Saturday, February 16, 2008

In the end ... what language do we use to respond?

So they have been filming another Harry Potter film in Gloucester recently. The world waits with bated breath. But there won’t be quite the same thrill in the wait as there was with the publication of the seventh and final Harry Potter book.

‘What would happen to Harry Potter?’ was the question on every Harry Potter fan’s mind.

I have to confess I don’t count myself a fan of Harry Potter, and I have yet to read the first in the series, let alone the last. I do not know what happened to Harry Potter in the end. I don’t even know what happened to Harry Potter in the end of the first film, as I fell asleep five years ago this weekend on a coach trip to London.

I well remember standing in the queue at WHSmith’s on the day the last novel was published. It was a long queue. In front and behind people were clutching their copies of the last volume.

It was with horror that I saw the young girl behind succumbing to that most awful of temptations. ‘Don’t do it!’ I very nearly cried out as I was tempted to knock the book out of her hands.

Too late. There was nothing I could do. She could wait no longer. There in the queue she had turned to the last couple of pages and was reading them. She simply had to find out what happened.

Paul’s letter to the Romans doesn’t have quite the same racy appeal as the Harry Potter books. There’s nothing like an adventurous story between the covers.

Its endings are, however, as riveting, as the endings to each of the Harry Potter novels. In a sense they tell you all you need to know!

Paul had come to the end of the third phase of his missionary activity. He had establilshed churches throughout Asia Minor on into what we think of now as Europe; from Lystra and Derbe to Athens and Corinth he had established churches and visited them more than once. He had written letters of encouragement and of challenge to the churches in Galatia, Thessalonica and Corinth. He had plans to travel to the heart of the Roman Empire, to Rome itself and on to Spain.

He knew that followers of Jesus had established a church community in Rome and he knew many of those people personally. But he had never visited. So it was that he wrote what has become for many the greatest of his letters.

Writing to that Chrsitian community in Rome he drew all the threads together and set out in a systematic way what is at the heart of the Christian faith.

He explores the difference Christ makes to the one who puts his faith in Jesus as Lord, the new life that comes, the difficulty of living a Christian life, the need for all of us to depend on the unseen yet very real strength of God in the Holy Spirit.

And then he comes to words that for him get to the heart of the Christian hope. He looks back on the Jesus who had made all the difference in his life. He looks back on all the difficult times he has been through. And he asks the most penetrating of questions.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress,
or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced
that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

It is the love of Christ that makes all the difference. But sometimes it’s hard to remember.
Five years ago on 15th February that coach trip to London was taking a group of us to the march in London to try to stop the impending Iraq war. [Click here for the reflection I shared in Highbury News as that day drew near] As we approach the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war and are conscious of the awfulness of all that is happening there and in Afghanistan sometimes we wonder about the love of Christ. News of family breakdown, major and smaller disasters on our door step, unexpected illness, untimely death make us wonder just as much.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

I am convinced, he says. I am persuaded. Paul is a thinker. He has thought through his faith. He has engaged in debate and discussion. And his faith has stood the test of it all. I am convinced, he says.

And then comes the all-encompassing statement.

The draw of books like Harry Potter is that through all the fantasy they touch on the battle between good and evil. I don’t know how that battle is played out in J.K.Rowling’s fiction.

It is a battle played out in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. And his victory on the cross is a victory that we are invited to share. It is the love of Christ, through all the hardships and questionings he has experienced, that enables Paul to have this conviction. It is the love of Christ that enables us to share that conviction.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That has to be one of my all time favourite passages from the Bible. Come back to it. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it. This is what it’s all about!

But there is mystery to this Christian faith of ours. Through Jesus Christ we touch the love of God, the God who is behind, within and beyond all we see.

It was great welcoming another John Pickles and his class from St John’s to the church on Thursday afternoon and showing them around on a very busy day. Great too to have a phone call from John a month ago saying that when asked the youngsters had requested an Astronomy club, would I go along and speak to them as I had woven astoronomy into my assemblies quite a lot recently.

It was a thrill to join them. It’s great to be able to direct them to the church web site and the astronomy page and lots of fascinating links. I have put a piece I did for Highbury News a while back reflecting on my view of the relationship between science and religion.

More than anything else I sense the mystery of God, the God of the universe. This is the God I believe in. But I believe in a God who has made himself known in the most personal of ways, first with the people of Israel and then through Jesus.

Paul sensed that very much. He never forgot his Jewish roots. In the next part of his letter from 9-11 he explores the place of the Jewish people in God’s plan of salvation. It’s heavy stuff. But get to the end and you see what he’s getting at.

The love of God in Christ that nothing can separate us from joins us with the God of creation, the God who in the beginning said, Let there be light.

That cannot be defined in words. It has to be a mystery. The most wonderful of mysteries. And that’s what Paul celebrates as he comes to the end of chapter 11.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counsellor?’
‘Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11)

This is the God I believe in … and nothing less. God is greater than anything I can begin to think of, more wonderful than anything I can imagine. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.

A God of love, a God of mystery, the God I believe in wants to make a difference in my life and wants me to make a difference in the lives of other people.

The final part of Paul’s letter is all about the way Christians should live their lives. It’s powerful stuff … and it’s straight from the teaching of Jesus, not least in the sermon on the mount.

Let love be genuine;
hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
outdo one another in showing honour.
Do not lag in zeal,
be ardent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
be patient in suffering,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints;
extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another;
do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;
do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil,
but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you,
live peaceably with all. (Romans 12)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has every right to reflect on the very changed world since 9/11. He was after all in a meeting at the foot of an adjacent sky scraper when the first of the tower blocks was hit. He later recalled a news reporter from BBC Cymru ringing him up and speaking in Welsh to him. Rowan Williams was at that time Archbishop of the Church in Wales. He later recalled having a choice. If he responded in the same language, in Welsh, his comments would be broadcast only to the Welsh speaking members of his church. If on the other hand he replied in a different language, in English, his response would be broadcast to all in his church and further afield as well. He had a choice – reply in the same language or reply in a different language. He paused and then replied in a different language.

He suggested in a wonderful little book published shortly after called ‘Writing in the Dust’ that the authorities now had a choice. They could reply to this act of terror in the same language. Or they could reply in a different language.

The tragedy we mark five years on from the start of the Iraq War is that the authorities chose to reply in the same language and launch a war first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq. Would that they had heeded the intelligence they received and focused on tracking down those responsible for those acts of terrorism. Would that they had engaged with the hearts and minds of Muslims instead of fuelling the fires of terrorism,.

The challenge Paul gives us as Christian people is that we do not respond to evil with more evil. We respond to evil with good and bless those who persecute us.

That takes some doing. We can only hope to embark on that way of life with strength from God. So it is that Paul comes to the end of the whole of his letter with an impassioned prayer.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you
according to
my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to
the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages
but is now disclosed,
and through the prophetic writings
is made known to all the Gentiles,
according to
the command of the eternal God,
to bring about the obedience of faith
- to the only wise God,
through Jesus Christ,
to whom be the glory for ever!
Amen. (Romans 16)

He appeals to the God who is able to strengthen each one of us with the resolve that we need. Not in our own power is any of this possible. But in the strength of God.

This is the secret to life. It’s a secret that has been kept hidden, but is disclosed in Jesus Christ. It is the secret that all the prophets had looked to. It is a secret that’s there for everyone to find.

Paul’s prayer is that we heed the command of the eternal God, take seriously the teaching of Jesus – and bring about what Paul describes as ‘the obedience of faith’.

Faith is not something abstract and theoretical as it links us to the love of God in Christ and to the God of all mystery. It comes into its own as it finds expression in love not just for the people we get on with but for enemies as well. This is the wise way God wants us to follow.

To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to him be the glory for ever! Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The War in Iraq - a piece from Highbury News March 2003

Five years ago today my family and I joined many people from all over the country on a march to stop the imminent war in Iraq. Before going on that march I wrote this piece for Highbury News. Events have since taken their course and the tragedy of the war in Iraq is still taking its toll. What was said five years ago came to mind as I was preparing to preach on Romans on Sunday morning.

Over the last twelve years there have been a few occasions when it has been very difficult to write the Minister’s Memo.

This is another such occasion.

The difficulty each time has been the same.

I am writing a fortnight before the date when Highbury News will be published. I am all too conscious that much can happen in a fortnight.

God forbid, we may find ourselves by the time you read this at war.

It may be that the threat of war has receded.

In the twelve years I have been here at Highbury I have made it quite clear where I stand on the issue of war. Nothing I have heard has persuaded me to change my views.

9/11 had a profound effect on me as it had on us all. I have lived through the cold war, through the period of terrorism linked with Northern Ireland. I recognise that the world faces a new order of terrorism. And it is right for the world to respond.

I firmly believe that the proper response to the kind of terrorism we witnessed on 11th September 2001, involves, first and foremost, painstaking intelligence-gathering, the kind of intelligence-gathering that’s going on as I write very close to home.

The gathering of that intelligence then has to be linked to thorough policing with full international co-operation and backed up by the force of law. The fruits of that policing have been seen in recent weeks with the arrest of groups of terrorists, not least here in this country.

I firmly believe that the campaign against terrorism is not served by going to war with Iraq. To the contrary, I fear that war with Iraq will result in an increase in the very terrorism the world rightly seeks to combat. War will accomplish the very de-stabilising of the Middle East the terrorists aim to achieve.

By focusing the world’s attention on a regime that is diametrically opposed to all that that network of terrorists stands for, the Governments of the USA and the UK are in grave danger of playing into the hands of Osama Bin Laden. They are in danger of reinforcing the terrorists and entrenching for generations to come their way of looking at the world.

The worst consequence of such a war is that it will open up a major and bloody rift between the world of Christianity and the world of Islam. That, too, is something the terrorists long for.

Terrorists feed religious hatred and bigotry ... and then they feed off it. We have seen it happen to our cost in Northern Ireland. We are witnessing it in the Middle East. The very hatred that is fundamental to their cause is contrary as much to the teaching of the Qu’ran as it is contrary to the teaching of Christ.

The fact that this war will be interpreted by the terrorists and those who fuel the fires of terrorism as having to do with our faith and the faith of Islam places a responsibility on us as Christians. We cannot simply stand by and do nothing.

What can we do?

As Christians I believe we cannot remain silent. I share with you the dictates of my conscience. I hope you will do the same with me ... and with others too. If we believe that war can be justified in this instance then we need to be prepared to say so. If on the other hand we feel that war cannot be justified we need to say so too.

Between my writing this and you reading it I hope to go to London to share with many others from all over the country in declaring my opposition to this war. On Saturdays at 11-00 the Society of Friends invites us to join them in silent vigil on the Promenade outside Cavendish House. On Fridays from 9-00 until 6-00 the people of St Gregory’s invite us to call in and share in prayer for peace.

I believe there is a responsibility on all of us as Christians to seek to build bridges of friendship and understanding through conversations with those who belong to the other faith communities of our town. It is vitally important that we do not allow terrorists or the outbreak of war to prise apart in hatred and bigotry those of different faiths. The people of all the faith communities of our town share a commitment to peace and to justice. That is something we need to recognise and affirm.

The great faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam not only share many of their scriptures, a belief in the same God, but they also share a commitment to the Ten Commandments and to the so-called golden rule which Jesus regarded as a summing up the teaching of all the law and all the prophets: ‘in everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 7:12) Let us affirm those great ethical principles together.

Finally, and most important of all, I believe we need to pray. I commend to you the prayer Mike Lodge shared with us at the united service with our friends from St Luke’s. It is a prayer that can be shared by the people of those other faith communities too. It is a prayer for peace:

Lead me
from death to life
from falsehood to truth;
Lead me
from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
Lead me
from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill
our heart, our world, our universe ...
Peace, Peace, Peace.


Richard Cleaves

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chocolate ... or not? Janet Partington on the First Sunday in Lent

Part 1 – Chocolate

As the season of Lent, which started last week, approached, I found myself thinking about chocolate. With the shops crammed with a huge array of pink and red boxes ready for Valentine's Day, and many already sporting eggs, bunnies and ducklings on the shelves announcing, rather prematurely, the arrival of Easter, it occurred to me that any resolutions to avoid the stuff over the next 6 weeks would be severely tested.

But a number of conversations at work had convinced me that the practice of denial traditionally followed by Christians at this time has become a well-established ritual for many people who would deny any connection with organised religion. For these people, denying themselves pleasures in life for the few weeks leading up to Easter seems to have become a discipline on a par with New Year's resolutions. Sadly, for many the results seem to be all too similar – fervently made promises, followed quickly by lapses and promises to do better next year.

It is all too easy to look at the people who do this with the eyes of superiority – all too easy to see their promises as shallow, their motives superficial and self-serving, their self-control weak – but how many of us can honestly say that we have never been all of these things ourselves at some time or another? I know I can't.

And that got me to thinking about the meaning of chocolate, and whether sometimes, what it represents in the season of Lent is something different from what we are led to believe.

I'd like to share with you an extract from a favourite film of mine. I'm sure many of you know it: it's called “Chocolat”, and is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Joanne Harris.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, or have forgotten, “Chocolat” is set in a small French village in 1959, at the beginning of Lent. The village is very orderly and everyone knows exactly how to behave and what's expected of them. Everyone goes to the village church.

At the head of the village is the Count, whose family have run the village for centuries. He sees it as his duty to set the villagers a good example, and to maintain order by telling them how things should be. His whole life is dedicated to the wellbeing of the village.

Into this orderly and tranquil setting one day comes Vianne, a traveller, and her daughter Anouk. Vianne's presence immediately causes a stir – she's an unmarried mother, she doesn't go to church, and worst of all, she opens a chocolaterie in Lent.

The villagers are tempted. In spite of the Count's warnings of the dangers of eating chocolate in Lent, and the sinful thoughts it will lead to, one by one, they find themselves drawn to the new shop. The Count alone remains firm.

SHOW FILM CLIP from Chocolat

Part 2 - .... or not?

In the film clip we saw how how the different viewpoints began to divide the villagers into those who believed in doing things 'properly' and 'by the book', and those who found following 'the rules' starved them of something important. In spite of the establishment's attempts, more and more villagers find themselves curiously free through their association with Vianne and her chocolaterie. People begin to fulfil their potential, barriers come down, old feuds are healed.Eventually, the Count, who alone has remained untainted, in a fit of despair prays “I feel so lost. Tell me what to do.”

The answer to his prayer is surprising: intent upon destroying the chocolaterie and the evil it represents, he succumbs to temptation and tastes the chocolate.

Is there a 'right' way to behave during Lent?

Should we deny ourselves chocolate, or cakes, or alcohol, and demonstrate the fruit St Paul spoke of, Self-Control?

Or does such denial simply make us feel good about ourselves – our self-discipline, our reducing waistlines, the admiration of others?

What if we were to deny ourselves the luxury of disliking some of our neighbours, or colleagues, or family members?

Could we perhaps take up the challenge of going out of our way to be kind to the people we find difficult?

Should we follow the traditional teaching we receive to the letter?

Or is it right to question, to think for ourselves with the minds God gave us?

Is doubt a sin, a denial of faith?

Or is doubt part of faith itself?

Are we sinning any less by not doing something good than by doing something bad?

At the end of “Chocolat”, the priest sums up what the villagers have learned like this:

“Here's what I think. I think we can't go round measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.”

So what does it mean for you?

Chocolate .... or not?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Sure and Steadfast Hope

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, 20where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest for ever Hebrews 6:19-20

There is something awesome about the sheer might of the sea.

Our thoughts and prayers have been with those who have been very much in peril on the sea these last few days. We take so for granted the goods we buy in the shops all too easily forgetting the seafarers who bring them to us. Hy-Way have been knitting hats for the British and International Seafarers Society – a Christian mission that continues to serve those on the seas.

The fate of that ferry in the Irish Sea was something that scarcely bears thinking of. The courage of those who rescued the lorry drivers, the passengers and then the crew is remarkable.
Pictures of the sea pounding against the sea defences take the breath away.

Living in Bangor just next to the spot where the air sea rescue helicopters landed to transfer their patients to the hospital you couldn’t help but be aware of the sheer immensity of the power of the sea.

I well remember preaching regularly in the English Baptist Church in Holyhead. I was told how the church was built at the same time as the sea wall for the harbour … and they used the same rock. I always felt that was a wonderful picture of what church and our Christian faith is all about.

Imagine being on board a ferry crossing an Irish Sea devastated by storm force winds and higher. The longing to get safely beyond that harbour wall. Against all the odds the ship makes it, enters the calm waters of the harbour and is moored to the harbour wall – the storms are strong, the winds devastating, an anchor is lowered to secure the ship even more.

That’s the picture the writer of the letter to the Hebrews invites us to have in that wonderful reading we shared earlier.

That writer knew all too well the devastating experience of living in an all too stormy world. It was a period when persecution was took its toll: it was a cruel world.

For him safety, the safety of the harbour, was real in the presence of God.

Where was God’s presence to be found? Steeped in the traditions of the Jewish people and the Hebrew way of thinking the author to the Hebrews was had had it drummed into him that the presence of God was to be found more than anywhere else in the Temple. That was the place where God’s presence touched earth, as it were.

In a very stormy world the temple was like the harbour. However turbulent the world around, make it into the peace of the Temple and you would begin to sense the presence of God. Go further and further into the Temple, and in the Holiest of Holy Places there the peace of the presence of God was felt more strongly and more securely than ever.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to reach that place of the peace of God! As wonderful as reaching the safety of harbour after a storm at sea. But only the High Priest could penetrate that innermost holy of holies and than only on one day in the year, the day of Atonement and accompanied by sacrifices.

Something happened on the day of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that stuck in the memory of many people, not least the writer of this letter. The curtain that separated off the holiest of holy places was torn in two. It was as if through the storms of that painful experience of crucifixion Jesus had penetrated into the peace of God’s presence.
This was something of a thrill for this writer. Jesus it was who was the high priest, the one who penetrates into the innermost peace of the presence of God. And he has done that in such a way that he opens up for us a way to follow.

We can see ourselves in this Jesus – he experiences humanity at its worst and comes alongside us. He then enables us to share with him as we come into the presence of God.

What a wonderful thought.

Having opened up that new and living way into the presence of God, Jesus offers us the peace that we too can share. It is a remarkable and wonderful hope that we can hold on to no matter what the storms we may experience.

It is as if the ship has made it into the safety of the harbour, and then is anchored there as secure as can be.

We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, that place where the presence of God is felt most intensely, that place where Jesus, a fore-runner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever.

What a wonderful faith we have to share, what a wonderful faith we have to share with others. In the face of the storms of our world, we have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

What difference such a hope can make to our lives and to the lives of others Phil Arnold is going to tell us from his own experience.

Phil Arnold’s Story

Born in Liverpool, growing up in a Christian family in the Second World War, Phil has found the Christian faith making an enormous difference in his life. He takes up his story after his involvement in a care home for people with learning difficulties in Northamptonshire.

I felt God was moving me on when the Managers post became vacant in Wellingborough. I was told it was not a good position to apply for but knew it was the place God wanted me to be. After 18 months Social Services asked me to take a man who had suffered a breakdown. I soon found out he was a Christian and he started up a small group that grew and a lot of the clients started going to church with him.

At the centre we had been approached by the local prison if we would be willing to take one of their inmates and prepare him for life outside prison. This was not an easy decision so I went with the probation officer and met him. He was a lovely lad and he assured us he had learnt his lesson but the best news was yet to come. He had accepted Jesus as his Saviour over 12 months ago
He came on daily release and proved to be a great assest with the staff. One day while going through his weekly review he asked me if I had ever thought about coming a B O V (board of visitor) in the prison. "No I replied."

Over a period of five years I had to apply for my own job three times, but each time more responsibilities were placed upon me. I had fifty five staff, and a highly dependent special care unit. In 1995 I suffered a heart attack that came as a shock, and was off work for six weeks. I went back only to find that we were again going to have to apply for our posts again with ridiculous targets to meet. My health slowly went down again and it was
decided to end my working days.

I struggled to find any sort of good feeling for a number of months, Joyce gave up her job of working with the physically handicapped to make sure I was ok. It was a difficult time and I had plenty of time to wonder why
God had suddenly pulled me up to a stop. I asked many questions of him at this time. Within eighteen months I was much better and able to make contact with the schools. The two heads were committed Christians and working and planning with them was a joy.

Again God Leading.

I was approached about becoming a B O V in the prison, following an interview I was appointed. It was quite scary to be given keys and being able to go and visit any part of the prison. I was appointed to be involved in the kitchens, isolation unit, and the weekly meeting with the new intake listening to problems many had.

To make the job really worthwhile it was working with the chaplain and a lady from the salvation army. Before we did our rounds we would gather and commit ourselves in prayer and ask for wisdom and guidance in all we said or promised. The main task was to give the prisoner HOPE so they could see a way forward.

One case that will always stay with me is when we were called in by an officer to the isolation unit. A prisoner had been crying and had got nowhere with this young man. One of the ladies I who had trained me came with me. We opened his cell both went in and asked him what was wrong . He was totally distraught, we asked if he would talk to just one of us, even this did not work. Eventually the officer came and said we were wasting time and wanted us to leave.

We decided to stay eventually Ruth just said in a very calm voice "We love you and want to help you", with that he just collapsed into sobbing. I pleaded with him just give us a clue.

Eventually he asked us, "Do you really care and love me", we said "yes" . He then between sobs told us. He had been sent to foster homes around the country never aloud to settle, if he started to make friends he was moved on.

He ran away so many times because he was lonely then got into drugs heavily because it was the first time anyone had taken an interest in him.

He was sent to prison for six years and was about to be moved to an open prison and was scared. He then dropped the bombshell and told us we were the first people to tell him that he was loved.

He was 27 years of age. Before he left probation pulled out all the stops to assisst him, we went to visit him in the open unit and found a totally different man who was so grateful that someone had taken time to listen to him.

I can always remember the feeling when we got back to the office being elated but utterly drained.

The Chaplin promised to keep in contact with him. In our conversation we discussed how our Lord must have felt when he knew tiredness, and when the woman who had the issue of blood touched Him and He knew that something had gone out of Him.

We had joined a Church in Kettering and had fellowship for eight years. Being retired I was asked to speak at the ladies meeting and this became a regular invitation. We also took them out on trips. An offer was made to the minister to take a short service at an elderly persons home once a fortnight. We offered to help and when the minister could not make it we would take the service.

Another piece of the jigsaw coming together. Soon after the minister left, but felt it was so important to keep this work going. Most of those were use to going to Church in their younger days. They know many of the Hymns. Very often they appreciate just a chat to tell you something about their family.

At Christmas and Easter our service is longer in time and we have a celebration service which is opened to families and friends.

Even today we carry on this work travelling back to Northampton once a month. It gives a wonderful opportunity to tell the message of God's love and we pray that many will come to make a commitment to follow Him. The staff walk past and cannot help but listen so we continue to pray the seed may be sown.

As I approached my 69th birthday Joyce and I began to think about downsizing. We looked at flats locally and was praying for guidance. We sort of made a bargain with God that if we put our house on the market and it went quickly we would know his will. The house sold within six weeks.

We had visited Cheltenham to visit Betty & David and seen flats for sale we looked at some and knew they were not right. We visited the one in Prestbury and it ticked all the boxes, we moved and arrived in September 2006. We knew Gods leading, and the correct decision was made for us.

We feel at home and how he has led us to this Church. May we say a special Thank you to each and everyone for the welcome you have given.

My life on reflection has been guided by God , even when I went were I should not have gone, He is always there even during the hectic days of Ife. I am constantly reminded of the wonderful hymn

Thy hand O God, has guided
Thy flock, from age to age

God has given me HOPE each day , I pray that we may be the ones who can go out and give HOPE and teaching to the many who are needy in our local society.

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light