When only two or three are gathered together ….

well, including me there were actually five of us worshiping this Sunday morning in one of the churches in the benefice. That’s barely enough to form a viable housegroup let alone a functioning PCC.  It would be so easy for me to get despondent and just go through the motions.  Instead, during the opening prayer I asked the communion of saints to come and join us.  We had a great party. Bet God loved the worship this morning. It felt pretty glorious to me.

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a funeral and a wedding

Today was truly lovely.  You see today I saw something of the abundant love of God reflected in the way a father hugged his two year old son tightly to himself.  He needed to, just as I needed God to hold them together and also this village whose children for generations have visited our church at significant moments in their lives.

It’s not often that a funeral and a wedding for the same family happen in the same week.  A few days ago it was the funeral of the groom’s grandfather.  Sixth months ago I wasn’t sure whether his father would live to see the wedding either. He is unlikely to see his grandchild grow up.

It is no wonder the groom needed to keep his child close and although colleagues thought I was daft to allow a two year old to be best man no.2, it was entirely the right thing to do.  What the congregation saw was this little smiley face brimming with life poking over his father’s shoulder reminding them that life goes on and it is good. He was held quite happily by best man no.1 when his Mum and Dad turned to each other to make their vows.

They chose this passage from Isaiah 54 to read.

10 Though the mountains be shaken
and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

11 “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
13 All your children will be taught by the LORD,
and great will be their peace

If this couple continue to reflect God’s faithfulness through the bad times as well as the good and refuse to be shaken then they will do just fine.  And if they allow each other to be creative and help each other to grow into the most beautiful people God wants them to be, made in his image, well that will be great.

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I like affirmation

I hardly ever get positive feedback on services so it was rather glorious to receive this e-mail this morning.

Thank you for the service this morning and for your thoughtful sermon.

We related to your emphasis on love rather than legalism. It was helpful the way you contrasted the Pharisees approach with that of Jesus, with the difference between literal and legal and to accepting the invitation to be more like God.

Thank you

with love

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Bye bye boss

and bye bye blog

of course I may see things differently in a while

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Remedy for the blues-go take an assembly

Again and again God lifts my spirits through the first school kids.  Today it was the exuberant way they were singing and doing the actions to ‘Our God is a great big God’.  They clearly love that song and I love how they whole heartedly throw themselves into singing it. I always come away laughing.

(Which was just what I needed on a day that I was dreading but have known would be coming for a very long time-incumbent leaving-sniff!)

This half term for assemblies I am telling the story of Elijah.  It fits really well with the SEAL (social and emotional aspects of learning) theme of ‘going for goals’ that school does at this time of year.

It’s easy to draw out themes, such as believing that we do make a difference, being brave, taking responsibility, standing up for what is right, bouncing back after difficulties, persistence and resilience.

Today, the kids acted out the contest on Mount Carmel. I fell about laughing as a group of kids pranced round a table shouting ‘oh Baal, light the fire’ with the rest of the school shouting that they weren’t being loud enough and their God must be asleep.  Great fun.

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but mine ears thou hast opened Psalm 40.8

As I returned to the vestry after sung matins on Sunday the churchwardens were giggling together over the psalm. Go and look at what you have just sung they said.You see I have just with great trepidation had my ear syringed (two burst ear drums in my dim and distant past make me wary).  I haven’t been hearing well for ages and after a bad cold my balance was affected.  I put off going to the doctors for ages but not being able to hear myself sing was becoming a bore.

For the first time in months I could sing properly.  What a joy and how great to have two lovely churchwardens that are able to share the joke.

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In which Sarah should’ve known better than to bargain with God

Some of you may have the impression that I am an eternal optimist, that I can always spot the glorious in the tiniest of things, that I am always upbeat and a glass half full person all of the time.

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m not always!  Phew, that wasn’t too bad.  The secret’s out –in real life I get despondent too!  A lot of rural ministry is like walking through treacle and you need the patience of a saint to see any fruit and a determination not to get stuck doing stuff in the same way that it has always been done since time immemorial.  I think it is a good idea to keep reviewing what you are doing to see if it is still meeting the need and purpose for which it was originally conceived.  For example, it seems to me that you blink and all the toddlers you had in church yesterday  have miraculously grown into teenagers and don’t want to sing, ‘Our god is a great big God’ anymore!

 

Five years ago, in an act of desperation the ‘Boss’ started an alternative monthly service in one of our village halls.  Over the years it has evolved and grown.  Mostly it is cafe-style and always with something to do and make, a bit like messy church.  There have been times when it has been exciting (three adult baptisms is very exciting) and times when it met the needs of a number of families who don’t feel welcomed at the parish church.  However, in the last few months it has been a bit in the doldrums, families move on, children turn into teenagers and needs change.  Last November we had the smallest numbers ever.  9 is enough to make a church and we had a good time worshipping and growing together but it clearly wasn’t reaching the folks it originally intended to reach.

 

Time for a review I thought. We’ll work with the people we’ve got rather than those we long to have. I’ve learnt that leaflets don’t attract folks, only personal invitations work. I long for the day when our folk will have the confidence to say, ‘Come and see’ to their friends. So, I sent letters round to past regulars saying that we were going to review what we do as part of the service this Sunday.  I didn’t expect it to provoke a response and am ashamed to say that I didn’t think we would get that many. And shame on me, I didn’t prepare stuff whole heartedly.  Those who expect little, deserve little!

That’s when the bargaining with God started.  Send me 15 people God and I’ll keep this going.  Any less and it’s time to move on to something new and energising.

Hmmmm. (Let’s just say that I had to get out some more tables)  Never start bargaining with God, Sarah.  You know that he will always surprise you. And you know it’s not a numbers game anyway.

What a fab time we had together, worshipping, all ages together, recalling why we love doing this and what has been great and what we could do differently.  By the end of the afternoon I had a group wanting to take ownership of what we do and wanting to plan the services in the future.

Bring it on God! Keep reminding me why I love this job.

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