Happy Father's Day

One of my favourite stories that Jesus tells is the parable of the Prodigal Son. You’re likely to be familiar with it – it’s one of his better known yarns. I love it because for a long time I could identify with the younger son’s waywardness and his disbelief at the reaction he receives when he sheepishly returns home. As I’ve got older, and my children move into their teen years, my love for the story has not waned, but my focus has shifted more to the Father.

Which I think is probably the point!

Tim Keller, in his book, the Prodigal God reminds us that “prodigal” does not mean “wayward”, but “recklessly spendthrift” – to spend until you have nothing left. This is as appropriate for describing the Father, as it is his youngest son.  He welcomes his son back recklessly, not holding anything against him.

It challenges me as I recognise my own shortcomings as a Dad. But equally encourages me as Jesus told the story so that we might recognise the true nature of our heavenly Father. Happy Father’s Day.

A Call to Exercise...

This week we step into our new sermon series, ‘You Asked For It’.

Over the next 6-7 weeks we’ll be looking at some topics that can be emotive, and may well have been a source of pain for a number of our church family in the past. It’s healthy to acknowledge that, but we don’t want it to mean that we duck consideration of these subjects.

As we delve into them though, it will require us to sharpen our understanding of something dear to the gospel, which also has the power to soften our hearts. It is something with which Paul invariably tops and tails his letters to the churches. It can be easy to miss, but one way or another, ‘grace’ forms the bookends of all that he wishes to communicate with the people for whom he cares.

This series will cause us to consider the very nature of this ‘grace’ thing, but more than that I pray it will propel us to exercise its healing power.

One-Bit Word Game

‘Do you know the One-Bit Word Game? It’s a game where you may not use words that have more than one bit’ [syllable]. It’s a kid’s game but one that can help us be clear. When we talk of God we can use big words to make us sound smart. We can use big words – some may be in Greek – to make sure that what we say is true but when we do this we can hide the truth – make the light turn dark.

Can you tell the good news of God in one-bit words? Give it a go. It is hard! Make sure that you do not miss bits out. It’s not that we should use one-bit words all day, but it can help us drop big, smart words for clear, plain ones. It can help us think more of what the good news of God is and share it more but not with bunk words. Why not write it down and share with folk at church? Pete C would like to see too.

Is it a cinch? Then try this: How do you tell that God is one in three?

Inspired by tinyurl.com/ybg8lwrg

Wardy Summer Garden Party

Hopefully you’ve already got the date in the diary, but here are some more details. The get together will be on 10 June from 3pm, at the Rectory (30 Coney Hill Road).

For those of you who are newer to the church, it’s an open invitation - all are welcome. Feel free to bring family and friends, and you can come and go as you please through the afternoon. We’ll provide a selection of drinks, including Pimms and afternoon tea, as well as some nibbles. However, it’s as a ‘bring and share’ occasion, so if you could come with anything suitable for an afternoon feast - cakes, sandwiches or savoury nibbles - that would be great.

If you are in it for the long haul, you might want to bring something to sit on. We’ve got a few things to keep littlies amused, but no doubt sugar levels will be high, so don’t hesitate to arrive armed with your distraction tool of choice.

We look forward to seeing you.   

Church Weekend Away

Following the details we provided at the APCM about the above, we can confirm that we are fixing the date for 17-19 May 2019 (Friday evening to Sunday afternoon). The venue will the be the De Vere Horsley Estate Hotel, which you can find at https://www.phcompany.com/de-vere/horsley-estate/

Our hope is to get as much as the church family there as possible. We do not want cost to be the limiting factor, so we are inviting you to indicate whether you would like to go, irrespective of whether you think you can afford it or not.

There will be a sign up sheet in church, or you can contact Margaret at the Parish Office. Please state the names of everyone in your group and the ages of any children, what type of room you would prefer (Family, Twin, or Double), and if you would be prepared to share with someone.

Further details of the theme and speaker(s) will follow.

'You Asked For It'

Hopefully, you’ll recall that a few weeks back we asked you to provide any topics/questions that you’d like to see tackled in a sermon series. We said that the most frequently requested subjects would be the ones picked for the six slots allocated to the series. The results are in and so here are details of the series, which will start in June:

 

10 June                               LGBTQ

17 June                               Marriage

24 June                               Tithing & Money

8 July                                   Singleness

15 July                                  The Bible

22 July                                  Abortion

 

Given the nature of some of the topics, the plan is to also have Q&A sessions after the service, where the preacher and the clergy will be available to explore the subject further.  

GDPR Privacy Notice and Consent Form

You may have heard mention of the new data privacy legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation, that comes into effect on the 25th May 2018. St John’s, like all other organisations that process personal data will be impacted by the new legislation, and it is important that we make you aware of these changes and your rights under the new law.

Attached is a copy of our general privacy notice that explain how we will process your personal data, and a consent form for you to complete and return to the Parish Administrator by the 25th May. Please complete the form, indicating your chosen preference to receive communications from the church and affiliated groups.

We will require a separate form to be completed for each person over the age of 13, for children under the age of 13 the parent or guardian of a child should provide their details to confirm their consent.

If we do not receive a completed consent form from you we will regrettably be unable to continue to send you emails and information about church activities.

If you have any questions or concerns in this respect please contact the Parish Administrator.

 

Welcome to our Guests

This morning we extend a particular welcome to two sets of people marking special occasions:

Firstly, we join with Tracey and Lee, as they bring their children, Erin and Ethan to be baptised. They come with the support of family and friends and we look forward to celebrating this great occasion with you all.

Secondly, Ian and Allison Ayres are all the way over from France, as they remember the anniversary of a particular event which took place in St John’s a number of years ago (more details to follow in the service…).

It is our privilege to host you both and be a small part of notable moments in your lives. We wish you God’s richest blessings, as you give thanks in different ways.

Thy Kingdom Come

Churches are coming together between the 10-20th May 2018 to pray for God’s kingdom to come and for hearts to be turned to Jesus, and we at St. John’s are joining in. Here are a few events we are running to help you pray:

  • 10th – 8pm, prayer at church
  • 13th – 6pm, Prayer drive, start at church
  • 13th and 20th - 9:15am, prayer before the service for 30 mins

We will also be providing some resources to help you pray for your family, friends and work colleagues during the event. We will be letting you know more about this before the 10th.

  • Shoelace prayers
  • Work prayer cards
  • Online scripture and prayer resources

Other churches in our area will also be running events. Here is one we have already been invited to join in with.

  • 10th-11th, 14th-18th, 9:30am. Weekday morning prayer at Coney Hill Baptist Church for an hour.

For more info ask the prayer team or visit: www.thykingdomcome.global

For Everything There is a Season

This week we’ve been catapulted into tropical weather. With snow on the ground only a few weeks ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that Spring was overlooked and we moved from Winter to Summer in a single bound. The more typical transition through the seasons gives us space and time to adjust.

An abrupt change can be disorientating.

This is equally true for the changing seasons of life. Most of us understand that with the long view, different periods of life have their own distinctive hue. But when we are jolted into change unexpectedly, it can feel like we lose our bearings. If you’re weren’t ready for the season you find yourself in, or you’re simply not sure what season you’re in, I hope you can draw on the truth the author of Ecclesiastes arrives at after talking about a ‘season for everything’ – ‘everything God does will endure forever, nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.’ (Ecclesiastes 3: 14)

Gravetalk

Is a Church of England initiative to help encourage people talk about the subject that most of us avoid – death and dying. The idea is to provide a café space to talk around this subject, give people a chance to think about their funeral and generally air their thoughts.

We’ve joined with St Francis & St Mary’s to run Gravetalk at Corza Café on West Wickham High Street. Details are contained on the postcard you should have received at church. We are doing a trial run this Tuesday at 7:30pm, which is designed for those in the church. A free buffet will be provided (a mix of hot and cold nibbles) and we’ll be encouraging people to buy their own drinks. It’s an opportunity to see how it works and for you to provide feedback in readiness to going live for the evening of 24 May, which will be for the whole community.  

We appreciate its short notice, but it would be great to have as many of you there as possible. If you could let Margaret know if you can make it, that will help us keep a track of numbers. 

 

Happy Easter

It may well be that you’re picking this up on Maundy Thursday, so I hope you allow yourself to journey through the trauma of Good Friday before arriving at the celebration and wonder of Resurrection Sunday.

When we do arrive at Easter Sunday, I can think of few better ways to mark the weekend which is central to the Christian faith than having up to 8 of our church family come forward to re-affirm their baptismal vows, or be baptised for the first time.

It’s an utterly fitting response to the reality of Jesus’ death and his defeat of death, and one that I trust will spur us all on in our journeys of faith. I hope you are looking forward to worshipping the risen Lord together.

Happy Easter!

Calling All Young(ish) Adults

Thank you once again to all those in the 18-35 age category who completed our on-line survey. The PCC recently collated the responses and looked to identify any strong, common threads running through them. As a follow up to this, we’d like to invite anyone in this age group (whether or not you completed the survey) to a get together at SJ’s. The aim is to check that we’ve accurately heard what you were expressing, to dig beneath the comments and start thinking about what we might do in response.  

The meeting will be at 10am on Saturday 21 April. Childcare will be provided along with some bakery goodies.

We’ll try not to rob too much of your Saturday, but real value will come from having a good number contribute to the conversation, so do try and carve out the time.

Thanks, Jon.

APCM Preparations

Hopefully you’ve noted the date for our church AGM – 22 April.

Today is the last day for returning forms for joining the electoral roll. They can be put in the box in church, or given to Paul Kingman / Geoff Batten. For those of you less familiar with Church of England procedure, this is a way of keeping track of our membership. It also gives you the right to vote at the APCM. More positively, it indicates that you view St John’s as your spiritual home, and you’d like to be involved in the shaping of our future.

We also want people to consider whether they might wish to become:

·         A PCC Member - we refresh a 1/3 of the elected members of our leadership each year, so if you’re interested in helping steer the church, speak to Jon.

·         A Welcomer - we refresh our welcome rota annually, and if you want to become part of the welcome team, we will provide training. Please do speak to one of the wardens.

Easter Baptisms

There is a long tradition, stretching all the way back to the Early Church of baptising people on Easter Sunday.

It’s not hard to see why.

As the baptism liturgy states the water of baptism is a “sign that we are buried with Christ in his death, we share in his resurrection, and we are reborn by the Holy Spirit”. So as Christians around the world celebrate the risen Christ, what better time to welcome newcomers into His family!

This Easter Sunday we are going to do just that. We are hiring the baptism pool and at least 2 of our young people will publicly embrace their first identity as children of God. It promises to be a great celebration.

We want to extend the offer of baptism to anyone who hasn’t yet taken the step.  If you are interested, but not sure what’s involved or whether you’re allowed, please don’t hesitate to speak to Jon or Peter.

The Bishop's Lent Call

Since 1986, successive Bishop’s in Southwark have issued a ‘call’ for parishes to use Lent as a time of prayer and contemplation, as well as raise money for specific projects here and abroad. In that time, over £1 million has been raised for more than 150 projects. We will take a collection over the Easter weekend for the projects chosen this year, which include:

The Holy Land – The Al Ahli Arab Hospital & The Al Shurooq School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Zimbabwe – The dioceses of Masvingo, Matabeleland & Manicaland and their involvement with many schools.

Southwark Diocese – Bede House, The Association for Pastoral Care in Mental Health & The Spires Centre.

Further details of these projects can be found at the MOP noticeboard in church.

'Let's Go to a Quiet Place and Rest A While'

What an invitation from Jesus, and perhaps one we rarely recognise as being made to us in such a personal manner.

Yet there it is.

But it comes as an open invitation, not an edict from on high. That means we’ve got to make the RSVP. There is a chance on Saturday 3 March to take up the offer to refresh yourselves during this season of Lent. The church will be open from 10:00am to 2:00pm with creative aids for prayer, reflection and meditation.

You can step in and out of the ‘peaceful space’ at your leisure, for as much time as you wish. Refreshments will be available throughout the time.

We hope it’s a blessing to you. 

Life in Lent

Lent is often associated with denial of one sort or another, but it’s not always accompanied by such a great understanding as to why we’re foregoing the Cadburys.

Here’s a simple, but great quote from a vicar this week to motivate you to embrace Lent:

The idea of Lent is that Easter is so mind-blowing that to hope to engage with it we need to get in training. So, we make space for God by 6 weeks of forgiving, saying sorry, reading the Bible, caring for and standing with those in need, fasting and praying.

 To help you along the way, our Lent series called ‘Seven Words’ begins this Sunday. We’ll take a look at some very simple words, which will invite us to embrace some practices to prepare for Easter, but which also have the potential to help us adjust our long term approach to life and faith.