The times they are a-changin’

We are called to pray for change in the political arenas of the world; we are called to make transformative change in our lives of faith too.


Bob Dylan’s prophetic words ring truer today than ever. We are called to accept changes that we don’t want to make. We are called to pray for change in the political arenas of the world; we are called to make transformative change in our lives of faith too. We are not called to do this alone. We are given people, friendships, prayer partners. We are also, most critically, given oodles of grace in the form of God’s Holy Spirit. We are not alone, no matter how separated we feel right now.

Due to the concerning infection rate of the new Covid-19 variant, the PCC decided to close the church for public worship but insisted that it be kept open for private prayer. This was a difficult decision but one that was driven by the need for public safety and also the opportunity for the Church to be an exemplar for the local community in respecting and protecting lives. 

We are open for private prayer – Monday-Wednesday; Saturday 10am-12 noon; Sunday 11am-12 noon and I continue to commend saying morning and/or evening prayer, provided on our website homepage.

It will still be possible to connect with church if you have a computer or smartphone. We will be livestreaming the 10am Eucharist each Sunday with readers and intercessors and preachers invited to take part in the service. In order to watch the livestream simply click here: www.facebook.com/stmichaelssummertown If you would like to watch the service at a time convenient to you later on Sunday or in the week, just click here: www.youtube.com/channel/UCFx4HGfklx1GCGp9Sc2oNAg

The church is keen to maintain pastoral contact with anyone in need – through Zoom or phone. Please get in touch. Please also inform me if you are concerned for anyone else. We don’t want anyone to feel unnoticed or unloved!

A Prayer for America

Irim Sarwar, one of our churchwardens at St Michael’s, wrote a profound and heart-felt note after the violence on Capitol Hill and in anticipation of the presidential inauguration. I have summarised Irim’s work; I hope that I have done it justice. She writes in the context of the season of Epiphany and specifically last week’s readings, the calling of Samuel in the Old Testament and and Nathanael in John’s Gospel:

It will come as no surprise to those of you who have heard me speak – and I’m not one for being quiet, whether it’s making announcements, reading, or discussing anything from politics to coffee –  that I  was born and raised in the land of Hamilton. What many of you may not know is that Washington, D.C. is my home. Yet even as I rooted myself here, becoming more Anglicised, I still looked back over the ocean. I voted in every American election; felt every result. Then came 2020. 

I sent both a regular and emergency ballot, the latter by DHL. Election Day came; American friends and I figuratively held each other’s hands over the next four days as the result unfolded, until Saturday, when it was called, and relief and joy rang across the Internet. “We did it!” “MADAM. VICE. PRESIDENT!”

But that joy was soon touched by apprehension, then overwhelmed by it, as a refusal to concede and lie after lie whipped grievance into a frenzy, and finally into the violence we watched, horrified, on Epiphany last week. 

I shook as the events unfolded, unable to do anything but hold those virtual hands and pray. This was my home. I’d walked past the cherry blossoms in full bloom on so many spring days; taken relatives and friends to the Mall and the Smithsonian; cursed traffic and tourists; shopped in Georgetown; navigated by the Capitol that now had a gallows in front of it and was being overrun by those bent on insurrection. I wept. For my people, for my city, and for the nation that formed me.

But in that rage and sorrow was a glimmer of hope. Hope, because, at long last, we could no longer hide from the truth, from the ugliness that had long sat beneath a veneer of power and well-being. Finally, America has to confess that she is profoundly unwell, and in that admission, the work of facing the truth, repentance, and healing can begin, slow and hard as it will be.

 If we have learned anything from these last four years, it is that there is always harm in allowing a lie to stand and gain momentum. In our first reading, Eli knows that well, which is why he exhorts Samuel to tell him the whole truth and nothing but the truth, no matter how difficult it is. Our Lord treasures the truth in today’s gospel, despite Nathaniel’s stinging ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’, responding with ‘Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile!’

And so, this churchwarden who calls St Michael’s and the UK home asks you to pray for her other home across the Atlantic: that the transition of power may proceed with no further violence, that Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the incoming administration and Congress may lead wisely and tend to a wounded nation, that the truth may take deep root and flourish, so that America may finally realise the promise of her motto, E pluribus unum – a motto, perhaps, for the Church as well: out of the many, one.

(Thank you, Irim. Yes, we will pray for America, for humility, for healing, for hope and for peace and reconciliation).

Come and See

Bishop Steven introduces the inspiration behind ‘Come and See’ in this short video:
https://vimeo.com/502216171If you are interested in taking up the invitation to ‘come and see,’ please email me for more information. 

Upcoming Service

Please note that the church building is closed.
This week we welcome Revd Mary Gurr who will be preaching. Jesus celebrates the first of many signs of the new kingdom, he turns ordinary water into extraordinary wine. So much for a dry January!

Dwelling in the Word

This is another form of reading. It doesn’t ask for a cognitive, intellectual response, it’s more difficult than that!

The CATechesis group is meeting each week. We are currently studying the text from the previous Sunday and then focusing on the sermon. When I say ‘studying’ the text I should perhaps qualify that by saying that we are attempting to dwell within the text. Dwelling in the Word is a form of lectio divina (holy reading) in which we are asked to ponder over scripture. This is another form of reading. It doesn’t ask for a cognitive, intellectual response, it’s more difficult than that! This type of reading works the spiritual muscles and the unconscious processes. The Holy Spirit becomes the instrument of knowledge and, because our conscious brain is slightly removed from the reading, we can become surprised by the experience.

Lectio divina or dwelling in the Word is a way of reading which refreshes and refines our faith life.

Christianity is a phenomenological religion in which the Spirit of God (the third person of the Trinity) has a real and direct influence upon our lives, especially when we become intentional about our faith. So, we give ourselves over to the Spirit of God as we read, not expecting or asking for anything. It is the Holy Spirit which prompts and pauses and presents new meaning to come from the text.

As we shared the Epiphany gospel in Matthew last week, we one of our number was led to the name of Herod. He was ambivalent, at first, to offer Herod’s name. However, we soon became immersed in a fascinating discussion about why this name came to his attention. Little did we know that only days later a Herod-like action would cause 5 deaths during a so-called insurrection at the heart of western democracy, the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

Our reliance on the Holy Spirit can help us untangle the world’s confusions and enable us to discover more about our own lived experience than we realise.

(The CATecesis group meets on Tuesdays at 7.30pm. If you want to join by Zoom, let me know and I will send you an invitation).

UPCOMING SERVICES – You can watch any recent services on our Youtube channel, click here to see:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFx4HGfkIx1GCGp9Sc2oNAg

LOCKDOWN CHOICES – At this moment in time, St Michael’s continues to be open for individual prayer (10am – 12noon); Morning Prayer on weekdays (9am) and Sunday worship (8am, 10am, 6.30pm). We have made changes to ensure that we mitigate against risk of infection. Obviously, we are offering collective worship and cannot claim ‘safety!’ However, in celebrating the Eucharist the Church is making real the presence of Christ on earth. The Eucharist is a sign and symbol of healing and that in this prayerful gathering, we are mindful of our human need and become people of loving sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ, bringing heaven to earth and earth to heaven.

THE QUARTERLY – As with the three previous issues it is hoped to produce the next issue of the Quarterly in electronic form. Contributions, including book reviews and responses to previous articles, will be welcomed, preferably by e-mail, to any of the editors, Ann Stedman (ann.stedman@btinternet.com), Michael Daniell
(michaeldaniell51@gmail.com) and John Harding (john.harding22@gmail.com). The deadline for submission is Sunday 7 February. If possible, your contribution should not exceed 600 words. The Editors

NEWS FROM OUR LINK PARISH IN SOUTH AFRICAFrom Tumelo and her husband Benny. Happy New Year. We are receiving nice rains since yesterday.  We had a nice Christmas service.  After that President put us back to level 3. We are experiencing a high level of infections per day. Deaths also are increasing at fast speed. People are not observing corona protocols.  Benny’s brother in law and  his sibling passed on and were buried on Friday in Rustenburg.  So many teachers has passed on.  I have seen that in UK you have already started with vaccine, we hope it will bring down infections and deaths. The whole world needs prayers. We hope that our prayers will be heard. 2021 will bring us blessings and protection from our Lord. We hope for better health in the whole world. Greetings to all. Tumie and Benny.

HOME-SCHOOLING CRAFT – The kids will love this, a spinner, as they think about God’s Son being baptised!

Stay safe and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are in need, no matter what!

Gavin

The missing myrrh

Epiphany is the time and season when we seek out the Christ who asks us simply, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’

We are transferring Epiphany (6th January) to this Sunday 3rd January so that more people can benefit from the great feast of discovery. The readings for Sunday provide a comparative glance between the poetry of Isaiah’s prophecy and the reportage of the evangelist, Matthew.

One of the most profound differences of the two accounts is that Isaiah omits the gift of myrrh from the treasury of the camel train. The point here is that homage is being made to a king and the rightful gifts of a king include gold – which is of great material value – and frankincense which has much spiritual or liturgical value. Jesus, the material and spiritual king, human and divine, is the host and recipient of the pilgrims’ quest. However, in Matthew’s account, we learn that the Magi also bring the spiced-oil called myrrh. This is the ointment which is ceremoniously applied to the recently departed. This gift proves Jesus’ kingly status, the king who leads his people from death to life into a new kingdom.

Epiphany is the time and season when we seek out the Christ who asks us simply, ‘what do you want to do with your life?’  You are being called to share all the gifts of the kingdom, including the myrrh. In other words, we are called to live in the pain, injustice and hardship which is so very real and present in this world at this time. How much gold are we carrying? Do we have any room for the myrrh which is needed to give people dignity and a sign of resurrection life to come?  Experiencing the pain, hurt and hardship in others is the first step.  Jesus then says, walk on, talk with me, come and see how I will make all things new.

Matthew recorded the delivery of these gifts and, in particular, the Magi’s homage to Jesus in the form of myrrh. Here we understand the nature of their epiphany, the recognition of the King of kings. At the heart of the Christmas story is the personal act of sacrifice and love.

“Lord God, the bright splendour whom the nations seek: may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light discern the glory of your presence in your Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Post Communion prayer for Epiphany from Common Worship

We are in Tier 4 but I would like to encourage you to continue to share the life of faith with us at St Michael’s, Summertown whether physically attending public worship or through our Facebook or YouTube streaming.

Sunday services: 8am Holy Eucharist; 10am Parish Eucharist (with children’s church); 6.30pm Taizé Prayer.

Coffee after Church – if you would like to join up on Zoom with a chat with some familiar faces, please do so. Here is the invitation: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82384567362?pwd=NXF0YjFnUkk2VGZKZ09DOWNQM0REQT09
Time: Jan 3rd, 2021 at 11:30am.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels!

Gavin

Called out of our comfort zone

Christmas, the birth of God in human form, is not a scene from a card or a chocolate box. Christmas asks us questions and this year, the questions are more uncomfortable, more discerning.

Whatever your personal circumstances are this Christmas, you are not alone! Many of us have had to make deep personal sacrifices in order that our friends and families stay safe. My mother, who is 90 and without the vaccine, will be spending her first Christmas alone. It seems that this Christmas will be celebrated at huge personal cost to many of us.

This level of disruption and unsettlement is, however, how the Christmas story plays out. Due to forces outside of their control, Mary and Joseph are called out of their comfort and family joy by the Roman Census. We know the events surrounding the birth of Jesus – they seek out a shelter, they are eventually joined by strangers and animals. After the birth they have to seek asylum in Egypt. Christmas, the birth of God in human form, is not a scene from a card or a chocolate box. Christmas asks us questions and this year, the questions are more uncomfortable, more discerning.

As we reflect upon 2020 and the virus named after 2019, we realise that in 2021 our hope is founded. But I think the perspective of many of us has changed. Will we ever take for granted the embrace of a loved one, the hug of a grandparent, the sign of peace in church (the holy kiss). So, we should question our intent to give thanks for those whom we love, to reconcile ourselves to those who are difficult to love, to pray for the lost and the lonely.

I am deeply distressed that we cannot freely gather together and celebrate the birth of Christ. I dislike having to ask people to ‘book’ their places in church. I do not like having to request people to keep their distance and leave church promptly. All of these unfortunate things are necessary. I hope that St Michael’s, Summertown has been able to engage with you this Advent and into the twelve days of the Christmas season? We have posted videos, launched a calendar, extracted sermons, recorded services, displayed the Christmas tree, crib and angels in the Threshold. Please take time and have a look at our website https://www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk for more information. Some of the highlights are below.

For the children and young families

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prZ7dz6Erxk

The Christmas story – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMU0ozNyARM&t=8s

CHRISTMAS DAY

We still have spaces for the 8am and 10am Eucharists on Christmas Day. Please email me, Gavin Knight at: vicar@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk to book a chair. We have enough space and are well prepared to invite people in safety. It would be good to see you. Remember, we are all called out of our comfort zone this Christmas.

OTHER NEWS

From our link parish in Taung, South Africa. Tumelo is a member of St Chad’s Church in Taung and visited in 2011.   

We are still protected under God’s wings. Things have changed in South Africa. We are having a 2nd corona surge. This time, it is so fast 10 000 people are infected daily in Kwa Zulu Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape are worse. 200 death daily. Scientist have identified a new corona virus just like in UK. The big problem is that youths don’t care and they are infecting the elders. I think the government doesn’t know what to do. We must just pray hard for this situation. We are attending church services and observing corona protocol. We did not arrange for carols but will be having service on Christmas Day at 8am.Early next year will be election of a new bishop. We are praying hard for the right person to serve His people. We are waiting for rain in the North West though other provinces are experiencing floods and severe thunder storm. My garden is doing very well this summer, we are have unions, green beans and spinach. We wish all the churches a Happy Festive season and are praying for you all.  Tumelo

From Summertown URC:

We have recently decided to revive our Spring and Autumn Lectures but now screened on zoom for the foreseeable future, until covid regulations allow otherwise. The first of these is now arranged for FRIDAY, 22nd JANUARY 2021, from 7 pm – 8 pm, when Michael Taylor, a former Director of Christian Aid, will speak on ‘THE STRANGER AT OUR GATES;  REFLECTIONS ON MIGRATION BY A NON-SPECIALIST.’ It will be necessary for you to register with her by e-mail on or before Monday, 18th January, please, at phyllwill@gmail.com

With my prayers, love and blessings for this Christmas to all of you,

Gavin

The 8 O’Clock

The 8 O’Clock Communion is an institution in the Anglican fold, offering a sanctuary of quietness and gentility.

There are many diverse practices within the Christian faith, of course there are! You may well expect there to be differences between traditions and denominations, less so, perhaps, between churches of the same institution. Anglican worship has a peculiarly wide-ranging character. In the city of Oxford, for example, a casual observer might stumble upon ecstatic hand waving, plainsong chants and all-age presentations all on the same Sunday!

Styles of worship may also vary in the same church from one service to another, catering for the different needs and demands(!) of worshippers over the years. The 8 O’Clock Communion is an institution in the Anglican fold, offering a sanctuary of quietness and gentility. The 8 O’Clock is traditionally traditional! The Book of Common Prayer has been a staple of this service and, more latterly, Common Worship in traditional language. No hymns are sung, the mass is said and the sermon is short. People are able to do their religion quickly and quietly without any fuss.

Today, the church has reached a life stage that some have described as ‘mission-shaped.’ This is a term that refers to the church becoming more outward-facing, involved in the community around it, going out to share the gospel. Initiatives have started to evolve which intend to bring faith to folk wherever they are at. This conjures up for me an image of a church on wheels – mobile, adaptable, exploratory, never still.

I would like to argue that there is still room for the stationary and sedate nature of an 8 O’clock in most parishes up and down the land. After the excitement and partying of Saturday night comes the Sunday morning certainty that God is present in the dawn of the sabbath day.

One thing is for certain, the Church of England would not be able to survive if it was supported by the 8 O’Clock congregations alone. Only two weeks ago, I was joined by a heavenly throng of just one mortal (but many other heavenly beings)! The early service is not well attended but it does serve an amazing purpose. It “brings to light the things hidden in darkness” (from 1 Corinthians 4). The 8 O’ Clock Eucharist is a jewel in the crown. It shines brightly and that light enables others through prayer, through silence and through the dignity of public worship to come to know God both early in the morning and throughout the centuries.

See you on Sunday… at the 8 O’ Clock, perhaps??

OTHER NEWS

PLEASE BOOK FOR CANDLELIGHT CAROLS AND THE CHRISTMAS DAY SERVICES! Email: vicar@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk We still have places available. Don’t miss out!

UPCOMING SERVICES

Different ways of viewing Midnight Mass

We are sorry to have to cancel Midnight Mass this year. We are wanting to protect our church family and keep the church as Covid-secure as possible. However, you will be able to view Midnight Mass on television or link in to the diocesan service. Just click this link: https://www.oxford.anglican.org/coronavirus-covid-19-2/livestream/video-on-demand/

The Crib Service

The knitted Posada figures will be on display in the Threshold of St Michael’s Church from this Sunday. You can also watch a recorded version of the Crib Service on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFx4HGfkIx1GCGp9Sc2oNAg/videos from this Sunday.

Gavin