On Wednesday 21st February Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99. As news of his death spread many people from the worlds of religion, entertainment and politics were quick to pay tribute to the Reverend Graham and the news was reported internationally. Many have remarked on his achievements and it is reckoned that he preached in person to over 80 million people and to many millions more via the TV and radio. There are many people around the world who came to faith in Jesus through Billy’s preaching. Tribute has also been paid, not just to his achievements, but to the constancy of his character and conduct.

I heard the news of his death having just got home from the Service of Thanksgiving that was held at St John’s for the late, and much loved, Elizabeth Saunders. Elizabeth too will be fondly remembered for her love, faithfulness and character and I know that she too had a profound effect on many people locally. Billy Graham and Elizabeth Saunders – a global superstar and a Dorset farmer – two saints, worlds apart yet part of the same family and now enjoying the same unparalleled and glorious reward. Both lived faithfully for and with God and did the work that he called them to. Both have left a legacy of eternal value. Both knew – and now know fully – that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

Billy Graham famously paraphrased a quotation by DL Moody saying, “One day you’ll hear the news that I am dead….don’t believe a word of it. I shall be more alive then than I am now. I’ll have just changed my address.”

The profound hope and fulfilled life that Billy and Elizabeth knew is for us too. The Gospel is good news – for now and for eternity. Let us celebrate it joyfully and share it fearlessly this Easter.

Pause for thought ….

This month we are in Lent, a time to prepare ourselves for Easter, for the cross and the resurrection.

It was good to look up in a dictionary and find the first two entries for the word cross’ said i) two intersecting lines ii) the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Another entry was ‘cross- purposes’ and I am sure we know what this means. It is when people do not understand each other usually because of differences either in behaviour or belief. The list did, of course, include the word ‘crossword’, something that I like doing. Plain simple clues or more difficult cryptic ones, the answers to be entered in the set pattern of horizontal and vertical squares – back to the shape of the cross on which Christ died for us.

Lent recalls the time when Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness to prepare himself for the purpose for which He came. During Lent we have time to see where we stand in our faith, our belief in Him, the reason for His coming, His death and resurrection.

Perhaps if we are honest we all need help to sort ourselves out. I know I do when trying to solve my crosswords although I have a number of reference books to help me when I get stuck. In our Christian faith we have the Bible (39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament). Throughout these books we can follow God’s purpose in sending His Son to live among us, to show God’s love for us and to die for us on the cross.

The cross has fulfilled its purpose and this is the message of the cross. It is the power of God for salvation. We are not left to shape our own future. Jesus by His spirit is with us throughout our lives. Jesus was assured of His ministry for us and told us all ‘it is written’– let’s use the Bible for the answers we seek to shape our lives and grow in faith.

The opening words of John 1 about the Word that became flesh may be worth a read!

John Downer

An Australian Wedding

Many of you will know that I have recently returned from Australia. I went with two of my three daughters, Penny and Joanna, for three weeks to take part in the wedding of my first granddaughter Laura. What excitement!

My youngest daughter Elizabeth, her Australian husband, their son and daughter went to live there 15 years ago. They have been blessed with two more children since then! It was Penny’s first visit; Joanna has been a few times and I have been a few more!

Laura, who was marrying Gareth, wanted us to make ‘the cake’ and help in general, particularly under the heading of flowers; Bouquets – Bride and Bridesmaids, Buttonholes, Church Dais and the aisle, table decorations. We had great fun picking the garden flowers and eucalyptus foliage. I was thrilled to be asked to read some verses from the Bible during the service – Laura’s choice from Song of Songs. We were so delighted to be part of the celebrations.

Thank you for all the prayers that went up for us. I know there were many and I know they were answered.

Focus … Frugal Food

Frugal Food is still going strong after 5 years and we meet weekly every Friday morning during term time at the Park Church Centre.

Our ethos is still the same, ie, to provide cheap (very) nutritional and tasty one pot meals. Everyone who can, gets involved with various aspects of the preparation, cooking and obviously eating. When the meal is ready we all sit down together to eat and share fellowship.

We feel we are meeting the needs of a variety of people, whether it is actual cooking skills or friendship and many of the people who attend have been coming for a number of years. Our funding is purely on a voluntary basis and so far our needs are being met.

A big thank you to everyone who comes to help as without support it would be a challenge.

Gill Welch