The Vicar's Monthly Magazine Articles

Rev Jane - July and August 2019

posted 2 Sep 2019, 09:29 by Richard Jones   [ updated 2 Sep 2019, 09:30 ]

Dear friends


Having spent almost 20 years as a primary school teacher in my previous working life, the six-week summer holiday was a   treasured time to relax, recharge, regroup, and prepare for the rigours of the next academic year. A fortnight’s holiday to foreign parts was a chance for a much needed break as I immersed myself in a foreign culture – hopefully with some sunshine!


From the Gospels, we know that Our Lord periodically took Himself off to recharge both His physical and spiritual batteries, and to give Himself time to hear afresh the voice of God speaking to Him.  Surely if Christ Himself felt the need to take time-out, how much more should we?


In the early days of Christianity, the Egyptian desert became the chosen place of retreat for those seeking to hear God’s voice. They wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the distractions of the increasingly secular world, and focus on God.  But the ‘distractions’ existing in those days were as nothing compared to those we experience today. 


So, what do we have in place to recharge our spiritual batteries so we can live lives following in the footsteps of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour?  Those early desert dwellers became well-known for their thoughts, recorded as ‘The Sayings of The Desert Fathers’, which over the distance of almost 2,000 years, still have much to say to us.  The maxim they lived by was ‘Flee; be silent; pray always’ – and maybe this could be ours, too. We don’t have to go to the extreme of the Egyptian desert, but merely make determined efforts to take ‘time out’ so we can be with God in the silence of our hearts, with a prayer on our lips.


And so this summer, amid the frantic preparations for holidays and time away, may we make the effort to focus on our spiritual lives, and learn from the Desert Fathers: ‘Flee; be silent; pray always’.

Happy holiday!


Rev Jane 

John Hartley - June 2019

posted 25 Jun 2019, 04:18 by Richard Jones

Dear Friends

The Anglican Church keeps 24th June as The Birth of St John the Baptist. ‘There was man sent from God, whose name was John. He came to bear witness to the light.’ John 1.6-7.

The great fact about John was that he knew what his mission was and he was content to fulfil it. He sought no greater office and sought no greater reward, than that of doing the work to which he had been called. He prepared for the coming of Christ and, as a signpost, he pointed the way to Christ.

His task was one of both privilege and responsibility. His modesty was outstanding, as was his candid truthfulness. He was content to be the forerunner, bluntly declaring (to avoid any confusion by his hearers) ‘I am not the Christ.’ All in all he knew what his life’s work was, and he was content to fulfil. He looked for nothing further.

John’s ministry was marked by three things: prayer, preaching and perseverance.

Prayer must have been important to him for God to have spoken to him as he did. Doubtless he (like us) would have wrestled in prayer with God, in the wilderness. Prayer was clearly the secret of John’s life and of his strength. For us, too, a strong prayer life is essential if we are to carry out God’s tasks.

John had a message to proclaim and to preach. He was enthusiastic about it. He confronted people with his oratory. Even provocatively, he spoke to everyone. We may not have the powerful words, but, with a deep conviction and a degree of enthusiasm, both by speech and action, our witness can be worthy of the God we proclaim to believe in and dutifully serve.

Although John’s ministry was cut short, from a dark and dank prison he sent his followers to Jesus for confirmation of his belief: ‘Are you the Christ?’ The answer Christ gave satisfied him and he persevered right to the end. We too, in the darker moments of life, when God seems to be very far away – dare I say we feel forgotten – must try to struggle through with all our grit and determination.

We thank God for John the Baptist. We pray that we may share his strength and courage in our own smaller, but nevertheless important lives. We are privileged to witness to Christ where we live and work, but with all privileges there is a degree of responsibility too. Do we realise that ? Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand !

With every blessing

John Hartley

John Hartley - May 2019

posted 29 May 2019, 09:26 by Richard Jones

 Dear Friends


The hymn ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ quite plainly has, as its theme, the friendship of Jesus.   Strangely enough there are few hymns that deal with this subject and what’s more, the title ‘friend’ is never directly given to Jesus in the NT.   His critics, in contempt and derision, did refer to him as ‘the friend of sinners’. Even so, the title is true. Jesus was, and is, the friend of sinners, which means He is our friend.


Now a friend differs from a relation.   We have no choice as regards our family – bound by blood ties, by birth.   But we are free to choose our friends and such a choice is very important one.   The bond of friendship is a spiritual not a physical bond. Such is our relationship with Jesus.   His love draws us to him and we are bound to him for life. As such he is a friend for everyone.


Jesus is also the friend in time of need.   Don’t we say “a friend in need is a friend indeed”.   Times of need prove the worth of friends and the quality of their friendship.   Friends mean so much to us when things go wrong. Not only is Jesus a faithful friend, He is a sympathetic one – sharing our sorrows and knowing our weaknesses.


Jesus is the friend always on call – 24/7 !   Our human friend is not of much help if they are far away, out of reach, inaccessible.   In contrast He is always accessible, always available. He is there at all times and in all places – though the gift of prayer.   It is a great privilege to have instant access – by prayer. Furthermore, we must remember that prayer isn’t a spiritual chore. Prayer is more than a religious duty.   It’s a glorious privilege. Do we make a habit of taking everything to God in prayer? Remember! Nothing is too big to pray about, nothing too small. What’s more, our ‘big’ things are all small to God’s power and our ‘little’ things are all big to his love.   If we fail to pray, how much we lose. Pray without ceasing, pray about everything, pray with confidence. Never underestimate the power of prayer !


With every blessing

John Hartley

Reverend Roland - April 2019

posted 14 May 2019, 23:43 by Richard Jones

My dear friends

WHAT DOES EASTER MEAN FOR YOU ?

For me this is a very important question for all of us to consider...is it just another chance to have a holiday...to indulge with a few chocolate eggs or maybe buy something new to wear for Spring ?  BUT no matter what we think .. the CROSS, EASTER and THE RESURRECTION remain pivotal to our Christian Faith.

As a young boy (a long time ago) I remember how on GOOD FRIDAY along with my mother we would stand in a queue at Bennets Bakery waiting to buy freshly baked ‘Hot Cross Buns’ they were special....those days have gone as now you can buy them all year round...also I remember going to my Grans on Holy Saturday to be given my ‘Easter Egg’ which was a fresh hard boiled egg done in onion skins to make a reddish pattern.. an egg for all of her family and grandchildren a tradition carried on by my mother and now by my daughter in Scotland.. but today’s grandchildren prefer a chocolate egg! Another event that used to happen was mum using her Co-op Divi to buy us new clothes and shoes.

It is good to remember the past but as a choirboy then and to the present day Easter was and still is a very special Christian Festival...I never tire of singing the Easter Hymns words and music reflecting and retelling the message of Easter.

All of us will be able to look back in our lives and remember things that have now gone, and is the same with our patterns in worship which I hope it will continue to change for the good of the church and future in our worship community. Already we are seeing in many churches a reordering and the use of modern technology that will enhance the worship but at the same time does not mean that we have to change our Heritage, Tradition or churchmanship.


The Easter message will and always will be the same that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ died for all upon the Cross and on the third day rose from the grave, but the way in which we use our worship and buildings may not be the same as in the past.

WHAT DOES EASTER MEAN FOR YOU ?


May I wish you all a very Happy and Blessed Easter.


Rev'd Roland Nicholson

Letter from the Area Dean - March 2019

posted 2 Apr 2019, 02:37 by Richard Jones

One of Jesus' most memorable sayings, found in Saint Matthew's Gospel as part of the Sermon on the Mount is, 'blesséd are the peacemakers'; which was misheard in Monty Python's Life of Brian as 'blesséd are the cheese makers'. No doubt cheese makers are as deserving of being blest as anyone else, especially if they make creamy Lancashire(!), but in reality it was peace and not cheese that Jesus was thinking about when he taught the crowds who had gathered to hear him on a Galilean hillside nearly 2000 years ago.

The dictionary defines peace as; freedom from war, noise, disorder, or mental agitation. It describes it as quietness, calm, serenity, and harmony. Not surprising therefore that Jesus regarded those who are able to bring about a state of peace, in whatever context, as being blesséd, because by their actions they confer a blessing on others, and are blest themselves in doing so.

Every year the Nobel Prize Committee awards a Peace Prize to an individual or organization who has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of peace; past winners have included Martin Luther King (1964), Mother Teresa (1979), Nelson Mandela (1993) which he shared with the then president of South Africa Fredrick de Klerk, American president Jimmy Carter (2002), and in 2014 Malala Yousafzai. All different, but all sharing the distinction of having made a significant difference for good in their particular area of influence.

Interestingly, Jesus not only called peacemakers blesséd he also said they were children of God, meaning that in their actions they reflected the nature and character of God himself.

More than that though, it tells us something of what Jesus understood as being God's highest hope for human society, that it should exist in a state of universal harmony, in which jealousy, rivalry and hostility have disappeared.

Of course you don't need to be on the world stage to be a peacemaker; those who help to establish peace between friends, or family, or in the local community are in that moment also reflecting the nature and character of God, and as such bring about a blessing by their actions. When Christians pray one of the chief topics of their prayer is that peace might be established in the world; may we all seek, by our attitude and action, to be the means by which our prayer is answered.


Jonathan Carmyllie.

Rev'd Charles - December 2018

posted 10 Jan 2019, 02:51 by Richard Jones

“What’s in a Name?”

Well surprisingly quite a lot. For instance, “P.G.Tips” , the tea monkeys loved to drink, started out in the Second World War as “Digestive Tea” which eventually became “Pre-Gestee”, a variant of the name, and then abbreviated to P.G. “Hovis” – once our favourite brown bread - started life in 1887 as “Smith’s Patent Germ Bread” – hardly a mouthwatering prospect. So a competition was arranged with the winning entry being “Hovis” – taking the Latin words “hominis vis” (strength of man) and then subtracting the middle bit!

“Jelly Babies” began life in 1864, invented by an Austrian immigrant working at Fryers of Lancashire and were originally marketed as “Unclaimed Babies”! By 1918 they were produced by Bassett’s in Sheffield as “Peace Babies” to mark the end of the First World War. Production was suspended during World War Two due to war time shortages but in 1953 the product was re launched as “Jelly Babies”.

Of course, names vary in popularity as the years go by. Children in China in 1949 were often called “Nation Builders”, “Liberators” and “Great Celebrations”. The start of the Korean war (1950–53) then saw a spate of “Motherlands”, “Patriots” and “Anti – Imperialists”,  while the cultural revolution spawned a generation of “Rebellions”, “Revolutions” and “Reds”. But old habits die hard. In 1990, for instance, a village in Eastern China named 21 newborn babies “Asian Games” which only goes to show how important names can be.

 And that is why the name Jesus is also so important for us to really understand - for if our greatest need had been for information, God would have sent us an educator; if it had been for money, he would have sent us an economist; if it had been for technology, he would have sent a scientist; if it had been for pleasure, he would have sent an entertainer. But because our greatest need was and is to receive God’s forgiveness he sent JESUS which literally means “Saviour” (Matthew 1:21).

For all of us, whether we choose to recognise or admit it, need a Saviour. Sometimes we need to be saved from ourselves, from a worry or a habit which so often drags us down. Sometimes we need to be saved from others, from those at work or at school, who make our lives a misery. But even more important than this, all of us need to be saved from an eternity without God “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is why Jesus the Saviour was born - for as Luke proclaims in Chapter 2 of his Gospel:

“I bring you good news of great joy. Today in the town of David your Saviour was born - CHRIST the LORD” for “God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


Charles

Rev'd Charles - November 2018

posted 9 Dec 2018, 01:26 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage

 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana 1863 -1952)

  Wise words and certainly needed in our world today because it’s reckoned that since the end of the Second World War there has never been a day in which there has not been a conflict somewhere in the world. That is why this year, the celebration of Remembrance is especially poignant because with the ending of the First World War there was the hope that this would indeed be ‘the War to End all Wars’.

  But why do wars begin? After all, you would have thought that the human race would have realised that conflict inevitably leads to misery with the weakest and the most vulnerable invariably the casualties. Surely it stands to reason that “ jaw - jaw is always better than  war - war” (Churchill). Yet tragically there are those who appear only interested in pursuing their own ambitions no matter what the devastating consequences may be for others. No wonder then that we choose to remember the courage and sacrifice of both men and women who at great cost to themselves refused to allow injustice to triumph and aggression to succeed.

  However, despite the safeguards of the United Nations and NATO, conflicts continue because at the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. As Jesus himself said, “from the inside, from a person’s heart , come the evil ideas that lead him to do immoral things, to rob, kill and do all sorts of evil things; deceit, jealousy, slander, pride, and foolishness” ( Mark 7:14 – 23). Or as the Apostle James put it, “What cause wars, why do you fight and argue with each other? Isn’t it because you are full of selfish desires? You want something you don’t have and you will do anything to get it. You will even kill! But you still cannot get what you want, and you won’t get it by fighting and arguing” (James 4: 1 – 10).

  Because deep down all of us need something which only God can give, a new beginning, a new birth (John 3 :1-21) if you like, a new heart so that we begin to love God with all our heart and love our neighbour as ourselves (Matthew 22 : 34 -40). As Charles Colson, President Nixon’s Special Counsel wrote, having been released from prison for his part in the Watergate Scandal (1972), “Governments cannot change what is in the hearts of people. The alienation which afflicts mankind, which divides us in so many places, is not the weakness of institutions, but the sickness of human hearts. The only answer that can change people’s hearts is the power of God through Jesus Christ”.

  On the night before she died, executed by a German firing squad for assisting Belgian and British soldiers to slip through German lines and regain their fighting units, Edith Cavell (1865 – 1915) the British nurse said, “They have all been very kind to me here. But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

  So we thank God for the sacrifice made by so many in order that we, 100 years later, can live in a free society. And we also thank God that by faith in the death of Christ for us we can be transformed from being God’s enemies (Romans 5:6 -11) into His friends. For as Jesus himself said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. This is my command. Love one another” (John 15: 12 -17).

 Charles


Rev'd Charles - October 2018

posted 30 Oct 2018, 01:55 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage



Do You Weed?


Excuse me?  Do you weed? Well that’s what a parishioner of ours thought he heard when having just moved into his new home a neighbour unexpectedly called. But when he replied yes, he did quite like gardening, she asked again, slightly exasperated with a lisp, no do you READ?! Oh yes he replied. Good she said, next Sunday in church, 1st Lesson! Well that certainly makes a change to the bouquet of flowers, freshly baked cake, helpful practical advice or simply an invitation to come round for a cup of coffee which we might normally hope to receive, but in fact it is a very good question. ‘Do you read – the Bible?’


You see, although it may be the world’s best seller it remains unread by the vast majority of people on this planet. But given the demands on our time and the attractiveness of other forms of communication why should we make the time to do this?


The answer the Bible gives is that it is God’s uniquely inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:10 -17). It is a practical love letter from our Creator. It is God communicating with us verbally and pointing us to Christ personally so that by responding to Him in faith and love we can be saved.


No wonder then that Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) could say “it is the best gift God has given to men” for “no one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates  in every word” (Albert Einstein 1879 -1955). Indeed when we read the Gospels we read what happened when divinity entered history (John 20:30 -31, Luke 1: 1 -4). Therefore “we owe to the Scriptures the same reverence which we owe to God “(John Calvin 1509 -64)) because for Jesus what the Scriptures said, God himself said (John 12:50, 2 Peter 1:16 -21).


So why is the Bible so important? Well the Bible is from God, about God and by God. It was written so that the love of God may be revealed, received and reproduced in us. In fact it is the Word of God that equips the people of God to do the work of God, so it is indispensable if we are to grow in grace and love for God.


That is why October 28 is designated as Bible Sunday and three of the Bible passages for that day include Psalm 19: 7 - 14, 2 Timothy 3: 14 - 4: 5 and John 5: 36 – 47. And what can help us in our daily Bible reading is making use of Bible reading notes such as Premier ‘Voice of Hope’ freely available to individuals and churches (01892 611180), United Christian Broadcasters ‘Word for Today’ (0845 60 40 401) or ‘Day by Day with God’  for women(Bible Reading Fellowship).


How richer our lives could be if we reached for our Bibles with the same regularity that we reach for our phones. For as Billy Graham (1928 -2018) once put it “unless the soul is fed and exercised daily it becomes weak and shrivelled. It remains discontented, confused, restless.” Or as Jesus Himself said, “If you obey and remain faithful to my teaching you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31).


Charles

Rev'd Charles - September 2018

posted 14 Oct 2018, 02:30 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage


Looking for a Hero?


That was the title of a hit single some years ago by Bonnie Tyler and heroes come in all shapes and sizes. For some it may be parents, for others a teacher, or a film star, a politician or even a football player. Whoever it is, there is usually something special about that person which arouses our interest or encourages our respect.

And in the church’s calendar there are a number of heroes remembered each month and one, on September 15th is Cyprian. So what is distinctive or special about him?

Cyprian was born around the year 200 in North Africa. Of his earlier life, before he became a Christian, very little is known except that he was an orator, a barrister and a notable figure, both politically and socially. However, around 245/6 he was converted to Christ, ordained a priest and in 248 became Bishop of Carthage (the original fast track appointment!)

But only a year later a fierce persecution broke out under the Emperor Decius (c.200 – 251) and Cyprian was forced into hiding. Criticised by some for appearing to run away he nevertheless continued to support those who were being persecuted with his letters and his prayers. Sadly, in the preceding years of peace and tolerance the Christian community had grown slack and lost its distinctive Christian witness.  The church had become indistinguishable from the world around it, and because of that, there were those who were tempted to compromise their faith when persecution came, because they were afraid of what others might do or say.

When the persecution diminished Cyprian returned and found that many were being welcomed back into the church without a proper repentance and change of life style. They simply repeated the words they were expected to say but showed little remorse for their actions or confidence in their Christian beliefs (Matthew 15: 6 -9, 7:21). For Cyprian this was unacceptable and brought shame on the Church of Christ.

In 257 a second persecution broke out instigated by the Emperors Valerian (c.193 -260) and Gallienus (c. 218 -268). This time Cyprian was banished and then in 258 an edict ordered the execution of all bishops, priest and deacons. Cyprian made no attempt to escape. He was arrested and taken to Carthage and there he was beheaded.

So what lessons could we learn from this particular ‘hero’? Well for Cyprian controversy and leadership were often intertwined but what lay behind his actions was a passionate desire to promote the cause of Christ, seen in his faithfulness to the Scriptures, respect for church order and a willingness, if need be, to suffer and even die for Christ. His was no ‘soft christianity’ nor one which blew hot or cold depending on the opinions of others (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, out of love for others, already seen in his practical help during a time of famine, he believed that what people most needed to hear was that real forgiveness is always available when we come in genuine repentance to Christ.  But with that forgiveness comes the call to follow in the footsteps of Christ (Matthew 16:24 -25, 24: 1 -14) the crucified Saviour – a call which in turn might well lead to trials and temptations because said Jesus ‘if they persecuted me they will persecute you’ (John 15:20) but ‘whoever endures to the end will be saved’ (Matthew 10:5 -22).

So, is Cyprian a Christian worth remembering? For his courage and his conviction the answer must surely be ‘yes’, which is why the Collect for All Saints Day is a prayer we could make our own.


‘God of holiness, your glory is proclaimed in every age: as we rejoice in the faith of your saints, inspire us to follow their example with boldness and with joy: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Charles

Rev'd Charles - July/August 2018

posted 3 Sep 2018, 07:48 by Richard Jones

View From the Vicarage 

“What would be worse than being born blind?” 

 That’s the question Helen Keller (the American writer, 1880 – 1968, who became deaf and blind at 19 months) was once asked.  She replied “To have sight but no vision”. And she’s not alone, for in the Book of Proverbs we read ‘A people without vision will perish’ (Proverbs 29:18 AV). Surely that is why as part of the Blackburn Diocese Healthy Church self- assessment tool, there is a section entitled ‘Clear vision that gives direction to the church’s ministry and mission’. 

 “A healthy church has a clear sense of purpose and direction based on seeking to find out what God wants. The church prioritises mission, is committed to growth and focuses on doing a few things well. A healthy church is willing to self - reflect; change and adapt according to context; is committed to working towards fulfilling its vision”. So every church is encouraged by the diocese to ask themselves these 10 questions: 

  1   Do we have a strong desire and commitment for the growth of our church that informs the church’s ministry and mission?

  2   Have we used The Five Marks of Mission (to proclaim the good news of the kingdom; to teach, baptize and nurture new believers; to respond to human need by loving service; to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation; to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth) to reflect on our values and purpose for our church?

  3   Have we involved our people in discerning what God wants our church to do and become – by holding prayer events and giving people the opportunity to join in an open discussion sessions ?

  4  Is the church vision communicated and is it understood and owned by members of the church?

  5   Is our church intentional in setting priority goals for growth that move us towards our vision?

  6   Have we ensured that we can resource our priority goals – if necessary by stopping activities that are not directly supporting our vision?

  7  Are these goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resourced, Timed)?

  8   Are we prepared to welcome and embrace change if change is required to make our vision a reality?

  9   Do we review progress at every PCC meeting?

10   Do we repeat he whole process at least every three years?

 Well, there’s no denying that this is a challenging task and yet whenever a Christian community is prepared to review, reflect and respond to God growth can come. After all, if there is one thing biology teaches us it is that the survival of any organism depends on its ability to change at least as quickly as the environment in which it lives. Indeed ‘It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent – but the ones most responsive to change’ (Charles Darwin 1809 – 1882). 

 That’s why the famous prayer of the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971) is something we could all say:

 “God give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed. Give us the courage to change what should be changed. Give us the wisdom to distinguish one from the other” Or in the words of the Diocesan Prayer Vision 2026 ‘Heavenly Father give us the eyes to see Your vision and so follow in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.’ 

Charles


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