AUGUST RESTORATION

joufulsquareIt's been a beautiful summer weather-wise so far this year and we are all so grateful. August is a different month. It goes a bit quieter here in Twerton. Holidays are good for us. We need them and the kids need them. We may rest, but God doesn't - his love never fails, never runs out, never runs out on me. He is always working his purposes out for us - working for the good of those who love him. We live in his gift of life. Over the next few weeks a team will be running a family day each Friday at Rose Cottage. Head on down to enjoy the fun. Summer is also a time of weddings and we will be celebrating with a number of couples over the next few weeks. Pray for them. Summer is also a time of reflection - a chance to look back and look ahead. There are lots of changes taking place for us as a church at the moment. Mark is taking responsibility for Rose Cottage and we will be looking to appoint a new Kitchen Manager to run two cafe days very soon. Luke's work as LIFE365 is growing and we are delighted that GWEN and LAURA are joining the team. The Rec House creative arts centre is blossoming too and ANDREW is joining the team to bring an added dimension to the project running a pilot for the next six months. Mark and Luke have worked behind the scenes to fund-raise for these new posts and we are so grateful to God for the provision of resources. The ideas for the building developments continue to take shape and the Architects, PCC and planners are meeting with the next few months and this is a key time in the planning process.

On Sundays, over August, we will be turning our attention to JESUS and retracing his steps through John's gospel. Each encounter is beautiful and powerful and I am excited about how Jesus' life will impact us today. Come ready to worship, open up your hearts, receive from him and give to him your best.

One other thing - Richard has been offered a three month Sabbatical by the diocese between November and February after 13 years of ministry and Kate will be leading us through many of these new times and changes. There is much happening and much to give thanks for. Pray for each other. Serve each other. Bless one-another. And above all love one-another.


WELCOME BISHOP PETER

Bishop Peter HancockIt is great news that our new Bishop Peter Hancock is beginning his new role on Saturday 7th June. Married to Jane we will be welcoming him to the deanery later in the month and we are excited about what they will bring to us as a Church in Bath and Wells. We pray for them both as they settle in to their work and new home.


JOYFUL SUMMER

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All of us long for happiness and joy to touch our lives and go out of our way in search of them. Where will we find this joy? Will anything give us a lasting experience of joy or will we always feel let down? The search for joy is universal and this summer we will be plugging into the joy that is found in Christ. Come and join us as we celebrate Jesus' resurrection and take hold of its power and presence for our daily lives today.


EASTER SERVICES

eastersquareWe can't do it on our own. That's why we need EASTER... All of it. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. We need it all. And it's all on offer! Join us as we walk through these stories and get our hearts reborn.
Maundy Thursday - 7.30pm - LAST SUPPER
Good Friday - 2pm - CRUCIFIXION
Easter Morning - 10.30am - EMPTY TOMB


MAKING THE MOST OF LENT

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It's that time of year once again when we embrace the traditions of LENT. LENT is a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter. It takes us on a journey of reflection and discipline that not only reconnects us to the story of Jesus but also plays a part in forming Jesus' character in us. Millions of people from around the world participate in it letting God reshape them into his image. Here at St Michael's we always start LENT in prayer with others from across the city at the Abbey enjoying a pancake together. The next evening, ASH WEDNESDAY, we break bread together and enter the season for real with an act of ASHING - being marked with the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Many of us fast or chose another discipline to participate in. We do this because we find that disciplines are things we can do that help us to do things we can't do.

Join us as we seek more of God this LENT and invite his Spirit to reform and shape our lives.


GRACE AND PEACE

graceandpeaceLiving out of grace and peace

Christmas is one thing, New Year is quite another. Which one do you prefer? This year, with Gus home for Tory’s birthday on a surprise visit, I loved putting up the tree and watching the kids hang their memories and treasures on the tip of the branches. We went to bed late that night but happy. That was the 16th December – still over a week to go – and there was much to do, much to get ready for, much to organise. And on the day itself, for us as a family, with Tory’s mum down to stay, finding it hard to ‘say no to a crisp’ and commenting amusingly on ‘call the midwife’, we took our time and let things emerge. Of course, now Angus and Hebe are older, the pace has changed and the conversation has deepened. The weather’s been variable and it’s on days like this that it’s both good and bad to have a dog. They get you out – no matter what the rain is like – and it’s not unusual to find the walks strangely refreshing.

For me, I find praying, listening and sitting still hard at Christmas. At other times too, but especially at Christmas. Too many things to do, conversations to have, miles to travel. In my ideal version of Christmas I find God again and again, I rest in him, I read about his son, I still myself. In reality I find myself distracted by countless things – mostly screens.

Christmas is one thing but as the week passes and we approach New Year a whole new set of issues arise. Already tired from the getting ready for Christmas, I find myself staying up a bit later than I ought and I find it hard to refresh myself. And then, ‘Crash!’, in comes New Year – not just another late night but a whole set of concerns and thoughts and resolutions.

Jesus Christ may not be at the centre of our cultural life but we find it hard to completely shake off the religious and spiritual behaviours that seem hardwired into our DNA. At Christmas time countless thousands find themselves contradicting their normal belief and behaviour, singing ‘Glory’ to the son of David and, ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven’. At New Year the talk is all about resolutions, making a new start, turning the page. Every paper, every radio station, every magazine has something to say on the subject. We are all longing for more, for better, for thinner.

The Christian word for resolution is repentance – thinking again, rethinking everything, turning around – and although that is not such a popular word, that is what we all engage in.

At New Year everyone has a go at reviewing their lives. We can’t help it. We rethink our eating, our bodies, our time management, our goals, our ambitions, our money, our relationships, our work. And of course, all this thinking is hard for any of us whose life is hard, or bleak, or difficult, anyone whose life is unlikely to ‘just improve’. Christmas covers over our concerns but New Year brings back into the light all over again and sometimes this can be as overwhelming as coming out of the cinema one afternoon. It is no wonder that doctors report that depression is highest in January, because January is the month of honesty and review, and when things aren’t all that good depression can be a natural response.

For some, I guess, New Year is a moment of freshness, newness and optimism. This year, they hope, things will get better. This year I live the way I want to. This year I will lose a few pounds, make a few pounds, lift a few pounds. This year I will get the balance right.

How is New Year for you? Have you been caught up in the narrative of reflection and renewal once again? And if so, how has that left you feeling?

As Christians, as beloved children of God, as followers of Jesus, as Spirit filled sons and daughters, as disciples, we live our lives in a good story, a story that gives us much hope, much joy and much peace. And it goes like this.

I am loved
I am chosen
I am forgiven
I am filled
I am equipped
I am safe

God has loved us, chosen us, forgiven us, filled us, equipped us, and saved us. As we approach a new year we must let this story fill our minds and hearts. We must let this worldview direct our thinking and dominate our feelings and emotions.

In response to every worry, every dream, every doubt, every fear, every task, every conflict around the corner, every plan, every complexity, every hope, every turn, God says to our hearts the same things, again and again.

You are loved
You are chosen
You are forgiven
You are filled
You are equipped
You are safe

or this

I love you
I choose you
I forgive you
I will fill you
I will equip you
I will protect you

Why do we find these things so hard to hear?
Why do we find it hard to rest into this story?

The world around us tells us another story. It tells us, again and again, that we will not be loved unless we succeed, be beautiful, achieve, win, or impress. It tells us that only the best are chosen, only the slim, only the good, only the perfect. It tells us that only the good are forgiven, only the deserving. It tells us that there isn’t enough to go around so we’d better take stuff when it comes past, grab it, drink it, eat it, spend it, indulge it. It tells us that we need to work harder, train harder, push more, rest less. It tells us that we are vulnerable, in danger, that a crisis is just around the corner.

Jesus’s existence, his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, his spirit sending and his return all tell us that there is another place to live from – a place of acceptance, of calling, of forgiveness, of plenty, of blessing and of security. The New Testament calls living in this place, “living in Christ”. In Christ we have everything we need for living joyful, peaceful, anxiety free, content, loving, beautiful and fruitful lives. Everything. Everything.

If you don’t believe this you will know. You will be searching for the answer somewhere else. Searching for love, for significance, for forgiveness, for satisfaction, for strength and for refuge, somewhere else, someone else, something else. It may be your work, your role, your family, your money, a relationship, a place in church life. It could be anything. For we are desperate until we find these things.

The good news we have to offer, the good news we have the chance of experiencing, is that this life is available to us in Christ.

Repentance isn’t just feeling bad about the old way of doing something, it is about feeling attracted to a completely new way of living. That’s why Jesus always linked repentance and belief. “Repent and believe the good news,” he said. Because to live in Christ means believing that Christ really is the source of all grace and all truth. Living in him means completely trusting him with everything. Seeing him as the source of all good things and the end to which all good things point.

This is what we have on offer to us every day! Life in Christ.
Again and again and again and again.
Every new year Christ comes and offers us this life once again.
His love is endless, his forgiveness complete, his desire is limitless.

Of course trusting Jesus means rethinking everything. Everything.
It means letting him be the way, the truth and the life. It means letting him direct our behaviour, our language, our emotions, our way of thinking, our approach to food, to sex, to money, to power, to relationships. It means really letting him shape us, mould us, hold us, define us. It means letting his will be done on earth, in us, as perfectly as his will is expressed in heaven.

This New Year, Jesus comes and stands in front of us and offers us himself – completely. He offers us his life, his hope, his peace, his love. He offers us his strength, his courage, his determination. He offers us his power in weakness, his contentment in poverty, his joyfulness in the midst of pain. He offers us his life. Right here. Right now. No matter the circumstances, the present reality of your life, Jesus comes and says I can offer you life, my life, right here, right now. You don’t need to go anywhere, say anything, do anything, pretend anything, look good, act good, sound good. You don’t need to do anything other than believe. Rethink your life again this year! Yes, rethink it, resolve to live differently – but not out of fear, but out of grace, out of love – my love for you. Repent and believe the good news which is available for you, and your family, and your heart, right here, right now. Rest. Stop. Trust.

Listen to Paul’s words to his precious family in Ephesus. Written from a prison cell Paul is not confined by the walls that surround him. Instead he is caught up in what it means to be alive in Christ.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (chosen) 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen (strength) you with power through his Spirit in your inner being (filling and equipping your heart and mind), 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (trust). And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ (loved), 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (filled and equipped),21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

We need to live our lives out of this love, out of this place of acceptance and forgiveness and calling and security and purpose. We need to live our lives out of the life of Christ.

And as we do this individually we will do this collectively, communally, corporately. We will be the body of Christ, the bride of Christ. Together we will be a sign and agent and a foretaste of the kingdom of God that is coming.

Jesus is not dead. He is alive.
And he offers alive-life to us today, right here, right now.

He calls us back out of fear and into a place of love
Out of work into a place of grace

How shall we respond?
Let us believe. Let us trust. Let us relax again into this love. Let us remind our souls that we are indeed loved, chosen, forgiven, filled, equipped, and safe. Let us agree with these truths.

And then let us co-operate with these truths.

We are saved by grace, not by works, through faith - trust. But faith without works is dead. Faith that doesn’t express itself in some kind of action lacks meaning, lacks reality. After we believe, we need to co-operate with the life of Christ in us, with the Spirit of God that lives with us. We need to let him rule over our thoughts, our actions, our words and our beliefs. We need to let him renew our minds. We need to let him determine the shape of our lives.

This means submitting to him, relaxing into him, letting him own us. Becoming his slave, not out of fear, but out of choice, out of love. Letting him govern us. This is repentance. Not resolution, but repentance. This is letting him have everything.

These two things are needed for us to have his life.
Repentance and belief.

Why not let’s give that a go, not just today, but every day this year.


SEVEN SACRED SPACES

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New years bring new hopes and new opportunities. Last year was a significant one for our church but the year ahead promises to be even more so. Facing our biggest challenge of our lifetime we are going to be working together to rebuild, reorder, renew and refresh our church buildings so that they can help us be the people God has called us to be - a sign, a foretaste and an agent of the kingdom of God - a sign of hope in the heart of Twerton.  Our best days are ahead of us and together we are going to have to recommit ourselves to one another as we seek to give ourselves away for the sake of our community.

To help us think through it all, to help us reflect on our discipleship, our community life, our worship and our mission, we will be starting a new series on Sunday mornings called SEVEN SACRED SPACES. Christians down the years have discovered that their communal life together is deepened by living in richly committed lives - dedicated to God and to each other - and the spaces that they built to help them to do this reflect these deep ambitions.  Looking back it is possible to discern SEVEN types of building or space that they created - the chapel, the cloister, the cell, the chapter, the garden, the refectory and the library. Each one has something to tell us about how to structure a powerful community life that is missional in outlook. Through this series we will be looking at each one in turn and asking God to learn from the past and to reinterpret this wisdom for our own age and our own locality.

I am excited about what we will learn together and where this will be leading us as a community centred around Jesus , his life, death and resurrection.

To help us journey together there will also be the opportunity to be get together with others in a small group to discuss it all further and apply the ideas to our lives and I will be producing material to help shape these discussions.

Happy NEW year!


CAROLS AND WORSHIP

carols2013Christmas draws out of us so many different emotions and it can be hard to handle them as they wash over us or take us by surprise. And it connects us to our deepest longings - longings for family, for belonging, for being recognised, longings for peace, for reconciliation for relationship, longings for a future, for a hope, for a destiny. All these desires are known by God, most perfectly presented to us in Jesus from Nazareth, and each of them in some way find their fulfilment in him. The carol "O little town of Bethlehem" put it like this, "The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

Each year we gather to light candles, sing songs and sip mulled wine, each warming the heart and reminding us that God has not forgotten us but loves us completely. I'm really looking forward to this Sunday evening when we will be holding our Carol Service by Candlelight. Come and join in if you can. Everyone is welcome!

Carols by Candlight - 7pm - St Michael's Church.


CHRISTINGLE

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We'd love to welcome you to this year's Christingle service on the 1st December and 4pm in the church.
Suitable for all ages. Refreshments will be available for donations in aid of The Children's Society.

We hope to see you there!


LONGINGS, HOPES AND DREAMS

LONGINGS-HOPES-DREAMSHi everyone. Here is another epistle just bringing you up to date with a few things and sharing some items for prayer.

SABITI

Our brother Sabiti is moving back home having completed his Masters at Bath University. His family live in a refugee camp and his father is very ill needing treatment. I would love to give him a gift from us all to help him and his family and to bless him on his return home. He is staying with Chris this week before flying off next week. We will pray for him this Sunday and hear more before he leaves.

HELPING OUT on Sundays

We really need help on Sundays in a few areas and I wonder if you could think about whether you could help:
• CRECHE – helping occupy the youngest children during the talk to help parents
• HOSPITALITY – welcoming people and making sure everyone is looked after
• RECORDING THE TALKS – help needed each week to record the talks
• PROJECTOR – making sure the songs come up on the screen

None of these things are massive in themselves but they help enormously! Please, please think about offering.

MONEY - RESOURCING THE MISSION

In the last email I wrote, “Everything we do costs something, even if it’s only time. At the beginning of this term can I ask you to reconsider your GIVING to the church’s mission. We have a calling from God to serve, to connect and to bless the families of Twerton – people of all ages - and we need finances to fulfil this task. If you are already make a monthly gift to the church please consider increasing your donation. If you don’t make regular gifts, how about firming that up an making that a regular commitment. If you have never given much before consider giving a proportion of your income to support the mission. A helpful and biblical guideline for giving is the ‘tithe’ – a 10% contribution. Ask God about it all and he will direct you as to what would be a good way to respond to the needs of the church.”

I don’t want you to miss this! Alan told the PCC this week that we are down about £400 per month this year. On average it costs £10 per person per week to do the things we are currently doing and we know we want to do more! Giving is an act of worship.

GOD’s BUILDING – PCC UPDATE

Having heard back from our Architect about the state of the structure of the building, we have arrived at a critical moment in our journey together. We can no longer just patch an aging structure and need to find significant resources to update and upgrade the structure, inside and out. The size of this task is so massive that it is forcing us to ask big questions about the purpose and use of the building and to seek God about his vision for its future. We have been offered help from the Diocese to undertake a fundamental review of the building and will need to develop a comprehensive plan and vision together for the way forward.

I can’t overstate how significant this is for us all. However, despite the size of the task and issues, I am very hopeful that God will use this ‘crisis’ for his glory and to see many more people enter his kingdom. This is not the end of St Michael’s but a new beginning!

However, we all need to be involved and we all need to PRAY! This is a massive task for us and we need to be united in prayer and in vision if we are to get through it!

I will say more about it all NEXT SUNDAY – ST MICHAEL’s DAY – 29th SEPTEMBER

CHURCH WEEKEND – CONFIRM YOU ARE COMING NOW

As in previous years we have booked ASCENSION church for a weekend of teaching, worship and ministry. A team of us are working hard to make sure that it will be the best one yet. We are delighted that TIM BUCKLEY will be speaking on the theme of going DEEPER with God and that there will be a full Children’s programme to help them deepen their own relationship with God too alongside the adult programme. The date to block out in your diary is OCTOBER 12th and 13th. A full programme will be coming shortly but book out the whole weekend as we want to be able to relax and enjoy time together in the evening as well as during the daytime.

ROSE COTTAGE / REC HOUSE / LIFE365

The visions are taking root and they are growing! It’s a new term for our key projects too and so do pray for Barrie, Ruth, Mark and Luke as they continue to develop the work and make connections with people. Pray too for the funding of these projects, giving thanks for what has already been gifted to us. So much has been achieved so far, but there is so much to continue to do.

WELCOMING STUDENTS

Although the number of students living in Twerton is on the rise we have yet to see many take root in our church family... Perhaps this year things may change. Do look out for new Students as the arrive and welcome them into our home. It’s so key that they get included into a church family quickly before they drift with everything else that goes on for them in the first few weeks of term…

HOPE AND A FUTURE

I am full of hope looking forward. God is moving among us and through us. Let us recommit ourselves to him as we begin this new term together. To him be glory forever.