I have been struck afresh this summer and moving into September about the extraordinary contrasting experiences that are part of ordinary life. The current news is full of dangerous and worrying situations, such as North Korea which is pursuing its own path to nuclear capability, despite the efforts of its neighbours and the rest of the world. Understandably, threats of violence against it only increases their determination to have an effective military response. It is a very dangerous path to be on. Also, indiscriminate attacks with cars and knives remind us that a few determined individuals can cause extraordinary suffering.
Then we have experiences of great beauty. I was sailing with my sister and family and in one day two pods of dolphins came to play. We saw them leaping gracefully out of the water at a distance, they saw us and sped to join us. For quite a few minutes they played around the boat, sometimes swimming on their sides to look at us. It was a wonderful uplifting experience. The birth of a new child reminds us of the miracle of life and the power and exhilaration of human love.
This is the world in which we live and seek to find meaning and purpose. We can rightly ask the question where is God in all this. It is easy in the beauty but what about the suffering.
The Christian faith is centred around the mystery of pain and suffering. Jesus, like us, would have preferred an easier way. The temptations in the wilderness were real for him. At the end in Gethsemane he was wondering if there was another way; but there was not. So at the centre of the Christian story, the truth and mystery about God’s love is shown through suffering and death but finally in the resurrection. While we all sensibly want to avoid suffering, there is something powerful about discovering the depth and power of God’s love in the midst of difficulties. We experience strength we did not expect and the love and sacrifice of good friends that would be impossible in easier times. We had this verse on Sunday: Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times (Romans 12 v 12).
Rev Bill Henderson
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make our Summer Gala such a success, and thank you to all who came to support us. It is really encouraging to see the community coming together and to catch up with friends and neighbours .
People keep telling me how time goes quicker as one gets older. This year seems to be disappearing at an astonishing pace. It is already a year since the country voted to leave Europe, but the future is even less clear than it was then. We have had another election that has confounded the pollsters. There have been a number of disturbing terror attacks in our country as well as a tragic fire. The follow up investigations to the fire at Grenfell are showing that many more buildings have unsafe cladding. In fact to date, not one tower block tested has had cladding that meets the required government standard. If we look around the world we see even more difficult and disturbing events.
Sometimes the bible is criticised for all the stories of suffering. Actually it only seems to reflect the world as it is, a place where many people find life difficult.
How can faith help us? First of all it is to note that there has never been the promise of an easy life. In fact Jesus talks about the opposite, taking up our cross to follow him. But he is with us to help and guide. As I wrote last month after the Manchester bomb; As is often the case some hope comes out of the senseless violence. People of all faiths and none came out to stand together, to support each other and say that ‘love wins’. The only effective solution to hatred is love. After the fire at Grenfell fire our bishop Nick wrote “it comes after a weekend of remarkable events that demonstrate the unity of diverse communities. Not only the deeply compassionate response of ordinary people to the plight of those caught up in the Grenfell Tower fire, but also the Great Get Together. Thousands of people have got together in local communities not just to remember and honour Jo Cox, the MP killed a year ago here in West Yorkshire, but to demonstrate that difference does not necessarily mean division.” Let us work to build our relationships grow together in love and respect our differences.
Rev Bill Henderson
One of the great inevitabilities of life is that we all die; we just don’t know how or when. This aspect of our experience has been brought home in a number of ways.
Brian Kirkham who was a much loved and respected member of our community died suddenly recently. He was well known in the village from his time doing a milk round and for playing the organ or piano at many funerals. He was always willing to help and brought his own distinctive sense of humour to whatever he was involved with. There was a wonderful celebration of his life at Sandal Methodist church that was packed with family and friends. We continue to pray for Marion and his family and friends. It was a personal loss to our community as Brian was known by so many.
Then we had the appalling tragedy of the suicide bombing in Manchester. It was particularly shocking as it was targeted at young people and their parents. Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected. It is very depressing that this senseless act can happen here and salutary to think that in many countries it is a weekly occurrence.
As is often the case some hope comes out of the senseless violence. People of all faiths and none have come out to stand together, to support each other and say that ‘love wins’. The only effective solution to hatred is love. There can never be any justification for this type of murder but it is important to try and understand it. The uncomfortable truth is that innocent families and children are being killed all over the world, and in some instances by Western Forces, albeit unintentionally. If young people are fed the biased story of children being killed in Libya; that can breed the kind of extreme reaction we are seeing. I believe this is far more significant than say immigration.
Our prayer is that our loving God will reach out to comfort those affected by loss and change the hearts of those filled with hatred to love.
Rev Bill Henderson
We approach Easter this year with the sadness of having lost one of our most faithful members of the congregation, Don Somerville.
Don was born in Paddington, London, and brought up there. As a child in the war he was evacuated to Crowcombe, a little village in Somerset, which he remembered as a happy time. He was a good rugby player who played for Wasps in their B team; though he did damage his knee. He continued to follow rugby, especially the 6 Nations and the World Cup.
As an adventurous young man he travelled to Ceylon—Sri Lanka as it is now—to work as a manager on a tea plantation. It was there that he acquired the taste of drinking his tea black, a habit he continued throughout his life
After returning from Sri Lanka he went on holiday to visit his sister in Newport. It happened that Nan worked with his sister and they needed an extra girl to make up numbers. With a decision that would change her life forever, Nan chose to give up her original plans and join the party. Nan was involved with guides and Don was into scouts. They never stopped talking, Don stayed the full 2 weeks, and they ended up spending the rest of his life together. They set up home in London where Don worked making jigsaws. Then Waddington’s bought out the company he worked for and he was asked to move North, where he was a factory foreman.
As newcomers in the village they thought coming to church would be a good way of getting to know people. They soon got involved. John Crabb, the vicar at time, could see a good man and in 1971 asked Don to carry the cross. He has done so faithfully ever since for the last 46 years. He helped Laurie set up the scouts. His service to the church has been amazing. Mostly in the background; not making a fuss. He was efficient ,thoughtful and very supportive. We are still discovering all the background jobs he did, getting the church ready for services.
He will be greatly missed and the church will never be the same without him.. We give him into God’s love with our Easter hope of resurrection and new life.
Rev Bill Henderson
As is often the case, the March magazine is published as we begin Lent. Once again we have an opportunity to use this month as a preparation for the great festival of Easter, with the powerful themes of death and resurrection; themes that we see all around us.
Death and resurrection are themes that we see in nature, partly through the changing seasons, but also through cultivation. Cutting back plants is a way of encouraging growth, as is digging out weeds and spreading fertiliser. In our spiritual life there are many ways of applying these principles. Cutting back can give us a positive reason for giving things up. Jesus was particularly good at spending time in prayer so he knew what to say ‘no’ to.
The digging up of weeds can also represent the cutting out of things in our lives that are not helpful; whilst sowing new plants or seeds can be a picture of something that will lead to growth.
It is helpful if we take time to discern the areas of our lives that leave us more desolate or diminished so are good things to stop. It could also lead to the whole area of confession as we face up to areas in our lives that need to change. Confession then becomes a positive experience as the fault is faced up to and dealt with by decisively turning away from it. By God’s grace we are then set free from the consequences.
So maybe giving up a TV programme could be helpful if we used the time to enrich ourselves in other ways. This can take a number of forms: taking time to read the Bible and pray; deciding to spend time with neighbours or friends; perhaps joining one of our Lent Groups to build relationships and encourage faith to grow; choosing to care for someone perhaps with a phone call or writing a letter.
This year there are opportunities to join other churches in Wakefield for a service each Sunday evening during Lent. The times and places can be found on page 15 of this magazine, along with the details of our small groups. Let this Lent be a time for growth, as we ask the Holy Spirit to make us restless till we change, and prepare for the glorious celebration of Easter.
Rev Bill Henderson
This is the first magazine of 2017, so I would like to begin with wishing you all a Happy New Year.
We are at the beginning of the year, but already significant things have happened for the life of the Parish. The vacancies at Outwood and Wrenthorpe have given the opportunity to start a new way of working collaboratively across the parishes.
After prayer and consultation, this has resulted in me being licenced as Priest in charge of Outwood and Wrenthorpe. At the same time, two young Priests have been licenced into each Parish. Jonathan Bish into Outwood and Jo Kershaw into Wrenthorpe. They are a married couple so will be living in the Wrenthorpe vicarage.
We are in the process of thinking and praying how this will work out. I want to encourage a good relationship between the parishes. It is all too easy to live in next door parishes and yet know very little about what goes on there or the people who live and worship there.
Each parish has it’s own distinctive style and the plan is for that distinctiveness to be retained but for us to grow in understanding and valuing the differences. The Church of England has a rich tradition of diversity and we have an opportunity to experience something of that in our own communities.
I would like to encourage people to come along to events in each parish, so we are inviting people from Outwood and Wrenthorpe to come to our Ceilidh on 11th March at St Peter’s school. There is a Youth Event at Wakefield Cathedral in the evening of 24th February and I am hoping that young people from each parish will come to that. Wrenthorpe are having a ‘Sing-along to Frozen’, with optional fancy dress, on 11th February
We are planning to use the same material for our Lent groups in each parish, and to encourage some mixing from the congregations.
There are some important things to agree and decide e.g. what do we call the new grouping? I look forward to a year developing this new relationship; may God bless it.
Rev Bill Henderson
I was in London last week and was rather overwhelmed by the number of people. I went to catch a morning tube and the platform was completely full of commuters so the whole station was packed from the edge of the platform to the tube walls. As each tube train came in a number of the crowd got on, we all moved forward and waited till the next train came. I had to wait for about 4 trains before I was able to get on. Then I saw an article about the world’s biggest traffic in USA, when so many people were traveling for their Thanksgiving that the roads were gridlocked.
I was struck by the outrageous fact that Jesus came for everyone of these people, and for me too, too many for us to imagine. Each person with their own hopes, dreams, fears and disappointments. This Christmas season is when we can once again reflect on the amazing story of God coming to dwell amongst us to bring Hope. Coming into a world he had created to be a good place but we human beings have messed up. God did not abandon us to our fate but in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus has given us a way for a fulfilled future. This is God’s gift of hope to a world in desperate need of love, forgiveness and a better way of living.
We have a number of good traditions that make this a time of hope and celebration; such as giving and receiving presents to show that we care. On the 4th December we have our St Nicholas day service when we bring presents for children who do not otherwise receive much, which are distributed by Barnardo’s to give them hope. Another tradition is singing carols, old and new that tell the story and encourage us. There are a number of occasions to join in with that advertised in this magazine. There are events for all different ages and at different times so that at least one should be convenient. Coming together at this time will help us think about not only receiving the gift of Christ afresh for ourselves but also being willing to share the good news and spirit of goodwill. Please take the opportunity to come and join us. Our prayer is that you meet Jesus himself and find real hope for the future.
Rev Bill Henderson
Last month I wrote that we were starting our latest series of groups for people exploring their faith. The groups have started but it is not too late to join.
The idea of the groups is not to tell people what they should believe, but rather to help explore some of the big questions of life. What is life all about? Where am I going? What is the point of it all? It is all too easy to drift through life without taking time to think through these questions for ourselves. Sometimes life’s events bring us up short and prompt us to ask these questions. The Christian story gives a chance to find meaning and purpose, but also to discover the power and comfort of a relationship with a God who loves and cares for us.
A very good friend of ours has recently died. She was a single lady who through a difficult childhood did not have a very good opinion of herself. But she had an amazing faith and concern for other people; a real purpose in her life. Over the years she has been a wonderful prayer warrior for our family and many others. After a conversation about what was happening in our family, she would get a note book and write down the things that needed prayer. She prayed for many families and people every day. When she died we had a thanksgiving service for her life and the church was packed and many people told stories of how she had helped them over the years. She would have been amazed at the number of people who wanted to show their love.
One of the readings at her service was one we had in our first meeting of our ‘Just Looking’ group. It comes from psalm 139 and talks of God’s great love for us: “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me….You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex…”
It can be a bit scary to think that God knows everything about us, but comforting to know that he still loves us all the same. Faith gives us the foundation to believe that life is not just a series of random events but that we have a higher purpose. There is a loving God who wants us to know Him too, and a relationship with Him will transform everything. Following Jesus is challenging but the most rewarding thing we can do
Rev Bill Henderson
One of the great gifts and challenges we face in life is the ability to make choices. Free will seems at the same time to be a wonderful gift and an opportunity for disaster. The choices we make define our character and shape our future. We have big choices about career, relationships where we live. But there are also daily important choices about how we live and relate to each other.
One of the biggest choices we face is about what we believe and what principles we will live our life by. As a young man, fresh out of school, I thought that all this religion stuff was nonsense. One had to be stupid or feeble to believe all this impossible stuff about miracles and Jesus rising from the dead. It all happened so long ago, it can’t be relevant to today.
Then I met people who followed Jesus who were not stupid and who were not feeble. I made the decision to look into this Christianity thing. Fortunately at the time a friend of a friend attended a good church in Bristol, where I was working on road bridges—actually it was the A38 north of Bristol where they were testing Concord at the time. The sound of the engines was awesome! At the church they had a discussion group for people wanting to ask questions about faith. I went along, bribed by the promise of a meal of faggots (my friend was an impoverished member of the BBC orchestra). I found the group really helpful and clearly found grounds for faith and a real experience of God’s love. As a result of my own experience I am very keen that anyone who is interested in exploring faith has an opportunity to do that in a safe place.
I am starting our next series of Just Looking Groups (a chance to explore questions of faith) in October this year. For people who decide to make a commitment of faith, there is an opportunity to do that when the Bishop of Wakefield comes to lead a confirmation service in November at St Peters. So if you are interested in exploring faith or confirmation, please get in touch. Come along to our group and make your choice.
Rev Bill Henderson