An improvised poem, spontaneously devised and recorded as I prepared St Mary’s, Boston Spa to livestream the State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Priest in Charge’s Christmas Letter 2019
GOOD NEWS! GOD IS WITH US!
So… now what?
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
Morning Prayer is said at 9am every weekday apart from Thursday at St Mary’s.
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.
Whoever wields political power, the job of the Church remains much the same. We just have to work out where to put our energies in order to be faithful to our calling in whatever political landscape we find ourselves. Like Mary, we are called to be God-bearers in the world: to bear the light of Christ and give birth to hope. Like the angel alarmingly yelling at shepherds on a hill out of the blue, we have to somehow make “Do not be afraid!” into more than empty bellowings into the dark night and overcome perfectly legitimate fear with the heavenly host’s message of love: glory to God and peace on earth. Then, like they did, we need to point our listeners in the direction of Jesus, the reason for that reassurance.
And that’s a tough gig. It has to be more than empty words. We have to live the hope that is revealed in Jesus, and be active messengers of hope to those who today are despairing. This means feeding the hungry, healing the sick, comforting those who mourn (Isaiah), regarding the lowly, scattering the proud, thwarting the self-serving agendas of the mighty, exalting the humble and meek (Mary), pursuing truth and justice, loving mercy, walking with God in a humble way which means our own agenda has to take a back seat (Micah), being good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to the captives (Jesus) and so on (see the Bible for more of this kind of thing).
And yes, it means continuing to pray for all in authority, not to bestow upon them our approval, and certainly not to give them any sense that their every action has a divine seal of approval, or is somehow ‘God’s will’. Rather we pray knowing that the way in which human power is used has spiritual and moral significance. We pray because God’s agenda matters and those who govern are answerable to the One who is the source of all power. We pray to hold to account, and as a reminder that, at the end of the day, there is no fridge in which those who govern can hide from God.
God is with us: God’s love is loose in the world in Christ.
Therefore, do not be afraid.
But if you are, you’re not alone: God is with you, and, if we’re doing our job, then the Church is with you too.
May it be so. Amen.