From the Minister
There are plenty of old jokes or wordplays involving problems of navigation. The man who has been asked for directions to some distant town replies, ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’. The Tate Compass company managed to sell a batch without magnetising the needles, giving rise to the expression, ‘he who has a Tate’s is lost’. The reality of getting lost is less amusing. Periodically, in our younger days, Erica and I had direction-finding issues when walking and scrambling high up in the Scottish hills, on one occasion almost resigning ourselves to a Mountain Rescue at the point when another walker came along and showed us the way.
The classic technique for making sure that you don’t get lost is to have a map, a (working) compass and knowledge of how to use them. I’d like to blame the episode I just mentioned on severe weather and not just on incompetence! Given a good view, you can usually fasten on some landmark in the middle distance, in the direction you want to go, and walk to it, before checking your map, your compass and working out the right point to aim for next.
It is sometimes difficult to make very long-term plans, when you can’t reliably see very far into the future. I think our Group is a little like that just now. We have a solid landmark to aim for in Debbie’s arrival and induction at the beginning of April. We probably have confidence in the steps we need to take between now and then. But from that point on, the view will look a bit different. We will need to make fresh decisions and consider what is the right direction.
Where does scripture say about navigation? The Children of Israel had their pillars of cloud and fire to guide them in the wilderness. In Matthew, Jesus accuses some of being blind guides – worse than useless. I’d rather look to the positive promise of the Holy Spirit he makes in John 16: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. And of course there is the best answer – if you are unsure of your direction, accept the advice of someone who has been there before, who is himself The Way. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this exciting phase in the life of the Group.
Our church project for 2019 has raised funds to help meet the costs of work to the hydrotherapy pool at Sherbourne Fields School.
The final total raised was £5,000, which is a fantastic figure and much more than we have ever raised before. Thank you to everyone who contributed in any way, either by making donations or by organising fund-raising events.
Further details about the work being undertaken to the pool are available on the school’s website.
12 February, 7pm: “Green Book”
11 March, 7pm: Film tbc
This year the church has decided to raise money for the local arm of an international movement.
Coventry Street Pastors work with the ‘night-time economy’ in the city centre (that means anything that runs at night – pubs, clubs, restaurants, casinos, taxis and the people who work / use them).
Its aim is to bring peace and a Christian presence among the night-life community – to be Christ’s hands, feet, ears, voice and heart on the streets – to listen, to let people know that somebody cares and to help those in need and those who have got into difficulties. This can cover a wide range of activities – helping people find phones, wallets, handbags or friends from whom they have got separated, persuading taxi drivers to take people home, dealing with people who are depressed/distressed/ suicidal, defusing tense face-offs, getting to know the homeless, working with the police and paramedics, first aid and contacting home for people – as well as the better-known jobs such as handing out water, lollipops and flip-flops for those who have decided to walk barefoot through city streets rather than wear their painful shoes! Where appropriate the teams will take the opportunity to share their faith and pray with people. With two local universities adding to the permanent residents of Coventry there are thousands of young (and not so young!) people enjoying the night-life of the city and the Street Pastors teams work to keep them safe.
Street Pastors is a Christian interdenominational organisation which draws its unpaid volunteers from churches across the city and nearby areas. Its values include working in partnership and so it works with the police, the city council, churches and the business community, striving to bring a positive impression of the local church and the relevance of the Christian Gospel.
Each Street Pastor undergoes 50 hours of training in their own time, on topics including conflict resolution, mentoring, drug awareness, first aid and relationship building as well as exploring the faith base upon which the initiative is founded. The local charity has to fund this training – bringing in experts in each field and hiring venues for the training. It also has to fund the kitting out of each Street Pastor with an all-weather range of jackets and hats (compulsory to wear these) and often a personal alarm. Senior Street Pastors (think of them as patrol team leaders) also receive a fully kitted-out rucksack containing first aid kits, space blankets, a dustpan and brush – broken glass is cleaned up for the safety of those on the street – and a torch. The water, lollipops and flip-flops (which the local initiative has to buy in) are added at the start of each patrol and this rucksack becomes the travelling resource pack for the night and is well-used!
Holyhead Road has three members who have been involved with this initiative from its outset in Coventry – Erica Young and Janet Powell are both team leaders with patrols while Wynne Davidson is a Prayer Pastor linked to a patrol team, leading them in prayers before they head out and praying for them from home as they patrol.
Former Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Lynnette Kelly, said: “I have been really impressed by the work of the Coventry Street Pastors. Every weekend the volunteers take to the streets with one sole purpose: keeping people safe.
“Not only do they reduce the number of victims of crime, but they have also helped ease demand on police officers by preventing crime from happening. I’d like to say a big thank you to the street pastors and encourage anyone thinking of becoming one to get in touch.”
Street Pastors have to be aged over 18, committed to a church for more than one year and have a personal reference from their minister.
Isabel McIntyre, co-ordinator of the Coventry street pastors, said: “Street Pastors have been patrolling since March 2016 and in that time we have become a recognised and accepted part of the night time economy. We are known by the clubbers and party-goers, as well as the homeless and the vulnerable. We are often asked for lollipops, water and sometimes, even prayer.
“We listen to people when they are happy and look after them when they are hurt. Most importantly we are there; taking Jesus out of the churches and on to the streets.”
Sergeant Tim Roberts, who headed Coventry’s Neighbourhood Policing Team until recently, said: “The Street Pastors are a force for good in Coventry. As a team of volunteers they give up their own time to help keep people safe during and after a night out.
“Not only do they look out for vulnerable people, but they help prevent crime by offering support to people in distress. Coventry is a safer place at night with the Street Pastors patrolling”.
Many of you will know that I am studying for an Open University degree. So far, it’s going reasonably well. There are five assignments to undertake during the course of this first year and, at the time of writing, I am just about to start on the third of these.
One thing that I am not used to is the inclusion of a question, in most of the assignments, which requires you to reflect on the work that you have just undertaken. Invariably you are asked to describe the aspects that you have found most challenging and/or things that you will do differently in future. Initially, I thought that the marks for this question were a gift, but I have realised that it is not so straightforward. What they are looking for is evidence of some real, deep reflection as part of your learning journey, and not just something superficial. This is all part of building people up to become better students in the future.
This made me pause for thought. I think that we are generally not very good at reflecting on our experiences, deciding what went well and what didn’t, and then adopting a plan to make things better in the future. We tend to carry on in the same old way, possibly because it’s less trouble and we are comfortable with things that are familiar.
Lent is a time when we recall the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness, reflecting and preparing for his public ministry. This period was uncomfortable, both physically and spiritually. Similarly, we are encouraged to reflect upon our own spiritual life during this time. Yes, it is great to give up something for Lent, especially if the associated discomfort reminds us to focus on matters of faith, but it’s better still to reflect on how we need to change, and improve things for the future.
Please read about the “Brick Challenge” on page 12 and on the noticeboard at church to consider what steps you might take to do something different, to benefit you, your friends and the fellowship of our church.
Micah 6.1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1.18-31; Matthew 5.1-12
Old Testament Micah 6.1-8
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah. But, unlike Isaiah, he was not from Jerusalem and was severe on the corruptions of the Jerusalem establishment. He predicted its downfall (3.9-12) and was remembered as a true prophet when the city eventually fell to the Babylonians.
These verses can be understood when we identify who is speaking in what is really a legal/moral dispute. God speaks first (vv.1-5), bringing a complaint before Israel and asking why they are wearied of God, after all that he has done for them. Israel replies (vv.6-7) by asking how they can repent, as no sacrifice, not even their own children, would be enough. Micah concludes that what is needed is not sacrifice but justice, kindness and humility (v.8). If the legal verdict should be ‘innocent’, they will survive; if they are ‘guilty’, then God’s punishment will come through military defeat.
New Testament 1 Corinthians 1.18-31
How can something that seems utterly foolish to those who are wise in the world be a message of salvation? Paul tries to deal with this apparent contradiction, and in quoting Isaiah he is being counter-cultural: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart’ (Isaiah 29.14). He has seen much of the pagan world, from Athens to Corinth and beyond, and he doesn’t like what he has seen (see also Romans 1.28-32 – a very Jewish line of criticism that demonstrates Paul’s attitude to pagan moral behaviour). So, Paul contrasts the wisdom of this corrupt world with the wisdom of God.
The Corinthian Christians were an under-educated group, who were easily impressed by eloquent speakers (such as Apollos), but Paul tries to detach them from ‘superior culture’ by reminding them that not many of them were wise by human standards, or powerful, or of noble birth (v.26). He turns this to advantage by encouraging them to identify instead with the wisdom of God, which is foolishness to this world. So it is with the message of the cross: those who think it foolish are the ones who are perishing, while those who recognise the power of God in the cross are the ones who are being saved. The wise might have recognised God in creation (cf. Romans 1.19-21), but as they turned away from God, God has turned to apparent foolishness to save humanity. The Greeks look for philosophical wisdom and the Jews look for revelations in history, but what they are offered is a crucified criminal – though one who has been raised from the dead. Messiahs (anointed kings) are meant to rule in Jerusalem, not hang naked in shame on a cross. Yet ‘Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength’ (1.24ff.). God has chosen what is of little significance in the world to be saved, including the Christian believers in Corinth, and has reversed conventional worldly values. None of this is a result of human effort, hence the quotation from Jeremiah 9.24: ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
Gospel Matthew 5.1-12
Jesus, like Paul, is counter-cultural in promoting values that would be spurned as foolish by many. Matthew begins his presentation of a large block of Jesus’ teaching known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. It is a collection of teaching that would have been given (and repeated at various times and places) throughout Jesus’ short career. Jesus’ values are poverty of spirit (in effect, humility or humble-mindedness), meekness, righteousness (as with Micah), mercy, purity and peacemaking. He also pronounces God’s blessing on those who are bereaved, and those who are persecuted and reviled. The key word is ‘blessed’, makarios. Those who are blessed are those who God favours: the humble, meek, righteous, and so on. But it doesn’t always look that way, especially for those who are being persecuted and even martyred. Yet, if they are the blessed of God, Jesus is affirming that they are the ones who will eventually be vindicated, although that does not make rejoicing and being glad in the present circumstances any easier.
The links between the readings
Micah calls for justice, kindness and humility, rather than sacrifice, while Jesus pronounces the blessing of God on the poor in spirit, the meek and the peacemakers. Paul affirms those who are spurned as fools by the worldly-wise.
These notes are taken from http://www.rootsontheweb.com and copyright © Roots for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission.
‘Repent’ is a word that we hear associated with Lent. It isn’t a word that we use regularly nowadays. It can simply mean ‘about turn’ or ‘change your mind’.
When Jesus invited the people all those years ago to repent and believe, he was inviting them to follow him – to do life God’s way and not their way. So many of us today carry burdens around with us that make life hard – we pick up the burdens of those around us, of what we see on the TV or in our streets, by what we fear and what we mistrust. Those burdens can be like big heavy bricks and, as we carry those around, it means we can’t open our arms wide to the world.
Jesus invites us to repent and to believe – to come and do life God’s way, rather than doing it our own way and getting weighed down with ‘bricks’.
This year we invite you to take the Brick Challenge during Lent. At the back of church there will be a noticeboard full of picture bricks. On each brick there will be a challenge to do something different or new during the forty days of Lent. If you can complete one of those challenges then please get a sticker on a Sunday morning from Karen or Sue and stick it on the brick (it will be anonymous).
Our collective challenge is to see whether we can get a sticker on each brick, and whether we can cover any of the bricks in stickers.
Examples of Brick Challenges include ‘invite two people for a cuppa and a prayer’, ‘go to three or more of the Holy Week services’, ‘bring a friend to Easter Sunday worship’ and ‘buy a bunch of flowers for someone you have never bought flowers for’.
The challenge will begin on Sunday 1st March and during our all age worship we will think more about ‘bricks’.
Can we drop the bricks we carry take up the challenge of something new?
(If you would like to suggest a challenge, please speak to Karen or Sue – but we need to hear from you by the middle of February so that the display can be created in time)
Lord, as we struggle each day to discern
the bread from the stones,
the truth from the fiction,
your word from the lies;
Please help us and guide us and give us your strength.
Lord, as we struggle each day to discern the difference between
trusting you and testing you,
following your word and manipulating it,
your ways and our ways;
Please help us and guide us and give us your strength.
Lord, as we wrestle each day
to resist the temptation to worship the wrong things,
to see through the distractions that confound and confuse us,
to overcome the fears that distract us and depress us;
Please help us and guide us and give us your strength.
Don’t forget to look at our Prayer Tree, and remember the people and concerns mentioned on the tags in your prayers.
Please do add prayers which we may all join in.
Fun with Words
With thanks to Lucy Clarke
How does Moses make tea? Hebrews it.
Venison for dinner again? Oh, deer.
A cartoonist was a victim of crime. Details are sketchy.
I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest. (There are many professional variations on this one!)
Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
They told me I had type A blood, but it was a typo.
I changed my ipod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
I know a man who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
The waitress said she recognised me from the vegetarian dish, but I’d never seen herbivore.
When chemists die, they barium.
I didn’t like my beard at first, but it grew on me.
There will be more from Lucy next time as well
Excerpts from the church’s previous bi-monthly magazine
October / November 2019 message from the Minister
Behold, behold I make all things new, beginning with you and starting from today. Behold, behold I make all things new, beginning with you for I am Christ the Way.
These words (John Bell’s interpretation of Revelation 21.5) were the first we heard in the service with which we inaugurated our new Group of Churches back in October 2015. A lot has happened since then and none of our churches are still exactly as they were. This month will mark the point where our Group has had the same length of time without Tim’s ministry as we had with it. Each of the churches has received new members and/or Elders into their fellowship. I rejoice that each has been looked to by people in their local neighbourhood for Christian support, and all have been able to respond. We do more than survive, we do new things.
The newest thing to happen to me is retirement. As I write, I am enjoying my first day as a retired Mechanical Engineer, and already managing to move into the daytime some of the ministry activities I have had to deal with in evenings and weekends for the previous 23 years. Literally ‘starting from today’ I can do new things and do old things in a new way.
Not all new things are as dramatic, and each one of us can be inspired to make little changes, take small steps to benefit ourselves and others. But at the same time the one on the throne who, in the Revelation vision said ‘I make all things new’ was looking for big changes, and announcing that in God all things are possible; there is no new thing that is so radical for God that He would not contemplate it.
The Autumn always feels like a fresh start after a summer break. Let’s look at what are our own new things – as a Group, as four churches, as individuals. God bless us all in our search, starting from today.
October / November 2019 Editorial Comment
We are entering the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” and will shortly be celebrating our Harvest Festival. It’s a time of year when it is easy to adopt a romantic view of rural life, and we often fall back on traditions. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that if they still serve a purpose, and there is certainly much to celebrate about the blessings which we have received, both from the natural world and also from the efforts of human labour.
However, unless we have a big garden or an allotment, it is very unlikely that many of us in Coventry will be celebrating our own harvest. It’s reasonable, therefore, for our own celebration of God’s world to take a different form from that in a farming community. After all, there is rarely a single way of doing things anyway.
As well as celebrating the goodness of God’s creation, don’t we also need to reflect on the price that the world pays for the luxuries which we enjoy? Otherwise we are in danger of celebrating our abuse of God’s world rather than the bountiful gifts which He has bestowed upon us.
We know more than we ever did about the damage which we are, collectively, doing to our planet, and the impact on harvests and people.
In addition, life in rural communities is also not quite like the idyll which we grow nostalgic about, with high levels of mental health problems, suicide and serious farm injuries.
What are we going to do about it? It’s no use being aware of things if we simply shake our heads and bemoan the modern age. Nor is it to complain that it’s all too big for us to deal with; the impact of the worlds’ population is simply the sum of all of our actions (or inactions). Whether it’s about what we buy, how we get around, who we vote for or how we use our voice to speak out, we can make a difference.