Friday, 27 July 2018

Farewell Hauke

This weekend we say 'Farewell' to Hauke, our Time for God volunteer who has been with us at AFC since September last year.

We have all so enjoyed working with him over these months.  His warm personality, cheerful smile and willingness to help out has been a blessing to us all.  I think we all feel as if he is now a much loved member of our church family, so it's with a certain sadness   
that we'll say goodbye next week. 

There will always be a very warm welcome for him at AFC.

We wish him well as he returns home to his family and then on to university in October.

God bless you Hauke - for you have truly been a great blessing to     us.

So here are a few pictures.

Enjoy the summer - the Blog returns in September!


October 2017 Taking part in residential home service

November 2017 Christmas Shoe Boxes

November 2018 Art in Advent afternoon

November 2017 Serving at The at Three

December 2017 Snow Sunday!

December 2018 Cooking Shepherds Pie at The Manse!

December 2018 Carol Concert at The Royal Albert Hall

December 2017 Visiting London School of Theology

December 2017 Nativity Service

January 2018 Monthly Schedule Sheet

February 2018 Worshipping at All Souls, Langham Place

March 2018 Visit of Sisters!

March 2018 Reading the Lesson at The Free Church Service at St Alban's Cathedral

March 2018 Always helpful with anything 'technological'!

April 2018 Evensong at St Martin in The Fields

April 2018 Good Friday in Amersham

April 2018 Easter Day Evening Service at Westminster Abbey

May 2018 An Evening in London

May 2018 Taking part in Circle The City for Christian Aid

June 2018 Speaking at LunchBreak

June 2018 Part of The Manse Life and Faith Group

June 2018 Taking part in Morning Service

June 2018 With 'Mum and Dad'

July 2018 Anglo German Evening 

Monday, 23 July 2018

Finding our place

Last week we hosted a ‘tea party’ for some of Rachel’s colleagues from school.  It was a lovely occasion but I definitely felt something of a welcomed ‘outsider’.  I was the only non-teacher in the room and I happily took on the role of ‘butler’ filling up the plates of sandwiches and ‘refreshing’ the pot – anything to avoid talking about maths!

All of this felt quite new to me.  Normally I’m the one trying to put others at their ease as I welcome folks to ‘my’ world – the world of ‘church’ where I’ve basically felt ‘at home’ all my life.  On Friday I caught a glimpse of another world, the world of teaching, and the dedicated and talented people who occupy it.

They say people make up their minds whether or not to return to a church within three minutes of arriving at a service.  It’s the welcome they receive at the door and pew that sets the scene.

The other Sunday during the coffee time after the service I was in the church hall and noticed a relatively new couple sitting in glorious isolation by themselves.  I started to make a move towards their table at exactly the same time as one of our pastorally sensitive Elders who had spotted them from the other side of the room.  She smiled at me as if to say: you go first!  So, I sat at the table and chatted with these new friends and she came in at the end of the conversation and took over.

It’s simple stuff, but I believe it makes a world of difference.

Finding our place and having that sense of belonging varies from person to person.  Some want anonymity and for them the back pew is the most comfortable.  Others long for conversation and friendship and see it as an essential part of what it means to be Church.

The welcome we give is part of the message we are seeking to proclaim.

Friday, 13 July 2018

We're Out!

As I caught the train yesterday morning the newspapers at the station said it all.  One, reflecting on England’s defeat on Wednesday, had the headline: World’s End!

To escape from the tension of it all we took the dog out for a walk on The Common during the first half of the game.  We drove there and it felt like Christmas Day morning with the roads utterly deserted.  Dog owners must be football fans because, for the first time ever, we met not one other dog during the walk.

We got back home for the second half, so I was able to join in the group chat with my brothers on WhatsApp, sharing the joys and sorrows with short and often funny (by them!) observations about the game.

Like so many others I was disappointed it ended the way it did, although it did strike me that those churches who still have evening services now know they’ll have a congregation this Sunday – unless they are full of tennis fans!

Over recent years I’ve been helped by the Franciscan, Richard Rohr, and in particular his wonderful book: Falling Upwards.  In it he basically says one of the most important tasks for us all, especially during the second half of life, is learning to cope with failure, disillusionment and disappointment; hence that intriguing title: Falling Upwards.  We all fall down, it’s how we get up that counts.  Indeed, he goes even further and says life’s greatest and deepest lessons are generally learnt during episodes of disappointment. 

Of course, none of this is easy.  Yet, just maybe, after we have fallen and then struggled to get up we begin to sense the value of second chances, forgiving partners, fresh opportunities and the discovery of new strength.

There is a rather lovely Japanese tradition of valuing a cracked dish.  Sometimes a damaged one will be repaired by a golden resin which then holds it together in an overtly obvious way.  There is no attempt to hide the damage, indeed, this dish is now highly prized, faults and all!  It has ‘gone through the mill’ and survived.

Whilst none of us go looking for disappointments, rejection, health scares or a crisis of faith, Richard Rohr encourages us to see them with something of the hope filled, optimistic and deep life of God.

So…. hats off to the cheerful taxi driver I saw yesterday in Oxford Street still proudly flying two St George’s flags – now that’s ‘Falling Upwards’ in style!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Now for the Good News....

One evening this week I actually watched a news bulletin on TV; something I haven’t done for years!  Normally I glean what’s going on in the world from the BBC News website. 

This particular ITN broadcast began with the words: ‘Tonight we begin with some good news…’  It then went on to say the Thai youngsters had been found safe and well in a cave.

Of course, ITN and BBC bulletins could, if they wanted, begin every evening’s broadcast with some good news; instead, in these days of ‘half glass’ empty journalism the editorial preference is to skew the news to the negative, thus giving the impression of a ‘bad world’ view.  It simply need not be this way and it baffles me why only ‘bad news’ is deemed to sell papers and boost ratings.

Well, this week I’ve come across a number of ‘good news’ stories locally.

On Monday I was taken to lunch by an AFC church member to her Livery Company in the City of London.  These ancient institutions do so much good in terms of training, education and support of their various skills and interests.  On a recent ‘Circle the City Walk’ we popped into St Paul’s Cathedral and learnt that it has recently been renovated throughout without a general public appeal simply because the Livery Companies in the City each made generous donations.

On Tuesday I attended the AGM of The Chiltern Child Contact Centre.  This organisation meets at AFC two Saturdays each month and creates safe, welcoming space for children to meet up with ‘non-resident’ parents.  I was so impressed by the commitment of the volunteers who make these Saturdays such a positive experience for those involved.  This organisation brings stability and hope to many fragile families and is such a ‘good news’ expression of society at its best.

This evening I’m attending another AGM, this time of The Sycamore Club.  This is another organisation holding its weekly gathering at AFC, offering a day of activities for those suffering with dementia so that their full-time carers can have some well-deserved time for those other activities that help ‘balance’ life.

I think these three events say so much about that which is ‘good’ in our world.

A few years ago I attended a clergy lunch at which our guest was the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury; he also happened to be our local MP.  He was a little late and upon arrival told us he had been detained at No.10 because the Prime Minister had called in a few cabinet colleagues to thrash out what it really meant to be a ‘Big Society’.  It didn’t pass us by, the irony of announcing an idea and then trying to define it afterwards!!

Well, as you might imagine, us clergy that lunchtime were quite vocal in our discussions with the poor cabinet minister.  We collectively expressed our view that, in our experience, the ‘Big Society’ could be found in almost any church!  Groups of dedicated, self-giving and compassionate people volunteering each week to enable supportive clubs and societies to function. 

It’s a ‘Good News’ story in every sense of the word!  Worthy of top billing after the bongs of Big Ben at the 10 o'clock daily news bulletin!

One small step...

Exactly a month from now, on 20 th July 2019, we shall be commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing. Apollo 11 ...