As we enter into the Christmas season we also move into a time of shorter days and longer dark nights. It is a time when the symbol of Jesus, the Light of the World is particularly powerful. We experience the darkness of the world in many different ways and the news highlights some for us especially in the darkness of the way we can behave to each other. We have seen the extreme example mass killings in Churches and Mosques. People are struggling with the financial situation as shown by the many people resorting to food banks as a source for food for their families. There are many more examples too numerous to mention. We need the light of Christ to help us transform this darkness to light.
As we reflect on the wonderful story of Jesus coming as a baby to be our Saviour we know we are not alone. There is an amazing truth in the fact that the creator of the universe chose to be born as a human being and identified completely with the human condition.
Emmanuel, God with us. He came with the vulnerability of a child who went on to allow himself to be cruelly killed, but also with the power to call things into being with a word, to bring healing and change our hearts from being selfish to being caring.
This makes the Way of Christ to be the hope for the world, and gives us his followers a real challenge. Many times in scripture we read God speaking to us, ”Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” As we are aware of the darkness around us, let us in Christ’s strength seek to transform it with his light.
Do come to one of the services or events we are putting on; you would be most welcome, the details can be found in the magazine. There are some for all different ages and at different times so that at least one should be convenient. Coming together at this time helps us think about not only receiving the gift of Christ’s light afresh for ourselves, but also being willing to share it with others.
Do come and join us.
Rev Bill Henderson
I would like to start with a big thank you for the best wishes and prayers for me after my unexpected visit to hospital.
For those who have not heard, Viv and I were down in London to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Our children had booked 3 nights in a nice hotel for us and we had planned a family meal on the Saturday night. I had a morning session in the hotel gym and pool and then we headed off to meet the girls for our meal. Not far from the hotel I began to have chest pains and tingling down my left arm. At first we turned back to the hotel, but when the pain eased carried on for our rendezvous. However it was soon made clear to me by my family that I had to go to A&E, which I did.
There it was discovered that I had had a heart attack and ended up being blue-lighted to Barts hospital, which happens to be the main heart hospital in the country. There I was seen by a decisive consultant who said I would need an angiogram and as they were quiet, “Let’s do it now”. So I found myself in the operating theatre watching pictures of the arteries supplying my heart. It was a bit disconcerting to see that one of them was nearly blocked in three places. It was obvious that something needed to be done urgently, so they put in 3 stents there and then. We later found out that one of Becca’s friends had been waiting 5 days for a slot for a similar operation.
It has obviously been a great shock but combined with a sense of ‘being looked after’ as I was in the right place at the right time and a potentially fatal condition was discovered in time.
As I write this I am acutely aware of those for whom such an attack was fatal. So as well as being thankful for God’s help we also remember those who are separated by death. At our memorial service will be bringing God into a situation that is painful. We show respect for and how we value the lives of those who have died. We say thank you for what they have given us.
At the heart of our Christian worship is another service of remembrance, our service of Holy Communion. We remember with thanks the death of Jesus, a death that was not in vain as we show each time we respond to Him.
Rev Bill Henderson
On 27th September this year the United Benefice of Outwood, Stanley and Wrenthorpe officially came into being. The Revd Dr Joanne Kershaw was licenced as assistant priest at St Anne’s, Wrenthorpe and Revd. Jonathan Bish was licenced as priest in charge at St Mary Magdalene Outwood. As Incumbent of Stanley, I then became the Priest in charge of the Benefice.
This means that we have greater opportunities to work together across the parishes and we have the chance now to work out what this means in practice. So far our discussions have come up with some clear desires. We value the different styles of worship in each church and would like each one to maintain its distinctiveness especially on Sunday mornings. We are inviting people from each parish to join in with some joint services. On the third Sunday of each month there is a reflection service at Wrenthorpe starting at 6:30pm; this has been going for some time and will continue. On the first Sunday of October and each alternate month following there will be a prayer and praise service at Stanley. On the first Sunday of November and alternate months there will be a service at Outwood using music and images to help our worship. So far these have included the music of Simon and Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen. All the services will start at 6:30pm and I would like to invite you to come and see.
We also want to work together and encourage each other in other areas; working with children and young people, men’s groups and many others. We would also like to share more in our social events: there has been much interest in our wine tasting evenings and Ceilidh, to say nothing of the pantomime. You will see elsewhere that tickets will be available soon. There is a rumour that Cinderella’s step sisters are particularly ugly this year! We are also planning a joint confirmation service at Outwood in December; if you might be interested or know anyone who might be, please let me know.
Last month I wrote about the mystery of finding God in the midst of suffering. The natural disasters and man-made conflicts continue to shake the world in which we live. As we celebrate Harvest and the bounty that the earth provides when properly cared for, let us continue to give thanks to our loving God and be generous to our neighbours.
Rev Bill Henderson
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