A question for those of you who like to swim in the sea … How do you get in?
Do you edge in a millimetre per minute wincing with every step?
Do you wade in with confidence only to then freeze once the water hits a certain level?!!
Or do you heroically sprint in and dive under?
Or maybe you’re more of a ‘sit on the beach and look after the bags type,’ in which case you’ll get to watch on with amusement at the various ways other people approach getting into the water.
If there is one thing I am sure of about Covid and 2020 so far (and it may be the only thing) it is that what we are experiencing gives us an opportunity to go deeper with God.
“Superficiality is the curse of our age,” writes Richard Foster as he opens his renowned book ‘The Celebration of Discipline.’ If that was accurate in 1978 (I don’t know – I hadn’t been born!) then I reckon it was even more so at the start of 2020. Life is fast paced and instant. We literally and metaphorically scroll and swipe through thousands of soundbites and bite size pieces of information every day. If our schedules aren’t full we soon fill them. We live in, and are complicit in, a culture that doesn’t allow us to dwell on anything for long or with any depth. As Nicolas Carr puts it in ‘Shallows,’….
“I once was a scuba diver. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski.”
We knew all this already but Lockdown confronted us with the ugliness of the truth. We now get to choose to go back or to choose a different way – and that way – is to answer God’s call to go deeper.
Ezekiel saw a vision of a river. It started as a trickle coming from the temple. Ezekiel dipped his toe in, then went ankle deep, then to his waist and then finally he was off his feet and swimming. Once the river was deeper Ezekiel saw signs of new life. Trees flourished on the river bank, fruit grew in abundance and fish swarmed around the water. Then God said, “Where the river flows everything will live.” Ezek 47: 9. The deep water is where the life is.
I have very recently felt God challenge me about the depth of my relationship with him – and how deep we are as a church too. Prayer, worship, time with God, Bible study, listening to God, discipleship, serving each other, being local missionaries to those around us….. How deeply are we going into and after these things? I could be deeper. How about you? Ankle deep can be fun, safe and refresh- ing. It requires little effort – but it makes little difference. Swimming requires much more effort, more trust – but is where we’ll see more fruit and life.
Let’s commit to going deeper and to the effort and discipline that this requires. If we want to see more life and fruit as a church – then we know where we have to go. Deeper.
PS. To engage more with the theme of hurry and spirituality, I recommend: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer.
It was lovely to be gathered together with God’s people on a lovely sunny morning.
So nice to hear live worship but frustrated by the restriction of not being able to join in vocally (we did hum!!), However, we could stand in His presence and lift up our hands.
I felt it was such a good witness to passers by and those who live in the flats across the way many of whom were looking out of their top windows at us.
It all felt good and safe and a blessing to see people and chat afterwards.
It was great to see so many of our friends in person, and to hear the music group even though we couldn’t sing! Diane was happy to just sign along to the songs! It was very hard as we wanted to give everyone a hug but we did manage to stay socially distanced.
Tom did really well at making his voice heard despite all the traffic roaring past. We are looking forward to the next time we meet for the ADCM and hope that the restrictions will allow this to take place.
Diane and Tony Blackwell
Ray and I have adopted a very handsome, mostly black with some white, 2 year old retired greyhound. His racing name was Memories Upgrade. He was born and bred in Ireland by its top breeder and trainer. He was expected to do very well.
He was showing promise but then after having only 5 races he fell. What happened to him next I do not know but he did not run again. He ended up at Happy Hounds from where he was bought. We love him, but because of what has happened, he is very frightened of nearly everything.
We have never seen a dog shake so much. It is heart breaking. He has not had a puppyhood and never been taught how to play. He has only known a cage and only let out briefly, racing maybe once a week. He has lost all his confidence, trembles at any noise and freezes when out walking if he does not like some thing or someone. He is like us – a work in progress.
What is helping Billy? LOVE CARE AND UNDERSTANDING.
Are we any different?
Our Heavenly Father CARES FOR US, LOVES AND FORGIVES US and UNDERSTANDS ALL OUR FEARS.
1 Peter 5 v7
Cast all your anxiety on HIM because HE CARES FOR YOU.
Dates for your diary
- October 4th 10am ADCM (Church Annual Meeting) in Church (Book your place)
- October 11th 10am Open Air Harvest
- October 18th 9am Service in Church / 10am Online Service
- October 25th 9am Service in Church / 10am Online Service
- November 1st 9am Holy Communion in Church / 10am Online Service
All is safely gathered in …
This probably sounds trivial to an accomplished gardener but during lockdown I visited Sally Horrell for a cuppa and catch up. My visit to Sally was outdoors and socially distanced.
On the way out she said, “Have a tomato plant, I have lots!” “Oh dear,” I thought!
However I took it home and found a corner in my garden. I have watered it, prayed over it and spoke life to it and with some excitement watched it grow and grow. Now I have lovely red tomatoes and more to come yet, which taste so different to supermarket ones. So thanks to Sally for encouraging me. It’s been fun.
When we moved here we gained two apple trees (a cooker and an eater). Both gave us brilliant harvests this year. We now have a freezer drawer full of cooked apple to use up through the winter.
Diane and Tony Blackwell
We are so grateful that our garden has fed us this year! We’ve had potatoes, tomatoes and onions for the whole season thanks to Nigel’s green fingers!
Penny and Nigel Jelfs
We only grow raspberries and tomatoes to eat. The wonderful summer helped to produce a bumper crop of raspberries in June some of which we shared with our neighbour and even let the birds have a share. Delicious.
As soon as Gould’s Garden Centre was open we bought some Money Maker tomatoes. Grow Bags which we usually use were hard to come by so we found some large flower pots in the shed and used those. With the help of constant watering and warmth the tomatoes were the best yet – large, sweet and ripe for eating much earlier than usual. I don’t know why they’re called Money Maker we didn’t make any money but certainly saved some!
Many of you know that I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the end of July, had an operation to remove the tumour at the end of August and have been recuperating since then. It has all been quite a shock and at times very stressful. This week Patrick and I had a meeting with the oncologist and are very happy with the decision not to have chemotherapy, which in my case would have very little benefit and significant risks. So I’ve been discharged – with regular scans and tests to detect any thing similar at an early stage. Praise God!
This is wonderful news and we’re still trying to adjust our thinking; we are able to have a very different plan for the next 6 months!! I can’t believe that it’s all happened in such a short space of time. There have been so many encouragements: the Lord’s wonderful presence and peace throughout as we’ve ‘walked through the valley of the shadow of death’; His promise that what the enemy planned for evil He will turn to good; that He is my protector who will never, ever let me go and the amazing privilege to know the love and support and prayers of so very many people – in Weymouth, in the UK and through the weekly zoom prayer meetings for the leadership of ACET (the HIV and AIDS charity which Patrick founded 30 years ago) all over the world. We are blessed indeed.
I made a playlist which contains some of the wonderful worship songs that have been shared on the St John’s members’ WhatsApp group and have been able to listen to it in hospital (through earphones) and as I’ve rested at home. These truths have spoken to my heart and lifted my spirits – and led me into worship.
And there have been so many amazing answers to prayer: that I would know God’s peace, which passes all understanding; that He would be with me – during the scans and operation; that the right decision would be made about possibly having chemo before the operation (I didn’t); that the surgeon would be Mr Talwar (the senior colorectal surgeon); that I wouldn’t obstruct and be rushed to A&E for emergency surgery; that the elective operation would go well (all done laparoscopically, tumour removed with good margins, no stoma); that I would recover quickly (came home on day 2 after surgery and have made very good progress) and that the decision re chemo would be clear.
So thank you so much for your love, your prayers, your encouragement, your messages, your cards, your flowers. And above all thanks to our loving heavenly Father, wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus, and the amazing presence and enabling of the Holy Spirit.
These words from the song ‘The Goodness of God’ have been a refrain for us both from the beginning of lockdown, have often moved us to tears, and remain a declaration:
All my life you have been faithful
All my life you have been so, so good.
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of your goodness, O God.
On the last Saturday of September Bishop Karen ordained Matt Renyard to the priesthood at St Aldhelm’s.
Please pray for Matt who will continue to serve at St Aldhelm’s and St Ann’s.
Meet our Virtual Congregation: 10,000 views of our Church Services
Here is some very encouraging news. Every week we see far more people attend our Sunday services online, than were ever attending our physical church services before lockdown, and even more watch the same videos over the following weeks. For example, our Easter service has had 390 views so far – watched by maybe 450 people.
Many just drop by for part of the service, but it is all very encouraging. Who are all these people? Where are they from? What are they looking for? What does this mean for our mission, and how can we help support and nurture our growing virtual congregation?
How can we transition people from a purely online relationship with us, to maybe attending a home group? Are we ready to open our hearts and homes to all these people? And if some prefer to continue just online, or live far away, how can we support them in their own faith journey?
Google collects anonymous information which is helpful. It turns out that people who participate in our online services come from all over the country, and 20% are from other nations. But a good number are undoubtedly local people, curious to engage in what we are doing. The same for midweek messages from Tom.
There have been over 10,000 views of our videos since March, and 1,600 hours of view time. We are a church of around 100 people, so even if we all were to participate on average in one online service etc a week since March, that would mean only 2500 views, rather than the 10,000 we have seen. Indeed, it only takes maybe 65 total separate views on different devices for the whole congregation of 100 to participate in a service – even if they all do so.
As many of us watch as a household, the true number of “St John’s Church Members Viewings” is therefore probably less than 2000. That means 80% of the 10,000+ people watching are not part of the church! And 20% of the subscribers to our Channel (who get updates whenever we post new videos) are not church members.
When people see one of our videos pop up on their YouTube list of suggestions to watch next, around 7 times out of 100, they click next on one of our services! 16% of all our viewings are suggested to people by YouTube, and they watch on average for about 9 minutes each (I can tell you that is a very long time in the YouTube world as the average normally is around 3 minutes). That means maybe one in four may be watching an entire service, while the others just linger for a few seconds.
Part of our response to this new situation is making a new website. At present the only way people can go further, who are drawn into online services, is by clicking on a public Facebook page, or taking a look at a very brief description of the church on a Parish-wide website.
For the last three weeks, as a matter of urgency, a web designer has been working closely with Tom and myself, to create a brand new website which will soon appear at http://www.stjohnsweymouth.co.uk.
The new website has been designed to be a showcase: a place for visitors to Weymouth, for people who are moving into the area and looking for a church, for people who are engaged by our videos and want to learn more, for people who are looking to learn more about faith in Jesus and about the meaning of life. It will be linked to the existing Parish site.
We also hope it will be a great destination for church members themselves – for example, Jottings articles and church news items will all be published there – as well as in the usual way.
We look forward to your feedback – please bear with us and pray for us, as this project is experimental, and very much a work in progress. We have a lot to do still. Websites evolve and grow, as new content arrives, and every month we will continue to add more online services and other things.
Patrick Dixon firstname.lastname@example.org
News from St John’s School
It has been absolutely wonderful to welcome everyone back to St John’s this term and I can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed seeing all the children again. We have been amazed at the enthusiasm and positivity that the children have brought with them. Their enjoyment at being back in school with their friends has been a pleasure to see. There are a number of new faces in our staff team too. Welcome to Jade Egdon who has joined our nursery team, Cressida Dodds who has joined our reception team, Charlotte Mansell our new Y4 teacher with Lara McMahon our Y4 TA. Amy Quinn joins as our new Y6 teacher while Emily Allen is on maternity leave.
Over the past couple of weeks we have been working hard to ensure that school is a clean and safe place to be at this time. We are doing things differently with a staggered start and finish to the day as well as staggered play and lunchtimes. The beginning and end of days feel calm, organised and safe and I am so grateful to all of our wonderful staff and families for supporting school and working hard to make this happen.
At the beginning of the year, in January, I was given this Bible verse, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John16.33
At that time I had no idea what the year had in store, but this verse has really helped me over this unprecedented time. When life is tough, He is with us!
Thank you so much for all your prayers as we get to grips with our, ‘new normal’ . We will do our very best to ensure that we continue to work hard to make our school the very best it can be for all of our children and families as we move forward.
Sending very best wishes,
Amanda Aze Head teacher