Over the summer I had the experience of being late and the noisy one in Church, well Merlin (our dog) and RJ (our grandson) made the noise! And the welcome and the kindness of the congregation to us all as I moved from the front to the back of the church again was wonderful. But I felt disruptive and vulnerable even in ‘my’ own church.
Looking at my eldest feeding his new son next to my youngest my heart swelled, but I was also reminded of taking him as a toddler to a local Baptist Church. I had returned to Church after a number of years so he could be brought up in a church. During the service my son a gorgeous boisterous toddler was ‘Shushed’ and asked to sit down by the woman next to me. I sat out the service not listening to a word, saying in my head ‘We’re not coming back again’. Once the service was over I rushed to the exit where the minister put out his hand and said how lovely it was to see us and especially to have a toddler there. I tearfully told him what had happened, he gently moved us to the side and said how sorry he was and that wasn’t the welcome of his church, encouraging us to come again. Tentatively we entered the following week and two people rushed up immediately saying ‘Oh do sit with us’. They were the kindest people smiling and interacting with my son and we stayed for many years.
So now twenty years later here I was being reminded of that time, thinking how others probably still feel coming into church even if we say (and truly mean) how welcome they and their children are. And it feels really important to say
Noisy, late you are always welcome!
P.S. Pet Service Sunday 13 October 10.30am Dullingham ~ Noisy animals welcome!
Late summer approaches, and with it the hope (for me at least!) that summer will stretch deep into Autumn. August I often feel has a different rhythm, bringing with it a change of pace for many. With holidays home or away, looking out on or pottering in the garden and time spent pondering the forthcoming change of season. I thought a poem might reflect this mood and came across this beautiful one by Revd Tom Troeger which emphasises the welcome of Christ, and I hope of our churches too, to everyone.
Do come and join us soon:
Look who gathers at Christ’s table! See the stories that they bring.
Some are weeping, some are laughing, some have songs they want to sing.
Others ask why they’re invited, burdened by the wrongs they’ve done.
Christ insists that all are welcome. There is room for everyone.
Bring your joy and bring your sadness, and prepare to be surprised
by the host whose hands are wounded, who will open up your eyes
when he blesses bread and breaks it — truth and manna from above!
and then passes wine that wakens in your heart the very taste of love.
Late Summer Blessings,
We have a standing joke (I think!) about who is the favourite child in our family. I remember one mothers response to this was that her favourite was the one who had the greatest need of her at that time. It got me thinking about how we might perceive our prayers to be valued by God. Do we think the prayers of a Priest or a Bishop or an Archbishop or Pope might be more valuable to God than our own?
And if this was the case does it mean that God has favourites and might then not be following the recommended parental advice?! Or rather might God answer just as that mother did ‘it is the ones who currently need me most that have my special attention’? Ministers do have a special calling to pray for others* and the world, but as children of God, which we all are, God I am sure lovingly and equally welcomes each and every one of our prayers and chats.
My three top tips on prayer:
1. Make them heartfelt: ‘Why? Noo! Sorry. Please. Thank-you. Groan. Silence.’ Are all fine.
2. Be expectant of seeing God answer in unexpected ways: In the clouds, through another, a bible passage, a message, an angel…
3. Be prepared to be the answer to what you ask for: If you pray for peace, be peaceful in your relationships. If you pray for people to be kinder to you, be kinder to others. If you pray for a loved one, tend and love them.
There is a great line from Morgan Freeman in Evan Almighty where a wife prays for patience. Morgan Freeman as God answers ‘Do you think when you ask God for patience he makes you more patient or rather gives you opportunities to practice being more patient’!
May God bless the prayers of your heart,
*If you would like to chat or ask for prayer in confidence, please do contact me
Come and Sing!! Sunday 4 August 10.30am Burrough Green Church
Favourite hymn? Let Anthea Kenna know, with a little note as to why
Confession time … I am a better steward of our churches than I am of the environment. I am much less ‘Green’ than I like to think I am. My heart is there but my energy and actions haven’t yet caught up! Who can fail to be impressed with 93 year old David Attenborough or the passion of Greta Thunberg and like minded young people, willing to make a stand; to change their practices, to safeguard our planet?
Revd Jim Bear Jacobs’ speaking from an Indigenous perspective corrected this already convincing statement ‘The earth is our greatest natural resource and it is incumbent upon us to protect it’ to the even more powerful ‘The earth is our most sacred relative and it is incumbent upon us to protect her.’
Thinking of mother earth as a living, sacred being, speaks more directly to me than pollution or over consumption. I want to ‘nurture’ her…. and my new grandson (Oh did I mention I am now a Nanna?!!).
Just before Jesus ascended he said ‘A new commandment I give to you, to love one another, as I have loved you.’
The Christian life is a simple one, to love God and to love one another, just as we are fully loved by God. And now I need also to extend that love to the earth; the diverse, beautiful, existence we share life with.
(She puts back the plastic tub of coleslaw and picks up a cabbage!!)
Blessings to you ,
Forty days after Jesus’ ascension, fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit comes on the disciples with a ‘whoosh’ and with fire and transforms lives. Fire, is particularly poignant as I write.
Yesterday evening Notre Dame’s 12th century cathedral, was torn apart by fire. Thousands stood in the streets and stared, unable to tear their eyes away. As flames rose, some began singing hymns as they watched in pain and sorrow. Some stood as witnesses, painful as it was, to respond with those around them.
During Holy Week Christians watched and waited, to let events of that week and then the coming of the Holy Spirit shape our whole being (as God sends us even more of God’s own self). And through singing our hearts out or standing speechless, we open ourselves, expectant, ready, for God’s spirit to transform us, and through us, the world.
Notre Dame will be resurrected. So can our lives. After the fire, through the ashes, new life will come. Altered and transformed, bringing beauty from brokenness…
Healing Blessings to you ,
Over 2000 years ago, the shock discovery of an empty tomb by Jesus’ close female companions caused pain and confusion. Instead of a sealed and guarded tomb containing his body, they found it open and empty, save the cloth used to wrap him in death. It was bad enough that Jesus, their teacher and Lord was dead. Now it seemed, someone had taken the body.
Why that tomb was empty is of utmost importance. If it was empty because someone had indeed stolen Jesus’ body – if a criminal’s death and an ordinary burial was all that took place over those three days then hope died with him on the cross. Trust in all he had said was destroyed – His promises nothing more than a devasting and life-shattering let-down.
Individuals and communities across the world will greet Easter day with shouts of ‘Alleluia! He is Risen!’. Many of us, Christian or not, will give Easter Eggs, the hollow egg is traditionally a symbol of that empty tomb.
We shout ‘He is risen!’ because beyond all expectation, hope did not stay dead. The impossible happened on that first Easter day. It blows our rational minds to even think it – despite some very compelling (and rational) evidence that supports it! The first disciples took some convincing too - Jesus appeared to them several times, but had to let them touch him and eat with them to bring the divine reality home.
He is alive! – His words were true! He was indeed part of God’s own self who came to us in love, to give us hope and reassurance for the future, for each day.
And for that we celebrate! Do join us!
Easter Day Family Services ~ 10am Dullingham Church with choir, bells and egg hunt!! ~ 10.30am Burrough Green Church with egg hunt!!
Below is my report to our Annual PCC Meetings:
The Annual Parochial Church Meetings provide a good opportunity to look back and reflect on the past year. As I do so I am overwhelmed with thankfulness at God’s great faithfulness and for you all as we meet and minister together as Christ’s church and people. Thank-you to each and every one of you for all that you are, all that you bring and all the many and varied things that you do. A special thank-you to Lily for her administrative support and our Churchwardens and PCC’s for overseeing the good running and purpose of our churches. Thank you too for all who financially support the church and its mission.
By God’s grace a lot has taken place this year. Our children and youth ministry has included Family Service’s, Messy Church, Monthly weekday Holy Communion (an unexpected joy!), Children’s Choir Festival, Baptism Preparation, Confirmation Classes and School’s work with Burrough Green and Kettlefields.
Fellowship and Community Groups have included Monday Morning Prayer, Advent and Lent Courses and Confirmation Classes. We joined Newmarket Churches Together and are represented on Newmarket’s Interfaith Forum. Outside of church many of our members are involved in community and interest groups.
Sally Peyton became the Group Safeguarding Officer as we work to fulfil all our safe guarding obligations. Alix Allan became a Pastoral Visitor having completed the ALM Pastoral Worker course. Anthea Kenna and Alastair France joined the ministry team having completed Occasional Preachers training and a group are starting Bell ringing training in Brinkley!
Our fantastic website www.raddesley.com was launched, thank-you to Liz for this and we receive over 50 ‘hits’ a week, a good reminder to keep it up to date! The monthly news sheets continue to provide information across the parishes.
It was wonderful to see so many of our communities join us for the special Centenary Remembrance Services this year, our beacon/fire lighting and bell ringing joining in with a wave of national celebrations. Christmas Events and Services were well organised and attended. Easter saw the addition of Pancake and Pledges and the Easter Rise Service. We also held a Healing, Baby Loss Memorial and All Souls’ Service to help support people’s life journey’s. A stand out event was the presentation and celebration of Lily’s well deserved BEM Award during the Christmas Tree Festival.
Over the year we had three Weddings, and whilst I wish I could say ‘and a funeral’ sadly we had nineteen funerals across our villages. We had seven baptisms and at the deanery Confirmation Service held in our Group, we had two adults and two children confirmed.
Fundraising across the group has included Fetes, Fayres, Auctions, Bands, Draws and a village Christmas Card! I remain impressed at all the energy and organisation which goes into these events raising much needed funds for our churches, thank-you.
Whilst we celebrate and give thanks for all these things and so much more! We continue to face some significant challenges especially in regards to our financial resources. We were unable to meet the parish share in full as a Group this year, and are unlikely to do so in the year ahead. We are already prayerfully and boldly considering new ways to raise money as a Group to reduce the burden on individual churches. The year ahead will tell if we have enough energy and support to do this.
Of excitement for next year is the new ‘Open the Book’ teams who will be going into Burrough Green and Kettlefields schools to share God through bible stories. Expanding worship opportunities with occasional services like meditative Taize and to make our churches more accessible to all (e.g. becoming more dementia friendly) as we register as Inclusive Church.
Thank you again for all you are and all you do in service to God,
May God bless and multiply all you do.
Marie Kondo, (for those who aren’t yet indoctrinated!) is a Japanese tidying and decluttering expert who has made millions encouraging people to find joy and peace in cleaning and organising their homes. Her advice is to hold each item and determine whether it sparks joy or not before deciding whether to keep it and then to take a moment to thank each piece you do let go for the part it played in your life. Interesting!
What if we applied this logic more widely in our life? In letting go of versions of ourselves that are no longer us, of who we can or desire to be? Thanking our past as we gently lay it down to create space and opportunity for something new?
In some ways that is what Lent offers us, a chance (40 days!) to do an internal audit, a spring clean of our lives. To simplify life for a time, be it in removing or reducing the distractions that can cloud our view of self, of God (rich foods, alcohol, smartphones, Netflix!). The aim is to give time and space to realign and to appreciate the simple beauties and purpose of life. To spiritually breathe in the love of God and to bask in the full beauty of spring…
Our lovely group of six historic churches, (Brinkley, Burrough Green, Carlton, Dullingham, Stetchworth and Westley Waterless) we hope are welcoming places for all, whether for a service, a quiet spiritual space or in historical interest. Over hundreds of years they have and continue to offer a space to seek and meet with God, to pray and to mark life’s journeys.
As a member of the parish you can be baptised, confirmed, have your funeral (and still burial in all of them) if you desire. Many of you and generations before you will also have been married in them.
Like any historic building, maintenance and insurance to keep them safe and open runs into thousands of pounds, each year. But the building is more than its walls; it is a faithful community of past, present and future people who care for God’s mission of love to the community both within and outside of the building.
Our churches are also part of the wider church of God, of the Church of England; as part of this we are supported by priests (past, present and future), bishops, safe guarding teams, children and youth teams, etc. All that comes with running a big organisation costs, particularly with regard to personnel, training and pensions. Every church is asked to pay a contribution towards these ongoing costs in the form of ‘The Parish Share’.
The payment of the Parish Share is essential to keep the churches open into the future, to pay for all the above including the priests who have supported our communities in the past and to ongoingly maintain the presence of one albeit part-time across the group, currently myself, Nikki.
The group cost of our Parish Share this year is £39 317 !! (Dullingham £9041, Stetchworth £8306, Brinkley £6542, Burrough Green £6542, Carlton £4443 and Westley Waterless £4443).
Yes! This cost is on top of the ongoing daily costs, heating, insurances and maintenance of our churches. We have a small but generous group of faithful people who give regularly (bless you and thank-you for this, it is seen and appreciated), kind legacies, and regular fundraising, but still unfortunately our group fell short of the full amount last year and looks like doing so again going forward. Unless, and yes, this where you come in!! we have wider community support to help to raise funds.
We are looking to hold a big event in 2020 to try to raise half the Parish Share which then makes meeting the rest and other costs more feasible. £20,000 is a huge amount to raise, so we are looking for event ideas and organisers, sponsorship, a venue and, of course, we are very happy to receive donations big or small (if gift aided this increases the gift by 25%) and the consideration of leaving a legacy to your church in your will.
If you would like to help with any of these things, or would like to know more, we would be most grateful, please contact Revd Nikki, or one of our churchwardens.
Many, many thanks,
On behalf of all our churches
I heard a great quote recently ‘Going to Church does not make you a Christian, anymore than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger!’
This is particularly fitting as we soon move into the reflective season of Lent a time when we are invited to take stock of our lives, our faith, our footprint on the world. On the 3rd February we celebrate ‘The Presentation of Christ’ where Mary and Joseph take their son to the temple to present him to the Lord. This shows us how important ritual is, how important being faithful to one’s faith is. It is not just Mary, Joseph and Jesus who are touched on this occasion but also the older prayerful Simeon and prophet Anna who for years have prayerfully waited for a glimpse of the Messiah. And immediately they know it, they see it in this child Jesus and their hearts are filled with joy and they are at peace. That meeting with the Christ is enough for them to know that in this world and the next ‘All will be well’.
Yes going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but meeting and receiving Christ does, and Church is a great place to do this (but don’t rule out in McDonalds either!). God can be found anywhere and everywhere, we just need to be open to the encounter.
May you encounter the joy and peace of God this month,
Revd Nikki Mann
Nikki is the Priest in Charge of the Raddesley Benefice (which consists of 6 churches) in Cambridgeshire