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Weekly news sheet:
Bill’s weekend message, 27/06/20
Yesterday saw the funeral at Canley of our good friend Brian Hier. Hazel and the family intend to have a further service at Holyhead Road when circumstances allow, but I mention this here because one of the two hymns yesterday was Timothy Dudley Smith’s response to Psalm 121: I lift my eyes to the quiet hills.
I know this has been used on all of our churches (Rejoice and Sing 64) and I wonder what comes to mind when you sing it? Dudley-Smith’s treatment of the psalm comes to the same conclusion as the psalmist does, an assurance of God’s care and love in all times and in all places. But there is something – for some people – about ‘lifting eyes to the hills’ that evokes calm after bustle and stress, green countryside rather than dull town, holiday after work. You might even have particular hills in mind. We are not without hills in easy reach of Coventry in the countryside of Warwickshire and Worcestershire. My mind goes straight to Lochaber in the west of Scotland, where many of the hills are mountains and complemented by lochs and glens.
Famously, Psalm 121 begins with a question. I lift my eyes to the hills [mountains in the NIV Bible] – where will my help come from? And the answer, possibly sung back to one half of the congregation by the other. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. So it is not a hymn about hills. It’s a hymn about God. And safety doesn’t come from the hills (whatever the King James Version may imply), it comes from God. Which puts the psalm into a family of those with similar sentiments that pepper the whole collection.
But fortuitously the wording kicks off a response in many of us, that means this is not just a favourite hymn for Hazel but for many of us. None the worse for that. And let’s face it, we have yet to have a hymn that speaks about looking for God’s help, for rest, peace or reassurance to an overcrowded beach! Just saying.
In the last few days I have spoken to Debbie and all of our Group’s Church Secretaries, and communicated with all Elders in our churches to let them know that I will be retiring from the URC pastoral ministry with effect from the end of this calendar year. I will cease to be a Minister in North Coventry Group. This follows a review of my ministry by the West Midlands Synod URC in the summer of 2019, and completion of my five-year engagement with our Group which began in October 2015.
After a short break in early 2021, I will continue to be active in leading worship as a retired minister within our Area, albeit at a reduced pace and across more of the Area’s churches than has been possible in the last five years. The URC requests its retired ministers to withdraw from activity in the churches where they have served and I have consulted on what this means for someone who has held both local church and Area-wide roles during the last 24 years since ordination. I will not become invisible or completely inaudible to the Group, but it will be appropriate for Erica and me to move our membership away from Holyhead Road URC after over 30 years.
I wanted to give everyone six months’ notice of this change – I am sorry to be doing it rather impersonally, and at a time when many aspects of church life already seemed to be in the melting pot. Who knows what the next six months will hold? We will pray and hope for a continuation of the imaginative prayer and faith-filled response that has characterised church life since the beginning of the crisis.
There have been no relevant changes in the regulations for gatherings and the use of church buildings. Ministers and Elders will await denominational as well as government announcements before taking further steps. All of our churches remain closed to all users until further notice.
Worship – weekend
This week’s Group podcast of music, prayer and reflection on scripture is uploaded now on https://revdbill.uk/worship-material to listen to or read whenever you wish. Special thanks to Olive, Margaret and Janet for their readings this week. Olive and Margaret had technical help from Louise and Elliot respectively and we thank them too! There are obviously going to be lots more podcasts to come so anyone who wants to have a go at reading, just get in touch.
Tomorrow evening (28/6/20) there will be another service online using Zoom software and led by Karen Adams. This will be at 6.15pm. The link for is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87518020711?pwd=YXovOVpxYjdTeVRoNGZYd25rWkhtdz09
Best wishes from Erica and myself.
Bill Young (Revd)
Minister, North Coventry Group of United Reformed Churches
Foleshill Road – Holyhead Road – Potters Green – Keresley
Tel: 024 7671 7223
Mob: 07831 294010