Twice in two days last month we heard the same Gospel reading from chapter 15
of the Gospel of St John. We heard it on the 6th Sunday after Easter and then
again the next day, on the Feast of the Apostle St Matthias. Matthias, you will
recall, was the man chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot as one of the
twelve. He was chosen ‘by lot’; it was between him and ‘Joseph called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus’. We do not know what particular qualities either
of them had, we just know that they had to be able to act, with the other
disciples, as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
The feast of St Matthias is one which has always had a special meaning for me
since it fell during the time, twenty-one years ago, when I was attending the
selection conference (what is now called a “Bishop’s Advisory Panel”) which
recommended me for training for ordained ministry. You can imagine how powerful
it was to hear that part of St John’s gospel as other people attempted to
discern whether or not God was calling me to serve Him as an ordained minister.
‘You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear
fruit, fruit that will last’. (John 15:16)
This month we have two significant opportunities to celebrate the calling to
ministry. On 17th June we will gather with Fr Paul Iles to give thanks for his
50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. There can be no doubt that Fr
Paul’s ministry has borne much fruit and we have greatly benefitted from that.
This will be our opportunity to give thanks to God for all that He has been able
to do through Fr Paul and all the ways in which we have been blessed through
Paul’s ministry. At the end of June, on Saturday 30th, Deacon Liz Palin will be
ordained to the priesthood and we will gather again to celebrate ministry, but
this time an ordained ministry that is in its very early stages with so much
still to come.
As they do for me, I am sure that Jesus’ words in John 15 have a very special
significance for both Paul and Liz, who have responded to God’s call believing
that He has chosen them for some particular work in His church. But actually
Jesus speaks those words to every one of us, because he has chosen each one of
us to be His people. Not his special, privileged, exclusive people, but those he
has chosen to be the ones to bear His fruit. The ones called to show the fruit
of His love in our lives and to bear that love to others. Not just amongst
ourselves, those who are already members of the Church, but also to those beyond
the church; those who are out in the world.
In the same passage, Jesus says, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one
another as I have loved you’. (John 15:12) This commandment of love
places enormous demands on us as Jesus’ followers because that degree of love
must be a part of the life of every one of us. It must be the ‘mark’ of the
Church, something that marks us out as being distinctive; as being different. It
must be a love which bears much fruit if we are all to fulfil our calling as the
people God has chosen.
Fr Paul will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the
priesthood on Sunday 17th June. He will preside at a Sung Eucharist in St
Nicolas’ at which the preacher will be Canon John Mead. The service will begin
at 10.30am (please note the time) and will be the main service in the North
Cheltenham Team Ministry on that day. There will not be a service at 11.00am in
St Mary’s, nor will the normal services take place in the other churches of the
Team Ministry. Fr Paul wants the service to be a celebration of ministry and it
will be our opportunity to give thanks for his ministry amongst us for almost 10
years. Although Fr Paul will be retiring later this year from his post as House
for Duty priest in the North Cheltenham Team Ministry, his hope (and ours too!)
is that he will be able to continue to offer some ministry amongst us in the
The service will be followed by a ‘bring and share’ lunch with drinks
provided. This will be held in St Nicolas’ Hall and grounds. Please see the
sign-up sheets in all the churches.
Deacon Liz will be ordained priest by the Bishop of Gloucester at the
ordination service to be held in the Cathedral on Saturday 30th June at 4.30pm.
A coach has been booked to take people to the Cathedral. Please let one of the
Churchwardens know if you would like to book a seat. All are welcome to attend.
On Sunday 1st July Liz will preside at the Eucharist for the first time. This
service will take place in St Mary’s at 11.00am and will be an opportunity for
people from across the North Cheltenham Team Ministry to join with Liz and her
family and friends for this special celebration. After the service, you are
invited to bring a picnic to the grounds of St Mary’s Infant School in Bouncers
Lane, where we will continue the celebrations together. There is parking at the
school, but please do ask one of the Churchwardens if you require transport.
Other services at St Mary’s that day (8.00am, 9.30am and 6.30pm) will be as
normal; there will be a Said Eucharist at St Nicolas at 8.00am but no service at
To mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of Glenfall House as the Diocesan
Retreat and Conference Centre, there will be a weekend of celebrations on
22-24th June. The climax of the celebrations will be a special service at
3pm on the Sunday at which Bishop Michael will preside. Parishes,
churches, individuals and groups of friends are invited to come for ‘The
Great Big Glenfall Picnic’ on the Sunday from 12.30pm. Bring your own
picnic – it can be as simple or extravagant as you like! After the service
there will be tea and cakes. For a copy of the full programme for the
weekend visit the website
Thank you for your continuing support in praying for the parish day by day.
Did you make it to church on your street’s day during Lent? I managed February
(easy – it was a Sunday!) and March (Monday), but not April because it fell on a
Friday and 8am was too early.
We are delighted that members of Prestbury United Reformed Church are now
also taking part. I was welcomed to their family service at the beginning of May
to speak about the scheme. Many of the congregation took leaflets to use at
To extend the scheme a little further, if you have a friend or neighbour who
goes to church somewhere other than in Prestbury, but who lives within the
parish, perhaps you could offer them a prayer card too, so that they can join in
praying for their area.
New leaflets are available with updated clergy details on the back, and we
have added the Revd Maz Allen, Minister of the United Reformed Church in
Cheltenham (URCiC). Some new roads and changes of dates for some streets in the
St Mary’s leaflet were published in the February magazine:
7th: Southam Road, The Hayes, Gravel Pit Lane & Queenwood Grove;
8th: Mill Lane, Upper Mill Lane, Wayward Lad Close & Bula Way;
9th: Desert Orchid Road, Midnight Court, Tremblant Close & Mill Reef Drive.
Frances Murton on
behalf of the LMT
Timing can be critical. This is being written before the second meeting about
Messy Church but it will be published after that meeting has taken place.
Therefore, as you read this, it may be that a decision has been taken to proceed
with Messy Church based at St Nicolas, in the afternoon on the second Saturday
of every month.
If so, the first one is scheduled for 13th October.
A big thanks to those who have already expressed interest in, or curiosity
about it and are already praying about it.
You may be uncertain as to what Messy Church is all about. If so, you’re not
alone. Help is at hand. There is a book or a DVD to fill in some of the missing
details. You may have heard about the DVD from someone who has seen it already.
You can borrow it, or the book, and find out for yourself. Get in touch with me.
For this part of our vision at St Nicolas to take
shape and be rolled out, we’ll need people to take part in enabling a lot of
different things to happen. What will YOUR part be? We need people to
help with the food,
guide the craft activities,
get alongside adults who come along,
plan and lead worship,
push the publicity
Don’t feel shy about coming forward – it is new to all of us.
thanks to all of those regular collectors who have supported Christian Aid over
many years and particular thanks to those who have responded to my requests for
new collectors who have collected for the first time. It is not an easy task
requesting money for any charity so your continued support is central to the
Thanks also to those who turned out to count the week’s money which this year
for St Mary’s totalled £4,736.71. This is a little better than last year and
together with the total from St Nicolas of £1,515.65 gives a parish grand total
Hodges & Allan
Fr David is presented to the Bishop of Southwark
On Monday 30th April a coach party left St Nicolas’ bound for the Church of
St Matthias, Richmond, to be at the Licensing by the Bishop of Southwark of Fr
David Gardiner as Team Vicar and Parish Priest of St Matthias the Apostle.
Fr David is pictured below with his new Team Rector, the Revd Canon Robert
Titley, and the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark.
Pictures by Stephen Murton and Brian Wood
‘Simply Vicky’ is a group of Prestbury mums who are raising money for local
mum, Vicky Dunn, who was seriously injured in a car accident in November 2009.
The third, sell-out fundraising event took place at Prestbury Hall, and this
time there was an Indian theme to the evening.
120 guests enjoyed a delicious Indian buffet which was supplied by the Dunn’s
neighbour, Matthew Idicula, and his fellow members of the Cheltenham South
Keralan community, a group of families who have moved to Cheltenham in the last
six years from South Kerala in India.
After the amazing buffet we were entertained by Craig and David, a local
band, who kept everyone on the dance floor until late.
The evening raised a brilliant £2,700 which will be added to the pot and used
to buy computer equipment and other non-NHS funded items for Vicky on her return
This meeting was held at the All Saints Academy. The Revd Dr Tudor Griffiths
opened the meeting with a reading from Matthew chapter 28 verses 16 to 20. The
retiring Parish Share Administrator, John Highley, was warmly thanked for his
work and his successor, John Hughes, was welcomed to the position. Mr Hughes
attends St Michael’s, Whaddon.
A request was made for nominations of lay and ordained people willing to
serve on the Diocesan Synod.
Sheila Bowden, assisted by others, gave a presentation which included showing
a DVD about the work and benefits of the Cheltenham Prayer for Schools Network (CPFSN).
This ecumenical group has been in existence for nearly twenty years and aims to
provide prayer support for all Cheltenham schools. This ministry of prayer is
supported by Scripture Union and a number of other organisations. Currently
there are 67 Cheltenham schools specifically receiving prayer, 2 colleges and
the university. These are covered by 36 separate local prayer groups. Two
further groups pray for all teachers. A new group, headed by Steph Rollinson,
prays for our St Mary’s Infant School.
In addition to the groups there are 20 home intercessors, of whom seven are
Anglicans. Thus homebound people are not excluded from this important work. For
those who are mobile, advance notice of the open Autumn Prayer Meeting was given
at which Helena Arnold, who works for the Diocese, and Peter Kingham of All
Saints Academy will be speaking and leading prayer about “The educational
challenges and opportunities facing schools”. This will be on Monday 8th
October at 7.25 for 7.45 – 9.30. There is a notice on the church boards about
After establishing links with schools during their first decade, CPFSN is
now, during its second decade, working to strenghthen links with churches, and
although it is interdenominational, is using the framework of the Anglican
mission areas within Cheltenham to facilitate this. Sheila is keen to have a
contact in every church so that information can be easily passed to and fro.
Sharon Macauly is the contact between CPFSN and St Mary’s and St Nicolas'.
Tours of the Academy were offered to those present. The different groups were
led by four vivacious girls ranging in age from 11 to 14, and by Peter Kingham,
the Principal. It is truly an amazing building.
The next Deanery Synod meeting will be at the URC Centre in Warden Hill on
15th November. Please continue to pray for the work of the Deanery.
The Lord said to
me: Mortal, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart and
hear with your ears; then go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to
them…The Spirit lifted me up and bore me away; I went in bitterness in the
heat of my spirit, the hand of the Lord being strong upon me. I came to the
exiles at Tel-abib, who lived by the river Chebar. And I sat there among them,
stunned, for seven days.
Ezekiel 3: 10, 14-16 (NRSV)
How very odd – a prophet stuck for words. What are prophets for, if not to
turn up with just the right message for a crisis? This is certainly a book of
wonderful vision and poetry, yet it has hardly started before the images and the
poetry fade, and we find this startling picture – a servant of God out of his
depth, humiliated and silenced.
The background is conquest and deportation. Not for the first (or last) time
the Hebrews got in the way of the huge power struggles that dominated the Middle
East for a thousand years. Around 600-500 BC the kings of Babylonia (roughly
modern Iraq) wanted to expand west against Egypt, and because they needed Judah
as a base they systematically evicted thousands of its people to an exile in
Babylon that was to last 50 years. Jerusalem was destroyed, its Temple razed to
the ground. All that was left of their faith was what they carried away in their
hearts and their memories.
Into this situation Ezekiel arrived with a message from the Lord. But he was
quite unprepared for what he found, a once confident people deeply depressed and
disillusioned. For days the great prophet sat there among them, with no idea
what on earth to say.
Exile has forever been a haunting memory for the Jews, and an indelible Bible
theme for us all. Today’s world – indeed today’s Middle East – is still for
millions a scene of exile and separation and despair. Home, livelihood,
security, faith, even family, for millions are all gone in the struggle for
food, water, medicine and day to day survival. Where is hope to be found? –
hardly in complicated, compromised communiqués from the UN, or hand-wringing by
the rich and powerful. For a long time to come believable hope may be more
visible in the silent solidarity of NGOs like Christian Aid or
Medecins Sans Frontieres or Amnesty International, there on the
ground, with no quick-fix answers, just there, in silent service and the tough
reliability of endless and ingenious kindness. This is indeed the word of the
For many an individual too, personal grief, disapproval and loneliness can
feel like an exile, when others cross the street rather than stop and talk. And,
we may well wonder, what can we say to the person who has lost a job, or to
parents whose child is dying, or to people who seem ‘different’ because of how
they look or sound, or because of the relationship they are in? Perhaps
sometimes the answer may be – nothing. Inarticulate silence, and staying around,
may say as much as skilful words ever could. Silence crosses boundaries, reaches
out, offers the beginning of hope. A hand held out and grasped can say it all.
For the exiles in Babylon the new future began when a man of God came and sat
wordlessly alongside them. Of such modest grace are prophets made.