Before I get into the main part of what I have to say this week, thank you to everyone who has responded to my questions in Keeping in Touch 9. It’s not too late to let me know your thoughts! I was asking for feedback on two questions:
1. What have you found helpful in sustaining our church life and would like to see continue while we can’t meet in person?
2. What would you like to see continue after we get back in the building and what would you like to return to how it was before?
Please let me know by email or give me a call.
Back to this week, and I am writing this on the feast of the Ascension. After 40 days of appearances Jesus meets his disciples one last time and departs from them to be with his heavenly Father. The version from the book of Acts (Acts 1.6-11) has Jesus being taken up by a cloud. This is the depiction that has inspired most of the art of the Ascension, the disciples shown grouped under a radiant cloud with just the divine feet peeping out underneath! The point is that Jesus is no longer in one time and place. Because he has returned to the Father he can be in any time and place, in our midst and in our hearts.
Ascension Day also marks the beginning of a traditional time of prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit which lasts until Pentecost (a week on Sunday). This time of prayer has been given a ‘re-brand’ in recent years as the global prayer initiative ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. The idea is that Christians of all denominations pray for the church and the world and for more people to come to know Jesus.
Many people are turning to prayer and worship in this difficult time. You may have seen the research published by Tearfund earlier in May that 1 in 4 adults have watched online worship since the beginning of Lockdown. Of those who tune in 30-40% watch most or all of what is offered. During these days of prayer, can I invite you to pray for those who are connecting with the church and discovering or rediscovering their faith at this time. One of the simplest, yet most ancient and powerful ways to pray is to use a mantra, a repeated phrase. Many people find it helps to create a space in their minds and hearts in which to meet with God. You may like to give it a go during this time of prayer, using the phrase ‘Thy kingdom come’. For those of us who can get online, you will find all sorts of resources for getting involved on the diocesan website.
Ironically, just at a time when more people want to connect with the church, churches across the country find themselves in a difficult financial situation, and All Saints is no exception. I know I have written recently to you about this. But, to coin a phrase, ‘let me level with you’. We are facing a deficit of around £13,000 this year, assuming (quite reasonably) that we will not be able to hire out our hall or meet for fundraising for the rest of the year. We are considering some online and socially distanced fundraisers, but this will not cover the shortfall. If you usually give by cash during the collection in church, please can I ask you to consider joining our planned giving scheme? If you give using an envelope, please can I ask you to consider changing to standing order? Both these things make life easier for our treasurer and our budgeting. If you already give by standing order and haven’t done so already, please can I ask you to consider reviewing the amount you give. To join our planned giving scheme, to sign up to gift aid, or to change from the envelope scheme to standing order please contact Eric Martin: 01923 267604. To make a one-off donation please contact our treasurer Patricia Humberstone: firstname.lastname@example.org or you can also click here to give online. Please gift aid where possible. Thank you to those who have already responded to this situation.
It is worth saying that I have no idea what individuals give (and I have no wish to!) and that each person faces different circumstances. You will know what is right for you. As a guide, the Church of England invites us to consider giving 5% of our income. This is based on the Biblical principle of the tithe. In the Old Testament, God’s people would give the first tenth of everything to God. The Church of England suggests that we set a tenth of our income aside in the same way for charity, giving half to causes close to our hearts and the other half as our giving to our parish church. I follow this principle, giving around 5% of my income to All Saints.
God has given himself to us in the person of Jesus, who after his ascension is among his church, the great cloud of witnesses. If we want the church to continue to be here and to offer ministry, prayer, pastoral care and support in our community then we need to meet God’s generosity with our own. I’m aware not everyone is in a position to give as they might wish to charity or church at the moment. If you are a facing a difficult financial situation and need practical help then please get in touch with me and I will liaise with Kings Langley Good Neighbours, or you can contact them directly on their website or 07790 668672.
This coming Sunday I am inviting everyone to join the service which the Revd. Lizzie Hood is leading as I am taking a Sunday off (holiday destination: the Vicarage Garden!). Find it on the Holy Trinity section of the website. For those of us who are not online, I have included some seasonal prayers and a Sonnet for Ascension Day along with Signpost.
At the Ascension, Jesus withdraws to Heaven so that he may be with us in our hearts. May you know his presence as you pray for others and await the Spirit of Pentecost.
Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.’
With my love and prayers for you,
All Saints Vicarage
The Feast of the Ascension Thursday 21st May 2020