Christ our Light
year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible –
the edition known as the King James Version, loved for its poetic turn of phrase
and the source of many day-to-day household sayings which are still passed on by
word of mouth, long after their origin has been largely forgotten.
Some people have large family Bibles that have
been handed down from one generation to the next, with births, marriages and
deaths inscribed in copperplate script inside the covers. These Bibles may
have played a significant part in the life of the household, perhaps read aloud
at the beginning or end of each day, or cited as witness to solemn oaths between
family members – testifying to the truthfulness of their promises.
In the same way, the Bible itself is a record
of many generations. It too bears witness to the truth, the Good News of
Jesus Christ revealed within its pages, that has been translated into over two
thousand languages and carried to the farthest corners of our world.
It tells how God chose a people to be his own
possession and revealed himself to them through the events of their history,
until at last he sent his only Son into the world to share every aspect of their
Writing this article at the beginning of a New
Year, with Christmas fresh in my mind, I am still reflecting on that event, but
the start of a New Year can also be a time to reflect on all that happened
during the previous twelve months, and to make plans and resolutions for the
What events affected your family last year?
What are your hopes for the months ahead? For some people, 2010 will have
fulfilled all their hopes and promises; others will feel that the year brought
more than its fair share of disappointments and sadness, which they will be
relieved to leave behind.
When we look at our Bible and the life of
Jesus, we discover that even he was not exempt from the ups and downs that are
part and parcel of everyday life. The wise men brought gold, frankincense
and myrrh to the baby Jesus, gifts that point not only to his kingship and
divinity, but also to his humanity. The child in a manger would suffer
rejection and death on a cross before he finally came into the joy of heaven,
but he lived out his earthly life in total obedience and trust in God’s
The authenticity of Jesus’ human experience
holds truth for our own lives, assuring us that God has a purpose for each one
of us and will continue to be with us in the weeks and months ahead, just as he
has accompanied our lives until now.
At a time of great uncertainty in the life of
this country, King George VI offered reassurance to his hearers by quoting from
a poem by Minnie Haskins called ‘God Knows’. That advice still
holds good for us today.
When we feel unsure about the future and are
tempted to ask, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown’
it is Christ who replies, ‘Put your hand into the hand of God. That shall
be to you better than light and safer than a known way!’
With Christ our Light, we can tread gladly
into the coming year.
Prepare for Lent
Ash Wednesday is on Wednesday 9th March and it
is hoped that we will all endeavour to attend one of the services on offer that
day so that we can each make a good start to Lent. Ash Wednesday services
in Prestbury are:
10.30 am in St Mary’s - Said Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes
7.30 pm in St Nicolas’ - Sung Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes
In the wider Team
Ministry there will also be the following services which all are welcome to
2.00 pm in All Saints - Tempo Service
7.00 pm in St Lawrence, Swindon Village - Holy Communion
7.30 pm in All Saints - Sung Mass with Imposition of Ashes
A Technology-Free Lent
Our Lent Groups begin in March and this year
will be following a course prepared by Bishop Michael and using the Lectio
Divina method of Bible study. This will be a technology-free zone!
If you are able to lead or host a Lent group,
please let Deacon Jennifer know as soon as possible.
Exploring the Meaning of Lent in the Year of the Bible
We are delighted that Andrew Lincoln has
agreed to present an Education and Nurture Event to set us off in this Year of
the Bible and to help us get ready for Lent. It will be held at St
Nicolas’ on Sunday 13th February at 4pm and will be followed by
hospitality and a short act of worship. There is no charge for this event,
but donations for refreshments will be appreciated.
Please contact Margaret Compton if you
can offer to provide cakes, biscuits or nibbles, or help with refreshments on
Sometimes there is a moment when you get a
glimpse of God at work, a moment which ‘makes it all worth while’. One of
those moments for me was the last ‘Reach’ service at which many of the young
people from the Elevate youth group took on the responsibility for organising
aspects of the service and for leading the service. It was very
encouraging to see young people (many of whom had only been part of Elevate for
a month) finding fresh ways to engage with others in worship.
The idea of the Reach service is for young
people to have a space in which they can plan and lead worship for other young
people and adults. Many of different ages have found the service helpful
as they connect with God.
The next Reach service is Sunday 6th
February from 6.30pm at St Nicolas’. The theme chosen by the young
people is ‘Role Models’ – an important issue for all of us. Please do feel
free to worship with us then and also please pray for young people as they
explore and grow in worship and prayer.
National Schools –
This is the bicentenary year of the foundation
of the National Schools set up by the church for the education of children of
the parish. For the poor this was most probably the only chance and place
to learn. Nowadays we call the National Schools ‘Church Schools’.
Two hundred years later, we celebrate the work
of the Church Schools in our Diocese, 115 primary schools in all.
To celebrate in a tangible yet symbolic way,
two huge candles are journeying around the Diocese visiting every Church of
England School. Our candle was brought over from the Infant School, and
spent a few days with us before journeying on to Winchcombe Abbey School.
The candles will return to the Cathedral in
time for the annual services in June, which are attended by Year 6 children
about to go on to secondary school.
A book entitled Prayers for the World
arrives with the candle and the children of each school are asked to contribute
a prayer. Our Junior School children have included a prayer for Take
Care Nursery in the Gambia, which they have adopted, raising monies for the
training of their teachers and more recently for a well.
The children are also preparing a plaque to be
mounted for a giant display in the cathedral. We are very fortunate in
having the skills and imagination of Janet White working for us. Janet has
been working with children and staff creating a design for a school banner,
which the children will carry at the celebratory cathedral service in June.
Philpot, Chair of Governors,
Prestbury St Mary’s Church of England Junior School
Education Sunday – 20th February
Education Sunday is a national day of
prayer and celebration for everyone involved in the world of education.
For more than 100 years there has been an annual recognition of Education Sunday
in England and Wales (traditionally on the ninth Sunday before Easter).
Mary Hawes, National Children’s Advisor for the Church of England, helps us to
think about what this day might mean to us.
‘It’s only bricks and mortar’. Well,
that’s one way to describe a building – but there is so much more! An
architect designed it, a builder dug the foundations, a surveyor oversaw it, an
electrician wired it, a roofer made it water-tight, a glazier added windows.
And then a business is started, a shop begins to trade, a family moves in – and
the building comes to life. The structure is decorated, reshaped,
fashioned to suit its occupants’ needs – all building on the work started by the
One understanding of education is laying the
foundations needed for life. The readings for Education Sunday 2011 offer
a chance to muse further on this. Jesus Christ is the foundation (I
Corinthians 3) and whether we are educators at school, church or home we need to
build with regard to our faith.
So what ‘materials’ might we use?
Matthew 5 suggests values that run counter to cultural norms, offering children
and young people a perspective on life that encompasses compassion, forgiveness
and generosity. Psalm 119 shows the pathway of God’s law – signposting
obedience with understanding. But education – in whatever context – also
needs to build children’s spiritual lives as well as their intellect and moral
capacity. Space for God to break through – and space for children and
young people to glimpse the Divine – needs to have its place in the building
blueprint, to give them a chance to glimpse holiness (Leviticus 19). Awe,
wonder and curiosity contribute to a child’s spiritual growth and flourishing.
We omit them at our peril.
On solid foundations, children and young
people, created in the image of God, can fashion their unique identity and
flourish in their human potential.
2011 marks the bicentenary of the National
Society (of the Church of England), one of the many denominational providers of
church schools. The church schools it established (and which it continues
to support) helped lay the foundations for free school provision in England.
Education Sunday offers an opportunity to
celebrate the churches’ gift to the nation of education for all, alongside
celebrating Christian educators in all places of learning, whose vocation,
skills and care shape young lives in school, church and home. And it gives
each of us the chance to look back in thankfulness for those who laid the
foundations in our own lives, allowing us to grow in faith and understanding.
Quiet Afternoon: Advent 2010
On Saturday 11th December Fr Paul led a quiet
time to investigate the meaning of Advent. Fr Paul wanted us to experience
the wholeness of our relationship with God. With typical aplomb, he
divided the session into three parts: ‘Arrivals’, ‘Attending’ and ‘Mary’.
Each session contained Bible readings, devotional music, poetry and
thought-provoking topics. As always teaching extempore, Fr Paul encouraged
us to see Advent as joyful preparation for the Loving Father’s gift of Jesus:
there is a call from God to accept His gift, but we need to listen in attentive
silence, the paradox being that silence is part of praying: not ‘just’
listening to God, but wholly participating in His presence as a perpetual
interchange. Advent is the time for taking the armour of light, so that
Emmanuel will come to us.
We may need a ‘visual aid’; Fr. Paul suggested
that holding a cross, for example, is a good aid to communicating with God,
since we should include all sensory experience in opening ourselves to
reciprocity with God. Even two pebbles would suffice to focus us on
contact with the two-way communication between God and us; the dawning of
consciousness of the presence of God may be daunting, even frightening, but
there is comfort in joyfully experiencing all aspects of God’s creation ― as our
Faith is there to be enjoyed. In many senses, Mary is part of this
process, offering her son for our sins. Many creative artists have
intuitively grasped the significance of such wholeness in our experience with
Our religious experience could be summed up in
the Prologue to the Benedictine Rule: ‘Listen…, turn the ear of
your heart to the advice of a loving father, accept it willingly and carry it
Our thanks go to Fr Paul for a most uplifting
and profitable afternoon.
James Pendegrass, All Saints’
I am delighted to be joining the North
Cheltenham Team Ministry as a non-stipendiary (NSM) assistant curate following
my ordination in July this year.
For the past three years I have been Resident
Director of Glenfall House, the Diocesan Retreat House, but I have been
exercising a ministry in retreat houses for twenty-five years, after graduating
in Theology at Hull University.
It was whilst working and living in the Rydal
Hall Community in the Lake District that I met Simon, my husband. We
married there and had our two children Sophia and Emma quite quickly afterwards.
They are now 17 and 15, and studying for GCSEs and ‘A’ levels. Simon is a
civil servant based in Gloucester.
So for all my working life my Christian
discipleship has been lived out through offering a ministry of hospitality.
I believe this to be a vital ministry: being called to welcome the
stranger and the friend, the old and the young, the wise and the foolish,
through loving service.
Over the next few weeks and months I will be
discerning with Fr Michael how my ministry as part of the North Cheltenham Team
Ministry will dovetail with my ministry at Glenfall House, and I very much look
forward to sharing in the life and worship of the Team in the fullest way
My first Christingle
On a Sunday afternoon at the beginning of
December, I went to the Christingle Service in St Mary’s, my first time of going
to a Christingle. My family had been for lunch and invited me to go with
them to the Service. My granddaughter Alex, who is thirteen, has been many
times and thought it was about time I experienced this lovely service. The
church gradually filled with lots of families, so good to see so many children
in church. Father Daniel explained the meaning of Christingle using
excellent visual aids.
The Christingle Service is in aid of the
Children’s Society, and the decorated oranges with fruits and spices carry a
deep message of God’s love and is a special way for us to reach out together to
help children and young people who are in need.
A wonderful band of volunteers had prepared
what seemed like hundreds of oranges and during the Service everyone was invited
to go forward to receive an orange in exchange for gifts of money for the work
of the Children’s Society. My family along with all the other families
went forward to receive their oranges and I was so thrilled when Miriam came
down and gave me an orange – other kind helpers also made sure everyone went
home with an orange. A very meaningful Service – for all ages!
Christingles instead of
plain old candles
For many years members of the church have held
services in Bay Tree Court residential care home every Sunday afternoon.
Once a month it is a Communion Service, when a table is set up with a Cross as
the centrepiece and a candle on either side. It was the turn for Communion
on the day of the Christingle service, so instead of the usual candles I placed
a Christingle on each side of the Cross and explained the symbolism of the
Christingle to the residents. They greatly appreciated it – specially the
sweets on the cocktail sticks – and loved the idea of so many children with
their parents at the Christingle service earlier in the day.
to let go!
He is nearly eighteen months old, but thinks
he cannot walk without holding on to the furniture or to someone’s hand.
And yet he walks perfectly well with a toy or a spoon in each hand, or carrying
a book with both hands. That is until he realises! Then he stops,
whimpers and reaches out for the security of another person’s hand, or he drops
to the floor and crawls instead.
I wonder if we as individual Christians, or
together as a church, fail to move on in our spiritual journey because we insist
on holding on to ‘furniture’. Or if we do move forward, perhaps our
progress is hampered by our carrying with us habits or practices which really
give us no support at all. Do we have the courage to let go of everything
and step out empty-handed in faith? If we do, surely we will see that God,
like the ever-watchful parent, is waiting to catch us if we fall? Might we
find, like the toddler, that if we really want to reach him, we will be able to
without needing our ‘furniture’?
Our choices – and Christ’s
Robin Denney, a
missionary working as the Agriculture Consultant for the Episcopal Church of
Sudan, preached at St Mary’s on World Partnership Sunday (20th June) last year.
Fr Daniel caught up with her just before Christmas to see how she is getting on.
Right now in Jub, it
feels as though the moments are passing slowly despite much activity.
There is a giant countdown billboard downtown that ticks away the days, hours,
and minutes until the referendum (which may divide Sudan in two). There is
so much focus on January 9th that it feels as though time actually stops on that
day. In some ways these slow moments feel like the fearful calm before a
storm and, in other ways, like a joyful expectant hope. No one knows
exactly what will happen.
I was just on vacation for a week in Uganda.
One day I was riding in a taxi, reading a book, when I witnessed a terrible
accident. A bus in front of us hit a man on a bicycle. The bus
didn’t even slow down, it just kept driving away. My taxi driver kept
driving too. The man seemed to fall in slow motion, broken and covered in
Each moment we have the opportunity to make
choices about who we are. Following Christ is a moment by moment decision.
And, I am ashamed to say, my first reaction was to pick up my book again without
a word, as the dust from our car fell on the broken man. As we drove away
I thought about Jesus, about my promise to follow him. I was living the
story of the Samaritan, and I was the uncaring missionary (in this case), who
passed by the man in need. I knew in my heart that we should turn back,
see if the man was alive, see what we could do, but fear kept me quiet. In
special moments like these, we are given the chance to be Christ’s hands in the
world, the chance to shape the world in the image of Love, to bring us all
closer to the Kingdom. And the choice I made, to stay quiet, to not
interrupt my life for another, felt like making the world in the image of
After a minute, I found my voice, and asked
the driver to stop at a police station so we could report the incident. I
hope that if the man was alive he was quickly helped, but I will never know.
We all make mistakes. We all miss
opportunities for love. We all fall short. In reading the Gospels,
we learn that the Disciples did the same. Even when Jesus got frustrated
with them, he was always teaching them, drawing them into newer and deeper
understanding, helping them to become the servants he knew they could be.
And he does the same for those who try to follow him today. I hope that in
my heart, the next time I cross the path of a person in distress, I will find in
Christ the courage to move beyond fear, to reach out, to make the world in the
image of Love, moment by moment.
Robin Denney, December 2010
In October and November, I was very lucky to
have the chance to attend a service at each of the North Cheltenham Team
Ministry churches. I was given a warm welcome every time and found very
congenial company whilst I enjoyed an interesting and stimulating experience
which I recommend wholeheartedly to others.
The church buildings are very different and
worth a visit just for that. The range is wide from the urban modernity of
St Nicolas and peaceful rurality of St Mary Magdalene to the compact prettiness
of St Lawrence, the height and grandeur of All Saints and the older elegance of
But more than that, although the services are
similar, there are considerable differences in the content, approach and
atmosphere. To find that the familiar is not quite familiar stimulates
concentration and adds depth and meaning. After each service, I came away
uplifted and thoughtful.
I made these visits to tell all the
congregations about the work of PPY (Prestbury and Pittville Youth) and to ask
for help with funding the work with young people. But you do not need an
excuse like that to make this ‘Grand Tour’ for yourselves. It is worth
doing it just for the inspiration.
Distracted by God
when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he
said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’
Mark 15:39 (NIV)
pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know
... his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the
same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and
seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and
authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the
present age but also in the one to come.
Ephesians 1:18-21 (NIV)
In the autumn of last year I visited the
Crucible sculpture exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral. This was an
excellent display of artwork in a spectacular setting. There were pieces
throughout the building and outside in the grounds, some so large you couldn’t
miss them, some small and so tucked away in alcoves or corners of chapels that
you had to search to find them. ‘Die Harder’ by David Mach (a sculpture
depicting the crucifixion) was very evocative, depicting the pain and anguish of
the cross, and what suffering Jesus went through for our sake.
However, what struck me most was a fixed
feature in the cathedral, not one of the pieces of art brought in for the
exhibition. In one of the side chapels above the altar is a stone carving
of Jesus on the cross with the centurion standing looking up at him. On the
altar cloth are the words ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’ from
Mark’s Gospel. I was stopped short in my wandering around the sculptures,
feeling I had to stand still, reflect on these words and pray.
The next time I was at St Mary’s church the
New Testament reading was from Ephesians and included the section quoted above.
As it was read, those words from Mark’s Gospel unexpectedly came back into my
Although these passages from the Bible are not
obviously linked I think God was leading me to contemplate some of the different
aspects of Jesus: He is the Son of God raised up from the dead and in a
place of authority and full of power as described in the Ephesians passage; and
yet he came to live as a man, meeting people where they were and bringing people
healing. It was as a man, seemingly broken and dead on the cross, that he
was recognised by the centurion as the Son of God. Surely God’s Spirit was
moving in the centurion that he saw within the one who was beaten and crucified
the Son of God, part of the Trinity? This paradox is almost too much for
me to comprehend but I was led by the Spirit to worship our awesome God.
It also led me to think what this means for my life – the choices I make, the
way I spend my time. I do not have an answer to this but continue to
ponder these words from the Bible.
What aspects of Jesus’ character and life have
you been struck by recently? In what ways is the Holy Spirit leading you?
Let’s pray that we would come to know our Saviour, Jesus, more and more and
continue to be transformed by the Spirit.