Charles writes: March 2013

“Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain!”

We began the season of Lent, on Ash Wednesday, with these words from the prophet Joel – a call to wake up – a call to action – a call to stand up and be counted. It’s a very appropriate message for the beginning of Lent. Lent is surely a time to sit up – to take stock of where we are in our faith and discipleship – to be honest with ourselves and with God. As Joel says later on,

”Even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart.”

It feels very much where we are at All Saints’ as we enter the final stages of the Barber Rooms Appeal. As we prepare to go out to tender, we still have a funding gap of about £50,000, and we all need both to unite in prayer as grant bodies are still considering our applications, and to join in with our fund-raising activities. Perhaps it is a time especially for us to be aware of our dependence on God’s goodness for this whole project.

But of course the life of the church is very much more than just the Barber Rooms. Our ongoing life and ministry and mission is even more important. This spring is the time for us all to have a fresh look at our involvement in the life of the church.

Once every six years, the Electoral Roll – that is the membership roll – of the church is completely renewed – the old roll expires, and everybody has to rejoin. This month we are renewing our roll at All Saints’ and at St Mary’s. The renewal begins on 1st March , and concludes on Sunday 17th March. Joining the Electoral Roll allows you to vote for members of PCC and Deanery Synod at our Annual Meeting, and in effect therefore makes you a voting member and therefore part of the decision making process of the Church of England. (You do need to be baptised and aged 16 or over to join the roll.)

But at a local level, it’s about wanting to be part of our church family, and being involved in the way that is right for each one of us. To help us to think about this, at All Saints’ we are running a “Church Membership Sunday” on Sunday 3rd March. On that Sunday, we will be thinking about church membership at all our services at All Saints’ – 8.00am, 10.30am and 6.30pm.

From that Sunday, we will be giving out church membership leaflets, with suggestions of ways that each one of us can be involved in the life of the church. There is also a copy of this leaflet at the centre of this magazine which you can pull out and use. The leaflet contains a response sheet, where you can tick boxes to indicate areas you might be interested in, and the Electoral Roll form itself is included in the response form. A larger print version of the whole leaflet will also be available in church. There will be a box for response forms in Church, or you can send your form directly to Maggie Bohm, who is the All Saints’ Electoral Roll Officer (her address is on the form). Please make sure your form is returned by Sunday 17th March.

In a small congregation, issues about church membership are more straightforward. Gill Hudson is Electoral Roll Officer for St Mary’s, and she will have forms for St Mary’s Electoral Roll from 1st March. We will also be having a focus on church membership at St Mary’s – but this will be after the renewal of the roll, at our 9.00am Morning Worship on Sunday 14th April.

If you would like to be on the Electoral Roll, do please make sure you don’t miss out on all of this. And if you’re part of All Saints’ we do hope you’ll be able to join us on Sunday 3rd March.

It is a great privilege to be part of the church family – to be nurtured by the support of others, and also to be able to participate and contribute to the life of the church ourselves. May this month may be a time that helps all of us to find ways we can both give and receive, so that we can all flourish together as God’s family in this place.

Charles

 

Simon writes: February 2013

Type, delete, think, try again, correct a spelling … that’s what usually happens when I write for the magazine. Some would call it writers block! But I don’t think it is just journalists or authors who get that feeling of being stuck or lost for words.

Many of us feel at sea when we are asked about our faith or to explain who Jesus is and why he came. We also feel lost for words.

The apostle Peter wrote to the early Christians scattered across modern day Turkey “in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:16).

So how do we ‘give the reason for our hope’? That’s where our Lent course comes in. Across the churches we thought that we could do with some help in explaining and sharing our faith. So we’ll be running “Lost for Words” – a course for those who would like some help to share faith naturally.

The aim of the course is simple: To learn to speak about our faith with anyone, in a relaxed, natural, helpful way, so they may discover and respond to God’s love for them. The course will run on Monday evenings (7.30-9.30pm) and Tuesday afternoons (2.00-3.30pm) at the United Church beginning on Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th February for five weeks.

How encouraging it would be to get to Easter feeling encouraged and confident about sharing our hope in Christ!

If you’d like more information, pick up a flyer in church or speak to me or John Seedell.

 

Charles writes: December 2012/January 2013

This month, a new church year begins, on Advent Sunday, 2nd December. Then, as we celebrate Christmas, we begin again the journey through the life of Jesus, from his birth through to the Cross and Resurrection, at Holy Week and Easter. And of course, a few days after Christmas, we celebrate a new calendar year…

This will be a year of many changes. In particular, we hope this coming year will be the year when we see our plans for the Barber Rooms become a reality – when we see the actual building going up.

What else will this coming year be like for us as a church?

We have decided on a simple one word theme for this coming year – “REFRESH”. What does that mean? In brief, it means that rather than trying to start new things, we would like to REFRESH the things we already do. We’re not after changing things for the sake of it – rather about allowing ourselves the freedom to look at what we’re doing in fresh ways, and to be creative and imaginative about the things we do.

2013 is also the year when we are required to renew our Electoral Roll (our church membership roll). In Spring 2013, everyone will come off the Electoral Roll, and everyone has to join afresh. This is a good opportunity for us all to look afresh at what church membership means to us all. There will be more on this in February and March.

As the year goes on, there will be other areas of our church life we’ll be focussing on, looking at where we can refresh what we do together.

To undergird all this, we have felt it will be good to go back to our roots in our preaching and our worship in the coming few months. For a Christian church, that means focussing again on the life and teaching of Jesus. So this month we are beginning a new sermon series, based on the Gospel of Luke. We will begin on Sunday 9th December with John the Baptist, and will continue the story right through to Easter. During my ten years here, we have never focussed on Luke’s Gospel before – it has a great deal to teach us, and I am very excited about the opportunity it gives us to encounter Jesus afresh.

Finally, of course we all need refreshing ourselves, in our lives and in our faith. I hope Christmas will be a time for all of us to have some time off to be refreshed, and to encounter afresh the wonderful message of Immanuel – God with us – God coming to us in the birth of Jesus. In the new year, on Sunday 9th January , as we remember the Holy Spirit coming down like a dove on Jesus at his Baptism, we will be having another Service of Communion with Laying on of hands, when we invite everyone to stay for a moment at the Communion rail for a short prayer for the refreshing life of the Holy Spirit. So may we find God refreshing each one of us, ready to embrace the challenges the new year will bring.

Jane and I send you all our very warmest wishes for a joyful Christmas and a happy new year.

 

Charles

 

Charles writes: November 2012

One of the exciting things about Christian faith is that there is always more to learn – always new things to discover. I’ve been ordained for twenty five years now, and yet I feel I am still learning new things all the time – not only about ministry, but about my own faith in God.

It’s a little bit like being an explorer who has landed on a new continent. It’s that feeling – I’ve started to explore this wonderful new land – yet there is far more of it still to be discovered.

In January, we are starting a new Alpha Course. The Alpha Course is very much an exploration – looking at the basics of Christian faith, and exploring what it can mean to us. The Alpha Course is for anybody – from those who have been in the church for a long time who would like to brush up on the basics, to those who are complete newcomers, who are not yet sure what they believe! Whatever stage of faith you’re at, and however tentative or uncertain you may feel about your beliefs, Alpha gives an opportunity to discuss and think more about what faith in God means to us, today in the 21st century.

The Alpha Course will run on Thursday evenings, beginning with a simple meal – all free! – followed by a short talk and then a time for discussion. We plan to run the course from mid-January to mid-March.

We will be running a TASTER EVENING this month – on Thursday 29th November, at 7.30pm at the United Church, with the title “Is there more to life than this?” This will be an opportunity to come along and get a feel for the course, without any commitment, so you can decide whether to continue with the course in the New Year or not. It will in fact be Session One of the course, so if you’d like to come on the course, do make sure you come on the Taster Evening if you can.

If you might be interested, do contact our Alpha Co-ordinator, Sarah Oliver, on 242 769, just so we have a rough idea of numbers.

The Alpha Course is also the place to start for adults who would like to be confirmed, as we use the Alpha Course for our adult Confirmation preparation. But those who have already been confirmed will find it equally relevant!

We are also starting a group for teenagers who may be interested in Confirmation. The “QUEST” Group is open to all young people who are in Year 8 or above. There is no commitment to being confirmed at the end; we encourage young people to come along and explore Christian faith together, and in due course make a decision whether Confirmation is right for them.

Like the Alpha Course, the QUEST Group will start in January, but we are running a TASTER EVENING this month – on Monday 26th November, at 7.30pm at the Vicarage. Please let me know if you’re interested (240 106 or charlesdraper@btinternet.com) – especially any young people who can’t make that date but would like to join the Quest Group in the New Year.

I always enjoy being involved – both in the Alpha Course and in teenagers’ Confirmation groups, firstly to get to know people better, and also because I always learn new things myself! I look forward very much to meeting everyone at our two “Taster evenings”, and to exploring Christian faith in different ways with both groups in the New Year.

 

Charles

 

Charles writes: October 2012

Faringdon is growing. More and more new houses have gone up, new people and new families are moving in, and some of our schools are now full to bursting.

We are noticing the effects at All Saints’. We have a noticeable rise in the number of families asking for Baptisms, a number of them living on the new estates, and some bringing large numbers of children with them. Our Welcome Afternoons are full of newcomers to All Saints’, and it’s lovely to see many new faces on a Sunday.

It’s an exciting time for us, but all the more important that we are ready and prepared to welcome new people and families who come to us. We have reorganised our Sunday Special children’s groups  this autumn to enable us to welcome families better, and we are delighted that several people are taking on a leadership role for the first time.

But once again…you can probably guess what’s coming…yes, it is our buildings, and our lack of facilities that are holding us back. More than ever before, we are desperate to get these Barber Rooms built and up and running.

Good progress is now being made. We are well on our way to getting our “Faculty”, which is the final approval from the Diocese, and now we have Planning Permission we have started applying for grants. Thanks to the wonderful response to our Appeal, combined with our legacy, in terms of finance we are 90% there.

But there is still 10% to go…! Another £70,000 would get us to our Appeal target. We hope a good part of this will come from grants, but we still need to raise a significant amount ourselves.

There are three things we can do to achieve this.

Firstly, there will be some of us who missed the Appeal this Spring, and have not yet had a chance to pledge. Another dozen gifts or pledges could make a huge difference. If you would like to pledge and have not yet had the chance, then please don’t delay! Do take an Appeal brochure from church, and think and pray about it. Many of us are pledging over five years – it’s amazing what a small amount per day will build up to over five years. And don’t forget to fill in the Gift Aid part if you’re a taxpayer…Thank you!

Secondly, many people have suggested fund-raising ideas. Now is the time for us to put these ideas into practice.

Thirdly we can pray. God has blessed us and has been our strength throughout this Appeal, but we need to continue to pray for God’s help right through to the end. We have restarted our monthly Appeal Prayers on the first Tuesday of the month from 8.00-9.00pm at church. Do join us if you can, or pray at home, in Home Groups, and anywhere else!

We are having a special focus on the Appeal in the month of October, from Sunday 7th October at our Harvest Festival, through to All Saints’ Sunday on 28th October. We would ask especially if new pledges and fund-raising ideas could be offered by Sunday 28th October.

Finally, do spread the word. Let’s talk about it and share it – and make this month of October be a time we all do our part and, together, take this Appeal through to the finishing line!

With many thanks for all your support,

 

Charles

Simon writes: September 2012

Most of us will have admired the athletic ability of competitors from around the world both in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. But as we’ve enjoyed their performances and shared their joys, we might not have been aware of the hard training schedules beforehand. But when it comes to performing well – what I’m sure many of them would say is that it’s not about good intentions – it’s about putting aspirations into action.

James, the brother of Jesus, writing to the early church puts it like this – “be doers of the word , and not merely hearers”. And so, for us all the Autumn is a time for action. First and foremost, it’ll mean action by opening our Bibles to the book of James, which we’ll be doing in our Sunday morning services at All Saints’, beginning on Sunday 9th September. I sometimes wonder if James compared the lives of Christians in the early church with the life of Jesus and wrote his letter to challenge and encourage them (and us) to live more like Jesus. I hope we all desire to be more like Christ, so let us make this a priority to come to church and learn together what James has to say to us today about being Christ-like.

But our response doesn’t stop there – it will also mean action on a variety of aspects of our church life over the Autumn:

Action on the building project – wonderfully, planning permission has been given for the Barber Rooms, for which we must thank our God. So, now is the time for us to fulfill our pledges, and for those who would still like to make a pledge there are leaflets in church by the Barber Rooms display.

Action in fundraising for the Barber Rooms – whilst we are very grateful for the legacy and pledges given, we still need to raise further funds. The appeal committee will be making applications to various Trusts, but your ideas for fundraising are most welcome.

Action in prayer – James encourages his readers to “ask God” – for wisdom (chapter 1), for what we need (chapter 4), and for healing and forgiveness (chapter 5). That is not to say that God is a slot machine, who dispenses exactly what we ask for, but he is our loving Father who answers our prayers as is best for us, and he loves it when we come to him in prayer. So rather than see prayer as the opposite of action, let us understand prayer as the vital partner to all our actions, and recommit ourselves to being a people of prayer.

If you want ideas of what to pray – check out the prayer diary on page 9; if you want to join others to pray and you are free midweek in the mornings then join with others at All Saints’ for informal Pause for Prayer (Tuesdays at 9.00am), Morning Prayer (Thursdays at 9.00am) or Parish Prayers (Fridays at 7.40am at 20 Market Place). It would also be great if a number of us join to pray for the Barber Rooms Project – we’ll be meeting for Appeal Prayers at 8.00pm on Tuesday 4th September in All Saints’ Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ – let us be people with a living faith as hearers and doers of God’s Word!

Simon

 

Simon writes: July/August 2012

Running the Race

It strikes me as a little odd that on the bill boards of sporting events and in the breaks between the action, whether it is football or the Olympics, there are numerous adverts for all kinds of drinks and junk food. As if the message is, join in with this sporting spectacle by stuffing your face! In fact, the bigger the sporting occasion, the bigger the contrast between the athleticism on the pitch and the tempting adverts around the pitch. So, when we talk about mass sporting events, is our participation limited to switching on the telly, putting up our feet and reaching for some comforting food?

Jesus met a number of people who did rather sedentary jobs – tax collectors sitting in their tax booths, fishermen sitting in their boats (ok, so they were probably active) – and he called to them “Follow me”. To put it another way – don’t just watch me, join me! Get stuck in, get involved. And this message was not just for 12 guys, 2,000 years ago – it is a call to each one of us today. So I’m inviting you, not to be a spectator on the sidelines, but a player on the pitch – to run the race!

How might you do that? Well, if you’re at the Infant or Junior school (or your kids are) then come along to the WAVE this summer, where our theme is “Running the Race”. In case you don’t know, the WAVE is the holiday Bible Club run by Christians in Faringdon (more details below and on the outside back cover). If you’re a teenager – then why not go on a summer camp, like Foremarke 3? But don’t let age limit you – there are plenty of ways that you can get involved – both on Sundays and in midweek groups for those starting out and those wanting to explore faith further. Do find out more about midweek groups by checking out the calendar of events.

I’ll leave it to the government to ask you if you are ‘fit for life?’ – but let me ask a deeper question: are you fit for eternal life? Church is here to help you find out more and get involved.

Simon

 

Charles writes: June 2012

I wonder if you can think of anyone who has been in the same job for sixty years? Well – there is only one person I can think of – and that is our Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She has carried this role faithfully and consistently for 60 years – that certainly is something to give thanks for, something to celebrate.

It challenges me to think about our own faithfulness and consistency in our faith, our discipleship and our ministry. It’s one thing to go for a sprint – all out, soon finished. it’s quite a different challenge to go for a marathon.

I wonder what has sustained the Queen so that through so many ups and downs, both for our country and in her own family, she has been able to keep going without faltering for so long?

I would imagine that three things have been important. Firstly the support of others, both in her family, and her many advisors and support staff. Secondly her own belief in what she was doing and the values she has lived and worked for. Thirdly her personal faith in God and in the teachings of Jesus has surely been a sustaining strength to her.

Perhaps these are exactly the three things we all need, to keep us faithful and consistent in whatever work we are called to do. We too need to be supported by others, trying to do it by ourselves is always a mistake, we need the support, encouragement and affirmation of other if we are to keep going in the long haul. Secondly, we too need a belief in what we are doing and in the Christian values, the “Kingdom of God” values that we live for and work for in our lives. Finally, above all we need to “sustain our sacred centre” keeping ourselves rooted in God, rooted in in Christ, in our prayer and our worship.

We have much to celebrate this month. A time of celebration and thanksgiving and also a time for church and community to celebrate together, a time to build relationships and come closer together.

We have another special occasion at All Saints on Sunday 24 June when David and Liza Cooke from Church Mission Society will be speaking at our 10.30 Communion Service. It is a while now since we have had a CMS mission link, so it will be very good to meet them, hear about their plans and their hopes and to hear what they have to share with us. CMS is also our Mission for the Moth in June, so we will be praying for their work throughout the month.

Do join us and share in all these occasions as we look to our community and our world. As the children’s song says “He’s got the whole world in his hands”. So as we celebrate this 60 year Diamond Jubilee, we celebrate above all God’s faithfulness, to us and to his world.

Charles

Charles writes: May 2012

During the last three months at All Saints’ we have had a very concentrated focus on our own mission and ministry in Faringdon, as we have thought about our Building Plans and Appeal. I would like to thank the large number of people who have responded to this with enthusiasm, commitment and generosity. We now have a short pause on this project, as we wait for Planning Approval to be finalised.

For the next two to three months, our focus as churches, both at All Saints’ and St Mary’s, changes direction, as we look out to the world around us.

This is an appropriate time for this, as in the month of May we approach Christian Aid Week. Christian Aid Week this year runs from 13th – 19th May, and will be our focus at our 10.30am Communion Service and at our 6.30pm United Service at the United Church on Sunday 13th, and also at our 5.15pm Communion Service at St Mary’s Little Coxwell on Sunday 20th May.

There will also be a Christian Aid Barn Dance on Saturday 19th May. This is a great opportunity for us to meet in a relaxed way and get to know each other better at the same time as helping Christian Aid.

The work of Christian Aid is more vital than ever, in helping the poorest people of the world, and it is a core part of our calling as Christians to be part of this. It is especially important that in a time of raising money for the work of our own church, we make sure we don’t fail to look outwards to the needs of others , so do please join in with Christian Aid Week in any way you can.

Sunday 13th May is also Rogation Day – the traditional day to pray for the crops and for those around us who are involved in agriculture. It’s a theme that fits in well with Christian Aid Week. We will have a Rogation Service at St Mary’s Little Coxwell on Sunday 13th at 9.00am.

Sunday 27th May is Pentecost – the day the Holy Spirit came, and the day the mission of the church first began. As we keep our outward focus, we will be thinking about how the Holy Spirit sent the disciples out into the world to be a witness for Christ, and how the Holy Spirit energises and empowers us today.

At the beginning of June, we look forward to celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. On Sunday 3rd June, at the request of the Town Council, we ‘ll be holding a United Open Air Diamond Jubilee All Age Service at 10.30am in the Market Place – an exciting opportunity for the different churches and members of the community to meet together to celebrate. In Little Coxwell we’ll be holding a Diamond Jubilee Service at 5.15pm at St Mary’s the same day.

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations will continue during the week, and on Saturday 9th June, “Voice and Verse” will be returning to Faringdon for a special celebration evening “Elizabeth to Elizabeth”. More details of this below.

At Ascension time, after Easter, we read the end of the Gospels and hear again Jesus’ calling to go out into the world as witnesses for Christ. So in the next two or three months we look out – to our local community, to our country, and to our world. May the Holy Spirit inspire us to look outward with love, compassion, and with action, to bring God’s love to the world around us.

Charles