WHAT A STRANGE TIME of year to be starting in a new place! Strange
because it means a real mixture of joy and solemnity: the welcoming smiles
of that wonderful licensing service; the drama of Candlemas on my first
Sunday; and the quiet thoughtfulness of Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season.
An odd time to begin, therefore, but a significant one as well. For Lent is
one of those periods when we become more clearly aware that we are on a
journey, that we are a work in progress, and that the best is yet to come.
Nationally, the early part of Lent has been dominated somewhat by a media
furore following some remarks in a lecture made by Archbishop Rowan. Rather
predictably the story has been fanned into flame by those with various
agendas, be it selling newspapers or dissatisfaction with the Church.
Whenever this kind of thing occurs I cannot help reflecting on how easily
threatened we are. All it takes is a question or a thought and suddenly all
hell (and I use the word advisedly) breaks loose. Jesus was aware of this
tendency in people and was extremely careful about what he said and when he
said it. On several occasions he resisted the temptation to become swept up
in his disciples’ enthusiasm, sensing the time was not right1.
When the time was right, however, he did not hold back2.
Throughout Lent and Holy Week our readings show us how Jesus prepared for
the storm and then, with great perception and self-awareness, brought it
about. There were many shouting “Hosannah!” on that first Palm Sunday, but
there was also a significant, powerful minority who knew Jesus was
challenging them3. Their response was swift and brutal.
We are all familiar with the practice of fasting in Lent, usually in the
form of giving something up. This is not about spiritual heroics, but rather
a way of creating a space, an opening for God to meet with us. Fasting
weakens us, making us more aware than usual of how we depend upon God. Is it
possible to extend this discipline, therefore, when we encounter ideas or
people who seem threatening? Is it possible to fast from defensiveness and
instead seek to respond prayerfully? To remain silent in the face of
provocation is one of the most powerful signs of the trusting of faith. It
rarely makes things easier, but that is not the point. The point is that we
stand for a way of life that is radically different from the world’s way.
The world wants easy answers, a sense of security, and for everyone to be
the same. The way of Jesus is to live with hard questions, to trust in God’s
eternal love, and to accept people as they are. It is not a journey we can
complete overnight, but perhaps by taking small, deliberate steps we can
demonstrate that we are on our way.
1. See for example Matthew 17:9 or John 6:15. St Ignatius
of Loyola writes; “See how the divinity in Christ chooses to hide itself”
2. For example, telling anyone that “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my
blood has eternal life” is pretty controversial stuff, let alone practising
Jews of the first century. John 6:54
3. Luke 19:37-48
It has been very good to welcome Fr Daniel to work with us in our Team
Ministry and I have been delighted to gain a full-time colleague! As Bishop
Michael explained during the Licensing
service, Fr Daniel has been licensed as an Associate Priest in the
Prestbury and All Saints’ Team Ministry. When the North Cheltenham Team
Ministry is legally formed, he will be licensed as a Team Vicar. Although he
is living in Prestbury Vicarage and will be ministering primarily to the
congregations of Celebrate! and the ‘11 o’clock’ at St Mary’s, Fr Daniel’s
appointment is definitely to the whole Team Ministry. The terms of the
scheme which will establish the new Team will give both Team Vicars (Fr
Daniel and Fr Stephen Eldridge) a share, with me as Rector, for ‘the cure of
souls’ in the whole area of the Team. My role will be more of a ‘roving’
one, ministering primarily to the 9.30am congregation at St Nicolas’ and
then being able to join with our other congregations to share with them in
their worship. Currently as Priest-in-Charge, but in time as Team Rector,
there are certain legal responsibilities which go with my office, including
chairmanship of the PCC’s and holding ex officio places on the governing
bodies of both schools. In time I am sure there will be possibilities for
delegation! In the meantime, Fr Daniel’s arrival begins the process of
setting in place the working arrangements for our new Team Ministry and we
await the final pieces of the jigsaw.
Did any of you count the number of times Fr
Daniel rang the Sanctus bell at his licensing? After the first verse of the
final hymn the new minister rings the church bell to make known to the
community that he has begun his ministry. I was standing in the choir stalls
next to the bell rope waiting to get on with the second verse and thought he
was a little over enthusiastic, to put it mildly. Afterwards I heard it said
that the bell is pulled once for every year the new minister thinks he will
remain in the parish. We must have impressed Fr Daniel, as it sounded like
he wants to stay a long while!
At the time when Fr Stephen’s retirement was announced, the PCC had to
discuss the question of the Resolutions relating to the Ordination of Women
Measure. The legal details are explained by Jerry Porter elsewhere in this
magazine, but at the time of taking their decision the PCC expressed the
hope that the matter would be discussed more fully when sufficient time
could be given to it. This hope was also expressed at last year’s Annual
Parochial Church Meeting.
It is important to acknowledge that for some in our congregations the
issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood raises strong feelings,
both amongst those who are in favour and those who feel opposed. We must
also acknowledge that, probably for many, this is not an issue at all; they
simply have not given the matter any consideration and so would not have a
view either way.
Following recent meetings of the PCC, an afternoon has been set aside to
allow a time for discussion of the ministry of ordained women, particularly
as priests, and of the implications of this ministry for our parish and for
the wider Team Ministry. Canon David Hoyle, the Diocesan Director of
Ministry, has been invited to facilitate the afternoon. Many of you will
have heard Canon Hoyle speak and already know that he is very highly
regarded. He will give some input, from an impartial perspective, and then
chair the discussion which is hoped will allow people to freely hear and
express opinions and to understand the differing views which are held.
For some it might be the first time that they have heard any discussion
on this matter and so the afternoon might raise their awareness and help
them to an informed opinion. Depending on the feeling of the meeting it may
be that a further discussion takes place during the Annual Church Meeting in
April and then the matter might be referred back to the PCC for them to
reconsider the question of the resolutions.
I trust and pray that all of us will be open to one another and to the
Holy Spirit as these discussions take place so that they might do so in an
atmosphere of Christian love and understanding.
The discussion afternoon with Canon David Hoyle will be held in
St Nicolas’ Church on Sunday 9th March at 3.30pm. All are very welcome to
Fr Michael has written elsewhere in this edition
about renewed discussion of the ministry of ordained women in this parish
and the wider team. So what does the law say, what has the parish of
Prestbury decided in the past, and what are the implications for the current
Prestbury and All Saints’ team and the future North Cheltenham team? This
article tries to untangle the mysteries.
The Priests [Ordination of Women] Measure
1993 was passed by the General Synod of the Church of England to make
provision for the ordination of women as priests. Under that Measure PCCs
may pass either or both of these resolutions:
Resolution A says:
this parochial church council would not accept a woman as the minister who
presides at or celebrates the Holy Communion or pronounces the Absolution in
Resolution B says:
this parochial church council would not accept a woman as the incumbent or
priest-in-charge of the benefice or as a team vicar for the benefice.
Resolution B applies only to priests of incumbent status – the team rector
and team vicar - not to any curate, house for duty priest, non-stipendiary
priest or other ordained minister licensed to the benefice.
(Where the PCC of any parish has passed one or
both of resolutions A and B, the incumbent and the PCC may decide jointly to
ask the diocesan bishop for appropriate episcopal duties in the parish to be
carried out in accordance with the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993.
This is the Act which made provision for parishes opposed to the ordination
of women to receive alternative pastoral oversight from a Provincial
Episcopal Visitor, commonly referred to as a Flying Bishop. Such a petition
is often referred to as Resolution C. No such petition has been made by
either Prestbury or All Saints’.)
Once passed, a resolution continues in force
until the PCC votes to change it.
The Prestbury PCC debated the issue at the time
of the interregnum in 1994 and passed Resolution B. This resolution has been
in force since then.
When a vacancy arises, as was the case when Fr
Stephen announced his retirement, the PCC must decide whether to pass a new
resolution or resolutions, or to rescind an existing resolution or
resolutions, or to do neither of these things. If it does neither of these
things, any existing resolutions remain in force. At the Prestbury PCC
meeting in September 2006, after lengthy discussion of the issues and
options, no motion to rescind Resolution B or to adopt another Resolution
was proposed, with the result that Resolution B still stands.
This means that, whilst the Prestbury PCC does
not support the appointment of a woman as team rector or team vicar, it has
no objection to a woman priest presiding at Holy Communion or pronouncing
the Absolution in the parish of Prestbury.
In benefices (teams) consisting of several
parishes, the passing of Resolution B by any one parish is binding on all
the parishes in the benefice. Of the parishes which will make up the future
North Cheltenham team, both Prestbury and All Saints’ currently have
Resolution B in force. This means that at present the team may not appoint a
woman priest as either team rector or team vicar, but a woman priest may
preside at Holy Communion and pronounce the Absolution throughout the team,
except at All Saints’, which has also passed Resolution A.
The Church Commissioners have sent out the draft
Scheme which is the legal document which will establish the North Cheltenham
Team Ministry. There is now a consultation period which runs until 18th
March. The Scheme has been posted on the notice board in both churches along
with a glossary of terms and an explanation of how any representations can
be made. Please do look at the paperwork and please do ask one of the clergy
or one of the Churchwardens if there is anything you would like
North Cheltenham Team Ministry
Above you will read that the draft scheme for
forming the new Team has been issued, so things are beginning to move a
little faster. When the Team is formed we will have a newly-designed
website. I’m still keen for you all to help design a new logo. If you have
any ideas that might be incorporated in one, please, sketch it on the back
of an old envelope and pass it to me. Who knows? From all the ideas some may
come through to help identify the North Cheltenham Team.
Come to the PPY AGM, and for wine and nibbles
beforehand, on 27th April 2008
The AGM of Prestbury and Pittville Youth will
follow the Prestbury Parish AGM in St Mary’s on the evening of Sunday 27th
April. As they did last year, the Executive Committee are inviting you for
wine and nibbles between the two meetings. Please join us then to show your
support for our young people.
Become a PPY Member
Prestbury and Pittville Youth was registered as
a charity in 2004 and the youth work it funds and manages has expanded since
then. There are now 4 evening groups every term-time week, a monthly group
for older young people, summer holiday schemes, special sessions for young
leaders and an alternative curriculum two days a week for secondary school
students who are at risk of school exclusion. There is an annual challenge
project open to everyone. This year it is based around arts, craft and
music. Several of you will already have enjoyed the fashion show and there
is more to come.
If you would like to become a member of the
charity so that you can keep in touch with all that is going on, please ask
the Secretary, Tricia Wilson, for an application form (
). Membership is free.
www.everyclick.com for your on-line searches
This is a painless way of donating. It costs you nothing. If you name
Prestbury and Pittville Youth as your nominated charity when you register to
use www.everyclick.com then they
will donate a penny to PPY's work every time you make an on-line search.
Some of you will have tried using everyclick already and have given up, but
the new improved version is well worth a second try.
Prestbury and Pittville Youth
the Good Friday Youth Worship on Friday 21st
March 7pm at St Nicolas'. We are inviting the many young people with
whom we have contact. It would b e great to communicate how
world-changing the Easter message is!
Give thanks for...
the way in which young people have engaged
with the re-create arts project and the way
relationships of trust are flourishing in all the different groups.
It is great to have a number of potential new volunteers interested in
'I want my life to
be about more than just work' (young person)
For more information about the youth work please
contact Andy Macauly on 520534.
No, it isn’t Max Bygraves writing this article
but I hope the title may have caught your eye and encouraged you to read
further! I am really writing to remind you of the work being done by our
Open The Book team in St Mary’s Infant School.
Our team consists of about ten people from
various churches in the area who, in groups of three or four, go into the
school every Wednesday to read and bring to life a bible story at their
assembly. We are welcomed by the Head Teacher, Miss Ann Fitzpatrick, and her
very dedicated staff and given a free hand in how we try to get a bible
story across to all the children. If we manage to get it right then these
children will go home and tell their parents, thus spreading God’s Word even
Whilst we can manage with the number of people
currently in our team, obviously, we are in a sense, talking to children in
a church school, who will already have heard something of our Christian
message. Think how wonderful it would be if we could widen our outreach by
taking these stories into schools where there is not a Christian ethos and
where perhaps bible stories and God are not so well known. To do this we
would need more people to join us at St Mary’s Infant School, in order to
release the more experienced members of the team to spread ourselves into
May I encourage you to think about this and if
you feel you could give up an hour and a half every few weeks (on a
Wednesday) and come and join us, I know that you will get as much out of the
sessions as the children – it really is great fun and you don’t have to be
dynamic or trained to work with children. All you need is to be able to read
the stories and have the time to join a friendly group of people. If you
can’t join us yourselves, then perhaps you can pray for us? Or pass the
message on to someone else who you think may fit the bill. Please contact me
or Julie Jefferies from the URC for further information.
A Thank You
On behalf of the Parish Events Committee may I
thank all of the impromptu volunteers who helped us circulate coffee, wine
and food to so many who stayed to join in the celebration of
Fr Daniel’s Licensing in St Mary’s
Knowing we were expecting a pretty full house,
hiding away a large enough quantity of food, bottles of bubbly, glasses and
cups and saucers was a more difficult puzzle than feeding 90-plus diners at
the Epiphany Supper!
Willing (and secure!) hands to carry the trays
and plates arrived quite unbidden. Mavis Brick’s years of post office
organisation equipped her brilliantly to plan the instant appearance of
three fully laden tables in front of the Good Shepherd Chapel, Chair and
Pulpit. Bishop Michael described it as “complete magic”. The very solemn
service was followed by a real family party. The Prestbury congregations
never cease to amaze me.
Thank you again to all of you.
In the hall of the St Mary’s Junior School hangs
a plaque: National School 1836. At that time, the school was run by the
Prestbury Parochial Church Council acting as trustees. This Christian
Foundation still holds good, although we now have two schools, two churches
and the Local Authority increasingly plays the most significant role in the
day to day running of the schools.
The church however still has a leading role in
the governance of the schools. Nominated by the PCC and approved by the
Gloucester Diocesan Board of Education, the Foundation Governors represent
on our Governing Bodies our parish mission in Prestbury. They are the
majority presence on the school Governing Bodies. A Foundation Governor is
appointed for an initial 4 years but may be appointed for further terms of
office. At the time of their appointment, a certain number of these
Foundation Governors have to be the parent of a child at the school.
Their responsibility is in brief to celebrate
and foster the Christian Ethos within the schools which alongside quality
education offer a spiritual dimension to the lives of young people,
within the traditions of the Church of England in an increasingly secular
world (The Way ahead: Church of England schools in the new
How do the Foundation Governors support the
schools in meeting this challenge? What does their role mean to them?
Perhaps the following contributions from two of our Foundation Governors
will shed some light on this question.
Rosie Dodd (Foundation Governor at the Infant
said Father Stephen in his most persuasive voice - "Oh yes," I thought,
preparing myself for what was coming. "How would you like to be a Foundation
Governor for St Mary's Infant school?" I thought for a few minutes, I had
been in Education all my life and had always found it interesting. I knew
that the Infant School had recently had a new head and that it was the start
of a new era there. I thought that being a Governor would be interesting and
fulfilling - also that it would provide an insight into a school other than
the one that I taught in; so I said,"yes."
I have now been a Governor at the Infant School
for nearly ten years and it has been a thoroughly enjoyable time, especially
if you discount the two Ofsteds!
During this time I have been really pleased to
be a Governor in a Church school in particular. It is good to see the Clergy
taking such an active role in the life of the school and I find it very
rewarding to be involved in a school with such a strong Christian ethos.
I truly enjoy the involvement that I have with
St Mary's, the Staff and the children. It is always a privilege and very
rewarding to feel that you are supporting the Staff and the children, even
in a small way, and especially so in such a lovely School.
Kate Bestwick (Foundation Governor at the
Parent Foundation Governor of Prestbury St Mary’s C of E Junior School I am
part of the Christian Values Committee (CVC, a committee of the Governing
Body) – the focus of this group is to “celebrate and foster the Christian
Ethos of the school” (Terms of reference). We support collective worship
within school, nurturing links between the Church, school and local
community. We meet once a term to discuss various aspects of worship in the
school and to evaluate the Christian Ethos of the school.
One of the areas I monitor as Foundation
Governor is RE, this involves going into school, reviewing the files and
going through the strategic planning in this subject with the teacher
responsible for RE; this usually happens once a term. After discussion I
complete a monitoring form to record our meeting, a copy of which is sent to
I also monitor worship at the school, again this
involves going into school and meeting the teacher responsible for worship.
Another part of the monitoring process also involves attending school
assemblies, including parental assemblies – these are assemblies led by one
class and to which the parents of that particular class are invited (each
class will have a turn during the school year).
As Foundation Governor I enjoy attending these
and find it useful to see how the aspects discussed at the CVC meetings come
together. I also enjoy attending and supporting other school events such as
school fetes, school plays and leavers concerts, to name but a few.
Being a parent Foundation Governor is a great
experience and a way I feel I can ‘give something back to the school’ which
taught and nurtured my two children preparing them for both life at Senior
School and beyond.
We will be looking for new Foundation
Governors for the next academic year, beginning September 2008. Would you be
interested in this work, if not now perhaps sometime in the future? If
the answer is yes or maybe, please speak either to myself, Daphne Philpot
(Chair of Junior School) or to Fr Michael (Chair of Infant School).
Current Foundation Governors:
Junior School: Daphne Philpot, Fr Michael, Cyril Beer, Peter Allsopp,
Rachel Storey, Kate Bestwick, Karen Brook, Christine McKelvey, Dr Mark
Infant School: Fr Michael, Rosie Dodd, Fiona Hall, Mary Turner,
Caroline Sexton, Allan Philpot, Miriam Barnes, Jane Turner.
Prestbury United Charities
is a charity derived from a number of small
bequests and from properties dedicated as almshouses. It is administered by
nine trustees and has two functions: almshouses and relief in need; the area
of benefit is the parishes of Prestbury, Swindon Village and Southam.
For various reasons the original number of
almshouses has decreased and now consists of one dwelling and the right to
appoint the resident for two of the maisonettes in Ann Goodrich Close.
However, over the same period the income for relief in need has increased so
that the trustees have a reasonable sum at their disposal.
People may be aware of the leaflets that have
been distributed to churches, schools, local shops and organisations but the
trustees would still welcome requests for help and appeal for a wider
knowledge of the help they can give. All applicants are assured of strict
confidence in the handling by trustees who wish to cause no embarrassment in
administering charity money. There are local funds available for local needs
of individuals or organisations.
Application for help can be made to the Clerk, Mr Brian Wood, 2 Honeysuckle
Close, Prestbury, GL52 5LN, telephone 01242 515941 or any trustee.
Lyle, Chairman of Trustees
underway we are now anticipating Easter and all that this Holy Season
In previous years several people have kindly
sponsored a lily in memory of a loved one. Our church, at this Holy Season,
is a profusion of flowers and colour and it may be comforting to know that a
loved one is remembered in this way. If you are keen to sponsor a lily
please contact Margaret Waker.
We were pleased to ring for the licensing
service of Fr Daniel on Wednesday 30th January. On the previous Sunday
evening we rang a quarter peal of Plain Bob Minor for Evening Service which
we dedicated to Fr Daniel. Nowadays we are rather short of local ringers: we
usually need to invite ringers from other towers around Cheltenham to join
us if we wish to ring a quarter peal. So, if any readers of the magazine
might be interested in learning to ring, or if anyone reading this is a
“lapsed” ringer who fancies returning to church bell ringing, why not pop
along to our practice night between 7.30 pm and 9pm on any Tuesday (except
in Holy Week, when we do not ring) and have a chat with us.
On Saturday 9th February Noel and Michael Brick
were our hosts in the Parish Quiz at St Nicolas’ Hall. To get our brains in
gear we started by having to unravel the anagrams of names of famous people,
not all were easy! There were questions for all areas of interest and ages.
Some were simple and others were challenging. The round of pictures of local
landmarks caught out a few people. This year we were guaranteed a new
winning team as the winners of the last three years had moved to Cambridge!
The results were close and the winners on a tie-break were Duffers United.
Well done to them. They agreed to donate their cash prize to Prestbury and
Gill Wood, Janet Waters, Lindsey McGowan and Julie Lane
An Introduction to the Interior Decoration of
For those of us who are frequent users of, and
visitors to, All Saints’, its marvellous, uplifting interior needs no
introduction. But for those who pass by it remains largely a hidden gem,
concealed by a somewhat forbidding and severe exterior. It was therefore
wonderful that so many people came to this talk, either to learn more about
a familiar friend, or to be introduced properly for the first time.
This was a very well informed talk by Mary
Greensted, as one would expect from the Curator of our museums highly
respected Arts & Crafts collection. It gave us a glimpse of how fast things
were changing and developing in Victorian England as a backdrop to the
Gothic revival. It illuminated how central Cheltenham was to the development
of the Arts & Crafts nationally, and how All Saints’ benefited from this
wealth of talent. She did much to place All Saints’ and its decorations and
contents in its original context, showing how Middleton developed the ideas
started by Pugin into his own austere yet decorated style. I found myself
thinking how well suited this was to accommodating the many changes to this
church, both before and after Middleton’s death. It was wonderful, armed
with our new found knowledge, to walk around the church again, seeing many
familiar features in a new light, and seeing things we had never noticed
A Talk by Mary Greensted
On a warm sunny afternoon in February over 200
people packed All Saints' Church to hear a talk given by Mary Greensted who
is the curator of the designated collection held at Cheltenham Museum.
She spoke of the link of Pugin and his Gothic
vision through to William Morris and the rise of the Arts and Crafts
movement. It was a very inspiring talk and Miss Greensted pointed out the
influence of Pugin within the church and how colour and nature played a
great part in the building of All Saints'.
She pointed out the Burne - Jones rose window in
the south transept with its pink hues which was one of his better designs.
She then pointed out the magnificent rose window at the west end of the
church which sums up what the Arts and Crafts movement was aiming at. The
window is full of bright strong colours and was designed by Sir William
Richmond and made by the William Morris Company. She pointed out the
wonderful Minton tiles on the Chancel floor, which she said was very much a
Pugin idea. She made repeated reference to Rosemary Hill's book on Pugin,
which was reviewed in last month's parish magazine.
All Saints' church is a treasure trove of
wonderful art. Following the talk people walked around and asked questions,
which Mary was happy to answer. Tea was served by members of the
congregation. It was a very enjoyable afternoon, which the friends of All
Saints' hope to repeat.
What a splendid afternoon my friend Mavis and I spent at All Saints’
Church. A very full Church of people enjoyed a talk by Mary Greensted from
the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, entitled From Gothic Revival to
Arts and Crafts. She ably led us through the different stages of the
design and building of this magnificent building, that Architect being John
Various parts were highlighted: the floor tiles by Minton; the pulpit and
pulpit hood; the lovely hood covered in roses over the font; the stained
glass windows and organ pipes. Mary also spoke of the various mainly
Cheltenham companies involved including H H Martyn. She mentioned the brass
lectern which at one time had been on display in London.
Mary had done a lot of research, especially going into the church on
several Saturdays and what she noticed was the love and care taken with this
splendid church. Fr Michael introduced and thanked Mary and even he was
pleased to be able to sit and have various aspects highlighted.
The afternoon finished with tea and super home-made biscuits. The
afternoon was organised by the Friends of All Saints’ Church.
If you would like to know more about the Friends
of All Saints’ please contact Peter Warwick. Further events are
planned for 6th April and 25th May.
on tall ladders is fraught with problems, not the least these days being
"Health & Safety". For this reason Mark Hancock, the mason to whom we have
entrusted the St Mary’s repair work, decided to hire a "cherry picker" in
order to replace slates on the chancel roof. He had also pointed out that
the cross on the end of the chancel roof was leaning alarmingly. This was
rather odd, because the previous, much eroded, cross had only been replaced
by this one by Fr Ian Hazlewood not long before he retired about twelve
first photo shows Mark's assistant having a first try of controlling the
cherry picker from its platform. The cross turned out to be fine in itself,
but there was a problem with the mounting. This might be due to
deterioration of the old stone at the apex of the chancel wall.
The cherry picker has now departed, not being strong enough to be used to
remove the cross. Scaffolding will have to be erected to carry out whatever
repair is necessary. In the meantime, the area beneath the cross has been
fenced off in case the cross should fall. Unfortunately the cost of this
work will be extra to the contract price.
This year I plan on fulfilling a life ambition
by running the London Marathon! I am raising money for a really worthwhile
charity, The Outward Bound Trust.
Outward Bound Trust provides life-changing opportunities for young people,
enabling them to explore their potential in a unique way. Outward Bound is a
charity Mum (Diane Lyle) is heavily involved in and, when aged 17, I
attended an Outward Bound course myself. It was a life changing experience
where you were free to discover who you really were, try things you never
thought you'd try and learn things about yourself from these experiences as
well as the other people around you.
Having worked with young people and witnessed
what Outward Bound can do for them I truly believe all the effort, time and
pain I am going through is completely worth it.
I am hoping to raise £1300 for my charity and
can't do this without the support of friends and family. The support by
donation and prayer will be much appreciated as I think my legs and I need
all the help we can get, 26 miles is a long way! I run the marathon on 13th
If you are interested in sponsoring me I have a
completely secure fundraiser page on the internet which can be accessed by
Again this year we will be joining with our
brothers and sisters from the other church families in Prestbury to make a
public witness to our Easter faith around the cross. On Palm Sunday at
10.00am, the cross will be carried in procession from the war memorial to a
place outside the URC chapel in Deep Street. The cross will be put up,
dressed with palm branches. On Good Friday at 10.00am we will gather at the
cross for a short time of reflection, prayers and readings. Then on Easter
Sunday morning at 10.15am, we will gather again as the cross is hung with a
garland of flowers to symbolise Jesus’ resurrection. The cross will then
remain in place for the rest of Easter week. This year we hope that the
cross will be lit at night. Do make the effort to join us for these short
acts of public witness; why not bring a friend?!
The hand of the Lord came
upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down
in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones… There were very many
lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can
these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me,
‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of
the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to
enter you and you shall live.’
Ezekiel 37, vv 1-5
‘The hip bone’s connected to the – thigh bone,
and the thigh bone’s connected to the – knee bone ...’. It is a macabre
picture, fascinating for young and old, a great story with a lot of
repetition to make it memorable; no wonder it got made into a song that
generations of children have sung with cheerful gusto. What is all this
doing in the mouth of a serious prophet?
Ezekiel was living in terrible times. Jerusalem
had fallen and was laid waste. Ezekiel himself was among thousands of
prisoners taken to exile in Babylon. The background to his prophecy could
hardly have been more bleak, especially as he understands the disaster of
his country as the judgment of God for a faithless people. The vision that
came to him in Babylon is a picture of despair: a bare valley, no grass, no
trees; if ever there was anything productive or pleasant it has been
destroyed. Just a carpet of bones. What is more, these bones have been there
a long time, they are totally desiccated. The people they represent are not
just dead, they are long gone, they are history. ‘Can these bones live?’
asks God. Ezekiel produces a tactful answer.
Yet, beyond all hope, the ‘word of the Lord’
brings new life where it seemed there was only death. God’s speaking is
never just an empty sound; it is dynamic and creative. In Genesis, at the
very beginning of things, we read again and again: ‘And God said...’. The
whole world came into being by his speaking.
The new life Ezekiel foresees is not just a
matter of restoring the physical status quo. God will transform the inner
life of his people: ‘a new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put
within you.’ Today, we are only too familiar with pictures of devastation
and ruin. As individuals too, whether through sickness, bereavement or
misfortune, or through our own wrong choices, we sometimes come to a place
which feels every bit as empty, every bit as hopeless. Even then (especially
then), God is waiting to bring new life to our dead world:
and, listening to his voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.
One thing more: the prophet is not just a
passive observer of the action. Ezekiel himself is required to play an
essential part: it is he who must speak God’s word to the bones, and only
then does the divine life flow into them. Is there another message for us
here? When things are at their worst, God is always present, always offering
healing and renewal, but when we are down, it is hard to realise it. Often
we need someone else to bring us the message that will open up a channel for
God’s grace. And sometimes, we ourselves need to be the messenger for