Church Services - Eastwick, Gilston and High Wych
1. On this page you will find the details of Church contacts.
2. Church services for the month within the Benefice.
3. The Priest in Charge monthly news letter.
1.CHURCH CONTACT DETAILS
Rev Anthony Giles 01279 726476
Joy Galliers-Burridge 01279 444870
Roger Burridge 01279 444870
June Denton 01279 723714
Rick George 01279 721875
Sarah Bagnall 01279 441644
Lois Smith 01279 431123
Hazel Scorah 01279 418061
NOVEMBER 2014 SERVICES
|2nd November||All Saints (All Souls)||8.00am||St James, High Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Revelation 7:9-17, 1 John 3: 1-3, Matthew 5: 1-12|
|9.30am||St James, High Wych||Family Service|
|6.30pm||St James, High Wych||All Souls Service|
|9th November||Remembrance Sunday||9.45am||St James, High Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Amos 5: 18-24, 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18, MNatthew 25: 1-13|
|10.45am||St James, High Wych||Remembrance Ceremony|
|10.45am||Gilston War Memorial||Remembrance Ceremony|
|10.45am||Eastwick War Memorial||Remembrance Ceremony|
|11.30am||St Mary's, Gilston||Parish Eucharist||Readings Amos 5: 18-24, 1 Thessloanians 4: 13-18, Matthew 25: 1-13|
|3.00pm||St James, HIgh Wych||Healing Service|
|11th November||Tuesday||10.00am||6 Falcon Close||House Group|
|12th November||Wednesday||7.30pm||The Rectory||House Group|
|16th November||2nd before Advent||9.30am||St James, High Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18, 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11, Matthew 25: 14-30|
|23rd November||Christ the King||9.30am||St James, High Wych,||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24, Ephesians 1: 15-23, Matthew 25: 31-46|
|11.15am||St Botolph, Eastwick||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24, Ephesians 1: 15-23, Matthew 25: 31-46|
|30th November||Advent Sunday||9.30am||St James, High Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Isaiah 64: 1-9, 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9, Mark 13: 24-27|
DECEMBER SERVICES 2014
|7th December||Advent 2||8.00am||St James, Hych Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Isaiah 40: 1-11, 2 Peter 3: 8-15a, Mark 1: 1-8|
|9.30am||St James, High Wych||Family Service|
|9th December||Tuesday||10.00am||6 Falcon Close||House Group|
|7.30pm||The Rectory||House Group|
|14th December||Advent 3||9.30am||St James, High Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11, 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24, John 1: 6-8, 19-28|
|11.15am||St Mary's, Gilston||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Isaiah 61: 8-11,1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24, John 1: 6-8, 19-28|
|3.00pm||St James, High Wych||Healing Service|
|21st December||Advent 4||9.30pm||St James, High Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - 2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16, Romans 16: 25-27, Luke 1::26-38|
|3.30pm||St James, High Wych||Community Carols|
|6.30pm||St Botolph, Eastwick||Community Carols|
|24th December||Christmas Eve||3.00pm||St Mary's, Gilston||Christingle Crib Service|
|5.00pm||St James, High Wych||Christingale Crib Service|
|11.30pm||St James, High Wych||Midnight Mass||Readings - Isaiah 52: 7-10, Hebrews 1: 1-12, John 1: 1-14|
|25th December||CHRISTMAS DAY||9.30am||St James, High Wych||Christmas Communion||Readings - Isaiah 9: 2-17, Titus 2: 11-14, Luke 2: 1-20|
|11.15am||St Mary's, Gilston||Christmas Communion||Readings - Isaiah 9: 2-17, Titus 2: 11-14, Luke 2: 1-20|
|28th December||Christmas 1||9.30am||St James, High Wych||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Jeremiah 31: 15-17, 1 Corinthians 1: 26-29, Matthew 2: 13-18|
|11.15am||St Botolph, Eastwick||Parish Eucharist||Readings - Jeremiah 31: 15-17, 1 Corinthians 1: 26-29, Matthew 2: 13-18|
Not 16th or 30th
|9.00am||St Botolphs, Eastwick||Morning Prayer|
Not 3rd, 17th or 31st
|9.00am||St James, High Wych||Morning Prayer|
Not 18th or 25th
|9.00am||St Mary's, Gilston||Morning Prayer|
Friday Not 26th
|9.00am||St James, High Wych||
PRIEST IN CHARGE DECEMBER LETTER 2014
What Christmas Again – Already!!
Yes it’s Christmas again. It does happen once every year at about this time. By the end of November we will be in Advent when we prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. It is also a time when, traditionally, Christians also look forward to the Second Coming of Christ and think about whether they will be ready to receive Jesus when returns to judge all of humanity. Whether we take this literally or metaphorically, Advent is a time of sober reflection about our relationship with God, hence our altars and clergy dress in purple, the traditional colour of mourning. Maintaining a period of sombre reflection while preparing for the festivities that follow is a bit of a struggle but it will do us good.
During our Advent services we celebrate the people in the Bible who helped to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus and we light the candles each week on our Advent Wreath. On Advent Sunday, 30th November, we celebrate the Old Testament Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses who founded the nation of the Jews from which Jesus came. On the Second Sunday in Advent we celebrate the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah who looked forward to the coming of a Saviour. Then we celebrate John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus who announced his arrival to the people of Palestine. On the fourth Sunday we celebrate the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother who brought the Son of God into the world. Finally at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we light the central candle on the Advent Wreath to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
I hope that among all the preparations you will find time to join us in one of our services particularly the Community Carol Services on 21st December, The Christingle Crib Services or Mid-Night Mass on Christmas Eve (see details elsewhere).
Do have a very Happy Christmas.
PRIEST IN CHARGE NOVEMBER LETTER 2014
The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month.
That is how we remember when the First World War ended. This year we are remembering the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the war. In August we held as service that, as far as we could tell, reproduced the service that would have taken place in St James High Wych on that fateful Sunday in 1914 between the war starting and Britain declaring war on Germany. These remembrances will find their focus in Remembrance Sunday ceremonies at War Memorial throughout the country.
November brings a more person time of remembrance for many people on All Soul’s Day, Sunday 2nd November. We will be celebrating All Saints Sunday in the morning when we look back and give thanks to God for all the people throughout the ages who been faithful witnesses to faith. In the evening we will hold our annual All Soul’s Service at 6.30 pm at St James’ Church, High Wych. We invite people to come and remember love ones they have lost in recent years. A list of the departed is read out and this includes people for whom we have had the privilege of conducting funerals for over the past eighteen months or so as well as folk remembered by others from longer ago. Everyone is very welcome to attend and if you would like to add a name to the list to be read out please contact me. (01279 726476)
On Remembrance Sunday, 9th November we will be marking the centenary of the war by holding Remembrance Ceremonies at each of the War Memorials in the benefice. These will take place at 10.45 am in St James’ churchyard, at Pye Corner and at Eastwick. We are adjusting the times of our services that day to accommodate the ceremonies. The service at High Wych will be at 9.45 am and at Gilston at 11.30 am, for this Sunday only.
The saga of the rejuvenation of St James church continues but we are hoping to finalise the plans for the interior in the next month or so and then we can get on with completing the work. We are all looking forward to enjoying and using the new facilities.
PRIEST IN CHARGE OCTOBER LETTER 2014
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above,
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.
We are all very familiar with the refrain from one our best known Harvest hymns, “We plough the fields and scatter.” Late September and early October is when we as a church celebrate the harvest that has just been brought in. We started on 28th September with a Harvest Festival service at St Mary’s Church, Gilston. We continue into the October with our harvest celebrations at High Wych. Please see the details elsewhere in this magazine.
The ancient Israelites, the people of the Old Testament, had some very strict laws about how to conduct the harvest so that the poor people in the community were looked after. Whether you were reaping wheat or barley, picking grapes or harvesting figs, you could only go through your field or vineyard once. You could not go back to see if you had missed any of the crop. Anything left was for the poor, the widows, orphans or landless aliens. That was their answer to the welfare state. As the harvesters worked across a field or vineyard they would be followed at a respectful distance by those less fortunate than themselves gleaning what was left. The Book of Ruth tells the lovely story a foreign widow, Ruth, gleaning in the fields of her mother in law’s relative Boaz. He instructed his workers to deliberately leave some of the harvest behind for people like Ruth. The story ends with Boaz marrying Ruth. She became the great-grandmother of King David, the iconic king of the ancient Jews.
Today there may not be much left to glean after a field of wheat has been vacuumed up by a combine harvester but the world is still full of people who need our help. There are refugees who have had to leave everything behind to escape war or persecution. There are children in developing countries in desperate need the bare essential of life, wholesome food, clean water and sewage facilities, education and the hope of employment. As citizens of the world we have a duty to end poverty and destitution where ever it occurs. We may feel that we are poorer than we used to be but compared with most of the world’s population we are unbelievably rich.
During our harvest celebrations any non-perishable gift brought to our churches will be sent to help women in this country who have had to seek refuge from domestic violence. Any money donated will go to the Bishop of St Alban’s Harvest Appeal which this years is working with the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church to bring literacy skills to the 40% of women in Egypt who cannot read or write. Literacy brings employability and economic self-sufficiency. It can open doors to new prosperity for the whole family.
We look forward to welcoming you to one of our Harvest Services.
PRIEST IN CHARGE SEPTEMBER LETTER 2014
September – a Time of New Beginnings
It was good to see the turn out on 3rd August for our Commemorative Service to mark the start of World War 1. Many appreciated the Book of Common Prayer Evensong which is not a service we do very often. If there is sufficient interest we could make it a regular feature of our programme on, say one Sunday evening each month. Let us know what you think – email addresses and phone numbers are given elsewhere in the Link.
Our commemoration of the war will be highlighted in November when we will hold a Remembrance Ceremony at each of the War Memorials in the Benefice. We do not normally have ceremony at the Gilston memorial because it is on such a busy road. We will see how it goes this year and review for future years. We will also be changing the times of our services at High Wych and Gilston on that Sunday – more details next month.
September is a month of new starts for many of our young people, new schools, new classes and teacher or new colleges. It is a lot to take in when you are young and all our children of whatever age need our help and support at this time, and our prayers. I will be taking up a new role as Rural Dean of Bishop’s Stortford. I have been doing the job on an interim basis for several months but I will be formally commissioned in September. I will give me a wider perspective on what is going on in the churches and communities in the area and maybe I will be able to find some useful ideas to bring back to High Wych, Gilston and Eastwick.
Our House Groups will be restarting after their summer break. Up to now we have concentrated on developing our understanding of the Christian Faith. We are now going to take a look at some of the wider ethical and religious issues that confront all of us today. We look forward to welcoming you to join us on Tuesday 9th September at 10.00 am at 6 Falcon Close or on Wednesday 10th at 7.30 pm at the Rectory.
At the end of the month we start our harvest celebration at St Mary’s Gilston with our Harvest Festival on Sunday 28th September at 6.00 pm, followed by refreshments. The following week we have the school Harvest Service on Wednesday morning at 9.30 am. On Saturday 4th October we have our Harvest Supper in the High Wych Memorial Hall and on Sunday 5th our Harvest Services at St James. Please see the separate advert for details. We look forward to welcoming you to any of these events.
PRIEST IN CHARGE AUGUST LETTER 2014
War is Declared!!
What would it have been like on that first weekend of August 1914? The European powers were shaping up for a fight but not much had happened except for the anti-Serb riots in Bosnia. War had been declared between Austro-Hungary and Serbia and between Germany and Russia. Germany had attacked Luxembourg but, as yet, Britain was not involved and would not be until Tuesday 4th August. What would it have been like on that Sunday, 2nd August, perhaps sitting in church for the evening service and wondering how it would all end.
I haven’t managed to prove that there was an evening service at St James’ Church on Sunday 2nd August 1914 but this year on Sunday 3rd August we will be holding a World War I Commemorative Service of Evensong at the church in High Wych. The aim will be to reproduce the service that might have taken place that first weekend of August 1914. The order of service will be Evensong according the Book of Common Prayer with Bible readings from the Authorised Version (King James Version as we tend to call it now). The readings, psalm and some of the prayers will be those set for the eighth Sunday after Trinity which is where that Sunday in 1914 fell in the church’s calendar. The hymns will be taken from a contemporaneous edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, the traditional C of E hymnbook although the words in our modern books may vary slightly. I look forward to seeing you there.
People of my generation will probably remember relatives who served in the First World War. My grandfather volunteered at the start of the war but was refused because he had lost the end of his trigger finger in a farming accident and couldn’t therefore fire a rifle (they thought). He was actually a very good shot and a bit of a poacher. He joined up later and being a farm horseman spent the rest of the war touring northern England requisitioning hay stacks to feed the thousands of horses in France. He was promoted to sergeant for saving a horse which the veterinary officers had condemned. The details of the remedy do not bear repetition in an article like this but he used the knowledge he had gained from contact with travellers when he was younger.
There seems to be something in human nature that makes us far too willing to go to war without thinking through the consequences. We assume that it can be done at nominal cost and be got over quickly – always by Christmas – but then war after war after war we are proved wrong. For me, there may be times when in this sinful world we have no choice but to take up arms to defend ourselves and others from unlawful oppression and violence. Some people joke that marriage is like war. I don’t agree but war does match the description given of Marriage Service in the Book of Common Prayer, “not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God;”
Have a good summer!
PRIEST IN CHARGE JULY LETTER 2014
To err is human, but to really make a mess you need a computer!
Apologies to those who read the recent Parish News Letter and found the non-deliberate mistakes in the table of Services and Activities on the back. As you probably worked out all of July comes in July, not June, and Lent Groups only occur in Lent. At other times, particularly 11th June, we call them House Groups. I am very sorry and ask for your forgiveness. I must try harder next time.
The heading is, of course, a misquotation. It should read, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” We are all very good at fouling up from time to time. That is why in Church we start almost all our services by saying sorry to God for the wrongs we have committed or the thing we should have done and haven’t. We do so in the belief that if we are truly sorry then God will forgive us because Jesus died for our sins. The Bible tells us that when God forgives he chooses to “remember no more” all the sins we have committed. He restarts our relationship with him as if nothing bad had happened. He gives us a clean sheet. We know we will make a mess of it again but God treats us as if we won’t, until we do. Then if we “repent”, as the Bible calls it, he gives us a new clean sheet, again and again and again. God’s forgiveness allows us to move on from our mistakes, to learn from them and to grow as people and as Christians.
For us to forgive each other like that is almost impossible. We can probably manage a level of forgiveness, which says, “I will not seek revenge”, but to carry on as if nothing had happened is very much harder. We all have memories, particularly about hurt feelings. We cannot often “forgive and forget” however sincere an apology might be. Forgiving someone who has hurt or offended us is very hard but it is the only way for relationships to develop and grow. It is the only way that both sides can move on and grow. Forgiveness is a fundamental part of any meaningful relationship. It is something we must all try to do.
Most of us will know the lines from the Lord’s Pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If God forgives us he expects us to forgive others. Perhaps it is only when we have felt the full power of God’s forgiveness that we can begin to forgive others in a way that approaches how He forgives.
Have a good July.
PRIEST IN CHARGES LETTER FOR JUNE 2014
Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth sed, and bloweth med,
And springeth the wude nu –
Sing cuccu! (anon c 1226)
I used this poem to start my letter in July last year. Let’s hope that summer has come a little earlier this year. If you haven’t seen St James church recently come and have a look. The scaffolding has gone and the church is resplendent in its new roof. The vestry and west doors have been refurbished and apart from a few minor details all the work is finished. We are now just sorting out the last details of the internal modification with the diocese. We hope to put on a display of the plans in the church in due course. I have given up trying to predict dates. We will just have to wait and see. Better to get it right than do it quickly. We are also beginning to see house building activity at the Terlings Park site in Gilston. The churches there are beginning to think about how to welcome new residents when they move in.
June brings with it the Feast of Pentecost. We seem to have given up on the English name of Whitsun, White Sunday because of the tradition of wearing white robes on this day. When I was young the summer half term was at Whitsun regardless of the date. Now it is always on the late May bank holiday. Pentecost was originally a Jewish harvest festival celebrated fifty days after the Passover so it has now become a Christian festival fifty days after Easter. In New Testament times it was a festival where many Jews from all over the world would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate. The book of Acts records that on this day the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, descended on the disciples of Jesus with the sound of gale force winds and the appearance of flames on their heads. That is why bishops wear those pointed hats. Pentecost marks the start of the Christian Church. After it the disciples went out peaching about Jesus and many thousands of the people became Christians and were baptised in a very short time. They took the message back home so that when people like St Paul were travelling round the Mediterranean they often found groups of believers already established and keen to join in the work.
Please remember and pray for all the children who are getting ready to either start school in September or to move to a new school. It can be a very scary experience and they need our support.
God bless you all.
PRIEST IN CHARGE LETTER FOR MAY 2014
May! Queen of blossoms,
And fulfilling Flowers,
With what pretty music
Shall we charm the hour?
(May by Edward Thurlow)
I started my article last May with the same poem and looking back what I write this month is very similar to what I wrote then. The work on the roof of St James’ Church is all but finished and the scaffolding is fast disappearing to reveal the beauty of the new tiles. The detailed negotiations about the interior changes are well advanced and we hope to see that work started in the next few months.
For most, Easter will be a memory but for Christians the season of Easter goes on into June this year. This is the time when we remember the gospel stories of Jesus’ appearances to his disciples after his Resurrection, his coming back from the dead on Easter Sunday. They include the story of his meeting two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke ch 24) when people who had known him well did not recognise him until he broke bread with them, reminding them of the Last Supper. They also include his meeting with Peter and six other disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John ch 21). This was the incident where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, to match the three time Peter had denied knowing Jesus during his trial (John ch 18). Peter is forgiven and given the task of feeding Jesus’ sheep, that is, caring for the infant church. There are many characters in the Bible who had to learn what failure felt like before they were allowed to succeed.
Despite his failings Peter went on to be one of the principle leaders of the early Christian Church and eventually gave his life for following Jesus in Rome in about AD 70. Many of us sometimes feel like the Peter of the gospel stories, an impetuous man who led with this mouth and then had difficulty in dealing with the consequences. If Jesus could forgive and restore him to a position of leadership in the Church after he had publicly denied knowing Jesus then that same Jesus can forgive us for anything wrong we have done and restore to a full living relationship with God.
That is the message of Easter. Because of Jesus life, death, resurrection and his Ascension back into heaven, which we will be celebrating on Thursday 29th May, we can all be received back by God into a new relationship through faith in Jesus. This is what the Bible calls Eternal Life, a life that starts now in partnership with the risen Jesus and takes us through the rest of our lives into his loving presence after we die. It is my prayer that we will all come to share in that life so that we can travel through it together.
PRIEST IN CHARGE LETTER FOR APRIL 2014
Are we nearly there?
I hope so. By the time you read this I hope we will all be looking wondrously at St James’ new roof. As I write the scaffolding has been removed from the tower to reveal the newly gilded weathercock and the new cedar shingles on the spire. Peering through the plastic cocoon we can see the new tiles waiting to be exposed to the elements once all the work has been completed.
There is something of a picture here of what we will be celebrating in the middle of the month, Easter. The church with its worn out roof was entombed in scaffolding and plastic and now six months later is resurrected to a new life, for another 150 years or more. With Jesus that change only took 36 hours from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. (Re-roofing a church in that time would really be a miracle.)
The death and resurrection of Jesus is THE central distinctive belief of Christianity yet it is the one, which causes most problems. How could a dead person come back to life? Was he really dead? Did the disciples make up the story or just imagine that they saw him after he was buried? Christians have always asserted that Jesus was really dead, after all the Roman soldiers who crucified him knew their business. His body was placed in a tomb, which was sealed by the authorities. Then at some point between Saturday night and Sunday morning he was restored to life again, but not just the same life. The Gospel accounts describe a person who could pass through locked doors, appear and disappear at will and travel distances instantaneously. After 40 days Jesus was taken up into heaven from where he had come and he is now present with us by the Holy Spirit. We celebrate Jesus Ascension at the end of April and the coming of the Holy Spirit in early June.
Did Jesus rise from the dead? If God is God then a resurrection is no problem at all. The real miracle was that the Son of God died. Christian theologians from St Paul onwards have pondered the meaning and the effect of the death of Jesus and libraries of books have been written about it. By dyeing, or allowing himself to be killed, Jesus took on to himself all that was wrong with the world of human beings. Now by faith in him we can know that all the wrong we have done has been forgiven by God and we will spent eternity with him.
Please look for details of our Easter services in the magazine and we look forward to welcoming you at one or more of them.
PRIEST IN CHARGE LETTER FOR MARCH 2014
We’ve been here before!!
A week or so ago I was in St James’ church when one our roofing contractors approached me. He presented me with something they had found while removing the tiles. The package consisted of part of a copy of the Daily Telegraph dated Wednesday 6th November 1963. Inside was a copy of the High Wych Parishioner, the parish magazine, dated March 1966. Amid the notices about parish activities including details of the Lent Study Groups was an article on Church Repairs which I have reproduced below. It appears that the work involved was the internal panelling of the nave ceiling done to deduce the draughts. Note the size of the cheque they had to hand over – if only! The print in the magazine is too feint to photocopy but I hope to have it transcribed with a view to selling souvenir copies to anyone interested. Why the magazine was wrapped in a three year old newspaper is unknown but perhaps the crossword, which was incomplete, had proved particularly difficult. We hope that the current roofing repairs will be completed during March and I hope to place a copy of this magazine back in the roof space for future generations to find.
March brings with it the start of the season of Lent. For many centuries Christians have observed the six weeks or so before Easter as a period of self-denial and reflection. Originally any luxury food was banned. This included meat, eggs and dairy produce. This was to help them remember the forty days and nights that Jesus spent fasting the Wilderness and being tempted before he began his public ministry (see Luke 4: 1-13). Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent when one was shriven – confessed ones sins to the priest and received absolution in preparation for Lent – was also the day to use up all banned food. That is the origin of the pan cakes which we enjoy on Shrove Tuesday. Today many Christians give up some luxury item of food as an act of self discipline to identify with Jesus’ fasting. They also use Lent as a time to study and deepen their faith. We will be running at least two Lent Group where we will be considering how to share our faith with others. If you would like to attend either of these please see details elsewhere in this magazine or contact me for information.
PRIEST IN CHARGE LETTER FOR FEBRUARY 2014
We can see Daylight!
There are several places now in St James’ church where you can look up and see daylight. That means that work on the roof is accelerating. Of course we are protected by the false roof above and the plastic sheeting so we shouldn’t see any water dripping in. The old original tiles are being removed and soon the roof with be covered with felt and insulation (bats permitting) and then re-tiled. We still hope that the work will be completed on time. Then we hope to start work on the interior including installing a kitchen and toilet.
With Easter being so late this year nothing much happens in February as far as the Christian Year is concerned. The one high light is Sunday 2nd when we celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple also known as Candlemas. Jesus was six weeks old when his parents took him to the Temple in Jerusalem. The ceremony did two things. Firstly, Jesus, as a first born son, was being redeemed or bought back from God. This tradition goes back to when the ancient Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt after the ten plagues, the last of which was the death of all the Egyptian first-born males (Exodus ch 7-15). God, through Moses made a law that all first born males belonged to him. If they were animals which could be sacrificed, that was their fate. Other animals and first born sons had to be bought back. That would have cost Joseph something like two week’s wages.
The other part of the ceremony was to purify Mary after giving birth. For that they had to make a sacrifice of a pair of turtle doves. This ceremony has survived into the Book of Common Prayer as the Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth or the Churching of Women. This fell into dis-use in the last century and has been replaced in our modern liturgy by a Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child. The Feast of Presentation was also the time in the medieval church when the candles were dedicated for the next year, hence the alternative name of Candlemas.
All this talk of buying back children and purifying mothers seems worlds away from modern Christianity but the story in Luke chapter 2 also tells us about an old man named Simeon who saw the baby Jesus and recognised him as the coming Saviour, Messiah or Christ. He spoke the words of what we call the Nunc Dimitis which we still use in Evening Prayer or sometimes at Funerals. Simeon also foresaw that that Jesus would have to suffer and this would bring pain to Mary.
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple is one of a number of incidents we celebrate at this time of year when Jesus was proclaimed as the Saviour of the whole world. In January we celebrated Epiphany (6th), the coming of the Wise Men when Jesus was proclaimed by their gifts to be the King and Priest for the whole world who would suffer for it. The Baptism of Christ (12th) was when a voice from heaven declared Jesus to be the Son of God with whom he was pleased.
I’ll finish with Simeon’s prayer about Jesus, the Nunc Dimitis, for us all to think about.
‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and for glory to your people Israel.’ (Luke 2. 29-32)
PRIEST IN CHARGE LETTER FOR JANUARY 2014
Happy New Year!
This is the one you were expecting, the start of the Gregorian year 2014 instead of the start of the Christian year last month. January find St James’ Church shrouded in scaffolding and plastic. We survived the high winds of early December but fell prey to a small number of brown long-eared bats who caused a delay while we arranged alternative accommodation for them. We still hope that the roofing work will be finished by the end of March.
We are progressing reasonably well with our plans to re-order the inside of the church which will involve installing toilet and kitchen facilities. This will give us a much more flexible space for community activities such as the very successful harp concert on the 9th December.
From the beginning of this month we are going move some of our services around. This is so that we can hold our Family Praise Service on the first Sunday of each month. This a family friendly service of worship without Holy Communion and is a very easy place to start attending church if you are unfamiliar with it. We look forward to welcoming you to worship with us on these occasions. In order to do this we need to move the 11.15 a.m. services at Gilston and Eastwick back a week so that the Gilston service will now be on the second Sunday and Eastwick on the fourth.
A new year is traditionally a time to reassess our live and perhaps make New Year’s resolution to do better in some way. The first Sunday of the year is when we will be celebrating Epiphany. The Greek word means “to show” or “to reveal” and it commemorates the coming of the Wise Men to worship the baby Jesus and to give gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. They saw some sort of arrangement of stars or planets in the sky, realised that this indicated the arrival of someone significant and spent the next two years working out where they had to travel to and then getting there. What they saw and what they did about it changed their lives. If we have heard the message of the baby at Bethlehem, what lessons are we going to apply to our lives and our relationships in the coming year? What resolutions do we need to put in place and ask God’s help to carry through?
A very happy and prosperous New Year to all.