Scroll down this page to find our blog entries which are updated on the Wednesday each week.
Resources for Childrenand Families
The Godly Play website has lots of great ideas for children’s activities which can be found by clicking here.
The School Assemblies website are during the current situation with Coronavirus publishing short Pause for Thought clips and suggestions rather than their usual assemblies, these they hope will be useful for parents to use at home and for schools to utilise as a resource as they encourage home learning. The Pause for Thought sessions begin in the April lists and the website can be accessed by clicking here.
Roots at Home: Worship and Learning Resources for the whole Church
During this time of uncertainty, SCTC would like to offer support to the parish. If you require help or support, such as help with shopping or a regular chat on the phone, whether you are a churchgoer or not, please fill in the contact form and we will get in touch.
We have just returned from a lovely holiday in Cornwall and were blessed with beautiful weather too. From our holiday home we sat out on a small veranda from where we had the most wonderful view. Beyond the holiday site we looked out onto fields where sheep, cattle and goats grazed and then beyond another field, we could see the sea. In the morning in the sunlight, it was a beautiful blue and in the evening the sun shone on it so that it appeared to be a shining golden light almost too bright to look at.
Light makes everything look so much different, whether it’s the sun sparkling on the sea or the light shining through the trees. When the sun breaks through the clouds on a cold wintry day it doesn’t just brighten our surroundings, it can also lift our spirits too as we are reminded of how different and welcome that sunlight is when we have been without it for a long time.
“Let there be light” said God at the dawn of creation. Everything needs light to grow, plants, trees, in fact all that God created needs the sunlight to live and grow. The wonderful balance of nature of rain and sunlight sustains all living things but through greed and power and just because we can, we have compromised nature to such a degree that we are seeing the climate changing in all directions, floods, unbearable heat, fires out of control.
“The true light which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1 v9). This light came into the world also at a time when everything looked hopeless for God’s people. They had lost their way and were living under the brutal regime of Roman occupation. This new light which some recognised changed lives for ever. Even though some could not or would not accept this light and sort to destroy it, it could not be destroyed, it shone all the brighter defying everything including death that was done to it. The light of Christ which we celebrate each Easter morning is the light that sustains us, helps us to grow, nourishes us and shines into every part of our being, through the difficult and desperate times in our lives, that light, that love that assurance however we understand it remains and even at the darkest times when we may feel the light has gone, it’s like the Footsteps poem the writer says, ‘during the saddest and most troubling times of my life, there were only one set of footprints’ and in the dream the Lord replies ‘my precious child… it was then that I carried you’
There was once a dark cave, deep down in the ground, underneath the earth and hidden away from view. Because it was so deep in the earth, the light had never been there. The cave had never seen light. The word ‘light’ meant nothing to the cave, who couldn’t imagine what ‘light’ might be. Then one day, the sun sent an invitation to the cave, inviting it to come up and visit.
When the cave came up to visit the sun it was amazed and delighted because the cave had never seen light before, and it was dazzled by the wonder of the experience.
Feeling so grateful to the sun for inviting it to visit, the cave wanted to return the kindness and so it invited the sun to come down to visit it sometime, because the sun had never seen darkness.
And so the day came and the sun came down and was courteously shown into the cave.
As the sun entered the cave, it looked around with great interest, wondering what ‘darkness’ would be like. Then it became puzzled, and asked the cave, ‘Where is the darkness’?
At our service of Prayer for the Day this morning, we were joined by one of our local farmers who happily told us that they had just harvested their first field of Barley. Even though some of us may be suffering during this ongoing heatwave, for our arable farmers this good weather is ideal for the ripening of their crops and bringing the harvest home, so let us thank the Lord for the sunshine and pray for a bumper crop, before the inevitable thunderstorms will no doubt arrive to break this spell of exceptional weather.
Barley puts in an appearance in our gospel for this upcoming Sunday, this text is one of the feeding of the 5000 stories. A version of this story can be found in all four gospels, and I would encourage you to read all four versions of this miracle and see what catches your eye. Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:1-13.
In this story, Jesus feeds at least 5000 people with only five loaves of barley bread and two fish and when everyone had eaten there were leftovers.
My favourite line is found in Mark and Luke when Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.” Why is this my favourite line? Because I feel like one of the disciples of Jesus every time I read this. I can imagine myself surrounded by the 5000, perhaps even more if women and children are included, and being asked to do what seems undoable! How in the world am I going to do this? Is Jesus joking? And we know how the story ends. Jesus takes what is there and prays over it and there is more than enough.
This simple story inspires me because when I stop saying to Jesus how in the world can I do this and stop to pray, it happens, the undoable becomes doable. Maybe not how I imagined and yet it happens. When I open my eyes there is more than enough. So, look for miracles where we see only problems and obstacles and be open to the ways we can say yes when Jesus says to you ‘give them something to eat.’
The above linoprint is used with the kind permission of the artist Debbie Kendall.
On an afternoon saunter to Great Missenden discovering the world around our new home, we stumbled across the fabulous Roald Dahl Museum, and as we were walking along the High Street this picture leapt out from a gift shop window.
We enquired within and I did a little research discovering a clip of Debbie making this print with more information about it and herself which you can see for yourself with her other extensive work.
This picture captured my heart and drew me into it. I immediately understood the ideas and inspiration. The person could be anyone, a man or a woman and they may be having a tough time, we don’t know. The dog has had a tough life too and now kindly homed by someone who cares for them.
Debbie writes ‘It’s a great leap of faith for both dog and human to give a previously unwanted or mistreated dog a chance of a safe and happy home. The love and trust of any dog is a huge privilege for a human to be given, but the loyalty of a rescue dog who has been given a second chance at happiness is a particularly poignant and treasured gift. It’s no surprise that one thing I hear over and over again is that, in retrospect, people are not sure whether it is they who have rescued the dog, or the dog that has rescued them!’
And then there’s the lifeboat station in the background, which I noticed straightaway and then read how Debbie had added another subtle hint at rescue. I just love and admire this creativity.
I’m not so sure about the William Temple quote; that ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’ I think that’s the RNLI, and if I was in charge of publicity I would give them the strapline, ‘Saving lives, risking ours’.
I commented to the shop assistant that I was a vicar and that we were all lost, and she replied ‘yes indeed’. But we can be rescued. The songwriter Joan Osborne asked: ‘What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus tryin’ to make his way home?’
Rescuers come in all shapes and sizes, a crucified saviour, a Samaritan, and even a dog. We all need a home, someone to love and to be loved on our journey of life. Whether football came home or not (I think it might have in ways yet to surprise us) we are all on a journey home.
Each one of us is on a journey through life, and right now during these continuing pandemic times that journey can seem to continue to be a tough one, even though we are just about to reach a full relaxation of our covid protocols in a couple of weeks’ time.
For me this should be a thing to celebrate, but I do not know about you some of my anxieties persist as questions remain about is this change too much too soon.
However, one thing on the horizon to brighten up my day is the fact that as I write this piece for the blog in a few hours’ time England will be playing in the semi-final of the European Football Cup, soon Wembley Stadium will be ringing to those familiar football anthems such as ‘Three Lions’ as the England and Denmark football teams play for that place in the final against Italy.
For me however there is only one Football Anthem, not that I am a Liverpool FC supporter and that is “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which is based on a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Here are just a few lines:
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark…
The words are poignant and powerful because they are honest. Life can be tough and sometimes it takes courage just to keep going. But then the song resonates with the Christian faith that we are never alone on the journey. God is our beginning and our end and we journey with Christ, who is our light and hope.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
As we adjust to living with the coronavirus post lockdown, the message that I would like to share with you is ‘you are not alone’. You are precious to God and Christ walks with you…
Recently I came across a reading from the 2nd book of Kings which I have to confess I had not read before or if I had, I had completely forgotten this story. It tells of a widow who is desperately trying to prevent her children from being taken away into slavery as payment to her creditors. She implores Elisha to help her. Elisha asks a strange question, “what do you have in the house?” She replies that she has nothing except a jar of oil. I imagine that when the woman says she has nothing but the oil in her house she has probably sold everything else to pay off her debts. Oil would be the last thing because it was such an important commodity for food and many other things too, a very precious item.
Elisha then instructs her to borrow as many vessels from her friends and neighbours as possible and to start pouring the oil into all of these containers. She does this and the oil keeps on pouring and eventually it stops. She returns to Elisha who tells her to sell the oil to pay off her debts and keep the remaining oil for her and the children to live on.
This story put me in mind of the time when Jesus had been preaching to a huge crowd, we are told around 5,000 and they all needed feeding. All that was available was two loaves and five fishes. Almost as impossible for the task as the woman’s oil was but when Jesus intervenes, when as always he responds with love, the people are fed, with twelve baskets of food left over.
When we give our heart to Jesus he can do so much, so much more than we can imagine. We may think that our gift is too small or of no consequence even, but if it is offered to God to do with however he wants then it does indeed come from our heart, given in love to be transformed through God’s grace.
I do not know about you, but I grew up hiding behind the sofa on a Saturday evening when a familiar theme tune announced the start of the famous science fiction TV programme Dr Who, I was scared but no less entranced by the famous villainous characters such as the daleks and the cybermen. As I grew older, I have remained a dedicated follower, but the storylines do not seem as scary now that I am in my sixties!
But what I have noticed in recent years is the quality of the writing and that sometimes the storyline has an important social message and is not just good entertainment, one episode that comes to mind is called “Rosa” first broadcast in 2018.
In the episode, the Doctor and her companions arrive in Alabama in 1955 and find themselves seeking to stop a time-travelling criminal from preventing Rosa Parks who was African American from influencing the American civil rights movement during the Montgomery bus boycott in which Rosa refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus. The episode’s plot concerns racial segregation in the United States at the time, including the law upheld in Alabama regarding municipal transit during this period.
How often do we find that people sometimes must act bravely to bring about change?
In Mark’s Gospel reading for next Sunday, we find the story of the woman with the haemorrhage. When she touches Jesus’ cloak and is healed, she is healed on two levels. Firstly, her physical ailment is cured and secondly, she is restored to a right relationship with the community. Her issue of blood would have made her unclean and separated her from others. Jesus calls her “daughter”, signifying that her connection to the community has been restored. None of this would have happened if she like Rosa had not boldly broken the major social taboos of the position that she and women like her held in the culture of that time. It was through this bravery that she received wholeness and transformation.
May we look to women such as these for our inspiration when we are challenged and may we with God’s grace be as brave.
This Sunday our Gospel reading tells of that most extraordinary incident where Jesus is asleep in a boat with his head on a cushion and the hardened and experienced fishermen are so afraid, that they have to wake Jesus up because we can only assume they are in a storm like no other.
At the beginning of the Pandemic, it was often said by commentators that we are all in the same boat. As the pandemic has ravaged through the earth, it has become clear that this is not true, for we are not all in the same boat but we may be in the same storm.
We have discovered that some are in luxury liners whilst many are hanging on to driftwood and the few life rafts that may have been thrown from a sinking ship. We have not all been in this together. So, as we emerge from this season that has universally affected all nations in dramatically different ways how might we come out of our pupa and become butterflies.
Our deanery has encouraged us to have conversations through a review of the churches which have a more distinctive rural flavour. Part of the first stage of this has been opportunities to share excitements and fears from all 14 churches giving a 15-minute presentation on Zoom to one another. These presentations have been fascinating hearing common themes and distinctive issues peculiar to each church context. Thank you so much to those who have presented on our behalf.
There’s a saying ‘that if we do, what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always got’. The outcome of the Rural Review is genuinely up for grabs but if nothing substantially changes then what may be feared will happen, though not tomorrow or next year. Whenever we are confronted with challenges, we can either see them as obstacles or opportunities.
Who’d have thought two years ago that we would be Zooming services, having contactless paying machines, singing outside, and learning to be more flexible and adaptable. It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us not least viewing our double chins on zoom.
So, what might we like to do differently, what remains constant and what should we perhaps stop doing? The answers will be as different as there are people. This season offers us a once in an era chance to have these refreshing and honest conversations.
What may change? Well, we need to think about having less wordy and more accessible liturgies, that our children can experience in school so that when they come to church it doesn’t feel alien. Services will need to be tailored for strangers and guests that are not different to the atmosphere they enjoyed at a more family friendly event. Music will have more variety, using the gifts and talents of musicians where vocalists and instrumentalists are all valued.
All of our buildings will become appropriately more accessible and flexible, welcoming and brighter, with places for activities that a hundred years ago were never dreamed of.
We don’t expect our wonderful local farmers to use 18th century farming practices to provide us with the nourishments we need today, though some timeless ways are always needed, such as helping a newly born lamb.
But some things will never change. The journey by foot or other transport to places that stand to the glory of God. The opportunity to gather as a church family and community at times of sadness and celebration. Times when there are more visitors such as Christmas, Easter and Harvest. Services that are both joyful and reverent bringing young and old together. Music that lifts the soul and moves the body. Social and community events that bring our villages together. Perhaps these will take on a greater sense of gratitude with hopefully us all taking others and things less for granted.
And above all, what won’t change, is that Jesus is in our boat, asleep or not, stilling storms and calming us, and teaching us to walk on water if we keep our eyes on him.
What’s prayer for? To get us out of circumstances? To get us through them? So that God will give us the strength and wisdom and insights we need? To know God better, a two way conversation, as long as we take time to listen as well as speak?? To thank Him for all He does for us? I think it can be all of these things.
Why don’t we always pray? We tried it before and it didn’t seem to work? We think God has not got time for us? We are too busy? We think our own words are not good enough to be effective? That’s the role of leaders in the church and not ourselves?
In the Thursday evening home group at St Peter and St Paul church, we have been looking at the prayers of people in the Bible these past few weeks, and I have noticed that whether it is someone very well-known in their time, or someone in obscurity, there is no one ‘proper’ way to pray to God and we can always know that that He hears us. Our prayer may even take the form of a song , as Mary’s did when she heard she would be the mother of the Saviour of the world, Jesus. (Luke 1).
Prayer may be silent, a looking towards God without words, or without words spoken aloud as we see in Hannah’s prayer of desperation for a baby in 1 Samuel 1 v 12. Some prayers are long, as in the case of Nehemiah, (Nehemiah 1 ) or quite short as in the case of a father’s heartfelt prayer I read in my recent Bible reading.
I came across the story in Mark 9 about a father with a son afflicted since childhood by an evil spirit which caused untold problems for the son and the family. This father was scared and desperate for help. Jesus’ disciples could not help him so he came then to Jesus. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever been overcome by a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness? If so, then you know how he must have felt. Like that father, you and I sometimes become fearful, very anxious about the circumstances we are in, unable to see a solution. The worry may keep us awake at night. This man’s desperation and fear were immediately recognized by Jesus, and Jesus would have seen the suffering and pain that the father was experiencing. When the father explained the terrible problems his son experienced, he made a plea: “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” The father was unsure whether Jesus could help but said his timid prayer ‘ I do believe; help me overcome my doubts’. Essentially, he recognised that his faith was far from perfect, and he did not have enough faith by himself – so could Jesus, please, help him to have enough faith. Jesus then proceeded to heal the son, and the father would have been filled with happiness and elation that his son was now whole again. His faltering, uncertain prayer had been answered!
How encouraging it can be for us when we understand that the power is not in the prayer itself, not in the precise words we say, but the power is in God who hears our prayers and has the compassion to answer them. Our prayers do not have to be eloquent, and a frightened plea, a “Help, Jesus”, was sufficient. That father’s faith would have grown as he saw Jesus answer and so, too, can ours.
(concept here suggested by Syzygy Missions Support Network. )