A big hello from Amy, Marvin and Pearl!

Thanks to all those who prayed with us as we sought to appoint a children's and family coordinator for the church.  Well, I'm delighted to say that we've been able to appoint two! - Amy and Marvin are working together in the role as a job share, and here they are introducing themselves.  Please continue to pray for them, Pearl and the whole church community. image1

Marvin: likes seeing young people take a lead in worship, anything to do with sport, music, playing guitar, ice-cream and weather that allows him to wear shorts.

Amy: likes seeing young people grow in confidence to pray for others, running, baking cupcakes, sewing, writing about Africa, making old things look new and generally being creative.

Pearl: likes chasing people, food, cuddles, sunflowers and being loud!

We are so happy to be joining the family at St. Christophers.

We, well Marvin and Amy, are starting the job as the Children's, Family and Mission Leader. Pearl at only 13months will be playing her part as our sidekick.

As we start out on this adventure with you all we thought we better tell you a bit about how God has led us to this point. Both of us have always had a passion for working with young people. Marvin started out as a sports coach with Zimbabwe cricket setting up academies for school children. Amy trained as a primary school teacher before deciding to jet off to Zimbabwe to work for a church as their Youth Leader. Over the six years that followed we spent a lot of time working together running youth outreaches, uniting youth work in the city of Mutare, and having the privilege of God using us to reconcile street children with their families. Somewhere amongst all this we realised God had put us together for the long term so we got married in the UK in 2010, turning up only 3 weeks before our wedding. After this we spent one more year in Zimbabwe before coming to the UK, where Marvin worked as the youth leader of St. Michaels Budbrooke and Amy worked with Holy Trinity Coventry and the Cathedral. Then not so long ago our precious Pearl turned up, which led us to go for an extended trip to Zimbabwe to see family and take time to hear from God. And now God has brought us to you.

Please come and ask us lots of questions and we really want to hear all your dreams and hopes for the future of St. Christopher's.

Application Deadline extended - Wanted: Children’s and Families’ Coordinator and Mission Leader

Job Advert Children and Families’ coordinator required. A blank sheet of paper is on offer to shape and create vibrant and outward-looking children and families’ work. Building on the existing children’s ministry and strong relationships with our local Church of England Academy, your role would be to grow and extend this work and help build God’s kingdom. We’re looking for an entrepreneurial, creative, missional-minded leader and communicator who can think strategically and has a passion for children’s and youth work.

Role Description

Title: Children’s and Families’ Coordinator and Mission Leader for the Parish of St Christopher’s Allesley Park and Whoberley

Responsible to: The Vicar and PCC of the Parish

Line Manager: Vicar

Hours:   40 hours per week (full time) Salary: – £21,000 - £23,000 depending on qualifications and experience

Contract: 12 months, with potential for further extension of this project.

Appointment to start: Preferably September 2015 Vision and aim St Christopher’s Church is a community that caters for families with young children. We have a strong history of regular attendance of around 20-25 children up to the age of 14 on Sunday mornings. We also have a strong connection with our local primary school academy and uniformed groups. We would now like to build on this through appointing a full-time children’s and families’ worker who can provide strong leadership and continue to develop youth and children’s work in the Parish.

The main aims of the role are to …

  • Establish a clear strategy for children’s and youth work, shaping the vision, values, programmes and priorities to establish St Christopher’s as a robust centre of Christian faith for children and families, and see this ministry flourish and grow.
  • Communicate, and train others to communicate, the message of Jesus Christ to children and their families and establish young disciples whose vigour and openness to God speaks to the whole church and community.
  • Lead and participate in Sunday and mid-week children’s work provision, including being part of the team ensuring that any worship is inspiring for children and families. This will include Messy Church, Sunday services, and potentially developing new forms of worship. Mentor and equip children’s and youth work volunteers and enable them to access appropriate training.
  • Equip parents for the challenges of being godly parents and to bring up their children in the Christian faith.
  • Build on existing good relationships with schools and uniformed groups to reach out to the community with the love of Jesus.
  • Provide pastoral and mentoring support to children and families in the setting of the church and partnering school, St John’s Church of England Academy (and possibly others).

The age range covered by the worker will be 0 – 18 years, with a particular emphasis currently on 4-11 year olds

Funding is in place for the first 12 months. We anticipate that this role would be extended beyond one year as further funding is achieved. The successful candidate would be required to assist with fundraising for the development and extension of this pioneering role.

 

Person Specification

Qualifications

  • A professional qualification or significant experience in working with children/young people and families.

Skills, Aptitude, Knowledge and Experience

  • An infectious love of Jesus Christ, with the ability to sensitively lead young people and families to Him. Ability to disciple young people and adults in a family context.
  • Leadership skills and passion to create a strategy and implement innovative programmes for children’s work and family support in a Christian context, in alignment with the 8 Essential Qualities for Healthy Churches (see healthychurches.org.uk).
  • Skills to communicate and connect with young people and families, and a strong awareness of children/youth culture and issues.
  • Enthusiasm and strong motivational skills to inspire, train and mentor individuals and teams to achieve results.
  • Good understanding of Safeguarding policies and their application.
  • Ability to plan for the continuation of the Children and Family worker role and to submit persuasive and financially credible funding applications.

Occupational Requirement

  • It is an Occupational Requirement (Schedule 9 part 1 of the Equality Act 2010) of this post to have a committed Christian faith.

Apply with a CV and a covering letter demonstrating how you meet the person specification and explaining why you feel a sense of God’s call to this role – to revandymarch@gmail.com

Rev Andy March

St Christopher’s Vicarage

99 Buckingham Rise

Coventry

CV5 9HF

Application Deadline extended to Wednesday 29th July, 23:59

Wanted - Children and Families’ Coordinator and Mission Leader

Children and Families’ worker required. A blank sheet of paper is on offer to shape and create a vibrant and outward-looking children and families’ work. Building on the existing children’s ministry and strong relationships with our local Church of England Academy, your role would be to grow and extend this work and help build God’s kingdom. We’re looking for an entrepreneurial, creative, missional-minded leader and communicator who can think strategically and has a passion for children’s and youth work.

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Gift Weekend 2015 - A vision for our future

This letter has been distributed to our congregation over the past couple of weeks. Firstly, thank you so much for your ongoing generosity in supporting the mission and ministry of St Christopher’s Church.

Your generosity supports staff costs, including a full-time vicar, key administrative support, cleaning and maintenance of the church buildings; and helps us sustain a Christian presence in this community, as well as supporting some of the poorer parishes in the city.  To keep us going at this current level, we need to raise additional income year on year.

But we can do so much more!  The PCC has an exciting vision for developing our mission and ministry particularly among children and families, which have been such a key part of our church family for many years.   Children and families’ work has been identified as our main priority going forward and coordinating this work has been a challenge.  To develop this work, we have a vision to appoint a full-time children and families’ worker who will coordinate and support all those who are part of our vital Sunday children’s ministry; support our current church families; build on existing links with the local school communities; and reach out in mission to the families in our community.   This ministry could make an incredible difference to our church and wider community, and secure the future of the church in Allesley Park for generations to come.

To maintain our current work and to achieve this exciting vision, we need to raise an extra £25,000 per year.  With Gift Aid, we would only need 60 people to give an average of £30 per month extra (or 45 people to give £40 per month extra) – spread across our whole congregation this could be as little as an extra £5 per person per week.

To begin to raise this money, we will hold a Gift Weekend on 28-29 March. You can either pop in from 2-4pm on Saturday, when the church will be open for coffee and cake; or bring your pledges to church at the Sunday services. It seems like a big ask, but anything is possible with God! Look out for the Gift Day response forms, which will be available soon.

Thank you for playing such a vital part in our church’s mission and ministry.

God bless

Andy (on behalf of the PCC)

Alpha Course - Explore the meaning of life - coming soon!

alpha postcard front The Alpha Course

Tuesday evenings, 7:30-9:30pm 3 February – 31 March 2015 The Minstrel Boy, Buckingham Rise Suggested donation - £4 per session (for main course and drink. Dessert available for £1.50)*

After a fantastic beer and carols night in December, we're really excited to annouce that we're running our next Alpha Course at the Minstrel Boy.

Alpha is a chance to explore the meaning of life. Over a series of 7 sessions, you’ll find out about the basics of the Christian faith. We meet to eat together and each talk is followed by discussion in small groups. To find out more visit alpha.org Alpha is for everyone; no question is out of bounds and you are free to discuss as much or as little as you wish. We don’t assume any background knowledge of or belief in Christianity and everyone is welcome.

For more information and to register (by 31 January) contact Rev. Andy March  7667 2879 revandymarch@gmail.com.

* meal is optional. If you would appreciate help in covering the cost of this, please speak to Andy in confidence.

Joy in heaven

 

I love the verses in the Bible that talk about God’s delight in us, about partying and rejoicing in heaven when people come to him.  Jesus said, “Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” And, in my favourite verse in the Bible, we’re told … 

“The Lord your God is with you,
 he is mighty to save. 
He will take great delight in you; he will quiet you with his love,
 he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

Most of the time it seems incredible to think of God rejoicing and delighting in us, but last Sunday I think all of us who gathered for worship at St Christopher’s got a taste of what that’s all about.

 

Sunday was a day to remember for us as we welcomed Rob and Tony to "the best family in the world - God's". Rob was baptised and Tony reaffirmed his baptism vows. When most people think of baptism, certainly within the Anglican Church, they think of a baby being baptised with a sprinkle of water, but Sunday's baptism was very different. For a start, it took place in the vicarage garden. Secondly, there was no font in sight, but rather a baptistry that looked more like a hot tub. Thirdly, Rob and Tony are adults, and there would be no sprinkling - they would both be fully immersed in the water.  This would be no ordinary baptism, and it was wonderful to hear them share their stories of why they were making this declaration of faith.

 

Both of them did the Alpha course earlier in the year, which proved very significant for them in their journey of faith. 

 

Rob had been brought up as a Christian, but he didn't fully embrace the Christian faith - it wasn't fully real to him. He was waiting for a "Damascus Road" experience. Something changed last year when he wanted to find out more about God, so he signed up for Alpha. He found it incredibly helpful, and he realised he didn't need a dramatic experience of God; he simply needed to accept Jesus into his life.  Since he made that decision, Rob has experienced real peace in his life - he has come to realise that the words from Isaiah that he has in his room, "do not be afraid, for I am with you" (53:4) are true for him; that God will never leave him.

 

Tony had been baptised as a baby, but never believed. He read many books desperately searching for answers to questions he had about life, but his search seemed fruitless. The one belief he had always had was that there is a creator.  Tony also did Alpha, and he found it life-changing. Over the course of those months, he found faith, and it has made a huge difference to him. Suddenly everything seems in technicolour.  As he testified on Sunday, "I was blind, but now I can see." Tony wanted to mark this new beginning, the new life he's found in Jesus by reaffirming his baptism vows by full immersion. 

 P1020391 P1020397 P1020405 P1020419 P1020424

It was an incredible experience for Tony and Rob, and all those who were present to celebrate with them, and it is a huge privilege to be involved in their journey of faith.  

 

So, Sunday was the beginning of new life, a lifelong journey of faith for Rob and Tony. It was wonderful to celebrate with them, to welcome them into our family of faith, to witness to the difference that Jesus makes to people's lives today. It was a joyous morning, one that I for one will never forget. I'm so grateful to God for his amazing grace, and for the new life and transformation he brings.

Foodbank - Fridays 1-3pm

This exciting new project starts on Friday 16 May 2014 at Allesley Park Evangelical Church between 1pm on 3pm.    Foodbank will take place each Friday 1pm – 3pm.

This initiative is taking place in association with Coventry Central Foodbank with the Trussell Trust and is a joint project between Bethesda and St Christopher’s Church and an example of how Churches are working together to serve the community in a practical way.

If you wish to donate, or be involved please email contact@apec-Coventry.org.uk or revandymarch@gmail.com for more details.

How a foodbank works

Food is donated

Schools, churches, businesses and individuals donate non-perishable, in-date food to the foodbank. All food given out by foodbanks is donated.

‘Supermarket Collections’ are one of the main ways that food is donated: These are food drives held at supermarkets where volunteers give shoppers a ‘foodbank shopping list’ and ask them to buy an extra item or two for local people in crisis.

Food is sorted and stored

Volunteers sort food to check that it’s in date and pack it into boxes ready to be given to people in need.

Frontline care professionals identify people in need

Care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, CAB and police identify people in crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher.

Clients receive food

Foodbank clients bring their voucher to a foodbank centre where it can be redeemed for three days emergency food. Volunteers meet clients over a cup of tea or free hot meal and are able to signpost people to agencies able to solve the longer-term problem.

 

Messy Church … A way to reach out and transform lives outside our church walls?

Why did Messy Church begin?

Fewer and fewer families are coming to church in this country today, Sunday Schools don’t seem to be as effective as they once were; SO, how do we reach families today?

Many churches use special events such as holiday clubs or seasonal events as a way of reaching families, but they run once or twice a year.  If we are serious about the nurture of children we need to work with their whole family, taking whole family with them on their journey of faith.

Messy Church started out of a desire to address this key issue. It began in Hampshire in 2004 and now there are 2021 Messy Churches around the world (and counting!). Messy Church happens usually once a month at a time and date that suits families in the local area. We are trying to base our Messy Church on these well-established values.

 

What are its values?

¬  Christ-centred – Messy Church is a church congregation, not a craft club, that helps people encounter Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

¬  All-age – It is for adults and children to enjoy together - every element should be relevant and accessible to all ages.

¬  Creativity – It uses hands-on activities to explore Bible stories, to reflect a God of creativity and to give people a chance to play.

¬  Hospitality – It reflects a God of unconditional love and is a church for people outside church, providing an oasis of welcome and a safe space in which to thrive. Messy Church is about hospitality, expressed most evidently by eating together.

¬  Celebration – It reflects a God of joy who wants his people to have life in all its fullness.

 

What myths need busting?

¬  It's NOT ... Just for kids. … BUT for all ages to be together.

¬  It's NOT ... Mainly for church families, … BUT primarily for people outside church life. This affects how you do it and when.

¬  It's NOT ... A bridge into "normal" church ... BUT a church congregation in its own right

¬  It's NOT ... Just a social activity ... BUT a way to learn about Jesus.

¬  It's NOT ... a programme, event, … BUT it is church. Messy church has never intended to be a bridge into “proper” church, although we will explore ways of growing disciples within this community. 

 

Why "Messy"??

Jesus was drawn to those whose lives weren’t neat and tidy and so should we be. We want Messy Church to be accessible to those who perceive church to be for people who are "holier than thou", "tidy", “sorted” and “on their best behaviour”.

 

What about Allesley Park and Whoberley?

¬Venue – Whoberley has been identified as having particular needs that our church is not currently addressing, and so the school is the most convenient place for people living there. We want to step into the community, not make them feel like visitors to OUR church.

¬Time –Sunday afternoons seem to be the least busy time for whole families, particularly young families, both those who attend and those who organise the events.

 

SO… How can we make our Messy Church more effective?

¬Invite our friends – This is the most important thing we need. We want to bless our friends! Who cared enough to invite us to church? Take a risk and keep asking!

¬At the events – dig a little deeper, go the extra mile to really get to know those we don’t know, and demonstrate God’s love to them (without scaring people off!)

¬All talents needed! – We need people who can – work technology, be musical, organise food, help set up and tidy away chairs and tables, plan creative ideas, talk to families and welcome them, help on craft tables, offer to help as often as you feel able. Doesn’t matter how old or young you are, whether you have family or not, you can have a part to play!

¬Door knocking – Do you want to reach out enough to personally invite those we have no contacts with? We want to target certain streets with flyers, chocolates and friendly faces.

¬Pray – because we believe prayer makes a difference.

 

Vicar's Report - Part 2 - Review

This is the point in the year when I am given the opportunity to reflect over the past year and also to look forward to where God may be leading us in future.  

In many ways it’s been a challenging year. We’ve suffered significant losses within our church community – saying goodbye to John Clarke just over 12 months ago, and Trevor Veasey and Pete Beasley at the beginning of this year – has been pretty tough. And I know that others within the church community have suffered the loss of parents or siblings. So it’s been hard. Within a tight knit community like ours, these sorts of losses are hard to bear. A number of our church community have become housebound which means they’re unable to attend church as they used to. We’ve also had to say goodbye to Lynnette. While we are delighted for her at this new dawn for her ministry at St Alban’s, it’s been hard to say farewell to someone who’s been such a significant part of our church family for many years. We continue to pray with her and for her that she would flourish and that God would continue to work through her to enable that church community to flourish too.

 

As I’ve already mentioned we’ve begun the process of discerning our strengths and weakness as a church community. Thanks to those who took time out to complete the church survey – I think it will prove to be a really helpful process for us as a church community. The overall picture is really encouraging – there’s lots to celebrate and be positive about in our life together. The results are in, and from the responses of those who completed the strengths of our community have been shown to be

1)    gifts based ministry – in other words, as a community, we’re strong on using our God-given gifts

2)    empowering leadership – we have leaders who empower other leaders to take up roles and responsibilities within the life of our church community

 

These should be celebrated and we can build on these strengths.

 

The two areas that we need to work on the most are in the areas of

1)    Needs-oriented outreach – in other words, we’re not focused as much as we could be in meeting the needs of the community, although I must say that my reflection from having known the community over the past 18 months or so, we have a genuine desire to reach out – the problem has been that we don’t really know how we can do that. My prayer is that with the development of the Foodbank distribution centre based at Bethesda some of this will be addressed.

2)    Loving relationships – from the survey responses, this came out as the least developed area of our church’s life. While there are strong relationships within our church community, and we are clearly a community that looks after each other, where we seem to be weaker in this area is more atmosphere of the church community – those who completed the questionnaire felt there wasn’t enough joy and laughter in the church, and that we’re not full of praise and compliments for each other, and also that some within the church community hold bitterness towards others.

 

This may surprise you, but I must reiterate that these results have come from the questionnaire that members of our church community have completed. It could be that there has been a lack of joy and laughter due to the season we’ve been in as a church, as we’ve had to deal with lots of loss, grief and change, but it could be there’s something else going on, something else we need to deal with.

 

The vision team will be meeting this week to begin putting together an action plan to help us focus on building up the church in this area of loving relationships. The aim is to come up with two or three actions over the next year.   I can’t pre-empt what these actions will be, but I think the main thing is that we’re going to try and create opportunities to have lots of fun together as a whole church community – and you know what, I can’t wait!

 

I’m happy to take any questions on these or any other areas of our church life, but before I do, I want to speak about where we are currently and where God might be leading us in the areas of our vision statement – worshipping God, making new disciples, transforming communities.

vision logo

Worshipping God

This has been our main focus over the past 12 months as we’ve been consolidating the changes that were made with the services. Thanks to all those who completed the congregation questionnaire – it was really helpful. I’m not going to go into it in detail – these are covered in the hand out that’s still available for you to pick up and look at - but the overall impression is that people seem happy with the services themselves, but there has been a sense of loss of fellowship, due to having two congregations instead of one – which means the church is more empty. People also miss the sense of fellowship because their friends go to a different service. Having looked at the information of the survey, it struck me that there were two main options available going forward – going back to a 10am service, but having a contemporary style of service each week, rather than alternating styles of worship, because an alternating style of worship hinders growth. We need to have consistency of styles every Sunday – we need contemporary worship each Sunday, because we have lots of families and need to build for the future.  A key disadvantage with this would be that as a significant minority who prefer traditional worship wouldn’t have their needs being met in our main service.

service pref

An alternative time in the week would need to be found. Would this be fair? The other would be to carry on with two morning services at 9:15 and 11am, but making the following alterations …

1)    1 morning service – 5th Sundays, school holidays, etc., which will mean an average of 22 Sundays in the year when we worship together as a whole church community. We’ll have more occasions like the Mother’s Day celebration we shared in last week.

2)    Joint fellowship time between services at 10:30 – notices, announcements, etc. So, from 27 April, the 11am service will become a 10:30 service, except it’ll begin with “Family time” and the service itself will begin at around 11. It’ll also mean that this service will finish by about 12:15 and people can head home for lunch!

When the PCC met there was an acknowledgement that this is a really tough decision. There is no way of pleasing everyone. We had to try and make a decision that’d be best long term for St Christopher’s. After a long conversation there was a clear and decisive vote to keep with the current pattern with those conditions already set out. It was felt that we have made this decision now, and as a whole church community we need to move on from this issue. Of course, the services continue be works in progress, and we will endeavour to work on enabling each of us to flourish in our worship of God together.

 

Making new disciples

¬  Alpha – we’ve held two Alpha courses for adults and one for youth over the past year, with 14 adults and 11 young people completing the course. In September 14 members of our church community were confirmed, which is wonderful and so exciting. It’s been fantastic to witness the growth in faith of these people.

¬  We’re now running a fortnightly youth group and we’re hoping that one new housegroup will form from Alpha.

¬  Sunday teaching – Of course, we’re all disciples, which is why the teaching has been focused on Jesus in the Gospel of Mark since September – I hope it’s been helpful to re-lay the foundations of our faith, reminding ourselves of why we worship Jesus and why we’re called to share his love. After Easter the teaching will move to focus on how the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit to change the world, and then from September we will begin to look at the question of what does it mean to say we belong to Jesus, and what does it mean to follow him?

¬  Parish weekend – I’m tremendously excited that from 7-9 November Adrian and Bridget Plass will be leading our teaching. The theme of the weekend will be “Follow me” – journeying with Jesus – and it will be exploring what it means to be Jesus’ disciples. Make sure you save that date for what should be a wonderful weekend.

 

plass

 

Transforming communities

The area of needs-oriented outreach is, as we’ve already discerned, an area for development, but we do have some things to celebrate in this area …

¬  Hub Cafe – Is a wonderful ministry for the community, and I know people value the company as well as the food. Thanks to all those who make it possible, who give up their time week in and week out. They could, of course, do with more volunteers, so we’d appreciate it if anyone were able to offer assistance.

hub cafe logo hub worship colour logo

Chat to Brian or Rosemary if you are able to help. We’ve also moved our midweek communion to 11:15 on Wednesdays to enable people from the hub to join us in worship. Hopefully in time this will build.

¬  Christopher Robin – has grown from strength to strength – church hall is full almost every Tuesday, which is fantastic – thanks to Liz, Maria, Laura, Katy and Roy for your hard work making it happen.

cr1

 

¬  Messy Church – is still in its fledgling stages, but we’re encouraged to see that a few families have begun to attend who don’t normally attend church.

 

 

messy logo messy1 messy2 messy3

Please do read the information you received with your AGM papers to read more about it, or see the post about Messy Church on this website.

¬  Church-run community events – Christmas fair, fashion shows, heart of England co-operative orchestra, Big Promise – 28 couples celebrating marriage (see earlier post).

fashion1 concert xmas fair 1 xmas fair 3 xmas fair 2

 

¬  Foodbank – it was wonderful to welcome Gavin Kibble from Coventry Foodbank to join us for our Big Brunch in September. It’s also so wonderful to see the donations box in church always full. I’m tremendously excited to tell you that we had a fantastic meeting a couple of weeks ago and 20 people came together to say that they were willing to be involved in setting up a new Foodbank distribution centre as a joint project between Bethesda and St Christopher’s that will be based at Bethesda – it’s hoped that we will begin this project in May – it’s not too late to get involved – we have training on Friday 9th May from 12:30-3pm for anyone interested.

 

As you can see there’s so much going on – so much to celebrate and give thanks for. God is at work in this community. He is at work in this church. Easter reminds us that there is resurrection hope and new life and new beginnings. So, let’s commit ourselves afresh to the building of his kingdom here in this place, holding firm to his promises.

Vicar's Report - APCM - Part 1 - Love in Action

  John  13:34-35

‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

 

Romans 12:9-21

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

 

I love our church logo, for 3 reasons –

 

new logo

1)    it reminds us of the people we’re primarily called to serve – the people of Allesley Park and Whoberley

2)    it reminds us of our primary calling – to share God’s love

3)    it reminds us that the cross is at the centre. We’re here because of the love God demonstrated in such an extraordinary way by sending Jesus to live and die for us. God’s sacrificial love for us should be at the centre of who we are as individuals and as a community. The only appropriate way to respond to love is to love in return. Our whole lives should be an expression of our love for God, lived out in devotion to the God who gave everything for us.

 

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied that there were 2 – love God with everything you are and everything you have, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. Love God, love your neighbour. Share God’s love – receive it and give it out in whole-life worship of God and in loving each other.

 

But, what does sharing God’s love look like? What does it mean to be loving as a community and as individuals?

 

Paul is quite clear – as loving people, as a loving people, we’re called to be devoted, joyful, patient, sincere, faithful, prayerful, hospitable, generous. We must hate what’s evil and cling to what’s good. When we’re under attack from friend or foe, when the temptation is to strike back with a few choice words, we’re called to bless and not curse people – to their face and behind their backs too.

 

This is tough stuff, isn’t it. Part of the nature of community is that we rub up alongside each other, sometimes we rub each other up the wrong way! Sometimes we can be guilty of being careless in the way we speak to each other, and others of us are guilty of overreacting and seeking to bite back. I know I’ve been guilty of this. One time in particular, in my previous church, I was setting up my guitar for worship. It was 10 minutes before the service on the Sunday after Christmas. I’d been very busy and was pretty tired, ready for a break, but I’d been asked to play for the service. Someone, a significant member of the church community came in and said, “Oh no, not more inane strumming!” I was speechless and we had words. Suffice to say, it was not my finest hour. Though I was justified in being cross I wrote a letter to him a couple of days later to apologise for my own part in the row, but I did ask him to think before making those sorts of comments again – they can only do harm rather than good. It’s so important that we’re gracious to each other. For example, when people have clearly put a great deal of effort into organising events, etc I’m aware how easy it is when you think something’s not right to voice your opinion there and then. We all do this – many of us have a critical streak in them – but it’s not always very helpful. Advice I was given when thinking about giving feedback – immediately after something’s happened, only give positive feedback. If you have anything constructively critical to say, wait a few days and find a way to say something in a sensitive way.

 

Paul is clear that we should live in harmony with each other. This doesn’t mean avoiding conflict altogether – this is impossible in any community, but it does mean being willing to discuss things with people who may have hurt us. It certainly doesn’t mean talking about that person behind their back – however cross we feel! Let’s be honest when we make mistakes. Also, where necessary, be willing to say sorry – I find this really hard, because admitting when we’ve made mistakes involves swallowing quite a bit of pride. It also means being willing to forgive? St Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (vv.23-24). We have found unconditional forgiveness and acceptance through the grace of God. We’re called to reflect that unconditional forgiveness and acceptance in our community. We’re called to share God’s love. Let’s pray that God would give us the grace and strength to live out this command, that all that we encounter across this community and beyond may know and experience that we’re a community committed to living out what it is to share God’s love.

Living hope - funeral sermon for Pete Beasley

It has been a very difficult time for our church fellowship since Christmas. We said another difficult goodbye to another member of our church family a couple of weeks ago, to Pete, who died from cancer, only 54; still so young. His death has raised many questions, I know, so I hope some people will find helpful the text of the sermon I preached at his funeral, based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Please do pray for his family and friends as they grieve. --------

Life is full of glory, beauty, mysteries, questions. Some of the answers we discover over time, some we’ll never know the answers to. One of the questions I know that many have asked in the past few months is simply, why? Just 9 months ago Pete ran a half-marathon. He was fit and healthy. He was happy. We’ve heard how secure and loved he was in his family, with Heather, Emma and JB, and with his church family, and with his friends, family and colleagues. He was enjoying his present and planning for the future. There was no reason to expect that this would change. And yet, here we are today, saying goodbye. Why him? Why did he have to go through such a terrible illness and why did he have to die so young – only 54? Why? It doesn’t seem fair. And you know what, it’s not. It stinks. Illness is awful. Cancer is particularly awful. Why does God allow this sort of stuff to go on? I don’t think we will ever really know the answer to that question. But I believe we have the right to shout at God and ask him why, to tell him it’s not fair. He’s our heavenly Father. He loves us and quite frankly, he’s big enough to take it. At the heart of the Christian faith we remember Jesus on the cross, crying out in desolation and loneliness – why? Where are you God? If Jesus could cry out like that, then we can too.

And how, do we imagine God would answer that question? Where are you? I think he’d answer, I’m right here. I’ve always been here. And you know what, Pete knew that. I had the privilege of spending time with him in the past few months of his life, and he knew that God was with him; he was given strength to withstand his illness; God was also present through the way Pete was loved and supported by his family and friends who loved and cared for him. Pete also knew that whatever happened to him, he’d be ok somehow. He was given strength by God and his faith stood firm. Some of you might be wondering how he could be given such strength. After all, many of us are terrified by the thought – either of our own death, or of the death of a loved one. Woody Allen, the American comedian, actor and director, certainly is. He is so terrified of death that he makes jokes about it. “It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens. I don't want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying.”

Woody Allen isn’t alone in fearing death, is he? But Pete wasn’t afraid. Why? Because his hope was in Jesus. Because of Jesus’ lived, died and rose again, we can have hope in the face of death. This is what we see in our Bible passage we just heard.

Saint Paul was writing to a community like ours that was grieving. People they loved had died. Those left behind were devastated and left with many questions. Paul deals with these issues head on. “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” Paul is not suggesting that grief is wrong – not at all. There is no doubt that death is a terrible thing and that it is devastating when people die, especially in tragic or unexpected circumstances. Grief is right and proper. I mean, I’m gutted to be standing here saying goodbye to Pete, who became a real friend. I can’t imagine what you must be going through when you loved him for so long. But we can be givencomfort and strength through our hope in Jesus. As St. Paul explains, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (v.14). In other words, he’s saying, don’t let your grief be sharpened by worrying about those who have died with faith in Jesus. Pete’s ok now. He’s with Jesus. Jesus died and rose again, to take away the power of death. He dealt with the sin of the whole world on the cross. The sinless one took on the consequence of our sin, and died. In rising again he defeated death once and for all. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul exclaims – “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55).

Those who have faith in Jesus have only “fallen asleep”; death is only temporary. If Jesus died and rose again, those who have died having had faith in him will rise again too. We die physically, but faith in Jesus makes us alive spiritually and that’s why we shouldn’t grieve like other men – we have hope. Hope that will never die. Death is not the end. There is an amazing future that God has promised for us. Though the world is messed up, hurting and broken, Jesus will return and restore the whole creation to its former, perfect glory, and there will be the most wonderful of reunions – as Paul writes, “we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” – in other words – those Christians who have died are in God’s care and they won’t be missing out at all when Jesus returns – they will be with their saviour who lived and died for them – and they’ll come back with Jesus to meet those who are still alive. There’ll be the most incredible reunion. And most wonderfully of all, there is that promise, “we will be with the Lord forever.” Wow!

Brothers and sisters, this is good news and I would suggest that it is news that we need to hear over and over again. Especially at times like these. Especially in the days, weeks, months and years to come when we ache for Pete and other loved ones from whom we’ve been separated, when the silences are deafening and things you’ve enjoyed simply aren’t the same anymore. We may wonder when the pain will end? When will it go away? This passage tells us the answer – the pain will end for good when Jesus returns, when everything will be made perfect again. Listen to this from Revelation 21: “Now the dwelling of God is with people, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself willbe with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (vv. 3 and 4) I love that passage of Scripture. It paints a wonderful picture of what it will be like when we will live with the Lord forever. It’ll be the end of suffering, the end of sin, and the end of death. This is great news. Jesus is coming back! The Lord is coming back! It is really going to happen. Jesus has given us hope in the face of death. Pete knew that hope. I can’t wait to be reunited with him one day. Maybe we’ll go for that run with him that I always promised I’d do.

Of course, we don’t really know what heaven’s going to be like, but I do believe in faith that Pete’s there now. He’s at peace now. He’s not suffering. He’s with Jesus, in the arms of the God who loves him and will wipe every tear from his eyes. He’s home, where we all belong. In the meantime we ache, because we miss him. We’re the losers here. We’re the ones who have to say goodbye. And it’s going to be hard. There will be dark days ahead, but the same God is with us, ready with his heavenly hankie, offering to wipe away our tears, to hold us in his arms and allow us to cry on him. He’s whispering to us, I’m with you. I’ll always be with you. You’ll never be alone. So let’s allow Jesus to comfort us, and let’s be Jesus to each other. And let’s not lose hope. Jesus is alive. He’s defeated death, and he will come back again. Jesus gives us hope. The tomb is empty. Love and life have won.

Together - we did!

On Saturday afternoon, 28 couples from St Christopher’s Church and the wider community gathered together to celebrate marriage and to reaffirm the lifelong vows made on their wedding day, and their continuing commitment

to have and to hold,

for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,

till death us do part, according to God's holy law

vows 3

It was particularly significant for a few couples who had been married in registry offices and welcomed the opportunity to have their marriage blessed in the church.

 After the service of thanksgiving, we joined together in a reception coordinated by Jan Joy and her team of helpers, finishing the evening with a “Mr and Mrs” quiz. It was a wonderful time of celebration and fellowship.  We give thanks to God for the gift of marriage and for the gift of each other – our spouses, family and friends.

 group 1             cake 1

The event was part of the national “Big Promise” initiative coordinated by National Marriage week, when more than 1,400 couples joined together to reaffirm their wedding vows in over 70 venues across the UK.  It is anticipated that this will break the world record for the number of couples doing this simultaneously.

The national coordinator for The BIG Promise, Dave Percival said:

 “The simplicity and dignity of each BIG Promise ceremony held sends a clear message. The vows are the essential part of being married – not the fancy wedding, amazing reception, or exotic honeymoon. Marriage matters to every one of these couples, and should matter to all of us in society as the bedrock of stable family life.”

Marriage Week has attracted the support of the Prime Minister David Cameron, who said:

"I welcome National Marriage Week and am pleased to give it my support. Marriage is a declaration of commitment, responsibility and stability that helps to bind families.  The values of marriage are give and take, support and sacrifice - values that we need more of in this country.”

If you were not able to take part in the Big Promise but would still like to reaffirm your marriage vows, let Andy know. Also, as a follow up to the Big Promise, St Christopher’s will be hosting the “Marriage Course” – an opportunity to give your marriage an MOT.  Based on Christian principles (but not just for Christians), it is for married couples who wish to build strong and healthy marriages that last a lifetime. For more information, contact Andy on 7667 2879 or Jim and Bev Patrick 7669 1747.

Funeral sermon for Trevor Veasey

On Monday afternoon we bid a final farewell to Trevor Veasey, a much loved member of our church community who died on 19 January after a battle with cancer.  He and Tina have both been an inspiration over the past year as they faced this illness together.  It was wonderful to see the church full as we celebrated the life of this brave man.  This is the sermon I delivered during the service ... 

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Over the past couple of months I’ve been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and theologian.  He could have escaped from Germany, but chose to stay and share in the suffering of his people. His faith drove him to become active in the opposition against Hitler, and he ultimately paid for this with his life.  The thing is, he knew this would probably be the case.  He once wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” It wasn’t just a saying for him – he lived this out.  For many of us it would be an awful prospect, but he didn’t feel that way.  He once said,

 

Why are we so afraid when we think about death? ... Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. … Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace. … Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvellous, that we can transform death.

 

In fact, once he knew he was about to be executed, he said to a fellow prisoner, "This is the end...for me the beginning of life!"  

 

The memory of Trevor Veasey will live long in my memory.  He may not have many – if any books written about him – not many people beyond the congregation gathered here may know of his name, but for me he stands tall – like Bonhoeffer – as a man of courage and a witness to the God he loved and served.  I was with him that day in Manchester – a year ago yesterday – as he stood up to be counted and to take his faith to the next level.  The title of the day was “Courageous” – on that day the hundreds of us gathered there were encouraged to get serious about their faith, to take a stand for Jesus.  Carl Beech, the speaker, invited people to come up and shake his hand.  Trevor leapt out of his seat and he was the first to respond.  He expressed his determination to fight whatever battles God was calling him to fight.  

 

It turned out his fight would be against cancer – as you know, it was a battle he’d fought before.  This time, it would take his life. He wouldn’t go down without a fight, and so he faced the treatment head on.  But when he knew he wouldn’t win this battle, he fought other battles in his life – to make his remaining months count, to stay positive and strong.  He fought to complete a course run by the diocese, and he fought to complete Alpha – courses which both enabled him to go deeper with his faith.  He fought to be confirmed.  It was a great privilege to stand there as the church’s representative on that day.  The day after, Trev stood up in church and said that I must have felt 10 foot tall that day.  I did.  I was possibly the proudest man in that church that day. 

 

I had the awesome privilege of meeting with Trev just a couple of weeks ago to talk about his funeral.  He knew he was nearing death; that he didn’t have long to live, but he wasn’t afraid.  He was at peace.  It was an honour to talk and pray with him that afternoon.  At the end of our time together, I gave him a hug and said I loved him, that I’ll miss him.  I did and I will, like many others here.  I have huge admiration for the way in which he faced his death.  It’s so apt that the name of the day was “Courageous” because that perfectly describes the way Trev faced the final year of his life. How, might we ask, could it be possible to face death and not be afraid, to have such peace?

 

The answer is that Trev knew the reality of God in his life.  He knew that Jesus loved him so much that he lived and died for him.  He knew the truth that, as we heard in our reading a moment ago, that Jesus is the resurrection and the life., that those who believe in Jesus will live, even though they die” (v.26).  He knew that these words spoken by Jesus to a grieving Martha were also words of hope for him.  They’re words of hope for us too, if we’ll only grab onto that hope.  I think Trev could face his final battle for a couple of other reasons – God gave him the gift of strength that comes from having a wonderfully strong family unit to support him, but also to have that bedrock of faith to stand on.  I think that God knew what was coming for Trevor, that he would have the ultimate battle to fight, and that Trevor was meant to go to that men’s day to hear the message about having courage, so that he could be equipped for this ultimate battle.  Some of you will remember that the confirmation service in September took place the day after the sudden death of the vicar of the host church, John Mills.  During his sermon, the Bishop of Coventry said something I will never forget.  He said that Christians are those who can look death in the face.  Why? Because Jesus defeated death when he died on the cross, taking our sin onto himself, and rose again, destroying the power of death.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer looked death in the face, and so did Trevor.  Will we?  Do we know that God loves us with an undying love that withstands death – so much so that he sent his Son Jesus to live and die and rise again for us? Do we have faith that when we approach our own death God will welcome us with open arms? And do we share the reality that Trevor experienced, knowing that God was with him, giving him strength for each day.  Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).  If you ask, Jesus will give you that same gift of faith, and he’ll open the door to eternal life for you.

 

At the men’s day in Manchester that proved so significant for Trev, in the moments before he and many others were asked to take a stand, the speaker read out something he called “A Call to Christian Men”.  He finished with these words …

 

You’ll one day breathe your last breath

Live life in readiness for the final journey

Keep God close, walk in repentance before Him

Make sure you are at peace with all men

Point others to the place where you are heading

When that time comes, if your heart is right and you are walking with the King

You will receive a faith hero’s welcome

 

Trevor, you lived up to that.  You were and are a faith hero.  I’m proud to stand here as your vicar and friend.  God is proud to call you his Son.  Jesus is proud to welcome you home. We entrust you to his loving arms.  He’ll never let you go. Although it’s the end, for you it’s the beginning of life.

 

As for the rest of us, God longs to give us his comfort and peace.  As Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, he weeps with us as we grieve and he longs to bring us his comfort.  It is natural to be sad, but God is the God of all comfort and offers to be with us through all the highs and lows of life.  In our grief and sorrow and in our joy.  God is faithful and strong.