Bills Letter Christmas

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.

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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 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