Walking the way of Jesus, as we are encouraged to do more actively and more positively, is a lifetime journey. The Bible can help us find the right way. In the Old Testament, the leaders of the faith gave the Israelites three instructions – as you journey remember what God has done, make a choice to stick close to God and be a witness for God. There are always distractions along the way, obstacles to get around and cross ways, where decisions need to be made. But the important thing is to recognise that, in difficult places, we learn and eventually come through to a better place. Then we have much to tell about God.
In the new Testament, Paul reminds us to keep our eyes on Jesus. He is the way. If we stray he brings us back. His is a way of love, justice and peace, a way that we should all take care to follow closely. It is a way that encourages us to serve and to witness too. As we follow his way we grow closer to God. We might stop growing physically, but we continue growing in our relationship with God. That never stops. And the more people we can encourage to walk with us, the more enjoyable and blessed our walk becomes.
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A Prayer Diary for Creation Time
September 1st – October 4th is Creation Time for the churches. It starts with the World day of prayer for Care of Creation and ends with St Francis of Assisi day. We are encouraged to pray for God’s creation and to promote care for creation in any way we can. Here are some ideas for prayer and reflection.
1 Stand up and ‘plant yourself’ in a spot outdoors. Be completely still. Close your eyes and feel the ground, solid beneath your feet. Feel the connection to the deep earth, rich and fertile, and recognise it as a gift. Now look upwards and sense the air around you - the stuff of life that is so essential, yet far too often taken for granted. Join hands with a friend. Feel the strength, the fragility, the connection of one to another. There are over 7 billion of us sharing this planet, with each other and God’s created order. Bloom where you are planted but remember to share God’s good earth.
2 This year’s theme is ‘walking together’. Take a walk in a garden or park. Look closely at the plants, bushes and trees. Notice the leaves, the light and shade, the movement in the breeze. Focus on the flowers, the colours and shapes of the petals. Smell the air around you as you listen out for wildlife – insects, birds, small animals. Recognise your place in their world, pray for guidance as to how best look after the natural areas around where you live.
3 Spend some time finding out about places in the world where creation is spoilt, either through the direct actions of humans or as a result of climate change. They may be places where weather is now unpredictable, places that no longer support active ecosystems, places that have suffered in wildfires, droughts, or conflict. Join with others in confessing to God our abuse of his gift of creation and our yearning to set it right.
4 Read any books, magazines or leaflets you can find that tell about the work of Christians who are concerned about the state of the natural world and want to improve it. For example, ARocha, Operation Noah, Creation Care Network. Pray for the work they do and pray with them for the natural environment.
In this Creation Time
We commit ourselves to follow You
To build a world of love, justice and peace
And to be better stewards of Your creation.
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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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Our day retreat was both enjoyable and interesting. The theme was church architecture and we started off with a Cathedrals quiz, then shared thoughts on what sort of church we would like to build, if we had the opportunity. We looked at some pictures of brand new churches in different countries. We were surprised and intrigued at the variety of shapes, sizes and colours.
The speaker, a Diocesan advisor, gave us a potted history of church architecture. He showed us some building plans and explained how church buildings have grown through development and extension. He talked about some of the projects he has been involved in, such as adding a toilet space at the base of a tower in a local church.
We were treated to a very tasty lunch of salads and desserts, which resulted in many people taking the opportunity to relax and enjoy conversation afterwards. Meanwhile a few looked at books on the subject, drew pictures or made models. We came away refreshed and with a new understanding.
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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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As part of the URC initiative Walking the Way, we shall be introducing a series of ‘Holy Habits’ at church during the next few months. ‘Holy Habits’ is a way to nurture Christian discipleship. It is set out in a collection of 10 books. Each book has a separate theme. The 10 themes are - Biblical Teaching, Fellowship, Breaking Bread, Prayer, Sharing Resources, Serving, Eating Together, Gladness and Generosity, Worship, Making More Disciples. They are based on the account in Acts 2: 42-47, where Luke describes the life of the early church and, as such, should encourage Christians to learn and grow as disciples.
Initially the elders at Cheshunt are reading all of the books and making a note of any ideas they think are worth trying. Over time, the church can explore these ideas in worship, study, fellowship and, indeed, individually at home. Holy Habits are designed to be repeatable so that they become a rhythm of life for us all. They are flexible and meant for everyone, regardless of age, ability or situation. The books are available in church and from Thames North Synod. Holy Habits are for sharing so any ideas are very welcome!
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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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