A Time Of Sadness And Change

What a week it’s been. On Tuesday a new Prime Minister was appointed, and then on Thursday we found out that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, had died. It’s a time of huge change for our nation.

The Queen was 96 years old so we can’t perhaps claim that we’re shocked or surprised by her death, but after a reign of 70 years I know many of us feel a deep sense of loss. For our country an era has ended; the second Elizabethan era. She’s the only monarch most of us have ever known. The nation is in mourning. Many tears have been shed. To quote the Queen herself when she spoke to the nation about the events of 9/11, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

The Queen visiting during her visit to HMS Ocean in Devonport at a ceremony to rededicate the ship in 2015
Original: Joel Rouse/ Ministry of DefenceDerivative: nagualdesignOGL 3, via Wikimedia Commons

One of my earliest life memories is of celebrating the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. I was 5 years old. We had a street party with a kids fancy dress competition and I went dressed up as Noddy. I didn’t win, but I did win the three legged race later on, which was some compensation. The celebrations that day were obviously very significant to me because I don’t really remember anything much else from being 5, but those memories are very clear. This season will also be significant to people and will remain in memories for years to come.

A committed Christian and a faithful servant

It’s been a real privilege to have lived my whole life so far in a country where our Queen was a committed Christian. Her faith inspired her to devoted service to her country too. Her Christmas messages regularly gave a clear declaration of her faith and of the gospel. There are many examples of this, but here are just two:

To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example” (2000)

“God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” (2011)

Queen Elizabeth II will be missed and we should thank God for her example of Christian faith and service.

Changing Our Plans

In light of this sad news we’ve adjusted our plans for Welcome Church this weekend. A moment like this requires us to change our plans out of respect for her contribution to our nation and to pause and say thank you to God. So we will still be meeting at 9am and 11am as usual, with kids work and youth work, but the adult meeting and message will be a little different as we reflect on the moment we are in.

Let’s gather to worship and also to give thanks to God for the blessings we’ve had. Everyone is welcome to join us as we mark this occasion. Why not invite a friend to come along with you?

Our Discovering Baptism meeting is planned for 5pm on Sunday, and that will go ahead as planned – please do join us if you want to find out about more about being baptised.

Then at 7pm we had planned to hold our next Encounter worship evening. We are making a change to this and instead of Encounter we will hold a prayer meeting, from 7pm to 8pm, to pray for our nation and to pray for our new King and our new Prime Minister. Please do join us.

And finally, in advance of next weekend, the Welcome Church Fun Day on Saturday 17th September will go ahead as planned. Let’s all be on the front foot to invite guests for this excellent event.

New Year, New Challenges

It was great to start our New Year as a church yesterday by gathering together for worship. The sermon was about “Being a worshipper when times are tough and life is not what you expected” (which may be a key message for us all this year as we face so many unknowns.) The sermon itself was a last minute message pulled together because the scheduled preacher had a positive PCR test for Covid on New Year’s Day; let’s hope it’s the only time this happens.

One thing I’ve found challenging during the pandemic is that so much rapid change and uncertainty makes it hard to plan ahead and cast vision for where we’re going as a church. For example, as we approached the Carol Services this year the biggest question in my head was not ‘Will they go well?’ but ‘Will they be allowed to go ahead?’ Instead of hoping people from the church would bring guests, I was just hoping people from the church would turn up themselves. Some did 🙂.

It’s hard to plan with so much uncertainty, and with that in mind the “Vision Evening” planned for Sunday 9th Jan will now be delayed until we know that our plans will actually be allowed to be delivered. This week we’ll be away for a few days as an eldership team (minus one due to Covid!) specifically to pray for our church and hear from God for the year ahead; please keep us in your prayers.

A challenge for 2022

As 2022 begins it’s not too late to take on the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year. It will do your faith so much good! It’s not something I do every single year, but this year I’ll be going for it again. You may have done this before. You may have tried it and failed. It may be a completely new idea to you. How about giving it a go in 2022?

“But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalm 1v2-3 (from the NLT, which is a really readable translation)

If you fancy taking on this challenge here’s a link to a pdf of a great reading plan. It covers the whole Bible over 52 weeks. You can bookmark it, download it or print it from this link. This is the plan I’ll be using in 2022.

I like this plan because it has readings for five days each week, rather than seven, something that works better for me. You could even read all five days in a single session on one day each week if that works best for you. Or you could tackle the Old Testament readings on one day, Psalms/Chronicles on another day and the New Testament readings on a third.

Bottom line: I love the lay out of this plan and, although it’s already Jan 3rd, you’re absolutely not too late to start (though of course you could start at any point during the year!) If you do go for it, let me know how you get on. It really will do you good.

The Winter Warmer: another challenge

One last thing to mention in case you missed it is that our Winter Warmer, scheduled for Friday 7th Jan, has been postponed to Friday 1st April. This event will involve dancing and sharing food and we felt it could be unhelpful right now with Covid levels as high as they are.

Here’s the challenge: we’re going to need a new name for the event.

Suggestions so far include ‘The Easter Extravaganza’ and ‘The Spring Spring’. Can you do better than that? All suggestions welcome. Winning suggestion wins a free ticket. Seriously 😃.