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Being an online prophet.

Hello… It’s me.

Where are you?

“Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a sceptre but a hoe.”

— Bernard of Clairvaux

What follows was written a good few years ago, but as my first post of this new blog, I hope it gives some idea as to why this site exists, and why I bother to put things on t’internet at all.

Social media has many uses and offers many ways of using our voices. It’s interesting thinking about churches and Christian organisations I follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Some read pretty much like a newsletter, telling me of events or campaigns, and perhaps asking for prayers for particular ministries. Others add actual prayers or liturgy, while relatively few link to resources I might find useful and things I might be tempted to interact with. Even fewer regularly promote things going on in their wider community outside church activities, ministries, theology and news of interest only to those already involved in the Church. As someone who’s long been involved in online ministry (as well as being active in ministry in the flesh, I hasten to add), I’ve been grappling with this: how does this look from the outside, and am I missing a trick here?

So… what’s a prophet?

The work of a prophet involves calling people to God. I think there is a challenge here for anyone who is seeking to have an effective online ministry. Not everyone is called to the work of a prophet, but I am not entirely convinced that I see much of this kind of ministry being done by individual churches online , and not in a way which engages people. I may be wrong! Do tell me in comments if I’ve overlooked what you are doing – I’d love to promote it, be encouraged by it and celebrate it. However, at the risk of re-inventing this particular wheel, here are my thoughts on how to meet this challenge of calling people to God through how we use social media. To use Bernard of Clairvaux’s words, this means relying less on appearing regal and authoritative (wielding a royal sceptre) and more on actually working alongside people, sharing their lives, concerns and needs and preparing the earth for sowing by hoeing. The resurrected Christ was mistaken for a gardener, so I rather like this image of Jesus offering to equip me with a hoe rather than a sceptre. This also chimes with Jesus’s example of washing his disciples’ feet and telling them to do the same.

A question then: when someone sees my online ministry over time, how would they see Jesus the servant King, holding a towel to wipe his disciples’ feet, reflected in it?

This is quite a challenge, and especially tricky I think if you are representing your church or organisation via social media. How do we call people to God, how do we make the ground ready, how do we work alongside those we want proclaim Christ to? Because our online presence is technically global, I think the local impact of our worldwide-online presence can sometimes get overlooked.

Some ideas, then, tailored mainly for church groups, and mainly aimed at the impact on communities locally.

Promote other events in your community
As well as your own events and news, ReTweet and Share things not related to your church but which will serve your community. Become known as a hub of positive news about where you live and show that your church cares about what happens locally.

Encourage others locally
As well as a Share or ReTweet of other groups events and news, comment, congratulate, commiserate, encourage and engage.

Engage in the local conversations
Even if there is a contentious issue which might not be wise to get your church too closely associated with, or seen as being on one side or the other, how about posting that you are praying for all concerned? It might not always be appropriate, but it’s worth considering letting people know that you are engaging in prayer and are concerned for the people caught up in an issue.

Be part of the bigger picture
Consider whether you might become part of a local hub to promote your community and events in general. Talk to your town/parish council and other groups and, if you are the organisation with the most web traffic, find ways to use your online resources as part of a bigger local picture. Just as some rural churches have housed local post offices, shops and council leaflets, perhaps you could become the online place to come for information of all kinds. Be generous in sharing your online resources, impact and goodwill. This isn’t about hijacking other groups’ traffic or of diluting your online presence: it’s about the church being engaged fully in local life and tilling the earth alongside its neighbours.

Risk and Reward
There are pitfalls and risks in all the above. I sometimes worry that I may accidentally end up associating my church with something it would not wish to by a careless Tweet. The answer lies in not Tweeting carelessly, of course… and in prayerfully developing a strategy for how to present our church online. And here is revealed one of the secrets: it is very hard for an organisation to be a prophet. Social media by its nature lends itself better, in my experience, to people interacting than organisations. Fortunately, then, God calls people rather than organisations to do the work of prophets. In other words, bring something of yourself to the mix. Invest yourself and don’t be too afraid to do that. Take risks prayerfully and you’ll find that when your Church comes to prophetically call your community to the Lord, the ground is tilled and ready to receive God’s Word. And perhaps your community will hear.

When the Music Stops

When the music stops and the world just hangs
in the air as time just holds her breath;
and I hardly dare let my mind form words
lest they break the sense of holiness I feel
when the music stops.

When the stylus lifts but the vinyl turns
till I walk across and make it stop;
there’s a stillness there as the music sits
deep inside my heart and holds me there
as if the song is hearing me
once the music stops.

And I didn’t want the song to end,
and I relished every moment,
and I wish I could inhabit
all those twists and turns and laughs and tears
as fully as I did the instant
that I first experienced them.

But now I stand enveloped in
this very sacred moment
as the music stops.

The music stops: the world just hangs
in the air; time holds her breath.
I do not dare let my mind form words:
they’d break this sense of holiness.

The music stops.

Letters of Love: reflection 3

REFLECTION 3: 1 John 3 (click on this text to read the passage)

In the previous chapter, we thought about the house rules for being in God’s family, but today we move on to the idea of “family resemblance” – the outrageous claim that as God’s children we will grow to be like God ourselves; that we shall see God as God truly is; and we shall be pure even as God is pure. It sets up a hope of heaven for each one of us which might seem like an arrogant claim at first glance. But our claim is humble: it comes from being mere children of God, growing in Christ, abiding in God’s love in the family of the Church. It will be seen in what we do, in our increasingly being led away from the way of temptation towards God’s ways, as the spirit grows within us.

John is making clear how spirituality works. It isn’t some external thing, or just one aspect of our being. John challenges the Gnosticism which threatens these Christian communities by explaining how flesh and spirit really works. They are intertwined, not separate realities. Just as Jesus is fully God and fully human, so our calling is to be fully human and yet citizens of heaven, bound by the duties and rules of that kingdom, and enjoying the privileges of heavenly citizenship even as we live on earth.

Love is the measure of this. Do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we run to the aid of the persecuted Church? Do we see poorer parishes in our Diocese and fail to send everything we can in our freewill offering that they may thrive? “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” Love is practical, not theoretical. It is a spiritual reality which expresses itself in the flesh.

This word “abiding” is very intimate. The Trinity is described in terms of Father, Son and Holy Spirit abiding in one another. It means intimately making oneself at home. It means deeply dwelling with someone – a dwelling so deep that you are of a common will and mind, a relationship of intimate understanding and mutual self-giving. This is how God is, and how we are called to be. We are called to abide not only in God, but in one another. To be of one mind in pursuing God’s will, and walking together in God’s ways. This comes from unity and a common purpose of body, mind and spirit among the family of God.

Abiding in God’s love involves a sacrificial abiding in one another’s love, too.

Letters of Love: Reflection 2

REFLECTION 2: 1 John 2

John styles himself “the elder”. He’s the big brother, the trustworthy uncle, the father of the faith, and he’s writing to reassure the rest of his family. They belong together in the family of God and John addresses them as fathers, children and young people in the same family of faith.  But whatever people’s role or age within this family, they are bound by the same house rules. Many households have re-learned this in recent months as grownup offspring have returned home for inter-generational lock down. You learn not to flush the downstairs loo when someone is having a shower. You learn to stack the dishwasher in the approved household manner. But John gives house rules of a different order for God’s family, the Church. The house rules involve obeying God’s commandments and living as Jesus did; they involve loving one another within the family of God, just as Jesus loves; it means not loving the ways of the world, but loving God’s ways, and choosing obedience to the will of God in the face of worldly expectations, just as Jesus chose.

But John adds a key rule for the times and challenges of his original listeners. When he warns of antichrists, he is warning them of some who profess faith in Christ, but deny Christ’s divinity: those who talked of Jesus simply in wafty spiritual terms – of a divine spirit inhabiting or haunting the man Jesus. But John warns them that this won’t do, and they have rightly rejected this twisted gospel: wafty, nice, spiritual things are all very beguiling, but Jesus is God and our faith is rooted in his humanity as well as his divinity. John warns them, as he warns us, not to deny Christ for who he truly is: the Son of God, the eternal Word.

“What you have heard from the beginning…”

What did the disciples hear on Easter morning? What was the first thing that the followers of Christ heard that Sunday morning from Mary? The message was “He is risen!”.  That is what they heard from the beginning. That is the Easter message. So John writes: “If what you heard from the beginning abides in you” – if the message “Christ is risen” is alive in your heart, “then you will abide in the Son and in the Father.” – then God lives in us and we in God, eternally.   That is the message of love which John brings. It was not that a good man called Jesus died and his spirit continued to live, but that Jesus who was the Christ, the Anointed, the Messiah – the Son of Man and the Son of God – vanquished sin and death; and therefore we may abide with God forever.

That truth is what anoints us for God’s service. The Holy Spirit which the Father sent at the request and will of the Son rests upon us and anoints us because Jesus lives, and sends us, his continuing family to bless the world in his name. That is our calling: to abide in the world as God’s family, witnessing to God’s love, and proclaiming Jesus as Lord.

Letters of Love: reflection 1

REFLECTION 1: 1 John 1 (which you can read by clicking this line of text)

This letter is a testimony to eternal life revealed in the person of Jesus. It is a testimony to love – the love which is present in our fellowship with God the Father and God the Son. Indeed, the love and life which is testified to by John is a test of the church: a sure measure of whether we truly are walking in the light with Christ or not. And it is a letter speaking into eternal truth: a testimony to our being welcomed into the living light of God’s eternal glory, despite living in a world of darkness and sin.

God’s Love overcomes death: John’s testimony is to “the word of life.”
God’s Love overcomes sin which leads to death.

Even as John presents encouraging words of eternal life and joy to us right at the start of his letters, he isn’t writing simple, encouraging platitudes. He is partly writing to encourage a Christian community which has been under attack from people preaching a different Gospel in which the flesh and the spirit are seen as completely distinct – indeed, that Jesus was not truly human, but was perhaps a spirit taking over a human, because to the gnostic mind, flesh and spirit were irreconcilable. John takes this head on.

“Sin” is everything which does not conform to God’s perfect will. If we want to know what a human life free from sin looks like, we look to Jesus. John reminds us that Jesus himself is the light. In him, we see what it means to live in accordance with God’s holy will, to pursue God’s ways, to live and work as citizens of heaven, and strive to make things on earth as they are in heaven. In Christ, flesh and spirit are one: divine will and humanity are reconciled. At the Ascension, Jesus bears the wounds of the cross as he ascends into heaven, revealing that there is no dualism: our wounded humanity has its place in the spiritual perfection of heaven through Christ.

Yes, God’s light does contrast with our darkness. Yes, the holiness of heaven does contrast with the sinfulness of our lives on earth. But these letters of love call us to walk as children of light; to walk with Christ and with one another. To do this we need to confess our sins – our contribution to the darkness – and through the blood of Christ to be cleansed from all that is not of the light, and to receive God’s forgiveness.

So, as God’s forgiven and forgiving people, let us call to mind our imperfections; neither lightly, as if they are of no importance (for they are important enough that God sent his only Son that we might not perish but have eternal life); nor weighed down with a sense of hopelessness that our need of repentance is never-ending (for we are truly people of everlasting hope in Christ); rather, we call our sins to mind knowing that in Christ we are called to righteousness of life, and to walk daily as children of light.

A quieter clapping

And it came to pass that, with no oversight from Ofsted, no national masterplan, no governor monitoring visits, together with their fellow staff members and leadership teams, literally overnight, teachers switched from their carefully-crafted long, medium and short term plans for lessons and teaching, and… learning continued. Yes, what has replaced it isn’t something entirely comparable, because we are navigating an international crisis. The idea recently tweeted by Lord Adonis that Ofsted should in the imminent future be auditing and assessing the quality of current arrangements is a nonsense, and unhelpful nonsense which insults our teachers and schools. Similarly, Sir Michael Wilshaw’s suggestion that teachers work evenings and weekends to “catch up” after lockdown does similar disservice to the amazing thing which has happened through our teachers and our schools since they closed to most pupils. Nobody is pretending that what is currently happening is what anyone would have planned in an ideal world because, guess what? These are not ideal circumstances, and yet teaching has continued to be available, not only to the children of key workers who continue to come onto school sites, but at a distance, too. Resources get to pupils. Opportunities to collaborate in learning with others continue by other means. A friendly face from school can appear on a computer, tablet or phone screen, or an encouraging voice can be heard over the phone. And, though you’d have to strain hard to hear the national applause for teachers singled out among the Thursday night “Cacophany for Keyworkers”, their share of the applause is surely due, though they have never sought it for themselves. Teachers have performed this minor miracle with no fuss, whilst under a lot of stress, with households of their own to rejig and navigate, whilst having to deal, in some cases, with pressure and criticism from parents and carers who believe something different ought to be happening. And despite doing this with no notice to speak of, they have done it well.

One thing we as a nation should be learning from this is that we can trust teachers and headteachers. It turns out that teachers and headteachers would not have been coasting complacently along were it not for the prospect of assessment and inspection. That insidious narrative is, I hope, dead and buried, Lord Adonis’ gibbering notwithstanding. I am really proud to be a governor of St Mary’s C.E. Primary School in Boston Spa. The way our staff have risen to the challenge has been wonderful. Their professionalism was never in doubt, and nor was their ability to teach, but they have proven themselves invaluable to families not only in terms of continuing to offer teaching, but also by being an anchor for children as history swirls around them, and helping children realise their own strength to meet the challenge of these unsettling times. All this at the same time as continuing to teach the children and support parents in managing lockdown by providing some valuable structure to the days, and resources to use at home. They are living out the Christian ethos of the school in how they lovingly serve their pupils, and model how the school’s values continue to be key to seeing everyone through the current situation. They continue to be there for them. They are not virtual teachers in virtual classrooms: the teaching and learning is real, it’s still on offer, and so is the teacher-pupil relationship.

From 12 years experience as a school governor in various schools, I know that monitoring and assessment were never the drivers for good teaching – that isn’t why they are important. They were, at their heart, tools for the teaching staff themselves: that’s why they are important! The real drivers of good teaching were the teachers all along. Many of us, especially school governors. are saying: “We told you so!”, and it will be interesting to see the extent to which the government decide to trust teachers and headteachers as our national future unfolds and the way “back to school” is navigated. It was because of who teachers are, their strength of character, commitment to the children, their professionalism and their amazing levels of skill at their job, that this new way of doing school has happened. It’s not perfect, of course – it’s a work in progress, and it hasn’t happened uniformly across the country, or even between similar schools in the same area. Some are Zooming a lot, others bob in and out of Google classrooms, and yet others are working via Microsoft Teams or using myriad other means to do this initially-scary, new, live online stuff. Classroom management skills online are a different beast. Interpersonal relationships play out differently there and there is netiquette to learn and different forms of safeguarding issues and protocols to implement. A lot of teachers. though, haven’t been doing heaps of live, online teaching, and that is fine, it really, really is, and do you know why? It’s because they are professional teachers, and they know how to teach. It also highlights the eternal truth that teaching is a collaborative act between teachers, pupils and parents and carers, and the new balance towards a more immediate and proximal involvement of the adults at home in the learning has been challenging in a lot of cases. But in terms of what teachers have been offering, it isn’t about the medium, or the resources first and foremost: they’re just the tools, so parents who worry that the school their child is at isn’t doing enough live screen stuff can rest easy. Teachers know how to use the tools available, and they put the learning and welfare of the kids first, which doesn’t always mean that the shiniest, newest bit of tech gets used. Teachers know what they can do with the new technology, and what its limitations are, and what their own strengths and limitations are. That is what informs what gets used. Teachers know what will work well with their own teaching style, even as they adapt that style to fit new times. And they know their pupils: they know what to provide to help kids and their households get through this. In supporting learning as they currently are, teachers are helping families through this current period of uncertainty, change and discombobulation. They continue to play a pastoral role in children’s lives. And they have performed this minor miracle with little applause, in a way which puts them and their own households at risk by continuing to go into schools to risk cross infection with a number of households which, by the very nature of the work the parents and carers do, are high risk. The other side of the equation is the parents and carers who have doubtless had new insight into the challenge of teaching and learning themselves, often as they try to work from home themselves. The thing is… children will learn whatever happens. The most important thing they will learn at the moment will be informed by how the adults closest to them react to events. Members of their household, together with the teaching staff at school (and perhaps even other adults they know such as the local vicar if they see him online, too) will teach this generation how our values and personalities are the key to tackling life’s challenges.

St Mary’s school had already taken up Galatians 5:22-23 as its key Bible verses to act as our guiding light, even before we entered our current circumstances. I thank the staff of St Mary’s for living out these verses and communicating the Gospel far more effectively than any sermon I could give on them. In these verses, St Paul encourages Christians in troubling times. Around them, the world is full of “rotten fruit”, namely that people are doing their own thing, not anchored in God’s ways, and living in a way which hurts others deeply, and does not make for a loving society in which things on earth are more like they are in heaven. By contrast, Paul encourages them to live lives which reveal contrasting fruit: Fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control should be evident, and in every single element of this fruit, the teaching and support staff of St Mary’s have not been found wanting.

Thank you for being a blessing to so many, and God bless you all. And hang in there…

*Author’s note: the views expressed are my own and are not presented on behalf of anyone else, or any bodies of which the author is a member*

Lockdown

Late Lent, Holy Week and Easter took place under lockdown conditions. I have struggled to put the experience of this into words, but I have managed to express something autobiographical about it in audio-visual form. Lasts about 8 minutes and is worth wearing headphones for. Possibly best listened to in a darkened room with a glass of something pleasant and comforting. And a dog.

Dust, recycled

I’ve been preparing the ashes for Ash Wednesday this afternoon. It’s quite an interesting process (at least, The Dog™ thought so as he supervised).

How to prepare ashes for Ash Wednesday…

  1. Collect in the palm crosses from last year from folk at church.
  2. Bake them (the crosses, not the folk at church) at 220 degrees centigrade for half an hour or so. This burns off the oils in the leaves so that they will burn to ashes when you start getting serious about burning them in step 3.
  3. Get serious about burning the palm crosses. In my case, this involved snipping them up, putting them in a foil tray out of the recycling, then setting about them with a kitchen blowtorch outside.
  4. Once they are pretty comprehensively burnt, grind them with a mortar and pestle.
  5. Add olive oil and stir it really well so the ash is mixed in completely.
  6. Pour it into a handy glass jar from the recycling.
Here’s a video made during Step 3

Choral Evensong: Christmas every day?

2nd February 2020. Luke 2: 22-40

The Song of Simeon is something I grew up with, and it’s now something we can all experience every 3rd Sunday of the month at our Benefice Sung Evensong in Thorp Arch, too. When I was a chorister as a lad growing up in Halifax, choral evensong was a regular part of my Sunday routine, and the Nunc Dimittis was always sung: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace”. There’s something rather endearing about hearing the words of Simeon, an old man, sung by young choristers. Simeon had been awaiting the promise of the ages – the coming of the Messiah – to be fulfilled in his own lifetime. Hearing what we know as the Nunc Dimittis, a song from the end of a life of faithfulness, sung by the voices of those who have all the potential of youthfulness is poignant and reminds us that the Nunc Dimittis should ring true for all of us, whatever our age, because it is the song which ends the story of Christmas.

It is no accident that the Anglican service of Choral Evensong uses the Song of Mary – the Magnificat: “My soul doth magnify the Lord” and the Song of Simeon – the Nunc Dimittis. These songs are the bookends of Christmas: the Magnificat is Mary’s response to the annunciation, hearing the news that she is to bear God’s Son; the Nunc Dimittis is Simeon’s response to the birth of the Messiah as the fulfilment of God’s promises. In the Church of England, at choral evensong it truly is Christmas every day.

So cast your mind back to the Nativity. The Word made flesh to dwell among us… Emmanuel, God with us… This was something long-awaited by the faithful, women like Anna, men like Simeon, who were awaiting not only the Messiah, but for salvation to be revealed to the whole world – the Gentiles as well as the Jewish people. Handel’s oratorio Messiah is all about Christ – his birth, passion, death and resurrection – but only uses words from the Old Testament to tell the tale. The Hebrew Scriptures are brought to life in a new way as, in Christ, God’s promises revealed through the prophets, are kept. The Acts of the Apostles – Luke’s sequel to his retelling of the Gospel – focuses on the story of how the good news of God’s Kingdom was spread to the Gentile world. The Acts of the Apostles ends with Paul telling a Jewish audience, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.” It’s the punchline to the whole book: God’s salvation is revealed to the whole world, is for everyone, but has been revealed out of the story of the faithfulness of the Jewish people. Faithful people like Mary and Simeon in whose songs – the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis – both refer to themselves as servants of God.

Luke ends the Christmas story with the Holy Family keeping Jewish customs and laws. Jesus has been brought to be circumcised, with temple sacrifices offered as he is dedicated to God as all firstborn sons in a family should be. And Jesus is recognized by those who had been faithful in worship: we are told that Anna, a widow, was always in the temple, and that Simeon was righteous and devout. Yes, Jesus will indeed be a light to the whole world, but he is recognized first by faithful Jews who have been waiting for him.

We need to be faithful and expectant. Yes, Christmas is over for another year, but our job is, like Choral Evensong, to make sure that it is Christmas every day. By that, I mean that we need to remember that part of our job is to reveal Christ in the world, daily. Like the Magnificat, our souls should strive to magnify the Lord: we should give thanks to God every day, and like Mary, be ready to go along with God’s plans for us, wherever they might take us. Like Simeon in the Nunc Dimittis, we should thank God for what we have seen of his glory – for the fact that we are saved through the power of Jesus, and having recognized God’s glory revealed in Jesus, get on with sharing that glorious light with others.

We are a Christmas people – the authors of Evening Prayer got it right. This is a daily thing, not just for a few days after Midnight Mass every year. And we are an Easter people. This is the moment in the Church year when we turn from the crib to the cross. We recall that the light of the world who came to us at Christmas is also the Resurrection Light.

We live in a time of uncertainty and change. The climate crisis hangs over us with no international consensus as to what to do about it. A year of uncertainty over what Brexit might begin to look like once an initial deal is actually negotiated lies ahead of the UK and the EU as meanwhile we live in a state of transition, subject to rules we no longer have a say in devising. Our job as Christians remains the same, though: to love God and neighbour, and to share the light of God’s salvation revealed in Jesus with the world by living as children of God, walking in the light of God’s love, and proclaiming the Good News of God’s Kingdom in word and in action.

So every day we should take the opening words of Evensong to heart as our prayer: O Lord, open thou our lips, and our mouth shall shew forth thy praise… because we are Christmas people and we are Easter people, and have an eternally-relevant song to sing and life in Christ to live. Let us all year round be ready to be the means by which the light of Jesus is revealed in the world, and the Gospel of salvation is shared with others. Amen.

The Table: a Christmas poem

This is a poem I wrote in 2014 which has been used by a number of people in Christmas services. It puts a slightly different spin on things…

Feel free to use this in your own services, with author credit to Nick Morgan

The Table

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through a stable
A man was attempting
To construct a table.
In spite of his skill
At the carpentry trade
His tools on a workbench
In Nazareth were laid.

The manger in which
All the fodder was scattered
Seemed solid enough
And that was what mattered.
For that was the main thing:
A solid, safe cradle
Was needed in case
Of a birth in that stable.

But Joseph got busy
And lashed up some poles
And some planks with some rope
That he’d found by the foals
And managed to make
A table, quite steady
And sturdy enough
In case baby was ready.

The night passed and
Jesus was born in that place.
The table lay, unused,
But stood, just in case.
Visitors came
And were slightly perplexed:
When attempting to use it,
Young Joseph got vexed.

The point of the table
Was not clear to them;
Was not clear to Joseph
Nor all Bethlehem.
But Joseph was certain,
Could feel in his gut,
That a table was key
To events in this hut.

The women said, “Typical!
Building and fussing, and
Making that thing
While Mary was pushing!”
Joseph, however, stayed
Faithful and still,
Content in his knowledge
That this was God’s will.

Joseph had heard
The right message, it’s true
And acted upon it
But hadn’t a clue
That his timing was out:
No table required
For the birth of God’s son
Whom the shepherds admired.

But the Body and Blood
Came to earth on that day
In that stable
In the form of a babe in the hay.
And the table came later.
It bore bread and wine.
When Christ died for all
It remained as a sign.

Nick Morgan, 2014

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence

Christmas Newsletter

A person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

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Priest in Charge’s Christmas Letter 2019

GOOD NEWS! GOD IS WITH US!

So… now what?

Dear Friends,
I don’t know what kind of Christmas you’re having this year: Quiet? Busy? Joyful? Tinged with sadness? The Christmas message is that in Jesus, God is with us, whatever life may throw at us, and however we’re feeling. Whatever you have planned, I hope you take the opportunity to get to church, whether here in the churches of the Bramham Benefice or elsewhere, and celebrate the good news revealed in the birth of Jesus.

The Good News requires a reaction from us. This is news that should change and challenge us, and anchor us amid an uncertain world. I urge you, therefore, to engage afresh with the Good News of Jesus and deepen your faith. There are practical ways to help you do this which are in this newsletter. Jesus calls us to flourish as children of God, and be part of God’s transforming mission in the world. Think and pray about how you are going to be someone who lives the good news that Jesus brings.

Having celebrated the Christmas truth that ‘God is with us’, what now? Some opportunities to develop your walk with God seven days a week….

1 Peter: Confidence in a Complex World – a Bible study series from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

On Tuesday evenings at 7pm, starting on February 4th there will be a 6-week Bible study group based on the first letter of Peter, hosted at St Mary’s Church and led by the Reverend Nick Morgan. Places are limited and booking is essential.

To develop a confident faith, we need to be grounded in the gospel and our identity in Christ. In his letter to scattered groups of Christians in what is modern-day Turkey, the apostle Peter ignites imagination and inspires hope for the possibilities of everyday life in a complex world.  This is a letter that is both exhilarating in its scope and intensely grounded in the grittiness of real life. Like those who first received Peter’s letter, we will be challenged to see our daily lives afresh and encouraged to live as confident Christians, Monday to Sunday.

Booking essential via the Parish Office. The cost is £5 to include the study book.

Everyday Faith

Something you can do at home yourself is follow a 3-week course presented in a small booklet. These can be ordered from the Parish Office for £4 per copy.

Everyday Faith invites you on a journey of living faithfully, hopefully and lovingly as a Christian in the 21st century. It offers 21 daily Bible reflections to inspire you to find and follow God in the ordinary – and perhaps extraordinary – stuff of life. It includes real life stories of how others have found God at work in their lives, and a simple pattern of prayer to help you pause and be aware of God.

Come to church!

Regular worship is a key way that we nourish our faith. In the new year, the Bramham Benefice has a new pattern of services. Do check our new website for details of all services and events in our four churches:

www.bramhambenefice.org

A NEW SERVICE

On the 3rd Sunday of the month at All Saints’, Thorp Arch, there is Sung Evensong using the poetic, traditional language of the Book of Common Prayer. This sung service is at 4.30pm in winter months and 6pm in summer months.

SUNDAYS

On Sunday mornings, there are usually two services of Holy Communion going on in the Benefice. Additionally, there is a service of Parish Worship led by members of the congregation in at least one church. Each Sunday at 8am there is Holy Communion using the traditional language of the Book of Common Prayer at All Saints’, Thorp Arch on the 2nd Sunday of the month but at St Mary’s, Boston Spa for the rest of the month. Each Sunday Compline is said at St Mary’s at 6pm (unless there has been a service at St Mary’s in the afternoon).

SATURDAYS
At 10am on Saturday morning, there is a Holy Communion service at St Mary’s, where there is also a coffee morning going on each week.

WEDNESDAYS
There is a midweek service of Holy Communion at 10am at St Mary’s in the Sacrament Chapel (towards the front of church on the left).

1st FRIDAYS

At 10am on the 1st Friday of the month, there is a service of Holy Communion at All Saints’, Bramham led by The Reverend Stanley Menzies.

WEEKDAYS

Morning Prayer is said at 9am every weekday apart from Thursday at St Mary’s.

Confirmation Classes

Even if you have already been confirmed – perhaps many moons ago! – you are invited to attend our confirmation classes to re-engage with the central truths of the Christian Faith and remind yourself of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.