Sunday, February 28, 2010

Safe streets and a safe environment for our town!

It was on Wednesday that I prepared today’s Order of Service. Between then and now much has happened. So much, that as I sat down to prepare this morning’s sermon on Friday afternoon, I felt I simply had to change my theme and follow a different tack.

I want to share with you a text that I discovered on Thursday morning, and then make connections between that text and what happened on Thursday, on Friday and on Saturday this week.

The challenge for us all, then, is to see what connections we can make between all those reflections and our annual meeting on Thursday when we have the opportunity to meet together and dream dreams about the direction our church is going in on into the future that lies ahead of us.

It was on Thursday morning, that a good number of the clergy and ministers of the town, together with other church leaders, met together at St Matthew’s church.

Once the welcomes were done, Andrew Dow, Rector of Cheltenham and the one who has spear-headed our Church Leaders in Cheltenham group that has been working towards enabling the churches of Cheltenham to work more effectively together, shared with us this text.

He described it as a new one on him. It was a new one on me.

We had come together to dream dreams and to share visions, and to prompt some practical planning to explore the ways our churches are making a difference in our town, and how they could make more of a difference.

What better place to start than with a dream and a vision. As Andrew commented it has all sorts of eschatological overtones, but it is about a town or rather a city and it dreams of what a town or city that is at its best should be like.

Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts shall be called the holy mountain. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

That’s not a bad vision for a city, and it’s not a bad vision for a town!

What had prompted our get together on Thursday morning was the success of Street Pastors in seeking simply to be of service in an area of considerable need in what is sometimes described as the night-time economy of Cheltenham.

But that has always been only one part of a greater vision for the churches of Cheltenham. That greater vision challenges our churches to think of ways in which they may more effectively work together to make a difference in our town.

Our speaker for the day was John Aldis. I was intrigued to learn that he had developed a city centre ministry in Leicester during the late 70’s and 80’s when he had been the Vicar of a city centre church in Leicester where shortly before Felicity’s step father had been organist, Holy Trinity, Leicester.

Before retiring to Stonehouse a couple of years ago where he has become very involved not only in the life of the churches but also in the life of the council, John had ministered in Watford.

When he arrived there was not just little activity on the part of the churches in the town, but a marked resistance from a highly secularised council and retail sector to any inovlement from the churches.

He described how in Watford, after much prayer, the churches had launched a response. They grouped together to appoint first one and then two chaplains to act in a co-ordinating role. Then for that night-time economy in Watford they appointed 44 Street Angels, doing much as our Street Pastors are doing: being a presence ‘on the street’.

But in addition they also appointed 24 voluntary ‘chaplains’, each focusing on a particular part of the ‘day-time’ economy. Looking at the town, they made the observation that there was already a lot of pastoral care and usupport going on. And it was being given by one particular set of people. The hairdressers! You are in the hairdressers for such a while that you unburden yourself. And the hairdressers carry a lot of people’s problems. Sometimes, not sure what to do about them. One person in one church had been a hairdresser, and so it was she took on the role of a chaplain to the hairdressers. Simply being there, coming alongside, and helping to carry some of the burdens they had been asked to shoulder.

That’s just one example, of the way people were linked up in different ways to different aspects of the town life.

We had a time of sharing and we went round the room learning of the different ways work is already being done in Cheltenham by the churches. We heard of extensive work being done among homeless people, and of the plans for a direct access home called Tony’s house that Tim Mayfield of Christchurch is working on.

  • Chaplaincy to the police,
  • Family space and work among young people
  • Youth for Christ
  • Hospital Chaplaincy
  • Glos Coll chaplaincy
  • University chaplaincy
  • Cheltenham Town Chaplaincy
  • Christians Against Poverty
  • Street Pastors and the need for more people to go on the streets, and more people to be Prayer Pastors.
  • Schools work in many schools
  • Involvement in the stronger town partnership
  • A lot of work going on among older people

Could not this be co-ordinated, harnessed and then developed further? That was the vision that we began to share.

John suggested three principles that should underlie all we do …

  1. You cannot transform without being a presence. As Christians we want to make a difference. But we need to realise that we won’t make any difference at all unless we are simply a presence. We need to BE THERE in order to make a difference. How important it is for Christians to be there. But sometimes we need help in doing just that. We are all of us involved in all sorts of different ways in the world of Cheltenham life – sometimes we need help in being a Christian presence. It is very much my hope and prayer that what we share on a Sunday is the kind of help and support we need through the week. Prayer, thoughts in preaching, so many things to uphold and strengthen us and keep us going.

  1. God is already at work in mission. John went on to prompt us to be on the look out for the way God is already at work. If the task of transformation involves bringing love and care and help to people, we need to recognise that is already being given. The care of those hairdressers, the support so many agencies give in our town. Let’s not imagine God is waiting for our next initiative. Instead we need to be on the look out for the way God is already at work and be prepared to join him.

  1. No church can go it alone. It was so refreshing not only to hear that being said on Thursday by John, but to hear the murmurs of assent from around the room. Each church needs to be focused in what it does, not least ours. But in a town like Cheltenham, indeed in any setting, we need to be on a wave length with others as well.

So how does all that work out for us here in Highbury?

I want to return to the text from Zechariah 8. It is a vision that focuses on two ends of the age spectrum.

Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.

I joined the Day Centre on Thursday afternoon, and Felicity, Jonquil and Peter Harrison and I joined the Day Centre again on Friday afternoon. The very first Day Centre for older people was run by the hospital. Between 25 and thirty years ago it moved out of Highbury and the Brownhills Clinic was built. There was, I think, a short gap, and then Social Services opened up Cheltenham’s main Day Centre for Older people here at hIhgbury. One of those who set it up was Ruth Pearce. She has remained, latterly as the manager, and on Friday she retired. It was good to mark that occasion.

The Day Centre itself is moving over to Prestbury Road and so on Thursday and Friday, 25th and 26th March at 2-00 in the afternoon we are going to have a Day Centre Service for older people for the last time. On Saturday, 17th April we will celebrate the last 40 years of day care based at Highbury and thank the staff.

So, what do we do next?

How do we use that wing of our building which for the best part of 40 years has been used as a Day Centre? Do we develop our work for older people in new ways? Day Care provision for older people is a great example of something offered by so many of our churches that cries out for more co-ordination? This is food for thought and for us to reflect on at our Annual Meeting.

Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.

It is a lovely picture of the care that we must share with older people.

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.

A lovely image too, that takes us right back to the Parents’ fair and the commitment we have to working with younger children, with parents, with families too.

It was so good to see people coming and sharing at the Parents’ fair. Let’s hope it can be the seed that grows into something special, and not just an end in itself!

Our children’s work has a flow to it.

We start with our toddler groups, complemented by Hyper-Space and then we have Junior Church groups and our Transformers Club – that leads on to Hy-Tec and running with that of course we have Scouting and Guiding.

Hy-Tec is a group led by a really faithful set of leaders … Sundays begin here in church, in the evening we meet again, but Sunday finishes as Hy-Tec gather again for a short time of worship and a circle of prayer around the Table.

On Saturday evening they are going to do a sleep over and on Sunday they will join us for our service. A couple of the youngsters now, Jake and Eleanor have grown up through Highbury from Fish Club through Junior church and family services and now have become keen on Hy-Tec.

It will be good as they lead our service next Sunday morning.

How important that we share with young and old alike … after all it is nothing less than an age old vision that we are part of, that wonderful vision of Zechariah.

One of the great things, it seems to me, is the way at church, not least in a service such as this one with all the children and young people playing such a part, is that we bring people together from the opposite ends of that spectrum, young and old meeting together as one family of God’s people.

On Friday we shall be joining with friends from St Luke’s and St Michael’s in hosting three services for the Women’s World Day of Prayer. Often, those services are attended by older people. But in the last couple of years with those partner churches we have done something very different. That means on Friday morning we shall be joining at St Michael’s and welcoming the whole junior section of the new Oakwood School, and on Friday afternoon we shall join here at Highbury and welcome the juniors of St John’s. Both of those services will be a point when the young and old meet together and share together.

What a vision we share, and what a vision to work towards! Safe streets, a safe environment in our town for young and old alike!

Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

News worth sharing!

A sermon preached by Becky Hartwell at Highbury.

I start this evening by asking you, what is the best news you have ever had?

This might have been hearing about the birth of a grandchild, hearing a marriage proposal or hearing you had got a job. For me I think the best news was hearing my nephew had been born safely and hearing the results for my degree, a mixture of great relief and joy went with both of these.

This evening I am going to talk about good news, not the news like birth, exam results, new jobs and things like that but in fact about the good news that has come from Jesus. So you might be able to remember the best good news you have ever heard but can you remember how you felt when you first heard the story of Jesus? Do you remember where you were, who shared it with you and what age you were? Maybe you are not sure what exactly the good news is?

Not only are we thinking about receiving the good news this evening, we are also considering sharing the good news with others and what the reading from Romans tells us about that. Can you go back again to the best news you ever heard, did you share it with others or did you keep it to yourself?

In fact just how do we share the good news of Jesus with others?

But lets start with what the good news is for us.

The reading from Romans, that I am focusing on this evening starts with a message for all.

The reading tells us that we can all put our trust in God, God blesses all who call on him and all who do call on him will be saved. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Now we could just say so that’s the good news and move on to the rest of the reading. But that is quite an incredible verse. God blesses all who call on him. So many places in life you can fall short of achieving the best because you are not clever enough, attractive enough, good enough at sports, or even been born in the right area or country or being the right race. In fact the list goes on and on, there are so many places where we are not enough of something to achieve. But this verse challenges that straight away.

God will bless all who call on him.

It says in the verse, it doesn’t matter if you are Jew or Gentile, it is telling us it doesn’t matter who you are, African or South American, Mensa material or someone who hasn’t got a high IQ, Dame Judi Dench or Dame Edna Everage. ALL who call on him will be saved,

God blesses all.

No matter who society or media tell us are worthy of one thing or another, we can go back to the bible and it tells us that ALL who call on him will be saved.

In fact if we just confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe it we will be saved.

It sounds simple but I think it’s not.

Although we know that we can be saved, which sounds so easy, we can remember that this reading is talking about a relationship. And as we know from our relationships with parents, children, family and friends relationships are not easy, they do take work.

In fact if we link this reading with the verse in Luke 9 where Jesus tells people that if they want to follow him they need to daily deny themselves and take up their cross we can see a recognition that following Jesus is a day to day commitment. It isn’t something that can be breezed in to but takes work, takes effort and takes dedication every day.

Every day we need to look in the mirror as we wake up and remind ourselves that if we call on the Lord we are saved. That no matter who we are and the life we have led that God will save us because we have called on him.

Now, maybe that isn’t what you think when you wake up in the morning, most days it is a struggle to drag myself out of bed when the alarm goes off let alone look in the mirror. But this chance to have a new life, to be loved unconditionally happens every day and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that.

Jesus said to take up our cross daily and walk but in this we can remember that we are saved.

So we can continue to build on this relationship with God, reminding ourselves of the good news. However, the church isn’t a closed club for the best and funniest characters, it is open for all. If this is the case then the good news needs to be shared with others.

The reading we heard involves forwarding instructions.

Imagine the best news you’ve ever heard but that before you heard it you just kept missing it, your answer machine wasn’t working, the person kept missing you face to face – in the style of most soaps. Maybe the information went missing in the post or the messenger pigeon got ill.

There are so many different ways to contact people these days but it still takes time for news to be shared with all people. And good news should be shared.

Here is a story about a man missing out on good news.

“John Currier, a man who couldn’t read or write, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1949. Later his sentence was commuted and he was transferred from prison and paroled to work for a wealthy farmer near Nashville, TN. In 1968 his sentence was terminated. State Correction Department records show that a letter was written to the prisoner and the farmer for whom he worked. The letter said that he was a free man.
But Currier never saw the letter or even knew it had been written. One year went by...then two...then five, and finally ten. And still he didn’t know that he was free.

By this time the farmer to whom he had been paroled was dead, but Currier kept working, serving out his life sentence. He was given a little money for personal needs but life was hard and filled with labour. He slept in a drafty trailer, taking baths in a horse trough. Life held very little joy and no promise of hope. This went on until 1979. Then a state parole officer learned of his plight and told him about the missing letter.”

This can be like hearing the good news about God. People can be living in a world where the news is known by some, but unless anyone tells them, they have no way of knowing the truth. People miss out on hearing something that would change their lives for eternity.

This links in to the story we heard earlier of the women at the tomb of Jesus who were charged with sharing the news of Jesus’ resurrection. These women were not the likely ones to be chosen to share this news. In the time of Jesus women weren’t considered the greatest witnesses, they could not be legal witnesses in that society.

But this does in fact make them great examples for us. Maybe we don’t consider ourselves the best people to be sharing the good news but as Christians we have been chosen to share it with people. And it is possible for us to ask God who he wants us to share the news with, to ask him to put us in the lives of those he wants us to speak to.

The exact point in the reading is “how can people believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”. That says it all.

Imagine again the best news you thought of at the start of the talk, I want to take you back to that. Imagine having that news again but keeping it to yourself, expecting others to be joyous about it but never telling them the actual news.

Good news should be shared, we as his followers have been entrusted to do it.

So we need to share it with other people.

Maybe you are wondering how we can tell people. Evangelism as a concept has quite a bad reputation in some areas, people envisage door knocking, cold calling, in your face contact. But actually it works best by building on friendships, being there for our friends and neighbours, inviting people to events, socials and services at church, sharing things about our lives while being honest about what we believe and this commitment we have to God and all the while praying for them.

Our actions are important.

The way we treat people is recognised by others, the way we act in certain situations is noticed. The way we are as a church locally, nationally and as different denominations is reported on. For example in the last couple of weeks there has been reporting via the internet and other articles on the arguments that happened at Church of England synod.

I’ll say it again, our actions are important.

There will be people in our lives that won’t necessarily remember the things we have said about God or stories we have told but will instead remember how we acted to the homeless person every one else ignored or how we made a decision not to be the way that everyone else was at a social occasion.

Our actions are surprisingly important.

Sharing the good news can be done in a variety of ways and can change everything.

There is one further thing the reading tells us, that people need to be sent.

This is our role as a church, whether it be to encourage those in training, support people through prayer or by being there for those involved in the things that are already happening.

In that way we can celebrate the work done with others. For example linked to this church is the Open the Book team, not to be confused with the Thursday night bible study. The Open the Book team go into primary schools and act out various different bible stories. The team includes people from other churches but it also includes people from our church - Phil Arnold, Mary Michael and Jean Gregory. We can celebrate what this team does and the fact that children are learning about Jesus and the bible through their work.

People were also invited to the recent Alpha course and Back to Church Sunday by their friends and got to hear some of the great stories and things about God. We should be celebrating this and also praying about it. Sending out people from our church to tell others about Jesus is an important part of the churches mission.

There is also a story a parent told me about six months ago, something they heard their child saying to their friend as the parent was walking past the room. The child was talking to their friend about what they thought about church, and believing in God.

Members of our church from the youngest to the oldest are spreading the good news, we can be supporting them, praying for them, giving them the chance to learn about and worship God.

Sending people out is part of our role as a church. We may not know the affect we have on others, on their faith and knowledge of God, in fact it might take years for there to be any affect, but sometimes we can get glimpses of it. Glimpses of a changed personality, of a commitment to learn about something new, of a person who wants to tell lots of others about what they have learnt. There is something here about the inventions of Goldberg.

Now, I’m not any way near as intelligent as Richard, I don’t even know how he has time to read so many books, but every so often I come across a gem of information that makes me feel a bit more clever and I love sharing these with you all. Goldberg’s inventions.

Goldberg was a man who did compositions of the work of Bach. He also did inventions. These inventions aimed to make simple tasks complicated by adding dozens of gears, arms, wheels, handles, etc. He used one to squeeze orange juice and one to open a window. You may have seen similar things in the film Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang or the Honda car advert from a couple of years ago where all the different connections had to happen for the car to be driven at the end.

The effect we have of sharing the good news might not be realised for a long time it might be like the Honda advert, taking a lot of different connections for something to happen but the seeds are sown, we pray and we leave it in God’s hands.

There is another important reason to share the good news with others – out of respect to the person who took the time to share the good news with us. Out of respect to the disciples and the long line of people who have passed down the good news. If it hadn’t been for the disciples and other people following down through the ages from them we wouldn’t know the amazing stories of Jesus. It would have been easy for the disciples to have been comfortable in knowing they were saved but they cared about future generations, they also had the great commission that Jesus had given them, to make disciples of all nations.

The same commission that we have been given as we are also Jesus’ followers.

So the reading ends with an interesting statement, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!”

The feet that brought the news of Jesus’ resurrection would have been dusty and dirty. The feet of the missionaries are tired and sometimes sweaty. The feet of the Open the Book team and that child I told you about wouldn’t have been perfectly manicured and ready to do foot modelling. What it means is that the feet of someone who is telling the good news, going out to people and sharing the love of Jesus are beautiful because they’re doing good work, they are doing God’s work.

Maybe we can make it our aim to bring the good news and so have those beautiful feet.

We can remind ourselves of the great commission, to “go and make disciples of all nations” – to honour Peter, Paul, the Wesleys, John Williams from the London Missionary Society, the Open the Book team in schools, the child who was talking to her friend about God and the person who took time to share the good news with us.

It doesn’t mean we have to get on a plane and be internationally travelling missionaries but instead being honest about where we were on Sunday or what we do in our spare time and why we have chosen to do it.

Imagine the best news you ever heard again, there is someone out there who is waiting to have that joy, it is our role to share some good news with them via our beautiful feet.

And we can always remember, as the beginning of our Romans reading told us, that for all of us it starts and continues with a personal relationship with Jesus and that if we call on him we will be and we are saved.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Church that takes the world seriously

What’s church for?

I have just finished getting my contributions ready for Highbury News … and that means sorting through the Annual Reports and adding in my own.

It gives a fascinating glimpse of the life of the church. And I for one am looking forward this year to our Annual Meeting as it gives us an opportunity not only to take stock but also to share in shaping the vision we have for the church here at Highbury for the future.

John Pritchard’s book, Going to Church, made quite an impact on me when I came across it last Autumn. It was one of those rare books that seemed to speak very much into my understanding of what church is about.

He talks of the central calling of the church as ‘being there for God in worship, mission and service.

That’s exactly the snapshot we will be taking of the life of our church in our Annual reports. After key-note reports from the Minister, the Pastoral Assistant and the Church Secretary, we then look at the life of the church under the headings of Worship, Pastoral Care, Mission and Service of the Community.

With the addition of pastoral call it is exactly the central calling of the church that John Pritchard envisages.

As he comes to the end of his book John Pritchard then suggests that there are certain features of a church that anyone looking for a church might reasonably be looking for; indeed, things to go to the stake for.

First, a church that takes God seriously.

It is my conviction that we are a church that does just that. And it is something we must constantly seek to come back to.

Second, a church takes our humanity seriously.

It is my conviction that that is something we take seriously here at Highbury … and it is something I too would go to the stake for.

Today we arrive at the third thing to go to the stake for in any church, and definitely here at Highbury.

Third, a church that takes the world seriously.

John Pritchard goes on to say, “We need churches with open doors and people with open minds.”

To my mind that’s what captures the ethos of Highbury. Open doors – this must be a place where all are welcome. Open minds this is a place where people can be open about their faith, honest about their doubts, and join with people who think about the Christian faith the same way and with people who think very differently about the faith … and all in a spirit of love that binds us together as one people, Christ’s people.

In with the people of God come the concerns of the world they live in 167 hours a week, and out with the people of God goes the love the world craves. Churches are places of compassion and social justice where the dark places of the earth are brought to the table of the Lord to be placed in the light.”

As we seek to do that we do nothing less than follow the mandate laid down by Christ in that very first sermon he preached in the synagogue in Nazareth.

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Those words from the prophet Isaiah shaped the ministry Jesus shared. They are the words that shape the ministry Jesus then shared with his disciples and by implication with us.

First, he sent the Twelve, then he sent the 72, and now he sends us.

What it was that Jesus asked of them, he asks of us and it is very telling.

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!”

Notice those last words.

Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!”

The love the world craves is a love that starts in the home.

The Parents’ fair we have planned for Saturday, 27th February, is not just another event on our calendar. It has a specific significance. About a year ago we convened what we called a Community Focus Group to look very specifically at the needs of the community around us.

With Becky’s guidance they have focused on the needs of parents. So it is that we have managed to contact all sorts of different organisations, from the statutory sector right across to all sorts of community groups who will come together to display things that are available to families and parents.

This is taking the love of God into the home, into the house, with that wonderful message, Peace to this House!

It is not something just for parents – it is an opportunity for us to share with others in the community around us … so, we really do need as many people as possible to be involved and to come so that we can be welcoming that day. Do sign up on the rota … and make sure the date is in your diary so that you can come along on the day.

We are a church that takes the world seriously, and that begins in the home with the support we offer to families, to parents, and indeed through our pastoral care network it is a support package from the cradle to the grave.

But that does not stop at the home.

It is fascinating to see there is another dimension to the work of the 72, another dimension to the task Jesus sets us to do.

Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”

There is a message for the town … the Kingdom of God has come near to you.

If our message is for the home, Peace to this house. There is also a message for our town … the kingdom of God has come near to you.

We need to address the needs of our town.

Cheltenham is not unlike a hundred other towns and cities up and down the land in having major problems between the hours of 10 and 4 on a Friday and Saturday night. It is because of the success of the initiative that has been taken by churches in a hundred and more towns that the Police welcomed the initiative of the churches with such open arms a year ago.

Street Pastors has made a very real difference, bringing much needed help to the over-stretched police and ambulance services.

But Street Pastors is only the first stage in the vision that the Cheltenham Church Leaders group that I have been a part of has had. The second stage of the vision is to reach out into the day-time needs of our town. Already, the churches offer chaplaincy services into the hospital, GlosColl, the University, the football club and other organisations too. We have invited all the town’s clergy to come together a week on Thursday to share a vision that we could co-ordinate that work more effectively and extend it to meet the day-time needs of the town and the community around us

The purpose is not to proselytise: the purpose is to ensure that in John Pritchard’s words, ‘out with the people of God goes the love the world craves.’

Do remember that work in your prayers.

There are so many points at which we are in the business of taking God’s love into our world and on to our streets. It is why we devote our communion collections usually to a local charity, but this month to the Christian Aid Haiti appeal; it is why we support Christian Aid and through them the Congregational Federation’s partner in the Dominican Republic, Oné Respé; it is why we are active in world mission through our Council for World Mission Partnership, and on the first Friday in March the Women’s World Day of Prayer.

The 72 go out … and then they returned, and Luke tells us they returned with joy!

We are in the business of making a difference … in people’s homes, and in the wor

John Pritchard suggests that there s a rhythm as we come to church bearing the needs of the world, in church we share in the transforming, life-changing, presence of God in Christ, and then we go out from church back into the world to share the transforming love of God for the world around us.

As we seek to be a church that takes the world seriously we seek to be a church where “the dark places of the earth are brought to the table of the Lord to be placed in the light.

“There on that table all of life is taken up and broken open to the transformation of God,

“and then we who have participated in the miracle go out to be agents of change, empowered by an unassailable hope that things can be different.

There can be no getting away from it.

God so loved the world.

“This is God’s world, for which Christ died,

and transforming it is therefore our core business.”

That’s why I too would go to the stake for a church that takes the world seriously.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Celebrating 100 Years of Girlguiding and 90 years of Girlguiding at Highbury

A Parade Service led by Diana Adams

Love (based on 1 Corinthians 13)

Love is a whisper,

not a tornado.

Love is a drift of petals,

not a mighty oak tree.

Love is the song of a flute,

not the blast of a trumpet.

Love is a beckoning finger,

not a pair of handcuffs.

This is its strength -

it invites,

it does not force.

It’s like a campfire.

We gather round,

and are warmed.

Anna Compston, aged 12

From ‘Dare to Dream’

Music as the Colour Parties enter – “The Chief” on CD 1 track 39

Opening sentences: Verses from Psalm 107

“Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal!”

Repeat these words in praise to the Lord.

Thank the Lord for his love, for the wonderful things he has done.

Thank him, and sing songs of joy.

Proclaim his greatness in the assembly of the people.

May those who are wise think about these things,

may they consider the Lord’s constant love.

Hymn: Colours of Day – chosen by the Brownies ….

Colour of Day dawn into the mind, the day has begun, the night is behind.

Go down in the city, into the street, into the park, on into the town ….

Tell the people of Jesus, let his love show.

Prayer: Loving God, we thank you


On 4th September in 1909 Robert Baden-Powell was inspecting a gathering of 11,000 Scouts at huge rally at the Crystal Palace in London, when he came across a group of girls. They were dressed in long khaki skirts, khaki blouses, and wide brimmed Scout hats; they had badges and rucksacks, and carried staves, just like the boys. He asked them, “Who are you?” and they replied “We are the Girl Scouts!” Baden- Powell was a bit taken aback “But there’s no such thing as Girl Scouts” he said.

“Yes, there are” they replied, “Because we are them!”

Scouting had started two years earlier in 1907, and it was proving to be so exciting for the boys that the girls wanted to do it too.

The girls had read Baden-Powell’s book “Scouting for Boys” and they had formed themselves into Patrols, and copied their brothers! In those days it was considered wrong for women to do the same as men, and for girls to do the same as boys.

Baden-Powell was worried that the boys wouldn’t like it if the girls were allowed to join, but when he saw how keen the girls were he decided they must have a Movement of their own, but with a different name, and activities suitable for girls.

Years later when Baden-Powell was asked who started the Guide Movement, he replied “They started themselves!” Baden-Powell called the new organisation ‘Girl Guides’. He realised the girls were doing Scouting because they liked the activities, so he was careful to include as much as possible of the Scouting programme to please the girls, but he changed some of the activities and challenges in order to please their parents! The Girl Guide Movement was officially started in 1910, so this year we are celebrating the one hundredth birthday - our Centenary.

The first big event this year will be on 22nd February when we celebrate World Thinking Day. The date was chosen as it was the shared birthday of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, and it’s a day when the girls are encouraged to remember each other, and Guides worldwide, and to strive towards international friendship and awareness.

Within a year of the birth of Guiding in the UK, Units sprang up in Canada, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa and Sweden, and a year later in Australia, Ireland, The Netherlands and India. By 1920 there were over 183 thousand members in the UK, nearly 26 thousand in British Territories, and over 112 thousand elsewhere.

The first International Conference was held in Oxford in 1920, and then every two years afterwards. At the fifth Conference in 1928 the delegates discussed the idea of having an umbrella organisation to bring together the 26 countries where there was a significant Guiding presence at that time, and The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts was set up (known as WAGGGS).

WAGGGS mission statement is: to enable girls and young women to develop their fullest potential as responsible citizens in the world. We are a growing Worldwide Movement – aiming to build a better world.

Today, there are well over half a million members in 145 countries, and the Brownies have been busy making the flags of the nations to display around the Church today, to encircle everyone here, in the same way that Guiding encircles or embraces the people in those 145 countries around the world.

BROWNIES encircle the church with flags they have made representing nearly all the countries Guides are in.

In the Bible, in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 28, we read that Jesus said to his disciples “Go to all peoples everywhere, and I will be with you always” and in a way that is what Scouting and Guiding has done, as both Movements have spread all over the world, creating the worldwide families of Scouts and Guides.

Hymn: Father God, I wonder – this was also chosen by the Brownies – and it goes on to say

“I am your child, adopted in your family,

and I can never be alone because you are there beside me…..”


Last year Highbury Guides celebrated their 90th birthday, and their programme in the autumn term took them through the decades, trying activities from the very first Guide handbook that would have been used by the original Highbury Guides in 1919; they also tested the ration book recipes of the 1940s; and enjoyed the ‘flower power’ of the 1960s by making and planting flowers to share.

Throughout the term they compared the Guide programmes and were surprised and intrigued by the differences and the similarities.

Early Girl Guides practiced First Aid, Signaling, Drill and Stretcher work, and their badges included Cook, Sailor, Tailor and Clerk. By the end of 1910 there were 22 badges, including Telegraphist and Electrician.

The First World War gave the girls the opportunity to prove the usefulness of the skills they had learned, and silenced many of their initial critics.

Badges today include Communicator, Circus Skills, Culture, Discovering Faith, Film Lover, Hobbies, Survival, Science, Interpreter, Independent Living, Camper, Agility, Sports and Outdoor Pursuits, Music Group, Team Player, Team Leader, Active Response, Holidays, Find Your Way, Survival, Water Safety, Fire Safety, Personal Safety, World Cultures, World Issues, World Traveller and World Guiding.

Maybe the original Cooks’ badge is comparable to today’s Confectioner and Cook Badges?

The old Signaler and Telegraphist badges - to today’s Communicator?

1910 First Aid and stretcher work, compares to today’s First Aid and Healthy Lifestyle Badges?

And today’s “Traditions of Guiding” Badge encourages the girls to learn about how things were done by Guides in years gone by.

As members of the Scout and Guide Movements we each have a Promise, and Laws to keep ...

A comparison can be make between the Laws of 1910 and today …

In 1910 Baden-Powell wrote out the ten Guide Laws by hand [and he added an eleventh Guide Law which he described as ‘unwritten but understood’]

Guide Laws … 1910 1. A Guide’s honour is to be trusted.

2. A Guide is loyal to her King and her Guiders, her parents,

her country and her employers or employees.

3. A Guide’s duty is to be useful and to help others.

4. A Guide is a friend to all and a sister to every other Guide,

no matter to what social class she belongs.

5. A Guide is courteous.

6. A Guide is a friend to animals.

7. A Guide obeys orders, of her parents, Patrol Leader or Captain, without question.

8. A Guide smiles and sings under all difficulties.

9. A Guide is thrifty.

10. A Guide is pure in thought, word and deed.

11. [This law is unwritten but is understood] A Guide is not a fool.

Today, although there are only six Guide Laws, the basic meaning remains the same, but they are in a language that can be more easily understood by today’s girls and young women.

Guide Laws … 2010 1. A Guide is honest, reliable and can be trusted.

2. A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.

3. A Guide faces challenge and learns from her experiences.

4. A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.

5. A Guide is polite and considerate.

6. A Guide respects all living things and takes care of the world around her.

When asked where religion came into Scouting and Guiding, Robert Baden-Powell replied:

“It doesn’t come in at all. It’s already there. It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding. Though we hold no brief for any one form of belief over another, we see a way to helping all by carrying the same principle into practice as is now being employed in other branches of education.”

Guiding spread across the globe with incredible speed, which meant that girls from a rich diversity of faiths were part of the Movement from the early years. African nations of all religions became members from 1910 The largely Muslim nation of Egypt joined in 1913 and Israel in 1919. The first Guide Unit had opened in India in 1911, although initially only for British girls, Guiding was on offer to Indian girls by 1916.

Baden-Powell’s vision was to include all races and nations, to unite them with a common framework of activities and attitudes.

This far-reaching goal meant that Guiding had to be adapted to suit the needs of each country and faith. An example of this was to be found in the words of the Guide Promise.

The Promise today, as in 1910, remains central to all our Guiding activities …

The original wording included the promise “to do my duty to God and my country” In India the word was changed from God to ‘Dharma’, meaning the righteous path.

In the UK, too, the words evolved, and in 1994 ‘to do my duty to God’ was replaced with the words ‘to love my God’ thereby explicitly including members from all faiths.

Today Guide’s Promise: I promise that I will do my best:

to love my God

too serve the Queen and my country

to help other people

and to keep the (Brownie) Guide Law.

In the Bible, in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 10, we read these words,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

Guides across the 100 years of the Movement’s history, as part of a global community embracing many faiths and cultures, have been empowered to explore their own beliefs and the beliefs of others in a safe, informed and non-pressurised environment, just as Baden-Powell intended.

People sometimes ask why Guiding is referred to as a ‘Movement’ –

it’s because we move with the times, and endeavour to keep up-to-date with the ever changing requirements of the young people.

From the old ways we move to the new ways, asking God to keep us moving in the right direction, or in the words of the hymn we are going to sing now … “It’s from the old I travel to the new, keep me travelling along with you.”

Hymn: One more step along the world I go


Brownies will sing their old song:

“We’re the Brownies, here’s our aim, lend a hand and play the game. LAH!“

LAH! stands for the Brownie motto: Lend A Hand!

and their new song:

“We’re Brownie Guides, we’re Brownie Guides, we’re here to lend a hand,

to love our God and serve our Queen to help our homes and land.

We’ve Brownie friends, we’ve Brownie friends in north, south, east and west,

we join together in our aim to try to do our best”.

Brownies to parade in different uniforms through the decades ….

Comparison of Brownie activities ….

In 1914 Brownies did .…

In 2009 Brownies were helping to “Change the World” by ….

It doesn’t matter what they wore, or the activities they did, they were all Brownies or Guides who made the same Promise “to do their best” …..

Talk about doing our best to ‘Lend a hand’ and ‘help other people’ …….

We promise to do ‘our best’ but ‘our best’ is different for each of us. I was doing some photocopying recently, I put in the piece of paper I wanted to copy, and pressed all the right buttons, and the machine churned out 700 copies all exactly the same. I wondered what would happen if I put a Beaver, or a Cub or a Brownie into the machine … I presume it would churn out however many I wanted, all exactly the same! It would be very boring if you were all exactly the same like that, wouldn’t it?

But do you ever wish you were someone different? That you looked like someone else, or could play football like David Beckham, or play the flute like James Galway?

There was once a camel who lived in a zoo, and he didn’t like looking similar to the other camels, he wanted to look really different and be able to do different things too. One night when all the camels were asleep he set out to explore …. and he came to the elephant house. “I wish I had big ears like an elephant” he said to himself, and all of a sudden he grew big ears and became a camelephant! He was very proud of his big ears, and he walked on round the zoo, until he came to the antelope cage. “Wow! What wonderful antlers those antelopes have” he thought, “I wish I could have them!” All of a sudden he grew great big antlers on his head, and became a camelephantelope! He felt even prouder as he carried on walking around the zoo, and he came to where the pelicans were asleep. “What wonderful beaks those pelicans have – I wish I had a beak like that” he said to himself. You can guess what happened – he grew a big beak and became a camelephanteleopelican. As he continued strolling around the zoo, dawn was beginning to break, and the birds were just starting their morning chorus. He arrived at the canary cage where there was a lot of ‘tweet tweet tweeting’ going on. What lovely voices they have” he said, “I wish I could sing like that!” And he too started ‘tweet tweet tweeting’ – he became a camelephantelopelicanary! When he arrived back at the camel house, his friends were beginning to wake up, and they looked at him and started to laugh – they had never seen a camelephantelopelicanary before! He didn’t like being laughed at, and he said to himself “I wish I looked like I used to look yesterday” and he immediately became a proper camel again, and he too woke up from his dream!

Although we all look like human beings, God has made us all different, all capable of doing different things, and doing some things better than others, but he does want us to try to do our best at whatever we are doing, even if we find some things really difficult.


There is a saying that the fools wander – but the wise travel. Some people ‘wander’ because they don’t know where they are going or what they want. Other people ‘travel’ because they have a destination to reach. Which are you - the wise or the foolish? If we go on a long journey we need a map of some kind to refer to you, or a ‘satnav’, to guide us. We might have to refer to it to save getting lost! We might need it because we are lost, and with it we can find the right road again. In our journey through life we can find maps and guide books in the great holy books of the major faiths through which God shows the way – and we refer to the Bible for our guidance. As Brownies and Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts, we have a set of laws and a Promise with God at its heart. If we really do our best to keep both we can’t go far wrong. We need a centre to our lives. If ‘self’ is at the centre of our life, and we think only of ourselves and what we want, then we will be unhappy, and we will wander. BUT, if God is at the centre, then life will have a purpose, we will be happy, and we will travel.

Reading: Base on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5. 1-12 and on the Guide Laws:

Happy is the Guide who can be trusted in all things;

for she will be a strength to many.

Happy is the Guide who is already ready to help;

she will gain more than she gives.

Happy is the Guide who forgets herself for others;

she will never know the meaning of loneliness.

Happy is the Guide who knows the true meaning of love;

for love is of God.

Happy is the Guide who has respect for all living things;

she will find god everywhere.

Happy is the Guide who has learnt when to obey;

for she is fit to lead.

Happy is the Guide who can laugh when life is hard;

for hers is the strength of courage.

Happy is the Guide whose time is God’s;

she will be ready for anything.

Happy is the Guide who knows the true value of everything;

for she will never waste anything.

Happy is the Guide whose life is controlled;

for she will bring light into dark places.

Hymn: Give me joy in my heart

Give me love in my heart

Give me peace in my heart

Reading: Isaiah 56. 6-7

The Lord says to those foreigners who become part of his people, who love him and serve him,

“I will bring you to Zion, my sacred hill, and give you joy in my house of prayer.

My Temple will be called a house of prayer for the people of all nations.”

Prayers: Ideas from Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides

Brownie 1: Loving God, we thank you for the beautiful world you have made:

for the animals and birds,

fish and insects,

rivers and streams,

fields and forests,

sea and sand,

fruit trees and bushes,

and colourful flowers.

Brownie 2: Please help us to care for our world,

and to always think about the environment

and about all the things we can recycle.

Brownie 1: Thank you for the lovely food we have to eat,

and for clean running water in our homes.

Brownie 2: Please help us not to take them for granted, and not to waste water.

Cub 1: Thank you for our families and our homes.

Thank you that we can run about and have fun with our friends.

Cub 2: Please take care of everyone who is sick, and those who are sad.

We pray especially for Matthew and Christian’s Nanna.

Cub 1: Please help the doctors and nurses

and everyone who looks after people who are unwell

in hospitals or at home.

Cub 2: Thank you that we can come to church

and that we can pray to you, and thank you,

and say we are sorry, and ask for your help.

Guide 1:Thank you for the opportunities we have in our lives,

and for the good education we are given in local schools.

Help us not to take these privileges for granted.

Guide 2 Today we pray especially for the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti,

for those who have lost loved ones, and those who are injured or homeless,

and we pray for those who are doing their best to help the situation.

Guide 1 We also pray for people involved in the war if Afghanistan,

and for those affected by human disagreements in other parts of the world.

Loving God, grant peace to the world, we pray.

Diana: Thank you for the worldwide Scout and Guide Movements:

thank you for the fun and excitement we have as members,

for the challenges we tackle, helping other people in various ways,

and for the opportunities we have for adventurous activities,

to travel to other parts of the world,

making new friends and helping to bring peace.

We thank you, and we ask you to help us always to do our best

to keep the special Promises we have made. Amen.

Hymn: We are marching in the Light of God

Love of God

Power of God

The Grace:

Music as the Colour Parties leave – “Sisters in Guiding” on CD 2 track 33

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