Christmas Choir

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)

Waiting for God

The word ‘Advent’ only really enters the public conscience at one point these days – Advent Calendars.

And my, it’s a booming industry.

Long gone are the days when a chocolate advent calendar was the height of decadence. Nowadays, you can now get cheese advent calendars, beauty product versions, and the ‘Ginvent’ calendar competes with its Malt Whisky rival. Retailers, it would seem, have left no calendar door unopened to flog their wares. Advent Calendars originated in Germany in the mid-nineteenth century. The basic idea was to build a sense of anticipation. Opening a door each day to count down the numbers to Christmas is a small way to build suspense and increase expectation for the approaching celebration. The latest offerings rather miss that point, extending instant gratification, rather than the delayed sort that can make the final festivities all the sweeter.

Will we forego anything this advent to draw deeper into the waiting that comes with following Christ?

Thanksgiving Service for Jenny Gaved

It has become increasingly apparent over the last couple of weeks that Jenny touched the lives of many, many people with her ‘no edges’ kindness and love. It is an honour to host a Thanksgiving Service in memory of her on Friday 17 November at 2:00pm, here at St John’s Church.

All are welcome to come and join in this celebration of Jenny’s life.

If you have memories of Jenny you would like to share, the family would love to hear from you, and they will help form the tribute to her. Please email them to sue.rogers2051@gmail.com

The family have also indicated that black was not a favourite of Jenny’s, so you are encouraged to wear alternative colours at the service! Afterwards, everyone is warmly welcomed to the upstairs room (Regans) at the New Inn in Hayes (BR2 7EA) for refreshments and an opportunity to chat with all who remember Jenny.

Reformation 500

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of a chapel in the German town of Wittenberg – an event that has become known as the starting point of the Reformation.

It may seem like it’s just something for those with a passion for History, but whether we are aware of it or not, it is a period that has shaped the faith we express today. Luther’s challenge to the church touched on issues of grace, repentance and forgiveness, and took on a life that affected many countries across Europe.

This Sunday, there is going to be a Churches Together celebration of this anniversary at Emmanuel at 6:30pm. It will be both a time of worship and an opportunity to discover a bit more about the impact of these old events. If you’re really keen, a good read on the subject is, ‘Why the Reformation Still Matters’, by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester.