YOU WILL BE READING this during Lent and so firstly I’d like to wish you
a ‘happy Lent’! This season should be a positive time of growth – personal
spiritual growth – and I hope that you are making use of the opportunities
on offer within our Team Ministry. I would also like to encourage you to
join us for Evening Prayer at St Nicolas’ (4.30 pm Monday to Saturday) when
we will be using ‘Praying Together in Lent’. This booklet of prayer material
and resources is also available for you to use at home – please ask if you
would like your own copy.
Lent leads us prayerfully to Holy Week and the Triduum – the three great
services of the Church’s year on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy
Saturday. This year we will have the opportunity to share in those wonderful
liturgies together as a whole Team: Prestbury and All Saints’. The ‘first
act’ will be in St Nicolas’ on Maundy Thursday, the ‘2nd act’ in St Mary’s
on Good Friday and the ‘3rd act’ in All Saints’ on Holy Saturday. We make
the journey through these three days with Our Lord Jesus Christ, but it is
also important for us to make the journey with one another. Sharing this
most holy time together should be a source of great joy. Just because a
service does not happen in ‘your church’ please do not make that an excuse
to stay away. Transport between the churches will be arranged!
There are always lots of things going on but I would like to tell you
about one thing which I think is very exciting. Our PCCs have had to
reconsider the question of admission to communion before confirmation,
because the rules have changed. The most significant change is the removal
of a lower age limit, which used to be seven years. In agreement between
parents and myself I shall be able to admit to communion on the basis of
baptism rather than age. (Fr
Grant has written about this elsewhere in this magazine.) After Easter I
will be working with Celebrate! leaders to prepare the Celebrate!
congregation at St Mary’s to receive communion and we hope to have our first
Celebrate! communion service in May. I will also be hoping to discuss
with parents in all three churches about admitting their baptised children
‘What has happened to confirmation?’ I hear you ask! Well it hasn’t gone
away and is a wonderful opportunity to declare publicly one’s faith
commitment. We will also be working with any adults who wish to prepare for
confirmation, hopefully at a service in June.
ON THE EVENING of Friday January 26th a minibus full of young people and
leaders headed to Gloucester Cathedral to spend the night AWAKE!
The purpose of this was to raise money for local homelessness charities,
those in our partner Diocese in India and to give space for young people to
engage with the reality of homelessness. There were several hundred young
people from all over the Diocese there too, with local homelessness
organisations and a packed programme of events running right through the
night! All our young people had an amazing time, stayed awake and raised
£1000 between them. Here is a taste of some of what went on and how our
young people felt about it.
Thank you to all those who supported our young people through
We all thoroughly enjoyed our sleepless night in the Cathedral. After an
awesome opening by Andy Flanagan including worship and song, we enjoyed
chilling out and attending many of the activities! I mainly enjoyed the
drama about homelessness. The whole night was so much fun and it all went to
a good cause!
Insomnia was a great experience. It started off with some inspiring
worship led by Andy Flannigan and then we got the chance to find out some
more about homelessness. A number of charities and groups had set up stalls
with information and answers to a quiz we were given. Throughout the night
there were many activities to participate in. Along with the usual football,
open mike and toast eating I took part in a project where we were given the
amount of money a homeless person has to survive on for a day and we had to
make the food we would buy and cook. It’s scary how little they can buy with
the funds they have. We also had the opportunity to experience homelessness
by spending some time outside in the cold, talking to people who encounter
homelessness every day.
Insomnia '07 was an event that I will remember for a long time: for the
meaning behind it, for what I learnt and the enjoyment I had from it. As
many would agree, it really touched everyone, giving insight about
homelessness and what it means. For us staying up all night we had the
chance to experience what exactly some of this was like, and some of the
facts we learnt were horrifying. We learnt of the need some young people
have for support, from people such as those at Night Stop, who make it
possible to allow young people to carry on with their lives. For me what
made it was the performance and worship by Andy Flanagan, the words and
music were something I will remember forever. For Andy Flanagan’s
involvement in such an event shows that he cares, and he wants to change
this problem of youth homelessness. In a way this made me more determined,
for the rest of the night, to get involved and try to learn as much as I
could. One workshop I attended was the cooking to a tight budget, where I
learnt the importance of having friends, and working together, otherwise it
is practically impossible to live by yourself as a youth when homeless. This
event is something I will not forget, and I am pleased with the money and
awareness that was raised about the issue of homelessness.
Jamming in the early hours of the morning
What is community trade? A good crowd of ladies from Celebrate! met for
an evening together with a ‘Body Shop’ consultant who unpacked this question
by describing the many local communities the company work with to produce
the ingredients of their products; conveying that they pay fair prices to
the people they trade with, which in turn allows communities to school
children, build wells, pay for medical treatment, and women within them
growing as equals to men as they develop businesses and gain respect. The
Body Shop has been trading with such communities for over 20 years and as a
consequence we were told stories of many lives transformed.
Trying out some of the products as we chatted and caught up, was a good
way to spend the evening. However that wasn’t the only reason we held the
evening. It was our intention that all the commission from the party along
with the proceeds of the raffle go to INSOMNIA ’07 – (an event which you can
also read about in this edition of the magazine). Our evening raised over
£80, which will be split by INSOMNIA between homelessness projects here in
Gloucestershire and in our partner diocese in India.
A great night, a good financial contribution, and I hear on the grapevine
that people are talking about our next night together – so watch this space!
ON SUNDAY JANUARY 21st All Saints’ were privileged to host an Ecumenical
Service during the week of Christian Unity. Many churches were represented
and we were taken, in thought, to a village in the Eastern Cape, near
Readings from the Foot of the Cross told of the difficulties and
suffering trying to maintain life and faith in this area ravaged by
A youthful and enthusiastic group of musicians from St Gregory’s led us
in our singing, and recorded African music from the area gave us time and
atmosphere to meditate.
It was both an inspiring and humbling experience.
When we came to offer refreshments after the service the cups and saucers
we had set out were quickly used. As we scurried around to set out more
crockery we realised that the congregation well exceeded our expectations!
This and the fact that they were happy to stay for further fellowship was
ON SUNDAY 21st JANUARY 70 members of the congregations of the Churches
Together in North Cheltenham (CTiNC) met for the annual service for the Week
of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year for the first time we were at All
Saints’ in Pittville.
This year’s service used material from South East Africa and during
worship we were asked in different ways to reflect on the lives of fellow
Christians there whose lives have been blighted by AIDS.
The music for the service was provided (as it has been for the last three
CTiNC services) by members of St Gregory’s Music Group. The other churches
did readings and led prayers. An especially moving part was a meditation ‘At
the foot of the Cross’ performed by members of St Mary’s and St Nicolas’.
Here, each verse of a song was interspersed by the thoughts of parents,
wives and children who, whilst not all afflicted with AIDS, have been
devastatingly affected by it.
After the service, tea and delicious cakes were provided by All Saints’
and we were able to move around and meet and talk with our friends from the
other churches. We were also able to fully appreciate the glories of a
church described as ‘Cheltenham’s hidden gem’.
These ecumenical services are an excellent way to get a spiritual lift.
Why not join us for the next CTiNC service which will be for Christian Aid
week and will be held at Prestbury URC on Sunday 13th May at 6.30pm?
AS FR MICHAEL’S letter tells us, the rules for
First Communion have changed and we as a parish will be changing. Gone is
the old age limit of seven and although there are still rules about how to
prepare people for communion, how to celebrate and record it, there is a
clear change to saying that Communion is the right of all the baptised,
whatever their age or understanding.
For some years now First Communion has made a big difference to the lives
and worship of our 7-13 year olds. However, when it started many of us did
not actually change our views on what it meant to be ‘ready’ for Communion.
Rather we just saw that younger children were capable of being spiritual,
capable of knowing things about God, capable of beginning a relationship
with him in their own right.
Mentally, what most of us did when Communion before Confirmation was
introduced was extend a lot of the ideas about Confirmation back. In our
services we asked first communicants to make promises and declare themselves
ready for this important step. But the new theology (or to be more accurate
the very old theology that has been rediscovered) challenges us in a
different way. It says we have been asking the wrong questions. Receiving
Communion is not about being ready, not about being capable, not about our
taking another step. Communion is all about God and his grace, not about us
and our merits.
Ironically the Church of England has learnt this lesson, not by thinking
about Communion, but by thinking about Baptism, about Alpha courses,
discipleship and the journey of faith. What Anglican theologians have come
to realise (a point which the Orthodox never forgot) is that Baptism is the
whole of our faith. In Baptism God gives us everything – the keys to the
kingdom and his very Self. He does not hold anything back.
Bishop Michael puts it like this, ‘Admission to the body of Christ and
all that goes with it is complete in the sacrament of baptism. No one is
half in the Church, no one is half committed… Logically [first communion]
follows, where a candidate is old enough to eat, straight away from baptism.
We emerge from the water of baptism, are clothed in Christ and sit down to
eat with the Church.’
In the past we tended to see Baptism as freely given but Communion as
somehow earned – a reward for knowing enough or behaving well or coming to
Church regularly. But actually Communion is not a prize for being a good
Christian; it is the spiritual food which gives us the energy to be good
Confirmation is still important. Growing into the promises made on our
behalf at Baptism is still important. Faith is as much a journey of change
and growth as it ever was. But Communion is God’s gift to us to keep us
going along the way as we journey towards his heavenly banquet.
We cannot understand Communion for it is a mystery – something Jesus does
not tell us to think about but to do. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke
22:19). Communion is one of the four pillars of Christian life witnessed in
Acts 2:42, ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ So we cannot wait for
children to be old enough to understand and we certainly would never want to
say God’s grace is only for those with a certain IQ or reading-age. Nor is
Communion something we are ‘ready’ for. The Eucharist is the means by which
God changes us into his Image, the way he transforms us to be like him. No
one can be ready for that. But thank God, he is ready for us!
We see this time and again in Jesus’ ministry. All people had to do for
Jesus to come to them was to want him. Yes, Jesus made demands, yes those
demands could be enormous, a total change of life. But that always came
Take the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. At the start of the story
Zacchaeus is small in stature and small in spirit – a typical tax farmer,
despised both for collaborating with the Romans and for the ruthless way he
turned a profit on his tax farming by overcharging the townspeople. Jesus
was passing through his town but Zacchaeus could not see through the crowds
and no one would let him near the front, so he climbed up into a sycamore
tree. There are no signs that he had great plans to change his life, no
stirrings of repentance or great knowledge of God. He simply wanted to see
Jesus – he recognised something special, even if he could not have said what
it was. Jesus looked at him in his tree and without another word invited
himself to tea. He did not make any conditions or demands. Zacchaeus wanted
him, so he went to Zacchaeus.
It is only afterwards that things change. Only after experiencing
unconditional love does Zacchaeus repent and change his life for the better.
We see that God’s grace comes first. Our actions, our knowledge, are only
ever a response, not a precondition. And this should be our expectation in
Communion. God’s grace should come first, Communion should come first.
Discipleship and commitment, understanding and transformation of life come
afterwards as we grow in faith as children and as adults.
So as you look at the children in church on Sundays or watch your own
children, fidgeting, colouring, finding their own way through our services,
do not ask yourselves, ‘Are they ready for Communion?’ Ask simply, ‘What
possible reason would God have for turning them away?’
It is not too late to join either or both of our Lent courses. All are
Refreshed in Jesus
The evening Lent group, led by Sue McLeish from Kemerton, continues to
meet on Thursdays at St Nicolas’, following the Refreshed with Jesus
presentation of St Matthew’s Gospel, accompanied by readings from Bruce
Marchiano’s book In the Footsteps of Jesus. Each session includes
excerpts from the book relevant to the Gospel chapters to be shown on video,
followed by an opportunity for questions and discussion. Refreshments are
available from 7pm for a prompt start at 7.30pm. There will be no session on
Can we Build a Better World?
Learning from William Wilberforce
Our afternoon Lent Course is being led by Father Paul Iles on Thursday
afternoons at St Nicolas’. This course celebrates the life, work and faith
of a great Yorkshireman and pays tribute to his work in combating slavery.
The five sessions are:
- Slavery: then and now;
- Friendship & Prayer: then and now;
- Change & Struggle: then and now;
- The Bible: then and now;
- Redemption & Restitution: then and now.
Please sign up on the lists in church and order your course booklet,
price £5. Money with order, please. Can we Build a Better World?
begins on Thursday 1st March at 2.30pm. NB there is no session in Race Week,
A Quiet Afternoon led by Father Tim Raphael on Saturday 10th March at All
Saints’, from 12 noon to 4 pm beginning with a light lunch of soup and rolls
Another dessert we had at the Epiphany supper
This makes a large dessert, serving 12. It can be prepared entirely and
frozen for up to 1 month, then defrosted for 1 hour before your party. It’s
a recipe I found in a magazine years ago.
Ingredients – Cake
6 oz. Hazelnuts in their skins
1 tbs. Cornflour
6 large Egg Whites
12 oz Caster Sugar
Ingredients – Coffee Cream
3 tbs. Ground Coffee
6 tbs. Milk
2 tbs. Caster Sugar
3/4 pint Double Cream
1 tsp. Icing Sugar
Cover 4 baking sheets with baking parchment, marked with 8" circle.
Finely grind hazelnuts and mix with cornflour. Whisk egg whites in large
bowl until stiff. Whisk in half caster sugar. Fold in remaining sugar,
followed by hazelnuts. Spread meringue mixture over 4 drawn circles. Bake in
slow oven (150°C) for 1 hour. Remove, cool on sheets and peel off paper.
Warm ground coffee with milk, bring to boil. Set aside for 10 minutes
then strain into bowl. Add sugar and cream and beat until thick. Turn one
meringue layer upside down and dust with icing sugar through sieve. Pipe 12
rosettes of cream around edge. Use remaining cream to sandwich layers.
“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his
neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking
terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his
strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
he does not shy away from the sword… In frenzied excitement he eats up the
ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds… He catches the
scent of battle from afar, the shout of commanders and the battle cry.”
Job 39:19-25 (NIV)
Here in Prestbury this month we might reword this passage so that the
horse ‘charges over fences and hurdles’, ‘cannot stand still when the
starting pistol sounds’ and ‘catches the shout of race-goers in the
grandstand’. If you have ever stood at the racecourse perimeter fence on a
sunny afternoon in Gold Cup Week and watched the horses coming down the hill
you will appreciate Habakkuk 1:8, where Babylon’s horses are described as
being ‘swifter than leopards’.
Horses are mentioned in over thirty different books in the Bible, mainly
in the Old Testament. Still thinking about racing, consider this picture
from Jeremiah 12:5: ‘If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn
you out, how can you compete with horses?’
As well as representing strength, horses are seen as a symbol of wealth.
Even today we tend to think of people who own lots of horses as being fairly
well-off, so how rich was King Solomon who, according to some versions owned
twelve thousand horses?! (1 Kings 4 and 10, 2 Chronicles 1 and 9)
Horses are also a symbol of honour and respect. In Esther 6:6-12 Haman
answers the king: ‘Bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king
has ridden… robe the man the king delights to honour and lead him on the
horse through the city streets…’.
Different coloured horses feature in visions in both Old and New
Testaments. Zechariah, in chapter 1, sees a man riding a red horse, with
red, brown and white horses behind him; in chapter 6 he sees four chariots,
‘the first had red horses, the second black, the third white and the fourth
dappled – all of them powerful’. A white, a fiery red, a black and a pale
horse are all mentioned in Revelation chapter 6.
But for all their strength and status implications, look what James has
to say in his letter: ‘When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make
them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.’ (James 3:3). Just a small piece
of metal attached to some strips of leather, but with it we have control
over this powerful creature. With a simple twitch of the reins we can turn
the horse in the right direction, or in the wrong direction. James is really
talking about the human tongue – how easily we sometimes say the wrong thing
instead of the right thing. In verse 10 James continues: ‘Out of the same
mouth come praise and cursing. This should not be.’
So when you join me on the perimeter path this month we shall enjoy
watching these magnificent racehorses, but we can also think about our
day-to-day lives as followers of Jesus, and how to let him direct not only
our conversations but our whole selves in his service.
‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we
trust in the name of the Lord our God.’ (Psalm 20:7)
Women’s World Day of Prayer
2nd March 2007
Services using material from Paraguay will be held at
10.30am St Mary’s Church, Charlton Kings
2.00pm St Andrew’s URC
7.30pm St Christopher’s, Warden Hill
All are welcome at any church.
Calling all Committees
Our Annual Church Meeting will take place on Sunday 25th
March. Prior to this meeting I have to prepare a report which needs to
include a small ‘thumb print’ paragraph from each committee that reports
back to the PCC. If you are the chair of any committee, or work in a
specific area that needs to be mentioned, I would be most grateful to
receive your short article by Friday 16th March. With many thanks.
Secretary to the PCC
EverestMAX – the Longest Climb on Earth
On Saturday 17th March in St Nicolas’ church I am
giving an illustrated talk about the expedition last year from the Dead Sea
to Mount Everest. The talk, with slides, starts at 7.30pm and will probably
last about an hour depending on questions. Entry is free, but there will be
a retiring collecting with all proceeds being donated to the three charities
which the expedition supported. There will be refreshments afterwards and I
shall have some DVDs for sale.
St Mary’s Bakestall
This month’s bakestall at St Mary’s is on Sunday 18th
March with contributions from those with surnames A-F. Do contact one of
us if you would like to join the rota.
Margaret Waker & Linda Matthews
Annual Church Cleaning and Churchyard Tidy-up
Saturday 24th March 10.00am
Please come along to help as more hands make light work.
We will commence at 10.00am. If you can bring your own forks, spades etc
this would be most helpful. Cleaning materials will be available. Coffee and
biscuits will be served mid-morning for the workers.
See you there.
Sunday 25th March
St Mary’s Church, Mill Street
preceded by a Passiontide Service at 5.45 pm
Music, readings and prayers led by members of St Mary’s &
St Nicolas’ Choirs
Please make every effort to attend the Annual Meeting of
Parishioners and Annual Parochial Church Meeting. During these meetings
Churchwardens, Assistant Wardens and PCC members will be elected. Please see
the church notice boards for nomination lists.
The Prestbury and Pittville Youth Charity AGM will take
place after the Annual Meeting. If you are a member, please stay on for what
will be a brief meeting! Refreshments will be served between the two
Prestbury and Pittville Youth ‘AGM PLUS’
The AGM of Prestbury and Pittville Youth will follow the
Parish of Prestbury Annual Meeting on the evening of Sunday 25th March,
as in the past two years. But this year, you will not only be able to hear
about the busiest and most successful year for the charity, you will also
have a chance to see highlights from the young people’s film Our Voice,
whilst sipping a glass of wine and munching a few tasty nibbles.
Our March meeting takes place on Tuesday 27th March
at the United Reformed Church in Deep Street. The speaker will be Canon
Sarah James and her subject will be ‘The Church of England’. Now that is an
interesting one – wherever will it lead us? All are welcome to join us on
To all St Mary’s Flower Arrangers
The Annual Meeting of St Mary’s Flower Arrangers will be
held on Wednesday 28th March at 7.30pm. We would welcome, with ‘Open
Arms’, anyone who feels they would like to be part of this friendly team of
flower arrangers. Help and advice will be given. Thank you all.
There will be an ‘Experience Easter’ event in St Mary’s on
Palm Sunday afternoon 1st April. Further details to follow.
The MU Wave of Prayer is on Sunday 15th April.
Prestbury’s slot is between 10 and 11am and will be held in the Upper Room
at St Mary’s. We may have to cut it short in order to accommodate the normal
An Important Date for the Diary!
Bishop Michael will come to consecrate St Nicolas’ on
Sunday 30th September at 3pm.
World Vision Christmas Card – Update
The alternative Christmas Card donation of £210 will help
families in Angola to buy the seeds and tools they need to be
self-sufficient. Thank you once again for your generosity. Please also see
the ‘Thank You letter’ from World Vision in the church porch.
Margaret Waker & Margaret Holman
Knit It! with the Children’s Society
I have received information about an exciting and creative
appeal to get involved in – the Knit It! You can hold a sponsored knit with
friends, or you can knit and sell your items. The Society has easy to follow
free fundraising patterns that you can order or download by visiting
www.childrenssociety.org.uk/knit, or call 0845 600 8585. There are also Knit
Kits, developed with Patons, in the shops.