As I write, the prime minister has stepped down. The process
for the Conservative party to choose a new leader has begun. The candidates are
making their speeches. Articulating why they should be the next leader and
therefore, Prime Minister. Some candidates are seeking to build up their
connection with the current Prime Minister. Some are distancing themselves.
There is speculation. Pacts are being made. Alliances are being formed. Is it
all Shakespearian, or perhaps Machiavellian, or perhaps heading towards Sun Tzu
and the Art of War?By the time you read this there may well be a clear
Back a few millennia ago in a land occupied by a hostile invading
Roman force, Jesus enigmatically declared, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,
and give to God what is God’s”. Some powerful people had tried to trick Jesus,
they’d tried to set him up for treason, get him to rally against the emperor.
But Jesus took a coin bearing the face of the emperor and asked, “whose face
and inscription is on this?” “Caesar” they replied sheepishly. Which is when
Jesus responded with that killer line, “Give to Caesar….”
His unspoken point would have been all too clear: give to
the world what is owed to the world. Give to the human authorities what is owed
to the human authorities. But don’t get mixed up. Give to God what is God’s.
Everything is God’s so…. Human authorities come and go, live and die, but God
goes on and on and on….. Know on which side your bread is buttered.
Amid all the political speculation it’s comforting to know that God is God, always was God, and always will be God. Amen.
Three reasons to be happy: 1. The sun is shining. 2. At the
time of writing Covid-19 numbers are going down. 3. School holidays are soon to
begin. It’s all looking good!
Three reasons to be apprehensive: 1. There are record
temperatures being recorded across the world. 2. Covid-19 is still around and
people are still suffering with it. 3. The cost-of-living crisis means that
many families will be looking at the summer holidays with trepidation – how to
feed the kids and keep them entertained.
The same three things. Different ways of interpreting what
As we approached the Platinum Jubilee there were times when
I was asked something along the lines of, “Can you have a word with the big guy
so that it doesn’t rain?” To which my response was inevitably something like,
“well, God’s in a tough spot here, because while you’re praying for it to not
rain, the farmers and gardeners might be praying that it will rain!”
But isn’t that often the way? Things are getting better for some, but others might be facing new struggles… Life carries with it complexities, and we find ourselves wandering through the thick of it. Throughout it all, the good and the bad, one thing we can take comfort in, is that God journeys with us through it all. That’s not to say that we should just stop moaning and get on with things, but that as we do go about our lives we can know that we’re not alone. And while that doesn’t mean the hardships will always pass, there is solace to be found in knowing that we don’t walk the road alone.
This month we’re celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The
Sunday of the Queen’s Jubilee weekend also happens to be one of the most
important festivals of the church – Pentecost, when we remember the Holy Spirit
descending on God’s people and we celebrate the birthing of God’s church.
Now at first look, celebrating 70 years of our monarch’s
reign and a 2000 year old festival might not appear to go well together,
leaving churches with a question as to what to do on that Sunday. But I think
it all fits together really well.
Pentecost celebrates the birth of the worldwide church. And
the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee marks an opportunity to give thanks for the
Queen’s 70 years faithful stewardship of the Church of England as it’s ‘Supreme
Governor’ – God’s appointed steward.
At Pentecost the flame of the Spirit burned brightly among
the disciples and the Queen has carried that flame for 70 years. In June in both
Betley and Madeley, the churches will host a number of baptisms, which is again
fitting as in the baptism of children we give a lit candle to the parent’s as a
symbol of the light of Jesus and the flame of the Spirit.
This is all liturgically perfect in my opinion. Pentecost sees the flame of God’s church burst forth, at the Platinum Jubilee we give thanks for 70 years faithful stewardship of the light, and in baptism we send out the next generation, baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and carrying the fire of the Spirit into the future. We have so much to give thanks for. Amen.
This year from May to July, All Saints’ Madeley and St. Margaret’s Betley are planning on running an Alpha course on Tuesday evenings. Beginning on the 3rd of May, Alpha makes space for people who are exploring faith to ask the difficult and challenging questions. We’ll be meeting on Tuesday evenings and hoping to tackle some of the key questions in relation to Christianity and faith in Jesus. We’ll be talking about questions like, “why did Jesus die?” “How can I make the most of the rest of my life?” and “How does God guide us?”
The course is particularly focused on those who do not have a faith and are looking for a place to explore that faith.
If this is something you’re are interested in finding out more about, please do get in touch! The course starts on the 3rd of May with a taster session that will seek to address the question, “is there more to life than this?” – without wanting to give too many spoilers, as the vicar I’d want to chip in and say that the answer may well be, “yes, there is more to life than this!”
In the build up to Lent I watched the television in
disbelief to see images of Russian forces invading Ukraine. And in the weeks
that have since passed, the images from the news have just got worse and worse.
Shelling near nuclear powerplants, the Chernobyl site being attacked. News of
millions of refugees. Protests in Russia. Sanctions across the world. And at
the heart of it, people, people whose lives have been torn apart. Teachers
making Molotov cocktails, lawyers holding machine guns. families being split
up. Families grieving the brutal deaths of much-loved family members. Some
countries opening their doors to refugees. Some doing less.
It all feels like a relic of the 20th century is
actively taking place in the 21st century. And it is utterly tragic.
Who knows what the state of things will be by the time you read these words in
Lent is the season of the Church’s liturgical year when we
are encouraged to reflect on our mistakes, on the way we live our lives and to
begin to look towards Easter, when the death and resurrection of Jesus brings
about a hopeful new future for humanity.
This year the need for hope feels more and more important
than for a long time. And the hope we have in Jesus is once again, a timeless
hope, a hope we can hold onto when all the world feels like sinking sand.
Just two days into our sojourn through March we’ll find
ourselves in that great penitential season – Lent. A time to pause, a time to
reflect, a time to lay things down, a time to consider the way we live, a time
to prepare for the long road to Easter and the crucifixion and resurrection of
This year across the churches in Betley and Madeley we’ll be
exploring some contemplative practices at some “Be Still events” – flyers
available from both churches! Our churches will also be partaking in some
Guerrilla Examen on Sundays in Lent, do come along one Sunday to find out more!
And also in Lent we’re encouraging people to read the late Desmond Tutu’s book,
“In God’s Hands” and at some point in early April I’m hoping we’ll have the
opportunity to get together with the book and a glass of wine and have a
conversation about it.
As well as the long pilgrimage going on through our worship
in church this Lent I’m so very conscious that for many in our communities the
long walk from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday might actually be the long walk
of worry and anticipation ahead of huge price hikes for energy bills. We can
expect that many more families in our communities might find themselves thrown
mercilessly into fuel poverty – with that in mind, please do continue to bring
donations for the Foodbank throughout Lent. Be mindful of each other in this
season, some people will be carrying crosses that no one else can see.
Blessings, Rev Tim
Children, Youth and Families Minister – Update
Since the report last month we are delighted to report that
we have now reached the 22 pledges we were seeking, with 21 of these already
paid into the fund for the first time. It is wonderful too that Betley now
wishes also to fund additional hours for the post. We are looking to advertise
by Easter, as soon as the details of what Betley is looking for have been added
to the job description.
Reaching our target does not mean that we would not still very much welcome further contributions, but these could be for any amount you feel able to pledge, and would no longer need to be for the full £20 – £5, or any other figure, would be most helpful.
Over the last five months or so you may well have heard
about our plans to recruit a part-time Children, Youth and Families Minister to
work in Madeley. We are planning on making use of the Beryl Ikin bequest to
part fund the post. We are
delighted that Betley now wishes also to fund additional hours for the post.
Alongside this very generous bequest we have launched our 20×22 Vision campaign. Encouraging 22 givers to pledge to donating £20 per month to fund the other part of the salary for the post. At the time of writing, we have just reached 22 pledges, with 21 of these already paid into the fund for the first time. Thank you to all those who have come forward and offered to support this great work. If you’d like to find out more about the scheme please contact Rev Tim or our Treasurer Stephen Clifford.
Our work with children, youth and families is already really
good and we would love to see this work grow and develop to its full potential.
Our new Children, Youth and Families Minister will work with others to build up
the work that already happens at All Saints’. They will also be involved in
taking the church forward into new areas of ministry, new ways of engaging with
children, young people and their families. There is so much to look forward to!
The Job Description has been written, the practicalities are being handled, like adding a Betley specific section, and we’re heading towards advertising the post. Your prayers are appreciated as we go forwards.
With the onset of February it feels like we are well into
2022 and the new opportunities and challenges that a new year brings. In the
benefices of Betley and Madeley our churches are having to come to terms with significantly
less clergy time than at this point last year, with Rev Pamela and myself all
that is left of a previously larger team. The fullness of the challenges this
brings are still making themselves known. The wider impact of this on the work
of our parishes presents us with significant difficulties as we seek to develop
the work of the church in our villages. Thankfully we have teams of wonderful
lay readers and other volunteers who help develop the work of our churches.
We also face the challenges of coming to terms with what our
church communities look like nine months after we returned to ‘presential
worship’ (thank you for that term Rev JBP!). St. Margaret’s and All Saints’
both look very different to what our 2019 statistics show.
Among the challenges there are points of excitement. The
possibility of new creative and missional activities during Lent. The
relaunching of Living Streams – our monthly evening service, with a
strengthened vision and purpose. The possibility of a Spring Alpha course – the
success of which will depend on people inviting friends and family to attend
We have much to give thanks for, and much to continue to