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Articles from our May 2018 Magazine
Reader Anne Elphick writes:
All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
I was singing the words to the Beatles’ song ‘Eleanor Rigby’ recently to my
grandchildren and that made me determined to look properly at what this song
expresses. The last verse
asks two questions I feel are increasingly relevant for
our society today. ‘All the lonely people; where do they all come from? All the
lonely people where do they all belong?’
As men and women live increasingly longer than ever before
the number of elderly single people in our midst grows and many of them lead
very lonely lives. Some are widows and widowers who chose not to remarry after
the loss of a beloved life partner. Many are in long time care in excellent
nursing homes and retirement care facilities; others struggle on in
cold flats barely able to eat properly on meagre
pensions. Hear how Lennon and McCartney express what it is like to live with
loneliness: ‘ ‘Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in a church where a
wedding has been, lives in a dream (perhaps this refers to senility or
Alzheimer’s disease). Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a
jar by the door, who is it for?’
It seems loneliness has become an epidemic in modern
times. In this country the male suicide rate now stands at ten men taking their lives
every day of the week. This statistic is a tragedy, things need to change! The
church in our Diocese has recently begun a super campaign to reach young people
called ‘younger, deeper, wider.’ In time will bear fruit in so many ways as children
and young men and women come to know Jesus and become part of a faith community
where they will belong often for life. We have an excellent pastoral visiting team
that does much good work here at St. Mary’s reaching out to elderly, housebound people. What is it like for those who
receive no visits? Hear the words of the song again:
‘Father Mc Kenzie writing the words of a sermon that no
one will hear. No one comes near. Look at him working, darning his socks in the
night when there’s nobody there. What does he care?’
Do we care enough about the issue of loneliness to
begin to formulate a response? Is God calling our church to take the initiative
and plant a seed that will grow and expand like the mustard seed Jesus uses as
an illustration in one of his parables? I came across a quote that gave me real
encouragement this week. It is from Corrie ten Boom who was sent to Ravensbruck
concentration camp for her courageous work of hiding Jews from the Nazis in a
secret chamber in her house in Haarlem during the Second World War. She
survived the camp and reached the age of 95. She said: ‘Never be afraid to
trust an unknown future to a known God.’ From ‘The hiding place.’
When we are reduced to our own hour of need, when we do not know what to do God
steps in and provides for us. He is a God of mercy, a God of infinite grace and
when we come to the place in our lives when we receive his gift of faith he
equips us and empowers us to reach out to others who are in need. Can we
together make a difference to the epidemic of loneliness? Can we trust that he
will guide us and provide us with a fresh vision for the work he calls us to be
involved with as a community of faith in the future? Let us start with prayer
and let us listen for God’s word to us.
With my love and prayers for you all. Anne Elphick
Thoughts about Pentecost
At Pentecost, we remember the gift of the Holy Spirit to the first disciples. It was a powerful experience, when along with wind and fire, ‘all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:4). Power is experienced in two ways: it can be either unleashed or harnessed. The energy in petrol can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into it. However, in the engine of a car, it will transport people in a controlled way! The Holy Spirit works in a similar way. At Pentecost, He exploded onto the scene and 3000 people were added to the Church, because of Peter’s preaching. He also equips us with His gifts to engage in the mission and ministry of the Church.
However, the Spirit's power also enables us so to grow in our faith. He assures us of God’s love and acceptance in our lives, despite our fears, doubts or failures: ‘God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us’ (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit is also committed to producing the character of Jesus in us, enabling us to live as Jesus would in our place ie job, family and time: ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ (Galatians 5:22,23). ‘Let the church return to Pentecost, and Pentecost will return to her. The Spirit of God cannot take possession of believers beyond their capacity of receiving Him’ (Andrew Murray)
Thy Kingdom Come prayer movement is back – and growing like wildfire
Thousands of churches across the country will be joining this year’s global ecumenical prayer movement, Thy Kingdom Come, which takes place 10th to 20th of May. First launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury and York in 2016, Thy Kingdom Come has spread rapidly, beyond all expectations. In 2016 – 100,000 Christians pledged to pray. Just one year later, in 2017 – more than half a million had pledged to pray, from more than 85 countries including Ghana, Netherlands, Malaysia, Cuba, South Africa, Australia, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. Considered one of the most dynamic prayer initiatives to emerge from the Church of England in recent years, Thy Kingdom Come is a simple invitation to pray between Ascension and Pentecost for friends and family to come to faith. Now in its third year, participation looks set to grow again. In the UK, in 2017 every diocese in the Church of England was involved. Many cathedrals took part, hosting 'beacon' events designed to focus prayers in towns and cities nationwide.
The campaign’s broad ecumenical appeal led to more than 50 denominations and traditions being involved last year; including the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The positive impact of Thy Kingdom Come 2017 continues to unfold as numerous stories of personal and communal transformation pour in from churches, families and whole communities alike. One of the highlights for this year is a new film featuring Archbishop Justin Welby, his grandson Elijah, and Brian Heasley, Director of 24/7 Prayer International. In the film Brian shares his powerful story of how he went from criminal to Christ follower, something which he credits to the persistent prayers of loved ones. Among the stories arising from the initiative – many of them deeply moving – is one from a couple who had not seen their son for 22 years. 'We pray every day obviously for him but during Thy Kingdom Come he was one of the people we prayed for as a group,' they say. 'We put his name on the altar before God and… yesterday he came home.'
This year also sees some digital developments including a brand-new website and a Thy Kingdom Come devotional app created by leading Christian publishers SPCK.
Both products will be translated into several languages including Spanish, Korean, and Swahili and will be launched in time for Easter. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said: ‘The business of being witnesses to Jesus Christ and of praying to be witnesses compels us to look into the world around us. It compels us to seek, to experience the compassion of God for a world caught up in lostness, in sin, but also in suffering and pain, in oppression of the poor, in cruelty, in abuse, in outrageous inequality, in all the things that go against the Kingdom of God. ‘There is no limit to what the Kingdom of God does, and so the moment we start praying Thy Kingdom Come we look outwards.’
St Mary’s will be open for prayer for 32 hours : from 12 Noon Wednesday 16th May to 8.00 pm on Thursday 17th May.
29th March - Maundy Thursday – time to wash feet
Maundy Thursday is famous for two things. The first is one of the final acts that Jesus did before His death: the washing of His own disciples’ feet. (see John 13)
Jesus washed His disciples’ feet for a purpose: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” His disciples were to love through service, not domination, of one another. In Latin, the opening phrase of this sentence is ‘mandatum novum do vobis’. The word ‘mundy’ is thus a corruption of the Latin ‘mandatum’ (or command). The ceremony of the ‘washing of the feet’ of members of the congregation came to be an important part of the liturgy (regular worship) of the medieval church, symbolising the humility of the clergy, in obedience to the example of Christ.
But Thursday was also important because it was on that night that Jesus first introduced the Lord’s Supper, or what we nowadays call Holy Communion. Jesus and His close friends had met in a secret upper room to share the Passover meal together - for the last time. And there Jesus transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Supper, saying, ‘this is my body’ and ‘this is my blood’ as He, the Lamb of God, prepared to die for the sins of the whole world. John’s gospel makes it clear that the Last Supper took place the evening BEFORE the regular Passover meal, and that later Jesus died at the same time that the Passover lambs were killed.
At St Mary’s we will be having foot washing on Maundy Thursday, if you would like to see this act of humility at first hand!
The Beveridge Report – 75 years on
We take it for granted that all children will receive secondary education, people who are ill will be treated under a national health service and we will all be paid a State pension when we retire. Indeed, we regard these benefits as routine, perhaps not realising this has not always been the case. Turn the clock back to World War 2. The British people accepted their wartime deprivation with a strong sense of unity and purpose in the face of a common enemy. At the same time, it was recognised that long-standing inequalities should be rectified when times improved. The British Government, which was then a coalition of political parties, commissioned Sir William Beveridge to investigate the best way of helping people on low incomes.
The resultant Beveridge Report identified five ‘Giant Evils’ of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. It proposed that in return for all people of working age paying a weekly contribution, benefits should be available to those who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, said “this is the first time anybody has set out to embody the whole spirit of the Christian ethic in an Act of Parliament”, for at the war’s end the Beveridge Report began to be implemented.
The 1944 Education Act was followed in 1948 by the founding of the NHS. Social security benefits meant people in need could be cared for from the cradle to the grave. Temple had himself published a vision for post-war Britain, called “Christianity and the Social Order”. Temple, Beveridge and the economic historian R H Tawney had been at university together and shared both Christian idealism and the urge to make it work.
This month is the 75th anniversary of Beveridge’s Report. The Welfare State is now woven into the fabric of British Society. Like all reforms, it needs regular attention to ensure the original vision hasn’t been obscured over time. Today’s Universal Credit is a step in the right direction, though its clumsy roll-out needs rapid modification if the intended recipients are to be paid on time. Christians may want to reflect on the Welfare State. Is it a right or a privilege to be beneficiaries? Do we take it for granted as our due, or are we grateful for what we receive?
Anniversary of the Reformation
October 31st marks the
500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg
church door in 1517, signaling the start of the Protestant Reformation.
He was protesting against the practice
of indulgences, where the good deeds
of the saints could be purchased to reduce time spent in purgatory, before
arriving in heaven. For Luther, this cheapened grace, repentance and
forgiveness: ‘You can’t buy God’s friendship!’
Luther rediscovered the truths of God’s grace:
‘For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness
that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will
live by faith’.’(Romans 1:17). He recognised that righteousness
(being right with God) and forgiveness is not earned by good works, but faith.
The undeserved love of God and His acceptance is a matter of trust. This
challenge to the Church of Luther’s day remains so today! At the Diet (Council)
of Worms, he refused to recant his views: ‘Here I stand; I can do no other!’
stood for the free forgiveness of the gospel, by which God accepts us because
of the death of Jesus on our behalf to deal with our sin. Is this what we
believe? Only trusting Jesus can make us right with God. In what ways can we
slip into a mindset that seeks God’s approval for what we achieve in our
spiritual lives, rather than in how we can serve as a response to all He has
done for us? We will continue to get things wrong, but God never gives up on
‘Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your
trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin,
death, and the world.’ (Martin Luther).
There was once an old monastery that had fallen upon hard times. Centuries earlier it had been a thriving monastery where many dedicated monks lived and worked and had great influence, but now only five monks lived there and they were all over 70 years old. This was clearly a dying order. A few miles from the monastery lived an old hermit who many thought was a prophet. One day as the monks agonized over the impending demise of their order, they decided to visit the hermit to see if he might have some advice for them. Perhaps he would be able to see the future and show them what they could do to save the monastery.
The hermit welcomed the five monks to his hut, but when they explained the purpose of their visit he could only commiserate with them. "Yes I understand how it is," said the hermit, "the spirit has gone out of the people, hardly anyone cares much for the old things anymore."
"Is there anything you can tell us," the Abbot enquired of the hermit, "that could help us to save the monastery?" 'No I am sorry," said the hermit. "l don't know how your monastery can be saved, the only thing that I can tell you is that one of you is an Apostle of God."
The monks were both disappointed and confused by the hermit's cryptic statement. They returned to the monastery wondering what the hermit could have meant by the statement "one of you is an Apostle of God". For months after their visit, the monks pondered the significance of the hermit's words.
'One of us is an Apostle of God," they mused. "Did he actually mean, one of us monks here at the monastery? That is impossible. We are all too old, we are all too insignificant. On the other hand, what if it is true and if it is true, then which one of us is it?
'Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant the Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man, a man of wisdom and light. He couldn't have meant Brother Elred. Elred gets crochety at times and is difficult to reason with. n the other hand, he is almost always right. Maybe the hermit did mean Brother Elred. But surely he could not have meant Brother Philip? Brother Philip is so passive, so shy, a real nobody. Still, he is always there when you need him. He is loyal and trustworthy. Yes, he could have meant Philip. Of course, the hermit didn't mean me, he couldn't possibly have meant me. I am just an ordinary person. Yet suppose he did. Suppose I am an Apostle of God. Oh God, not me. I couldn't be that much for you. Or could l?"
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one of them might actually be an Apostle of God and on the off, off chance that each monk himself might be the apostle spoken of by the hermit, each monk began to treat himself with extraordinary respect.
Because the monastery was situated in a beautiful forest, many people came there to picnic on its lawn and to walk on its paths and now and then to go into the tiny chapel to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed the aura of
extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate from them, permeating the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, people began to bring their friends to show them this special place, and their friends brought their friends.
As more and more visitors came, some of the younger men started to talk with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them, then another, then another. Within a few years, the monastery had once again become a thriving order and thanks to the hermit's wisdom a vibrant center of light and spirituality throughout the region.
Alan Langton - British Empire Medal Award.
It is with great pleasure that we announce Alan’s recent prestigious awardfor his involvement with the community life of Arnold and Mapperley. This will be presented to him on 1st September at Nottingham Council House by the Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Sir John Peace, and he will have an invitation to Buckingham Palace for one of the Garden Parties next year.
Alan says: “My professional career was always in teaching, and I taught at Eastwood Hall Park School and Carlton le Willows School, before being appointed to the Headship of South Wolds School at Keyworth in 1981. I retired from this post in 1994 after thirteen very happy years within this village community. At the same time as teaching during the week I was licenced as a Reader in the Diocese of Southwell in 1963, and have continued to serve the parish of Saint Mary’s Arnold for fifty four years, and worked with seven different vicars during that time.”
In 1986 he was one of a group of men who formed the original Rotary Club of Arnold and Mapperley, where he is still a member. This lively group seeks to address and respond to local issues and local people by helping with money and practical schemes which we feel require additional support. He has also been the local representative for the Leprosy Mission in the area, and helped to help raise large sums of money for this international cause over the last thirty years
“After my retirement from teaching I wished to continue making a contribution to society, especially in the area of Arnold and Mapperley, where I have always lived. I formed the ‘Arnold Golden Eagles’, a group especially for older citizens where they could find out more about the workings of health and council and social service organisations as they affected their lives. This was a sub-group of the Arnold Area Forum, which I have represented on the county-wide Older People’s Advisory Group (OPAG), the object of which is to try and ensure that local issues of older people are heard by the County Council for their consideration in future strategies.
“I have served as vice-chair of this Nottinghamshire group for several years until last year. I have also served on the Southwell Diocesan Older People’s Forum, which ties up well with the local parishes’ issues concerning the welfare of older parishioners.
The award came as a complete surprise, but is deeply appreciated.” Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Rev’d Margaret Caunt, says: “I think Alan is a worthy recipient of the award. I’ve not been here long but I know that he’s done a lot of good work in the Arnold community and here at St Mary’s over the past 40 years.
How do people encounter God?
Human beings from ancient days have looked to the skies in a state of wonder, and attributed the scope and beauty of what they see to a Creator. For those who believe in God, that sense of wonder has increased in recent years as science has made us increasingly aware of how very unlikely it has been that life of any kind happened. Like many people, Christians look at nature and marvel. In it they find powerful evidence for the existence of God. It speaks of the character of God – powerful, eternal and with a special place for humans in His purposes. However, it also poses unsettling questions about God, because nature is a place in which catastrophes can overtake men and women in a way that seems meaningless and entirely unfair.
Deep down in human nature is a curiosity that leads us again and again to speculate that there may be a God. These encounters take place in circumstances in which we confront something that money cannot buy. Sometimes it is a shock that leads to these questions – the loss of a job, a friend or health. Sometimes it is joy – such as the birth of children and the longing to give them a future full of hope. Sometimes it is disappointment that the activities of life do not make us feel fulfilled. Occasionally people encounter God through supernatural experiences that they cannot explain.
There are many circumstances in which people find their attention grabbed by the possibility that God might be making Himself known to them. However, Christians have always recognised that the most significant way that God has made Himself known is through a specific event in history. God has lived in a human body. At the start of the first century AD, God inhabited human flesh, and walked and talked on this planet - Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith.
When a child asks, ‘What is God like?’ a good answer would be, ‘He is like Jesus.’ Christians study Jesus’ life and teaching because they appear to answer some of the questions they have about God.
You can find answers to questions about Christianity at www.christianity.org.uk. Christianity.org.uk is the website of the Christian Enquiry Agency Ltd. This is an agency of Churches Together in England.
Next time someone tells you that Jesus did not exist…
Recent research in England revealed that 40% of people do not realise Jesus was a real person. Among 18-34 year olds, 25% think Jesus was a mythical or fictional character. They probably have no doubts about other famous people from the past. Of course, it matters more when the authenticity of Jesus is questioned. If Jesus was as ‘real’ as the Christian creeds imply, then the whole purpose and destiny of humanity are changed. There’s a lot at stake.
How do we know that Jesus actually existed? For that matter, how do we know any historical figure existed? We need to look for corroborative evidence.
In any other historical investigation we would examine all literary sources. However, as sceptics often discount biblical material because they suspect the writers distorted the facts, we look outside the New Testament to non-Christian authors for clues.
First, to Roman historians.Tacitus (56-117 AD) wrote “Christus was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius”.Suetonius (69-130 AD) wrote of “Chrestus” and of his followers having been persecuted by Nero. In 112 AD a Roman Magistrate, Pliny the Younger, sought advice from the Emperor Trajan, having failed to force Christians to renounce Christ whom they “worshipped as a god”, when worship was due exclusively to the emperor. The Jewish historian Josephus (37-100 AD) referred to James as, “the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ.”None of these authors questioned Christ’s existence.
Even-handed enquirers would also want to know what the New Testament has to say. By comparison with texts of other ancient literature now available, we have infinitely better records. Over 5,000 separate manuscripts are now available. One complete New Testament in the British Library is over 1600 years old. A substantial collection of New Testament documents is dated mid-3rd Century and is split between Dublin, Michigan and other locations. Much of the Gospel of John is in a document dated 200 AD or earlier. Modern translations of the Bible result from studying all these manuscripts. It is false to suggest that they suffer from multiple translations.
Let historian Michael Grant have the last word, "...if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned…"
Understanding and living with depression Lady Gaga helps others with Anxiety and Depression by declaring an inborn tendency to such mental illness herself which is made worse in living such a public life. In times of Depression I am helped to endure by people I admire, such as Winston Churchill, depression he called ‘black dog’, and some Church leaders when depressed felt the Spirit of God deserted them. Depression impacts people of all ages. Parents may feel, often wrongly, that it can blight a child’s life. Many depressions are one off events. Depression can arise from our inherited make up, with or without some element of life’s stresses. For instance, it’s half of Bipolar Disorder. It can arise from a traumatic experience.
Every 2 people out of 10 are likely to feel it from their experience. The NHS Wales booklet on’ Depression in Young People’ states ‘It is normal to feel down and not enjoy things sometimes, but when these feelings are severe, long lasting or keep coming back, and begin to affect your day to day life, this may be a sign of Depression....it affects your moods, energy, thoughts and behaviours. Depression can be treated’. It can make us feel unable to concentrate and make decisions, lose confidence, no energy and see no hope. Treatments are available but the sooner accessed via your Dr., the shorter the illness. Talking Therapies are first line. The aim of CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy etc. is to help us manage what is happening to us by finding a changed way to think, behave and cope so as to break the cycle of feeling down. Family or friends can sometimes make us feel worse by saying ‘pull yourself together’ and make us feel more doomed. Listening and caring is what’s needed. For more severe forms, medication may help to lift over a few weeks but younger people are helped by different antidepressants to older people. Counselling, Art, Music help some and a recent introduction of Mindfulness training can help us relax, under pressure, our body and our mind. Those who suffer would not wish it on others but can value the learning for their life and empathy.
UNDERSTANDING DEMENTIA and ALZHEIMERS
It is said that people over 50 years fear Dementia, and responding to others with Dementia, more than the big C (Cancer). Yet many sufferers live a fulfilling life and contribute to groups that benefit others. Dementia is a brain disease that causes us to lose some ability to think and reason as well as we have been used to. Basically there are 3 types:
ALZHEIMERS Disease – 3 out of 4 are this type;
VASCULAR Disease – often the after effect of multiple strokes;
LEWI BODY Disease which is Parkinson like.
We are more susceptible as we enter our 80ies though a few are affected in middle age. Memory of past and recent events are harder to recall, but not totally for most people. Sufferers can become frustrated with themselves in not organising and problem solving as they are used to doing. Family and close friends may experience unusual displays of emotion including anger and depression. Sufferers may offer less empathy to nearest and dearest, whereas understanding and love can help sufferers to help themselves. Keeping memories alive is helped by photos, events recalled and by ‘their music’. Seeing your doctor is key to learning how medication & diet may inhibit progress of the disease. Also therapy and information on what is best exercise for you. Each person has their own journey to holding in well.
Later stages of Dementia may be years ahead, when extra care help is needed.
Michael Allen & Sue Baxter, MHAGS for St. Mary’s (Info. Mainly from Alzheimer Society)
DO COME on SAT. 1 OCTOBER to ‘UNDERSTANDING and LIVING with DEMENTIA ‘ from 10.15 for coffee at St. Mary’s Family Centre and 10.45 Presentation on Understanding Dementia by Dr Richard Turner, Adults Psychiatrist- now retired -also Reader, followed by questions 11.20 Sharing on Living with Dementia and Alzheimer Friends by Rowland and Carole Harris, followed by sharing experiences. 12 noon close