Vicar’s Letter August/September 2021

I’m writing this vicar’s letter at lunchtime on Wednesday the 7th of July 2021. That it is lunchtime is an important detail. If I was writing this letter at about 10pm this evening I’d know the outcome of the England v Denmark match that is happening later. I’d be able to write about the 3 – 1 win for England (I hope! I’ve predicted a goal for Denmark inspired by Denmark’s Christian Eriksen)

Of course, if I was writing this letter at 10pm on Sunday the 11th of July I’d be writing about England’s 8 – 0 victory over Italy in the final where England’s Raheem Stirling scored all 8 goals. (OK, I don’t predict this will actually happen, though I’d fancy Stirling to score if we beat Denmark!)

I am of course, writing about the postponed Euro 2020 football championship. And over the last month I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching some fantastic football and I’ve found myself cheering for teams I didn’t plan on cheering for, “come on Switzerland!” The competition has been a great celebration of sport, of fun, and in the way the stadiums have been occupied by fans it’s hinted at a return to “normality”. Though everyone who has journeyed through the last 18 months is probably aware that there is still a long way to go for us to come to terms with Covid and to settle on an understanding of a “new normal”.

Of course, along with millions of other football fans across the world I was shocked by what happened to the Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen on the 12th June when he suffered a cardiac arrest whilst playing against Finland. Thankfully the player is alive now due to the quick thinking of team mates, the referee and the excellent medical team.

What happened to Eriksen was a firm reminder that in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, “in the midst of life we are in death”. Even in such a life-giving, celebratory thing as a football tournament, mortality casts it shadow, a shadow we have all been so aware of throughout this Covid 19 pandemic where all too often it has seemed difficult to celebrate anything. And yet as people of faith, we know, that we don’t journey onwards alone, for God is with us, and he promises to always be with use wherever we may go. (Even though we might be led to question where God is if Denmark win 8 – 0 tonight!)

Blessings

Rev Tim

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Vicar’s Letter July 2021

For the past few months, a group of people have been gathering together (on Zoom) to talk about some of the “big stuff” of life and faith. We’ve had in-depth conversations about why there is evil in the world and why people suffer. We’ve wondered about the meaning of it all and explored what we value and why.

These are just some of the topics we’ve covered in our weekly discussions as part of the Alpha Course. Alongside these topics we’ve also thought about the role faith has to play in the contemporary world. We’ve talked about who Jesus is and why it matters. We’ve talked about the way Christians connect with God through prayer and the words written down in the Bible.

Our conversations have been really thought provoking, encouraging and challenging. People come to the course from different places, with different perspectives and life-experiences. And all of it adds to the richness of the conversation. One of the strengths of the Alpha Course is in curating an open space where difference can be explored and where different perspectives add to the conversation.

The Alpha Course isn’t about feeding people the “right” answers, but allowing each guest to express their own perspective and exploring how we might see the world and faith through that lens. Why not keep your eyes open for the next Alpha Course and set aside some time to think through and talk through some of life’s big questions….

Blessings

Rev Tim

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Vicar’s Letter June 2021

As I write this month’s vicar’s letter on a dull Mid-May afternoon I’m thinking about prayer. Not because I am super-holy, but rather because the topic of prayer has been on my mind a lot lately. Now that might not come as a surprise given that at the churches in Madeley and Betley we have weekly services that include prayer, we also have specific times when we gather (online) to pray together.

It also might not come as a surprise given that as a person of faith, I think prayer is a really helpful practice. It’s a practice that connects us with God, allowing us to bring our troubles and worries in the form of ‘help!’ prayers, but it also creates a space for us to enter into quietness and wait on God. (Prayer can also be really loud and filled with movement – but that’s for a different vicar’s letter!)

Actually I’ve been thinking about prayer for three reasons. Firstly, our Alpha group (a place to ask questions about faith) were talking about prayer this week. Secondly, we’ve just had a fantastic online Zoom-Prayer-Room open for 24 hours as part of an initiative called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. Thirdly, because something I saw recently brought me back to a former prayer practice I used to rely on, and I’m excited to give it a go again. If you see me, feel free to ask me about it.

Prayer seems like such an otherworldly thing. It’s countercultural, it’s not always easy, but it’s always worth trying. Have you tired praying lately? If you haven’t – why not give it a go…

Blessings

Rev Tim

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ANNUAL PARISH CHURCH MEETING

DIOCESE OF LICHFIELD

NEWCASTLE DEANERY

PARISH OF ALL SAINTS’ MADELEY

NOTICE IS GIVEN THAT THE ANNUAL PAROCHIAL CHURCH MEETING & VESTRY MEETING

WILL TAKE PLACE IN CHURCH AT 7.30 P.M. ON ­ THE TWENTY SIXTH (26th) OF MAY, 2021.

PLEASE NOTE ALSO TO BE LIVE ON ZOOM

NOMINATIONS ARE INVITED FOR:

  • TWO POSTS OF CHURCHWARDEN TO SERVE FOR THE YEAR 2021/22.
  • UP TO FOUR PLACES ON THE P.C.C. FOR 2021-24 – FOUR CURRENT MEMBERS, WHOSE TERMS EXPIRE, ARE ELIGIBLE TO SEEK RE-ELECTION THIS YEAR.

NOMINATION FORMS ARE AVAILABLE FROM OFFICERS OF THE PCC. CANDIDATES MUST BE MEMBERS OF THE ELECTORAL ROLL – IF YOU WISH TO JOIN THIS, CONTACT TREVOR DOWNS BY 5 P.M. TUESDAY 18TH MAY, 2021, FOR A FORM OF ENROLMENT.

SIGNED:

TIM WATSON

VICAR

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Vicar’s Letter May 2021

As things stand, this May the churches of All Saints’ Madeley and St. Margaret’s Betley will return to public worship within the church buildings. St. Margaret’s is returning to public worship on the 2nd of May. All Saints’ is returning to public worship on Pentecost – Sunday 23rd of May.  This is exciting news indeed, though our excitement might be tempered a little by knowing that there will still be some restrictions in place and also that should a third wave of Covid-19 strike, we, along with churches across the nation, may have to reassess the situation again.

It’s also important to recognise that throughout the pandemic, the church buildings have been open. St. Margaret’s has been open for private prayer. All Saints’ has been open to host the Foodbank. Funerals have been happening in both buildings, and back in March, All Saints’ was featured on the national news as we hosted one of the first weddings since restrictions eased.

It’s a cliché to say it – but that’s because it is true – the church is much more than the building. The churches haven’t been closed, the church buildings have been closed for public worship, and we as ministry teams and congregations have had to try and stay connected with people. We’ve had to continually reassess how we go about the work of being the church – because ultimately, that is what we are. We are the church – again, another cliché, but again –it’s because it is true. Even if one day our beautiful Grade One listed buildings collapsed, we would still be the church.

As the church, let us continue to play our part in supporting our communities, helping them to thrive and also, let us never lose sight of our vocation to point people towards Jesus.

Blessings

Rev Tim

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Vicar’s Letter Easter 2021

This month we are celebrating Easter, the most  important Christian festival there is.

At Easter we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on Good Friday. His dying for our failings – God’s son, hung up on a cross, alone and dying for each of us. We also celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead and a  message of hope that has been proclaimed every year for 2000 years. I often call Easter Sunday, ‘Resurrection Day’, because for me, this is the day that reminds me that as a Christian, I am called to live every day in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. A resurrection that is such hopeful good news it should be shouted from the rooftops and  whispered in private conversations.

This year, I have found it particularly helpful to reflect on the day  between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – what is known as, ‘Holy Saturday’. We remember the Saturday of that first Easter as a time when Jesus’ body lay silent, still and dead in the tomb. He had died on Friday and was not resurrected until Sunday. Saturday, was quite literally, a dead space. An in-between time. Before his death Jesus had said that he would rise again, but would he actually rise again? His disciples and the people had to wait to find out. Wait for hope to bring new life.

As I write this in the midst of lockdown, I’m sure there are people for whom this place of waiting might feel particularly relevant. And just like the first disciples, we wait, in hope, for what is to come.

Blessings,

Rev Tim (Watson)

Alpha

On the 13th of April, All Saints’ Madeley and St. Margaret’s Betley are beginning an online Alpha course. The Alpha course is used around the world, to help people explore the Christian faith. Made up of a number of evening sessions with a talk and discussion, the course gives people space to explore the Christian faith in a safe and friendly environment. Alpha is a great place to ask questions about faith and the difference faith can make.

Way back in 1999 I attended an Alpha course in a church in Yorkshire. I was a  student at the time and had arrived at university with a whole bunch of questions about the meaning of life, I wanted to know more about what the point of all “this” was, why do we exist? How should I live my life? Is there a God?

Alpha was a safe place to explore those questions and more. Alpha      provided an  opportunity to speak to others who had similar questions and who were on similar journeys. Ultimately Alpha helped me to articulate some of those things I was  struggling to say. The whole thing was      profoundly moving and ultimately life-changing.

If you’ve got questions that need answering, if you feel like there is  something missing, if you want to know if there is more to life than “this”, I encourage you to sign up, and together we can explore some of those difficult questions.

Rev Tim.

TRY ALPHA

WHO: All Saints’ Madeley and St. Margaret’s Betley will be running Alpha Online via Zoom

WHAT: Alpha Online is a great opportunity to gather with others online to explore the Christian faith. Each session will include a talk and discussion

WHEN: Starting on Tuesday 13th April and running through until 6th July. We’ll meet online from 7:30-8:45pm (Bring your own refreshments!) There will be a special online “away day” on Saturday 5th June

HOW: Contact Rev Tim Watson / revtimwatson@hotmail.com  / 01782 750205 to register your interest and in due course you will be emailed a Zoom link

WHY: Exploring faith is always a good thing to do, but the last year might have prompted you to ask yourself some big questions – why not take the time to explore them?

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Stop the Stink

Here in Madeley we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by fields and countryside, so it’s reasonable to get the odd countryside smell now and again, but recently many people in Madeley Heath and throughout Madeley have been noticing a new unpleasant smell, which is coming from the landfill at Walley’s quarry in Silverdale.

This is becoming noticeable from miles away from the site in each direction, depending on the wind, with those in Silverdale, Knutton and Newcastle being subjected to intolerable levels of stench. Staff at the hospital at the other side of Newcastle have been complaining.

In order that this is properly reported and the magnitude of the problem is conveyed to the authorities, if you smell a pong (usually characterised as a rotten-eggs kind of smell) please report it to the Environment Agency, and Newcastle council, using the links here: https://stopthestink.uk/

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Vicar’s Letter March 2021

As March 2021 begins we are in the midst of the season of Lent. It’s the season when the church prepares to celebrate Easter. It represents something of a pilgrimage that leads through the days and weeks towards Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

Traditionally many Christians have abstained from something over Lent as a way to focus on the season itself – perhaps by giving up chocolate or alcohol throughout Lent, perhaps by choosing one day a week to fast. 

In recent years many Christians (and indeed many others) have taken on something extra, challenging themselves to undertake an act of kindness each day as part of the 40 Acts of Kindness initiative. For a number of years I have run an initiative called #40thoughts that tries to encourage people to reflect on different themes throughout lent. 

As we approach Lent in 2021 I wonder how you feel about the idea of laying something down or taking something extra on? Given we are in the midst of a pandemic and lockdown haven’t we all given enough up? No longer able to visit family, no longer able to go to the thrash metal concert you’ve been waiting for, no longer able to meet a group of friends for a drink… 

And haven’t we all had to take on so many other things? Becoming literate at the use of new technologies, getting used to face masks and restrictions, home-schooling…. 

How about this Lent we take the opportunity to be attentive?  Attentive to the beauty of the world around us.  Attentive to friends and neighbours in distress. 

Perhaps the very act of being attentive is all the preparation we need as we journey towards Good Friday and beyond. 

Blessings,

Tim Watson

Films and Theology

Back in February a group of us met on a Saturday night via Zoom to discuss the Matrix film from 1999. It had been mentioned in a sermon a few weeks before and there was clearly an interest in having a discussion. With a new chapter of the Matrix due in 2021 the time was right to dig in! 

And so a group of people gathered online to talk about the film, to explore any cultural, philosophical ideas as well as to reflect on any theological themes and connections. 

I always find these kind of conversations fascinating and enriching. I love movies, visual art, poetry, music and I especially love the way the different mediums help us to engage with some of the bigger, more existential themes. Whether we like opera, jazz, renaissance paintings, silent movies from the early 20th century, beat poetry or K-Pop, the arts can speak to us in very powerful ways. 

I wonder what do you love to do? Get stuck into an epic novel? Play piano? Binge-watch Netflix boxsets? Pogo around the kitchen to punk while you wash up? 

What place does art and all that creative content play in your life? 

If you’re not sure, why not take time to experience something you wouldn’t normally:- listen to some free jazz when you’d rather be watching Corrie. Watch Corrie when you’d rather be listening to free jazz? Why not take the lockdown opportunity to engage with the stuff you wouldn’t normally engage with? Maybe by doing so you might encounter something that moves you and helps you to get through these strange and difficult days. 

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Madeley Manor Development

There are proposals to develop the old Madeley Manor into a number of 3+4 storey apartment blocks, to provide 52 apartments.

While development of the existing buildings which used to be a care home is reasonable, there are a range of reasons why this development as it is proposed may be a problem.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council have an objection page for you to note down your comments.

Some objections and details have been provided in a document you can download and print here (ideal if you need to share with someone without internet access.)

Continue reading
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Vicar’s Letter February 2021

And we’re off!

It feels like 2021 has only just begun and yet we have already gone through so much! After the positive and exciting news about Covid-19 vaccines at the end of 2020, January 2021 has seen us step back into lockdown as cases of Covid-19 spiral out of control. We’ve got a more contagious variant that emerged in the south of the country, and then we have news of a new variant emerging in South America. It seems like some of the joy of news about the vaccines has lost some of its sparkle. There is good news, there are things to be hopeful about and yet…

We know people who’ve had to go back into isolation. We know people who have been infected with this new strain. We know children who had gone back to school who are now back taking lessons online.

Every week seems to bring a new news conference, new statistics, new hopes, new worries, threats, hope, fear, hope, worry, fear, hope, worry, fear, hope and on and on and on in a seemingly never-ending cycle. These changeable times can feel unnerving, the sands shift continually beneath our feet. For some in our communities where folk once felt secure they may now feel a lack of security. For some in our communities where folk once felt insecure, they may now feel positively at risk of falling.

Our natural instinct may be to stand together with our neighbours and form stronger bonds of support and encouragement, and yet here is where the Covid pandemic has cut very deeply. In this crisis we may well be feeling disempowered from being able to be there with and for our neighbours. Covid has torn at the hearts of community and those threads of connection feel stretched and tattered.

As we journey on through this phase of the pandemic we need to keep thinking of safe ways that we can support and care for our neighbours and community. But more than just this, as the pandemic continues we need to guard our hearts against a general denigration of our care and support for our neighbours and community once this pandemic is over. While we may have had to withdraw somewhat at this time we must endeavour to keep our hearts open in love and care for our neighbours and community for such a time when we can more easily walk with one another and share life together again.

In the meantime, stay safe!

Blessings,

Rev Tim Watson

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