On Wednesday this week Apperley celebrated 10 years of ecumenical teamwork between the Methodist and Anglican Church for Open the Book. We celebrated with the team performing the story of Jesus being taken up into heaven, which all the children from Deerhurst and Apperley primary school attended. As this was the last session of open the book before the end of term, we wished the year 6 children well as they prepare to move on to senior school. After singing happy birthday to the team the children went back to their classes and the team enjoyed a slice of birthday cake.
I led the united service in this beautiful chapel this morning in Tibberton. A new venture in the deepening bonds between the Anglican and Methodist churches in this village, right in the heart of one of Gloucestershire’s farming communities.
I have just returned from leading our combined house group’s away day, which was held at the House of the Open Door, Childswickham, near Evesham. What a glorious day this has been in every way. The venue is stunning and I thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for somewhere for a retreat. We were also blessed with beautiful weather and the gardens were in full bloom. The food was excellent and so was the service.
Our day explored the themes of practical and spiritual hospitality through the story of Martha and Mary and as we journeyed through the day we engaged with how these two aspects of hospitality inform our mission as house groups.
A good day was had by all, so good in fact that we have a date in the diary for next year to do this again!
And so our month of celebration for our 140th anniversary at Tewkesbury Methodist Church has drawn to a close. During the month we have had coffee mornings, cream teas and a full month of open church for our exhibition of photos and the glorious display of embroidered banners collectively entitled ‘The Servant King’ by renowned textile artist Jacqui Parkinson. We also shared in a quiet communion on the actual day of the anniversary which was 5th June.
Last Sunday, the Chair of District, Reverend Dr Johnathan Pye, led our service followed by afternoon tea and then an evening service led by yours truly in which the singing virtually raised the roof. It was a wonderfully joyous and uplifting day full of friendship, fellowship and thanksgiving for the many blessings we enjoy at TMC.
Thank you to everyone who came during this time to help us celebrate.
It’s been a glorious summer so far and no where has that been more evident than in the manse garden which is simply stunning at the moment. I only wish my blog had the capacity to allow you to enjoy the fragrance that I am able to enjoy every time I open the patio door, especially early morning and late evening.
Somebody said to me, just this week, ‘It is so easy to praise God for creation at this time of year’. And I have to agree, everywhere I look at the moment, as I make my way through the lanes of rural Gloucestershire, there is an abundance of life in nature. It really does seem that all cry out in praise, and none sing their praise more beautifully than the birds own evensong in the warmth of a summers evening. We humans cannot even begin to recreate such sights and sounds and fragrances – our pictures, poetry and songs pale into insignificance compared with God’s infinite, creative, divine mystery.
With that said, I still could not resist posting some pictures of the manse garden. It is a stunning place to be still and reflect on God’s presence and a wonderful, constantly changing feast for the senses.
Yesterday I went along to the new start of the Saturday lunch club at Hartpury MC. It has not been running for several months owing to the work being carried out to fit a whole new kitchen; however yesterday saw the lunch club relaunched and I am glad to report it was very well supported.
The new kitchen is wonderful though it may take another week or so to get used to all the mod cons.
The work continues as the school room is now to also undergo a refurbishment and later in the year we will have a celebration launch of our shiny new facilities.
The lunch club runs every first Saturday of the month and cost £4 for a 3 course meal. All are welcome
Well it seems such a while since I was able to make it to my blog. Where has the last few months gone. I think I was overambitious to think that I could keep up a weekly slot during a very busy period and whilst still trying to find my way around. Anyway I am back now and rather more settled and in control having found out who is who and what is where so I am going to make a new commitment now to keeping a regular slot here.
Since I last blogged we have had lent in which we shared with the Anglican Church in Apperley exploring frontline ministry. The sessions went really well and I do so enjoy working ecumenically.
Holy week was a busy time for us in the section where I led services and reflections at various churches with 3 on Easter day at Tewkesbury, Hartpury and Tibberton respectively. Across Pentecost and Trinity I have been preaching further afield in our circuit namely in our Cheltenham churches and now here we are, no back in ordinary time.
I currently have a student minister, Rachel, on placement with me in Tewkesbury Methodist Church, I thoroughly enjoy students coming to work alongside me..I find it good discipline for me – a good way of keeping me on my toes! Rachel and I are currently in the process of planning the programme of events for our 140th Anniversary at Tewkesbury Methodist Church…the official opening day being 5th June but our day of celebration will be Sunday 24th, though we are open daily for our exhibition. There will also be coffee as usual in the mornings on saturdays as well as cream teas. It would be lovely to see you if you can come along at any point.
There have been some slight changes in the section which I will report in future blogs this will mean I will cease to be minister of some of my churches but will take on a slightly larger church elsewhere in the vicinity but my ministry in TMC will remain unchanged.
So there we are. A very quick summary. As I said, I feel in a better position now to maintain a weekly blog so watch out for updates.
As I write this we are enjoying the most glorious bank holiday Monday weather, which has apparently broken all records? I spent the early part of today with family on a trip down the Wye valley and though i know the valley well it seems that these weather conditions have brought qualities of colour which add spectacularly to the natural beauty of this area; rich green pastures flecked with golden buttercups, bold blue bells and milky white cow parsley; the glistening umber thread of the river wye winding its way down to the severn estuary and all set against a backdrop of cloudless azure. On days like this nature in all its glory is breathtaking and awe inspiring all at once and makes me want to cry out with the psalmist ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.’
Back at home this, enjoying a chilled drink on the patio as the afternoon cools towards evening I notice movement in a mound of soil in the garden, on closer inspection i see an army of ants going about their business with seemingly great purpose and determination. I find I am less inclined to wax lyrical about this feat of nature and hymns of praise spring less readily to mind as I watch the ants march across the patio towards me. Thank goodness then for the very gifted Isaac Watts, whos hymns we love and whose prose and poetry show us the divine mystery of God even in the most insignificant of creatures. In a piece entitled ‘Meditation on the First of May’ he writes….
‘What an exquisite world of wonders is complicated even in the body of every little insect – an ant, a gnat a mite, that is scarce visible to the naked eye. Admirable engines! which a whole academy of philosophers cold never contrive – which the nation of poets has neither art nor colours to describe – nor has a world of mechanics skill enough to frame the plainest or coarsest of them.Their nerves, their muscles and the minute atoms which compose the fluids fit to run in the little channels of their veins, escape the notice of the most sagacious mathematician, with all his aid of glasses. The active powers and curiosity of human nature are limited on their pursuit and must be content to lie down in ignorance.
It is a sublime and constant triumph over all the intellectual powers of man which the great God maintains every moment in the inimitable works of nature – in these impenetrable recesses and mysteries of divine art.’
So as spring unfolds into summer I pray that you might glimpse the glorious divine mystery pulsing through all of life and nature in abundance, a infinite generosity whose wisdom and grace seems to know no bounds.
I thought I would use this space to share with you some of the things I have had the privilege to share in over the last few months and some of the events we are planning for the coming year.
Firstly, I want to say that our Christmas services seemed to go very well and I was especially pleased with the festival of angels which was a wonderful celebration, launched with a fabulous nativity play by the children of Tirlebrook. We had so many visitors during the period and so a lot of opportunities to share stories and conversation. As I have travelled around the section since there have been many positive comments about the creativity, the hospitality and the warmth of welcome received during our festival and related services such as the town carol service and Messy Advent.
I can tell you that we are all set for another great festival during advent 2018 with the knitted christmas carols exhibition, which will once again provide opportunities for the local community to be involved …but more of that later on in the year.
On the 3rd January we launched a new group which is meeting every 1st and 3rd Wednesday at 3.00. This group is about intentional faith development and is based on exploring our inner relationship with God. The name of the group is Desert Soul as it is derives from the approaches to prayer and scripture based on the desert fathers and mothers who developed the earliest christian monastic movement in the deserts of Egypt and Syria in the 4th Century. We had originally planned to meet in the guild room but I rather underestimated the number of attendees and in the end we had to move into the church to accommodate everyone. All are welcome to come along…think of it as a mini retreat where your soul can find peace amongst the business of our daily lives. Later in the year there will be a Desert Soul away day…a full day retreat to which all are invited (whether you attend the fortnightly sessions or not). I am currently exploring venues for this and would be grateful for any suggestions, though Prinknash Abbey is looking like a distinct possibility,
In February we hosted and led the opening session for the week of prayer for Christian unity. The theme this year focused on the contemporary issues addressed by the churches of the Caribbean. Abuses of human rights such as human trafficking and modern day slavery formed topics for conversation, reflection and prayer and action. The week concluded with a service at Holy Trinity in which we heard of the huge amount of work that our churches in Tewkesbury are engaged in together especially working in schools. Open the book is one such activity and one of the great success stories of how children are once again beginning to engage with the bible. Many involved with Open the Book report not only on how very well received it is but also on how the children now know the stories and can anticipate what is coming.
Going back to the subject of prayer and unity for a moment, please remember that the Women’s World Day of Prayer is on 2nd March at Holy Trinity..Do go along if you are able to.
Looking forward we have a number of things we are planning for including opening as usual for the medieval festival and the mop fair, these are always great opportunities to engage with our community. In particular though the weekend of 24th June is an important one for us as we celebrate our 140th Anniversary, this is still in the planning stages but do keep the Sunday as there will be a day of celebrations.
This all looks like such busy schedule and indeed it is but in all our doing it is important for us to pause to consider the God who calls us to be a worshipping community and who equips us to share his unconditional love with all. In Corinthians 13:1-13 Paul reminds us that in our doing, if we do not have love then we are merely clanging cymbals. But what does it really mean for us to extend such love in the context of our busy and let’s face it, very enjoyable schedule…Well, in her commentary, Shively Smith puts this very well and I hope the following paragraph from that commentary will cause us all to stop and reflect on what should be the central focus of all our ‘doing’.
‘Make no mistake. The love Paul is talking about here is not passive and fluffy. This kind of love is an up at dawn, feet on the ground, tools in hand, working kind of love. It builds communities. It nurtures positive social interactions, and not just social networks (which many of us have come to prefer). Paul’s declaration of love unifies. Love is the way by which we talk to each other (1 Corinthians 1:5; 16:20), eat with one another (1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:27; 11:33-34), fellowship together (1 Corinthians 11:20), and affirm all (1 Corinthians 16:15-16, 18). Love transcends our self-imposed caste systems and personal biases. It forms whole and holistic people, who are anchored in the well-being of others. Love will not let us down if we genuinely live in it together (1 Corinthians 16:14).’
So as a new year unfolds with so many opportunities ahead of us, may we embrace this radical love that it’s transforming power might bring a shared vision for life, unity and wholeness in our church and with the community we are called to serve.
Well this post comes with very best wishes for the New Year. Just where did those last 2 weeks go to? We enjoyed some wonderfully rich and meaningful services over Christmas but as usual that special moment just after midnight on Christmas morning as we light that central candle was perhaps the most special of all.
The first event of the new year was our new Desert Soul group on Wednesday 3rd January at Tewkesbury MC. So many turned up that I was thinking of moving from the Guild room into the church and it is possible that we may well make that move anyway for the next one as I think it might just be a better space for this particular meeting. The next Desert Soul will be on Wednesday 17th at 3.00pm.
As I write this I am just putting the finishing touches to the Covenant service which we will be holding throughout the section in January with the first one being at Tewkesbury MC tomorrow morning. We look forward to seeing you if you are able to come.
Other events in January include the week for Christian Unity which we will be celebrating on 28th in both Hartpury at 3.00pm at the anglican church and in Tewkesbury at 6.30 at Holy Trinity Church. Hartpury Churches will also host a quiet day led by myself and Reverend John Longuet Higgins on Thursday 25th January between 10.00 and 3.00 at Rudford Church and ‘School Room’, if you would like to come let me know. Also as part of the week of Christian Unity programme I will be leading a group on 18th January at Tewkesbury MC at 12.00 where we will be working with the material produced for Christian unity week. I will publish the details of the full programme shortly.
So, there we are a quick catch up for now and a picture of the weather that saw many of our services cancelled in December and I understand we may have more to look forward in the coming weeks. Keep warm. Blessings, Jayne