|You may have noticed that I have started to leave open the gate in the communion rail in the
chancel. This is not an accident. An open gate speaks of a welcome and an invitation to all;
whereas I always feel that a closed gate says ‘Keep out!’
I trained for ministry with a lady who had been brought up as a Roman Catholic and I
always remember how moved she was when, as a server at communion she was allowed to
enter beyond the rail to the communion table. She commented that when she was a child
women were only allowed in the sanctuary to clean it!
In the Old Testament there were a series of barriers in the Temple in Jerusalem. The outer
court of the Temple was the court of the nations, where non-Jews were allowed to gather to
worship. Next came the Court of the women, female Jews and children were not allowed to
progress any further. Next was the Court of Israel for adult male Jews, then came the areas
for the priests and the levites.
At the heart of the Temple, cut off by a great curtain which fell from the roof to the floor was
the Holy of Holies. Only one man, the high priest, was allowed to enter and only on one day
in the year, the Day of Atonement. The message was clear: some places and some people are
holier, are closer to God than others.
But when Jesus died on the Cross the curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:
38). Jesus has opened up the way to God. We no longer need priests and levites to stand in
God’s presence for us. We are all welcome, as we are, to know God for ourselves.
An open gate at the communion table is a symbol of openness and invitation. It says ‘You
are welcome, you belong.’ Because of Jesus we can come before God without fear or shame.
He loves us and accepts us as we are; of course, because He loves us He doesn’t leave us as
we are. He wants us to shine with His light and joy and peace in this world.
We are so fortunate to have a beautiful and ancient Church. A place where God has been
faithfully worshipped; where ‘prayer has been valid’, to use a phrase of T.S Eliot, for many
centuries. It is a Church which attracts visitors, some of them Christian, some not, and some
who do not know if they belong or not. My prayer is that everyone who enters St Mary’s will
know that they are welcomed, not just by the church but, more importantly by the Father. I
pray that some who feel this welcome will find here their spiritual home.
We are here to help people love and worship God.
We aim to be, and encourage others to become, committed and active disciples of Jesus,
who love God and worship him, who know the power of the Holy Spirit and who show
God’s love in every part of their lives.
|Prayer for the month
|Thought for the month
|Below you will find extracts from this month's Parish Magazine
First Words..., A Prayer for the Month & A Thought for the Month
|Prayer is not simply something that we do at set times and in particular places; it is a way of
life. It is maintaining an ongoing conversation ‘at all times and in all places’ with God who is
our creator, our Father and our closest friend.
I always try to begin the day in prayer, but early in the morning I am not very creative or
eloquent. This is why my day begins with praying a few well known prayers, the Lord’s
Prayer, verses from Colossians 3 and Matthew 11, Psalm 23, and, every morning, a prayer
that comes from John Stott.
John was one of the most influential Anglicans of the twentieth century. He was vicar of All
Souls Church in Langham Place. He was an extraordinarily gifted preacher and evangelist,
writer and Biblical interpreter.
His biographer records that every morning as he lay in bed, before he rose to meet the new
day, John would pray this prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for this new day.
Be with me and help me to serve and honour you.
Lord Jesus Christ my saviour, be with me this day
and help me to take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit of God, fill me today and nurture in me your fruit: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
(See Galatians 5)
My first prayers of the day are not said, as John Stott’s were, as I lay in bed. I pray as I walk
the dogs. First thing on a morning I am not the best company, I like to have some time
silently connecting with God and offering to Him the opportunities and challenges of the day
ahead. It is only after this that I am fit company!
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|I write on a hot August afternoon just before leaving for a break in Northumberland.
Although the plan was to take our holidays before my licensing, the bishop changed the date
after we had already booked them. I must admit that moving is much more tiring than I
imagined it would be, and I can’t wait to get out into the Cheviot Hills and the coastal walks
around Lindisfarne and Bamburgh.
One of the last things that I do before we go away on our summer holidays is to plan the
services from September to January including the Christmas services (I usually get myself in
the mood by playing Christmas Carols while I am planning the services and themes!)
In September we are keeping Church open for Heritage Open Days (8-11th Sept). I am sure
that we will have many visitors who come to discover the history of the Church, but more
importantly we will have people calling in to see the Church where they were baptised,
where their parents or grandparents were married. I always think of a parish church as the
place which keeps the memories of a community.
Once September arrives Church will be back into the full swing of worship and meetings
and events. One new thing to watch out for is Time For God, an opportunity to meet
together mid-week for worship and teaching and to pray for one another. I hope that we will
be able to meet fortnightly and make it a regular event. I am not sure yet which evening we
will meet on, so look out for more information in early September.
Finally, in September and October we will be having a short sermon series at the 10 o’clock
service on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It is a short letter, only 4 chapters long, written
when Paul was in prison in Rome. It is a letter full of joy, written to encourage a tiny,
struggling Church. Colossians is such a positive letter it is hard to imagine that it was written
by a man on death row, who did not expect to ever be free again. The main theme of the
letter is Christ, the hope of salvation for all. In his letter Paul encourages us as individuals and
as a church community to live up to our calling in Christ; to become who we truly are in
|You may have noticed