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Bill’s Letter for September 2013

I am writing this on the day the world marked the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have  a dream” speech, 50 years ago, and have been reminded of the importance of inspirational leadership and action.

The movement for Civil rights took a great leap forward when one woman, Rosa Parks, decided not to give up her seat on a bus.  She was arrested and fined, but the resulting backlash was a bus boycott that resulted in changes in the law.  Simple actions for justice can have remarkable effects. The presence of president Barrack Obama on the platform was a sign of progress, but in the same week, a large firm, Merrill Lynch, settled a race discrimination suit for $160 million. There is clearly a long way to go.  In our own country too, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

We may not be called to make great speeches on a platform like Martin Luther King, but there will be opportunities to make a difference by simple actions like those of Rosa Parks.  It is important that we have our eyes open to what is happening around us and be prepared to act to show the reality of God’s love.

I was encouraged by Archbishop Justin Welby’s comments about pay day loans but even more pleased to see that he proposed alternatives through Credit Unions.  The one in Wakefield is called ‘White Rose’ and information can be found in the church.  We are also looking at how we can   support the work of ‘Christians against Poverty’ (CAP)  that is working in our area to help people in debt.  See below for further information about how CAP works and how it can help.  If you are struggling with bills or know someone who is, do contact me and we will pass on contact details in confidence.

Of course in caring for our community, we have the wonderful resource of prayer. I have been inspired by a number of stories of  answered prayer that show God is reaching out to us with love.  As we encounter the realities of life around us let us not hesitate to pray for one  another in our concerns.

Rev Bill Henderson

 

Free debt advice from CAP

Did you know that local people struggling with overwhelming debt can get free help?  The acclaimed debt counselling charity,   Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has partnered with St Helen’s Church, Sandal, and is already changing people’s lives through its in-depth service.

Wakefield centre manager Sarah Cutts said: “The Church has always been about offering hope and we’re really pleased to be able to give a tried-and-tested route out of debt alongside other great free debt advice in the area like the Citizens Advice Bureau.

“There is a lot in the Bible about looking after the poorest.  In our society, a lot of poverty is debt-related so our congregation has been working hard to open a CAP centre to help get people back on track.”

CAP offers a uniquely in-depth, caring service to people with spiralling personal debt.  Every client is visited in their own home, the charity does all the negotiating with creditors and local volunteers offer support to each person face-to-face until the day they are debt free.

Sarah added: “Debts can happen when a relationship breaks down, or someone loses their job, or through bereavement – so often when people are least able to cope with a financial headache.  We’re just so pleased to be able to partner the care of our church with the   financial expertise of CAP’s head office in Bradford.” 

The charity has 233 centres around the UK currently supporting £73m of secondary debts for its clients regardless of income, age,    gender, background or faith.  The free debt counselling has won a string of accolades including being described as “unsurpassed” by TV’s Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis.

To find out more www.capdebthelp.org or call 0800 328 0006

 

 

 

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Bill’s Letter for Summer 2013

Life is a roller coaster for many people. It certainly is for our young people taking exams. The stress and hard work of revising and preparing for exams is then followed by relief and celebrations when the tests are over. Then the build-up of stress waiting for results is followed by either the elation of doing well or the disappointment of not doing as well as expected. Then there is the question of what to do next.  Even those who get a good qualification still face the difficulty of finding a job that will be fulfilling, or that will even just provide enough money to live on. Basically life is stressful, and not just for our young people. It pays to think about how our faith can help us.

Summer is a good time to slow down and check out how things are going in our lives.  Firstly we can take rest seriously. The Bible also teaches the importance of taking time to enjoy our surroundings and our relationships with each other.  Part of the creation story shows God stepping back from creation and seeing that it is good.  This principle of the Sabbath; taking time to appreciate the good things in life, is a great antidote to the pressure to fill our lives with work and activity. Each of us will find different things restful and it is helpful when we understand ourselves enough to know what  works for us.

Secondly we can face up to our concerns, but not get into a state of worry that does not give any benefit: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27). We can place our anxieties with God through prayer.  This does not make our problems disappear, but it does give us resources to deal with them.  Importantly we can have faith and trust in God himself.

There will always be things to worry about in life: whether it is exam results, our own health or that of a friend, finances or the future. We are not called to ignore these things but to bring them to God in prayer. At the same time though, we are encouraged to take time to rest and  to enjoy what is good.

Rev Bill Henderson

 

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Bill’s Letter for June 2013

Thank you for those who prayed for my journey to Tanzania.  I have returned safely after a very fruitful trip.  I was able to travel      extensively around and learn a lot about the ‘Water for Life’ project.  It was also very encouraging to worship with Christians there.  Prayer is a very important part of peoples lives.  There is prayer before a meal and on arrival after a safe journey.  There is a hunger to know God and learn more about Him, especially among the young people.  This      vibrancy is encouraging and challenging.

June is when we celebrate Fathers’ day and this year it falls on June 16th.  At St Peter’s our morning service at 10am will be a special Fathers’ Day Family and Parade service with the uniformed organisations: you would be very welcome to join us.  Of course, as a father I can take this opportunity to remind everyone who can, to do something special to show their appreciation for their fathers!

The experience of being a father is a very profound one with great potential for being a positive influence in the family.  Whilst most father’s bring blessings to their homes, some bring the opposite. Fathers’ day is about celebrating the positive experiences we have had.

When Jesus was helping us to understand our relationship with God, he told us to call Him father or dad.  It is helpful when we can use our positive experiences of family life to understand our Father God’s love for us.  Our church family seeks to model this and is much more than just a father’s love. It is encouraging to hear people’s stories of how they have felt welcomed and accepted.  When we say ‘our’ father, we are reminded that we are not an ‘only’ child.  We have a great number of brothers and sisters all around the world.  Our friends in Tanzania are praying for us and we can pray for them.

Do come and join the church family on 16th June or at any other time, and be part of the world wide community that seeks to support each other in our daily life and in our worship.
Rev Bill Henderson

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Bill’s Letter for May 2013

I shall be spending most of this month—May—back in Tanzania helping with the ‘Water for Life’ Project that is part of the Diocesan link with Mara.

It has been running for 5 years now and so far £63,000 has been raised and sent to the project. We began by helping to train people to build hand dug wells and fitting hand pumps to extract the water.  There is also an important element of health education, so that people understand the value of clean water.  The purpose of my visit is to help evaluate the project: see what lessons can be learned and how to carry on into the future.

There are a number of challenges.  The first is for the villagers to take responsibility for ‘their’ well in the long term so that it will be maintained. Education is part of this to help people understand the health benefits.   Secondly, finding a good site can be difficult, and it can be very discouraging to dig down, even breaking through rock,  only to find there is no water.

We will be working in two dioceses: Mara and Tarime.  Mara is well established and has an experienced team working in development. Tarime is a new diocese but has some very good staff working for them. It will be interesting to see how the project develops in each one.

I fly into Nairobi, Kenya, then get a bus to Tarime, over the    border in Tanzania. This is always an interesting trip; hot and dusty with lots to see and it is of course much cheaper than flying.  I will then meet up with the other two people travelling from Wakefield. We will meet the development team and people from the communities, and then go to Mara with a similar agenda.  At the moment, the pump being used is an ‘India Mark II’.  It is good and strong but relatively expensive and breaks down without proper maintenance.  I will be looking at the possibility of making a rope pump from locally available materials that will be strong enough to last.  The idea is that it could be cheaper to build and easier to maintain, so more wells could be dug.

I will end my stay in Rorya Diocese, which is where our link parish, Sakawa, is situated.  I will also visit Rose Kayus and her husband Samuel, who is now principal of the local Bible college. Rose visited us here in Stanley some years ago. Please pray for a successful trip and safe travel.

Rev Bill Henderson

 

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Bill’s Letter for April 2013

We are in interesting times in the church worldwide. We have just witnessed the appointment of a new Pope and a new Archbishop of Canterbury. The new pope comes with a reputation for avoiding pomp and a palace life and being concerned for the poor. The new arch-bishop is not well known, but I was fortunate to be at a conference recently where he was speaking. I was very encouraged by the conference as a whole and what he said in particular.

At the conference we recognised that difference and therefore conflict is normal. It is OK to disagree passionately, but it is important to stay in relationship with those we disagree with. This gives me hope for the future of the church. We may not be able or even expect to agree with each other about everything; but we can recognise that as children of the same heavenly father we are brothers and sisters together in His family. We are therefore called to love each other, like it or not. We must pray for these new leaders that the hope they bring may be fulfilled.

The events we remember at Easter are, I would say, the most decisive events in human history. They contain the deepest tragedy and the greatest hope. As we enter into this story once again, we are given strength to face our own difficulties and confidence to embrace our times of joy.

Jesus was called to the home of his dear friend Lazarus who was on the point of death. But he does not go straight away. By the time he arrives, Lazarus has died. His sisters Martha and Mary, both say “If only you had been here”. But Jesus transforms the situation, he claims to BE the resurrection and the life. Then he demonstrates it by raising Lazarus from the dead. At this Easter may we know the transforming power of Christ, and that we might experience the hope of new life in whatever we face.

Rev Bill Henderson

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Bill’s Letter for March 2013

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.

Lent can be seen as a time for growth. Not just growth for the sake of it, but growth into the likeness of Christ. It is all too easy to become complacent and stuck in our ways, so often we need some sort of jolt to change. This can make growth uncomfortable even painful.

Traditionally, Lent has been a time of giving things up, and that can be helpful. The act of self discipline is helpful in itself. The idea of growth is a very positive one, particularly as it is also Spring time when we are beginning to see signs of growth around us. While this growth happens spontaneously in nature, we can do things in our garden to help. 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. It is all too easy to fill our lives with business. Jesus was particularly good at spending time in prayer so he knew what to say no to. So maybe giving up a TV programme could be helpful if we used the time to enrich ourselves in other ways.

This could take a number of forms: taking time to read the Bible and pray; deciding to spend time with neighbours or friends; or choosing to care for someone perhaps with a phone call or writing a letter. The digging up of weeds can also be a picture of cutting out things in our life that are not helpful. This means taking time to discern the areas of our lives that leave us more desolate or diminished. This might be just stopping things or it could lead to the whole area of confession. 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.

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