Father James's Blog

Icon Heading

Keeping in Touch 16: I was glad…

I was glad when they said unto me, ‘We will go into the house of the Lord’.

Dear Friends,

When I was installed as your Team Vicar in March last year, I never expected to close our beautiful church building for 3 months. But now we are on the road back. It has been a hard few months for many people – physically and emotionally demanding for key workers, materially demanding for those who have lost their jobs, mentally demanding for those who have been lonely. Yet much good has also come out of it – not least a more genuine care for others, practical help and strengthening of community. It is into this landscape that renewed calls for justice and equality have come. Perhaps COVID-19 will be a catalyst for the healing needed in our human relating as well as healing from effects of the virus?

For those of us who worship in church buildings week by week, it has been a spiritually demanding time. We changed the way we worshipped overnight from a physical, gathered community to a dispersed one; indeed, a larger online one. From the experience of joining in together in person, to participation via a screen, or via a print-out of the words. We have also changed how we support each other and the wider community. A lot of extra energy – from church and from groups in the wider community – has been put into how we keep in touch, how we help each other safely and how we reach those in need. I am proud and privileged to serve in a community that has responded with such positivity, imagination and energy to this crisis.

And while that is great, and true, and reason to give thanks, it doesn’t mean we haven’t missed being in the church building! Over the last couple of weeks, the church has been open for private prayer, along with the new village foodbank and there has been a steady stream of visitors. This has been a great first step to being fully open again and I hope people will continue to be spiritually and physically refreshed by it. But what many of us really want to do is get together in the building for worship. I don’t know about you, but I can actually feel tears welling up when I picture us all back in the building. And what I really want to be able to do is sing several belting hymns with you!

Sadly, we are still not in that place. Singing hymns will be off the cards for some time. But if a massive hymn-athon is the promised land, then we are at least on the way and the church wardens and I have devised a phased return to public worship: on 12th July the PCC will be invited to attend the 9.30am service, and for the last two Sundays of July we will open that up to anyone who is not shielding. Those who are shielding are very welcome from August onwards. We plan to continue broadcasting services. There will be more information about what we expect you to do and what we have done to help keep each other safe later in July. In order to help us plan our return I have put together a survey which I would be very grateful if you would fill in. It should take about 5 minutes and will close on Sunday 12th July. You can find it HERE.

You may recognise my title this week as a quotation from Psalm 122. The words of Psalm 122 are probably most famous for being set to (amazing) music by C. H. H. Parry and sung at royal occasions, from coronations to royal weddings. But those words started life as one of the ‘songs of ascent’, a set of poems sung by Israelite pilgrims on their way to the Jerusalem Temple. These songs or poems were collected together as Psalms 120-134. They are songs of ascent because the pilgrim would have to climb the hill to reach the Temple.

Many religions share the idea of the holy mountain. And the idea that it is the journey up the mountain, as much if not more than the summit that brings us close to God. The people of the world are looking up at many summits just now, some more out of reach and unseen than others. They are looking at summits of climate justice, racial justice and economic justice, as well as safety and health in the face of the coronavirus. And we, along with other churches are looking to a summit where we can get together, sing together, eat together, be together. But we are called to be glad, to rejoice in God on these mountain journeys, not just when we arrive. And we are called to invite others to do the same. To journey with the God whose Son did not rise in glory before he walked beside us on the road.

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 (Ephesians 3.16-19)

With my love, prayers and gratefulness for you,

All Saints Vicarage,
Eve of Thomas the Apostle, Thursday 2nd July 2020

All Saints Worshipper Survey
To help Father James and the wardens in their planning for our return to public worship please take a few minutes to fill in the anonymous All Saints Worshipper Survey. It will be open until the 12th of July. You can find it HERE.

Open Church Hours and Foodbank All Saints is open every day 9.30am – 5pm
An unattended, ‘open table’ Foodbank is now available during church open hours. Please spread the word! Donations of non-perishable food and toiletries are welcome. Surplus donations will be passed on to DENS on a regular basis – thank you to the Men’s Group!

This Sunday at All Saints
9.30am Video Eucharist Head to our website to join in, to find the order of service and for more resources.

10.30am Zoom coffee and catch up, invite via our mailing list.

To join the mailing list, please email: allsaintskingslangley@outlook.com

Keeping in Touch 15: Well in mind

As you will have seen in the news churches have been given permission to re-open for public worship from 4th July. There are a number of things to think about and put in place so that we can do that and the wardens and I will be working on that next week. I think it is likely that at least some of us will be able to meet for worship in church later in July. Please bear with us as we formulate plans for how we can do this. There will be more information in due course.

Meanwhile, the church building remains open every day 9.30am – 5pm for private prayer. You are welcome to sit in the chairs provided near the front and to light candles in the Lady Chapel. As the visitors’ book is currently not available, if you are a Facebook user, please ‘check in’ and comment on our Facebook page so we get an idea of how many people are visiting. The new foodbank is also available if you or anyone you know is in need of some food. Please let others know that it is there. And if you can donate then non-perishable food and toiletries would be welcome. All Saints Men’s Group are providing volunteers to take surplus donations to DENS – thank you to them.

In some ways everything has been very much ‘same old’ over the last few weeks. In other ways the situation has continued to evolve rapidly. Not only for churches but for businesses, charities and families. Now we are in a position to enjoy some more freedom (and a much needed trip to the barbers in my case!) and yet we still have to maintain our social distancing and be mindful of the continuing limits on our activities to protect and care for each other.

All of this is a difficult balancing act which I think has put a strain on mental health for many of us. And that’s to be expected. If we had a period of increased physical activity that our bodies weren’t used to we would be physically tired. We have had a lot more mental work to do than usual over the last few months, so it shouldn’t surprise us if we have some mental tiredness. I know I’ve felt that at some points over the last few weeks. The important thing is to notice it and to take some steps to let your mind recover and recharge. Just as you would let your body recover and recharge if it had been working harder than usual. There are 10 top tips for this below, as recommended by Mental Health First Aid England. The two I often find most helpful are Relating – Zoom, friends, cheese and wine has been a good combination! – and Giving –doing something to help and support others. If you are feeling a bit mentally under the weather then make some space or some conscious effort to give some of these things a go.

And remember, Jesus has given us his peace and calls us to share it with others:

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. (John 14.27)

With my love, prayers and gratefulness for you,

All Saints Vicarage, Thursday 25th June 2020

10 Top Tips for Mental Wellbeing

Relating The people around you offer a valuable pool of support so it’s important to put time into strengthening those connections. Try turning off distractions to chat with friends or family.

Exercising Regular activity will provide an endorphin boost and increase confidence. Try finding an activity that suits you and your schedule.

Awareness Taking time to switch off autopilot and ‘be in in the moment’ is a great tool to combat stress. Try paying attention to your senses – what can you see, hear or feel around you?

Giving Holding out a helping hand makes other people happy and will make you feel happier too. Try asking friends, family or colleagues how they are and listen without judgement.

Trying out Learning new things is stimulating and can help to life your mood. Try out a new hobby, club or activity that interests you.

Direction Working towards positive, realistic goals can provide motivation and structure. Try choosing a goal that is meaningful to you, not what someone else expects of you; remember to celebrate progress along the way.

Meaning People who have meaning in their lives experience less stress, anxiety and depression. Try prioritising the things that bring you the strongest sense of purpose.

Resilience Although we can’t always choose what happens to us, we can often choose our own response to what happens. Try finding an outlet such as talking to friends or writing it down.

Emotions Positive emotions can build up a buffer against stress and even lead to lasting changes in the brain to help maintain wellbeing. Try taking time to notice what you’re grateful for and focus on the good aspects of any situation.

Acceptance No one is perfect. Longing to be someone different gets in the way of making the most of our own happiness. Try being kind to yourself when things go wrong.

Open Church Hours and Foodbank
All Saints is open every day 9.30am – 5pm
An unattended, ‘open table’ Foodbank is now available during church open hours. Please spread the word! Donations of non-perishable food and toiletries are welcome. Surplus donations will be passed on to DENS on a regular basis – thank you to the Men’s Group!

This Sunday at All Saints
9.30am Video Eucharist Head to our website to join in, to find the order of service and more resources HERE.
10.30am Zoom coffee and catch up, invite via our mailing list.
(To join the mailing list, please email: allsaintskingslangley@outlook.com)

Harvest of Talents 2020 In the spirit of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25.14-30), we are once again challenging you to use your initiative and talent to see through a ‘project’ over the summer and return at Harvest with the money you have made. Past projects include selling home- made cakes or jam, gardening, babysitting, dog-walking or ironing, quizzes or Sudoku. This year of course it is an extra challenge to deploy your talent in the lockdown, e.g. selling home-made cakes will mean your own take on Deliveroo – a great opportunity to say a socially distanced “hello” as well! We can’t hand over the customary fiver to start you off, but we wish you a hearty “good luck”!

Keeping in Touch 14: Being Grateful

Thank you. That’s the first thing I’d like to say. Back in Keeping in Touch 9 I asked for some feedback on ‘virtual church’, and what you’d like to see continue while we can’t meet in the building, and once we can return. Thank you to everyone who has got back to me. I’ve been really grateful for your feedback and all your kind messages for me. And thank you for the many enquiries into how my back is this week – some of you will know I ‘put it out’ last Friday making space for the new foodbank – pews fight back! But I’m well on the mend.

What came across very clearly in your feedback is the appreciation of our virtual Sunday worship (thanks to Rachel, Sarah, Carolyn, Mark and Sheila for your help with this) and that many of you are in favour of continuing to broadcast worship when we are back in church. This was in fact something we were re-visiting just before the lockdown, so ‘stay tuned’. Weekday services have also been appreciated, especially during the full lockdown but it is probably time to scale these back. Virtual coffee and Bible Study have also had honourable mentions. Far and away the two strongest pieces of feedback are that we are all looking forward to being back in church and, somewhat to my surprise, you would like me to continue with Keeping in Touch. All I can say is be careful what you wish for!

I also need to say thank you to the churchwardens and deputy churchwardens for all they have done to get the church ready to open for private prayer and for their help in setting up our new ‘open table’ foodbank. There are more details about this below. Meanwhile others are continuing to look after our church building and our church family, and to serve the wider community – from the Pastoral Team to the Fundraising group, to the open church team, to the Churchyard mowing team (and we are also working with the Borough Council to address the maintenance of the New Churchyard – thanks to Peter Sutcliffe on that one).

Gratefulness is at the heart of our spiritual life. In Colossians Chapter 3 verses 12-17 St. Paul describes the Christian spiritual life and how it is expressed. At the centre of the passage in v.15 is one of his shortest and simplest sentences: ‘And be thankful.’ Easy to read, not always so easy to put into practice. Especially in the middle of this time of uncertainty. But being grateful, having a habit of gratefulness, is not only part of our response to God, it’s good for our mental health. A thankful recognition of what we have – things, skills, opportunities, resources – puts us in a more positive position to respond to our situation, to others and to the challenges of the world. Gratefulness is the practice of seeing what we do have and the choices we can make as gifts and asking ourselves what we can do with those gifts. Having looked properly at what we do have, where do we go from here?

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3.17)

With my love, prayers and gratefulness for you,

All Saints Vicarage, Feast of Bernard Mizeki, Thursday 18th June 2020

Afternoon Tea Social and Fundraiser Saturday 27th June 4.30pm via Zoom
Scone, jam and cream and a selection of sandwiches delivered to your door
Individual: £10; Couple: £18; Family: £24
To order click HERE or contact Ingrid Allen 01923 268253.
If ordering online you will be contacted about dietary requirements. For catering purposes please place your order by Midday Sunday 21st June.

Open Church Hours and Foodbank
All Saints is open every Day 9.30am – 5pm
An ‘open table’ Foodbank is now available during church open hours. It is unattended and available to anyone in need. Please spread the word! If you are able to donate then non-perishable food and toiletries are welcome. There is a donations basket in church. Surplus donations will be passed on to DENS on a regular basis – thank you to the men’s group!.

This Sunday at All Saints
10.00am Live Stream Alban Pilgrimage Eucharist from St Albans Cathedral.
Find the service sheet and tune in HERE
11.00am Virtual Coffee (later start time due to the 10am service at the Cathedral)

Harvest of Talents 2020 
In the spirit of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25.14-30), we are once again challenging you to use your initiative and talent to see through a ‘project’ over the summer and return at Harvest with the money you have made from your project.  In the past people have sold home-made cakes or jam, done gardening, babysitting, dog-walking or ironing, organised dinner parties, quizzes or Sudoku.  This year of course it is an extra challenge to deploy your talent in the lockdown, so for example selling your home-made cakes will mean your own take on Deliveroo – a great opportunity to say a socially distanced “hello” as well!  And because of the lockdown we can’t hand over the customary fiver to start you off, but we can still say a hearty “good luck with your Talent project”!

Letter from Bishop Alan
Bishop Alan has written a very kind letter of encouragement and support to All Saints, thanking us for all that we are doing in these strange times. He also writes that as he is unable to take his summer holiday he has decided to support churches in the diocese with a donation as a token of his appreciation. Please pray for bishop Alan and the bishop’s staff as they lead, support and resource parishes during this difficult time.

Things to keep you encouraged, informed and entertained this week

Keeping in Touch 13: Open church and scones

All Saints dressed to receive visitors

Okay, not my best title so far. Perhaps I’ll save it for the title of my autobiography. But you’ll be pleased to know that it means what it says ‘on the tin’: the church building, which we have been barred from for 12 weeks, will be open again from Monday 15th June. Oh, and scones are available, at a virtual afternoon tea on Saturday 27th June – details below!

We’ve seen this last week just how powerful our built heritage can be. The crowd that tore Edward Colston off his pedestal in Bristol. The debate over removing other such statues in Oxford and London, the potential renaming of institutions and buildings. These things are speaking on a deep level to many people – many of us have an instinctive reaction for or against. Buildings, objects and places, names, statues and memorials have a powerful effect on shaping culture and identity. And they are shaped by the culture and identity they emerge from.

It might be said (and some are) that taking down statues or renaming buildings, or removing Little Britain from Netflix and iPlayer is ‘just virtue signalling’ – indeed, what large corporation wants to be boycotted, or Oxford college for that matter? It might be said (and some are) that removing symbols, changing names and adding plaques giving fuller context isn’t really tackling racism and inequality. And clearly on its own it is not enough. But to argue that these things aren’t worth doing as they have no real effect underestimates the power and symbolism of our built heritage. The public buildings, names, spaces and statues we leave behind will say something about our identity, values and culture to future generations – and influence them, for good or ill. So what do we want to say with the built symbols we leave behind?

As a church family, as a village, we recognise this: our building has great symbolic power. I’ve been touched to hear what it has meant to many of you to see the building in our Sunday worship now that I am able record in church. And we’ll find some comfort and inspiration in re-entering the building for individual prayer from next week. It has been shaped by the people who have worshipped, lived and died here for over 800 years. It has been shaped – sometimes unhelpfully – by donors and changing fashions in church layout. In some ways, the only constant over the centuries has been change! Yet amidst change it has remained a constant presence, a visible symbol of Emmanuel, ‘God with us’. In the coming months, we’ll be reflecting on this as a church family and asking how the building can better reflect the culture of welcome, openness and joy we aspire to. A question that has been asked and answered in different ways down the centuries. Now it is our turn.

In the immediate future, when you visit All Saints for individual prayer, you will find some differences because of the coronavirus situation. A one-way system is in operation, from the North porch, round the church to the West door under the tower. Please use the hand sanitizer provided, observe social distancing if others are in the building and don’t touch anything you don’t need to. There are chairs set out if you wish to sit and pray in the side chapels and the chancel, but you will not be able to sit in the pews.

We are living with many changes in church life and in our wider cultural life at the moment. There is not only uncertainty and anxiety, but opportunity and hope too. Change means growth – as God’s people, as human people. We change and grow that we may draw nearer to the heart of the one who never changes: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13.8).

With my love and prayers for you,

All Saints Vicarage, Corpus Christi, Thursday 11th June 2020

 

Afternoon Tea Social and Fundraiser Saturday 27th June 4.30pm via Zoom
Scone, jam and cream and a selection of sandwiches delivered to your door
Individual: £10; Couple: £18; Family: £24
To order click HERE or contact Ingrid Allen 01923 268253. If ordering online you will be contacted about dietary requirements. For catering purposes please place your order by Midday Sunday 21st June.

Open Church Hours
Every Day 9.30am – 5pm from Monday 15th June
Please note that as further restrictions on weddings, funerals and baptisms are lifted the church building may be closed to the public to accommodate these events. The building may also be closed for cleaning and for the recording of worship.

This Sunday at All Saints
9.30am Video Eucharist Head to our online services page to join in, to find the order of service and for more resources.

10.30am Zoom coffee and catch up, invite via our mailing list.
(To join the mailing list, please email: allsaintskingslangley@outlook.com)

Harvest of Talents 2020 
In the spirit of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25.14-30), we are once again challenging you to use your initiative and talent to see through a ‘project’ over the summer and return at Harvest with the money you have made from your project.  In the past people have sold home-made cakes or jam, done gardening, babysitting, dog-walking or ironing, organised dinner parties, quizzes or Sudoku.  This year of course it is an extra challenge to deploy your talent in the lockdown, so for example selling your home-made cakes will mean your own take on Deliveroo – a great opportunity to say a socially distanced “hello” as well!  And because of the lockdown we can’t hand over the customary fiver to start you off, but we can still say a hearty “good luck with your Talent project”!

Keeping in Touch 12: Healing, justice and peace

Black lives matter

Last week I was thinking about rest. The importance of finding some sabbath. And that’s true, it’s important – creation isn’t complete without it, and neither are human beings. It strikes me this week that many people in our world can’t get as far as Sabbath, can’t get as far as rest, can’t get as far as peace, because of the need for healing.

We’re particularly aware of all those in need of physical healing – of medical assistance – because of coronavirus. But there are many people in need of other kinds of healing. Social healing because of loneliness. Mental healing because of anxiety, stress and uncertainty. And then there are those in our world who need to feel the effects of structural, political and economic healing.

You will not be surprised that at the forefront of my mind as I write this is the situation in the United States. Civil unrest the like of which has not been seen for a generation has gripped the country in response to the murder of George Floyd. Many people have taken to social media to show their support (and to the streets), changing their profile pictures to a black circle, or posting a black square to their timeline with the hashtag ‘black lives matter’. And many other people have responded with the hashtag ‘all lives matter’. Well, of course they do. But the whole point is that the lived experience of our brothers and sisters of colour is that their lives don’t matter. Their experience is that their lives matter less than those of white people. This isn’t a time for saying ‘oh, but we all matter’. No, the thing for those of us who are white to do now is to listen, to learn and to try to understand why our brothers and sisters of colour have that experience. And to do so in humility.

This is not to say that there aren’t other groups whose experience is that they matter less. People who have had their benefits cut or who have had to rely increasingly on foodbanks because of a decade of austerity. Poor communities in the developing world who are most adversely affected by climate change and least able to mitigate its effects.

And there are the people whose mental health traps them in feelings that they don’t matter, that they are not good enough, that they are invisible. According to one survey nearly half of UK adults have suffered anxiety problems because of the coronavirus pandemic: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-uk-population-anxiety-mental-health-lockdown-ons-a9468331.html

What all these people are created for is peace, rest and Sabbath. But in order for them to know that peace, some healing needs to go on. For our brothers and sisters of colour that is the healing of justice. As it is for other groups in our world experiencing discrimination and oppression. For those adversely affected by climate change, the healing needed is climate justice. The healing the poor need is economic justice. The healing those who suffer with their mental health need most of all perhaps is to be listened to. To be really listened to.

It seems to me that being listened to might be at the heart of much of the healing that is needed in the world. God always listens. But he needs you and me to be his ears – and eyes and hands and feet. If we can have the humility to listen one another’s experiences hopefully we can be part of a solution that brings healing, justice and ultimately peace.

God promises us all healing, justice and peace in the incarnation, death and resurrection of his Son. And he asks us to carry on the work of Christ in the power of the Spirit. St Paul tells us that we have been entrusted with the work of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5.16-end) – of making peace through justice, forgiveness, and love. And that’s hard work – it took the work of the cross to defeat the unjust reign of sin and death. Peace means the walls of division, oppression and injustice have to come down brick by brick. But this is the work of the Kingdom and God calls us to co-operate in it: ‘to do justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God’ (Micha 6.8).

And right now that involves us listening. #blacklivesmatter

With my love and prayers for you,

All Saints Vicarage
Feast of St Petroc Thursday 4th June 2020

It is an important time for listening to the black community, for learning about their experience, for lamenting racism, injustice and oppression, and the ways we may be complicit in that. But it is also a great time of hope. The Christian perspective is that there is one humanity, made in the image of God and that in the kingdom the Church claims to anticipate there is no division or discrimination. And that perfect peace and unity comes with perfect justice. These resources are offered as starting points to listen and learn, so that we can stand together to bring that kingdom vision closer.

Something to help you learn: listen, learn and stand

This Sunday at All Saints

9.30am      Video Eucharist.  Head to our online services page to join in, to find the order of service and for more resources.

10.30am     Zoom coffee and catch up, invite via our mailing list. (To join the mailing list, please email: allsaintskingslangley@outlook.com)

Keeping in Touch 11: Rest… and return

Rest

Dear Friends,

‘Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God’ is all very well in ‘normal’ circumstances. But from the conversations I’m having with many people, the days are all blurring into one. Much the same work, rest or boredom (depending on circumstances and perspective!) every day. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been finding it hard to find ‘sabbath’ in these strange days. Many of those things I’d usually do on my rest day have been off limits: a walk to a pub for a pint (or two), a trip to see family, a day out with friends, a visit to a National Trust property.

A change is as good as a rest, but that is precisely the thing we haven’t been able to do of late: change the daily record. And now, paradoxically we are facing a new set of changes in the coming weeks: some children returning to school, non-essential shops re-opening and further easing of the lockdown. And although we haven’t been able to change the daily record, what I’m hearing is that we sure have changed our way through a raft of emotions on a daily basis: from excitement (all those books you were going to read) to frustration (all those books you haven’t read…), from loneliness to overwhelmed and from calm and accepting to, well, less calm, possibly involving a little cry or a large glass of wine, or both! In the midst of all this it’s difficult for many of us to find Sabbath, to find rest.

Sabbath is really important. The clue is that it’s one of the 10 commandments. But it isn’t important just ‘because God said so’. It’s important because it’s for our wellbeing. In the mythical creation story, God finishes the work of creation in six days and then creates Sabbath – rest, refreshment, restoration – on the seventh day. It’s built into creation, for us. Jesus himself says, ‘the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2.27). The Sabbath isn’t there to give us something else to do, to guilt trip us into tuning into church ‘because we should’, or to feeling bad because we haven’t made space for ourselves, our loved ones, our hobbies (remember all that reading?) or God. Sabbath is there to give us permission to find rest in these things when we can. Permission to waste time being me. For that is Sabbath – to waste time being me. And in doing so to be with the God who loves you as you are.

The archetypal story of the Old Testament, the Exodus, is a story of restoring Sabbath. In Egypt, God’s people had no rest. Time was pyramids and the Israelites were cogs in Pharaoh’s machine. This wasn’t what was meant for God’s people. So God rescued them and gave them the Ten Commandments, including the one about the Sabbath. Later, the prophets had to remind the people of this. When they paid lip-service to the commandments by going through the motions on the Sabbath, when they looked to Egypt or one of the other great powers for protection, the prophets reminded them that they had been saved for rest. ‘For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength (Isaiah 30.15).

Meanwhile, the New Testament is about the restoration of true Sabbath. Jesus rests in the grave on the Sabbath day and returns to his disciples on the first day of the week to wish them the rest of heaven (‘peace be with you’ John 20.19). In a world of the false security of filling every minute with your own timetable, or someone else’s timetable, Jesus’s word is peace. Stop. Have permission to be you. Sometimes that is easier said than done but be encouraged to find the space to enjoy wasting time being you with the God who loves you as you are. With a hobby, with a book, with friends and loved ones (within the limits of the current guidelines!) in prayer, in online worship. Don’t beat yourself up that the days feel the same. Don’t beat yourself up that you feel anxious about the changes to come. Find some ways to say, ‘this is Sabbath, and it is good’.

With my love and prayers for you,

All Saints Vicarage
Feast of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, 28th May 2020

This Sunday at All Saints

9.30am      Video Eucharist for Pentecost. Head to our online services page to join in, to find the order of service and for more resources.

10.30am     Zoom coffee and catch up, invite via our mailing list. (To join the mailing list, please email: allsaintskingslangley@outlook.com)

Keeping in Touch 10: ‘Hail the day that sees Him rise! Alleluia!

All Saints catching the evening light

Dear Friends,

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: allsaintstreasurer@btinternet.com 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

Some ways to pray during TKC: TKC Prayer Resources
Some prayer ideas for families: #prayer and care
Something to explore: Digital prayer adventure map
Some reflections on mental well-being: Theological and practical
In case you missed it!: Bishop Alan’s message

Keeping in Touch 9: Over to you!

All Saints looking beautiful on one of James and Rachel’s walks

Dear Friends,

When I started my ‘Keeping in Touch’ letters/posts, I didn’t really envisage writing more than four or five of them. And here we are at number 9. Not quite enough for a book yet, but well done for sticking with me. And although the lockdown was eased this week, I suspect there are many weeks ahead of us when we will need to carry on ‘keeping in touch’ at arm’s length – or two arms’ length.

Staying connected on the phone and via social media, Zoom and all the rest is great. But if I am honest it is also tiring. I guess many of you are feeling that too? Our brains have to work harder to process only hearing a voice over the phone, or hearing the distorted voice and random background noises on a Zoom meeting or Skype call. We don’t have body language or non-verbal cues to help us. We make an amusing aside and find our voice clashes with someone else’s over the internet and no-one hears either person: chaos ensues. You do a round of phone calls and suddenly it’s lunchtime and you’ve got nothing else done.

I realise this is beginning to sound like the beginnings of a rant. But I think all I’m saying is that it’s great that we can keep in touch as we are doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not tiring. Our conversation is very binary – we’re either on transmit or receive – and we’re not used to that. We’re used to something that feels much more two way and responsive. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re finding this a bit wearing (on top of all the other things you’re dealing with – whether that be feelings of loneliness and isolation, or the feeling that everything is on top of you – family, work, social life – in a confined space!).That’s why even a shouty chat on the driveway or across the fence feels like a breath of fresh air.

With all this in mind, I am reflecting that for the last few weeks I have been on ‘transmit’ a lot – transmitting services, transmitting these updates, transmitting signpost – and I would like to switch to receive and ask for some feedback. With the easing of lockdown, the Church of England is considering when we can return to our buildings. However, we are still a long way off gathering for Sunday Worship. So, I would like to ask for two pieces of feedback: 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.

Relationship is a two-way street. It is more than transmit and receive. It’s something much richer, with sight, and touch and tone of voice, and body language and stepping into each other’s space (within reason!). And this is how God relates to us. When humanity kept missing the point and turning away from his love, he didn’t just turn on a big heavenly transmitter with booming loudspeaker. He came to be with us as the person Jesus. The Son stepped into our space, into the complexity and richness of human relationships to call us into relationship with his heavenly Father.

Today is the Feast of St Matthias the Apostle and the Gospel reading is Jesus’ commission to his apostles, ‘go and bear fruit’ (John 15.9-17). But before sending them to bear fruit, Jesus invites them into a loving, sustaining relationship with the Father:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15.9-11)

I’m not sure any of us feel our joy is complete in this current situation, whether we have been directly affected by the virus or not. But we can rest in the knowledge that God joys in us and calls us into relationship with him. And wherever we can bring some of God’s joy into our relationships we are bearing the fruit of his kingdom.

With my love and prayers for you,

All Saints Vicarage
The Feast of St Matthias, Apostle Thursday 14th May 2020

Keeping in Touch 8: Christian Aid Week

Dear Friends,

This week I have given Keeping in touch over to update you about Christian Aid week and our plans for our United Service. As you will know, this year we are unable to carry out the usual house to house collection due to the Covid-19 restrictions. And we are not able to worship together in one of our churches – it was our turn at All Saints to host this time.

However, through the wonders of technology we can worship and meet together and we can still raise money for Christian Aid. We know that the poorest in the world will be worst affected by coronavirus. How do we know this? Because they are worst affected by the injustices of our world, worst affected by natural disasters, worst affected by disease. And worst affected by Climate change. Christian Aid works with local partners around the world to make a difference in the name of Christ. Perhaps I’ll let them say it in their own words. Here is a message from Christian Aid about the week and their response to Covid-19:

This year’s Christian Aid Week will undoubtedly be a different experience, but we know supporters like you will make it the same life-changing and joyous week we’ve run since 1957. Now, more than ever, our gifts, prayers and action are desperately needed as our partners strive to continue their work with poor communities worldwide, as well as working hard to reduce the impact of covid-19 on the communities they work with. The world’s poorest countries have the weakest health systems, and many of the most vulnerable people are now being exposed to this deadly virus. They’ll struggle to get the healthcare they need, and with the added cost of not earning a living while in lockdown or quarantine. Our partners are already embedded in these communities working on your behalf to limit the impact of covid-19. You can find out more about what we are doing on our Coronavirus Appeal page.

I know that many people have taken a financial hit due to the current situation, and I know that I am also encouraging you to give to All Saints so we can continue to resource our ministry. But if you can, please do make a donation to Christian Aid this coming week to support their great work.

Our Plans for this Sunday

9.30am Kings Langley Churches United Service for Christian Aid week
A pre-recorded video service available on Facebook, via the website, or on our YouTube channel.

10am Zoom worship for Children and Young people
Children and families will receive details

10.30am Zoom Coffee and Q&A with Deborah Auty, Head of Communications Christian Aid
You will receive details for this via email as usual

Events you can join in with on the Christian Aid website: Virtual fundraisers

Sunday 10 May, 1.00pm
Live-streamed Christian Aid Week service with Dr Rowan Williams.

Monday 11 – Saturday 16 May, 11am
Live daily reflections from our staff and partners overseas.

Sunday 10 – Saturday 16 May, 7.30pm
Daily fun quizzes for the whole family throughout Christian Aid Week.

I am writing this on the Eve of the feast of Mother Julian of Norwich. Mother Julian (1343-1416) was an anchoress for much of her life, choosing to live in almost total seclusion in a ‘cell’ (small room) attached to a church, in (that’s right) Norwich. Here she gave counsel to people from the window of her cell, made clothes for the poor and prayed. And here she wrote the earliest surviving book in English to be written by a woman, ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’ in which she records visions and conversations with God.

Mother Julian is famously associated with the quotation, ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’. This theme, or a variation on it, crops up several times in her book. On one occasion Mother Julian reflects that ‘all’ refers to that fact that nothing is beyond God’s love, from the big stuff (coronavirus, climate change, injustice, poverty), to the small stuff (that’s you and me, every person on the planet): ‘for he wants us to understand that not the smallest thing shall be forgotten’.

God won’t forget you or me, small though we are when faced with the big problems of life, the universe and everything. Christian Aid week is an opportunity to help make sure someone else is not forgotten in the face of the big stuff. And an opportunity to help put some of the big stuff right too. An opportunity to say with Mother Julian, ‘All shall be well’.

With my love and prayers for you,

All Saints Vicarage
Eve of the Feast of Julian of Norwich, 7th May 2020

Keeping in Touch 7: Imagination and Courage

The Vicarage garden – on the way to redemption!

Dear Friends,

I hope you made the most of your week off last week – your week off from my ramblings! Rachel and I were on our post-Easter break. We had wonderful weather in our chosen destination – the back garden, and we made some progress in making it more representative of the word ‘garden’ and less of the word ‘wilderness’. We don’t have much gardening expertise, but fortunately it doesn’t take too much of that to identify and dig up brambles!

The Garden is the setting for the story of salvation. God places humanity in a garden at the beginning. The prophets speak of Israel as a vine in God’s vineyard (OK, bigger than a standard garden, but still, it’s cultivated), and of a new Israel where trees with healing leaves will grow beside a river flowing from a restored Temple. It is in a garden that Jesus prays to his Father to ‘remove the cup of suffering’ on the night he is betrayed. And he is brought back to a garden to be laid in the tomb. On the first day of the week, the first day of the new creation, Mary Magdalen encounters the risen Jesus in the garden.

Gardens are symbolic of life and growth. But they can just as easily be symbols of chaos! God’s prophets speak of the need to prune, even to burn down, the vine of Israel (Ezekiel 15). Jesus speaks of himself as the true vine, and his followers as the branches, but also of the need to prune the branches that bear no fruit (John 15).

In the last issue I was encouraging us to think about two of our diocesan values: Generosity and Joy. Our response to the joy and generosity that God gives us in Jesus is to live lives of joy and generosity, towards our loved ones, our community and our church family. The other two diocesan values are imagination and courage.

God re-imagined the world in the person of his Son. In the garden that had run wild, he sent the Son to be the gardener. The garden of creation had got out of tune with God and only the Son of God could put that right. That took courage too – the courage Jesus prayed for in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus gave up his human life that we might share in his resurrection, in the life of God. That we might be re-imagined into the likeness of Christ.

This is a time of uncertainty, anxiety and hardship for many people. Even here in Kings Langley things are tougher than usual. Some Christians may say that this is a time of pruning, a time of being tested in our faith. Perhaps that is so – as many a sports fan will testify it is a test to ‘keep the faith’ when things are tough. But rather than setting us tests of our faithfulness, I believe God comes alongside us in the testing times. He comes alongside us and says have courage, have imagination. At the heart of the word courage is the Latin word ‘cor’, heart. God says many times to the people of Israel, ‘take heart’, and then shows them his imagination of a new world. Jesus too says, ‘take heart’ to the people he heals, the people he makes part of the Kingdom God is imagining in him: ‘your sins are forgiven’, ‘your faith has made you well’.

God calls us to imagination and courage too. He calls us to act with courage and imagination in the garden of the world. To imagine how we can be Good News to the people around us: offering patience, a listening ear, prayer and practical help where we can.

And God says ‘take heart’ to each of us. He calls us to tend the garden of our own minds and hearts, not just of others. In this uncertain time it is important to look after our mental and spiritual well-being. Below are 5 top tips for doing that. For those of us who can get online, head to the prayer resources section of the (new look!) website. There are lots of ideas there for daily or weekly prayer, including broadcast media. I have listed the latter below as a reminder for those of you who are not online.

Be strong and take heart, and do not be afraid: for it is the Lord your God who is going with you; he will not take away his help from you.                                            Deuteronomy 31.6

With my love and prayers for you,

All Saints Vicarage
Feast of St Catherine of Siena, Wednesday 29th April 2020

 

Dealing with Loneliness and Isolation: 5 Top Tips

  1. Pray – light a candle, if safe, and pray for hope, faith and strength. You can do this virtually HERE.
  2. Talk about how you feel.Use the phone, internet and social media. If you need to contact a counsellor, this can be arranged by your GP, local agencies or privately. Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, every day, and it’s free to call them on 116 123.
  3. Focus on the things that you can change, not on the things you can’t.
  4. Look after yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually. Plan to do things you enjoy each day – a TV programme, a phone call, a book, a favourite dish, a game.
  5. Look after others – even if only in small ways: a kind word, writing a letter or an email.

Online Prayer Resources

Broadcast Media

  • BBC Radio 3 (90.5FM and DAB) Recordings of Choral Evensongbroadcast – 3.30pm Wednesdays, repeated Sundays 3pm.  And on BBC Sounds / catch up HERE
  • BBC Radio 4 (198 LW and Digital Radio) Daily Service– every day at 9.45am.  And on BBC Sounds / catch up  HERE
  • BBC One Songs of Praise – Sundays at 1.15pm and BBC Iplayer HERE