Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Renewed Appreciation

 

I’m not a great lover of supermarket shopping, hence our weekly order with Tesco on-line.  Over recent years I’ve taken their delivery service foregranted; that is until Lockdown.  Early in April we cancelled all our existing orders, thus freeing up slots for those shielding, and we got used to once again visiting the store with trolly and a list.


Half way through the summer Tesco contacted us and invited us to ‘come back’ online.  I remember the renewed appreciation I had of once again making an order just by clicking a few buttons.  Members of my family tell me they love choosing their fruit and veg in store, I love getting the order done and dusted in ten minutes at my desk!

We have all had cause to re-evaluate our priorities since March.  Activities we once took foregranted we might now view with a deeper appreciation than ever before.

I was half expecting that the permission to worship ‘in person’ would be withdrawn this week and the fact that it wasn’t will, I think, be appreciated by many who have loved returning. Although I know it might very well change in the future it was touching to read these words on the Church of England website yesterday: 
The Prime Minister emphasised that we can draw comfort from the fact that places of worship are staying open.

Last week, o Radio 4's Thought for the Day, Chief Rabbi Mirvis reflected on the theme of gratitude and renewed appreciation.  He told a story (as all good Jewish prachers do!) of a boy's reaction to being given a half filled glass of water.  How would he answer that age old conundrum of whether it was half full or empty?  The young lad answered with a wisdom above his years by saying: I think I'm just grateful to have a glass...!  Now, that's gratitude!



And so, to a few items of Church news…

Thank you for all your dry food contributions to New Hope.  After Harvest Festival these will be delivered to one of their centres in Watford.

The Partnership in Mission Committee meets this coming Tuesday morning.  We would value your prayers as we discuss together the ways our church can prayerfully and financially support various mission agencies both at home and overseas.

Next Sunday the 10.30 service will be one of Holy Communion.  This will be quite a significant moment for us as it’s the first occasion we’ve held such a service in the Sanctuary since March.  It will be different from our usual form in that the bread and wine will be available to you in the chair communion holders.  The elements will be prepared by a single person wearing gloves.  During the service you will be invited to take the cup, which will be surmounted by a small plate containing a square of bread, and eat and drink as invited.  Of course, this will be an optional part of the service – and if you wish to remember the love and grace of God without taking the bread and wine at this time please do so with our blessing.

As we leave church on Sunday we need to be very conscious of the rule of six in the car park.  To that end we would ask you to look at for the circles, drawn in chalk on the car park and stand there.  Circle fellowship, socially distanced, in groups no larger than six.  It’s very important that we observe the guidelines.

And finally our love and prayers go out to the family of Mrs Tricia O'Connor, whose funeral service will be held at the Chiltern Crematorium on Friday 9th October at 11am.



Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Preparing for Harvest 2020

 


Next Sunday, 27th September 2020, we’ll be celebrating our Harvest Festival.  


Once again we’ll hear the Harvest hymns and offer to God our prayers of thanks.  And once again we’ll have the opportunity to make a special offering, on top of our usual giving. 

This year’s Harvest Mission Offering will be split between two charities.

The first works overseas and it is Operation Agri.  Their Harvest Appeal for 2020 is called Trees for Tanzania.  The money we raise will help set up tree nurseries as well as helping to establish village community banks and providie fuel saving stoves.

Operation Agri, an organisation with a Baptist foundation, is working with the Anglican Church in Tanzania to do this and it is called the Imarika Project – and African word which means ‘to strengthen’.

The second charity is closer to home.  It’s the New Hope Trust based in Watford.

New Hope was set up in 1990 by two ladies who called themselves a couple of ‘ordinary housewives’.  They purchased two old coaches and turned them into Soup Kitchens that helped feed homeless people.

Today, New Hope has an operating budget of just over £2m a year, employs 60 people and has 160 volunteers.  It’s aim is to prevent homelessness.

It runs a night shelter than runs from 1st Dec to 31st March and operates 9 houses.  Homeless people who stay in these houses all have a key worker so that, together, they may make a journey from dependent to independent living.  Last year 271 people stayed in one of New Hopes houses and went through their programme.

So, Harvest Sunday is a day for us to give thanks, it’s also an opportunity for us to give money to these two wonderful projects.  We can do that using the pink mission envelopes in your offering pack, if you have one.  Or placing money in the basket clearly marked HARVEST OFFERING when coming into church on the 27th September.  Or you could send a cheque to Bob, our treasurer.

Along with that, New Hope, are happy to receive the produce of our Harvest Display.  A list of what they need is on the website.  We can bring these gifts to church on either the Sunday 20th or 27th and leave them in the basket by the Sanctuary doors.

So, conscious of our many blessings, let’s use Harvest to bless others.



And so a few items of Church Life news now:

The September edition of Manse Talk is now on the Website, as is a new audio service of Holy Communion.

This coming Tuesday we have Team Meeting and would be grateful of your prayers as we gather to discuss church life at this challenging time.

As worship ends at the 10.30am service and we leave church we need to be aware of the new social distancing guidelines of not gathering in groups larger than six.  Further guidance will be given on Sunday once our denominations publish new guidelines.

This is the last week to send in your photos for our Harvest Project All Things Bright and Beautiful – we have received lots of wonderful pictures already and look forward to publishing them on 27th September.

Matthew’s CD of Lockdown Worship songs is still available with all profits going to Trees for Tanzania, if you’d like a copy do get in contact with Rachel.

On Harvest Sunday we are accepting dry goods for the display.  These will then be sent on to The New Hope project in Watford.  They have sent us a list of what they require and that list is posted below.

You can drop off these goods into a basket by the back door of the church next week between 9.15am and Noon any morning of Monday through to Thursday, when it will be dealt with by our Church Administrator.

Or you can bring you gifts to church either this Sunday or next and leave them in a place guided by the welcoming steward.



Dry Goods for Harvest

 


Wednesday, 9 September 2020

A Conflict of Interests

 


As we commence our Elders’ Meetings at AFC everyone present has to declare if any items on the agenda gives them a Conflict of Interests.  If, for example, we were about to award a major church building project to a firm owned by a family member of mine, I’d have to declare a Conflict. In other words, my impartiality on this particular subject would be inevitably compromised.


I suspect the Pandemic has given us all quite a few Conflicts of Interest over recent months.  We’d really love to throw a family party or have all our friends round for a meal, but we know our moral obligation to physical distancing brings a conflict we have to weigh up and work through.  Any government in the world today knows the conflict it brings on a nation to both open up society for social and economic reasons whilst also trying to monitor and control physical interaction.

We are living, in what I sense, is the most confusing period of my lifetime.  We love community and many of us see it as one of the most important parts of faith.  Yet for six months now, and possibly for six more to come, our understanding and practise of community is much more restrained and measured than anything we’ve known before.  It’s summed up for me in the rather clever catch phrase they are currently using in Australia: Staying apart Keeps us together. If we had heard that before March of this year we would just have called it an oxymoron, yet now, in our present context, we know it’s truth and wisdom.

Those early days of a Spring Lockdown were relatively straightforward.  These days of early autumn are far more ambiguous. 

As a church we continue to offer Sunday worship that is both in person and on- line, and it will probably stay that way into 2021.  It’s our way of treating one another with gentleness and kindness for there is no ‘one way’ to walk through these days of Covid19.

It’s struck me recently that we have become a Eucharistic community in essence, even at a time when we haven’t been physically sharing communion together.  That is, we, like many communities, are experiencing something of being ‘broken’ and ‘fragmented’.  Yet, like our Lord upon the cross, it is precisely such brokenness that shows the depth and faithfulness of our love and God’s.

I long for the day when, once more, there will be one loaf on the communion table at AFC from which we can all share.  Until then, as broken and scattered pieces we live out our Eucharistic faith with thanksgiving and with God.

Just one or two pieces now of Church Life news:

Thank you for the pictures you have been sending in for the All Creatures Great and Small website project for Harvest – we’d love to carry on receiving them, photos that celebrate creation, and we’ll publish them on the EcoChurch page of our website on Harvest Sunday.

Matthew has put together a CD of the Worship songs he’s arranged and recorded, sometimes with Sara, over these last six months.  If you’d like a copy then please contact Rachel on rmgreen9497@yahoo.co.uk.  We’re suggesting a donation of, say, £10, which will cover costs and the remainder – around £8 will go to this year’s Harvest Appeal of Trees for Tanzania. Alongwith the CD you’ll receive a link, if you wish to use it, to also hear the songs through Spotify. If you contact Rachel she’ll tell you about how we might distribute the CDs.

And lastly… we were glad that Junior Church was able to meet up outside last Sunday afternoon and that they had a good time together


Thursday, 3 September 2020

Returning

 

Our youngest son returned to his office (Transport for London) yesterday after six months of working from home.  He was so taken with the ghost like atmosphere of the building and the fact that papers on his desk were in exactly the same place as they were left in early March, that he Whatsapped this photo.

I received his message on my way to Chorleywood Common for the daily dog walk, passing, for the first time since the Spring, students from Clement Danes making their way to school; returning for a new academic year after one that was cut short half way through.

It’s a theme that’s been on all our minds recently: how do we ‘return’ to some sense of normal routine – or when will that be possible?

Since the first Sunday in July some of us have been able to return to ‘in-person’ worship at AFC.  Our numbers have been around 40 every week.  About 30 people are the same Sunday by Sunday, whilst others come and go.

In the next few weeks, like many churches and community halls and following government guidelines, we will be re-opening the premises for some user groups. It’s another small step back to normality.  Although all of this has to be ‘provisional’, depending on developments.

It’s been so important for us as a church community to continue with the audio service and add the video recording, as this enables folk who are, understandably, not ready to return to ‘in-person’ worship to be included in.  We must never get tied of defining ourselves for the current time as ONE congregation worshipping in three different ways.  The interesting thing is that if you tot up all the numbers of those attending, listening or viewing Sunday worship we are 55% up on where we were before Lockdown started (although I am well aware that when it comes to statistics it’s all about their interpretation!)

The bible often has stories of returning, such as Jacob coming back to Esau and the Prodigal Son receiving the embrace of his loving Father.

‘Coming Home’ can be experienced in all sorts of ways, not least in the spiritual one of looking once more to God for help and meaning.  I believe that whenever we do that, we find a ready welcome.

A few pieces of news as we think about Church Life:

This week the September edition of magazine, Family News has been published.  Our thanks to everyone who has helped make this happen.

We’d like, also, to express our continued gratitude to the church community for your generosity in giving.  Our Free Will Offerings have seen an increase during the Pandemic, and this has helped offset some of the loss of income from the lack of lettings.  Our thanks to everyone for the commitment this has shown to the ongoing life of AFC.

Our Bible Teaching Day, due to be held next month, has been cancelled for this year.  Terry Hinks, our speaker, has agreed to come and led us next year on the theme of Christian ecology.

Government and Scientific guidelines have been changed recently to allow a small group of singers to take part in worship services.  So, next week, a few members of our choir will sing one of the hymns at the 10.30am service.  This will be done, after careful thought and measuring, from the chancel area so that it fulfils the social distancing requirements.  It will be yet another small step back to normality.

Another little step will be the way the service ends.  From this Sunday we’ll return to leaving the church in our normal way, that is during the concluding organ voluntary rather than all of us waiting to its end.  We’ll still leave one row at a time from the back.  If you wish to hear the voluntary all the way through, just remain seated and leave at its conclusion.

And finally, during this Season of Creation, we are launching a Harvest Project.  We’d like to invite you to submit a photograph on the theme of All Things Bright and Beautiful.  It can be of a landscape, a flower on the windowsill, an animal in the wild or a pet at home.  The choice is yours, as is whether or not to include yourself in the photo. 

So many people have drawn great comfort from nature over these last six months, so let’s celebrate God’s wonderful creation with a set of photos, and perhaps a few words to accompany them, that will publish on the Eco Church page of our website on Harvest Sunday. 

Please send your photos to me, and I’ll format them and get them ready for publication.  Let’s make it an act of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Walk This Way!

 It’s an old Vaudeville  joke, it’s used in lots of films and is quoted in the current work being read by the AFC Book Discussion Group.


The rather odd Bell Boy is commissioned to show the guests to their room instructing them to ‘Walk this way’.  So, off they go, puzzled but copying his strange gait as they ascend the staircase.  It gets a laugh and can be used in countless contexts.

As a toddler, I’m told, I did much the same thing copying my grandmother’s walk.  She had a pin in her leg so couldn’t bend it.  So whenever I visited her at Rickmansworth both she, and the three year old me, would walk down Ricky High Street with a stiff leg – we must have looked quite a pair!

As Peter and his friends get to grips with what it means to be a disciple of Jesus they slowly (and sometimes it’s very slowly) come to realise that they have to Walk like Jesus.

At first Peter isn’t too sure what that means because, as we’ll see in Sunday’s reading, he’s still a bit confused as to who Jesus really is.  Part of him still wants him to be a powerful King, but Jesus will, from this point on, not only teach him, he’ll also show him, that he came to be a selfless Servant.

That’s why a cross is often the symbol of Christianity.  Jesus gave his life, selflessly serving others and he even lost his life doing so.

On a church youth group holiday to Scotland in my teens we stayed in an old castle.  A small room was set aside for private prayer.  One morning I crept in just to see what happened.  I sat in a corner out of sight and a minute or so later the leader of our group, our Bible Class Teacher, came in.  He didn’t see me, but I watched him.  I saw him read a few verses from the bible and then get on his knees to pray.

I remember nothing of what our Bible Class Teacher said during his talks that holiday, but I’ve never forgotten seeing this wonderful man sink to his knees as he committed a new day, and all us youngsters in his care, to God.

It made the deepest impression on me, for I thought then, even as I do now, that he was someone who Walked like Jesus.

…and so a few bits and pieces about church life…

…We hold our Church Administrator, Laura, in our prayers attending her father’s funeral on Monday.

…Next Tuesday both the Finance and Property Sub Committee and the Team Meeting will gather, coming together socially distanced, under the current guidelines issued by our denominations. 

…Next Friday we are going to be having a Zoom call with The Revd Edwin Quildan, the minister of our link church at Harlesden, North London.  It will be good to catch up with Edwin and share news together.

…and finally we are looking into the possibility of having live music in worship on Sundays.  Government and denominational guidelines now permit a small choir to sing in a service, about five people.  So, we are exploring the possibility of some, or all, of our hymns at the 10.30am service being sung by such a group.  If they did that from the chancel area, from the elders’ chairs, that would meet the social distance requirements both for them and the congregation.  We’ll see how our plans progress as the next few weeks unfold.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Wider Church Mission

 

We’ll be thinking in Sunday’s sermon, led by Erna, on what it means, amongst other things, to live not just as individual disciples, but as part of his Body, the wider Church of Jesus Christ.


At Amersham Free Church one of the ways we express our commitment to being part of something which is bigger than just the ‘local’ is through the mission contribution of £20,000 we make to our parent denominations from our General Fund offering.

It’s a delight for us to be able to help support the work of the Baptist Missionary Society with £5000, especially taking a prayerful interest in our Link Missionaries, Liz and Sergio Vilela, based in the port city of Bira in Mozambique.

Liz and Sergio, like us, are now in their fifth month of quarantine.  All the pre-schools that Liz worked with are now closed and will probably remain so until the end of the year.  However, she is doing some Play Therapy work with individual families.  She tells us that, even in quarantine, children regularly play together in the streets and are left at home on a daily basis because their parents simply have no option but to continue to go out to work even if the schools are not meeting.

Over recent weeks Liz and Sergio have helped to distribute 500 food parcels to folk in the community who are in need. 

Closer to home we are also delighted that £5000 of the denominational contributions goes directly towards the work of The Baptist Home Mission Fund.  This is a central fund that helps support smaller churches meet ministerial costs.  One such church is down the road from us, Bovingdon Baptist Church.  This year Margaret Howard and I were their Home Mission Visitors.  Unlike previous years, this year we visited via email!  We heard of all they were doing in LockDown to keep together as a church community.  I spoke to The Revd Mary Moody, the Minister on the phone.  And then we put together a report recommending that they receive another grant next year from the Home Mission Fund.  I’m delighted that this was accepted.  Along with other grants being made available to smaller churches in our area, Home Mission also funds the Baptist Chaplains at both Luton Airport (The Revd Liz Hughes) and the Hertfordshire University.

£10,000 of our mission offering from AFC goes to the United Reformed Church.  And we are very conscious this a year of change at URC Church House in London.  The Revd John Proctor, whose been a Bible Teaching Day speaker here at AFC, retired this month as URC General Secretary and he’s been succeeded The Revd Dr John Bradbury, former Vice Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge – and many folk at AFC will have heard him lecture there at various courses they’ve attended.

Change is also in the air in our local Thames North Synod as we prepare for the retirement of our Moderator, The Revd Dr Andrew Prasad. We prayerfully remember those who will be appointing his successor.

Our United Reformed Church Area Group, here in the Chilterns, is putting together a Video Service for Sunday 30th August.  The Ministers have been meeting regularly throughout LockDown via Zoom and the service next week will be another expression of our togetherness in the Body of Christ.

So, we thank God for these various expressions we have at AFC of belonging not just to the local, but to the wider Body of Christ.

Church Focus

…It’s quite a thought that this coming Sunday's Audio Service is the 23rd one that has been produced since Lockdown started, and that this morning’s in service worship is the 8th occasion we’ve been able to come together in this socially distanced way.  All our thanks go out to those who make these variety of worship styles and media available to us.


…We continue to hold Laura, our Church Administrator in our thoughts and prayers following her father’s death, as the family prepare for his funeral on the 1st September.

…We are grateful to all our organists who have returned and are helping us with worship.  Once again Graham is with us this week, and Laurence Beard returns to play next Sunday.



Renewed Appreciation

  I’m not a great lover of supermarket shopping, hence our weekly order with Tesco on-line.  Over recent years I’ve taken their delivery ser...