Monday, May 21, 2018

Messy Church this Sunday

Looking forward to our next Messy Church, on a theme of prayer. If you're thinking that will be all "hands together, eyes closed", think again! There will be messy, glittery, playdoughy prayer, and even some prayer missiles to fire off (safely...) Next Sunday afternoon (May 27) 3-4.30pm in the church hall. All are welcome - this is for all ages!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 11: Self-control


Self-control

The final fruit of the spirit in Paul’s list sounds like a distinct anti-climax. What could be duller than self-control? It reminds us of the grim struggle not to eat that second chocolate biscuit (or even the first), not to get enraged at the irritating uncle who always ruins the family gathering. It sounds negative, life- and pleasure-denying. And yet, in many ways, it is fundamental to all those fruits which have gone before it. If we can’t control ourselves, we will have no power to do anything other than to go with the flow of every emotion and impulse that hits us. How can we be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful or gentle if we can’t stop ourselves doing the things which destroy them? Self-control gives us choice. It is the key to freedom.

Self-control doesn’t mean we never show emotion, or that we never struggle, though. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was wracked with fear and sorrow at the thought of his coming crucifixion, but he didn’t run away. (Luke 22.39-46) He chose to go through with the mission to which he had been called to its end. His courageous self-control enabled him to choose to show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness even as he was being mocked and killed.

·         Do you think of yourself as self-controlled? If not, what gets in the way? Why is it difficult for you to resist the temptation to do something you know to be wrong?
·         When did you last lose your self-control and why? What were the consequences?
·         Pray: that God would give you confidence in his love so that you can find the courage to make tough choices when you need to. 



Afterword

Fruit doesn’t grow overnight, unless it is a magic beanstalk, and fruit trees often need regular care and attention if they are to produce anything worth eating. I love gardening, and helping people to cultivate what God is growing in their lives is the best sort of gardening there can be.

If this set of reflections has made you think about the fruitfulness of your life, or has stirred up questions or feelings, please feel free to get in touch.



Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 10: Gentleness



Gentleness

Looking around the world, gentleness can often seem in very short supply. It is often seen as a soft word, a sign of weakness. You would be unlikely to find it on the lips of an aspiring world leader or a military general. Yet this is a word which Jesus uses to describe himself “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11.29) It is the same word he uses in the Beatitudes, translated there as “meek” – “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”. In God’s economy, meekness, smallness and gentleness are not the opposite of power but the gateway to it.

Although Jesus could be angry when he needed to confront abusive systems and people (Matt 21.12) he is consistently gentle with those who are poor, sick or vulnerable, treating them with a courtesy that many of them were probably unused to. Gentleness gives other people space to be themselves and to move at their own pace. Gentle people don’t feel the need to impose their own agenda or meet their own needs; they don’t need to make others feel small so that they can feel big. Their words are carefully chosen to build people up rather than pull them down. As Proverbs 15.4 puts it, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life”.

·         Can you find any examples of gentleness – or its absence - in the news today?
·         Gentle people often go unnoticed. Try to notice and affirm gentleness around you today.
·         Pray: that God would show you where or to whom you need to be gentle (including yourself!)

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 9: Faithfulness


Faithfulness

The word translated here as “faithfulness”, pistis, is the same word translated in many other places as “faith”. We often think of faith as purely about religious belief. We have faith in Jesus, we say, meaning that we identify as Christians. For Jesus’ first followers, though, faith wasn’t simply something that you thought in your head or felt in your heart. It was active – the act of being faithful, doing those things they said they would do. Faithfulness involves trust – or the willingness to take a risk - putting yourself, your life, your future into the hands of the person you are faithful to. Spouses promise to be faithful to each other when they marry, “forsaking all other”. Being true to this promise allows them to be themselves, knowing they can rely on their partner. Our faithfulness to others may be costly, though. Jesus’ disciples promised to be faithful to him on the night before he died, but when the moment came, it felt too hard and they all ran away. (Luke 22.31-34)

Faithfulness is one of the core attributes of God. In the Bible he is described as faithful many times, for example in Psalm 57.10: For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens your faithfulness extends to the clouds. We can utterly rely on God to be there for us. He will not let us down. Even when we do wrong, his faithfulness to us means he will forgive us when we turn back to him. (1 John 1.9)

·         What experiences have you had in your life of faithfulness and unfaithfulness?
·         How much do you trust in the faithfulness of God, or are you frightened that he might reject or abandon you?
·         Pray: that you will be faithful in the small things as well as the big things today (Luke 16.10)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 8: Goodness


Goodness

“Good” is a word which can have a very wide range of meanings. Food is sometimes described by advertisers as full of goodness - “good for us”. We can be “good at” something – a good musician or athlete or cook. We may have innate abilities in these fields, but we probably also have had to practice, so that the skills required become second nature. When God calls his creation “good” in Genesis chapter 1, he is pointing to something essential about them. They are just as they should be. The sun is exactly as “sunny” as he wanted it to be. The trees have their “treeness” just right, and the people are exactly as they are meant to be too.

The goodness which Paul says the Spirit grows in us should also be something which runs right through us, the product of long-term “holy habits”. We aren’t just called to do good things, but to let God’s life reshape us so that the original goodness God created us to enjoy becomes natural again.

·         Can you think of someone you know who seems genuinely good to you? What does their goodness look like?
·         Goodness often seems to be portrayed as something boring and unattractive – no one wants to be called a “goody-two-shoes” and “do-gooder” is often a term of contempt. Why do you think this is? Is goodness attractive to you? If not, why not?
·         Pray:  for a glimpse of the goodness that God has put at the heart of your nature.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 7: Kindness


Kindness

The words Paul uses here “chrestotes”, like several of the words in his list, could be translated in a number of ways. At its root, it is about giving people what they need, and that’s not a bad way of thinking about kindness. We need to be observant to be truly kind, to notice people and treat them as equal to ourselves, deserving of our respect and generosity. Otherwise the “kindness” we think we are showing may be simply patronising, assuming we know what they need more than they do.
In the Bible, kindness is an important attribute of God, though often this word, and its Hebrew equivalents are translated as “good” or “generous”, so we may miss this. “Taste and see that the Lord is kind” says Psalm 34.8 (more often translated “good”), “happy are those who take refuge in him.” Why? Because “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” He gives us what we need.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells of a vineyard owner who pays all his workers the same wage, a denarius, no matter how long or short a time they worked for him. Those who had worked longer were angry, but the denarius was the usual daily wage, enough to support someone and their family for a day. It matters more to the owner that everyone has enough to eat at the end of the day than what his workers think of him. It is more important to him to be kind than it is to be popular. (Matthew 20.1-16)

·         When can you remember someone being kind to you?
·         What does it feel like when someone is unexpectedly kind?
·         Pray: that God will show you where you could do a kindness today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 6: Patience


Patience

The Greek word Paul uses, makrothumia, literally means “large-hearted” or “large-souled”, but perhaps we can more helpfully think of it as “long-tempered”, the opposite of “short-tempered”. In the Old Testament God is described as “slow to anger” (Psalm 103.8), and though people often think of the God of the Old Testament as being fierce, in fact when we read its story as a whole, we see a God who rescues his people time and time again, who is tempted to give up on them, but doesn’t. He is a God of supreme patience. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?” he cries, (Hosea 11.8) despite the fact that they have turned away from him and lived without justice or mercy towards those who are vulnerable.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells of a patient God, who is like a father waiting for his prodigal son to return so that he can forgive him and welcome him, (Luke 15) and who urges people not to rush to judgement in the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13). In that story, the anxiety of the slaves who see weeds growing in the field of wheat they have sown for their master. They are so afraid that they will be blamed, that they are prepared to rip up the good plants along with the weeds. Patience requires us to trust that we, and those around us, are in God’s hands, and that he knows what we need, and when we need it.

·         What makes you lose your patience?
·         What is going on inside us when we become impatient? What are we afraid might happen if we don’t get what we think we need right now?
·         Pray: Give thanks for God’s patience with you.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Is anyone up for a regular Sunday "Quiet Afternoon" at Seal?

We had a great Prayer Workshop yesterday, trying out Benedictine "Lectio Divina", Ignatian imaginative prayer, praying with pictures, and praying as we played with the various art materials I had put out. People shared all sorts of insights as we went along, and it was clear that people were doing some of the work with God that they needed to. It was good to watch people gradually unfold and relax as they prayed, and we had such a good time that there was an appetite for more of the same. I'm thinking of making a similar "Quiet afternoon" a regular event in church. Anyone else interested? 

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 5: Peace


Peace

Peace, in the Bible, isn’t simply the absence of war. It is the state of being in which everything is whole and as it should be – “shalom” in Hebrew. True peace removes the urge to be at war.  Because of this, there can be no shortcut to peace. We can’t find it by ignoring the issues we need to confront. The prophet Jeremiah rails against false prophets who cry “ ‘Peace! Peace!’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8.11) Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, so often a battleground through the centuries, because it had not known “the things that make for peace” (Luke 19.42).

Peace is not just an outward or political state in the Bible. It is something that emerges from within. If our hearts are not at peace, our world can’t be at peace either. But Jesus came to proclaim “peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;” Throughout his life, death and resurrection, he made peace where there had been chaos and discord, peace that calmed both inner and outer storms of enmity and distress.  In Mark’s Gospel, the story of the calming of the storm when Jesus tells the wind and waves “peace, be still!” (Mark 4.39), is followed immediately by the healing of a man whose inner peace has been taken from him by demons, who today we would say that was mentally ill. (Mark 5)

·         What does peace mean to you? When did you last have to “make peace” with someone or something?
·         Where are you aware of needing to find peace in your own life? What needs to change in you in order to find it?
·         Pray: for those you become aware of today who need peace.


Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 4: Joy



Joy

Rejoicing is a common theme in the Bible. Joy is in God’s nature. He delights in the world he has made (Genesis 1, Proverbs 8.31). In the Psalms often the natural world itself rejoices. People too are often pictured rejoicing, usually for obvious reasons. They have been rescued from danger (Exodus 15.20) or restored to their own land (Isaiah 65.18). But we also find people rejoicing when, objectively, there seems to be nothing to rejoice about. Mary “rejoices in God” (Luke 1.46) when she hears she is to bear the Messiah, despite the fact that, as an unmarried woman, she faces social disapproval and rejection because of it, and knows that her son’s life will never be plain sailing.  Paul and Silas sing hymns of praise in chains in a Roman prison (Acts 16.25) “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he later writes, again from prison (Philippians 4.4) on another occasion.

There is, or should be, nothing dour or cheerless about our faith, even when things are not going smoothly. That doesn’t mean that we have to go around with a grin plastered on our faces when we don’t feel like it. The joy that God gives isn’t superficial happiness, which is dependent on things going well, but a deep knowledge that we are held securely in his hands whatever happens to us.

·         When did you last feel real joy, and why?
·         When did you last feel joyless, and why?
·         “Cheer up, it may never happen?” How does it feel when people try to cheer you up like this? Why is it such an irritating and unhelpful thing to hear?
·         Pray: for God to reveal his joy to you today, and enable you to bring genuine joy to someone else.



Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 3: Love


Love

Paul’s list of “fruits” starts with love. There could never be any doubt that this was where he would start. His life had been transformed by discovering the love of God and of the Christian community, who had welcomed him even though he had been one of their chief persecutors (Acts 9.1-39). He writes many times about love in his letters, including the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13, in which he describes love as the only thing which can really transform us. (“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but have not love, I am nothing...”)
Love is fundamental to our survival from our earliest days.  Babies can only survive if someone loves them enough to feed and protect them. It is the thing which binds us to each other through life, drawing us into communities where we can support each other. It comes in many forms and is expressed in many ways. It is hard to define or explain, but unmistakeable when we encounter it. The Bible is clear that our capacity to love is linked to how secure we are in God’s love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4.19). it reminds us, again and again that God’s love is indestructible. God seeks out the lost sheep, and looks out longingly for the lost son (Luke 15) until they are found. 

·         Who loves you, or has loved you, in your life? What impact did their love have on you? Did their love help you to love others?
·         Do you feel that God loves you? Have you always felt that?
·         Pray: that you would feel secure in God’s love so that you can love others with the same generosity he shows to you.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 2: ...of the Spirit...




…of the Spirit is…

“Virtue lists” were a common feature of the classical world, defining what a good person should be like. St Paul’s list, which we will look at over the coming days, is not unusual in this. The thing that may have been different about this list, however, was the source of the virtues in it. He doesn’t say “the fruit of your labours should be love, joy, peace etc.” He says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” His words aren’t meant simply to make us try harder to be all the things on the list, a task that is often disappointing and discouraging. Instead they point us to God, and remind us that it is his work in us which produces these fruits. We can’t show love, joy and peace, unless we have first experienced God’s love, joy and peace, but once we have, there is nothing that can stop the fruit appearing.   Grapes grow on a grape vine because it is a grape vine not because it is exerting its will to make them appear.  All we are called to do is to stay rooted in him, grafted to the vine (John 15. 4) The rest is up to him.

·         Make a list of what you see as your strengths and your weaknesses. How do you feel about them? Where do you think your strengths and weaknesses come from?
·         Do you tend to be dissatisfied with yourself, over-critical and driven, or do you tend to be complacent, avoiding challenge and change in your life?
·         Where have you seen God at work in your life over the years, changing you for the better?
·         Pray: give thanks for the gifts of character God has given you, for the growth you have seen in yourself over the years, and ask for a clear vision of what he is working on now!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Day 1: Fruit


Day 1  Ascension Day



The Fruit

Fruit was associated with the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover Feast, because it was a the first day of the feast of the first fruits, “Shavuot” or “Weeks” and was celebrated by bringing the first of the crops that were ripe at this time of year. (Deuteronomy 26.1-11 and 8.8) So perhaps it is no surprise that the early Christians associated the Holy Spirit, which had first been felt in power on the Day of Pentecost, (Acts 2).

Fruitfulness was seen as a sign of God’s blessing in the Bible. Adam and Eve had been told to “be fruitful” and placed in a garden full of fruiting trees. The tragedy of the story is that they lusted after the one fruit they have been forbidden, and were exiled from the garden as a result. Maybe we can take this as a picture of ourselves, failing to see the richness we have in our pursuit of the things we don’t have. The message of the Bible is that God is a God of fruitfulness, though, who wants our lives to produce good fruit, whatever form that takes.

·         Look at your life. What fruits have you produced – things that have delighted and nourished you or those around you?
·        Are there areas of your life which feel unfruitful, where you feel you haven’t achieved much? Why is this and how do you feel about it?
·        Pray: Ask God to show you the fruits of your life, and give thanks for all he has grown in you already. 

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Fruit of the Spirit: Daily reflections from Ascension to Pentecost


In the ten days between Jesus’ Ascension and the Day of Pentecost, his disciples were told to wait “to be clothed with power from on high”. (Luke 24.49.)

Through the daily reflections we will share between Ascension Day (May 10) and Pentecost (May 20)  I hope that we will be helped to wait expectantly, trusting that God is at work in us. His presence is certain. “Lo, I am with you to the end of the age” said Jesus to his disciples before he left them (Matthew 28.20)  But like the seeds that we sow in the ground at this time of year, often the life of God that is growing in us is unseen, underground. We need to wait and to watch for its appearing.

St Paul said: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Galatians 5.22-23 (Different translations of the Bible often choose slightly different English words for the Greek originals, so the list in your Bible may not be quite the same!) We will use his words as a starting point for our reflections. This is part of Seal's participation in "Thy Kingdom Come"

A prayer to use in Ascensiontide:

Gracious God, open our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you, and our hearts to love you.
May your Spirit take root in our lives so that your good fruit may grow abundantly in us to nourish and delight us and those to whom you call us. Amen


Using these reflections with children

There will be nothing in these reflections which is not suitable for children to read or think about, so if you have children you might like to talk about them together, though you may need to unpack them a bit.

What do these words mean to them?
  • Can they think of any time when they showed these fruits in their lives?
  • Can they think of anyone who they know who is like this?

 You could also do some “fruity” crafts or make fruit salad or fruit kebabs as you talk!

Friday, April 06, 2018

April News from Rochester Diocese


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Thursday 5 April, 2018

Happy Easter and welcome to the April edition of Rochester Diocese's monthly e-newsletter. 


New Bishop of Tonbridge Announced


Simon Burton-Jones speaks of his hopes for his new role and the Diocese. (This film can be downloaded from https://vimeo.com/261800264 and used locally)

The Venerable Simon Burton-Jones is to be the next Suffragan Bishop of Tonbridge. He currently serves as Archdeacon of Rochester and Canon Residentiary at Rochester Cathedral.
As Bishop of Tonbridge, Simon will focus on evangelism and growth. This aspiration and intention to grow is rooted in “Called Together”, the Diocese of Rochester’s vision. He will also have oversight and leadership of the educationyouth and children, and community engagement work of churches across the Diocese of Rochester. In relation to education, he will chair the Diocesan Board of Education, supporting the work of the 89 Church of England schools within the Diocese.
Read More 


News in brief
Stories from around the parishes

Tribal Chief visits Gravesend
St George’s, Gravesend welcome USA visitors to mark the anniversary of Princess Pocahontas who died in the town. Read more

Royal Maundy Money for 'honoured' four
An 'honour and privilege' as four members from across the Diocesan family receive Maundy Money from The Queen Read more
Communities meet Bishop 'to be'
WATCH: The Bishop of Tonbridge-designate met communities on a whistle-stop tour on news of his appointment.

Got a story or event? Let us know!
We would love to share your news and stories. Let us know what is happening in your parish. Email: communications@rochester.anglican.org 
Diocesan Update
All you need to know this month from the Diocese and National Church

Have your say - new publication for the Diocese?
After a number of years and numerous editions, this May will mark the final edition of the Rochester Link newspaper. An online survey has been created to give you the opportunity to share your views on what might replace it. If you know someone who would prefer to contribute their thoughts by post, please see a cut-out survey on page 11 of the April edition of Link. Read more here.


Bishop signs Modern Slavery letter 
Bishop James was one of 15 Church of England bishops who issued a call to the public to “open their eyes” to slavery in their midst in a letter to the Times over the Easter weekend.  It comes ahead of a Modern Slavery Conference the Diocese is holding on 16 June to equip parishes to know the signs of this modern social issue. Read more


Called Together Event - New date
The Bromley & Bexley Archdeaconry Called Together event will take place on Saturday 14 July. Join us to hear what different parishes and people are already doing to respond to the challenge to Grow Disciples, Enrich our Communities, and Resource our Mission and Ministry. There will also be an exhibition of useful and interesting organisations. (This is a rescheduled date from the event planned in March). Click here to book.


Card readers for churches now available
With many people no longer carrying cash, allowing them to make payments in the way they choose is becoming increasingly important. One solution is a card reader. Following a national trial, of which a couple of parishes within the Diocese were involved, the Parish Buying service now has contracts with two companies to allow parishes to buy card readers at a discounted rate. Read more:  

  • Synod 'an eyeopener' Read Diocesan Youth Council member Olivia Best's account of visiting General Synod when it met in London last month. Read more  


Like what you're reading? Why not share with a friend?



Resources
Top resources to support you in your work, life and faith - or just to share with others.

Thy Kingdom Come - family resources
Thy Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury's global movement of prayer, is now only 5 weeks away. There are lots of free resources available, including those aimed at families.  Why not try a downloadable Family Prayer Journal, to help you and your loved ones pray together from Pentecost to Ascension? Find more ideas here.

The Great Vocations Conversation
Vocations Sunday is just around the corner (22 April). God's calling might be to anything from lay readership, to becoming a church warden, to bringing the gift of hospitality by joining the tea and coffee rota. There are a whole heap of resources from the Church Support Hub to support exploration of vocations and there's the Diocese's own 'It's Your Calling' leaftlet too.  Details of the next It's Your Calling  exploration day can also be found in the Events section below.

Podcast - Minority ethnic clergy in the Church
In this Renewal and Reform podcast from the National Church team, they speak to those responsible for supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people as they follow their calling to ordained ministry. Listen here.

Forthcoming Events and Training


A range of courses can be found in the Diocesan Online Course Directory here

  • It's Your Calling -  Saturday 12 May 2018 (9.15am to 3.45pm) – Christ Church Orpington. A chance to explore where God may be calling you. Not just ordained ministry, but the considering the gifts that God has given us.  Meet others on a similar quest  Book here 

  • Dying Matters - Meeting Myths, Discovering Facts and Exploring Implications, Friday 18 May 2018, 9.30am – 2.30pm, University Hospital Lewisham. A friendly and relaxed morning of presentations and discussion about end of life, palliative care, organ donation and medical ethics. Open to faith, belief and community leaders across the Diocese. Details & booking here.

  • Raising Awareness of Domestic Abuse – 26 May, 10.30am to 4pm. Causes, Impacts and The Future, with Peter Williams from Kent Community Domestic Abuse Programme. Details and booking here  #Hope2018

  • Leap of Faith 2018 Women’s Retreat Weekend - Friday 15 June to Sunday 17 June (Please register by 9 April) An invitation to all women over the age of 18 who want a weekend away to take time out and come closer to God whilst having a bit of fun in the process. Details and booking here

Vision and Aims

CHAPLAINCY: Part of the Enriching Communities strand of Called Together, this priority is all about encouraging more people to consider chaplaincy and seek to create collaboratively energised ministries
  • Visit our Chaplaincy pages to discover how we are beginning to take this work forward and ways to explore chaplaincy.
  • WATCH Bishop James has spoken about the importance of chaplaincy - the often 'hidden' part of the church's mission.
  • Please pray for chaplains. Download a prayer here

Vacancies and appointments

Positions vacant in each archdeaconry
Lay and Volunteer posts.

Welcome to....
  • Ian Smith Vicar at Blendon from 03.03.2018
  • Jessie Daniels White Vicar at Cray Valley from 21.03.18
  • Stephen Niechcial Vicar at Petts Wood from 19.04.18
  • Nathan Ward Vicar at Rainham from 21.04.18
  • Cathy Knight-Scott Priest-in-Charge at Sidcup, St John (S) from 29.05.18
  • Cathy Knight-Scott Priest-in-Charge at Footscray w North Cray (S) from 29.05.18



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