Something had to change. Someone had to blow the whistle. Corruption had to be exposed and systems changed. How do you bring about change in an international, global entity without destroying it? How do you repair something from within so that it functions properly? How do you make the change so thorough that it doesn’t revert after a few years?
Hollywood with its couches may be asking that at the moment, but someone was asking those questions 500 years ago, not of films, but of the church. That someone was Martin Luther, a German monk full of ups and downs in his faith, but jolly certain he was not going to let his flock be ripped off by underhand bribery and corrupt clergy.
He asked some question: 95 to be precise.
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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The 3 churches day retreat was enjoyed by all. We took part in a music quiz, learnt a little about the history of church music and sang a selection of modern hymns to traditional tunes. Lunch was a highlight, as usual. Afterwards there was the opportunity to have a go at writing a hymn and setting it to music. The day closed with sharing and prayer.
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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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I recently attended a partner church conference with Open Doors. We were privileged to hear from Pastor Edward who lives in Damascus and is well known to Open Doors. He described how people in Syria are feeling very frustrated after six years of troubles and seemingly no end in sight. They thought that if they prayed then God would do something but it seems to them that he has not done anything. However, they are seeking encouragement from the book of Habakkuk, who learnt to wait on God, silently, and to trust God for a favourable outcome.
Pastor Edward went on to talk about living in hope. He referred to Romans 8, where Paul says all things work together for good. God has a special love and care for his people, he knows us intimately. He has a purpose for us all. Pastor Edward tells his church to picture it like the wings of an eagle, on one wing is God’s sovereignty and on the other is God’s love. We need both! We were also introduced to a new resource for churches called Dangerous Faith. It is useful for either individual or group study and is based on the Book of Acts. It consists of eight sessions, with a video, Bible study and discussion questions.
If you would like to read about Open Doors, the latest magazine is always on the table in the vestibule in church alongside a monthly prayer diary.
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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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