Every week when we gather, we aim to learn more about what the Bible has to say about God and His purpose for our world.
Our aim is to bring the Bible alive in practical, down-to-earth and easy to understand ways, and to encourage people to read Scripture for themselves.
Rev Tom Coopey.
Jottings is published every month, and is full of items written by members of the church community.
It’s nearly Christmas. A year ago our services were almost entirely online – this year I’m glad that we’ll be able to celebrate together in church.
We’ll once again be hearing those seasonal readings and singing those familiar carols. We’ll encounter again the Angels, Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and the Magi as we’re drawn once more into the story that changed the world.
I sometimes wonder: What happened next to the Shepherds and Magi? Have you ever wondered that? Scripture doesn’t mention them again after the stories of Jesus’ birth – so we don’t know – but I’m curious about them …
In the short term we know that the Shepherds were full of joy, dancing in the streets and telling everyone about Jesus. But what happened the day after that? Or a few weeks on? Or many years later? What long term effect did meeting Jesus have on them?
When the Magi met Jesus they were overjoyed and gave their gifts in awe and reverence. We know that God spoke to them in their dreams, and having met Jesus a new route home needed to be taken. But what was that journey home like? What did they tell people once they returned? What impact did meeting Jesus have on their lives as the memory of their epic journey faded over the years?
Why the curiosity? I guess it’s because I can relate to the joy and awe of the Shepherds and Magi. I can testify to encounters with Christ which leave me, “lost in wonder, love and praise” as the old hymn puts it. But I also know what it is for that joy and awe to run dry, for faith to feel mundane and to wonder what difference Jesus really makes (just being honest). So it makes me wonder how life panned out for these guys in the long run if they never met Jesus again.
Thankfully the good news for us is that meeting Jesus is not meant to be a one-off, once in a life-time, one-time encounter. Maybe the Shepherds and Magidid only meet Jesus once but thanks to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we are invited to be with him every day! God doesn’t call us to meet him just on special occasions – but he invites us to share our very lives with him, day by day, moment by moment. The invitation is always there but how often do we pass it up and miss out?
Christmas may be annual – but a relationship with Jesus can be constant. Draw near to him again this Advent and Christmas. Use this time to recommit to a daily walk and moment by moment relationship with God. As we do I pray we will all be overjoyed at the presence of Jesus this Christmas – and always.
This edition of Jottings has information about our Christmas events and services, please get the dates in your diary, pray for the events and invite people along.
A Holy Activity
November is a time for remembrance and reflection. On Remembrance Sunday, 14th Nov, at 10.30am we will gather as a church family to pay tribute to those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and we will pray for peace. At 6.30pm we have a time of thanksgiving for loved ones. I hope you’ll be able to join us.
But can I encourage you also to use this season of remembering to prayerfully look back at these last 2 years? A lot has changed and no-one, no family, no institution has been unaffected and the church and our church are no exception.
Do you remember how you felt during that first lockdown? Life, as I remember it, seemed utterly and suddenly surreal – empty shelves, face masks, social distancing, school closures, over-whelmed hospitals, furlough schemes, quiet roads, cruise ships in the Bay, one walk a day, a new thing called Zoom, rainbows in our windows, clapping on our doorsteps, the church being closed, online services etc. etc. I remember regular moments where I thought, ‘Am I dreaming?!’ Enough time has passed to mean that some of those things now just seem normal.
I expect it will take years to fully piece together and realise what all this has meant for the church. Much has changed and the dust is settling – both literally and metaphorically. Change evokes a range of reactions and it’s so healthy to take those reactions honestly to God in prayer. So take some time this month to get honest with God about what you’ve been through, what you’re going through and how you’re feeling. Please also reflect on our church – on what’s changed and where God is leading us.
As you do there may be some sadness. In our church family there are dear friends we have lost – we miss them – church just isn’t quite the same without them. Other changes have been introduced and you may well miss some of the old ways of doing things. But there are reasons for joy and thanks too. There is an exciting sense of newness and renewal – not just in the building but in the family too. The building is much improved and ready for mission. And praise God that many people have joined the church family – and we rejoice in the sense of growth and renewal that we are experiencing.
So whether you have been part of St John’s for many decades or just a few days – we are so glad that you’re here with us. Welcome and Welcome Back.
The Bible calls us to remember often enough that we could rightly call it a holy activity. So as we remember on November 11 pray that you’ll know God’s peace and comfort as you look back and also his anointing and joy as you look forward.
When I was a school boy the school bus was often late. It sometimes broke down and it looked like the oldest and most uncomfortable vehicle on the road. The irony was that this unreliable bus company was called ‘Confidence Coaches’.
Watch any number of adverts and you’ll soon see that confidence is what many products promise – we are told that with the right shampoo, deodorant, face cream, clothes, car etc we will be more confident.
The idea of confidence is all around us. The Church of England has recently announced that it wants to be a more confident church.
Confidence is what we are aspiring to and hope for. Confidence can be misplaced and misunderstood. Confidence makes us feel good. A lack of confidence can be debilitating.
Are you a confident person? Has Covid affected your confidence levels? How confident do you feel in yourself, in those around you and in your faith?
Our confidence needs regularly to be renewed and re – centered on Jesus.
During this term we’re going to be looking at confidence from a Christian perspective – asking questions such as – What does the Bible say about confidence? Where does confidence come from? Where should – and shouldn’t – we place our confidence? Can we be confident and humble? How do we grow in confidence? What is a confident Christian? What is a confident church?
These are important questions as we emerge from lockdown, face the far-reaching implications of all we’ve been through and look to the future.
I hope that as we look at this topic and dig into the Bible together on Sundays and in small groups that we’ll discover more about God, what it means to place our confidence in him and live in the light of the confidence that He brings to us.
Don’t forget that as of Sun 10th Oct there will be two weekly services – 9am and 10.30am – with coffee served from 10- 10.30am for both congregations. The teaching will be the same at both services. The 10.30am service will continue to be live streamed on the church youtube channel.
See you soon
The Autumn is coming. Restrictions are lifting. Opportunities are opening. What does this mean for Sundays at St Johns?
Our Open Air summer series finishes on Sun 5th Sept. The pandemic sort of forced us outside – but this has been a great thing. The services have had a wonderful and free atmosphere and have been a positive witness to the community. So expect more and we’ll be back out there next summer for sure!
Then we’re having a mini series called ‘Lift Your Eyes.’ As life opens up we need to look up and be reminded of what God is doing in the world:-
Sun 12 Climate Sunday
(building on our Saying Yes to Life course) This service will focus on God’s amazing creation and how we care for it.
Sun 19 Local Mission
What’s God doing in Weymouth? We’ll be hearing from Street Pastors and others who are engaged in local mission work.
Sun 26th Global Mission
David and Shelley Stokes, our mission partners, recently returned from Argentina, will be sharing with us.
Sun 3rd Oct All Age Harvest
Celebration. Followed by a Bring and Share lunch.
Then – we’re going to try something new…
Starting on Sun 10 Oct we will be holding two weekly Sunday services.
The 9am. This will be a traditional and quieter service – using Anglican liturgy and traditional/familiar hymns and choruses. The service will follow Morning Worship liturgy on 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays and Holy Communion on 2nd and 4th Sundays.
The 10.30am. This will be a contemporary and informal service with a greater emphasis on sung worship and times of ministry and groups for children and young people. 3rd Sundays will be a Communion service. Both congregations will follow the same teaching series. Coffee will be served at 10am for both congregations.
These changes reflect the general tone of the feedback shared when we did a worship survey in 2019. The changes also reflect the way in which the church has grown and address how we can more effectively go about meeting the needs of a growing and diverse congregation.
The services will feel different to the 9am and 10.30am services before the Pandemic. We are not going ‘back to normal’ we are moving forward. These are significant changes. There are many details to work through and I’m anticipating 101 teething problems. So please be prayerful, patient and open as we give this is a go.
The new pattern isn’t set in stone forever. We’ll give it a go and then review it. So please feel very free to share your own thoughts on how it’s all going as the Autumn term progresses.
To make this work we really need your help. Inside you’ll see a range of opportunities for you to get involved.
Change brings a mix of emotions and a number of challenges. I urge us to embark on this next part of our journey prayerfully, patiently and honestly with love for God, each other and the world at the very centre!
It’s great to see the rafts back out in the bay. Their arrival marks the start of summer but last year – due to Covid – they never appeared. It’s good to have them back.
My favourite time to swim to a raft is first thing on a sunny day. I swam out there with Noah and Poppy at 6am recently – on a still and bright morning – it was stunning. From the rafts you see Weymouth being lit up by the morning sun and you see our church standing out dramatically as part of the Weymouth skyline.
St John’s has provided a landmark for seafarers for many years. A glance in the right direction when you’re out at sea – maybe lost and disorientated – our spire points the way home.
Later that morning we had the privilege of hosting the School Leavers’ Service at church. During the service we gave out Bibles and prayed for each child by name. I also told the children that whenever they saw our church – they should think of it as home – a place where they are welcome and can be themselves, a place where they can find comfort, peace and support. Wouldn’t it be great to see these young people engaged in church over the coming years? Let’s pray for that!
The idea of ‘coming home to church’ is particularly relevant for us all right now. Opportunities to gather are increasing and restrictions are lifting. But we’ve been away for so long! Online services, Zooms, WhatsApp’s, emails and Jottings have kept us engaged and informed but we haven’t met together to worship and socialise for such a long time. We’re all out of the habit. Some may be anxious, others feeling disengaged, others unsettled. Some have joined the church yet not yet entered the building. Some may want everything to go back to being just as it was. Others will want things to change. All these thoughts and emotions are valid and we want to journey together safely and inclusively.
So how do you feel about coming back? My message to you is the same as to the young people, “This is your church. You are welcome. See it as home.”
Football didn’t quite home after all (maybe next time). Over the past year we’ve spent more time in our homes than ever before. Now it’s time to remember – or maybe discover for the first time – that church is home too. To quote a worship song we’ve started singing … ’The Father’s arms are open wide.’
(PS – maybe pray for sunny Sundays!)
A Summer of Fresh Air and New Wine…
How does that sound?
I fully hope that in the Autumn we will be able to run two weekly Sunday services – one with a liturgically traditional flavour – the other much more informal and charismatic. I’m looking forward to this development and to both services being wonderful opportunities for worship, discipleship, fellowship and growth.
But we can’t do that yet. Restrictions remain in place and we can only offer one ‘in person’ service on a Sunday over the summer – as well as our online provision.
I know that the current 9am weekly service rules a number of people out – either because of the early start, the restrictions, the lack of provision for children or concerns about being inside.
The Open Air services, however, address many of these issues – the fresh air, the space for children and families, the permission to sing and not wear masks and adequate space to ensure social distancing can be observed. These services are, therefore, the safest and most inclusive gatherings we can offer at the moment.
So we have decided that there will be an Open Air Service in the church grounds at 10.30am every week from Sun 11th July – Sun 29th August. This will be instead of the 9am service.
In dodgy weather the service will be held indoors – which will of course trigger current restrictions and limit numbers – but this will be decided and communicated by 9am on Sundays at the latest.
I hope that this will allow us a fantastic summer of worshipping together in a reassuringly safe way.
As well as this – you are also invited to come and experience New Wine on the big screen in the church. New Wine is a summer festival that this year is only happening online. That means that we can all experience it without having to go camping in Peterborough!
Check out the ‘Summer Programme’ for the details of when we’ll meet in church – but you can find out more about New Wine here: United Breaks Out – New Wine (new-wine.org) I am sure that these gatherings will be incredible and I urge you to prioritise them. Amazing things could happen!
So – here’s to a summer of fresh air and New Wine – enjoy!
(PS – maybe pray for sunny Sundays!)
Let the word of God dwell deeply….
Thanks for your prayers for the latest and biggest phase of the Renewal Project. It has been a busy few weeks. Lots has been achieved and it feels so good to think that the building is now pretty much ready for the new chapter of mission and ministry that is ahead of us.
Even more important than preparing the building though is the need for us to prepare our hearts.
I feel that God has often highlighted the following encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Colossian church for us at St Johns. I’m therefore hoping that over the coming weeks as restrictions continue to lift and as churches begin the process of re-opening that we might all dwell and meditate on these words…
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Every line of this is full of poignancy for us at this time. It’s a wonderful picture of what it takes to live in unity as God’s people. After all we’ve been through it reminds us of who we are how we are to live.
May these words dwell in us richly over these weeks. Let’s read them, read them again, pray into them, ask God to speak to us deeply. Let’s allow the Spirit to excite, provoke, challenge, correct, motivate and transform us through these words.
Over to you….
On Sun 23rd May we are having an Open Air Pentecost Celebration at 10.30am in the Church grounds. This will be a service for all ages and another opportunity for us to worship together after such a tough time. I’m really looking forward to it and looking forward to seeing you.
Pentecost is when we remember that first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the church.
Just before His ascension Jesus said to His disciples, “You will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b). What an extraordinary thing for this small bunch of people to hear! Imagine for a minute how they felt. Excited and itching to get on with it? Or daunted, unsure and even scared? Or a bit of both.
Lockdown is coming to an end. The Church Renewal Project is in full swing. Our Church is being physically prepared for a new era of mission and ministry. Our church is growing. Our community is in need. Big opportunities await and God is calling us to be His witnesses here.
How does that make you feel? Excited and itching to get on with it? Or daunted, unsure and even scared? Or a bit of both.
For me it’s both. I can’t wait until we’re up and running again to embrace this new era of mission opportunity with a renewed building and a passionate and growing church. It’s going to be great and full of many joys! But I’m also daunted. The needs around us are huge, the world has changed, church has changed. Being witnesses for Christ is going to take some hard work, change, risk and sacrifice.
I bet that’s how the disciples felt because they were human just like you and me.
But, Jesus had already landed the even bigger and better news; “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” Acts 1:8a.
The disciples were not having to go it alone – and neither do we. They were not going to have do it in their own strength – and neither do we. They were not going to have to be in control of everything – and neither do we!
However we are feeling about what’s coming, the promise still stands – “You will receive power,” and I thank God for that.
So for all that lies ahead our calling is simple – stay connected to and open to the power, comfort and leading of the Holy Spirit. This is the era that awaits us as a church – bring it on!
See you on Sun 23 May!
With much love
A triple challenge for today
The church doors will reopen this month as the weekly 9am service returns as of Sun 11th April. A second service will then be added as and when feels appropriate and in time we look forward to more activities opening up – but we are still in a time of waiting.
We might be tempted to wait until we are back together before thinking too much about the future. Admittedly there are some things that we just don’t know – and won’t know until the doors are fully open again. Things such as: how confident will people feel to return? Do people want to come back? Have some people left – and we just haven’t realised? What restrictions will be in place? Will we have new people? How do we develop our online mission?
But for all the unknowns and the need for patience there are three areas that the church can engage in NOW.
There is no need to wait for the following:-
Let a wave of prayer start now. Let’s not wait but get on our knees now. Over these next months I want us to enter a season of committed and passionate intercession and careful listening. We need to hear from God clearly. We need His wisdom, His strength and His vision as we look to what’s coming next. What did Mary say to the servants at the wedding when the wine had run out? “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you.” So we need to be listening!
Don’t wait for the building to open to deepen your relationships with people at church. We have lost something profound this year. Rebuilding is needed and it will only happen if we all make an effort with each other. A period of reconciliation is needed – and it can start now. It’s been a tough time – and all have been affected. Let’s resolve to be kind to each other. Start building relationships now. It’s not just the job of a few but takes a mutual commitment. Pick up the phone, go for a walk, write a card – do whatever you can do to rebuild relationships.
Connect with non – Christians
Our emphasis on Sunday mornings after Easter is Alpha – an introductory course to Christianity. The 9am service and 10.30am online service will both follow the Alpha material. It will be a great refresher for us all – but why not also invite people who don’t know Jesus to attend? Let’s also be praying for people to come to faith and asking for God to give us both boldness and sensitivity to share the Gospel clearly.
Exciting times are ahead. There are some things we still have to wait for. But let’s not wait to pray, to rebuild friendships and to share our faith.
Let’s go for it!
Hope on the Horizon
As I write it has been a week like no other since the start of the Pandemic. The government has announced the Road Map – meaning that we now have an idea as to when restrictions will lift – and the sun has been shining! These two things have changed the atmosphere and offered hope – really for the first time in a long time.
The predicted national changes and the steady decrease of rates of infection have positive implications for church. As we start the process of re-opening the building I hope the following Q&A’s will be helpful.
What are we doing for Easter?
In Church: An Hour at the Cross. 2-3pm. A quiet hour with some readings and music. Online: A reflection on the cross will be available on the church YouTube channel from 6am.
At Church: Open Air Celebration, 10.30am on the lawn. This will be an Easter Celebration for all ages. Social distancing, track and trace etc. will be in place. We hope to be able to sing but, either way, we can all look forward to this being a safe and joyful time to come together and worship Jesus.
When will Sunday services in church resume?
A weekly 9am service will resume on Sun 11th April. This will be very similar to the services held in the Autumn – traditional and reflective with a Communion Service on the first Sunday of each month. At the moment we assume that face coverings will be mandatory, social distancing required and that singing won’t be allowed.
In time we will also resume the 10.30am service – with groups for children and young people. This will be a contemporary and informal service with greater emphasis on sung worship and time in God’s presence. I am so looking forward to this but for now patience is needed as the timing will depend on several factors. Watch this space for more info.
What about Online services?
Weekly online services will continue. In contrast to the ‘in church 9am service’ they will be more contemporary and informal. As that second service opens up in church I’m sure we will experiment with making changes, live streaming etc. – but rest assured there will be an online service available every week.
What will we be doing in the summer term?
On Sundays – both online and in church – we are going to be using the Alpha Course material. Alpha is a great introduction to/ reminder of the Christian faith and I hope that in both settings this will be a timely reminder of the Good News of Jesus – and that it may draw new people in to hear the Gospel. More info on this will be shared next month.
I pray that you have a great sense of hope and expectation as you look to the future. We are still in a season where we need to be patient and wise but it is so good to now be able to envisage having the church building open again.
See you at Easter!
Another Lockdown. Another Challenge. Another Opportunity
In the Lockdown of Spring 2020 – churches were not allowed to open. In this lockdown the decision as to whether or not to open was down to local church leaders. With rates on the rise, and the added risks of a more contagious new variant, the clergy team here all agreed that closing was our safest and most pastoral option. I know this will have come as a disappointment to some and a relief to others. The online services continue but for those of you are not online I appreciate that this is another hard season to go through. We will, of course, not stay closed for any longer than feels right and necessary and we’ll keep assessing the situation as we go.
Another lockdown presents us with another challenging time but also another opportunity to go deeper with God. He calls us to draw near and I hope that we can once again use this time to press into personal prayer and devotion.
I’m also sure that God still wants to use this season as a time of preparation. The Renewal Project has been slowed down by Coronavirus but it is still ticking along in the background and real progress has been made in recent months. Preparing our church buildings for a future of renewed mission and ministry feels like a helpful metaphor for what God is calling us – His people – to do. God has plans for our church – plans to bless us and plans for us to be a blessing. In Sept 2019, when the Renewal Project was launched, we also shared a new mission statement that the church leadership team had spent time praying, thinking and talking about. This can be summarised as: ‘to share the Gospel clearly and demonstrate God’s love generously.’
We can do this now – and we are doing it now. Many are involved in pastoral care – providing meals, phone calls, practical care and encouragement. Our online services are also an opportunity to share the Gospel with new people.
But now is also the time to dream and prayerfully ask God, ‘What have you got in store for us? What are you calling us to do?’ How can we be ready for the new things you are doing and the new things you are calling us to do?
I encourage each and every one of you take on these questions as we together look for what God is doing now and what He is leading us into.
Two new things are coming up in Lent. On Sundays we are going to do a series called ‘Saying Yes to Life.’ It’s a series all about appreciating, understanding and loving God’s world. I hope it will be really good for us and lead us into a deeper appreciation for creation and increase our commitment to creation care. We are also doing a midweek course called ‘Life Explored’ – a seven session course on the basics of Christianity. Lockdown means that these courses will both be Online. Those of you on social media/email will see more info about these things soon. For those not online – please pray for these two courses – that God will use them both to draw people in and lead us all forward.
Stay safe, stay in touch and stay close to the one who knows you best and loves you most.
Silence and Singing
I remember it like it was yesterday… Christmas Eve 1993 in Leicester Cathedral. The lights are low, the Cathedral is packed and the congregation wait silently and expectantly. A single note cuts into the silence, I step forward and, with my heart pounding, begin to sing the line I’d waited years to sing… ‘Once in Royal David’s City…’
That’s right – hard to believe now – but I was once an angelic looking Chorister at Leicester Cathedral – and had the terrifying privilege of opening the Christmas Eve Carol Service with that iconic solo. In that moment it was both the silence and the singing that made the experience so memorable and atmospheric.
The Christmas story contains both silence and singing. Zechariah could not speak after hearing from the Angel but then burst into praise when John was born. Mary too responded with praise but then also pondered and treasured all that was going on. I imagine it was pretty quiet on the Shepherd’s hill and then the Angels arrived in full voice. The long journeys of the Magi and of Mary and Joseph would – like most journeys – have been a combination of conversation and silent thought.
Our celebration of Christmas this year can – and should – involve both singing and silence. I hope our mix of Online and In Church services will help us to do this. It is disappointing that we won’t be singing together in a full church – but our Online services will give you an opportunity to raise your own roof as you worship God and belt out the classics at home. If you’re not online then you can always sing along with the various televised national services.
We won’t be able to have our usual range of Christmas services in church and gatherings this year will be small and subject to restrictions. But St John’s will still be open at various times – giving an opportunity for some reflection and stillness. I suggest that you make full use of the space to take some time out and come and be still as you ponder – just as Mary did.
So – whether you come to church or worship at home – or doamixtureofthetwo-Ipray that you’ll know God’s light and his peace this Christmas. Jesus is Emmanuel – ‘God with us’ – wherever and however we choose to worship.
When you hear the word ‘Hybrid’ these days you might well think of a new car – one which runs on combination of petrol and electricity. Even more recently though the word ‘hybrid’ has started to be used to describe church.
The Spring Lockdown meant that we had to learn quickly how to take church online. Doing this has been a challenge but has also opened up whole new way of doing things – and even more importantly has made church accessible to a wide range of people. It’s been a revelation and our online presence is now here to stay. One way or another we will continue to make Sunday services available for those who can’t get to the building, as well as grow in our use of social media and our newly launched and revamped website.
But we are now also able to carefully re-introduce ‘in person’ worship. For some people being Online is not an option, for others it’s far from preferable – and so it is great to now have the opportunity to start meeting together again. A full scale relaunch of multiple Sunday services is not possible and certainly not advised at the moment. Yet I am delighted that we have been able to start a new weekly 9am Service. This is a development of the former 9am service but with the addition of some traditional/familiar worship music and use of Common Worship Anglican Liturgy. Whilst there are some changes the service retains it’s quiet and reflective character that has long been treasured at our 9am services.
We also then have our weekly Online service which starts at 10am and is shown on Youtube. In contrast to the 9am service this is informal and contemporary and with an All Age element. The time will come when this service moves back into the church building and we can restart our groups for children and young people. The service will then be live steamed ensuring that people can still join in even if they can’t be there in person.
So–there we go. We are now a hybrid of physical and virtual church! However you choose to engage – you are welcome – and both ways of worshipping are equally valid, important – and sacred. So whether it’s in the building or on the sofa – let’s keep worshipping God together – and why not invite others too?
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.
Little and Large
We can’t do BIG church at the moment. Big gatherings are not an option because of Covid 19 and the building is actually closed for a few weeks as the decorating and lighting work are being done.
I can’t wait until we can all be together again. I miss you and I miss the special atmosphere of worshipping together in church. We have to be patient but I do long for the return of corporate worship which can include everyone.
Until that day comes what do we do? More of the same? Yes. Over recent months we’ve moved our services online, been praying and socialising via Zoom, staying in touch via the post, whatsapping, emailing, facebooking and texting. We have found new ways of connecting and new ways of doing church. These are good things, not poor substitutes, but positive and new ways of doing things. Long may they continue!
In the absence of doing ‘BIG’ church the Autumn gives us an opportunity to explore ‘SMALL’ church. Many of you are in small groups and have been finding ways to connect and even meet safely during Lockdown. I want to encourage small groups to meet together regularly in the Autumn, not instead of church, nor as an add on to church, but as church. The way you meet will depend on your group and whatever restrictions are in place but whether it’s Zoom, socially distanced picnics or whatever creative method you can think of, now could be a great opportunity for small groups to thrive.
The original and best small group (Jesus and the 12) shared their lives together. They were a dynamic and loving community who, centred on Jesus, learnt, prayed, worshipped, served, laughed, cried, messed up, forgave and grew together in faith. Jesus attracted some big crowds but most of His time was spent with His small group. If the disciples give us a very early picture of church then it’s definitely small rather than big. The church in Acts followed this model and even as the Gospel spread church seemed most often to be expressed in small settings.
I wonder if God is giving us a nudge here? A nudge to join a small group? A nudge to see the small groups as church? A nudge to small groups to go deeper with God and each other? A nudge to place small groups at the heart of the action rather than it being seenasanaddontotheBIG church.
Before Lockdown we were looking to create more small groups and people were wanting to join. Covid put the brakes on but this has not been forgotten. So if you would like to be part of a small group and explore and experiment with new and smaller ways of being church then please get in touch.
An anonymous quote to end with:
“We will never change the world by just going to church. We need to be the church.” Small groups might just be the answer…
Honest to God
I expect August 2020 will not quite pan out the way you’d expected at the start of the year. Maybe you had a holiday booked that now won’t happen, perhaps you expected to welcome visitors to Weymouth who are now unable to come. Some of us were booked into New Wine for a week of camping, worship and the usual downpours (both spiritual and physical). You might have been looking forward to watching the Olympics and you certainly wouldn’t have expected to see the FA Cup Final being played in August. One way or another this August will be different.
The last four months have affected us all in both positive and negative ways. There have been positives and renewed appreciation of many things. Yet, however you’ve been affected, we can share a legitimate sense of loss – not so much over cancelled summer plans of course – but over the vast suffering, grief and death that Coronavirus has bought to the world.
For all that we might give thanks for we must not shy away from prayers of lament through which we bring raw disappointments and questions to God. The Psalms are full of such prayers and they live side by side with the joyful prayers of thanks and praise.
To find some real examples of lament you need look no further than the book of Lamentations. In this work of the Old Testament Jeremiah is lamenting over the state and plight of God’s people and God’s seeming absence. Yet it is in this very context of doubt and pain that Jeremiah finds himself able to confidently and clearly articulate the truth of who God is. He writes,
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”
It is healthy to express how we feel and when those conversations are directed at God we leave room for Him to speak, minister to us and to remind us of the truth. Seasons and circumstances change but God’s love, His promises and His presence do not. Many of us know this but we need to rediscover it and often it’s through pain and questions that these truths go deeper. As TS Eliott said,
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
So, whatever you’re doing this August, make time to pray, to be with God, to be honest with Him and leave room for Him to speak to you and remind you of who He is.
Back on track
Remember the Renewal Project? It’s been a while since we’ve talked about it and with contractors and architects on furlough for most of lockdown much of the project has been paused. But we’re now back on track and here is an update on the project.
The new heating unit is in and works a treat. This is a much improved heater and will ensure the church is heated effectively and reliably. For those who have sat through freezing cold services in recent years – thank you. Huge thanks also to Tony who has spent an incredible amount of time on this. We have also signed contracts to use Green Energy Suppliers from the Autumn onwards – a very positive step forward.
Significant grounds work has also taken place making the area look tidier and the church more visible from the roads. This work will also allow modifications to the car park to be undertaken more easily. Thanks to Roger for sorting much of this out.
We are now able to move forward to obtaining quotes and working on the complex process of applying to the DAC (Diocesan Advisory Committee) for Faculties (permission) to make the changes. The architect is producing the plans for the developments and we look forward to making these available for everyone to see.
Here’s a reminder of the remaining elements of the project.
- Increasing capacity of the car park
- New chairs
- Improved lighting
- New kitchen in the South Transept
- Improved access to the Chancel
- Café/community space at the back of church
- Improvements to the side chapel/Children’s room
- Restoration of the West
- Entrance and Porch
- Re-positioning of the font to the North wall
- New and improved projector screen
- New carpet
Some of these elements are closer to completion than others. We are very close to being able to apply for the Faculty for the chairs and redecoration and we would very much like to have these jobs done before the ‘new normal’ kicks in. Other elements are dependent on architectural drawings or impending visits from consultants. Our hope is to move forward as quickly as we can but the process is complex and may at times be slower than we want it to be.
The question behind this whole project is, ‘How can we use the building to glorify God and bless the community?’ These are the things we want to achieve by doing all of the above. We’re on an exciting but costly adventure and we need your on-goingprayers.
Please pray for:
- Swift gathering of quotes/drawings /plans
- Wisdom in making choices and writing Faculty
- Favour with the DAC
- Protection over the building
- Energy for the team
- God’s timing to prevail
Look out for regular updates and prayer requests. Thank you for all who have given to this project.
‘Now to Him who is able …’ Ephesians 3:20
A new day dawning
A few days ago I got up early to go to the beach and do some filming for our Pentecost service. I wanted to see the sunrise over the cliffs – and so when I got to the beach it was still pretty dark. I thought that at this early hour I would be the only one there but, to my surprise, I was wrong. There were a couple sitting on the beach – ready and waiting to the see the sun – a couple of dog walkers, joggers and another family were already swimming in the sea – at 4.45 – AM!
The sun came up. It was stunning. It was a new day. I wasgladIwasthere–andI bet those other people were too.
Pentecost marked the start of a new day for the Church. The Holy Spirit – only experienced so far in part, in particular moments in history and only by a few – was now poured out on God’s people in a new, full and unreserved way. A new era began – it was a new day.
In the grand scheme of things we are still in this same era. We follow the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost we are reminded of the power of the Spirit – and our need to go on being filled and empowered. Our need never runs out – and thankfully neither does the Holy Spirit.
Yet there is a new day coming for the life of the church and for society. The dawn of something new is inevitable in the wake of this pandemic which has so dramatically affected our lives. It has given space for an essential re-appraisal of our values and priorities. This ought to lead to positive social change – and also to change for our church.
Bishop Nicholas recently noted that the, ‘new normal’ is already a cliché as we all now anticipate and try to imagine what our post pandemic world will look like. Bishop Philip North has written that, “the new normal is in our hands.” Positive change is possible – but it will require commitment and courage.
Precisely what the ‘new normal’ means for our church, therefore, is down to our collective; prayerfulness, openness to the Spirit, obedience, our ability to imagine and commitment.
‘collective’ because it is for all of us to pray and listen to what is saying God during this time. Please feel free to share with me your own ideas and sense of what God is saying.
As we contemplate the gift of each new day, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the new day that awaits the church – I close with this amazing prayer from the Anglican Morning Prayer liturgy. I encourage you to pray it each day….
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day; so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you now and forever. Amen
Time seems strange at the moment. I had a week off after Easter. Normally this would involve going away – or at least a few day trips around Dorset. This year it meant not going on-line, boarding the loft and playing in the garden. It was still a good time.
I found that each day went pretty slowly –but that the week strangely raced by. No real way of explaining this – apart from to say that so many things feel odd at the moment. How does time feel to you I wonder?
Here’s a bit of Greek for you….. The New Testament uses two words for time; Chronos and Kairos.
Chronos refers to time in the way we usually think of it – sequential and orderly. As I write this, for example, the time is 11.36am. If you look at your watch now – what you see is the time – the ‘Chronos.’
Kairos is different. Kairos refers to a moment of poignancy, urgency and opportunity. In the Bible ‘Kairos’ describe moments of divine activity and human opportunity.
In Mark’s Gospel Jesus begins his ministry by announcing the time. Not the chronos – the time of day – but the Kairos – the opportune and pivotal moment of history. He says, “The time (Kairos) has come…The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News.” Mark 1:15
Here was a specific and unparalleled moment in time. God, in Christ, had drawn near to his people. They had a new opportunity to know Jesus, to turn to God and believe the Gospel.
Iamsurewearelivingina Kairos moment. This is a time in our lives we will never forget. This is a time unlike any other. I expect our children will tell their grandchildren about what they did during the Coronavirus Lockdown.
God is at work in this Kairos season. I don’t believe God has sent Coronavirus – but I do believe he’s at work in the midst of it. Our world is being shaken, our routines are being disrupted. Our values are being re-orientated and our priorities are being challenged. This is fertile ground for God to move upon. I believe we will look back and see more clearly than we can now just what God did during this time – but we can trust that he is at work.
Life can never be the same again after a Kairos moment. But the extent to which God can change you is largely down to how you respond to him. What does he invite us to do? To draw near to him, to pray, to share the Good news and to serve.
If we’ll let God do what he wants to do then this time can be a pivotal and life changing moment; for you, for the depth and vitality of your relationship with God, for your family, for the church, for our society, our nation and for our world.
This is our time, first and foremost, to draw near to God and spend time (both Chronos and Kairos) with him. As we do this and make this our priority may we (in the best possible way) never be the same again.
Stay safe. Stay well. Stay in touch.
Luther, J.John and Covid 19
There are lots of good articles out there reflecting on the Coronavirus. The following is an abridged version of a J.John article which I hope you’ll find helpful.
“I imagine I’m not alone in feeling that I have been mysteriously pushed through the doors of some magical wardrobe and find myself gazing around a strange, unwelcoming landscape. It is definitely not C.S. Lewis’s Narnia; this hostile desert – which I take the opportunity of naming Covidia – is much more alien and daunting. Yet the door is closed behind us and, to use the old words of the King James Bible, you and I find ourselves ‘strangers in a strange land’ (Exodus 2:22). What we face is threatening and even frightening. Nevertheless, I’m comforted by the fact that many of the followers of Jesus have trod this path before. Although we find the present COVID-19 pandemic unusual, it’s worth remembering that if you look back over history it was a rare generation that didn’t have to grapple with such things as the Black Death, plague, cholera or the like. Other men and women of faith have crossed this discouraging landscape before us.
One man who did is the great reformer Martin Luther. In 1527, at a time when bubonic plague was rampaging across Germany with many fatalities, he was asked the question as to whether it was right to run away from it. Luther expressed his own position like this:
‘I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me. If my neighbour needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely.’
Let me offer you three wise principles that still hold.
Luther intends adopting a strategy of what we would call self-isolation and, despite the passing of nearly 500 years, this remains good guidance: we should pay attention to the suggestions of medical experts and think of minimising the spread of the disease to us or to others. COVID-19 has claimed enough victims – try not to give it any more.
We can no doubt identify with Luther praying for God’s protection but Luther sees his whole life in the hands of God. Indeed, his perspective on death is helpful: he sees it not as an act of bitter tragedy or a demonic victory but simply as an event where God ‘takes him’. Underlying all the actions Luther intends to take is his deep faith in Christ.
We ought to recognise that there is always a temptation to ‘look after Number One’ and self-isolation could heighten this. The question that Luther was addressing is whether someone in a position of church responsibility should flee from peril. Actually, in days of a global pandemic, fleeing disease makes little sense but the principle of being lovingly concerned for those around us remains completely valid.
With an ominous landscape before us I am reminded of the first few lines of that great Welsh hymn, ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; Hold me with thy powerful hand.’ Here we have the greatest of encouragements. As we travel through this difficult time, we, who have put our faith in Christ, know that he travels alongside us. Jesus is Emmanuel, the one who is ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). And in our harsh new world, that is the greatest comfort of all.
Please continue to pray, to look after yourselves and to support people in need. Regular updates are being sent via email and posted on Facebook. Using the telephone is also a helpful and safe way to stay in touch and support each other through this time. If you are in need of support then please get in touch.
Fleeting Shadows: Sunday Evenings during Lent
During Lent we will joining with our friends from around the Parish on Sunday evenings. Our Team Rector, Rev Nick Clarke describes the Lent course …
“Sometimes the darkness in our lives is very threatening”. So writes Malcolm Duncan in his introduction to a study guide entitled, Fleeting Shadows.
The shadows are varied. This Lent Evening series, from Ash Wednesday through to Maundy Thursday, is designed to explore some of them; the anxieties of today, depression, the weariness of trying to keep many ‘plates spinning’, the guidance required to make the right choices, the apprehension of waiting for test results, the insecurities which swirl around in our head about the future. In our evening reflections we aim to allow two scriptures to shine light upon these shadows, namely Psalm 23 and the Gospel of John. Whilst there will be songs of worship to sing, we will also read scripture together and furthermore, bring our own life experiences to the light of fellowship, sharing and prayer. You are warmly invited. It is a time to be authentic, a time to minister to each other and a time for hope in Jesus Christ who transforms the darkness”
I hope you’ll be able to join with the Parish as we worship, learn and share together during Lent. Details of venues and times are available in church.
It’s just over three years since I was licensed as Vicar of St Johns – time flies when you’re having fun! I suppose I really should stop introducing myself as the, ‘new’ Vicar now.
Something that I’ve thought about often – but haven’t got round to doing yet – is a congregation- wide survey about our worship patterns – but it seems like now is a good time.
So over the next few weeks there will be opportunities for you to share your thoughts about our Sunday services. I’ll be asking you to reflect on; what you enjoy about our services, how you would like to see them change, whether you feel there are new things we should be doing and whether there are things we are doing that we ought to stop. You’ll also be asked to offer your views on practical issues such as service times, length, frequency, use of technology, hospitality and music.
We all see things differently and we all notice different things – and so your participation in this process will be really important and valuable. So please look out for the questionnaires which will be available later in the month – and please take some time to share your own views and your sense of where God might be leading us in the range of worship services that we run. In addition to questionnaires there will be opportunities for conversation about our services too.
Meeting together is a precious and essential part of being Christians.
Our hope is that all of our services bring glory to God and are engaging and accessible – both for those of us who presently come to church – and also for those who don’t.
So please pray that this process will bear much fruit and that we’ll hear God speaking clearly to us.
Yours in Christ,
Decisions in December
As I write – there is no escaping the fact that two big events are coming … The General Election and Christmas. The media is full of both and, like it or not, these things are coming very soon. Of these two events, one is comfortingly predictable and the other is uneasily uncertain.
Christmas is predictable. I know what to expect. I know the songs I’ll hear, the films that’ll be on the TV, the food I’ll eat, the people I’ll see, the Carols I’ll sing and the readings I’ll hear. I love it – and there is some comfort and reassurance in predictability.
The outcome of the Election is unpredictable. We don’t know what to expect. We don’t know the outcome nor do we know the details of the results, the extent of victory and where the balance of power will be. The inevitable twists, turns and swings of the campaign trail are also unknown.
But Christmas and the General Election do have something in common; they both require us to engage. The Election offers us an opportunity to listen, to think, to evaluate and to vote. These are precious rights that we should exercise and never take for granted.
The real message of Christmas invites us to meet Jesus, to know the peace and joy that He brings, to follow Him, live by His standards and be part of transforming the world.
As I contemplate the predictability of Christmas and the uncertainty of a General Election I believe there is a question that lies just beneath the surface of both. A question which we must answer and a question that will determine the choices we make…… What kind of world do you want to live in?
If I want to say yes to knowing and following Jesus then I must also say yes to committing myself to working for a community, nation and world which is marked by Christ’s values of love, grace, compassion, justice and hope.
However you vote or voted, whoever wins or won, I hope that our response will be to be united in following Jesus faithfully and praying, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.”
Be Thou My Vision
The DCC have spent a lot of time over recent months thinking about our vision and values. We wanted to articulate what our aspirations are for the church as well as what underpins who we are.
There are a few reasons for doing this.
We want people who are finding out more about our church to understand who we are.
We want the church family to have a clear idea of what we’re working towards together. We hope that these statements will encourage us all to work together and grow as a church.
Being clear on our vision and values will help us to make good decisions about the things that we do.
Having these shared values and vision articulated gives us a frame of reference to assess how we’re doing and progress and grow together.
So, after, lots of prayer, thought and conversation, we have produced the following…
To be a thriving, open, loving and Christ-centred family where people are welcomed, belong, encounter God, grow in faith, passionately follow Jesus and generously share God’s love.
This is a big and enduring vision which sets the bar high! Specific projects with specific visions (ie The Renewal Project) will come and go – but we believe that this statement captures our over-all aspirations for our
To demonstrate God’s love generously and share the Gospel clearly in ways which transform the lives of people, families, the community and our town. What this looks like in practice will vary as we respond to the things God call us to do – but the statement expresses the heart of our mission and our belief in the transforming
love and power of God.
We have summarised our- core values as:
Welcoming – Worshipping – Loving – Growing. These words represent both who we are and who we aspire to be. We are these things already – but we are also committed to expressing all of them in ever deeper ways.
Look out for a document coming soon which will expand on these values – as they include many different elements which are all of great importance. But for now I hope that they quickly convey our values to people as well as help us to keep focussed on how we can develop and grow in each of these areas.
These are all just words – but may they enable us to live the lives and be the church that God is calling us to be.
With much love
We have lift off…
The long – awaited Renewal Project has now been formally launched meaning that we are now underway with this big project of developing the church building. The vision for the project is:- to create a welcoming, attractive, hospitable and accessible space which will enhance our worship, encourage & welcome visitors, allow for varied use through the week and increase our community engagement.
Here is an over view of the plans :-
- To improve access around all areas of the church and enhance our disabled toilet and baby changing facilities.
- To replace our failing heating system with an efficient and more environmentally friendly system.
- To have a lighting scheme which brightens the church and improves the ambience of the building.
- To bring in new lightweight and comfortable chairs which allow for comfort and greater flexibility.
- To install a kitchen – and open up many opportunities for catering and hospitality.
- To create a sociable café style area at the back of the church.
- To redecorate the interior of the church.
- To re-establish the spire door as the grand and visible entrance to the church.
- To increase the capacity of the car park.
- To replace the carpet and restore the tiles in the chancel.
- To create prayer spaces around the church.
- To restore the Lady Chapel as a sacred space for prayer and worship.
We all have a part to play- there are at least three ways in which you can support the project.
- for wisdom and clarity over key decisions.
- for the smooth running of the project.
- for the provision of finances.
- that the renewal of the building will lead to fruitfulness in our witness and mission to the community.
Over the course of the project we will need all manner of practical help. If you have time and skills to offer then we will be hugely grateful.
To do this project will require significant and sacrificial investment. Please pray about how you can financially support the project. All donations and investments – whatever the size – will be celebrated and hugely appreciated.
Our Gift Day is on Sunday 13th October 2019. You can give financially on this day but you are also welcome to do so sooner or after that date. Information about how to give is on the yellow leaflet in Church.
We are committed to cheerfully giving away 10% of the funds we raise during the Renewal Project. The causes which we choose to support will be decided in due course and this information will be shared with the congregation.
These are exciting but challenging times for us. Anytime you want to talk about any aspect of this project – then please do feel free to get in touch.
There was a quite incredible moment at this year’s Glastonbury Festival (I wasn’t there – but had to settle for watching on the TV). The headline act was a rap artist called Stormzy who performed to a crowd of many thousands – plus millions more watching on TV. As night fell and the lights came on he announced, somewhat surprisingly, “We’re going to give God all the glory,” and then performed a song called ‘Blinded by Your Grace.’
The performance was powerful, emotionally delivered – and even from my living room – I could sense there was a kind of ‘magic’ in the air that live music has the power to evoke. The words of the song are:- “Lord, I’ve been broken, Although I’m not worthy – you fixed me, I’m blinded by your grace, You came and saved me.”
What struck me were the images of the huge, and largely secular audience, singing along, visibly moved and seemingly lost in the moment as these words were sung. These are not the words you expect to hear at a secular festival – but they seemed to resonate deeply with people. It was a worshipful moment – and it looked like something ‘more’ was happening.
I think people – all people – long for grace. Whether or not it can be neatly articulated or expressed in a Biblical way – grace is what we all long for – and what we know we need – and what we know our world needs.
The good news of Jesus really is good news. Through Jesus amazing grace has been given to us. We are broken and unworthy yet loved, forgiven, accepted and restored by the God of grace.
Grace cropped up in an unexpected place – it was creatively communicated and it got people’s attention and – even if only for a moment – had a powerful effect. The world is longing for grace – and we know that it is found in Jesus.
Who can you share God’s grace with this summer? The evidence of the crowd at Glastonbury is that people might just be more open to the message of grace than we realise.
May we know God’s grace – and be ready to share it with confidence.
Don’t forget to breathe!
You won’t necessarily be able to tell – but over the last couple of months I’ve been training for my first ever Triathlon. It’s a pretty popular sport in Weymouth and I needed a goal–so I thought I’d give it a go.
Of the three disciplines – swimming was always going to be my biggest challenge. I like running and cycling – but getting the swimming right has been a challenge.
To try and help I have had a few swimming lessons – and now (thankfully) I’m not doing too badly. But to start with, my technique was all over the place! My arms, legs and head were all doing the wrong things, in the wrong place and at the wrong time and I just could not get the hang of breathing.
The swimming teacher told me to focus on one thing at a time – and to start with getting the breathing right. This was not easy but, with practice, I did start to get the hang of it. The teacher then encouraged me to work on my head position, stroke or leg action. I soon realised that – focussing on more than one thing is really hard! So very often I would start swimming along – focussing on my arms or legs and then suddenly realise – that I’d forgotten to breathe!
It got me thinking about discipleship, our church and this series we are doing on Spiritual Gifts. It made me realise that very often I find myself so focussed on trying to get everything right (being a Christian , a husband, a Dad, a Vicar, doing church right etc etc) that I forget to breathe. In the busyness of life and with our short comings – we can forget to come back to the source of all that is good and life-giving.
A few people have said that they are feeling a sense of renewal with God as we are engaging more with the Holy Spirit – Praise God for this – and let’s keep going. But what I think we’re really doing as a church – is coming up for breath – and it feels good!
So let’s keep breathing deeply – enjoying the life and love that God pours into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
I’ll let you know how the Triathlon goes.
The Renewal Project
How can our church building glorify God and bless our community?
That is the question at the heart of the Renewal Project. God has given us a beautiful, spacious, historic, inspiring and sacred building. We have a responsibility to use this gift well – to glorify God, to bless His people and to further His Kingdom.
So the vision for the Renewal Project is:-
to create a welcoming, attractive, hospitable and accessible space which will:-
- enhance our worship
- encourage & welcome visitors
- allow for varied use through the week
- increase our community engagement
To kick start this process we would like to invite you two meetings:-
Drop In and Dream: Mon 24th June. The church will be open from 5pm-8pm and you are invited to come and wander around the church, (with a drink in your hand) look closely at the building, prayerfully imagine what could be and share your ideas.
Project Launch Lunch: Sun 15th Sept (after the 10.30am service). Having looked and prayed through the ideas that have been shared, the Renewal Project Team will share the next step of the project and propose a way forward.
Please come to these meetings and please pray for vision, discernment and resources as we move into this exciting chapter together.
Yours in Christ
Please forgive me for mentioning Christmas (when we’ve only just celebrated Easter) – but if you’ve read or seen C.S Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe you’ll recall that Father Christmas has a brief, but significant cameo. Peter, Susan and Lucy are on a mission to save their brother, restore peace in Narnia and bring an end to the never- ending winter. Their mission is fraught with danger, they are fearful yet determined and a great battle lies ahead. On their journey they meet Father Christmas who has a gift for each of them. To Lucy he gives a healing remedy. To Susan he gives a bow and quiver of arrows. To Peter he gives a powerful sword. As the wide -eyed children look at these gifts in awe, Father Christmas says this to them, “These are tools, not toys. Bear them well….and wisely.”
Over the coming term we are going to spend some time learning about, practicing and developing spiritual gifts. Around Pentecost last year we studied the person and work of the Holy Spirit and this year we are going to hone in specifically on the area of Spiritual Gifts. Paul urges the early church to ‘eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit,’ (I Cor 14:1) and so that’s what I hope we can experience together as a church. We’ll be thinking about the purpose of these gifts, the place they have in the life of the church, how they operate, how we receive them and how we develop them. This may be familiar territory for some and brand new for others. You may approach this with great excitement or with some nervousness and reservation. Wherever you’re at – I pray that we’ll learn and grow together and support each other as we do so.
My own experience tells me that churches risk arriving at one of two extremes when thinking about the supernatural work of the Spirit. One extreme is an unhealthy obsession where the gifts become ‘all about me and my experience’ – rather than all about Jesus and His mission. The other extreme is to totally ignore the work of the Spirit because it is hard to understand and even harder to control, spiritual gifts can conveniently consigned to the history books. I hope we can avoid both extremes – and this is where those words of Father Christmas can help. So let’s eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit – and may we bear them well and wisely.
The following is a summary of the Vicar’s Report which was recently presented at our Annual Meeting.
There is much to be thankful for in the life of our church. The church continues to grow, people are stepping into new roles, new initiatives have taken place such as Safe Sleep and LPA training – and the parish managed to purchase the Old Vicarage. Along with the new, St Johns also continues to be a welcoming, kind and generous church committed to growing in our faith and following Jesus. Thank you – and Praise God!
The following questions have been used at our last two annual meetings – and they remain pertinent questions for us in 2019.
How accessible are our Sunday services?
This year we want to reflect on our range of services and service pattern and continue to ask questions about how accessible, inclusive and engaging these services are. To help us think this through we’ll be seeking the views of the whole congregation – so watch this space!
How can we develop pathways into church and faith?
The most over-looked of all of the ‘Holy Habits’ we recently studied was that of making more disciples. We are not currently well set up for people who want to explore faith and so evangelism will be a top priority for us this year.
How can we be more fully open to God’s Word and Spirit?
The Holy Habit course made barely any reference to Signs and Wonders – yet it is clear from the New Testament that this was part of the early church’s life. This Habit was missing from the series – and I feel is largely missing from our shared life together too. I hope we can go on an adventure together as we look more closely at the example of Jesus and the early church in relation to the supernatural. I sense God has much to teach us – and gifts he longs to give to us.
How can we fruitfully use our fantastic building in serving God and our community?
The Old Vic somewhat derailed the Renewal Project – but this year we will continue to move forward with our plans for the re-ordering and renewal of the church building and grounds.
I finish with a huge word of thanks to everyone at St Johns. Thank you for all that you do and all that you pray for this community. We now look ahead – thankful for what God has done – and expectant for what he will do.
Yours in Christ
Building For The Future
We are stewards of an incredible, beautiful and historic building. If our building were a person – what kind of person would it be? It’s an interesting question posed by Christian architect Nigel Walter. Buildings do have personalities. Elements of that personality may well be predetermined by unchangeable features – but a building’s personality can also be shaped and developed by the way in which it is presented and used.
The question is an important part of our mission. Church is not a building – it’s a worshipping community of people living with and for Jesus. There are ways in which buildings have probably constrained and contained the church over the years – and it’s good to see fresh expressions of church being developed around the world which are not housed in church buildings. I wonder how God will lead us in this area over the coming years – it’s exciting! So does this render our buildings unimportant? Certainly not! We need buildings. Buildings serve a practical need and they give us a focal point. They provide an opportunity to serve the community in a wide variety of ways. They link us to our past and contribute to the cultural heritage of a community. Buildings are part of mission because – whether we like it or not – they reflect something about us, what we believe and who God is.
So the question about our building’s personality is really a question about how well our buildings reflect Christ to our community. Spires are intended to point people heavenwards – but although they might draw people in – I’ve never known anyone who has come to know Jesus because of a spire. So how else then can our building point people to Jesus and play a part in seeing God’s kingdom come here in Weymouth? Now is the time to start praying and dreaming about the answers to these questions. At our Annual Meeting (ADCM) on 24th March we’ll be talking more about this and re-focussing on the St John’s Renewal Project which seeks to develop and re-order the building so that it can glorify God and serve our community – as has always been the aim since its construction in the 1850’s.
So – let’s pray, dream and talk together about what God is calling us to do with the magnificent building with which He has entrusted us.
The Upward Call
Our Parish family are currently in shock and grief at the sudden and unexpected death of Rev Pete Legg. Pete has been part of the Parish for many, many years and has ministered here in many ways across our churches. Just a few weeks ago Pete was here at St John’s leading our 9am Communion service – which he did with characteristic warmth and good humour. He will be missed as a supportive colleague, wise leader and dear friend by a great many people in Weymouth. We will have opportunities in the coming weeks to pay our respects to Pete and to pray for his family – details of Pete’s funeral will be shared soon.
The sudden nature of Pete’s death leaves us in a degree of shock. It’s also only a few weeks on since Lisa Gardner’s funeral. Her life too came to an end sooner than any of us would have wanted – and she too is greatly missed. These deeply sad experiences highlight for us the fragility and unpredictability of life. This in turn ought to sharpen our focus on making the most of our time here.
In his letter to the Philippian church Paul reminds them of, ‘the upward call of God in Christ.’ (Phil 3:14). He refers to heaven but also to the kind of life on earth that God calls us to. The ‘fullness of life’ which Jesus promises in John 10:10 similarly refers to eternal life with God in glory but also to the quality and depth of life we can know here and now.
Pete and Lisa both found in Christ a quality of life which meant their lives were marked by grace, love and hope. Both lived generously to the very end and the impact of their lives on those around them will be deeper and more transforming than either probably realised.
So, given that we do not know what’s around the corner; let’s not waste time on anything that takes us away from God or distracts us from knowing him and following him. Let’s choose the adventure of following Jesus. Let’s make ourselves open and available to Him every day. Let’s serve Him with courage and a sense of urgency. Let’s seek His King- dom above all other things – and lets love and live generously. Let’s not settle for anything less than daily responding to the upward call of God in Christ. As we do, we’ll know the fullness of life that Jesus promised – and one day – like Pete and Lisa we’ll see him face to face and hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant… come and share my joy.” Matt 25:23.
Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed celebrating either at home or away.
So – any New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Mine are the usual annual commitments to getting fitter, eating more healthily etc etc. I also want to read my way through the whole Bible in 2019 – I’ve done this once before successfully – but also had some aborted/ forgotten attempts over the years too. Please feel free to keep asking me how I’m getting on!!
It’s hard to kick bad habits – and equally hard to develop new and good ones – and I guess our annual experiences of attempting to make big changes every January are proof of this. So it seemed a good time of year for us as a church to start a course called ‘Holy Habits’. During the coming term we will be looking at ten habits of the early church and considering how we can foster these habits in our own lives and in the life of the church. The habits are:-
Gladness & Generosity
I hope that as we consider these habits we will be inspired to deepen our faithfulness and increase our fruitfulness as we enter 2019 with and for our Lord Jesus.
See you at the Gym…….
Kevin the Carrot
I read today (mid November) that there have been huge queues, online frenzies and even shopping trolley scuffles over the launch of a new cuddly carrot – called Kevin. Kevin is the festive face of one of our supermarkets – and it seems that he is the ‘must have’ Christmas toy for 2018. As people around our nation have been queuing and scrambling to get their hands on Kevin, I’m sure his creators and the supermarket bosses are enjoying an early glass of something Christmassy to celebrate.
Christmas has always had the power to make normal people do bonkers things – and I bet very few of us are any different. We wear jumpers we would never normally wear, listen to music we would never normally listen to, we eat food we don’t normally eat and spend money we don’t really have on stuff we wouldn’t usually spend it on!
And herein lies a great opportunity for the Church. Along with all the above– this is also a time when people will go to church. For all of the talk of our increasingly secular society and negative attitudes to religion – churches around the UK will be full over the next few weeks – and full of people who do not usually attend.
This presents us all with two opportunities.
Invite people to our Christmas services. This may well be the most open people will be all year to coming to church. Be brave – and invite them along. What’s the worst that could happen?
Ensure that people have a good experience. The question of why people don’t usually come to church can wait. For now let’s make sure that, when they do come, they have a positive experience; a warm welcome, good hospitality, kind smiles and friendly conversations. We’ll do what we can to ensure that people hear the Good News of Jesus, are drawn into worship and get to the true heart of Christmas. There are two missionary roles for each of us in Church this Christmas – invitation and welcome.
Kevin the Carrot isn’t the only one who can draw a crowd. Jesus has been doing it ever since His birth in Bethlehem. We pray this Christmas that people will be once again be drawn to Him, come to know Him and find life in abundance.
Too early for Christmas?
I know – it’s not even December yet – so why bring up the C word in November? Well – time seems to fly for most of us – and it will be Christmas before we know it. So I wanted to take this early opportunity to encourage us all to start praying and thinking about how we can share the good news of Jesus with people once the festive season kicks in. Here is a 5 step challenge – why not give it a go?
1. Choose 5 people who you would like to see come to know Jesus. If there are more – or less – on your list then that’s fine. Having identified these people – start to pray for them regularly.
2. Pray God’s blessing on them every day during Advent – you could do this as you open your advent calendar each morning.
3. Spend time with them between now and Christmas; you could throw a party, take them out for a coffee, go for a walk or invite them round for dinner. Be kind, be ready to listen, to help and if appropriate to share a bit of what you believe.
4. Invite at least one of them to a Christmas service. There will be a few services to choose from and there will be plenty of publicity available towards the start of December.
5. Finally – simply see what happens. There needn’t be any pressure around this challenge and we can be relaxed about what happens as a result. It may be that God takes the steps suggested above and performs a miracle. It may be that this Advent is just another, almost imperceptible step closer to God for the people you are praying for. Whatever we see happen – we can be 100% sure that God is at work in those people’s lives.
The Christmas story is rich with invitations. God invites Mary and Joseph into an adventure. The Shepherds and the Magi are invited and led to Bethlehem in order to meet Jesus. Through Jesus the world was – and still is – invited to draw near to God and find hope, love, peace and salvation. So let’s not be afraid to pray, to care and to share the good news and to invite people to come and meet Jesus this Christmas.
Let’s go for it!
Strictly or X Factor?
That’s the big question at this time of year. Do you prefer to watch celebrities trying to dance or aspiring pop stars trying to sing? (Or do you avoid them both?) Whatever the answer – one of the most entertaining aspects of these programmes is the judging. Having sung or danced their hearts out the contestants face the panel of expert judges ready to be congratulated, advised, criticised or even humiliated in front of an audience of millions. And it’s the nasty judges we love the most isn’t it? When Craig Revel Horwood raises an eyebrow and simply says the word, ‘dreadful’ or when Simon Cowell tells a young person that they have the worst voice he’s ever heard – it makes for good telly. It makes us cringe, sympathise and laugh all at the same time.
Our society has a pre-occupation with outward appearance and talent – any trip around the shops or a brief watch of TV adverts will tell you that. This will affect us all to some extent in terms of how we judge ourselves and how we judge others. Our current study of the life of David began with this challenging truth from God’s Word, “Man judges by outward appearance but God looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7. With these words God told Samuel to drop all of his preconceptions in the process of discerning God’s chosen King. The world might judge on physical attributes but God’s concern is with and for our hearts. David, as it happens, was a handsome man but he wasn’t the tallest or the strongest. He was chosen as God’s anointed King because his heart was humbly set on God. This set him apart and set him on a trajectory of a faithful, even if imperfect, walk with God.
And so as we study David and as we meet to worship and to pray I hope that we will allow God access to our very hearts and ask God to make them soft, open and ready for all He calls us to do.
I prefer Match of the Day by the way (which is just as bad really…!)
‘From Harvest to Christmas: Hospitality To Strangers and Entertaining Angels’
One Christmas Day, Paddy came knocking on our door. Homeless and travelling, he had come to our vicarage for help. I had seen him on the roads only a couple of days before and wondered then what story he had to tell. We were just about to set out the food on our table for a family Christmas meal when Paddy came and sat in our front room. He was a bit smelly but polite and grateful for the turkey sandwiches and mince pies. In those minutes, along with the story of how he came to be travelling (and he was quite articulate), I soon discovered what an amazing capacity he had for gratitude.
People in the parish who came across Paddy had various questions to ask. Was he an irresponsible scrounger who lived like a parasite off others and refused to own up to his responsibilities at home? Was he a self-made multi-millionaire who from time to time liked to bring himself down to earth and recall what life was like before he made his fortune? Or was he an author researching a book on living in churchyards – a sort of Michelin Guide to churchyard porches, benches and nearby restaurant bins? With only the clothes he wore to protect him and the contents of his rucksack to comfort him, he searched for the kindness and goodwill of strangers to restore his belief in humanity and maybe even God. From what I could tell, however, he had an extraordinary appreciation for the gift of each day and the need to live life a day at a time, wherever possible.
From Harvest thankfulness through to Christmas, Christians are encouraged to show generous hospitality to strangers. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ (Hebrews 13:2). I wonder whether daily we are surrounded by ‘angels’ who are sent to teach us about God and His salvation. If only we could be more aware of them. For it seems as if we are given each other’s prayerful company in order to fulfil our destiny, helping us to listen to the word of God through the Bible, through belonging to the Body of Christ, through the ministry of prayer. We hold the secret of others’ salvation in our hearts and lives as well as our own. Furthermore, Paddy made me think about my relationships and the need to see my faith not simply as something that works for God and me. For faith is also about having some faith in others, even in the most unlikely circumstances.
As we celebrate Harvest in our churches the theme of thankfulness will be very evident. We will be celebrating God’s love and provision. We will be doing this in our buildings, and God invites everyone to his party! As I think of this new opportunity to buy back the Old Vicarage, I love the vision of this building as a focus for a future parish-wide and town-wide youth and community centre. Buildings are a visible part of that invitation. As we think about the future we will be ‘entertaining strangers’. The test of the invitation is the love and care of the people within so that people in the local community will know where to find us when they need us. It will be a test of our generosity as we seek to raise the funds for such a mission. Let us mirror the grace of God and His hospitality towards us and enable this vision to become reality.
Nick Clarke Team Rector
This August we hope to have the church open each week day between 2 -4pm. This provides us with a great opportunity to be welcoming to our community and we expect that over the summer we will see a great many people through the door for a great many reasons. Some will be looking for a space to pray, others just a place to be still and quiet. Some will be popping in for old times’ sake and others will be curious to see what the church is like. Some will want a conversation, others will not. Some will be friends, others strangers. Some will travel a few yards and others many miles. Some will have practical needs while others may not even really know why they are there.
All are welcomed by God – and so we will welcome them all too. We hope and pray that as people come through our doors they will meet God in some way – and we may even have the privilege of sharing our faith and praying with people. We ought also to be open to meeting God through those who come though the door. Who knows who God will use to speak to us? When the doors are open – there is more that God can do through us and for us.
The same is true for our hearts and minds. The more open we are to God – the more room we allow for him to minister to us and through us. During August on Sunday mornings we’ll be considering a handful of Psalms – all of which teach us more about God and encourage us to be open to Him.
So this summer as we enjoy a slightly different rhythm of life and (hopefully) more sunshine – may the doors of our church and our hearts be open to God and open to the people we meet. So do pray for our open church season – and why not join the fun and sign up for a slot?
The Old Vicarage
Exciting times are ahead as we are now in the process of purchasing the Old Vicarage. This is something being talked about quite a lot locally – and so here is an over view of what we’re doing.
Our plans are to run the Old Vic as a community and youth centre which, along with the Church and grounds, will be open throughout the week for community use. We are confident that the whole site will make a prominent, accessible focal point for the community. We will be able to offer a range of spaces in which a large variety of community groups can meet. The Old Vicarage will provide an excellent base for our current youth and children’s work and we envisage the building becoming well used for much needed local youth work in the future.
In order to part fund the purchase we are placing the Park Church on the market. This decision has not been easy but it has been unanimously agreed at DCC, PCC and Diocesan levels. Groups who currently use the Park Church are all being invited to come and use either the Old Vicarage or the church building for their groups.
In order to create the community facility, work will need to be done on both the church and the Old Vicarage. This will be a financial and practical challenge which we as a congregation will be encouraged to embrace.
You’ll hear lots more about this as the weeks go by. The St John’s Renewal Project will be launched in the Autumn as part of our fundraising campaign to develop the church site to become a vibrant and welcoming centre of the community.
For now – please pray for a smooth process, clear vision and peace and understanding in the community.
Yours in Christ
Ready for the Journey
Our son, Noah, has just got back from his first ever school camping trip. In preparation for the trip we were sent home a kit list to ensure that he had everything he needed for his time away. The items on the list were all necessary for Noah to stay safe, stay well and have fun. So we set about looking for all the items and eventually managed to tick everything off on the list. Noah had a great time.
Being prepared is essential for any journey and any adventure. We have a long-standing tradition at St John’s of holding a Leavers’ Service to which all of the St John’s School Year 6 children are invited, along with their families. This is happening this year on Sunday 8th July at 10.30am. At this service we pray for the children and we present each of them with a Bible. Over their years at the school the leavers will have heard the Gospel many times and have been consistently taught and shaped by Christian values. They will have attended many services in the church and we hope that by the time they leave they feel a connection to the church and see it as ‘theirs’. As they move to secondary school they embark on a new, adventurous and uncertain chapter in their lives. We want them to feel supported and be equipped for this journey.
God’s word is a lamp to their feet and – just like Noah needed a torch for his camping trip – these young people need God’s word for this next stage of their lives.
And so – please could you consider giving this immeasurable gift to a young person this year? You are likely to never know the difference it makes – but you can rest assured that it will make a difference. If you would like to buy a Bible for a School Leaver then please use the small brown envelopes on the Welcome Desk – and fill in the Gift Aid info if you are able to do so. The Bible’s cost £16 each but donations of any size are very welcome and much appreciated.
Thank you so much
Thy Kingdom Come
Once again we’ll be taking part in Thy Kingdom Come – a national prayer initiative that runs between Ascension Day (Thurs 10th May) and Pentecost Sunday (20th May). Churches around the country will be holding various prayer events during this time and a local Beacon Service will be held at St John’s on Tues 15th May – I hope you’ll be able to attend.
At the heart of Thy Kingdom Come are two prayers; ‘Come Holy Spirit’ and ‘May people come to know Jesus.’ These two prayers are inseparable because without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing fruitful for God.
The Holy Spirit is the enabler of mission and so if we want to be effective in mission then we have to be open to the Spirit.
So for the next few weeks we are going to be learning more about the Holy Spirit in our Sunday morning services. Maybe you’re already an expert, maybe this is something quite new for you – or perhaps you know a little but long to know – and experience – more. Wherever you are – I hope that you will find this to be a stimulating topic which deepens our understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. But much more than this – I pray that this will be a time of spiritual renewal for us as we welcome and receive the gift of God’s Spirit.
So may I encourage us to be open, as always, to God and to make it our prayer that we will come to know more of the comfort, truth, gifting and empowering of the Holy Spirit here at St John’s.
Come Holy Spirit.
“When he bares his teeth,
winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane,
we shall have spring again.”
The recent visits to Weymouth of the ‘Beast from the East’ took us all by surprise.
A pleasant surprise for some – giving rare opportunities for snow ball fights, sledging and extra days off school – and an unwelcome disruption for others. The surprise was not just that it snowed in Weymouth – but that the snow came when it did. We may dream of a White Christmas but we weren’t far off a White Easter this year! Just as we thought we should be enjoying the beginnings of Spring – the temperature dropped, the wind picked up and the cold Siberian weather came. But it is now officially Spring and we can see the beauty of the season around us as flowers begin to grow, blossom appears and temperatures start to slowly rise.
New life comes – even after the hardest winter -and Spring gives us the perfect visual aid for Easter. After the pain and loss of Good Friday and the desolation and disappointment of Holy Saturday – there is the joy and life of Easter Sunday.
God offers us the gift of new life which has been won and guaranteed for us through Christ’s death and resurrection. We receive this new life when we decide to follow Jesus but we can also know the on-going renewal of our lives as we walk closely with Him every day.
We can also pray with confidence that we will continue to see signs of new life in the Church. Archbishop Justin Welby recently said, “the long years of winter in the Church are changing … the ice is thawing; the spring is coming. There is a new spring in the Church.”
Sounds good to me! So let’s continue to look for and pray for signs of renewal in our church and community. Let’s continue to live in the new life we have in Christ and let’s be open to God and the new things He has in store for us.
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.
Pray – Serve – Grow
I’ve now been Vicar here for over a year – how time flies (at least it has for me!) Christmas 2017 was, therefore, the ‘last of my firsts’ in the yearly cycle of church life – and I was so encouraged to see the church so full and so welcoming as we celebrated together. Thank you to all who worked so hard over the Christmas period – and thank you to everyone for the support you have shown to us during our first year here.
So what’s next?
In Joshua 3:5 the Israelites are told, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Consecration had practical implications but at its heart this was a command for the people to be set apart for God and ready for what he wanted to do. As we seek God for his vision for the church we need to hear again both the promise that he wants to do amazing things among us and that calling for us to be committed to him and ready.
So where do we start? The Salisbury Diocese uses the line, ‘Pray – Serve – Grow’ and I think these are important and timely words for us. Let’s renew our commitment to prayer – corporately and personally, let’s listen to God and cry out for his Kingdom to come. Let’s renew our commitment to serve. Service is both a duty and a joy and there are lots of areas of church life where help is consistently needed. Maybe God is nudging you into something new this year….. go for it! And let’s set our hearts on growth – and be intentional about growing – in depth, in number, in passion, in maturity and in love. This focus may well lead us into new and exciting things over the coming months and years.
I’m excited about where God will lead us and seeing him do amazing things among us. Let’s start by together making a commitment to pray, to serve and to grow.
Drawn into the story
Do you have a favourite Christmas film? And have you watched it yet this year? There are lots of Christmas films I enjoy but I confess that my favourite is probably ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol.’ I love the humour, the music, and the way they tell the classic story. It’s a great story, well told and it’s brilliantly ‘Christmassy.’
Over the next few weeks we’ll be immersing ourselves once again in the infinitely greater story of Jesus’ birth. They say that familiarity breeds contempt – but my experience is that every year God speaks afresh through the remarkable events that surrounded the birth of Jesus. I’m particularly struck by the diverse range of characters who are drawn into the story; an ageing Priest, his wife and their baby Prophet, a carpenter, a young woman, a jealous King, the Angel Gabriel, lowly Shepherds, a choir of Angels, Simeon and Anna, the Magi and – at the centre of it all – Jesus. The chaotic nativity plays that we’ve all seen (which manage to incorporate all these characters and more!) can speak powerfully about who Jesus is and what it is to be Church. He draws in the powerful and the powerless, the faithful and the faithless, those who are near and those are far away, the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the old and the young. Church too must draw in all, welcome all, allow all to see Jesus and be part of the on-going story of knowing Him. With J.John and our other carol services we have lots of opportunities to do this. So who could you invite to be drawn into the story this year?
This is our first Christmas at St Johns – and we look forward to celebrating with you.
I like November. It’s a beautiful time of year with amazingly colourful trees and crisp bright mornings. It’s an exciting time of year with bonfires, parties and fireworks. It’s a time of change; the heating goes on, the winter coat re-appears, the clocks have gone back and the nights draw in. It’s also a poignant time of Remembrance.
We have two special services which will offer opportunities to remember and to give thanks. First, an All- Ageth Remembrance Service on Sunday 12 during which we as a church family will remember with thanks and honour those who have sacrificed their lives for others. Secondly a Time toth Remember at 6.30pm on Sunday 19 which is an opportunity to remember with thanks loved ones who have passed away.
Stopping and remembering is the right thing to do. It honours the memory of those who have lost their lives and enables us to show our respect andappreciation for all who continue to work for peace and justice. Remembering helps us to be thankful for our freedom. It broadens our perspective and reminds us of the wider world in which we live. Remembering inspires us to live our own lives with selfless commitment to other people and to peace.
The Bible urges us on countless occasions to remember God, to remember each other and to remember the wider world. To do this leads to thankfulness for all we have and all that God has done and continues to do for us. It also reminds us to live for the good of those around us. Most amazingly … God remembers us! We are created, known and loved by God and therefore He cannot – and will not – ever forget about us. So we remember with thankfulness and look forward with hope!
Ivor and I just wanted to write to thank you for such a friendly welcome. When we felt God lead us to join St John’s I approached Tom with a view of doing my placement here. However we had a few concerns; fellowshipping with different people, how the children would feel making the big changes, how worshipping God in an Anglican church would be so different, and in what way would that suit our family?
We can safely say God has been so incredibly faithful. What concerns or worries we may have had have all but dissipated. We have felt so welcomed and everyone has taken a time to come and talk with us and get to know us. The children have just adapted so well and we feel that to come to the Anglican way of life is like coming home. We are thoroughly enjoying getting to know you all.
We are so very excited by what God is doing here at St John’s and feel mighty privileged to be a part of this journey with you all. I am personally looking forward to settling down into the role here and getting back into my studies. Of course I’m not forgetting the fun that comes with fitting it all in with the chaos that is family life.
Lots of love and blessings
It has been great to open the church during August – thank you all who have given up time in order to do this. A few things have struck me through having the doors open.
Our building is stunning. Visitors usually comment on the beauty and peacefulness of the church. Hearing this the busyness of any given Sunday I beauty of, for example, our stained glass the intricate wood carvings of our Communion table. Perhaps it’s the same for you. May I suggest you take time to have a good look around and allow God to speak to you through the architecture art, and ambience of the building?
People love history. Visitors have been drawn to, and fascinated by, the old church photographs and documents. Some people have come in with a specific interest in tracing family members who had connections to the church in the past. Motivated by curiosity and spurred on by TV programmes like ‘Who do you think you are’ people seem more interested in making connections with the past and learning more about their heritage.
You never know who will walk in. We have seen friends and strangers come through the door for a whole range of reasons. This has led to fascinating conversations, opportunities to be hospitable and to pray for and minster to people who are hurting.
Our building presents us with a fair few challenges but more than that – it offers us a wonderful opportunity to welcome people and point them to the God who knows them and loves them. I think God wants our doors to be open more often, more widely and in all manner of ways. Watch this space …
One of the many things I’m enjoying about living in Weymouth is, of course, the sea. It is so good being close enough to walk to the beach and have a swim or a paddle, or get out on the body boards and kayaks. Its great fun and as a family we’re loving it. Alongside this enjoyment of the sea there seems to be a bit of a watery theme emerging at church.
Ezekiel 47 has cropped up a few times lately as we’ve worshipped and listened to God together. In this passage Ezekiel sees a great vision of water flowing from the temple. The river begins as a trickle and then gets deeper and deeper until eventually it becomes powerful and life giving.
Some years ago a painting was given to St Johns as a prophetic picture of what God wanted to do through our church. It depicts God breathing life into the church and then a river flowing outwards into the community. The painting is on display at the back of church – do take a look. Wouldn’t it be great to see that picture become a greater reality in our church and in our community?
Over these summer weeks may I encourage us as a church to pray into this vision? Pray that God would pour his love into our hearts. Pray that we would allow that love to flow generously to others. Pray that we would see more and more people come to know the fullness of life that Christ gives. I believe we are in an exciting season as a church and that as we are increasingly open to God and open to others we will start seeing God bringing new life to our church and community.
Have a great summer.
A Summer of Psalms…
How do we respond to the many and significant awful things that have taken place in the UK in recent weeks? Lives have been lost, damaged and changed forever as a result of the heartless and evil attacks in Manchester and London. The fire at Grenfell tower will live long in our nation’s memory for the lives that it claimed, the devastation it caused and for the wider issues of poverty, negligence and injustice which it has exposed. I hope too that we will remember and be encouraged by the brave and generous community response to these tragedies which have given hope and comfort to many.
Our emotional responses to these incidents will vary. There have been great examples of compassion in the ways in which people have sought to bring help and bring relief. There has also been intense anger as people have protested against injustice. For many there is also a sense of confusion and bewilderment… How can these things happen? Where is God?
Over the summer we are going to be looking together at a selection of Psalms. These ancient worship songs were penned with the same kind of raw emotional honesty that we see today in the aftermath of tragedy and in the outpouring of grief and pain. The Psalms teach us great truths about God but they also give us a language with which we can speak honestly to God, whatever we are going through. We’ll see in the Psalms a whole range of emotions poured out in prayer and praise – and I hope that this will enable us to also draw near to God with honesty and openness to him.
So I hope that over the summer we’ll grow both in our knowledge of God and our experience of his loving presence with us.
And the winner is…
There are lots of winners and losers around at this time of year. Whether it’s the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, BAFTAs, the Grand National, Premiership Rugby, Snooker or even the Eurovision Song Contest – in recent weeks the winners and losers have respectively won and lost. And as a nation we are heading back to the polling booths and soon enough the political winners and losers will be known.
Winning – in the world’s eyes – is simply about being the best. The Bible, however, turns our notions of winning and losing upside down. When Jesus’ friends were jockeying for position He said, “Whoever is the least of you will be the greatest.” (Luke 9:48). In the Kingdom of God the true way to win is to put your own agenda to one side and serve and love others. We must let this guide our thinking and decision making over the coming days.
The following is taken from a letter written by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with regard to the election.
“In the midst of a frantic and sometimes fraught election campaign, our first obligation as Christians is to pray for those standing for office, and to continue to pray for those who are elected. We recognise the enormous responsibilities and the vast complexity of the issues that our political leaders face…..
Our second obligation as Christians at these times is to set aside apathy and cynicism and to participate, and encourage others to do the same.”
Back to the Future …
One of my all—time favourite films is Back to the Future— great story, great music, memorable characters and lots of laughs. The film also begs two questions: If you could go back in time where would you go? And. What will the future look like?
Having now been here at St Johns for a few months I am excited about our future. There are signs of God at work all around us and I sense great optimism and openness as to where God is leading us. I hope that we will grow; in depth, love, commitment, local influence and in number and these are things we are praying for and seeking. But in order to move forward we must actually go back. And so this term we are going back to the early church.
Our teaching series between now and the end of July focusses on the first eight chapters of the book of Acts and in particular on the characteristics, habits and experiences of the early church. We’ll look again at their care for one another, their devotion to prayer, their commitment to God’s word and openness to His Spirit, their generosity and their faithfulness. Above all we’ll see again what God did through this fledgling group of flawed individuals. I’m with Bill Hybels when he says, “The Local Church is the hope for the world,” and I hope that as we learn together we will capture afresh something of the beauty and potency of what it means to be church. As we look back and learn from those who have gone before us, I pray we’ll see more clearly the future to which God is calling us. So let’s go back for the future.
The Story …
I wonder what your favourite story is? Often the stories we love are the ones that we can relate to – where the characters go through things that we’ve been through. Other stories are loved because they involve a range of fascinating characters who have us hanging on their every word. Some stories are loved because of the amazing and surprising things that happen in them. Others still are loved because of all the twists, turns, highs and lows that keep you guessing until the end.
Well with Easter approaching we’ll soon be immersing ourselves afresh in the story that has it all…
…The joy as Jesus enters Jerusalem as the crowd go wild with excitement. The love and friendship amongst Jesus’ followers. The simmering tension as opposition grows giving rise to conspiracy and betrayal. Corruption, injustice and violence as Jesus is arrested and put on trial. We see the fear, confusion and denial of his friends. On Good Friday we remember Jesus’ death – and there we see suffering, cruelty, rejection, abandonment, pain and death. We see a grieving, heartbroken Mother and the despair and hopelessness of Jesus friends. Then on Easter Day we celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead! Faith restored, hope renewed, grief turned to joy and fear turned to confidence. Then we see a group of people – full of hope and love – living their lives with purpose, knowing that Jesus is alive and with them…
It’s all there isn’t it? At the heart of the Christian faith, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we find all human experience. And this is no mere story. This is the truth that countless people over the last 2000 or so years have heard, believed and found to be true. That God is alive, that God loves them and that God is with them.
I invite you once again this Easter to ponder, engage with, enter into and share the amazing, life changing and ongoing Easter story.
When we sit down to eat dinner at home we often have a ‘Highs and Lows’ conversation during which quite simply all of us share our highs and lows of the day. Sometimes what gets shared is very trivial, sometimes funny, sometimes sad and sometimes deep and meaningful. Sometimes there is lots to say – sometimes not much. Sometimes our highs and lows might be the same but usually they are all different. Nearly always everyone has both a high and a low. Each day –and indeed life – is a mixture of the good, the bad, the mundane and the extraordinary. And so at these meal times we’re reminded of the messy mixture of life and also that we are all different. Of course all are welcome at the table regardless of the day they’ve had or the mood they are in.
Jesus loved meal times…. the Gospels are full of examples of him eating and drinking with people. On Sunday evenings during Lent we’ll be exploring this theme with the help of Tim Chester’s book, ‘A Meal with Jesus’. At each service we’ll be reflecting on a different meal time in which people met with and learnt from Jesus. I do hope you’ll be able to join us as we explore, reflect and worship together and that during Lent we’ll find ourselves once again drawn in and welcomed to sit at the table with Jesus. Keep an eye out for details of venues and times in church.
Hello and Thank You!
It is a real pleasure and privilege to be writing my first Jottings letter as the new Vicar of St John’s. We moved to Weymouth just before Christmas and have since had a chance to say hello and meet lots of people – but if we haven’t met yet – then I look forward to doing so soon.
As many of you may know this is a return to Weymouth for Susie and I as we lived here from 2003—2008 when I was the Parish Youth Minister. We really enjoyed living in Weymouth and so were thrilled to have the opportunity to come back and live by the sea again. We now have four children, Noah (8), Poppy (6), Isaac (4) and Jacob (1) and they are also really enjoying being here – and loving regular trips to the beach! Moving back has been made all the easier thanks to the incredibly warm welcome that we have received from all at St John’s – so thank you from all of us.
At my Licensing and Installation service we heard Bishop Karen speak about partnership. She reminded us that the best things come through collaboration and that as Christians we are not just called to work together but are called to deep and real relationships where we share life, laughter and tears. She also reminded us of the incredible news that we are all called by God to be his friends and to partner with him in sharing the Good news of Jesus and seeing his Kingdom come. It was a great message to hear as I start here with you at St John’s.
I look forward, therefore, to us getting know each other well, to working together, sharing together and living with and for God in this community. It’s also my hope and prayer that as we go deeper into our friendship with God and join in with his transforming mission so too many others will come to know him and his amazing love and grace.
Here’s to an exciting new chapter in which together we’ll share the glorious old message.