While the snow swirled and blew past the church doors, we – the churches of the North Lea Valley Area of Shared Ministry (that’s us) – held a great service of worship, challenge and encouragement for all of us. We had as our theme ‘building the church’ and we shared readings, hymns and stories that reminded us the church is the people who come, and we need to be built up in our faith and witness. The church as a building needs all of us – and many more – to fill with prayer and praise to make a good witness to the things God has done.
This month of April we celebrate the principle thing that God has done for each of us: he sent his Son to live, die and live again for our sake and our salvation. That’s the Easter story which we remember on 1st April this year. The Easter Day story encapsulates the women who found the tomb was empty and that there were special messengers (angels) on-hand to explain what had happened. Then there was the amazement of Jesu’s close friends, some of whom went to the tomb to see if what they’d heard was true… and it was! We also read that Jesus came to his close friends at home or on the road so they could know the truth of resurrection in such a way they could pass the information on to people who were not privileged enough to see it for themselves.
Walking the Way
Walking the Way – Living the life of Jesus today – is a new initiative from the United Reformed Church. Through it we hope to explore what it means to actively follow, and learn from, Jesus. It’s for everyone at any stage of their Christian journey and seeks to help us all along the way.
Recall Jesus’ illustration of strong discipleship – the wise man and the foolish man! The wise man planned and built well, creating a building that would stand up to any unforeseen difficulties. Strong buildings need strong foundations. A foundation built on Jesus Christ combines a commitment to his teaching, and way of life, with an obedience to his demands on our lives. Only in that way can we really live and work according to the values of his kingdom.
One place to start is regular Bible reading. On Sundays our Bible readings follow the order of the Lectionary – a scheme that covers the whole of the Bible on a three-year cycle. This year the New Testament focus is on the Gospel of Mark. You might like to make a note of the readings each week and explore them further at home. It can be helpful to use a daily Bible reader – various readers are available, each with their own format and plan. You can also find a variety of plans for reading the Bible on the internet. During Lent we shall have a Bible study group meeting in church – you are very welcome to come along. Whichever way you choose to help you learn from the Bible, make sure you do read it regularly!
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At our harvest festival we used potatoes to help us think more about being a Christian. We talked about how potatoes grow and compared it to being a Christian. Potatoes grow underground, we only see the leaves at the top and don't know until we dig them up, how good the harvest is. Similarly people cannot see how well we are growing in faith, they only see our outward appearance. God, however, knows us inside out. We printed with potatoes to 'make our mark' as members of God's family. Then we gift wrapped our potatoes to reflect a kind and generous nature that comes with being a Christian. And finally we asked each other for prayer requests and noted those alongside our prints.
Many gifts were donated for the local foodbank and fresh produce was sold in aid of famine relief.
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During November a group met weekly to join in Bible study and to take part in banner making. We succeeded in making one more banner to hang in church on a theme of ‘New Every Morning’. Why banner making?
Well, apart from the enjoyment of seeing a banner at the front of church, there is much additional meaning in a banner. Banners are a means by which God can speak through our creativity. When creating a banner, time is spent prayerfully deciding on the words, shapes and colours so that they fit together to convey a message. The message is God’s message for all those who look at the banner, giving them the opportunity to reflect on His word through the colours and shapes of the surrounding images. The banner is also a result of the sharing of ideas within the group. It provides a way of sharing with others too the fullness of life which God brings to our church. By displaying it in church the images strengthen people in their faith by setting them thinking, widening their understanding and leading them on to new ideas. Words are wonderful in proclaiming the Good News, but words and images are even better.
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From Jill Nugent
I spent a week in August on Bardsey Island in Wales as chaplain. It's my 3rd visit as chaplain and a unique experience - open to anyone who wants to volunteer! The island is known as a holy island, at the end of the pilgrimage route along the west coast. It is a really special place, very small with the ruins of an abbey, a working farm, a bird observatory and a few houses. You have to be ready to live simply if you stay - there is no electricity, only cold water from the island well, calor gas ovens and outdoor bucket toilets. In return you get to enjoy the incredible beauty and wildlife of the island. As chaplain, I took 10 services in all, which is not actually that demanding as, except for Sunday, most were morning and evening prayers. I also set up a prayer activity, which I find is popular with the day visitors and, in addition, I kept the chapel tidy. My other task was to sit in the outdoor cafe each morning, just to talk! I have discovered you have to allow for the Holy Spirit to work on Bardsey and then go with the flow. My well prepared morning worship, for example, was attended by far fewer than an impromptu evening candlelit service, in which people obviously felt something special in the silence following the blessing, as no-one moved for 10 minutes! Bardsey is often referred to as a 'thin place'. The best thing for me is meeting people from all sorts of different backgrounds, some committed Christians, some just enquiring, yet all aware of the significance of the history of Christianity on the island.
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Our church is registered in the Eco Church scheme. This is what it is all about:
Eco Church is an award scheme set up by the environmental organisation ARocha UK and helps churches to show, and promote, care for the environment. It involves an online survey, to which churches can return again and again as they act further to increase their care for the environment. There are five key areas – worship and teaching, management of church buildings, management of church land, community and global engagement, lifestyle. (The survey takes into account if a church has no land). There are three levels of awards - bronze, silver and gold. If a church feels they have reached a certain level they can apply for an award, although for a gold award they need an assessor to check – only three churches in the UK have so far achieved gold! At present we at Cheshunt are working towards achieving a bronze award, maybe in 2018.
Everyone can help, for example, by improving lifestyle, suggesting ideas for buildings and teaching, looking for ways to connect to the community. It is all part of being good stewards of God’s earth.
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