Working with weeds

In order to live the apostolic life we must be aware of the weeds, especially if they prevent other flowers from flourishing.

The 6th Sunday after Trinity – we hear how Jesus talks about how the Kingdom of God is revealed, sometimes surprisingly, living alongside weeds as well as fruit and flowers.

The subject matter of the Gospel this Sunday (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) is about discernment. Jesus talks in parabolic language about the the weeds and the wheat growing together. I am not a particularly knowledgeable gardener and sometimes I find it difficult to differentiate between weeds and flowers. What makes a weed a weed anyway? I’m continuing to come up with definitions. My current favourite is a plant that is not invited to grow among those that have been chosen! In order to live the apostolic life we must be aware of the weeds, especially if they prevent other flowers from flourishing. However, we also need to be prepared to work with the weeds, even if we would prefer to imagine that they might die off and never return.

Weed free gardens do not exist – look at the vicarage garden at the beginning of the video! We are called to live in weedy places as well as manicured places. Even though it is our calling to replace some of the weeds with plants that are beautiful, fruitful, abundant, we are also asked to live in a state of containment. Many gardeners know that gardening is the vain attempt to control the wildness of nature. So, I see the weeds in Jesus’ parable as real – something akin to social evils, the things in life which cause injustice and disharmony in society. If our faith is lively, connected and transformative, it will help us to discern where these weeds are growing. It is the duty and purpose of any follower of Christ to have a horticultural insight into the fabric of the soil, the growth within the garden and discern between the weeds and the good fruit. This analogy refers not only to our corporate life as Christians but also as individual seekers of God’s love. This is why we are called to be prophetic (listen to Mary Gurr’s homily).

Enjoy your gardening for the rest of this weekend. I also hope that you have been able to get close to the soil during this lockdown period? I am beginning to realise that when we get close to nature, when we touch it, feel it, smell it – then we better understand who we are within God’s natural order. We are part of something greater. It is quite humbling. Even the weeds are part of something greater but I will leave their purpose to God’s care and attention.

SPIRITUAL HEALTH

I am keen to hear from anyone who wants to learn more about what a healthy spirituality might look like. Perhaps you have been affected by the lockdown and through social distancing. How has your faith helped (or perhaps hindered) your approach to the pandemic? Have you felt that you have drawn closer to God in faith? What have you read? What is your discipline in prayer? These are the questions that I am most interested in. If you would like to make time to talk these things through, I would be delighted to respond.

Please remember that you can stay in touch with St Michael’s in various ways because we operate on different digital platforms. You might like to ‘share’ or ‘like’ the output with family, friends or colleagues. We are trying to “keep the rumour of Christ alive” when we are unable to meet as we would like.


 †      StM&AA website www.stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

 †      A Blog for All Seasons  gavinknight.me

 †      Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stmichaelssummertown/

 †      Twitter – @StMichaelsSU

 †      Instagram – @stmaa_summertown

 †      YouTube – Summertown Parish Church https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFx4HGfkIx1GCGp9Sc2oNAg

 †      A Church Near You – https://www.achurchnearyou.com/search/?lat=51.77962953034491&lon=-1.2639201133363835&place=&text=

God bless you, those you care for and those who care for you.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! See what’s going on by clicking here which will transport you to our website.

God’s fashion

What if you let God re-shape you and re-form you? I have a suspicion that God is not wanting to force a makeover or even a takeover.

It has been good to collaborate with our long time mission partners, USPG – the United Society Partners in the Gospel. In the sermon this week we hear about their work focussing particularly on the people of the Philippines.

Within the Eucharist this week (celebrated by Gavin) we see and hear from our mission partners – USPG

USPG attempted to re-brand itself a few years ago by ditching its long and (some thought) archaic name and creating ‘US’ or United Society. As a concept the simplifying of its name and the intimation of togetherness (US) was helpful but many of its loyal volunteers and partners felt that the charity had lost something along the way. I know that the stakes are high when we attempt to re-brand a product or even an organisation. I was involved (as a trustee) with the new image and branding of Lady Ryder’s Charity, The Sue Ryder Foundation, which became Sue Ryder Care. Many of the old guard felt disenfranchised and unsettled by a change of image and even values. Only time, income and the quality of care provided testified to whether the changes were valid and appropriate.


The Church of God has seen many changes in its 2000 year history, some for the better; some not! The Church must look again at how it is perceived by the world in the light of the Covid pandemic. At a local level, St Michael’s – with thousands of other parish churches – will also have to reappraise its mission and ministry, not least because lifestyle patterns have changed -possibly permanently. People ‘do’ church online now. Will there be such a need to return to church even after a vaccine has been discovered, tried and tested? Will church ever be the same again?


The place of church, the bricks and mortar, is still a sign of Christian witness. The stones are steeped with prayers of thankfulness and petition. The building is representative of a greater body – the Body of Christ – you and me. The people of God will need to be served as always with grace and truth. What might this look like going forward? How might we, as a fellowship of love, continue to proclaim the Gospel together? Many questions are being asked and nobody really has the answers. Perhaps this is the time, the moment, to trust in God alone. And there is nothing new in that little spiritual directive! 


Question – if you were to re-brand or re-model yourself what would you look like, sound like, how would you move? How would your soul charge? How would your heart beat? How would your body knit? What if you let God re-shape you and re-form you? I have a suspicion that God is not wanting to force a makeover or even a takeover. Yet God is lovingly waiting to fashion us again and again into his own image. This source of creation and re-creation is longing for our acceptance and invitation to be changed. Take care this week to meditate on these things.

Go in peace…

OTHER NEWS


THE REVD CHARLES DRAPERWe give thanks for the ministry of Charles Draper who has been a wonderful colleague and priest of St Peter’s Church, Wolvercote. I will be dropping in on Charles to share a gift from the Partnership Churches. Thank you Charles for your wise counsel and prayerful support over these last 5 years. God bless you in your deserved retirement.

IMPORTANT STEWARDSHIP REQUEST
St Michael & All Angels is losing c£2000 per month as a result of the current crisis. We have not been able to hire out the halls. We have also lost the weekly giving offering Sunday by Sunday. It costs approaching £450 per day just to keep the building and grounds going and well maintained, and we are very dependent on goodwill offerings and donations. Many of our parishioners pay regularly by Standing Order through the Parish Share Scheme or by Direct Debit. These regular payments have become a lifeline. May I ask all those who do not give in this way to consider setting up a Standing Order or Direct Debit. The instructions to do so follow here.

I fully understand that this request comes at a time when many of us are feeling the pinch. I am also aware of the sacrificial generosity of many in order to support the church’s continuing ministry and mission.

Regular stewardship Standing Orders
Transferring directly into our bank account is the most efficient for us and, by using your online banking, this is usually straightforward and leaves you in complete control. No need to give your private bank details to us or any external organisation — just give your bank our bank details. You can change the amount at any time using your online banking, or visiting your local branch. Our bank is CAF Bank:

Account:  St Michaels & All Angels Summertown
Sort Code:  40-52-40
Acc No.:  00011607

Please don’t forget to Gift Aid if you are able. The Gift Aid form is attached to this message.


THE CHURCH IS OPENING UP….

Saturday – Wednesday for private prayer – 10am – 2pm. Welcomers are present at all times to help and guide if necessary.

Sunday – Contemplative 1/2 hour – 6.30pm. 

I will be issuing updates about further changes soon. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the weekly services that we are providing online?

Wisdom & learning

Our learning as Christ’s students can never take place in the virtual classroom.

The title of this post is taken from the heading of the July prayer intentions. Each month the intentions strike a particular theme and it is apt that we should focus upon the area of wisdom and learning at a time that schools close for the summer holidays and the long University holidays continue. We have time to reflect a little about how the pandemic has affected students – young and old. We should also think how Christian teaching may enable us to learn from past mistakes so that we make practice wisdom and seek out people and places of wise counsel. 


Jesus comes to us as a teacher: “Jesus simply offers himself as the model to follow. He alone is the way to God. Follow him and we will find God.” (From the Homily attached below). It is this teaching, this modelling, that we are most concerned about today. How can we model Christ in a way that is authentic and real? How can we continue to desire to be attentive to our teacher so that we can find the mystery which is God? 


Many of us are able to remember one teacher in our lives who was able to make a difference. It might have been at infant school or perhaps at University but through their words and actions something came alive in us. The same, and more – much more, is to be said of Jesus. There was something about his wisdom and learning that turned heads and fed minds and lightened the soul. When he first opened the scriptures as a teenage boy in the synagogue and read from the scroll verses from the prophet Isaiah, there was something in his understanding of the text which brought new meaning. 

An all age presentation with prayers, music and a creative craft!

In the service today, we give thanks to God for the path that we tread. We follow our teacher as protogés – desiring that we may understand our vocation through Christ’s wisdom and learning. Let us also give thanks for teachers at this time, in whatever guise they take, and pray that they may be given God’s grace, perseverance and fortitude to continue in their vocation. In particular, we pray for those who are wearied by virtual teaching and the lack of personal connection with their students. Let us thank God that our discipleship, our learning as Christ’s students can never take place in the virtual classroom. Our wisdom and learning has to come from the reality of Christ before us and within us. Please use the prayer intentions each day this month.

Bishop Steven presides in a special service honouring the NHS. You can view the service via the diocesan website. The downloaded order of service can be found by pressing this link: https://www.oxford.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/DOX-060-NHS-OoS-v2.pdf

OTHER NEWS

The CEF foodbank collection

Everyone was so generous to the foodbank last month – we delivered 265 items, way above our long term average and almost twice the volume of the May collection. On behalf of CEF – Thankyou! The collection for July will be Wednesday 8th July at St Michael and All Angels church door, Lonsdale Road, from 11.00am – 1.00pm. Malcolm Sadler will be there as usual (suitably distanced and masked when needed) to receive items. Everything will then be delivered to Cowley the following day. 

A special kind of welcome

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

As we gear up to finally opening up the church for public worship, we need to plan the welcome that we will provide. Bishop Steven was speaking at our Deanery Chapter over Zoom this week and he said that rather than coming out of the woods (in terms of the Church getting back to normal) he fears that we are only just entering them! 

https://youtu.be/0cz2q3cazYs
The Third Sunday after Trinity. William Whyte provides the homily
click here to watch the service

Whenever we start gathering back in church, we need to make sure that people’s needs are understood, that we protect volunteers and church workers but that we also create an environment of beauty and simplicity. We don’t want to be governed by the latest IT trickery or distracted by protocols and directives. The business of welcoming well needs careful consideration and I would be delighted to hear your views about coming back to church. What might it mean to you? What are your cares and concerns? What have you missed and what are you looking forward to the most? 

At the heart of all of this is the Sacrament. Many of you have had to deny yourselves the presence of Christ and the rhythm of life that flows from taking part in the eucharistic feast. God welcomes us not only in the sacraments of the Church but in the sacrament of life. My hope is that we have all had time and space to consider the beauty of creation and the amazing virtues of human kindness, compassion and solidarity. 

All of these virtues are required as we formulate a welcome programme to start church again in this time of pandemic and change. I have included this, slightly irreverent but reflective piece on a different type of welcome. The themes of justice and inclusivity run through it and describes a community that desires growth of the soul and the charism of seeing God in others. I thought I would share it with you:

WELCOME

     We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich or dirt poor. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

     We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our priest who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the bookies, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you! 

I will inform everyone of the PCC’s decision about when the church will open its doors to public worship and how we will set about this. In the meantime you can come to church for private prayer. The church is open Saturday – Wednesday from 10am – 2pm. I would like to thanks Sarah Scheele for organising the rota and for the 20 or so volunteers who are acting as welcomers. 

OTHER NEWS

CLARE LEAL’S ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD

Clare Leal, our curate, was due to be ordained this weekend before the pandemic took hold. However, I am delighted to report that Clare will be ordained priest. The ordination service will take place at St Michael’s on 20th September. Although deferred from Petertide, I think it is especially apt that Clare should be ordained at Michaelmas, our Patronal Festival! Please continue to pray for Clare and her ministry at St Michael’s, remembering also Dave and their son John.

STEWARDSHIP REQUEST

Our church has been affected by the lockdown as much as any other organisation that has had to close its doors to the public. We have not been able to hire out the halls. We have also lost the weekly giving offering Sunday by Sunday. It costs approaching £450 per day just to keep the building and grounds going and well maintained, and we are very dependent on goodwill offerings and donations. Many of our parishioners pay regularly by Standing Order through the Parish Share Scheme or by Direct Debit. These regular payments have become a lifeline. May I ask all those who do not give in this way to consider setting up a Standing Order or Direct Debit. The instructions to do so follow here.

I fully understand that this request comes at a time when many of us are feeling the pinch. I am also aware of the sacrificial generosity of many in order to support the church’s continuing ministry and mission.

Regular stewardship Standing Orders

Transferring directly into our bank account is the most efficient for us and, by using your online banking, this is usually straightforward and leaves you in complete control. No need to give your private bank details to us or any external organisation — just give your bank our bank details. You can change the amount at any time using your online banking, or visiting your local branch. Our bank is CAF Bank:

Account:  St Michaels & All Angels Summertown
Sort Code:  40-52-40
Acc No.:  00011607

Please don’t forget to Gift Aid if you are able. The Gift Aid form is attached to this message.

VIRTUAL COFFEE AFTER SUNDAY CHURCHWe meet on Zoom at 11.30am to share some thoughts about the week or even the church service which is produced for each Sunday. This is a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends and meet others who we haven’t become acquainted with. Please email Clare for an invitation: curate@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk

Lament, thanksgiving and restoration

Good news! We are inviting people to return to church, in the first instance, for private prayer. The church will be open from Monday – Wednesday and Saturday & Sunday from 10am – 2pm. We will open up the church this Monday. All of the safety procedures are in place. We will use the Lady Chapel and the entry point will be through the south door (not the Threshold). The church has been thoroughly cleaned and will continue to be so each week. Members of the congregation will be on-hand to help and maintain social distancing measures. You are advised to bring a face mask. Although this is a long way from what we are used to, it is a new beginning. We also recognise the amount of pain and disorientation that this pandemic has caused. Special prayers have been written in order for people to speak to God from the heart. These prayers focus on the themes of lament, thanksgiving and restoration. (Please watch my sermon which talks about these themes in more detail). So, come and light a candle if that helps. Pray before the icons which are windows upon something greater than we can say. Use the silence to listen and receive God’s presence.

For all budding liturgists – spot the ‘deliberate’ mistake. No prizes given!

STEWARDSHIP REQUEST

Our church has been affected by the lockdown as much as any other organisation that has had to close its doors to the public. We have not been able to hire out the halls. We have also lost the weekly giving offering Sunday by Sunday. It costs approaching £450 per day just to keep the building and grounds going and well maintained, and we are very dependent on goodwill offerings and donations. Many of our parishioners pay regularly by Standing Order through the Parish Share Scheme or by Direct Debit. These regular payments have become a lifeline. May I ask all those who do not give in this way to consider setting up a Standing Order or Direct Debit. The instructions to do so follow here.

I fully understand that this request comes at a time when many of us are feeling the pinch. I am also aware of the sacrificial generosity of many in order to support the church’s continuing ministry and mission.

Regular stewardship Standing Orders

Transferring directly into our bank account is the most efficient for us and, by using your online banking, this is usually straightforward and leaves you in complete control. No need to give your private bank details to us or any external organisation — just give your bank our bank details. You can change the amount at any time using your online banking, or visiting your local branch. Our bank is CAF Bank:

Account:  St Michaels & All Angels Summertown
Sort Code:  40-52-40
Acc No.:  00011607

Please don’t forget to Gift Aid if you are able. The Gift Aid form is attached to this message.

THE QUARTERLY (From the Editors)

The Quarterly is a journal put together by all the churches in the Summertown-Wolvercote Church Partnership.  At present the June issue is only available electronically. Click this link to open the file or cut and paste this address http://www.stpeterswolvercote.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Quarterly_June2020.pdf into your browser. Do please read it as we, the editors, think we’ve put together an interesting issue thanks to contributions throughout the Partnership. 

VIRTUAL COFFEE AFTER SUNDAY CHURCHWe meet on Zoom at 11.30am to share some thoughts about the week or even the church service which is produced for each Sunday. This is a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends and meet others who we haven’t become acquainted with. Please email Clare for an invitation: curate@stmichaels-summertown.org.uk