Church News

Christmas Connections

In the next couple of weeks we will host more people from our community than at any other single point in the year – with possibly over a thousand visitors coming through our doors.

 That’s both a great privilege and responsibility.

 I’m guessing you’re not surprised to receive a plea from your vicar to pray about all these ‘hospitality moments’, but I’m going to get specific and ask you to send up a prayer every time you do something ‘Christmassy’ – eat a mince pie, wrap a present, listen to a festive tune, hang a bauble…

 It would be a true Christmas blessing if all the people who were joining us made a connection not just with St John’s, but with the Christ we worship. Amen. 

A Prayer for Advent

Lord Jesus, 
I give you my hands to do your work. 
I give you my feet to go your way. 
I give you my eyes to see as you do. 

 

I give you my tongue to speak your words. 
I give you my mind that you may think in me. 
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me. 

 

Above all, 
I give you my heart that you may love in me your Father and all people. 
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me, so that it is you, Lord Jesus, who live and work and pray in me.

 

Lord Jesus, I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.

I give you my heart, Lord that you may love in me.

Advent Encouragement

We are often invited during the season of advent to step away from the bustle of the season and run from the maw of the monster mammon – all with a view to connecting more deeply with God. It’s good advice, and supposed to offer encouragement. But I suspect many of us struggle to follow the guidance. Instead, the advent invitation can leave us with feelings of guilt and frustration. Control of our diary at this time of year seems laughable, and we’re often running to stand still…

 If that strikes a chord with you and your spiritual pulse feels like it beating a little faintly, then draw some advent solace from these words from C S Lewis:

“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God's eyes, our best. Those which are least supported by devotional feeling…these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.”

Are You Ready?

That’s not supposed to read as some panic inducing question, querying whether you’re geared up for Christmas. It is however one of the lingering thoughts shot through the season of advent – what does it mean to be prepared for an encounter with Jesus?

 On one level, we hope that is a daily experience. On a different scale, advent reminds us that there will come a time when there will be an even greater immediacy to that encounter. In the meantime, prayer and stopping to take breath are good ways to ready ourselves – so that when the time does come, we will meet a friend, not a stranger.

 To help, there will be an Advent Quiet Evening on Tuesday 11 December, 7:00-9:00pm. Take the opportunity.

A Call to Prayer

Bishop Christopher, the Bishop of Southwark, has put out a plea this week for churches across the Diocese to pray for the end of knife crime and serious violence in our communities.

 Together with London Diocese, Southwark have been hosting the Pan London Churches Serious Violence Summit. It may seem like a distant reality in West Wickham, but the increase in knife and gang related deaths in the last few weeks has been taking place in communities not so very far from where we live. The Bishops are seeking ways to work with others to find ways to combat this spike in knife crime, but would love these discussions to be underpinned by prayer – prayer for an end to such violence, as well as healing for all those who have already been affected by this painful trend.

 

Remembrance Sunday

This year, Remembrance Sunday falls exactly 100 years after the signing of the armistice at the end of the immense suffering of WW1. In a time when the act of remembrance can stir mixed opinion, it is important that we are clear about the nature of what’s going on.

 I turn to one of Bishops (Richard Kensington) for a lead on at least 3 things that we are doing:

i)        Taking time to remember properly the suffering and tragedy of human conflict, and the sacrifice of so many people who gave their lives to build a better world;

ii)                   Reflecting deeply on the causes and condition of our human situation;

iii)                 Renew our commitment to strive for a world of peace and justice.

Pathways to Independence UK

The above is a Community Interest Company providing housing and support to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC). It is looking for support from local people.

 When children arrive in the UK, they will receive support from social services as a looked after child, providing them with accommodation and subsistence support. This is where Pathways to Independence UK comes in as they provide specialist support, accommodation, information and training for 60 young people in Brighton, Redhill and Croydon.  In order for these young people to succeed, community support is vital and in addition to practical items, such as fleece blankets, night lights, hats and gloves, they would also welcome gifts in kind.

 Please see the attached information sheet about the support that is needed and ways we can help, as well as information about a volunteer role to join their new Connect project.

Assembly Rooms Next Week

I hope you’ve all noted that next week we are meeting in the Assembly Rooms on Gates Green Road for our 10am service.

 For those of you who have never been there before, one of the reasons we go there intermittently is that it offers a very different ‘space’, which lends itself to chatting and getting to know one another more easily than our church building. In terms of the focus for the morning, we’ll be thinking about where we are with our Teams and setting out some of the things we may explore in early 2019.

 That falls under the broader hope of wanting to initiate a process whereby we encourage people to explore and identify what their gifts and strengths are, and how they give expression to them – all with a view to making strides in one of our expressed priority areas of ‘equipping people to engage where they are’.

The Happiness Course

Now rolling out "for real" after our test run in the Summer!

 We are launching the course on Friday 9th November at SJ's, running for 4 consecutive weeks.  It’s a free, practical course available to all.

 Although it’s something most of us want, happiness can mean very different things to different people.  This is a chance to join others in exploring the subject and consider what makes for a fulfilling life.  It’s not a series of lectures, but an interactive approach which involves sharing experience, watching short videos, looking at good evidence (some of which will surprise you!) and generally step back from daily life to take stock.

 Time :  7.30 - 9.30 pm,  refreshments from 7.15 pm

Venue: SJ's, 56 Croydon Rd, Coney Hall, BR4 9HU 

Booking or more Information: Contact Penny Seabrook (Tel: 07912 870528), or Dawn Tickner (Tel: 020 8462 1573)

Autumn Scheduling

We’ve got an exciting few weeks coming up, with a few changes to our usual schedule. So here you go:

 28 October          We begin a new series exploring hospitality called ‘Table People’. We hope to demystify hospitality and recognise that so many encounters Jesus had happened around a meal table.

 4 November       We will be meeting in the Assembly Rooms for our 10:00am service. We’ll let you know nearer the time what we’ll be thinking about together, but for now, please note the change of venue.

 18 November    George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation, will be preaching at our 10:00am service. George is known for his passion for Christ and will challenge us in what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome

The greeting extends to one and all as we gather this morning to celebrate Harvest together. We make a couple of special mentions though. One, to our Uniformed Groups as they help us celebrate this annual festival – as always, it’s great to have you with us, and thank you for all the contributions that you make towards our collections.

 Two, it’s great to have the Simpson family and their friends in our midst, as they give thanks for Aaron and mark that with baptism. We hope you’re able to jump on board with the celebrations today, and it’s our privilege to share this special occasion with you.

 All of that makes for a fairly full service, but we hope the unifying mood is one of giving thanks to God for all that’s good in our lives.

Autumn Fair

Hopefully you’ve all grabbed a flier about the Autumn Fair, if not posted some of them around the parish. We’d now like you to come along - this Saturday, St Francis Hall, 11am-3pm.  It’s a great opportunity to pick up some early Christmas gifts, with lots of new and unusual gift and craft stalls this year!  You can also support Link to Hope by visiting one of our church-run stalls including refreshments, the loot bag tree and re-gifting.  

 There are things people can help out with:

-          Please bring any cake donations to St Francis Hall on Saturday morning (from 9am) or drop to Angela at 124 Copse Avenue on Friday evening. 

-          6 volunteers to do half an hour each of handing out Autumn Fair flyers in the high street (on corner of Ravenswood Crescent) between 11am and 2pm.  It’s an ideal job for families (who would refuse a flyer from a cute child?)

-          Help on stalls for an hour or so between 11am-3pm

-          Setting up and packing away.

If you’re able to help, please speak to Angela Walters. Thanks.

Harvest Update

Here are further details of the arrangements for our Harvest Celebrations this year:

 Harvest Service: 7 October followed by a ‘Bring and Share’ lunch in the grounds of Wickham Court. If your surname starts with a letter A-R, please bring something savoury, and if S-Z, then please bring a pudding.

 Money Collection: We are asking people to donate to the charity Hope4Malawi, which we recently heard about from Julia Cernoch. Speak to Julia, or google search them for more details.

 Food Collection: We are going to collect for the Bromley Borough Foodbank. They are currently asking for the following items – rice pudding, custard, cold meat, men and women’s deodorant, washing up liquid and washing powder.

 Slip it in the diary and let’s celebrate God’s goodness together.

Harvest Celebrations

We will be celebrating Harvest at our Sunday service on 7 October. To continue the thanksgiving that begins in the church building, we’ll also mark God’s goodness by enjoying a ‘bring and share’ meal immediately after the service. We’ve got the use of Wickham Court’s gardens and hall, which provide a great setting to share some grub and each other’s company.

 

So ping it in the diary and let’s really rejoice in God’s generosity.

 

As in years gone by, we’ll take a food collection in our service to support one of the local charities (details of which foodstuffs to bring will follow). We’ll also ask you to donate financially to Hope4Malawi, the charity we recently heard about through Julia Cernoch.

Who is God?

It may seem like a daft question to ask, especially in church where surely we all know the answer is a five letter word beginning with ‘J’.

But that’s part of the problem. In church particularly, we can act like the English word ‘God’ puts us all on the same part of the map. It certainly doesn’t anymore, and arguably never did.

This week we are starting a new Sermon Series with that very title – ‘Who is God?’. We’re going to reach right back into the Old Testament to trace the answer. We’ll explore the nature of God’s fundamental character to unearth what God has to say about what he is really like. You might be surprised at what we discover. It might just shift the way you understand this person we call God, and who knows where that might lead…

Volunteer Evening

If you help in any way with our work with children or young people, then our new Families’ Worker, Amber, would like to invite you to a get together. Even if you’re not yet involved, but think that it might be something you’re interested in, then come along.

The evening will be a chance for Amber to hear from you all, an opportunity to introduce herself in more depth, as well as some space for her to outline some of the things that she anticipates she will be getting her teeth into in these early days.

Time & Venue: SJ’s, 7:30pm on Monday 17th September.

If you would like more information, then contact Amber on 07988 082 267.

Some Welcomes

First up, welcome back to all of you who have been away over the Summer and you’re returning to some of your normal rhythms – hopefully it’s not too much of a shock to the system, and it’s softened by coming together as a church community to worship.

Next, a special welcome to the Lotto family and their friends, as they celebrate Arabella’s baptism this morning. It’s great to have you with us. We hope you cope with anything that is less than familiar, and can bask in the joy of the occasion.

And finally, an equally special welcome to all of those from Hope Church joining us this morning. It’s possible you may discover some unfamiliar stuff too! But it’s a genuine pleasure to gather as brothers and sisters in Christ, and praise our Maker together – we hope you feel at home.

Oooh, Fruity

Over the summer we’ve been looking at the fruit of the spirit, but have you noticed that it is singular? Sometimes we think about fruits, as if each characteristic was a different fruit that we can choose from like a fruit bowl.

Instead, all Christians are meant to produce all these characteristics in our lives as we are led by the Holy Spirit. Some might come more naturally, others might take more work, but by the power of the Holy Spirit God enables them all in all of us that we can say that it is the fruit of God working in us, changing us more and more to the likeness of Christ.

Why not try to learn the verse (the kids are!) and explore with God to what extent you are producing this fruit.

 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:

 love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Galatians 5:22-23

Fruits of the Spirit - Peace & Patience

This week we continue to explore the fruits of the Spirit.

Galatians 5 v22 says (amongst other things) that “the fruit of the Spirit is...peace and patience....”  What does this mean?

Dictionaries give various meanings for the words

peace: no dissension

peace: a time when there is no war

peace: freedom from disturbance; tranquillity; inner calm

“Peace”: a greeting on meeting or parting!

patience: quality of calm endurance of misfortune, suffering or discomfort.

patient: one who suffers...is ill.

Patience: feminine name created by Puritans in 1600s derived from the virtue “patience”.

being patient: putting up with provocation, irritation or annoyance etc, without complaint.

 

How close do these definitions take us to a Christian understanding? Charlotte will be speaking to us about these “fruits”. If you miss her talk catch up with it on our web site.

 

Fruits of the Spirit - Joy

We continue our Summer Series exploring the fruits of the Spirit, and this week we focus our attention on ‘joy’. People don’t often employ that three letter word, but the search for happiness is something that most people understand. A lot of us run after it…chasing the things we imagine will bring it…not always finding it.  We’re going to look at what Jesus has to say about the matter. But in the hunt for joy, it’s worth starting with this realisation:

“The greatest moment of your life is now. Not because it's pleasant or happy or easy, but because this moment is the only moment you've got. Every past moment is irretrievably gone. It's never coming back. If you live there, you lose your life. And the future is always out there somewhere. You can spend an eternity waiting for tomorrow, or worrying about tomorrow. If you live there, you likewise will lose your life.

This moment is God's irreplaceable gift to you.”