Revd. Peter Cowley writes ….. January 2018 Magazine,
I don’t know about you, but the years seem to be getting shorter all the time. It does not seem a year since last New Years’ day. I also seem to be less inclined to want to party like I did when I was a lot younger.
Time seems to be a thing that we are all short of, I seem to be rushing here there and all over the place for meetings, visits, appointments and even pleasure, the number of events you must go to seems to grow day by day, month by month,
Yet the thing about the New Year is that we are bombarded in the media with all sorts of adverts for everything under the sun for holidays, gifts and New Year’s resolutions.
Then you get the predictions from various celebrities or experts then there are the stars that tell you what the year holds for you - astrologers predicting stuff you never even thought about.
Yet the Christian faith is about a journey that in the end we believe is outside of time as we know it for ourselves – eternity is what I am thinking about. The thing that is so mind blowing to even contemplate at times and yet in Jesus we have the new life of being born again in him to be given the gift of grace to be with him in heaven for ever.
If you do make a new year resolution write it down and look at it in a months’ time to see if you have kept it. It is also a good time to have a think about your faith and relationship to Jesus. Perhaps you could read the bible using notes to help you which can be purchased from Brenda Burgess. Or perhaps you want to pray in a deeper more meaningful way there are some methods that you could try, contemplation, meditation or just plain silence, as well as the liturgy of the church, morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer to name three. You could ask John, Jeff or even myself if you want help.
I wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2018.
Top, Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec,
Revd. John Taylor writes …. December 2017 Magazine,
Sunday, 12 November, is Remembrance Sunday
when we shall remember the supreme sacrifices made by those who died in
time of war in the cause of peace. We remember not only those who fought
in the two World Wars but also our own forces deployed now in conflicts
in dangerous parts of the world. All those who, in the prime of life,
have served faithfully. Some have lost their lives, others have returned
wounded and maimed. We remember them – and their families. We pray that
remembering their sacrifices will spur us all on to give full and proper
care for those who have served our country faithfully and also to be active
ourselves in working for peace, justice and fairness in our own community
and in the world.
There are two ways in remembering. We can remember with a growing sense of bitterness, or we can follow Christ’s example of the forgiveness which leads to a new hope and new life. Then those dreadful sacrifices of the past can generate a just world which so many have fought for.
On Thursday, 2 November there will be a Service in Prescot Methodist Church when all the churches of Prescot gather to remember those who have died in the last twelve months or so. As usual, this is in addition to our own evening Eucharist in Prescot Church at 7pm on Monday, 6 November when we shall also bring before God those of our family and friends who have died over years past: those we love, but no longer see. Do try to get to as many of these Services as you can, so we all can receive comfort from our faith and pray together as the Family of God. A Family which cannot be broken – even by death.
Bishop Brent put some thoughts on paper which capture, for me at least, a helpful way of thinking about dying. When he was a missionary bishop in the Philippines, Brent had to make several sea journeys back to Headquarters in the U.S.A. He used these long sea-voyages to think and write. One thought which has helped many was how similar a journey like this was to the process of dying. He ministered to many people at a time of death in his parochial work, but towards the end of the First World War he saw death on an unparalleled scale when he accepted a job as Chief Chaplain to the troops in the trenches of World War I. Here are his thoughts on dying. It helps me when I think of my own loved ones, and, indeed, when I think about my own last journey.
WHAT IS DYING?
I am standing on the seashore. A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, "She is gone."
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her; and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone" there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up the glad shout, "There she comes!"--and that is dying.
God bless Jeff Engle
This year has gone by so quickly for me that I am amazed that we are now in the autumn with all its colourful leaves, the nip in the air and nights closing in. It can be a time for reflection after the summer and the looking forward to the, dare I say, Christmas period ahead with the Remembrance period in November to make us stop and think of all who had lost their lives in the service of their countries.
Reflection is, and should be, a part of our own Christian discipline and it is something that helps us in our lives. Be it thinking about something in a sermon that you liked, or did not like, or one you may have even found boring you can still reflect on why and what the preacher was trying to say and get over to us. Doing, thinking, taking-in all need to be able to be processed in our minds and I have been taught and found that being able to reflect on the things that have happened or I have read, heard, and been a part of, help to make sense of what I am going through in life and faith at that time.
500 years ago, a monk in Germany, as we know it today, was doing a lot of thinking and reflection on what he saw about him in the church he was a part of and in the culture to which he belonged. He had seen others selling, as he saw it, salvation in the form of indulgences which money raised was to rebuild the basilica of St Peter in Rome which needed renovation and extension. He wrote 95 Theses about what was wrong with the Church and what needed to be reformed and changed for it to better reflect the truth of the gospel of love and salvation as he saw it with his reading of the bible. That man was Martin Luther an Augustinian monk who was a lecturer at Wittenberg University, born in 1483 he lived for 62years and married Katharina von Bora, a former nun, with whom he had six children.
He founded what has become the Reformation and the Lutheran Church. He published his 95 Theses on the 31 October 1517 which he is reputed to have fixed to the local church door in Wittenberg. The effect on the Christian church was, in hindsight, a split and a new and reformed way of looking at salvation through the grace of God in Jesus and not by buying indulgences to get into heaven. In January 1521 the Pope, Leo X, excommunicated Luther. He was then summoned to appear at the Diet of Worms, an assembly of the Holy Roman Empire. He refused to recant and Emperor Charles V declared him an outlaw and a heretic. Luther went into hiding at Wartburg Castle. He died on 18 February 1546 in Eisleben.
He was a man of conviction and a reflective man who was instrumental in how we today see our faith.
Please consider reflection on your faith and your life as you journey on your pilgrimage of faith.
Yours in Christ Peter Cowley
As usual this September we will be celebrating
our Patronal Festival. We keep this on the nearest Sunday to 8 September,
which is one of the feast days of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We will share
our celebration with friends from the Catholic and Methodist churches.
Here in Prescot we are very fortunate in that there are good relations between the Christian Churches, and we meet together on a regular basis as the Prescot Fellowship of Churches. One perennial topic which comes up at our meetings is the state of our buildings and this applies to all the denominations, with perhaps the exception of the Salvation Army as they have new premises. The danger is that buildings can become a preoccupation.
Having said this church buildings can also be symbols of God‘s presence in a community. To many in Prescot the Parish Church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, represents years of love and service. It is the place where children have been brought for baptism; a place where many have been married and the place where loved ones have been brought for their funerals.
There are times in everyone’s life when we need to acknowledge that there is more to life than we can touch or see. Occasions like birth, death and marriage, bring us into contact with forces outside of ourselves. These extra dimensions of human experience are spiritual experiences which remind us that we are part of a bigger whole and not the centre of the universe. A part of the mission of our church is to make people welcome at these pivotal moments of their lives.
The basis of our welcome and our existence as the Church, is that the Christian faith is true. There is a God who is interested in each one of us and we have seen his love revealed in the life of Jesus Christ.
Our many church buildings may give us headaches but they are a reminder to all who pass by, that there is a God who can be found in our daily living. John Taylor
You may remember that young people from
Prescot went on a very memorable Youth Pilgrimage to Virginia. Plans
are now afoot to extend the Youth Pilgrimages to include the Province
of West Africa. It is all part of the Triangle of Hope Initiative of
the three Dioceses that were once involved in the Slave Triangle. Bishop
Paul says that we stand together, viewing this history, which brought
great wealth to Liverpool, with great pain and penitence before God:
the God who “wills in Christ to bring freedom and justice for all”.
It is early days yet, but as well as expanding the Youth Pilgrimage, the Bishops are looking to exploring a number of exchange programmes for parishes, educational institutions, etc. They are also hoping for the involvement of the Mothers’ Union and of many young people’s groups who stand for the freedom and dignity of all human beings in Christ.
I regularly have a taxi ride to a hospital in one of the richest parts of London. My drivers like to give a running commentary, and one thing they often mention as we pass houses so sumptuous that I cannot imagine living in them, is the wealth of their owners and the slaves who serve them. Whether they are right to identify these houses, I do not know, but we do know that slavery is very much a current curse in some UK cities. Overseas girls and women are promised jobs here, but then find that they are expected to work long hours for little pay, and often imprisoned in the house. Their passports are confiscated and they are in such fear of the authorities that they dare not seek rescue from their cruel house-bondage or prostitution. We must repent of past slavery but also be ready to identify and prevent 21st Century slavery too. The Government estimates that there currently 13,000 people in slavery in the UK today.
The Diocesan Bulletin carries details of the new venture, the Triangle of Hope, or we can always let you have a hard copy if you do not use the Internet! In any case, do remember this work in your prayers. Remember, too, those who are with young people, whether in families, school, Sunday school, or wherever. One of the great Christian values we must teach – and show forth in the way we deal with people – is respect for persons. In the Mothers’ Union work tackling Violence against Women it has become increasingly obvious that unless children experience in school and church (and, we pray, in their homes) the love and respect God has for each of us there will be little progress in curtailing these terrible abuses of human dignity.
So, do pray for these things, and – above all – take care that your dealings with other people, even when you are under pressure, truly demonstrate the love, care, and respect that we owe our brothers and sisters, for we are all the children of a God who values us all so much that He died for each of us without exception.
Love and God bless,
I have just been away at the Church Army
Community Gathering at Swanwick. The theme of the talks and bible studies
was that of Grace.
This little, five-letter word is one of the foundation stones of the Christian faith which we are all trying to follow and to live by. We are all, in our own way, needing to be able to accept the grace of God in our lives. Grace is a word that we perhaps don’t think about a lot of the time. It is a word with a meaning that is sometimes hard for us to comprehend in ourselves. God is a God of love he loved us so much that he gave us his son to be our Saviour and our Friend and who showed God’s love by dying for us on the cross.
Then comes the Grace of God in that God then gives us this Love freely and unconditionally in Grace. The free love of God to each of us in His Son is given by grace to all of us. We don’t even have to ask for it that is the heart of this word Grace, it is the gift of God’s Love to all of us.
This Grace is what we should be dispensing to all the people we know who are in need or who need practical help or emotional support during difficult times. The foodbank at the Salvation Army in Prescot, by Churches working together, the lunch provision at St Paul’s, the M.A.T.T. Group, in Meeting Room, and I am sure many other acts of grace that we are all involved in in some way as I have said the dispensing of God’s grace.
Why do we do this and how do we know that we our dispensing God’s grace in love to people because we are now the Body of Christ on earth. Ascension which we celebrated a couple of weeks ago and Pentecost the birth of the church and the giving to us of power to do the dispensing of God’s Love by Grace is what we as Christians should do unconditionally as the hymn says “freely freely you have received, freely freely give.”
May the Grace of God be with us all as we show his Grace in Love to others.
Yours in Christ Peter Cowley
Sunday 4th June is the feast of Pentecost
which is sometimes called the birthday of the Christian Church. On Pentecost
Sunday we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples.
Those first frightened followers of Christ were transformed into people
who were compelled by the Spirit to go out into the streets of Jerusalem
and bear witness to the risen Christ. They were so overwhelmed with
conviction and joy, they wanted to share the Good News - that Jesus
had opened the way to God for all people.
Following the Ascension of Jesus the disciples must have felt bereft, but they may have also remembered what Jesus had told them: ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever’ (John 14:16). In some translations of the Bible, the word Advocate -meaning the Holy Spirit - is translated as Councillor and in the King James Bible it is translated as Comforter.
The word comfort can mean a number of things, soft and soothing, warm and helpful, guiding and strengthening. Most important for us is strengthening, or help.
The word comfort includes the Latin word ‘fortis’, meaning strong. Out of our weakness the Holy Spirit makes us strong. The Holy Spirit brings power, the divine grace, and the living strength of God; in other words the life of Christ.
At the end of the Sung Eucharist on Pentecost Sunday, the Easter Candle (Pascal Candle), will be removed from the chancel of the church and placed by the font. It has been in the chancel since Easter, to be the symbol of the light of the risen Christ in our world; a world which has more than its fair share of darkness.
Removing the candle is also symbolic. The Easter Candle is no longer needed, Pentecost has come and we, the people of God, are to be the lights of Christ in our community. The Church has been born and each baptised Christian is a part of the body of Christ in our world. It is through us, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that the light of Christ will touch those around us.
ASCENSION DAY: THE FORGOTTEN FESTIVAL?
The Funeral Director sounded quite relieved when I agreed to take a Service a week on Thursday. “I can’t understand it,” she said, “some churches are having Services in Church that Thursday. What’s that all about?” It was Ascension Day – that is what it was all about, but she said she had never heard of it! I could take the funeral because our Ascension Day Service would be in the evening while others had it during the day – if not early morning. This year we, in Prescot, shall hold our Service at 7.30pm in the Parish Church, followed by wine and cake. I do hope it will not be the “Forgotten Festival” for readers of our Parish Magazine!
In the Middle Ages the Church often held processions round the Parish Boundaries at this time. Since the Parish Church was responsible for the care of the poor and maintenance of the roads, it was important everybody knew where the Parish duties began and ended, so they would “beat the bounds” of the Parish each year. At the boundary marks of the parish – a tree, a rock, a pond, a hedge or a stream - the Parson would stop to mark the spot and read the Gospel. In many places the boys of the parish were also beaten with willow-wands to ensure they did not forget the boundary-points!
Ascension Day or “Holy Thursday” (as our Prayer Book also styles it) is an important part of our Christian Year, celebrating, as it does, the completion of Christ’s earthly ministry and His return to heaven. This is not the place for a sermon, but there are two things I should like to mention: both of which bring great comfort to Christian believers. We know that after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus still bore the wounds of His suffering on the Cross, and so when Jesus returned to the Father He took His human pain and wounds with Him into the very heart of God. So we have a God who understands our pain and our prayers, since He Himself has shared the worst that this world can throw at Him. We can pray with confidence to our God who really understands.
Another reason to share in the Feast of the Ascension, is to give thanks for, and learn to share the trust of, Jesus’s disciples. Most of us feel the departure of a loved one terribly. Even though, Christians believe that “Death is not the end. In death life is changed, not taken away,” it is normal and natural that we should grieve. Yet at the Ascension the disciples reached the next step along their Faith’s Journey. St Luke tells us that far from being disconsolate and weeping, “they then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple praising God”. They had not only “achieved closure”, as we say these days, they had achieved a new wholesome focus which would release their energies for a new stage in their lives. Isn’t that what we all need after the traumas that beset us?
With love and prayers,
“He is Risen Indeed Alleluia”
Easter is upon us in the middle of April
this year. Do you celebrate it with these words of response to ‘Christ
Easter is a time of hope and new life, it is also set in a time of new life all around us with buds on trees and blossom on some. Flowers are opening and fields have colour again after the drab winter months of looking dead and trees withered. The longer days are beginning and we may even have a bit more sun on our backs!
All of this is helping us to have Easter hope and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus as a sign of the love of God for all his people on earth. This is, in effect, the culmination of the Christian faith; the very heart of all that we, as followers of Jesus, believe to be the outpouring of the love of God visible to all in Jesus.
His coming, through the passion narrative of Holy week, in which we will travel with him day-by-day from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday; the giving of the Holy Communion bread and wine as body and blood; the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; the trial and the walk along the Via Dolorosa to the cruel death on the Cross with his seven last words to mediate on, the most poignant being “It is finished”. He had completed his Father’s will, all had been completed by him; he had taken the cup of suffering willingly, and had triumphed over death!!!
Therefore, we should be celebrating the act of the saving grace of God for each of us and for all people.
The light has driven away the darkness and we all have the light in ourselves.
A joyous Easter to you and celebrate the Risen Lord.
As I write the days are getting longer
and, although the weather is cold, there is a sense in which spring
may just be around the corner. The Church’s season is also changing
and we are once more entering the season of Lent.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; the forty days of Lent do not include Sundays. In the fourth century the early Christians started to regard Sundays as festivals and, as such, they were excluded from the forty-day fast. So it was necessary to add some extra weekdays at the beginning of Lent to make up the ritual number of forty and, that is why Lent begins on a Wednesday.
The use of ash as a mark of penitence has a long history. In the Old Testament we read of sinners repenting in dust and ashes, in ash and sack cloth. Job and his comforters wept, tore their clothes and threw dust in the air over their heads. When Jonah preached repentance to the people of Nineveh, we are told that rich and poor put on sack cloth and sat in ashes.
Gradually the custom spread whereby the ashes were given to everyone as a reminder of our sinful state: ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you will return’ says the priest as the mark of the ash is placed on our heads. It is symbolic of the Genesis account of our beginnings, and our personal failings. But the priest also says: ‘Repent and believe the gospel.’ A call to a new start and a letting go of our old mistakes and failures.
During this Lenten season perhaps it would be good to take time to be still and think what changes need to be made in our lives; and by God for the grace to make them.
Depression and mental illness affects more
people every year than cancer or heart disease. One in four of us in
the UK will be affected by a mental health problem in any given year.
Severe mental illness can affect anyone, although it often emerges during
adolescence, or in the early 20’s. The impact of poor mental health
can be reduced by early intervention and support. But, sadly, you are
more likely to receive the urgent support you need if you have broken
your leg than if you experience a mental health crisis.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister, Theresa May, announce plans to "transform" attitudes to mental health, with a focus on children and young people, a cause which has been close to my heart for over fifty years. Now every secondary school is to be offered mental health first aid training to teach people how to identify symptoms and help people who may be developing a mental health issue. There will be trials on strengthening links between schools and NHS specialist staff. There is no space here to explore the proposals in detail, still less to examine the cost implications, though Russell Hobby, of school leaders' union NAHT, points out that "Rising demand, growing complexity and tight budgets are getting in the way of helping the children who need it most."
Should I, as a Christian, welcome treating depression and mental health issues as medical and social problems? Christian attitudes to mental illness have changed over the centuries. The attitude to illness in the Bible was shaped and limited by the medical knowledge of the day. Conditions that were diagnosed in the first century as requiring evil spirits to be cast out now have a much broader range of treatments available. God uses doctors, psychologists, counsellors, nurses – and many others with gifts our Creator has given them – to bring His healing into a broken world.
Depression is an illness. It is not anybody’s fault. It is not a spiritual failure. It is not a sin. It is not a punishment. It is not a symptom of anything evil. It is not a sign that God has stopped loving someone. It is just an illness. Most Anglicans would not make a connection between depression and the evil spirits described in the Bible. Nevertheless, all health issues have a spiritual side, and are part of the “fullness of life” Jesus came to bring to each of us. As Christians we invariably include prayer and trust in God among the helpful ways to address depression.
After a recent sermon when I tried to address, all too briefly, some of the ways Christians can face anxiety and depression, someone suggested that we should have an evening discussion to look at these issues. If you think this would be useful, do have a word with the Vicar or myself.
Just one last word of hope. Like many of you, I have been through dark times and depression. Indeed, it was during some of those wilderness months that I rediscovered my faith! The experience of Katharine Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s daughter, very much chimed with my own: “Some Christians will say ... that you don't have enough faith, or that depression is not biblical because the Holy Spirit gives us joy, or that you haven't experienced the love of God. To which I just say, ‘I experienced the love of God more during my darkest period than at any other point in my life.’... Reading the psalms [I find] that I don't need to have hope every second of the day. In my hopelessness I just need to acknowledge that God is bigger than my illness and He will come through – eventually. Not always easy, but always possible ... The Bible is full of people who screw up, who get miserable, angry, who hurt and who weep. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, found life too much to bear and pleaded with God.”
God can use every situation, but that is no excuse for not getting the help we need or for not reaching out in love. Do share your own thoughts with me.
With love and prayers,