Editorial December 2014

by Reverend Judy Leverton

Peace be with you!! Christmas is stressful for some, lonely for others and a
spending frenzy for many. It needn’t be. Christmas is also a time when we
look beyond ourselves, when we want the best for those around us and for
all who are in need in our world. It’s time to celebrate again Jesus’ birth but
Christmas is more than a celebration of a baby’s birth. The story takes us
beyond the glitter and tinsel to something much deeper.

When we stand by the cradle and gaze on a newly born baby we’re
awestruck. As we see crib scenes, we are moved once again. We’re invited
to look beyond the baby, to catch a glimpse of the God whose gift is hope,
peace and goodwill, love. We’re invited to look beyond what we see in our
world to discover signs of goodness, beauty and joy wherever people are
trying to do their best.

The Christmas story shows ordinary people trying to do their best in bleak
circumstances. A couple forced to go to another town for a census, a man
doing his best for his very pregnant fiancée, an innkeeper trying to
accommodate them, finally in the middle of this drama, the birth of a baby.

There is the invitation to the shepherds, an invitation to us all to find in the
new-born child signs of hope for all the earth, a sign of God’s presence on
earth and his gift of hope peace and goodwill among all.

At times our best does not seem good enough, when things go wrong with
our relationships despite our best intentions, when tragedy hits families or
communities. When so much of our news is about violence, destroying
people and our environment.

Christmas is a time for looking ahead; to see goodness and beauty in those
around us; to look at tragedy and see the stories of kindness and
compassion that speak of the hope of life beyond the darkness; to look at
the violence and see efforts to change these patterns and see in them
signals of hope for a safer world. To see the beauty of our environment and
hear the call for green alternatives as signals of hope for our planet.

When we look beyond the surface, we become open to signals of God’s gift
of hope for ourselves, our families and our world.

May we all share God’s gift this Christmas and in the New Year.

Bishops Letter – November 2014

bishop2A few weeks ago I hosted a visit by three colleagues from  our link diocese of Argentina and we have also recently received guests from Hattingen-Witten. There are many things that unite us as Christians within the Anglican family and we have much to learn from each other. That is one reason for our exchange visits.

One of the things that struck me most about our visitors from Buenos Aires was the difference in our cultures and behaviour. South Americans are naturally and instinctively much more tactile, enthusiastic, and less inhibited. On a number of occasions they offered to pray with complete strangers on the street. They encountered people with fascinating stories to tell. The chance encounters led to some deeply profound conversations about faith and the power of the risen Christ to transform lives. These encounters took people by surprise but for my colleagues it was a natural thing to do.

Their actions were counter cultural; they went about things in a way that our reserved manner of doing things wouldn’t have allowed many of us to do. In acting in a counter cultural way they entered into profound conversations that gently challenged deeply held views and opinions about the church and God and opened people’s minds to new ways of thinking and acting.

We believe that Christians are called to be counter cultural; challenging the norms, common held views and expectations of a society that believes true value and worth can be measured by materialistic possessions and wealth. Christians believe that lasting fulfilment, meaning and purpose can only be found in Jesus Christ who showed that there is a different way to live and love in the service and sacrifice of others.

We should challenge society and political structures that appear to devalue the poor, weak and vulnerable; a society that holds up those with greater educational opportunities and wealth – whose life opportunities have enabled them to have good jobs or hold positions of power and authority – as being the epitome of what we should aspire to. We should aspire to enable everyone to have the best start and the best opportunities in life that a healthy society and economy like ours can afford but above all we should help them aspire to lives that have been transformed by a personal encounter with the God of salvation. This requires us not only to be counter cultural but through personal witness and testimony demonstrate the effect that the risen Lord has had on us and the way we live our lives. Witness that to others and it will make a powerful statement and will open the God of surprises to them. We may even be surprised ourselves. +Peter

Editorial – November 2014

by Margaret Baker; Team Vicar

Dear Friends

In the month of November there are three occasions for us to remember.
On the 1st it’s All Souls’ Day when we remember those whose Christian lives on this earth have ended and now continue with God. It’s a day when we can give thanks and praise for the contribution that many individuals have made on our lives as individuals and as a church. I was amazed by the number of people who came to my mind as I sat and thought about it. What do we remember? Just the good? No, I guess a bit of both the positive and the negative, for one without the other would give us a lopsided vision. We don’t like to think about the bad times or mistakes that we’ve made, but that shows the reality of life and the fact that we are not perfect people; only Jesus was, however much we would like to be.

I find it very difficult when people never admit to anything being wrong; whenever you see them there is always a smile. Nothing wrong with a smile, but not from the same person all the time. We need to be ourselves and admit the mistakes or bad times we’re going through and not hide them. You know, there might just be someone around who is going through what you’re going through and you could support and encourage each other.

The second time to remember is the 5th November, bonfire night, the blowing up of the Houses of Parliament. I’m not sure why we remember this date in particular but I enjoy the fireworks just the same and the community spirit that seems to come about on an occasion like this. So let’s enjoy this time to remember, but also keep safe.

The third occasion for us to remember is Remembrance Sunday, 9th November, when we reflect on the many tragic results of wars, especially the people who lost their lives through conflict, and the desire for world peace, which is so badly needed in our world today. This Remembrance Sunday don’t let us forget to remember in our prayers especially those who have the responsibility of leadership and need to make decisions that will affect others. In the afternoon on Remembrance Sunday at 3.00pm at St Mary’s we also have the opportunity to come alongside those who have lost loved ones this past year within our parish as they come to remember their lives. Do you know someone who you would like to invite to this service?

They would be very welcome .

Spotlight on Mission – Our Discretionary Fund

spotlightThis is a small fund so that we can respond to specific needs such as natural disasters. Please pray for the many groups that help people in times of crisis, that money sent will be used wisely.
As this is the last Spotlight for this year, I remind you of our Mission Partners. Perhaps you could give a Christmas present to them – any extra that our partners receive will be much appreciated. And don’t forget that on Saturday 29th November there will be a special opportunity to come together and pray for them. Our final Mission Gift Day for the year will be at our Team Service on the 30th.

Hansi and Kath Jain, our missionary links in Nagpur, India, working with families and children from the slums and running a school.

CPAS are patrons of our churches and are an evangelical organisation working to support local churches in mission.

Tear Fund is an evangelical Christian relief agency working through local churches in the poorest parts of the world.

CMS supports Ronnie and Nicky Irene and their family who are our missionary links, working in Paraguay.

Church Army trains and supports people to share the Christian faith and see lives transformed.

The Barnabas Fund works to support Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith.

Rotherham Holiday Aid is a local charity seeking to provide holidays for some of the neediest families around Rotherham.

Christian Vision for Men is a movement committed to seeing men won for Jesus.

Kingdom Faith We contribute to the cost of supporting a student training at their college for Ministry. Kingdom Faith teaches, trains and equips the Church to advance the Kingdom of God.

Be Careful, Be Prayerful by Bob Lunt

There are only 200-500 Christians in Tibet and they face severe persecution. Meeting in secret, usually in groups of 6-10, they gather in darkened rooms to sing softly, almost inaudibly, their Christian songs. If discovered, they are at risk of being thrown out of their family home, beaten or arrested.

Zigsa (not his real name) is one of their leaders. He was trained as a monk, but meetings with Christians, including one who gave him a Nepalese Bible, caused him to leave the monastery. Returning home, he was shunned by family and community. He lost all his money, and eventually was so desperate that he went to the river at 2 am intending to take his own life. “Suddenly I became afraid”, he said. “I heard a voice in English saying, ‘Where are you going?’ I looked up and had a vision of Jesus sitting on the moon, and was reminded He is the light of our life. I became convinced He was the living God and I bowed my head and asked forgiveness of my sins. I told him I wanted to be His follower.”

Zigsa made contact with other Christians and became an evangelist in Tibet. He is now a Secret Church leader, shepherding a few dozen believers, all of whom became Christians through his witness and who meet in secret in small groups. “There is persecution from the Tibetan community and government”, he says. “That’s why we teach new believers to be careful. Please pray for me, that God gives me patience to shepherd this under-ground church. It is not easy. I don’t have mentors and rely on the Holy Spirit to help me.”

For secret Christians, prayer is not an optional activity, it’s vital, because a wrong decision can be fatal. Every meeting, every activity is covered in prayer – not that you would always know this was happening. In a restaurant in North Africa six men sit around a table. One is speaking, making eye contact with the others, gesturing with his hands. Another starts talking in response. Nobody realises this conversation is actually a prayer meeting and that these are Muslim-background believers praying the persecuted church way. Everything is done face to face. “We don’t talk on the phone or send emails”, they say. Instead, the noisy restaurant provides perfect cover. And bread and wine there can become a Communion service.

See www.opendoorsuk.org/secretchurch for a free interactive worship pack.

Dear Theophilus – October 2014

Dear Theophilus

As Jesus caught sight of Jerusalem, at the end of a long journey that would eventually result in his arrest, trial, death, he wept. But the tears that he wept were not in the anticipation of his own suffering but for the suffering of the people of Jerusalem. (See Luke 19:41)

I think that today, if Jesus was to approach Rotherham, or maybe if he was to look over the town from a vantage point like Boston Castle, he would weep again. I think he would weep for the plight of Rotherham, grieve for the pain of the hundreds who have suffered abuse and despair over the breakdown of communities. The same could also be said for the situations in Iraq, Syria, Israel, Gaza or the areas of Africa affected by the Ebola virus. Jesus was, and is, full of compassion.

The horror of the exploitation has rightly brought an outcry both locally and nationally and the problems must be addressed and lessons must be learnt. In response to these events it was good to be able to take part of a time of prayer when over 400 Christians from a wide range of churches gathered in the Minster to pray for the victims, their families, the perpetrators, our communities, the police and the borough council.

It is obviously right that we should continue to pray for all of those involved in this dreadful situation, and it is also right that we do all that we can to bring about healing and justice in Rotherham. But before we do any of this, maybe we should first draw apart with God in order to sense his grief for the people, and for the town, and to weep. St Paul tells us to weep with those who weep, and sometimes the tears and the groans express more of the heart of God than long prayers and impassioned speeches.

And in situations in our communities which are potentially volatile, let it be compassion and godly grief, rather than anger and righteous indignation that spurs us on to bring about healing and change.

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Bishop Steven’s Letter – October 2014

bishopBishops in Mission Together

Earlier this year, all the bishops of the Northern Province went away together to Holy Island to pray together. The Archbishop of York called us to pray for north of England. We read the Bible together and listened to one another’s stories. We heard accounts of what God is doing across the north from a dynamic group of young adults who came with us.

But this was not just another meeting. We agreed to do something practical together: to be part of the answer to our own prayers. The bishops agreed together that once a year the Archbishop would lead us in mission for four days to a single diocese. As bishops we want to lead by example. Sharing the faith is a vital part of the life of the Church. We want to encourage one another and encourage the whole Church.

The bishops also agreed (with one voice) that we should begin this mission together in September 2015 and that we should begin in the Diocese of S h e f f i e l d .

From Thursday 10th-Sunday 13th September next year, the Archbishop of York will lead a four day mission in the Diocese of Sheffield. You may want to mark the date in your diary now. The mission team will be the Bishops of the Northern Province. Final details are still to be worked out but we hope that each Bishop will bring a team of half a dozen young people. We are hoping that there will be bishops in every deanery.

Our aim in the summer of every year is to sow the seed of the gospel in all kinds of ways. That is what we will be aiming to do next year as the Bishops join us in mission together. The teams will work in partnership with parishes, mission partnerships and deaneries in schools, in community ventures, in a range of different events.

We’re committed as a Diocese to moving forward in mission together. Please pray that as the Bishops of the North come to join us in God’s mission that we may see good fruit in every part of the Diocese.

The Church in Ponorogo, Indonesia

by David Vickers

In September I spent two weeks in East Java, Indonesia. It took just over two days to get to the village of Kambeng, outside Ponorogo. I was there for the wedding of Shahryar (from Tinsley) and Evi. We stayed in Evi’s extended family home. It was midsummer – hot and humid, but no mosquitoes. Evi’s family are the only Christians in the village, the rest are Muslim. Although Indonesia is 98% Islamic there has always been a minority of Roman Catholics. Evi and her family, however are Evangelical Christians.

I met Pastor Boediono, his family, and Samul who would be translating for me. The first Sunday there I preached on the “Peace of God”, in the morning at the Ponorogo Central Church (about 80 people) and later at a village church in Sampong (about 40 people). Most of the congregations were ex-Muslims or Muslim seekers. On Monday, I went to a packed large room of Moro Sari village home church (about 60 people). On Tuesday, people came to Evi’s home to pray for her and Shahryar, worship God, and have a party.

On Wednesday evening I preached in a Branch Church in Ponorogo on “The Blood of Jesus” to around 30 people. The wedding was on Saturday and there was a large crowd of Christian and Muslim friends and neighbours. The following day, I preached there again on “The Good Shepherd” and on Monday, I left early for Jakarta to meet other contacts. I flew home in the small hours of Wednesday morning. Please pray for the marriage of Shahryar and Evi and that she can quickly get a visa to live in UK. Pastor Boediono is an evangelist, teacher and church planter. He also spent time in South Korea to learn of their methods. He is now settled in Ponorogo, aiming to plant churches in surrounding villages.

Please pray for him, his family and growing team. Pray for continued freedom of religion in this area.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out more workers into his harvest field.” (Matt. 9:37/38)

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