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Minister’s Letter – Jan 2018

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus
(1
st Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIVUK)

Change is an inevitable part of life, and in recent decades, we have seen the speed of change increase dramatically.

Even I, as a 27-year-old, have been surprised how quickly our world has changed. I remember my first games console, my first mobile phone, the early days of dial-up internet. These things, which were the pinnacle of technology just 15 years ago, are now dated and obsolete. I can, therefore, only imagine how challenging the pace of change is for some who are much older than I, especially when these things feel beyond our control.

How we respond to change is something about which we need to be incredibly careful in the church. On the one hand, it can be very easy for us to resist any kind of change: Church is familiar, something over which we can exercise control. We can, therefore, ensure that Church is kept constant, “the way we remember it”, while everything else changes.

On the other hand, the Church can fall into the trap of “change for changes sake”: in other words, thinking that the only way to share our Christian faith is to ensure we are changing as quickly as the world.

Throughout 2017, our theme of the year was asking “what kind of Church does God need us to be in this parish?” I think the answer we’ve arrived at is that God is calling us to be a Church which:

  1. Serves Him;
  2. Serves our community/parish;
  3. Is healthy and growing.

Achieving these things means we will need to face change. Doing things the way they are always done won’t work; but neither will change for the sake of it. Anything we do needs to be considered carefully, and in 2 ways: is it what God wants, and is it something which will help achieve one of the above?

For this reason, our theme/verse for 2018 is simple: “pray continually”. If we want to get these three things right, we need to be praying. Prayer is our way to talk to God, and His way of responding. By ensuring we have a solid foundation in prayer, we have a much higher chance of ensuring are doing things His way: i.e. the right way!

All of God’s people are called to pray. So, may I humbly ask that, as part of your prayers in 2018, you would pray for His Church? God bless you

Stuart

Christmas Eve Family Service – 6.30pm

Join the angels on Christmas Eve as they learn of God’s plan for the very first Christmas – you won’t be expecting this! Come along for our family candlelight service at 6.30pm on Sunday 24th Dec (Christmas Eve) – all ages welcome.

Lessons & Carols-11am Christmas Eve

We have three events on Christmas Eve … the first of these is our ‘Lessons and Carols’ service at 11am when we will be singing new and traditional Christmas Carols; and hearing readings telling of the birth of Jesus.

Sunday 17th December

A busy day is a head for us ….

11am  Morning Worship – we consider the arrival of the Magi (the Wise Men) to visit Jesus.

3pm Remembering Service – We invite you along to a ‘Remembering Service’  This is a time to remember loved ones whom we have lost and a special invitation is extended to those who have lost loved ones during the year.

7pm Christmas Praise

All will be given a warm welcome at these events.

Minister’s Letter – Dec 2017

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!       (Philippians 2:5b-8 NIVUK)

As we enter the season of Advent, I’ve been reflecting on the cost of Christmas.

I don’t just mean the cost of Christmas in commercial terms: although, it has to be said that an obscene amount of money is spent on Christmas celebrations each year. For example, in 2016, UK Christmas spending reached £77.56 billion. To put this in perspective, the estimated cost to ensuring everyone on earth has access to clean drinking water is somewhere between £7.45 – £11.31 billion.

The cost I have in mind is the cost on people. I fear that we buy into a rather sanitised image of Christmas: it is a wonderful time of good cheer, a time for catching up with friends and meeting with family, for smiling and laughing and being merry. And for some, this is Christmas.

But for others, Christmas is an intensely lonely and difficult time: it acts as a reminder of friends and family who, for whatever reason, are not present; of distant relations; of loss. While we may be inclined to celebrate, we should not forget those for whom Christmas is a very costly time.

Yet, for one, Christmas was more costly than we will ever know. Paul alludes to it in the verses above, and the same sentiments are captured in the lyrics from the song, “How Many Kings” by Downhere:

How many Kings stepped down from their thrones?
How many Lords have abandoned their homes?
How many Greats have become the least for me?
And how many Gods have poured out their hearts,
To romance a world that is torn all apart?
How many Fathers gave up their Sons for me?
Only One did that for me.

At Christmas, we remember that God the Son left His rightful place in Heaven, and entered our world: not in power and authority, but as a vulnerable baby. The God of Creation stepped into our world, and took upon Himself the form of a human being: He became one of us.

The cost of giving up His Heavenly glory to become one of us, we will never truly understand. How much more did it cost Him to take our death upon Himself: even death on a cross? It’s a cliched, I know, but Jesus truly is “the reason for the season”.

May God bless you this Christmas,

Stuart

 

Advent Bible Readings

We invite you along to a special advent bible reading evening this Sunday 10th December at 7pm. We will be reading about how the coming messiah was foretold in the Old Testament, and the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospels. Come and hear the real good news story of Christmas.

Minister’s Letter – Nov 2017

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2nd Corinthians 5: 16-19 NIVUK)

I have recently been reflecting on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

It was on 31st October 1517 that Martin Luther is alleged to have nailed his 95 theses to the doors of Wittenberg Cathedral: this moment is considered the starting point in the Reformation. I say “alleged” because it is some doubt as to the truth of this story; some consider it is a myth which was told many years after the fact.

Whether Martin Luther nailed anything to anything else is, however, irrelevant: what is relevant is that we live with the consequences of the Reformation today. Even our denomination owes its existence to the Reformation! One major theme of the Reformation was a desire for the Church to return to doing things God’s way. Over many centuries, the institution of the church had become corrupt: The Reformers reacted against this corruption, and desired to return to a more biblical expression of Church.

In a way, this mirrors our experience of faith in Christ, as Paul explain above: our old self (corrupt and sinful) is removed, and replaced by a new creation: one which free of sin, and therefore is considered right before God. We do not view this self from an earthly perspective because, while we live in this world, we will continue to live sinfully, no matter how hard we try. Instead, we view this from a heavenly perspective: while we are waiting for God to fully put our world right, we are confident that because of Jesus, He already sees us as sin-free, holy and blameless in His sight.

Where does this leave us in the Church today?

I think it gives us this challenge: do we actively share this message with our community, parish and world? Through our words and deeds, do the people around us know that we are already a new creation in Christ, and that they can be too if they believe in Him?

I hope and pray that, as we move forward together, into my second year as minister of Clincarthill Church, that we will all ensure that we live and share this message with our world; that through Christ, we are a new creation. The old is gone, the new is here!

May God bless you,

Stuart