Category Archives: Uncategorized

20th March 2019

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Dear Friends

Last evening at our Mindfulness class we were asked to consider and practise Mindful Wisdom. The ability to pause, step back, consider and get a bit of perspective before making a difficult decision.  
A very long time ago, when I was 26 years old, I had a difficult decision to make. Did I become a chaplain in the Royal Navy, or did I accept the offer via 10 Downing Street, from HM the Queen, to become the youngest Rector in the Diocese of Manchester. I was struggling, both offers were appealing, both were something of an honour – how to proceed? I went to visit a wise old clerical friend for advice, for another perspective, but also to be helped to stand back from the situation, to pause and put a bit of distance between my thoughts and the decision I needed to make. One of the most troubling aspects of this decision making was how to discern the will of God, what did God want? How would I know his will for me? My wise friend smiled and asked “Normally, how do you know something is right?” I replied “I just get a feeling in the pit of my stomach.”  Well he said “Have you ever considered that this just might be how God communicates decisions to you?” It was something of a revelation, instantly the cycle of ‘should I do this, or should I do that’ stopped. I chose to become the Rector of St John’s Longsight and have never regretted my decision.  I even got invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace, so I could go in my black Levi 501s – under my cassock of course and wander up to a politician I recognised and boldly say to him “I bet there’s only you and me who voted Labour here!” Oh the joys of youth.

God after all has a sense of humour.

Simon


Dear Friends

Last week Father Simon and I joined a group of others from St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park in a Week of Guided Prayer, which we found fruitful.

I was reminded of this when I came across an extract from an article (shown below) about Etty Hillesum which describes how she gradually developed her relationship with God. 

Etty Hillesum, who died in Auschwitz in 1943, and whose diary was published in a book titled “The Interrupted Life”, tells her story about her gradual discovery about where God resides. In her! She recalls being in Westerbork, which was a camp where 10,000 Jewish people were waiting to be taken away, and she says some incredible words. “It isn’t that I need God; God needs me!” She explains that God needs me to open my heart so that I can receive God into my being and then begin to radiate the presence of God which is the presence of peace, the presence of forgiveness, the presence of compassion.

I hope that some of you are following the Lent readings and reflections that are available at the back of church and are finding them helpful in your own prayer life.

With every blessing

Mother Eileen

13th March 2019

Dear Friends

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We have now embarked on our pilgrimage through Lent. I hope you are finding that material we have made available useful. Our mindfulness course is particularly well attended. Mother Eileen and I are participating this week in a week of directed prayer. It’s a bit like a retreat but at home and in the context of work. Each day we meet with our prayer guide, who supports us with ideas and techniques for prayer. A classic method of prayer is using scripture. It might be useful for those of you using our daily bible studies, who want to take the exercise a little further.
Read the text and read it again slowly. Try to put yourself into the scene, try to notice the characters and the place, what might the scene look like, what might be being said, what might be going on?  Imagine where you might be in the scene? Ask for the grace to encounter Jesus more intimately, to understand his presence in your life more fully. There is no right way to do this, just the way that works for you. 

It would be good to see more of you at our Friday Eucharist and soup lunch.
The Eucharist starts at 12.30pm and the soup lunch, in the parish hall starts at 1pm. The soup is free, but feel free to make a donation towards Crosslight our debt counselling service.

Each Sunday evening in Lent at 6pm we will be praying the Stations of the Cross, it is a short service, whilst we travel with Jesus on his last journey on earth we place our thoughts and prayers in the context of our world and our daily lives.

Remember Lent means Springtime.

Simon


Dear Friends

At Mass last Sunday, when Fr Simon mentioned the fact that we don’t say the ‘A’ word during Lent there were several puzzled looks from members of the congregation (and choir!). This is what he was referring to: 
The omission of alleluia during Lent goes back at least to the fifth century in the western church. The association of alleluia with Easter led to the custom of intentionally omitting it from the liturgy during the season of Lent, a kind of verbal fast which has the effect of creating a sense of anticipation and even greater joy when the familiar word of praise returns. Some churches embrace the practice of physically “burying” the alleluia. This ritual practice is especially delightful and meaningful for children. At my previous church on the Sunday before Lent the children would make a large coloured banner with the word Alleluia on it. They would process it into church and bury it under the altar. Other churches will bury a fabric version in a container their grounds.  We resurrect the alleluia on Easter Day. Hearty congregational singing of multiple alleluias proclaims the resurrection, unleashing pure Easter joy! The Lenten fast has now ended.

With every blessing

Mother Eileen

6th March 2019

Dear Friends

Lent means Spring.  It’s a delightful phrase I came across when I once visited the community at Taize in France, it’s a bit less misery and a bit more joy. Lent is a time when we reaffirm our relationship with God our loving parent. It’s a time when we consider our relationship with God and our community, but always in maturity. We get things wrong, the joy of our faith is that there is always an opportunity for change and transformation. We are not crushed by our failure, but encouraged to look at our life and our relationships in the context of hope. So what ever we choose to do this Lent, let’s make it a source of joy.
Please use the resources we have available.
Our Lent course Grit and Grace is designed to deepen our prayer life, to help us make sense of prayer, even when things get difficult.
Our daily bible readings are available on line or from the back of church.
There are also materials at the back of church which you can use as a family.

Our Lent appeal this year is for Crosslight, our debt counselling service. Although the service relies on volunteers as assistants, it also requires a paid scheme manager which is Michele and we need to make a payments to the central Crosslight board of trustees to cover the cost of training and insurance. Michele has been lucky to source funding streams to help but the PCC has committed to make a contribution of £6,000 this year toward the cost of running the service, our Lent appeal will help towards this contribution.

Simon


Dear Friends

As we start the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday this week I came across this sonnet written by the poet priest Malcolm Guite which I would like to share. I find these words very poignant and worthy of reflection particularly during the coming 40 days..

Receive this cross of ash upon your brow,
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross.
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their hands
The very stones themselves would shout and sing
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognise in Christ their Lord and king.

He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you please,
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.

Wishing you a very blessed and holy Lent.
Mother Eileen

27th February 2019

Dear Friends

Lent is almost upon us, although looking out of the window at the sunshine and warmth and you would almost be fooled into believing we are in the middle of June with Lent and Easter well behind us. Our weather is full of surprises. Lent is full of paradoxes and surprises if you know where to look. Light from darkness, triumph from humiliation and pain. The Christian faith tells us we live by surprises, we increase through letting go, we live by dying, we achieve great things by denying to ourselves. We grow in Lent by following Jesus, in the silence of our contemplation, in the generosity of our almsgiving and in the determination to follow a course of action through. 
This year we have provided a myriad of materials and events to help you grow close to Jesus.

To deepen our prayer life we have our course Grit and Grace. It’s a course we can follow ourselves at our own pace. Through reflection on particular scriptural texts we can grow in prayer and in confidence. You can either have this course emailed to you, or just pick up a paper copy at the back of church.

We have our daily short bible studies which includes a few helpful notes and a couple of prayer pointers. Again we can either email this to you or you can pick up a hard copy at the back of church.
We are very lucky to be able to have Fr Fabrizio Pesce among us leading a course on Mindfulness and Christian Meditation. On Tuesdays in March 5th, 12th, 19th and 26th. In St Deny’s Hall 8pm till 9pm.

Our Lent appeal this year is directed towards Crosslight our own debt counselling service led by Michele Rooney.

Such a wealth of resources I do hope you will all participate in some way.

Simon


Dear Friends

Many of you will have read accounts of the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England held last week in London. Amongst the various topics of discussion was, perhaps not surprisingly, the ongoing saga of Brexit and recognition of the anxiety being created by the lack of clarity regarding an outcome. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York tabled a motion which was passed by Synod almost unanimously, saying that the voices of the poor and marginalised must be put at the heart of the nation’s concerns. They also urged congregations to take part in five days of prayer as we approach the deadline for leaving the EU.

The Dean of Southwark Cathedral, the Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, has written a prayer for all the cathedrals to use. I have included it below in the hope that we might like to pray it as individuals too. 

God of reconciling hope,
as you guided your people in the past
guide us through the turmoil of the present time
and bring us to that place of flourishing
where our unity can be restored,
the common good served
and all shall be made well.
In the name of Jesus we pray.
Amen.

With every blessing
Mother Eileen

14th February 2019

Dear Friends

It was wonderful to go back to Africa and meet with Fr Elias and his congregation. I think I must have something of the pioneer in me, I just love the wide open spaces of Namibia, miles and miles of bush stretching out before you and the amazing sky, which seems to go on forever. We were very lucky to have Lloyd with us as our driver and guide, Lloyd is a Fourth generation Namibian and he knows the country, its landscape and its wildlife like the back of his hand. There aren’t very many corners on Namibian roads, in fact hardly any, so it’s impossible to say ’round every corner’ there is something new to discover, perhaps it’s better to say every half kilometre, there is a new discovery.  Perhaps we appreciate the vastness of this country because we live in such a crowded city, you can feel a bit lost in the vastness of the space, but once you open your heart and mind, fear turns into joy at the possibility of it all.

Being with Fr Elias again was a special privilege, he has done a remarkable job, he has used every penny we have given him wisely, well and to maximum effect, the exchange rate has helped, but it takes skill, vision and a great community behind you to create a church building out of nothing and frankly with so little money. Of course, Fr Elias would say it was all God’s work, indeed it is and to him we give the glory. Jesus said faith can move mountains, St Simon and Jude is proof positive of this teaching. In our micro managed society, such trust might seem foolish, but with the right vision and belief in the goodness of God, remarkable things can be achieved. Our visit to Namacunde has taught us much.

Simon


Dear Friends

Thursday of this week is February 14th, known to most people as Valentine’s Day. The shops have been reminding us of this for weeks with their offers galore of cards, chocolates, roses and much more besides. Very little is actually known about St Valentine except that he was said to have been martyred in Rome in the third century. The legends associated with this mysterious saint are as inconsistent as the identification of the man himself so he was ‘downgraded’ in the ecclesiastical calendar some fifty years ago.

On February 14th the Western Churches now prefer to keep the memorial of two Byzantine Christian brothers St Cyril (827-869) and St Methodius (825- 885) who were theologians and Christian missionaries. They created the Cyrillic alphabet (named after St Cyril), based on Greek characters, in order to translate the Bible and other texts into Slavic languages and to bring the written word to Christian converts in what is now Russia. The final Cyrillic form is still used as the alphabet for modern Russian and a number of other Slavic languages today. 

So if you are planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day this week perhaps you might also like to raise a glass to St Cyril and St Methodius.

With every blessing
Mother Eileen    

6th February 2019

Dear Friends

It has been wonderful to receive a steady stream of photos from our St Nick’s group visiting Namacunde (some pictures included in this bulletin), especially those of the consecration of their new building that we have helped to fund. We continue to pray for Father Simon and the group as they continue on their travels and look forward to hearing all about their trip when they return at the end of this week.

We continue to pray also for Father Elias and our Christian brothers and sisters in Namacunde during this exciting development in their parish life.

Closer to home, there are at least three parishes currently in interregnum in our neighbouring deanery of Hammersmith and Fulham and our clergy are continuing to support them by officiating on Sundays. This Sunday I shall be at St John’s, Walham Green, near Fulham Broadway and we pray for this congregation as they seek a new vicar.

With every blessing
Mother Eileen

31st January 2019

Dear Friends

As you read this there is a good chance we will be in Namibia preparing to travel up North to the Angolan border and our visit to the parish of St Simon and Jude. It’s an exciting time, we are all looking forward to our meeting and our visit to the new church building. I promise we will take lots of photographs and if we have decent WiFi I might even get some photographs to you before we return.

Sundays epistle was a good piece of scripture to hear as we begin our journey to Africa. St Paul uses the image of the body to describe the proper functioning of the Christian community emerging at Corinth. It is as valid today as it was 2,000 years ago. Our link parish helps us to realise that the church is larger, broader and more diverse than we can imagine. There will be times when we are in alignment with our sisters and brothers in Angola and times when frankly it seems like we speak a different theological and philosophical language, that is to be expected. The test is how we negotiate our relationship for the mutual flourishing of both communities. If this is true of the Church, it is true of society. We enjoyed an excellent evening in conversation with Dominic Grieve on Sunday. One of the key themes we explored was how we must engage, constructively, honestly and politely with those we disagree with, this is not an easy task, made more difficult by the stridency of our present national conversation, but it is essential. The image of the body so eloquently expressed by Saint Paul is as useful for Society as it is the Church. We all need each other.

See you in February.

Simon

P.S One of the first photos showing safe arrival in Windhoek

23rd January 2019

Dear Friends

Easter is about as late as it can possibly be this year, as a consequence we do not begin our Lenten pilgrimage until Wednesday 6 March.  I’m hoping we can use this Lenten period of reflection to explore as a church and as individuals how we pray. For the Christian, prayer is at the heart of everything we do, it is the means of conscious union with God our creator and it expresses the powerful bond between the two. Without prayer our faith and the faith of the Church withers. It is vital that we maintain a healthy prayer life,. We can all get stuck in familiar ruts, where relationships are taken for granted and neglected. I am hoping that we can use Lent 2019 to explore how our prayer life might deepen and grow. All of us live busy lives and the opportunity for silence and contemplation is limited.  After each 6pm Sunday service of Stations of the Cross we will use music to explore how we can be silent and attentive. We hope to be able to have a course running during Lent on the practice of Christian Mindfulness, which will be an opportunity to explore how we might benefit most from our use of silence, however limited that might be. Some of us have signed up for a weeks course of guided prayer, I know for many of you the demands of daily attendance for Spiritual Direction was just too difficult to manage. As an alternative we will be offering a six week course on guided prayer called Grit and Grace. Each week you will receive some material to use privately and there will be two weekly opportunities to meet in small groups, or individually, to talk with a facilitator about your weeks experience. If you do not want to meet with a facilitator that is also fine. I hope there will be something for everyone here, something we can all use to grow in grace.

Simon

16th January 2019

Dear Friends

I know this might be a strange question to begin the Vicar’s letter with but… we are missing quite a few wine glasses, has anybody got any church wine glasses at home? If you have, can you bring them back, we’re a bit desperate. Thanks.

How do you respond to change? If you are like me, who seems to hold contradictory responses, I am both excited by change and fearful of it. How I manage the tension between these seeming contradictions effects how I respond to the world around and my own mental well being. Of course, we are all effected by change in different ways, what I might joyfully embrace as change for the good, others might reject as a move too far. Over the years we have witnessed nationally and internationally aggressive and sometimes violent responses to the prospect of change. Fear seems a common motivational force in much of this response. Fear of a new ideology, or a dominant ideology taking over. Fear of a loss of national, local, or individual identity.  Anger at not being consulted, and a sense of helplessness also fuels our resentment.  Is this just a phase, a hiccup we have just got to ride out? Or are we heading towards some kind of world re-defining epoch such as an international confrontation? 

Perhaps a common element in all of the above is hope, or a desperate lack of it. People need to believe in a hopeful future. Of course there is much we as individuals can do to effect the course of our lives, but honestly for the majority, there is much we cannot effect on our own and we rely on others.St Paul tells us in his letter to the Church in Rome that hope is not deceptive because Christ died for us. This is such an important contribution to the debate. Christ died, St Paul says for us. he didn’t die for himself. Obedient to the Father he offers his life for the life of the world. Perhaps we need to stop looking only to ourselves and our own personal advancement and agendas and look rather to the other. Its only through good communication that security is advanced and good communication is dependent on our looking beyond ourselves to the others who surround us.

Simon

9th January 2019

Dear Friends

At the moment we are reading passages from 1 John during morning prayer. Yesterday we read that passage from 1 John chapter 4 so beloved by couples getting married. “Beloved let us love one another, because love is from God”  1 John 4:7 it goes on “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we ought to love one another”  1 John 4:11. If you read the news at the moment there is a depressing litany of stabbings, harassment of MPs and journalists going about their democratic business, and seemingly a country divided like never before. There doesn’t seem to be much love out there at the moment. One might be tempted to read such scripture passages with a degree of scepticism, but that would be to miss a foundation truth. We are loved – therefore this knowledge should be used to enable a proper and mature understanding of another; simply that our neighbours have value, dignity and worth. If another has no value, then their life has no value, their thoughts have no value, their hopes and fears have no value. We protect what we value, we discard what we don’t. Whilst it might be fashionable to dismiss faith, our sacred texts, our scripture and the community we call the Church, what they provide is a foundation for decent human interaction. Without that foundation we drift aimlessly, making it up as we go along – and we know where that leads us.

NAMACUNDE  UPDATE
As many of you know, we are fast approaching our departure date to visit our link parish of St Simon and St Jude, Namacunde in southern Angola. This visit has been entirely funded by the individuals involved. We leave London on Tuesday 28 January and travel overnight to Namibia where we will drive North to the border with Angola. We will meet Fr Elias and his people on Saturday morning 2 February spend Saturday with the community of St Simon and Jude, stay overnight and on Sunday morning celebrate with them the completion of their new church building. Because life in Southern Angola is a little difficult we will be back in Namibia on Sunday afternoon, where we will have the opportunity to reflect as a group on what we have seen and heard before travelling South and flying home via Johannesburg. We hope to be able to provide you with some photographs of our visit whilst we are there, but that is a little dependent on WiFi connectivity. We will of course bring home lots of memories and photographs for you to see.  Your prayers for our trip would be much appreciated. Please pray for the success of our visit, that we all get our Angolan visas on time (very important!), that we are kept safe and for the people of St Simon and Jude Namacunde.
Fr Simon
Ian Stephenson
Susan Marshall
Heather Johnson
Nick and Hilary Lines


Dear Friends

This week marks the first anniversary of the death of a very dear friend of mine who lived with Alzheimer’s disease for over eleven years. She was a highly intelligent woman and so, in the earlier stages of the disease, she developed some very clever strategies for managing her symptoms. Inevitably, however, as the disease progressed she found life increasingly difficult, frustrating and frightening. Her family and friends were very supportive, but we were not always sure as how best to support her. I was therefore very pleased to come across a book published last year entitled ‘Dementia from the Inside – a doctor’s personal journey of hope’.  It was written by Dr Jennifer Bute, a highly-qualified GP, also a very devout Christian, with the assistance of Louise Morse. Dr Bute herself lives with dementia which she regards as an opportunity as well as a challenge. She has written this book to help people living with dementia, but also to offer practical insights and observations to those supporting them. I have found it a very helpful read and would encourage others to read it, especially as so many of us now find ourselves knowing people living with dementia.

With every blessing
Mother Eileen