Welcome to the web site of Prescot Parish Church - An ancient place of beauty, set apart for the worship of God and the coming together of his people. -     "To seek to discern God's will for all the work and worship of our Parish. We pledge ourselves to make our Church a place where people of every age and stage of faith can find acceptance, the discovery of God's presence and real help in their life's journey."    

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Revd. Jeff Engel writes ….. May 2017 Magazine,

Dear Friends
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,

Jeff Engle

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Revd. Peter Cowley writes …... April 2017 Magazine,

Dear Friends,

“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 is Risen’?
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.

 

Peter Cowley

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Revd. John Taylor writes …... March 2017 Magazine,

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.

John Taylor

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Revd. Jeff Engel writes …... February 2017 Magazine,

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,

Jeff Engle

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  Revd. Peter Cowley writes ….. January 2017 Magazine,

Dear Friends,
We begin a new year and reflect back on the year past with all its events and ups and downs, the rich tapestry of life and all that it throws at each of us. Now we have to look forward to the way life will pan out for each of us over the next twelve months. The first major Christian festival is the Epiphany or The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as the Prayer Book has it.
It is about the light of the love of God being opened to all people on earth then and forever. The coming of the Wise Men to visit the child Jesus as the new king. At first we concentrate on the gifts we all know gold, frankincense and myrrh. All point to the Kingship, God and death of Jesus. What happened to them we know not. If you could find them then you would be feted all over the world.
However, it is the showing of the good news to all that is what we should concentrate on. Are we, as a church community, showing others in our communities the love of God for all people or are we hiding our light in our buildings too much so people find it hard to see the light we should be showing to them?
New Year is a time for looking forward and for resolutions to do something new or revised. So let each of us think about how we can show God’s love in Jesus to our family, friends, neighbours and communities, local and work.
Let us each have an Epiphany of showing to give God’s love to all.

Peter Cowley

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Revd. John Taylor writes …. December 2016 Magazine,

 

December is upon us once again and, as individuals and as a Church, we are gearing up for the Christmas celebrations. This year there is a degree of uncertainty in the air. The United Kingdom has voted to leave the EU and the United States of America have elected a new President, how these two events will affect us remains to be seen. In some quarters both these developments have resulted in people being afraid of what the future will bring. Perhaps we do well to remind ourselves of part of the Advent and Christmas message.
We are told that when the angel appeared to Zachariah, to tell him that he and his wife Elizabeth were to have a son, the angel’s first words were ‘Do not be afraid.’ ‘Do not be afraid’ was the angel’s message to Mary, when she was told that she too would have a child. ‘Do not be afraid’ said the angel to Joseph as he considered not marring Mary. ‘Do not be afraid’ said the angel to the shepherds as they are told of Jesus’ birth.
Fear is a normal part of life; at times we are all afraid to a greater or lesser degree. As we get older it may be fear of what the future holds for ourselves and our loved ones.
When we were younger we may have been afraid of moving from the little school to the big school; or the fear may have been of the bully in the playground. We may have been afraid of leaving school and finding work, or not being able to find a job. There is always something to be afraid of. I think part of the gospel message is, though we may have fears, we don’t need to be crippled by our fears.
On the night before his crucifixion Jesus tells his disciples: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’ He tells them this just as their world is about to implode.
Will we be afraid? Of course we will. We wouldn’t be human if were never afraid, but the important thing to remember is that we are not alone. As the gospel which is read at Midnight Mass says of Jesus: ‘The world was made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made.’ The Jesus who existed before time, who entered this physical world as a child; who, as man, was crucified and killed and was raised from the dead; this Jesus who has carried the human experience of pain and mortality into the very heart of God has not left us alone.
He is Emmanuel ‘God with us’; this too is the message of the angel.
A Happy and Peaceful Christmas to you all.
John Taylor

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Revd. Jeff Engel writes...... November 2016 Magazine,

The Revd Billy Graham tells of a time early in his career when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to post a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the boy told him, Rev Graham thanked him and said: “If you’ll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to Heaven.” “I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy said: “Let’s face it, you don’t even know your way to the post office.” Fortunately, Billy Graham was not discouraged and, over many years his ministry has helped countless people to come to faith and experience the love of God for themselves.
The Billy Graham team always tried to put enquirers in touch with local churches. A Christian is always part of God’s Family – a family which can love, encourage and support us in this world and the next! That is why the prayer we all say, at home and in church, begins not “My” Father but “Our Father who art in in heaven”. In his address to the October Diocesan Synod, Bishop Paul called on us to pray this Family Prayer with renewed intention to ‘magnetise ourselves towards the Lord’ so that together we can ‘make Christ visible’ and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
The Bishop reminded us that we have over 25,000 people worshipping in our parishes and, in our schools, we welcome, and include, 33,000 children and young adults in the Diocesan family. That can be a powerful witness for Christ, but just imagine how it would be if each of those twenty five thousand church-goers brought just one other person with them to church!!!
Even half a century later I still meet people who say how their Christian life was prompted by Dr Graham, but it has to be said that much research into ‘evangelism’ shows that the single most significant factor in church growth is having a friend who invites you to Church or a church activity. That is a challenge to every one of us who is still physically active, and also to all of us, without exception, to reach out in our prayers. Do look through this Church Magazine to both guide your prayers and to see how you could get a friend or neighbour more involved.
A final thought. Somewhere in all this there is a task for you. If you think you are too small to make a difference you have never been in bed with a mosquito!!

Love and God bless, Jeff Engle

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Revd. Peter Cowley writes ….. October 2016 Magazine,

Dear Friends,

How seriously do you take your discipleship of the Christian faith? Not at all? Occasionally? When I feel moved to do so? All the time? On Sunday in Church?
What then do you think discipleship means for you and for the church?
All through the New Testament we are all urged to be disciples of Jesus and thereby be his followers.
Rowan Williams former Archbishop of Canterbury’s new book is called: ‘Being Disciples: Essentials of the Christian Life’ (SPCK 2016). He defines discipleship as “about how we live; not just the decisions we make, not just the things we believe, but a state of being”.
The word disciple roughly means learner and follower of someone, in our case Jesus. He had his disciples who were with him in his ministry in the area of Galilee and surrounding areas. He, if you read the gospels, would take them aside and explain his teaching and parables to them in a greater depth than he did to the masses he spoke to and taught.
You and I, therefore, should be willing to keep on learning and discovering more about our faith in Jesus. If we do not, and we stand still, we will stagnate and not be able to grow and mature in the faith. There is so much for us to gain as people in the faith that will help us to be able to go out and tell others about the gospel good news of salvation through faith by grace in God and Christ.
So, in these months leading to Christmas, when we have times of reflection and remembrance coming up, use the time to also reflect on your own discipleship and your faith. Ask where am I going in the faith? How does God lead me by his Spirit? And how does my discipleship affect my life at present and in the future?

Yours in Christ Peter Cowley

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Revd. Jeff Engel writes...... September 2016 Magazine,


Dear friends,

"Tom, get up for school. It's Monday."
"But Mum, I don't feel good. Can't you ring in and tell them I'm sick?"
"Get up NOW: you're going to be late!"
"I don't want to go. The children are so unfriendly - even the teachers hate me."
"But, Tom, you've got to go - you're the Headmaster!"

The new School Year seems to impact us all. After the Summer Break different Church organisations start up again and last year, even my carer's eight o'clock call was late because of the increased road traffic!
August used to be regarded as a month in which little happened, so the September start-up seemed very hard. I have found this summer particularly strange, however. The post- Brexit weeks were perhaps some of the most turbulent in recent history - happily they were eclipsed by our GB Olympic successes in Rio. Newspapers went overboard as happy headlines vied with each other. Alliterations abounded in the euphoria of "Marvellous Monday," "Terrific Tuesday" etc., but sadly such uplift, however real, is only a "temporary fix". (One reporter even claimed this feel-good factor would be as bogus as a Russian urine sample!!). Our Olympic successes were great, but what we all need is a deeper joy which gives us hope and stability to cope with whatever life throws at us. One of my favourite Epistles is that of St Paul to the Philippians - it is full of joy. Even in prison awaiting trial in Rome, Paul was able to write: "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy".
In Heritage Week (from 9-11September) Prescot Church will again be open for visits as we celebrate the wonderful witness to faith of this beautiful Church over many centuries. Do tell others! But also give thanks that our Church is not a museum. Amidst these hallowed stones, prayer is offered daily for the parish and the world, and - every week - Christians meet here in joyful fellowship to strengthen their faith through Scripture and the Sacraments.
One church I know had a Wayside Pulpit on which they posted a weekly thought for passers-by. For example, on St Joseph the Carpenter's Day, it read: Jesus needs Joiners. Another poster was up for several weeks: Come inside for a faith lift! I like that! If you are able to get to Church yourself, do bring a friend or neighbour to the Parish Church or St Paul’s on Back-to-Church Sunday, 18 September. But, if you now find getting to Church difficult, have a word with a Warden who can always arrange for you to have a visit and/or Holy Communion at home.
The joke at the beginning of this letter is about duty. But I pray that your friendship with Jesus, and your experience of church fellowship, will be both a duty and a joy. A faith-lift which will give strength for all that life holds for you - even on Monday mornings!
Love, Joy, and Peace!
Jeff Engle

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Revd. John Taylor writes ….. August 2016 Magazine,

The media often calls this time of year the ‘silly season’. Normally, parliament is winding down and there isn’t much political news, so reporters have to hunt around for stories to fill the gap in newspaper and television broadcasts. Often these stories are light-hearted and amusing, hence the name ‘silly season’. This year nothing could be further from the truth.
Britain has voted to leave the EU, one Prime Minister has resigned and another appointed in his place; and for only the second time in our history the new Prime Minister is a woman.
If this were not enough to keep the newshounds busy, the Labour Party is tearing itself to shreds and the Scottish Nationalists are threatening to leave the United Kingdom. No matter what the weather, it looks as if we are to have one long hot summer!
Since the Brexit vote many people have been heard to say: ‘We have got our country back’, but I am not at all sure what that means. Our identities are complex. We may be English, Irish, Welsh, Scots or something else. We are also British and, in or out of the EU, we are also European. Many of our culture and laws, which we may think of as British or English, were imported from Europe centuries ago.
It has been sad to see that since the Brexit vote, there has been an increase in abuse and hate crimes against minorities living in this country. Muslims, Poles, Eastern Europeans and others, have all been targeted. The intemperate language of some politicians in the EU debate has, I believe, encouraged this lack of tolerance.
As a country we are entering a period of uncertainty with potential dangers and opportunities, but we have to find a way through it all together.
Many things divide us, but no matter what our religion, race, sex or political affiliations, we are all made in the image of the living God and bound together by our common humanity.
This idea of being bound together is something we should hold in our minds over the coming months. As Christians we believe that we are created in the divine image and called to grow into the divine likeness. This means that we are called to love and treat all our sisters and brothers with respect.

John Taylor

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Revd. Jeff Engel writes ….. July 2016 Magazine,

"All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players".

I have just watched several Prescot residents (including Canon John, our Vicar) on-line as they recited these famous verses from The Seven Ages of Man in Shakespeare's ‘As You Like It’. This super clip anticipates more performances of the play in the Vicarage Gardens, on 30 & 31 July. I am so glad that Shakespeare North has won planning permission for a £19m 350-seat theatre and Education Hub in Prescot and I am also very much looking forward to the next performance of As You Like It. But is Shakespeare right in suggesting we are all merely players on life's stage? Oscar Wilde went even further and said: "The world is a stage and the play is badly cast”. I don't believe it!
True we are expected to play different roles in the course of our lives even in the same family or job. I, myself, have found it quite hard to shift from doing things for people much of the time, to accepting the more dependent role of patient (occasionally!!). But life is not fully scripted for us. Indeed, choosing my attitude to myself, to God, and to others is a choice that has grown not diminished with my illness. Jesus calls us to be His friends not slaves (John 15 v15). I love those Giant Puppets from France (they will be walking Liverpool streets again, 23-27 July), but we do not have to be controlled by strings like them! As Jesus' friends we are called to choose life for ourselves and to choose to bring a loving life to those around us.
When the gloomy Jaques of As You Like It returns to Prescot for his next performance, I hope he will have been to our Prescot Festival. The sharing of so much talent, creativity and fun demonstrates very clearly that we are not scripted and ‘merely players’. I am sure it could cheer him immensely. But then perhaps not. Jaques was one of life's observers, not choosing to get involved: a self-defeating recipe for living! Our grateful thanks go to Dr Rob Howard and all his team for giving the lie to Jaques' defeatist pessimism by creating for us such a wonderful festival.
So let us rejoice with the Psalmist as he says:

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know full well." (Psalm 139)

and thank God for His goodness.
God bless you, Jeff Engle

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Revd. Peter Cowley Jun 2016 Magazine,

Dear Friends,

The Archdeacon’s visitation service last month was a very inspiring service for those who are beginning another year in service to God in various positions within the churches.
Calling, and being a part of the church community, and having a place of authority, is a very demanding and challenging place for each person to be in.
Call to be a part of a community that actually exists for those who are outside of it, to be of service to others by being able to point others to Jesus by our actions and words is what the mission of the church is about.
The Bishop of Liverpool has a Growth Agenda that we have been part of as a Parochial Church Council as a Staff team, indeed we have taken it seriously and appointed a Local Missional Leader at St Paul’s to be a point of mission in the local community as well as the church. The Bishop’s Growth has been over three years and is about looking at what we do in eight areas and how we can improve and how we can grow as a church in numbers and in activities of outreach and in evangelism and telling others the Good News of Jesus to the people who live in our parish.
It is, I feel, the base of our Christian faith as Jesus told us to: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ and that: ‘I am the light of the World’. As a Church Army Officer I was commissioned twice to be an evangelist and to tell and show others the good news of faith and new life in Christ.
Now I know that this is the part of the Christian faith that most congregations and individuals find the hardest to accept, much less to be able to be a part of the work that needs to be a part of the churches mission.
But I would ask all who read this letter to please think and pray about what we as a Church can do more of to show God’s love to our Parish and thus, hopefully, encourage people to think about Jesus in their lives and join us in our Mission at Prescot Church.

Thanks for reading this!

Peter Cowley

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