Life on our planet

Attenborough, has, for me, acted like a moral compass, providing evidence of wonder and beauty, harm and degradation.


I’m writing this week about the need to become truer to ourselves. The age old way that this has been exercised in the Christian Church has been through penance or confession. We cannot begin to desire to say sorry before we understand the impact that our wrongdoing has had on others or on the created world. When we realise the consequences of our action or non-action, we are able to renounce the wrongdoing, to ask for God’s help to repair the damage, to seek a new way forwards. 

I cannot write about confession without thinking of the global context of our known world. Our relationship with creation is absolutely connected with our wellbeing and happiness. This prayer by Bishop Steven goes to the heart of this issue:

Creator of our common home,
You fill the earth and sea and sky with life
Forgive us our neglect of your creation
The choking waste of our pollution
The damage done by careless habits
And our indifference to future generations.
Help us to amend our lives
To refuse more plastic if we can’t reuse it
To lift our voice for lasting change
And to live well and gently on the earth
To the glory of your Son, the living Word
Through whom you made this fragile world. 
Amen 

Rt Revd Steven Croft

Later this month, a new documentary on the life of the naturalist David Attenborough will be released in our cinemas. A book is being released at the same time as the film called, ‘A Life On Our Planet: My Witness Statement And Vision For The Future’. In his 94 years, Attenborough has visited every continent on the globe, documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. He has said that the book records “some of the dreadful damage mankind has already wrought upon the natural world and the real and imminent danger that things could get much, much worse if we do not act now”.

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David Attenborough has been, for me, someone who I have looked up to in my growing up. He has been a ‘confessor’ figure. I expect that he would blanch at the thought of being called a confessor! Many Christians have confessors as spiritual directors, someone who is able to objectively provide a moral base, a spiritual foundation. Attenborough, has, for me, acted like a moral compass, providing evidence of wonder and beauty, harm and degradation. But even in his nineties, he is still wanting to point the way to a more hopeful path. He is a realist. He shows me (and I suspect many others) a greater truth in myself and in the world in which I live and breath. What a wonderful life lived on our planet!

OTHER NEWS

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News from our link parish – St Chad’s, Taung, Kimberley & Kuruman Diocese, South Africa

We are trying our best in this difficult time. We are only trusting on our God to protect and bless us. It is very tough this side. Family members, colleagues or church members have passed on. Our healing rate is good at the moment. It is only painful if a young couple passed on and young children remain alone. Fr Khubeka is busy, especially with burials.  His wife was sick but she is healthy now. Yes it is very cold and windy, temperatures dropping to -3 and we are not used to that one. We received 60% rainfall during the night. We thanked God because grass will start growing for animals. We are not yet ready to open church but I think it was a good plan by the archbishop to wait.  Our archbishop is fighting and talking about this big corruption in our country. Poor people are the one who are suffering. President has started with investigations and we hope that culprits can be sentenced and pay back the money.  We hope that one day this corona will disappear. Greet all at home. May God bless.

Coffee after Church

You are welcome to join us for a virtual coffee and a chat this Sunday at 11.30am. Please contact Clare for the invitation details:
curate@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

Rainbow care networks

I hope that everybody feels included through the pastoral care network. If you read this and feel isolated or out of the loop, PLEASE contact me (details below) and I will get in touch immediately.

PCC Meeting this Sunday

Please pray for the PCC who will be discussing finances in the context of falling revenue due to Covid-19. We will also be reflecting on how the church managed during lockdown; what we could have done better and where God might be leading us as a community in the next months and years. Please consider these questions too. We will hope to share this exercise with a wider group in the near future.
God bless you and all of creation,

You’re Amazing!

At a time when we are unable to embrace one another, we should think about how we might embrace all of creation.

The BUPA advert from the late 1990’s did much to enliven a theology of creation when it sold us the wonder and glory of being human. The ad said this:


“Your heart beats around a 100,000 times a day. Your eyes take in more information than the largest telescope known to man. Your lungs inhale over 2,000,000 litres of air every year. Your hearing is so sensitive it can distinguish between hundreds of thousands of different sounds. Your brain is more complex than the most powerful computer. You’re amazing!”

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The award-winning advert by Ogilvy & Mather.

We have just launched into the newly derived liturgical season named Creationtide. Creationtide draws on deep roots in Scripture and in older Christian traditions around the relationship between God, humanity and the created order. The timing of Creationtide means it is an excellent way of rooting traditional harvest festivals in wider issues and firm theological ground. The Creation Season inspires us to see the natural world with integrity and thankfulness, to explore the beauty of the world and also the beauty of one another, after all, we are amazing!

Creationtide not only emphasises the wonders of creation but also our responsibility as amazing stewards. This season – between 1st September and 4th October – demands a spirit of contrition for all that humanity has done, and is doing, to harm the created order. It therefore asks for forgiveness, reconciliation and healing for the environmental crisis that we face. We are given the opportunity to address our need for sustainability in terms of consumerism as well as farming practices. 

We are not only amazing but our known world is totally amazing and we have a duty to keep it so. At a time when we are unable to embrace one another, we should think about how we might embrace all of creation.

OTHER NEWS

We are beginning to prepare for Clare Leal’s ordination service which will be held at St Michael’s on Sunday 20th September. Although many people will not be able to attend because of the Covid restrictions, it is important that we all keep Clare, Dave and John in our prayers. Pray especially for CLare that she may be given God’s guidance, wisdom and understanding in this deeply perplexing time.

We are hoping to begin to re-assemble a small choir at St Michael’s for the 10am Sunday Eucharist. Again, this will be within the restrictions of health and safety. More about this in the near future.

My thanks to the associated clergy team who have taken on the responsibilities of parish worship and pastoral care during my holiday absence. Thank you also to the church wardens for their work behind the scenes – you are amazing!

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Sunday worship is at 8am, 10am and 6.30pm. Morning Prayer is said at 9am on weekdays. Please bring a face mask. Track and trace registers are being kept and social distancing measures are being observed.

Do not be afraid

Jesus intuits that his friends are in trouble and comes to save them from their peril on the sea. They are terrified, they cry out in fear. And then Jesus speaks the words of calm, the often repeated phrase from the Messiah’s lips, “Do not be afraid!”

My favourite bible stat claims that the phrases, “do not be afraid” or “fear not” occur 365 times, that’s once for every day of the year. Jesus used this or a similar phrase regularly during his ministry. We can take from this that Jesus – standing in the context of Jewish wisdom and divine care – understands what fear is. This means that God knows fear. Far from being a trait of the weak and cowardly, God knows that fear is real and awful and demonising.

In the gospel this week, the disciples journey down from the mountain and escape from the crowds and return to the lake in their professional capacity as fishermen. Jesus withdraws too, but not for long. He intuits the danger coming from the lake. The boat is in trouble, so are his students! Jesus walks out to the place of fear and stills the storm.

Jesus walks on the water but Peter does not. We all know that when a beginner learns to swim, it is ultimately fear that prevents them from staying afloat. Similarly here, Peter panics, loses touch with himself, with his God and begins to sink. So, in order to walk on water – or, in fact, to walk through life, we need to keep our focus on Christ and not panic.

Fear is such a common, felt emotion. It attacks us for different reasons through a variety of contexts. It is one of the most foundational of human triggers leading to the fight or flight response. Thanks to Peter, we are shown how this closest follower of Jesus suffered acutely from his own human condition and environment. Peter was afraid. If Peter feared, then surely we have an excuse to fear too? But what, I wonder, do we fear and why?

It is not for me or this post to enquire too deeply but it is a question for reflection. Jesus knows our self imposed limitations, our neuroses and inherited traumas. The storms come and go and sometimes it feels like we are drowning under external forces and internal voices. But the stillness of Jesus remains. In fact Jesus invites us to take steps of faith, like Peter. It might be a terrifying prospect but sometimes we need to make that step if we are to grow stronger and survive the trauma.

“Do not be afraid” – perhaps we need to use this as a mantra and claim it for daily life?

OTHER NEWS

The Partnership Quarterly

Contributions of no more than 600 words for the September e-issue are welcome, please/thanks.  The deadline is Sunday 16 August. Please send, preferably by e-mail to one of the editors: Ann Stedman (ann.stedman@btinternet.com), Michael Daniell (michaeldaniell51@gmail.com) or John Harding (john.harding22@gmail.com). 

Livestreaming
Last Sunday was our first livestream event. The broadcast was far from perfect but we are determined to learn from our mistakes. The sound quality is the main issue which is difficult to control in such a reverberant space. Please do subscribe to the Facebook Live event and ‘like; and ‘share’ as much as possible. Go to your Facebook timeline page or watch another time on the church’s facebook feed from its website homepage: https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

Upcoming Services

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St Michael & All Angels Parish Church is open from Saturday to Wednesday for private prayer from 10am – 20m. If you would like to chat to a priest, please phone Gavin, the vicar, on 07833 251939.

Sunday worship is at 8am, 10am and 6.30pm. Please bring a face mask. Distancing measures are being observed.

Finding a boat

It is through this intentional decision to make time and space for God and his nature that we can discern our way ahead.

Before we find our boat, I want you to put down the metaphorical anchor! This week, and for all the weeks to come during this pandemic, we will be livestreaming the 10am Parish Eucharist. If you are shielding or unable to attend church for whatever reason, you will be able to join us in real time! All you need to do is go on to our facebook page – click here https://www.facebook.com/stmichaelssummertown/ at 10am on Sunday. You might have to hover your mouse over the video in order to press the sound bar so that you can hear according to your own needs. Don’t worry if you are unable to make 10am. 

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The service will be shown on our website home page – https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk – and kept there for you to watch at your own convenience. If you are able, please subscribe, ‘like’ or ‘share’ so that our Facebook profile grows and therefore the church’s mission flourishes into more households and communities. It is also important to feedback any comments so that we might continue to improve and make the livestream experience for the flock unable to reach the sheepfold! Many thanks in advance. Please pray for our new venture, that it will be fruitful and that it serves God’s world.

And now to the boat….! 

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Alone on the water

This is a reference to this Sunday’s gospel from Matthew in which, after hearing that John the Baptist had been killed, Jesus retreats to a boat on the lake. My sermon speaks about the importance of seeking God in a safe space as we continue to endure the trauma of this pandemic. So, my pastoral advice is to commend that you seek a boat to sail in order to ‘get away.’ It is through this intentional decision to make time and space for God and his nature that we can discern our way ahead, then good religion is enabled. In the case of the gospel, a miracle of generosity takes place. So, please go out and find a boat and rest and find yourself in the company of God and seek out his reassurance and peace.

OTHER NEWS

St Michael’s is open for private prayer from Sat-Wed 10am – 2pm. On Sunday, public worship takes place 8am, 10am & 6.30pm. Please arrive early in order to disinfect your hands, be welcomed and shown to your seat. We recommend that you wear a face mask. Communion will be given in one kind. Please refer to the Covid-19 leaflet attached. 

UPCOMING SERVICES

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Remember to find the video on our website from Sunday morning onwards

Mustard seed theology

The Christian narrative is not about riches and grandeur, or success and fortune, but about searching for the small seeds of encouragement, justice and beauty.

On this Seventh Sunday after Trinity, we celebrate the last recorded service at home before we return to church and share the experience to those shielding through live-streaming.

In this Sunday’s text from Matthew’s Gospel, we hear the parable of the mustard seed. This smallest of parables is used by Jesus to demonstrate something of God’s kingdom. Jesus then offers his listeners an array of other examples of what the kingdom is like. He needs to offer a variety because this is a kingdom that no-one has seen, heard of or experienced. This kingdom is different. Alyson Peberdy shares with us a real example of a mustard seed flourishing into a large shrub. This, like many tales of compassion and courage, demonstrates that the Christian narrative is not about riches and grandeur, of success and fortune, but about searching for the small seeds of encouragement, justice and beauty. Therein lies God’s kingdom.

Please take a look at the video because in it I play out the parable of the mustard seed.  The ‘wondering’ questions at the end demonstrate how we might enter more deeply into the parable – if we are able, remembering that we cannot always enter parables although they are always open to us!

Talking of doors being open, the Eucharist will be celebrated at 8am this Sunday – hooray! Thank you for being so patient. The 10am Eucharist will be celebrated from next Sunday onwards. Here is a prayer giving thanks to God for our safe return:

Almighty God,
we praise you for the many blessings
you have given to those who worship you at home and
in your house of prayer which we know as St Michael & All Angels:
and we pray that all who seek you there may find you, and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, may become a living temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Please also bring a pen for the track and trace register which we will take before the service. If you prefer, you can complete the form at home and simply give it to the welcomer at the church entrance – the narthex. There will be a plate for your offering (if you contribute to the ministry of the church without signing on to the Parish Giving Scheme). 

We will attempt to livestream the 10am Eucharist when we go back next Sunday. This means that you can watch and pray with the church family from the safety of your home. I will provide detailed instructions on how to do this, plus the possibility of ‘dialling in’ with your phone if you haven’t got computer access. More to follow!

I would like to personally thank everyone who has helped during the lockdown and those who are preparing the church for a safe welcome for private prayers and public worship. I would also like to make a special mention of those who are unable to help physically but have been praying for seeds of faith to grow and flourish. What an army you are – mustard seed growers – daring to plant and nurture. Let’s now keep the parable box open so that more people might see what the kingdom might look like.

Stay blessed,