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Bill’s Letter September 2014

This August we have lost two of our village’s real characters: Muriel Bell and Lilly Noble.

Muriel was well known for her involvement in the community over the years and for supporting the family business of funeral directors.  The family were very involved in supporting the Scouts and Muriel was a founding member of the Parents’ Committee.  She was a governor at St Peter’s school and of course did an amazing amount to support the church.  In her younger days she helped doing flowers and polishing the brasses.  Her home was a venue for jumble sales when the garage was cleared and all family were involved in helping.  Muriel organised coffee mornings with cakes and people would be waiting for grandma Bell’s cakes to appear on the stall.  Her bedroom cupboard was full of jars of homemade jam to sell for the church.  Even in her last weeks, her one outing was to support the Church Gala.

Lilly was a sickly child and was rather amused in her latter years that she had lived so long.  She lived life to the full and was always  determined to do as much as she could.  Lilly had real concern for the community and was willing to get involved and help. She has been  indefatigable in the work on the Moorhouse estate being a founder member of the Action Group and always willing to speak up for and work for the improvement of the community.  She was someone who was willing to give her time to making sure things happened and so was, for example, active in keeping the Monday bingo group going.

I have been inspired by the example of these two stalwarts, and it is true to say if more people could follow their example and give time to working for our village, it would be a better place.  So we remember them with affection and gratitude and see how they reflected their faith and the example of Jesus.  It challenges us to look at each other as brothers and sisters with love; to want the best for our neighbour and be willing to listen and understand each other, and to build significant relationships.

Rev Bill Henderson

 

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Bill’s Letter Summer 2014

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, despite the rather miserable weather.

The gala is always timed to be as near as possible to the feast day of St Peter, our patron saint, which is celebrated every year on 29th June. St Peter’s school began the celebrations with a special service in school followed by a sleepover, which was a great success. It is always helpful to remember some of the stories about St Peter, and be encouraged in our own journey of faith.

I find that I am most encouraged by the times when Peter messed up. When we are honest we can all admit to doing things that we regret or are ashamed of, just like St Peter.  At the school service we retold the story of Jesus walking on the lake in the midst of a storm.  Peter, full of courage, follows Jesus’s call to step out of the boat and walk on the water too.  At first it goes well as he walks towards Jesus. Then he notices the wind and waves and becomes afraid and begins to sink. Fortunately Jesus is there to help him back into the boat as the wind dies down and all becomes calm.

Most people will remember that Peter famously denied knowing Jesus three times, despite saying he would always be there for him. Again Jesus lifts him up when he forgives him on the beach after His resurrection.

Therefore, we can identify with Peter’s  humanity and know that, as Jesus helped him, he can help us too.  I am reading a book about a church that has the motto, “No perfect people  allowed”.  It is really about being authentic.  This means if we have doubts it is good to admit them but also be willing to talk about them.  It means acknowledging that none of us are perfect, so we can accept each other as we are; but also that we can encourage each other in seeking the help of Jesus to become more like Him.

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Bill’s Letter June 2014

I have just had the great privilege of spending three days in Barcelona, as a celebration of Viv’s 60th birthday.  It was the first time we had been there but found it very inspiring.

One of the impressive aspects of the city is the architecture, in many styles and periods of construction from Roman times to the present day.  It was particularly inspiring to see how art and architecture could work together to produce powerful places full of meaning.

Many of these were inspired by faith which added to the experience.  The most well known example is the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia.  Gaudi took over from the original architect and worked on it for 43 years till his death in 1926.  It is still under construction.  The East side, where the day begins with sunrise, depicts the birth and early life of Jesus.  The West side, where the day ends with sunset, depicts the last days of the life of Jesus, in a very different style.  The inside is awe inspiring with enormous majestic columns   rising like forest trees and stained glass that dazzles depicting the resurrection and other great themes.

On a different scale was the Palace of Catalan Music, a building for music practice and performance.  Impressively it was built for a  local choir by contributions from the community from 1905 to 1908.  It is not just for choral but for all kinds of music.  A highlight of the building is an enormous central glass skylight, shaped like a rain drop to represent water and light, in the ceiling of the auditorium in Art Nouveau style.

These buildings have been inspiring as we think and pray about a new church building in Stanley.  Not that we want something on an enormous scale, but that art and architecture, working together, can produce inspirational buildings; and that communities working together can achieve great things.

Rev Bill Henderson

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Bill’s Letter for May 2014

The first Sunday in May will see our Confirmation Service. This is when people make a public commitment to follow Christ, and receive a special prayer from our Bishop. I am thrilled that this year there will be 10 people standing up to do this.  It is encouraging and fascinating to hear about each person’s journey of faith.  For some this year, a key factor has been through being a parent and thinking about what is best for their children.  As they have thought about asking for God’s blessing and having their child baptised, it has encouraged them to think about their own faith.  As they have come to explore what they believe and experience worship, they have discovered the living God, who can enrich our every day lives.

It has been interesting to follow some of the debate about whether we are a Christian country or not.  What has emerged is a clear picture that our society is based on Christian values and laws.  While it is true that only a small proportion of our society go to church regularly, a very high proportion identify themselves as Christian.  This is  particularly true of the village of Stanley. It is of course important to emphasise the value of tolerance of other points of view without losing confidence in our own faith.

I believe that there are many people who are being nudged into thinking about what they believe about God and wondering about  coming to church. Let me encourage you to stop putting it off and come along. We are not perfect but are friendly and would love to meet you.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first World War.  While we do not celebrate war, we do remember those who have given their lives fighting for our nation.  The day I am writing this letter, is the day we have been planting poppy seeds in three places in the village; near the Church Centre, at St Peter’s school and at Stanley Grove School.  This has been happening throughout the diocese. We said prayers that the poppies would help us remember people who had lost their lives.  We will watch as the plants grow and witness the amazing transformation of a tiny seed into a beautiful flower.

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Bill’s Letter for April 2014

It is still very strange driving around Stanley without the old church as a landmark and reference.  It is going to be a while before we get used to its absence.  The Easter story reminds us of the possibility for New Life out of death: that painful loss can lead to a future with hope.

Plans are still being formulated for the site of the old church.  We will be looking at what can be done with the stone we are left with and ideas will be on display for peoples comment.

Looking to the future, there is the opportunity and challenge to continue to develop a place of worship in Stanley.  From the outside, architecturally, the church centre is clearly a school and is set back from the street so lacks visibility.  We are looking for ways to transform its identity so that it is clearly a place of Christian worship as well as a place to serve the community in other ways.

This is an opportunity to think about what is important for us, as we meet together to worship and perhaps looking at different ways from those we have used before. The church is not a building, but the people from the community who follow Christ.  We are the church when we gather to worship, and we are also the church when we scatter to our homes and places of work. We have rich symbols to aid our worship, the cross, water, lit candles, bread and wine, the bible and many more.  There is a challenge in using these symbols well to help our understanding of the living God.

The challenge of developing the Centre is for the whole community.  We want to develop a plan that will be inspiring and be one that people want to support. We will need to work with the council over getting long term security for the site. Then of course the resources to make the plans a reality. Please pray with us as we take these next steps in our life together and look forward to a future of new life and hope.

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Bill’s Letter for March 2014

For the last few years, the March magazine has been 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 theme of death and resurrection.  A theme that we see in life around us.

We have seen the dismantling of the old church, with the main part of the building coming down very quickly.  I would like to say thank you to those who came to the outdoor service on February 9th, despite the appalling weather.  A number of people have asked for copies of the service and these are available at the church centre.  As people shared memories, we heard of a couple who had to get married in the crypt because an air raid was going on.  I later got a letter from someone who was married in 1945, but was only discharged from hospital the night before, and had to report to hospital in Blackpool on his honeymoon.  We would like to keep a record of peoples memories and photos and have some of them exhibited in church.

As the old church is taken down we are breathing new life into the church centre.  We have just been able to lay new flooring, due to the support of local funders, and the effect is a dramatic improvement. As I said in last months letter, we are looking for ways to transform its identity from a school so that it is clearly a place of Christian worship as well as a place to serve the community in other ways.  This is another opportunity for the community to work together and achieve something that we can be proud of and serve future generations.

Death and resurrection is a theme 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 be a picture of cutting out things in our life that are not helpful.

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

 

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Bill’s Letter for February 2014

This is the first letter of 2014, so I would like to begin with wishing you a Happy New Year.

This is a very significant month in the life of the community in Stanley.  As you will see elsewhere, it is the month when the old church building will begin to be dismantled.  It will be a great loss to the sky line of the village and many people have fond memories of  special occasions celebrated there. We are inviting people to a service to commemorate the building on 9th February at 3pm.

We have been very encouraged by the support and help as we are planning a legacy for the site of the old building. We are determined that there will continue to be a sacred space where people can come just to sit quietly or to pray. We are commissioning Groundworks to take the ideas that have come from the community and turn them into a workable plan. This will need to take account of ongoing maintenance as well as making it a safe place to be.

As the plans develop we will have consultation days to enable people to give their responses.  As well as coming up with inspired   designs, we will also need the resources to put them into practice.    Already people have been offering to contribute, either their time and skills, or by offering funds.  The more we can work together to put the plans into place, the more it will be a genuine community project that will be sustainable and we can be proud of.  Let us know if you would like to help.

Looking to the future, there is the opportunity and challenge to continue to develop a place of worship in Stanley.  From the outside, architecturally, the church centre is clearly a school.  We are looking for ways to transform its identity so that it is clearly a place of      Christian worship as well as a place to serve the community in other ways.  We have commissioned an architect, Liz Ashmore, and a liturgical consultant, Revd Richard Giles, to help with this.  We would also welcome ideas from the village, so if you feel inspired, please get in touch.

Rev Bill Henderson

 

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Bill’s Letter for December 2013

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 this can be highlighted by events in the news which shows the darkness of the way that we sometimes behave towards each other.  For example, we have seen the extreme example of three women being kept as slaves for 30 years.

Also, people are struggling with the ongoing financial situation , as illustrated by the number of 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 has chosen to be born as a human being and identify completely with the human condition: God with us.  He has come with the vulnerability of a child who went on to allow himself to be cruelly killed, but also, as creator, with the power to call things into being with a word, and also 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 this Christmas time; you would be most welcome to join us.  The details of all the events can be found throughout 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 will help us to 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

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Bill’s Letter for November 2013

One of the themes this month is ‘remembering’.  We held a Memorial Service recently on 27th October for those who have died recently, and the Remembrance service for those who were killed in wars is at 10am on Sunday 10th November.  We are also planning what to do to remember the old church after it is dismantled.  There are a number of interesting ideas already, including a prayer garden and maintaining the war memorial

Each of these events are different, and at each we do more than just remember. We are bringing God into a situation that is painful. We show respect and show how we value the lives of those who have died.  We say thank you for what they have given us.

In the case of the Remembrance service, there is also the element of doing what we can to ensure that the ultimate sacrifice that has been made has not been in vain.  There is a sense in which victory in both the World Wars is enough in itself, as we still live in a free country.

But there is still a real challenge: have we learned the lessons about the horrors of war? This is a complicated question, but the prospects for world peace do not appear to be very good, as we look around today.  It is truly shocking as we observe what human beings do to each other.  The terrible killings going on in Syria, and terrorist    attacks continuing to spread death and fear.  Cycles of violence that only seem to escalate.  What to do?

At the heart of our Christian worship is another service of remembrance and thanksgiving; 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.  Jesus was also the great peacemaker, and lays down a challenge for us: love your enemies; do not keep a record of wrongs; forgive one another.

We may not be able to effect world peace, but we can be peacemakers in our families and community.

Rev Bill Henderson

 

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Bill’s Letter for October 2013

This is the time of year when we celebrate our harvest festival. As our lives are moving away from being involved in the production of food, it is even more important to reflect on what we eat and where it comes from.  A recent survey showed that a third of primary school children thought cheese came from plants and 1 in 5 thought chicken was the principal ingredient in fish fingers.

Food can become a commodity, something we mindlessly consume on our way to doing other things.  It’s very easy to go to the shops, buy what we want as cheaply as possible, but without any real thought of where our food is coming from.  The principles of Fairtrade are important to help each person in the supply chain get a just reward. Our choices of where we shop and what we buy can make a difference

For Christians, food is not a commodity, rather it is God’s way of providing for the life of the world.  I came across the phrase, “Food is God’s love made delectable”. The story of creation celebrates the  wonder of plants and animals that provide food for each other.  A simple way to avoid taking food for granted is to say grace before meals.  This was the normal thing to do with the people I stayed with in Africa, and I believe it used to be more usual here. Simply to pause and reflect on the gift of food, to give thanks to our creator and for those who have helped bring the food to the table, gives the right perspective.

As we meditate on our food, we are taken into a deeper mystery. The story of food is one of life and death, whether of plant or animal. This opens up the idea of sacrifice, sacrifice that brings life out of death.  As we accept this building block of creation then we are able to move closer to an understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus, who gave his life that we might have life.

We would like to invite you to join in these celebrations of God’s good gifts at Harvest.  There will be a Ceilidh with a live band on    Saturday 12th October at St Peter’s School (please see page 10 for details and ring 835746 for tickets), then our Harvest Festival service at 10am on Sunday 13th October.  On Tuesday 15th October there will be a harvest lunch open to all in the village but especially aimed at the more mature members of the community.