My thoughts just recently have led me to reflect about people who have left a lasting impression upon our lives.
This began through my reading a fascinating book entitled Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend’ written by Christo Brand, a warder at the prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 25 years. It tells the story of a friendship which developed between the prisoner and his warder who was 40 years his junior. The book gives an insight into the kind of person Nelson Mandela was. His sheer determination to continue his fight for justice in the face of the apartheid; his gentle manner; and his resilience all combined to make an impact upon the young Christo Brand and so, against all the odds, the two formed a lasting friendship built upon mutuality and trust. Mandela encouraged the younger man about his need to study, whilst Christo enabled Mandela to get his message out to fellow activists, and helped him to endure the wretched prison conditions.
Mandela after his release continued to campaign against injustice. He touched many people’s lives to the point where he has become something of an icon. I am sure we can all recall that familiar image of Mandela walking free from Robben Prison to the acclaim of the crowds who had gathered to watch.
Another influence came to mind with the sudden death of talented musician David Bowie. Once again, it was quite profound to follow the aftermath of events following the announcement of another celebrity figure as tribute after tribute was made by those whose lives had been touched by his music. Even Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, was quoted as saying ‘I remember sitting listening to his songs endlessly in the 1970’s…’ Whilst at times, Bowie was in the spotlight for his ‘alternative lifestyle’ nevertheless he did become something of an icon for those who were deemed different in our society, and as a result he gained widespread respect.
This month sees the season of Lent begin, as once again we prepare to follow in the steps of our Lord as he made the painful journey towards the Cross. The difference is, of course, this happened over 2000 years ago, yet that same influence and example continues to resonate in our lives today. Jesus continues to touch people’s lives and continues to inspire us to follow in his footsteps.
Interestingly, the last song written and recorded by David Bowie was entitled ‘Lazarus’ based on the account from John’s Gospel. Stephen Croft, Bishop of Sheffield reflects on this, and writes ‘…the raising of Lazarus is part of a bigger and greater story: the story of the gift of Jesus Christ to the world to bring life. Jesus died but he was raised from death on the third day. In Christ, God offers resurrection, a new beginning and new life to everyone. I hope David Bowie’s final song “Lazarus” will help many people think afresh about mortality: about the reality of death, the struggle and the joy. I hope that those who hear it will ponder the story of the original Lazarus, the resurrection of Jesus and all that the life of Jesus Christ means for the life of the world. Everything changes with the belief that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.’ Amen to that!
Your friend and Minister,
SECRETARY’S REPORT FOR ALBION CHURCH FELLOWSHIP ANNUAL CHURCH MEETING 16 JANUARY 2016 AT 10.00AM AT CHARLESTOWN URC
Thinking back on the events of 2015 while preparing my report, those well used words ‘we’re all doomed’, said in a Scottish accent by Private Frazer in Dad’s Army came to mind. He played a character well known for his miserable and miserly soul, someone you would a call a ‘doom and gloom’ merchant.
Some of the shocking violent events of this year as well as the natural disasters closer to home have been difficult to watch and read about. However, as a glass ‘half full’ sort of person, my optimism has been kept alive by the outrage at the year’s events – for example in the widespread global condemnation by Muslims of the attacks in Paris, and by the defiant words of Antoine Leiris, who Barbara Plenderleith mentioned at our Advent Joint Service. He is the father of a toddler son, whose wife was brutally killed in the attacks and told the perpetrators in a message which went viral on Social Media, that he would raise his son, Melvil, without hate. It was a testimony of a father determined for his son not to be brought up with hatred, like the terrorist who killed his child’s mother.
We started the year with the words of Corrie Ten Boon, which Alan reproduced in the December/January Messenger “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God “. In hindsight, fairly prophetic words given the events of 2015.
These incidents serve to show no matter how much we like think we are in control; things happen we can’t anticipate. How do we cope? How do we help people who are anxious and worried and need help? I saw a quote ‘worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere’. We may not always be able to stop ourselves feeling anxious, but we need to find way ways of dealing with this uncertainty if we are to fulfil our mission in the world.
I enjoyed the Star Trek serials when I was growing up and still enjoy the films which came from it. The introductory voice over sequence went as follows:
Space: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise
Its 5 year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before
Apart from the fact our English teacher used the boldly go as an example of poor grammar as it should really be to go boldly, as far as mission statement’s go, it’s quite powerful.
Churches which are defined by mission, according to Lawrence Moore from the URC Windermere Centre, are previews of the transformed new world that Jesus called the Kingdom of God. It’s about sharing in God’s world-transforming work. It’s also about being changed to become more like Jesus: “seeing him more clearly, loving him more dearly, and following him more nearly”.
In 2014 Lawrence and others at the Centre, asked themselves some fundamental questions about the centre and its purpose, which led to radical changes about how the centre is run. They realised their income was about to fall dramatically as the changes to the URC’s finances impacted in considerably reduced bookings at the Centre.
As they wrestled with the question of how radically to increase their business, they realised that they were departing from their own mission and calling, which was to resource the Church through hospitality and theological adventure. Their focus had changed on how to be a successful business – how to get people to give them as much money as possible.
At the Windermere, Centre Lawrence said they set out to be more faithful to their mission, and it transformed their business. He says there was an Easter story at the heart of their experience. What was vital in this whole process – the transformative bit – was coming to the point where they stopped clinging to the “What might happen if?” and simply decided that they would try to be as rigorously faithful to their mission as possible, for as long as they were enabled to do so. It was only once they’d started to let go of their anxiety about how it would all turn out that they were able to begin to be effective in their mission. This is what Lawrence meant by an Easter story, by dying and rising they had to let go of the future in order to live faithfully in the present. They had to give the future to God, whatever it turned out to be.
A story I hope we can find some comfort in as we go forward, particularly this year without the leadership of our beloved Minister Alan and of course, the friendship and support of Anthea.
What we shouldn’t forget is that as a fellowship we share many things; our faith, our heritage in our origins and our denomination. The 'Reformed' part of our history gives us a delight in the Bible, confidence to face change and a structure that tries to take everyone's insight and contributions seriously. The 'United' bit is an important part of our story because it shows we came from different traditions when the English Presbyterians merged with English and Welsh Congregationalists in 1972, Churches of Christ in 1981 and Scottish Congregationalists in 2000, with an aim of growing through supporting one another and taking decisions together.
So each and every one of us has a contribution to make as we journey into 2016 and prepare for our time without Alan; each with our own talents. Alan has left a legacy of love and respect at our heart, to help us to come together to make our work reflect God’s kingdom, to give us the inspiration to be the best we can be.
Sometimes we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned to live the life that is waiting for us. I would like to read a couple of verses from William Fullerton’s hymn "I cannot tell", which tells of some of the ‘certainties’ of knowing God.
I cannot tell why He Whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
And so the Saviour, Saviour of the world is come.
I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the broken hearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here.
Finally watching Kenneth Branagh’s 2015 version of Cinderella at Christmas, I rather liked the inspirational words Cinderella lived by which were said to her by her mother before she died, have courage and be kind, something we could all aspire to.
Pauline Taylor Albion Church Fellowship Secretary 16 January 2016
Signs of Hope
A message which was part of the Advent Service on December 25:
I have been given this heading “Signs of hope” to think about now.
But you may feel more in tune with the words in the reading we just heard from Luke chapter 21, which speaks of distress among the nations; people fainting with fear and foreboding at what is coming upon the world. The reading brings to mind the recent terrorist attacks.
You may have heard words spoken by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby on Songs of Praise when he said “yes I doubt”.
Those are the words picked up in the media but were only part of the discussion. He talked about asking “Where is God in all this?” and hearing the answer,
“He is alongside with the involvement in the suffering of the world that took him to the cross”.
But even in that situation there were signs of hope:
in the scenes of expressions of unity on the streets and on the football pitch and in the help given by ordinary people.
When public transport shut down in Paris, taxi drivers were offering free rides to those who were trying to get home and people were opening up their homes to those who were stranded.
God is at work through his people.
There was hope in the words of Antoine Leiris. You may not have heard of him but his words of hope have become very public through Face Book. His wife Helen died when she was gunned down by terrorists at the theatre in Paris. He posted this message.
“Friday night you took an exceptional life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know. If this God for whom you kill blindly made us in his image,
every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in His heart.
So I will not give you the gift of my hatred. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are.”
What a message to put out to the world. It was read on Paris TV and has been read by millions on Face Book or on Google.
I heard another story of hope last week on one of the morning services on radio that came from Northern Ireland.
The speaker told of a youth gathering in Corremeala, in which there were young people whose lives had been affected by the struggles there.
The young people were sitting in a circle and were asked to pray in silence for someone on their mind. They were then asked if they wished to share the name of the person they were praying for.
One young girl said “I am praying for the man who is serving life imprisonment because he murdered my father.”
Young people like that bring hope for Northern Ireland.
Towards the end of his interview Justin Welby posed a challenge for us all with these words
“We come back to a God who wants us to be the answers to the questions we pose”.
So the question for us is “How can we bring hope into the lives of others?”
The words of Desmond Tutu:
“Good is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Victory is ours, through him who loves us.” Here lies our hope.
“By God’s help, the Church will seek to proclaim the inclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ through word and action within the life of the Church and reaching out into the life of the world. It will be prepared to respond to the ever new challenges the Gospel presents.”
TRAINING FOR LEARNING AND SERVICE (TLS for short)
A few people have expressed an interest in participating in this course.
TLS aims to help people to:
EXPLORE the Bible, theology and contemporary thought.
ENGAGE with those on similar journeys
ENJOY stimulating sessions of study
EMBARK upon a new direction in discipleship
All this while EQUIPPING for Christian mission and service
and ENCOURAGING growth in churches
(a quote from the introductory material)
Our first meeting will be held on February 17th at 8pm at my home. If you would like to join the group please let me know, so that we can obtain enough material for the course.
I would like to thank sincerely Alan and everyone from the Albion Fellowship for their prayers, visits, 'phone calls, cards and flowers which I received following my recent operation, all of which were very much appreciated. As I have said on other occasions, it is most comforting at such times, to know that people are praying and thinking about you. I'm pleased to say that my recovery seems to be going well.
My thanks again
MIDWEEK SERVICE AT ALBION
The next mid-week Communion Service is on Wednesday 10th February at 11am in the Choir Vestry.
LENT BIBLE STUDY
A joint Lent Bible study group will meet at Hurst Methodist Church commencing Tuesday 16th February at 7.30pm, when we will be studying Tom Wright’s book Lent for Everyone (Luke’s Gospel). Everyone is welcome to come along and share together as we journey through Lent.
The usual Minister’s Bible Study group will meet on Tuesday 2nd February at the Manse at 7.45pm.
Everyone is welcome to join us on Monday 14th March at 7.30 pm at Charlestown when our speaker Rita Vaughan has some very interesting stories to tell about each Branch of the Albion Fellowship.
BI-CENTENARY FLOWER FESTIVAL
I am contacting all the groups within the Church, inviting them to sponsor one of the arrangements at the Festival by donating to the cost.
If any individual, couple or family would like to do so, perhaps in memory of a loved one or in thankfulness for a special event, please let me know. Barbara Plenderleith
Family of Eileen and Harry Gregson
Gillian Lewis and family
In loving memory of a dear friend Margaret Bojczoki
Loving memories of Dad and Grandad, James Holt,
Loving memories of a dear sister and our Mother, Mrs Nokes
Birthday memories of Irene Kinder, mum and Grandma “our Duchess”
Birthday memories of Sally “as always”
Our thanks to these donors for sharing these memories with us all
NOTE FROM TREASURER
The Treasurer acknowledges with thanks a donation from Anne Goodyer the daughter of the late Nancy Ratcliffe who was an active member of Albion for many years. Anne never forgets the church her mother loved and it is gifts like these that help Albion carry out its Ministry and Mission in Ashton-u-Lyne.
The Treasurer acknowledges with thanks a donation of £500 towards the Organ Fund in Memory of Frank Taylor.
CHRISTMAS TREE FESTIVAL
Thank you everyone for your support - another successful weekend with around 2000 visitors. During the weekend we were filmed by That’s Manchester TV watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGJ1217u1GY
Please send me ideas for a theme for this year.
Thank you Gillian
Ladies of Albion Fellowship
A date for your diary: Tuesday - 9th February, 2016 11 a.m.
Following on from the announcement in the last Messenger,
You are invited to Anne s home,
for an hour - or even two - of friendship, chat, and a cuppa.
Hope to see you there. Barbara and Anne
Sunday 21st February 2.30pm at Albion. -
Girlguiding Ashton are Celebrating Thinking Day at their annual Standard Service.
Sunday 13th March 10.30am
MESSY CHURCH – All families, Rainbows, Brownies and Guides invited
We were saddened to hear news of the death of Margaret Rhodes and our prayers and thoughts are with Sid and all the family at this difficult time.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR:
Mary B, Barbara D, Val and Martin B, Alan C, Olive B, Irene M, Brian P, Judith S, Anne S, Margaret G and anyone who needs our prayers at this time. There is a prayer book in Albion, please add concerns to be included in our prayers of intercession.
May W Memories of. Elitho a loving sister
Jan A Memories of Mum and Dad
Hurst Nook Fellowship Memories of past members
Frank and Jackie W Memories of loved ones
Marilyn P Memories of loved ones
Kathleen S Memories of dear Tom
HURST NOOK FELLOWSHIP
The fellowship will meet on Wednesday 3rd February at 7. 30pm for a Quiz with Peter and Barbara.
REQUEST FOR HELP
Can you help in any way as there are a million jobs to do each week? There is a notice at the back of church and if you feel you can help please place your name on the list. Every little task helps. Thank you to everyone who does help in any way. we cannot do it without you.
HURST NOOK TOTS
Tots take place every Thursday 10am –11.30am during term time. The cost is £1 per family.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FROM HURST NOOK TO:
Carole W, Roy W and Pat B, may God bless you and watch over you always.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR:
Mark H, who is having a difficult time at the moment, Lisa who is improving, Oliver, Doris and Janet W, Ken C and Ivy and Martin B
The weather is mild for the time of year but it's not killing the germs. It's getting winter over for all of us may god bless us all and keep us safe in this sad and war ridden world. Let us all pray for peace that we can all live together in harmony. SHALOM!
Lorraine W Memories of Loved Ones
Christine and Tom For Matthews Birthday Love Grandma and Grandpa
Marjorie and Keith Loving memories of a very much loved Dad Grandad and Great Grandad
Helen and Dave For Rosie's 18th Birthday
George J Birthday memories of Sally - as she said "As Always"
It was good to see all our young people home from university at Christmas and joining us in worship. Many thanks to all who supported our Christmas Coffee morning we raised £262.00. Donations in lieu of sending Christmas cards and our Christmas Day collection raised £202.00, which has been forwarded to our chosen charity the British Heart Foundation.
FEBRUARY COFFEE MORNING
Our next coffee morning will be on Saturday 13th February from 11 am to 1 pm organised by Christine. All money raised will be given to Rueben’s retreat, a local charity. All help and support on the day would be appreciated.
Beginning on Wednesday 10th February we will be serving lunch every Wednesday for four weeks from 11 am - 1 pm. Lunch will consist of homemade soup and a roll, sweet, tea or coffee all for just £3.50. All proceeds will go to support the work of Reuben's Retreat.
Please come and support this local charity
Work will commence on extending and refurbishing the kitchen in early March. During the programme the extension will be out of bounds as it becomes a construction environment. A temporary lounge will be set up in the Primary for Sunday morning coffee, with tea and coffee facilities.
NOTE FROM THE TREASURER
As I have just completed our financial year end I would like to extend my gratitude to the people who help me: To Glenys, Keith, Doris and Christine who bank money. To Doris, Beryl, Barbara, Judith, Alan, Christine, Helen, Ruth, Glenys and Philip who count weekly offertory.
We hold Sam H and Marjorie B and their families in our prayers and thoughts.
The Guild will meet on Thursday 25 February at 2.30pm, when Jane Carling is going to talk about her recent trip to Romania to work with the children there. Jane is well known to many in our area and those who would like to meet up with her again and hear about her work would be most welcome.