In a vivid adage, coined I think by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth, the life
of the Christian community is perfectly defined - The Church gathers for worship
and scatters for mission.
The picture described by Barth is worth remembering. Week by week Christians
meet together to worship God and then go their various ways both to tell others
the good news of the kingdom and to serve them in whatever way God calls. Thus,
in George Herbert's poetic phrase, we offer God praise 'Seven whole days not one
in seven'. I hope, such a sketch of how to be a Christian is not new to you and
already second nature to all who are reading this magazine. Many folk have
passed on this vision of the Church's life faithfully in every generation.
At the heart of discipleship, often going without being noticed, there has to
be a regular pulse and rhythmic beat. The gathering and scattering of Christian
people is like breathing in and breathing out and is like the work the lungs do
(which also we take too much for granted) which sustains life.
Nor can worship and mission ever be separated. They stand and fall together.
Worship without mission is not just lame and watered down, it is not the genuine
article. Nor can mission without worship ever be effective. Too often we mislead
ourselves and think mission is an optional extra for the minority, but it is
not. It is not a dimension artificially added to a Christian life from time to
time when occasion demands. No, it is an indispensable part of the inner
structure of the life of every disciple every day.
What is true, though, is that unless both worship and mission are strong and
equal partners in the enterprise of Christian witness then our discipleship will
be too weak to share in the Easter victory. Which points us to the heart of the
matter, especially during Lent, which is the cost of discipleship. Being a
follower of Jesus is a way of living and loving - God and others - but always
with a cost to self. To be a Christian is morally challenging but also demanding
in total commitment. So in the weeks ahead we hear Jesus saying again, 'take up
your cross and follow'.
Just as the continuity between worship and mission must never be broken or
separated nor must the continuity between Jesus' resurrection and his death.
Ultimately Good Friday and Easter are not two separate events in Jesus' life but
together the single unifying centre which gives meaning and power to everything
he did and continues to do. That is the truth for our own lives and the truth we
long to share with any who will listen and hear.
... take time to reflect
... examine our priorities
... hope to grow
Throughout Lent, sermons at the main Sunday Eucharist will explore the theme
Acknowledging our hunger for God ...
Lent 1 ... within ourselves
Lent 2 ... within our local church
Lent 3 ... within our varied communities
Lent 4 ... within our family (Mothering Sunday)
Lent 5 ... within our world
In Lent you could also ...
Join one of the Lent groups, either Christ and the Chocolaterie or the
ecumenical one, Faith in the Fire. For details refer to the February
magazine or contact me or Fr Peter Brown. You will find the Chocolate group on
Wednesdays at 7.45; or ask for details of the group at All Saints'. In Prestbury
there is one Faith in the Fire group at St Nicolas' room on Tuesdays at
7.30; there are also daytime groups at venues throughout Cheltenham, times and
places listed on our church notice boards.
All these groups start in the week beginning 1st March.
If you missed the Lent bookstall, drop into Wesley Owen, and see what is on
offer for reading in Lent. Ask to see the selection of day-by-day reflections
for Lent, or if you are looking for something different, two (very different)
authors to consider are Henri Nouwen and Philip Yancey, both in stock.
Set aside a regular time for the Bible. Read through one of the Gospels, or
start at the beginning with Genesis, or whichever book you like. Any part of the
Bible has a different impact when you read it several chapters at a time. This
might be the time to equip yourself with a new Bible in a modern version. In
church we use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or if you would prefer a
more colloquial translation look at the Good News Bible. For the best selection
of Bibles go to Wesley Owen in Winchcombe Street or Ottakar's in the Promenade
(escalator to top floor, comfortable chairs).
In previous years young people have taken part in the all-night Maundy
Thursday Vigil at St Nicolas' Church. The focus has been spending time in quiet
prayer-slots of half an hour in small groups throughout the night. This has been
an exciting and rewarding challenge, which we have undertaken creatively. The
night has included a range of activities - a shared meal, craft, video, drama,
aerobics. These activities have served to motivate but also to bring alive the
idea of what that special night is about; certainly the sense of togetherness
and of meeting with God was very powerful.
This year we are planning to open this experience to people of all ages, we
will be starting after the moving Maundy Thursday service with various
activities while there is a chance for other members of the congregation to
undertake the vigil. We will then carry on the baton through the night,
finishing at 8am on Good Friday.
Please get in touch with Andy Macauly if you are interested - it would be
great to have a real range of ages there! We will also be holding a planning
meeting on Tuesday 7 April from 7pm - to get people's ideas for the vigil. There
will be a cost of £2 per person to cover materials, forms (available from Andy)
will need to be filled in by children or young people under 18.
Sunday February 8th was Stewardship Sunday in the parish and everyone should
have received an envelope with details of how they can give to the church. Thank
you to all those who responded to our appeal, at a time when our churches are
financially, precariously balanced. House keeping at home is delicate enough,
but in order to keep both our fine churches in good order, it is a constant
headache to keep our church finances solvent. If, by some slip of the computer,
you did not receive an envelope, please accept my apologies. I sent out 350 but
suspect I may have lost some through the net. Do ask me for the information if
you missed it and I will happily provide you with the relevant forms. As an
experiment, you will find a Stewardship envelope within (the paper edition
of) this magazine, so that anyone who feels they would like to make a
one-off donation can do so. We are always happy to receive your gifts, and rest
assured, they are used wisely by our Treasurer.
God's greatest gift to us was Jesus, and our Stewardship is just one of the
gifts we can give back to the church, as a means of thanks for this, the
greatest gift of all. Many thanks for your continued generosity.
Marion Beagley - Chairman of Stewardship Committee
Thank you to David and Mary Lynch for giving us an opportunity to visit St
Mary's tower during the Open Day on Saturday 31st January.
My six-year-old granddaughter, Lois, was thrilled at the idea. Together we
climbed the stone steps, opened a wooden door, and were surprised to discover we
had to go even higher. Having carefully accomplished the steep ladder ascent we
were welcomed by Mary and David, two of our regular bell ringers. With
enthusiasm they explained how the bells worked and helped every visitor to have
'hands on' at pulling the ropes. We were astonished to realise how little
strength is required. A big thank you to our regular happy band of bell ringers
who welcome the people of Prestbury to St Mary's each week with the joyful sound
Lois thought it great fun watching the bell ropes with a coloured grip (known
as a 'sally') disappear through small holes in the ceiling and then re-appear.
When we arrived home Lois wrote a few words about her visit, which I should like
to share with you: 'Me and Granny went out to the church tower and it was great!
I went to the top of the church tower and I got to ring the bell. I did very
well with David but then Granny joined me. The bell rope had to go really high
so I had to jump.'
Snippets from the Tower
We are grateful to the seventeen visitors who came to our tower open morning
on 31st January. Everyone had a go at either ringing or chiming a bell, and most
of the adults climbed two steep ladders to see the bells. The children learned
how to ring Rounds, Queens and Kings changes on handbells. We are still looking
for new recruits to join the band, so if you are interested please get in touch
with the Tower Captain or Secretary at bellsprestbury.net
Most of you will remember that, until 1998, St Mary's had an active Mothers'
Union group. Sadly it closed, but many members have stayed on as Associate
Diocesan members. Recently, several ladies have expressed an interest in
reforming the group. There is a large group of potentially new members in our
current congregation, some with young families, who might now be interested in
joining. It would be good if we could reform the group and include ex-members
together with new ones. Perhaps some ex-members would feel happy to rejoin if
they didn't have to be on the committee! I have spoken with the clergy, who
would be very pleased if we were able to get the group up and running again and
they would support our efforts whole-heartedly.
To get some idea of what enthusiasm there would be among our congregation, I
have arranged two meetings, one at each end of the parish. The first will be on
Wednesday 24th March at 10.30am at St Mary's, where we will have facilities for
a crèche, if necessary. The second will be at St Nicolas' on Wednesday 31st
March at 7.30pm. This would enable most interested parties to attend and we
could air and share ideas on the feasibility and logistics of putting a plan
into action. I would appreciate your prayerful thought as to whether we should
go ahead and look forward to seeing lots of you at one or other of the meetings.
It is a sad fact that whether a crime is committed against a person or
property, someone suffers. Each year in Cheltenham, Victim Support contacts
about 3,600 victims of crime. This independent national charity helps people in
need cope with the effects of crime. Trained volunteers offer free, confidential
support and practical advice to those who seek help.
This might be just lending a listening ear to someone who has experienced a
burglary; it could extend to negotiating with other agencies to find help for a
family suffering harassment, helping with the after-effects of an assault, or
the family consequences of a sudden and unnatural death.
Victim Support also has a Witness Service to help victims, witnesses and
their families before, during and after a trial, with trained volunteers based
on all Crown Court centres and magistrates' courts.
If you feel you could help with this work please ask me for further details
or phone Victim Support on 01242 577476.
Above all come to the concert to be given by Musica Vera in All Saints' in
aid of Victim Support on Saturday 13 March at 7.30 p.m. (details below).
Concert in aid of Victim Support
Musica Vera's Spring concert will this year be given in All Saints' Church
under their conductor, Claire Alsop, on Saturday 13 March at 7.30pm. Proceeds
from this concert will be given to Victim Support. The programme will consist of
German Baroque music, including the Motet Jesu, meine Freude, and other
choral music by Bach, Buxtehude and Heinrich Schutz, with Andrew Kirk, Director
of Music at St Mary Redcliff, Bristol, on the organ.
Tickets £7, to include a glass of wine after the concert, are available from
Jill Yates (St Mary's), Peter Attwood (St Nicolas') or at the door.
Parish Quiet Day - Coming Home: Reflections
on the Prodigal
Saturday 6 March at St Mary's Infants School
If you are looking for a chance to snatch a few hours of peace
away from the daily grind, then make sure you put this date in your diary.
Although this year we are staying close to home, otherwise it is very much the
mixture as before. The day will be arranged around some short reflections on the
story of the Prodigal Son considered from different points of view. There will
also be a range of other activities: your chance to try your hand at some arts
and crafts, take a walk, listen to some music, explore a labyrinth or simply sit
in peace and quiet with a good book (perhaps the good book?). The day will
finish with the Eucharist. All the sessions and activities are optional, so you
can pick and mix to create the sort of day you want. You will need to bring a
picnic lunch but tea, coffee and soft drinks will be provided. Look out for
details of how to sign up in church soon. (We will try to provide a crèche if
there is enough demand - if you think you might use it, or could help to
organise it, pleased get in touch with one of the MLT.)
Jerry Porter on behalf of the MLT
If you would like to be involved in the planning of the
'Eucharist with a Difference' services at St Nicolas' please speak to Fr
Michael. We are looking for lots of different input so that we can include
drama, readings, music, instruments and so on. We would also like to represent
the variety of age groups who worship with us.
During March you might notice a different pattern to the
clergy rota at 9.30am and 11.00am. Until now, Fr Stephen and Fr Michael have
tried to alternate on a fortnightly basis between the main Sunday services in
the two Prestbury churches and All Saints'. During March, Fr Stephen will be in
Prestbury on most Sundays and Fr Michael will be in All Saints'. In April they
will swap round. This is partly a response to points raised during the St Mary's
consultation and also following enquiries made to colleagues as to how they run
their Team Ministries. Fr Stephen, Fr Michael and Fr Paul will continue to
preside at the 8 o'clock services in St Mary's and All Saints' on a regular
St Mary's Bakestall
The next Bakestall will be held on Mothering Sunday, 21st
March, with contributions from members with surnames A - F.
Linda Matthews and Margaret Waker
St Mary's Flower Arrangers
St Mary's Flower Arrangers and Friends are warmly invited to
the Annual Meeting and Demonstration by Ron Middleton on Tuesday 30th March at
7.30pm at the kind invitation of Sheila Beer.
Churchyard and Church Annual Spring Cleaning Days
Friday 2nd April from 4.00pm and Saturday 3rd April from
Please support this project if you can, even if it is only for
one hour. More hands make light work. We will again have a Fish and Chips Lunch
together. It was great fun last year and we all like to take a pride in the
upkeep of our Churchyard and beautiful old Church. Let's see you there,
particularly the younger people. Bring necessary equipment if you can.
Doreen and Henry Morris
University of Gloucestershire Orchestra comes to St Nicolas' Church
We are delighted to welcome the University of Gloucestershire
Orchestra, conducted by Ian Higginson, to St Nicolas' Church on Tuesday 30 March
at 7.30pm. The Orchestra will present a programme of popular music including:
Music for the Royal Fireworks by Handel, Pavane by Faure and
Symphony No 100 by Haydn.
Tickets priced £5 are available in advance from Ian and Janine
Higginson or Maltby Books, Regent Street, Cheltenham, or at the door.