for ‘holy’ is kadosh; and in New Testament Greek hagios. It simply means ‘separated or set apart’, the same in both Testaments, and is used for God and for his people. In Leviticus 19:2 Moses speaks to the whole Israelite people: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”. In 1 Peter 1:15 the writer speaks to the Christian assembly: “As he who has called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct”; and again in Chapter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.

This shows how holy is invariably used in a faith-religious context with strong moral emphasis, and with real everyday relevance and application for the whole of life. It means being set apart and dedicated for a higher wider purpose or ‘consecration’. And the Christian Church is certainly not an exclusive club with a ghetto mentality! Indeed our Lord spoke of his readiness to give himself utterly for his disciples and for all of us and his whole world, when he said: “And for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth” (John 17:19). Some translations have ‘sanctify’ which means the same.

Thinking about the holiness of God as taught in holy Scripture, and supremely as seen in Jesus, we could sum it up like this: God is faultless and unfailing in perfect Love, Goodness, Beauty, Truth and Purity; in Understanding and Wisdom; in glorious Eternal Purpose for all Creation; and above all in Compassion, Justice and Mercy. And there is no malice or evil intent or sin in God.

Such is our Holy God, and we who bear his image and likeness are called and challenged to be holy too. . . nothing less. To put it mildly it’s a very tall order; a tremendous challenge! But the Church of Christ has never hesitated to accept that vocation enshrining it in its Creeds as its sure belief, knowing that the God who calls us never fails to equip us with his grace. It means to become and to be what we truly are, by the grace of justification (put right with God), and sanctification (made holy by God).

This is why the Church speaks of Holy Baptism, Holy Confirmation, Holy Eucharist and Communion, Holy Marriage and Holy Orders (Ordained Ministry); Holy Scripture and Holy forgiveness, freely available for everyone forever. And a Holy Fellowship too, both universal and local, of those who seek to help, support and care for each other, in the loving holiness journey.

There are times of course when ‘Holy Church’ has seemed anything but holy. There are not a few dreadful pages in its history. But there are far more better pages; and such there will always be, for however much you and I let the side down (as we sadly do), our holy God and Saviour never lets us go, leading us on to better holier ways.

When we looked at the meaning of ‘Catholic’ it was necessary to see something also of the Church’s Oneness and Unity. ‘Catholic’ we learnt means holding the true universally received Faith of the Church, the one common biblical Faith of the New Testament – a Faith which by its very nature unites us. ‘Catholic or world-wide’ also means embracing all nations, races, colours; all social groups, ages, abilities; gender and sexuality. No one is excluded from the Gospel of Christ and the Christian Family.

So an essential component of the Church’s unity and harmony is its adherence to the Gospel truth, that ‘there is only one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all’ (Ephesians 4:3). And “of us all” means exactly that – all peoples across all continents, all human families, all shapes and sizes; all made one-in-Christ by Baptism forever. (We shall look at this again later).

The Church is fundamentally One because there is only one God. And so there can only be one sure organization with the mission and task of bringing God’s Creative-Saving Love to all humanity. This, the Christian Church faithfully fulfils by God’s clear guiding Light and divine grace. And though other world faiths may teach much that is good, only faith in Christ Jesus provides the fullness of truth.

The Church’s Unity however, though truly real in its undergirding essence of Baptismal Life is still sadly impaired in various other levels. At Communion, before sharing ‘The Peace’, the president often says: “We are the Body of Christ and in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12,13). Indeed we are the Body of Christ whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist or whatever. Our prayer and hope should be that this becomes a full complete reality, embracing all the Churches; with sharing of all Ministries and the Sacramental Bread and Cup of the Eucharist; and in worship and prayer, in learning together, and witness and service to others. May this vital ecumenical task grow until we are all truly and wholly visibly One, just as Jesus longed and prayed: according to his will and in his good time across our whole world (John 17:19-23).

The causes of division are many and complex, often purely political or nationalistic. But sadly deficiency in holiness and love, and lack of humility before the whole truth, is also its cause. Too often also, assertions are made by some Churches or groups that only they have got it right; and that too can bring about division! Real holiness, genuine love with patient truth-seeking dialogue, and above all earnest prayer, are the surest ways to bring about the unity we yearn for. And this must apply to all the Churches who look to Christ as head and Lord, and seek to do God’s will for all his peoples.

An act of praise to acknowledge the holiness of God, his Church, and each one of us:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord;
Holy is the Lord God almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.
Amen. Alleluia.

George Abell

Wassail! or Cheers! Happy Christmas! or Merry Winterval!

I have been trying to reinstate the word ‘WASSAIL’ (Old English meaning “be healthy”) to replace the meaningless ‘Cheers’, as a greeting, farewell and a toast. Some people also use ‘cheers’ to mean, ‘thankyou’, a word that needs emphasising rather than changing.

I seem to remember that about 20 years ago Birmingham Council officials decided that, in their multi-cultural city, ‘Christmas’ was a word not to be used. Instead they invented “Winterval”.

What an uproar that caused! Can you just imagine Christmas being, as it were, cancelled? Some, including millions of turkeys and acres of Christmas trees, might welcome the thought, and some people too, of no Christmas Cards, stocking fillers, expensive presents, tinsel and Gift-wrap. But the flip side is that shops would go bankrupt; children would be disappointed that there wouldn’t be a pile of e-gadgets, computer games, robots and drones, piled under the Christmas tree; and tubby white bearded chaps in red coats would face early redundancy.

“Winterval”- how insulting that must have felt to the good Christians of Birmingham! It must also have upset the many Muslims and Hindus who celebrated the holiday as well as their own festivals of Eid and Diwali. In that year Advent in the city of Winterval was a time of controversy.

This year amidst all the hustle and bustle of the preparations I hope that there will be time for us to prepare to meet the child Jesus and to celebrate God’s life-changing, hope-giving intervention in our world.

We can learn from the past – remember the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth – old people with no children – the angel’s message to Zechariah? Zehariah was a good and committed Jew who knew the prophets’ words about a Messiah. But he didn’t know just how important a part he and Elizabeth would play in the arrival of this Messiah.

And here we are in the present. We will all have looked with awe and wonder at the almost miraculous sight of a new-born child – no matter who’s it is. The marvel of such perfection. At that stage it is difficult not to feel God’s presence in the child whom we see as a symbol of hope – a new, pure, unspoilt life with unknown and vast potential. Zechariah knew his child was a unique messenger who would be the one who announced the Messiah at the start of his mission.

Today, Jesus’ Advent is into a world with huge distractions; into a world of massive indifference where people will take a full part in “Winterval”  but, sadly, not in Christmas. We must rejoice in the present and enjoy the sense of anticipation of his arrival and, importantly, communicate to all about us that Jesus was born to save sinners and their souls, not to cause us to flex our credit cards.

As we prepare for the future we need to ensure our birthday celebrations focus on the Christ-child and the wonderfully different future he offers to all. Zechariah used the words of Malachi to describe the gift the Messiah was bringing, he talked about the night – the haunt of darkness, bad dreams, fear and evil – being driven away by the sunrise. Isn’t that a wonderful picture? A picture of what he has done, does still, and will do. The present from Jesus under our tree is one of tender mercy that brings to an end our separation from God.

Although we can enjoy the fun, bright lights, TV repeats, pantos and everything else that “Winterval” brings, we know they won’t last. By New Year’s Eve they will definitely have lost some of their sparkle.

However, Christmas represents the unexpected joy brought about by our unorthodox God reaching down and offering to touch our lives. Try hard to accept his gift, because it will last; we will be forgiven so that we can start again; any darkness will disappear, because the light has come.

There may be some of you who remember the words of King George VI in the first Christmas broadcast of the World War II He was quoting Minnie Louise Haskins:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
“Give me light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of Christ.
That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.”

Don’t celebrate Winterval,
Celebrate Christmas! Wassail!

Max Young

Steve writes . . . Homo religeousus

Neil MacGregor, former Director of the British Museum, and now presenter of the Radio 4 series ‘Living with the gods’, says that we homo sapiens are also ‘homo religiousus’. He also notes that Britain now has an unique and very unusual society… the first ever to function without religious belief at its core. MacGregor contends that religion provides the overarching story that explains our place in the world and it also creates a sense of community, which has rapidly disappeared from the UK.

Nick Spencer of theology think-tank Theos concurs with Macgregor . ‘There’s not been a society known to history – or pre-history – that hasn’t had some form of religious belief and practice at its heart’.

I was also interested to see the comments of agnostic comedian David Mitchell on MacGregor’s views. Mitchell says ‘The vast majority of humans throughout history have grown up in contexts where questions like “Is there a God?” and “What happens when people die?” were answered with the same confidence with which a teacher today would explain gravity, and those answers were reassuring’.

Mitchell suggests that ‘to change so quickly from being a society where most people took comfort from the establishment telling them, loud and clear, that death is not the end, to one where many proclaim that it is, will have had an incalculable impact on our state of mind’. He concludes that this lack of a common understanding that death is not the end ‘is a more persuasive explanation than smartphones or commuting of why we feel so stressed’. Similarly, Nick Spencer notes that our society thinks that a highly individualized and materialist shape for human existence is enough to secure our wellbeing, but it isn’t. (my italics).

We are made in the image of God and we are made to know and worship God. The rescuing God has, in Jesus, come to bring us forgiveness and love. And he also came so we could know that, when we trust in him as saviour and Lord, we do indeed receive the gift of eternal life – life that doesn’t end when it finishes. If we are robbing whole generations of this security and hope, no wonder there’s more stress and less wellbeing around.

How vital then that we live as people of Christian hope who help to reverse the unfortunate and harmful ‘uniqueness’ in British society that MacGregor has pointed out.

Yours in Christ,
Steve