Editorial – July 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEditorial by Margaret Baker, Team Vicar

Well, we are halfway through 2016! It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago that we were talking and planning about what we hoped would happen in this new year, and yet I’m sure it will have had its highs and lows already. I have even heard talk about the fact that winter is on its way as our nights will now be getting longer!

We live in a society that is always changing and some of the changes don’t seem very attractive at the time. We would feel happier if things stayed the same, yet if we are going to grow, those changes need to happen.

July is often the month of change, especially for those involved in education. There will be many children, young people and adults moving into new areas of their lives – changing classes, teachers, schools, and leaving to go into new areas of work or starting employment for the first time. All of these experiences will have an impact in one way or another.

This month I would like to encourage you to pray for all those who are involved in education in any way and will be experiencing change, particularly those within the area of the Rivers Team. The list is very long! I started writing them all down but realised that this would take up too much room, so my suggestion is that you think about those around us who will have a change and pray for them. And if you don’t feel you know anyone, why not pray for the school nearest to where you live?

As Christians we know the power of prayer and how things can and do change if we seek God’s help, support and guidance. I hope that as you pray, you too will feel blessed and encouraged.

I came across this prayer which might be a good starting point for your prayers:

Heavenly Father
We thank you for all we have gained through education
We thank you for new knowledge,
new skills, new experiences that we have gained
through the different stages of our lives.
Help us, we pray, to continue to learn.
Help us all to make the most of all the opportunities that arise to grow.
And at the end of this education year we commit all those
who are fearful of change into your care. Amen.

Editorial – June 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Helen Bent; Associate Vicar

This month the nation will join together in celebrating the Queen’s 90th birthday. This is a significant milestone for the Queen personally but also for the nation and the Commonwealth. The Queen is not only the longest reigning monarch in British history, but she is now the oldest living monarch in the world. According to Royal biographer, William Shawcross, two other things stand out – the Queen’s constant sense of duty and her devotion to God. Of this she speaks humbly but openly, especially in her Christmas broadcasts. Her life is an example to us all, as she looks upwards to God and outwards to other people.

Whether we would call ourselves Royalists or not, we cannot help but admire this remarkable lady. A member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service during WW2, she trained as an auto mechanic and can rebuild the engine of an Austin K2 Ambulance. She also reputedly enjoys driving at speed. She has enjoyed a long and happy marriage with members of her family around her. At 90, she still works a 40 hour week. And, even with a great love of horses, who else is still riding at 90?

The Queen is focused and hardworking, strong and steadfast, resolute and sincere, and, above all, dedicated and loyal to her people. However, her royal life has come at a price, and she has not been exempt from the normal highs and lows of life. During her ‘Annus Horribilis’, she faced the heartbreak of three children’s broken marriages as well as the fire at Windsor Castle. She has since faced the loss of Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother very much in the public eye. So where does her phenomenal strength and composure come from?

Throughout her life, the Queen has openly acknowledged a higher rule than her own, promoting Christian values for the benefit of all. Her strength comes from her deep faith and trust in God. Jesus is her inspiration, her role model and her anchor. Presented with a Bible at her Coronation, she reads and prays every day to give her wisdom and perspective. In times of trouble, she has turned towards God. She openly acknowledges the power of the prayers of others to carry us in times of difficulty. The Queen recognises the frailty of human nature and our need for a Saviour, but she also knows the power of forgiveness and reconciliation to bring about true peace, and she has been an ambassador for peace throughout the world.

What an amazing lady! And what an example to us all! Happy 90th Birthday, Your Majesty!

Editorial – May 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

May and June this year are a time for us (over 18’s) to make our personal contribution to influence the way that our country operates, locally and within Europe, as it‘s election time.

Not everyone will agree with the way that we should vote, and that’s fine. As a democratic society that’s the way it should be, each of us being able to use our freedom to choose. Jesus used his freedom to choose. Things could have turned out very differently when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, as he was offered the easy way out, prior to his ministry and eventual death. But he trusted God ‘s plan for the sake of you and me and did what he knew he had to.

I wonder if we trust God enough with the plans for our lives or whether we try and hedge our bets and plan things ourselves, and then tell God what were going to do, hoping to gain his blessing.

God’s plans for us unfold throughout our lives, not all at once, and maybe sometimes we don’t like the direction that he seems to lead us, as it takes us out of our comfort zones. And yet, if we profess a Christian faith, our highest trust should be in a God who wants the best for all of his children, who has a plan for everyone and who does not try to catch us out, even when we get ourselves in a muddle.

How many of us have prayed specifically about our votes and what we should do, rather than just going the way that we have done year after year? It just might be that God has different plans if we allow him to work in us and through us.

The saying is that religion and politics don’t mix, but that does not mean that Christians do not have a say or should not be involved. We should be good citizens and strive for the good of all. After all, we are called to be salt and light in our world.

I urge everyone to use this very important right to vote. As the adverts say, if you don’t then you can’t really complain.

I wonder if we could say the same about our Churches? Many people have views and opinions about the Church and yet don’t get involved. Perhaps we should be encouraging them to take more of an interest? They just might then find Jesus themselves in a real and unique way.

Editorial April 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby David Bent; Team Rector

I love it when we move the clocks forward, with the promise of lighter nights and warmer days to come. In fact I would happily join a campaign to remain in British Summer Time throughout the year and not move the clocks back and hurry in the dark autumn nights. But, whatever we do with our clocks, we are always aware that there remains both day and night, light and dark, in our world.

I write this in the anticipation of joy of celebrating Easter Day in a few days time, and in the aftermath of the atrocities at the Belgium airport and metro station, the disputes over disability benefits, allegations over corruption in sport, wranglings over refugees and border controls, and arguments over whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU. But it is not all darkness; there is also light and joy in our world through sporting achievements and Sports Aid, there are areas of progress in politics and the economy and there is much good being done around the world to further peace and to help those in need.

Light and dark exist together in politics, sport, the media, indeed in the whole of life. The good news, as the beginning of John’s gospel reminds us and as the resurrection of Jesus clearly demonstrates, is that the light shine in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

But it is not enough for Christians just to believe in the light; we have a responsibility to shine this light into the dark corners of our world, to bring hope to those who have none, and to have an influence for righteousness, peace, justice, and forgiveness.

Too often the arguments we hear about finance revolve around greed and envy when the Christian faith talks about generosity and gratitude. The
debates about EU membership seem to be focusing on issues of sovereignty and economics, neither of which are central to Christianity, while losing sight of the biblical principles of community and a shared responsibility for each other and for God’s world.

As we celebrate this great Christian festival of Easter, let us see it as a reminder of our hope and promise that, through Jesus, death is followed by resurrection, and darkness is followed by light. But let us also see it as a reminder of our responsibility to be that light and to reflect the principles of the Kingdom of God in our lives and in our communities.

Editorial – March 2016

Two months of 2016 has already gone by: for some quickly, others slowly, and we are all two months older and wiser! I wonder what we have learnt during these two months that we had not known before?. Perhaps it might be useful to reflect on what we have learnt. Sometimes we get so caught up in what needs to be done that space and time to reflect all too easily disappears.

There are always new things to find out and learn and that is very much the same as we journey with God. It’s no good for us to think that we know everything, because then its more difficult for God to come close, and we miss out on the good he has planned for us.

His timing and plans don’t always tie in with how we see things and this can prove a challenge.

Our worship patterns across The Rivers Team have changed and it’s caused heart ache and pain in some congregations, but there are also signs of new life and growth.

Now is the time to allow God to teach us the new things that he has for us to learn together, and not just to look back, even though we are very
thankful for what has gone before.

We live in a world that seems to change and develop so quickly and some times we feel rather overwhelmed, and yet its really important to remember that we do nothing on our own . In Psalm 44:1-3, the psalmist writes:

We have heard with our ears, O God;
our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, long ago.
With your hand you drove out the nations
and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples
and made our ancestors flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
It was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face,
for you loved them.

Everything that we do, we should do in love and really feel that for others not just for ourselves. So as we celebrate Easter this year lets remember that each on of us is a new creation changing and developing all the time.

Editorial – Feb 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Revd Philip Barringer

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” Paul writes in 1 Cor 12:27

The use of the human body as an image for society or a particular social or political group is far from unique and distinctive to the church, indeed it was was probably the most common metaphor for unity around in the literature and philosophy of Paul’ time.

But Paul’s understanding of the church as the Body of Christ is more than a mere metaphor, he doesn’t say “You are like the body of Christ” he says “You are the body of Christ”. There is a real and actual sense in which we are the body of Christ on earth, through the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

This body, Paul asserts is at the same time both one body and made up of many parts. There is an intrinsic unity and diversity at play in the church, just as there is in God, who is ‘of one being’, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The last few weeks have seen issues of unity and diversity in the church discussed in the national and international media during the conference of Anglican Archbishops. We know from the issues under discussion there, that this is no easy matter.

At a more local level we as a team ministry have to wrestle with this constantly as we seek to hold together the diversity of our congregations and the communities they serve and our unity as an expression of the one body.

We hear much talk about unity in the church, and that it is right and proper. But comparatively I think much less is said on the subject of diversity and difference.

Paul comments that each part of the body has its own purpose and role in contributing to the health, life and growth of the whole, and reminds us that each part of the body is uniquely chosen, appointed and arranged by God. Our distinctiveness in creation – our gifts and talents, our preferences and tendencies, the uniqueness of our story and experience, for both good and ill – all the things that make you uniquely you, God has chosen and arranged in the body of Christ. If that is the case, who are we to question that.

One of our key tasks in the mission and ministry of the Rivers Team is to discern our own role within it. This applies equally to each congregation as an expression of church and to all of us as members within them.

Jesus has chosen and incorporated you into his body in this place. What part might you be and how is that working to build up the whole?

Editorial – Jan 2016

Over the period of Christmas and the New Year, many of us will have travelled large distances by road, rail or air, to visit family or friends, or else family and friends will have travelled large distances to visit us. Hopefully we will all have shared good hospitality.

The birth of Jesus involved a lot of long journeys, and they would have been on foot, donkey or camel. And with this travelling would have come many opportunities for hospitality.

Mary and Joseph travelled about 75 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem and found nowhere to stop, in spite of it being in Joseph’s home town and Mary being heavily pregnant.

The wise men travelled from the east; we don’t know how far they travelled, but a journey from the major city of Babylon to Jerusalem would have been around 500 miles, with a further 6 miles to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Jerusalem Herod responded with suspicion, fear and deceit, and with very little hospitality. Let’s hope that when they got to Bethlehem, the busy season was over and they found better hospitality than Mary and Joseph did!

Then there was the journey of this new family fleeing into exile in Egypt due to the very real fear of persecution by Herod, a journey which could have been around 250 miles to the Nile Valley where they should have found hospitality from the thousands of Jews that had already settled there.

Migration has always been part of the human story. We can debate the rights and wrongs of mass migration, but the reality is that few of us will be able to influence the situation nationally or internationally. Given that is the case, maybe we should think about how we would like to be treated if we were ever refugees. Good hospitality makes all the difference to a weary traveller. I would like a warm welcome, a good meal, a comfy bed and, if I was planning to stay for more than a holiday, I would like the opportunity to contribute to the community and to earn a living.

Hospitality is very much part of God’s heart; not just for welcoming the stranger and the refugee, but it also forms a large part of the mission strategy of Jesus and of the early church. Many significant conversations were held over meals, many people provided accommodation for travelling ministries and many homes became places for worship, fellowship and discipleship.

So, in 2016, let us all up our game in terms of hospitality. Let us think beyond our nuclear family to welcome our neighbours, our Christian brothers and sisters and the visitors that join us in church occasionally. We can all offer something; remember, Jesus said that what we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we are doing for him.

Editorial December 2015

by Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

At this time of year I like to take the opportunity of wandering into a book shop and heading for the children’s section to find and read any books that give a new way of telling the Christmas Story – there always seem to be one or two. Nothing new will unfold, but it’s exciting to see what authors have come up with to help tell of Christ’s birth.

This year it was a book called ‘The Noisy Stable’ by Bob Hartman that caught my attention. It’s not a new book, it was first published in 2004, but the story of the Star that went ‘Zoom’ spoke to me and I share my thoughts with you.

The star watchers saw a variety of different stars in the sky and were very excited by what they saw. Then they saw a star that just zoomed across the sky and they didn’t know what it meant, so they had to look it up in their books. These books told them that somewhere a new king had been born. But where? “There is no way to tell unless we follow it” one of them said, “and see where it stops.” So their adventure begins…

Are we excited about Christmas or has it become more of a burden? With what seems like so much to do and yet so little time to do it . It’s the season for us as Christians to celebrate and to enjoy. What are we doing to portray that fact to others who might be missing out on the real meaning? The star watchers got excited, so perhaps we should too and make a point of showing our excitement and enjoyment.

We know what happens in this story, but sometimes we forget that our journeys are adventures too, and that we need to follow Jesus and ask him for directions in order to make the most of everything that is around us.

The star watchers discovered more about what they saw, and they learned something new. I wonder what we will find out that is new to us this year?

This Christmas time might be just the opportunity for us to stop reflect and follow in a new way, for often we get caught up in what we have always done and never really reflect or change direction.

Where will Jesus lead us during 2016? Are we ready to do what the star watchers did by following to find out?

I wish you all a Happy Christmas



Editorial – Nov 2015

by David Bent; Team Rector

Remember, remember…
After all, it is November: Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day, the Memorial Service and the end of the Church year. (November 29th is the first Sunday in Advent, the start of the new Church year.)

Having just celebrated a ‘significant’ birthday, I was looking through a photograph album of my parents and saw a picture of me on the beach at Suttonon-Sea. Almost as startling as my advancing years was the difference in the level of the sand on the beach. When the photo was taken there was at least fifteen feet between the sand and the top of the sea wall. We went back to Sutton a few weeks ago and there is now a gap of merely a few inches. Things change, often imperceptibly. It is good to have things that remind us of how things were.

The Israelites were encouraged by God to remember the past, the times that he had helped them: freeing them from slavery in Egypt, crossing them through the Red Sea on dry land, providing for them in the desert and many more blessings besides. Jesus encouraged his disciple to remember him as they ate together, as they broke bread and drank wine. These reminders of the good times would help to sustain them in the difficult times.

For us, November can be a time for looking back, both with sadness and with thanksgiving. As we celebrate Bonfire Night; ‘gunpowder, treason and plot’, let us pray also for our government and local councils, that they will serve their electorate with wisdom, justice and integrity. As we remember men and women in our armed forces who have died and continue to die in conflicts around the world, let us pray for those places where there is war, persecution, terrorism, disease and famine. As we remember loved ones who are no longer with us, but who we continue to miss, let us pray for those we know who are sick, bereaved or in any other form of need.

Let us also give thanks, for we have so much to be thankful for. Let us give thanks to God for this wonderful world that we are part of. Let us give thanks for our system of local and national government, for our health service, for the emergency services, for our schools, for local business and for all who make up our communities and neighbourhoods.

Let us also give thanks for those we love who have gone before us, for the good memories and for the promise that, through faith in Jesus, we will be reunited with them once more. Remember, remember. And give thanks.

Editorial – October 2015

by David Bent; Team Rector

None of us can have escaped the recent images and stories of refugees arriving on the borders of Europe. Prior to that we had images of asylum seekers in Calais and before that the issue of immigration was prominent in the various campaigns leading up to the general election.

In all of this I sense a change in attitude, exemplified by the change in language from ‘immigrants’ to ‘asylum seekers’ to ‘refugees’. Behind all of this there is the question of how we should respond both as British Citizens and as Christians. Finding answers is not easy, but one place to look for both information and inspiration is the bible.

There are many examples of refugees and migrants throughout the bible, including Abraham who travelled from Ur to Canaan and Jacob’s family who travelled to Egypt because of famine at home, and then returned many years later because of persecution in Egypt. There were many foreigners and refugees living amongst the Israelites at that time, some were full members of their faith, others remained on the periphery. And then there is Ruth, a migrant from Moab who became an ancestor of Jesus.

Jesus himself was a refugee for a time when Mary and Joseph fled with him to Egypt because of the persecution of the baby boys by Herod. They probably stayed with members of their wider family who had settled in Egypt as economic migrants some years before.

Then we can look at Jesus’ ministry. After he had taught the five thousand men, plus women and children, the crowds were hungry and his disciples were keen to send them away to find food for themselves. This was a response that was both practical and logical. Jesus’ response however, was based on compassion. He instructed the disciple to feed them themselves and then gave them the means by which to do it.

A few years later the Early Church was faced with situations of hardship initially because of persecution, when the local church supported those amongst them who were in need, and then later because of widespread famine when the churches Paul had established gave money to support those in need.

These events may not fully answer the questions of today, but they do give an insight into the heart of God and the experience of his people in similar situations. They all show a heart of compassion and a spirit of generosity.

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