Happy New Year

New Year is often a time of reflection and anticipation. Our prayer is that God will go with us and that we will be obedient to him in the year to come. If you get a chance, grab a few minutes, be still, and pray. To help you in your prayers, here is an ancient blessing and a wonderful covenant. Don't rush... take your time... God bless you.

A blessing
The Lord bless you and watch over you, the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you, the Lord look kindly on you and give you peace; and the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you, now and always. Amen.

A payer of commitment

Lord God, holy Father,
since you have called us through Christ
to share in this gracious covenant,
we take upon ourselves with joy the yoke of obedience
and, for love of you,
engage ourselves to seek and do your perfect will.
We are no longer our own but yours.

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father,Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Silence is kept


St Michael's at St Michael's

At the beginning of each month we have a slightly different routine for our Sunday gathering. At 9am we have a 'traditional communion'. At 10.15 we have breakfast together and at 10.45 we hold an informal, more creative service specifically aimed at being accessible and meaningful to families.

The other Sunday we discussed together a new idea - holding this "Sunday Live!" service at the school rather than in 'church'. After some worship together we introduced the idea and opened it up to discussion and reflection. Everyone threw in their ideas and prayers. People wrote down what they thought and wrote prayers to God about how they were responding. It was a good time.

The response was very positive and the next day the PCC discussed it further and there was a strong sense of unity and clarity about the way forward, so much so that we decided to give it a go from February!

So, from February the timings of our services will look like this:

1st Sunday - 10.15am at St Michael's School for breakfast followed by worship for the whole family
2nd Sunday - 10.15am at St Michael's Church for a Family Communion
3rd Sunday - 9.00am at St Michael's Church for a Traditional Communion, 10.15am Coffee, 10.45am Contemporary Worship service
4th Sunday - 10.15am at St Michael's Church for a Family Communion

You may notice that one thing we are going to try out alongside holding a service in the local school is also moving the ‘traditional communion’ that we hold on the first Sunday of the month at 9am, to the third Sunday of the month – giving us all time to set up the school and get things ready for a 10.15 breakfast down at the school on the first Sunday of each month. On the third Sunday we will hold a communion at 9am, then have some coffee and doughnuts between the services where we can all mingle and chat, and then have our second service.

As many of us commented when we chatted together holding a meeting at the school will require many more people to get involved and from the sound of it many of you would like to! We will chat about it more as the day approaches and we look forward to this new venture together. Chat together and pray for it. If you have any ideas or suggestions, now is the time to feed them in. If you want to get involved in some way – just let me know : )

Thanks for all your input!

Rich


Advent is coming

Outside the church there is little talk of 'Advent'.  The only words associated with it are 'calendars' and 'candles'.  Apart from that Advent holds little power over our imaginations and lives.  It didn't used to be like this.  For centuries the season of Advent was a significant and eagerly anticipated season of reflection, preparation and prayer.  Advent is a gift to us and for the next month, as a church community, we are trying to reconnect with this tradition and bring it up to date.  On the 5th December we are holding a special Advent service in the evening from 7pm.  Join us for an interactive service of worship and reflection which will awaken all the senses and bring Christmas alive. Looking forward to seeing you over this season : )


The future's orange

Over the next few years it is my hope that our church here in Twerton will learn to ‘be church’ in a fresh way. Instead of organising ourselves around our services and programmes we want to see what happens when we see ourselves primarily as people engaged on a mission.

A few weeks ago now I was reflecting about church and had an image in my mind of an orange. All my life I have been involved in church life trying to make it as juicy as possible – helping to make the worship relevant or contemporary, being involved in social programs, modernising our buildings, updating our use of technology, learning about leading services and preaching, trying to run vibrant house groups. It has been a good journey and I know that God has blessed many of our efforts and ideas. At times we have felt inspired.

The aim of all this commitment and endeavour has been to help make the inside of the orange (the church) as juicy as possible, as attractive as possible, as meaningful as possible and our hope has been that in doing so we would attract more people to join us on the inside of the orange, form a living relationship with God/Jesus and join church. We have prayed about this, sung about this and worked for this with all our effort.

All this has placed me right at the centre of the orange (the church) and I have been ordained as one of it’s ‘ministers’ or ‘priests’ and now, with responsibility for my own ‘church’ I have set about trying to make this particular orange as juicy as it can be here in Twerton.

This has been good and important. And not wanting to devalue any of this effort, or anyone else’s commitment, I now believe that God is wanting us to completely rethink what it means to be the church.

For years ‘church’ has been a building, a service, a program provider or an institution. From here on we need to see it as a people on a mission. For years ‘church’ has been something we went to, attended or helped to make. From now on we need to see it as something we belong to and participate in. The change is from seeing church as a club to seeing it as a team. Just as a football club is something people organise, watch, contribute to and maintain and a football team is something you belong to and participate in, we need to see church as a team where everyone is involved in working towards a goal.

What we need to do is turn this orange inside out. For years the juice has been kept and maintained on the inside of our church buildings, our church services and our church programs. From now on we need to open up the orange and get the juice on the outside – into people’s lives, our workplaces and our neighbourhoods.

This is a completely new way of seeing church and will require us to give up our old ideas and practices and systems. ‘Minister’ will no longer be a title given to just one or two but instead owned by everyone. ‘Disciple’ will no longer be something the super keen sign up for but will be the normal Christian life. ‘Worship’ will no longer be something we go to for an hour but a life lived in adoration to God and in response to his love. ‘Mission’ will no longer be something cringey that only the bravest and craziest of us do but the very foundation of our community life together.

And it is to this mission that we will begin to invite others to join us in. It is to this life that we will now invite people to commit to. It is to this ‘order’ that we will invite people to shape their life around. Instead of asking people to come to church we will be asking if they want to participate in the life we are living, centred on Jesus, focused on blessing our neighbourhood, and oriented around seeing the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

It is time to get the juice out, to step outside our church buildings and structures and services and to give ourselves away to people in need around us. And by our love for one another, for our neighbours and for our God perhaps at last many will again know us to be ‘Jesus’ disciples’ rather than just people ‘who go to church’.

Undoubtedly it will mean a few of the things we currently cherish will fall away or be less highly prioritised. So be it. May God help us as we start to peel away the skin and open ourselves to the reality of people’s life, letting go of our desire to be a church on that meets together and becoming a church that meets the needs of others.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for there is the kingdom of heaven.


Connected

As a Christian community we are increasingly aware that life is all about connection – our connection with God and with others.  There is so much about connection in the bible… so much in the story… perhaps you could say that it’s a all about connection – with God, with each other, with the world around us… In it we read stories of connection and stories of disconnection, we read stories of how God wanted to reconnect us to himself, and how we repeatedly disconnect ourselves from him and other, and we read stories of Jesus who was so connected with his Father and yet allowed himself to become disconnected so that he could reconnect us to God.

This is what the story is about…

And it is what we are about here as a church in Twerton

We have a simple purpose:

  • to connect ourselves to God and
  • to connect ourselves with others and
  • to connect others up with God

We need to keep it simple – it’s about CONNECTION!

The way we do this is to embody the message of Jesus and to proclaim the message of Jesus.

We embody the message in numerous ways – through how we live together, through how we behave, through how we speak, through how we worship, how we care, how we respond to needs, how we love one another.

We proclaim the message through words – at work, at the school gate, at home with our children, at funerals, at weddings, at Rose Cottage and the Rec House – telling people of God’s good news for their lives.

This past week we celebrated another year together and elected new representatives to oversee our life together.  We reviewed what God has been doing and we reminded ourselves of our mission – to be connected.  We are excited about the year ahead.  Join us.


Resurrection is everything

The empty tomb gets you thinking.  Dead people stay dead. That’s what the word means... Dead.  Dead is unambiguous… Dead is dead.  And so the empty tomb gets you thinking… It gets me thinking.  As for me I believe that Jesus is no longer dead. I believe that he is alive. I believe that the empty tomb tells us a crazy but simple truth… that Jesus rose from the dead. I believe it… And it shapes every part of my life.

For a start it shapes the way I see God. It demonstrates to me that he is more powerful than death – that other counterfeit power that takes us all one day and stakes a claim to be the power above all powers.  It tells me that God is passionate about his creation, about the earth, about people, about flesh – that he has not left it alone, that he has not forgotten it, that he hasn’t written it off, or thrown it away.  It tells me that God is faithful – that he never goes back on a promise – that he can be trusted.  It tells me that God is joyful – that he is alive with joy

And then it shapes the way I see suffering... my own, and that of others:
Cancer, Parkinsons, Dementia, broken bones, broken hearts, broken lives, abused, and beaten, even killed.
Children, adults, the elderly.
The empty tomb shouts back at the forces of evil, of violence and of anger
It hits back against the wave of fear that sweeps across us all every time we experience pain
The empty tomb cries 'Victory!'
My body may break, I may suffer, but God is greater.
Death does not have the last word, Life does… Jesus does
‘The enemy comes to steal and to destroy and to kill
But I have come to give you Life’, said Jesus…
The empty tomb says he was right.
And so I confidently say, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

And it shapes my hope, my hope for a world made new,
giving it colour and form and texture, making it real.
Not a world of spirit alone, but a world where heaven and earth are married in beautiful life
Not a world of tears, but a world of dancing, and joy
Not a world of violence, but a world of peace
The empty tomb draws me forward to this world, this new world, this world of life, where death and tears are no more, believing its existence, believing its arrival, believing its reality.

And it shapes the way I see Jesus
Not as a victim, but as a warrior
Not as weak, but as the strongest man there ever could be
Not as mere man, but also as God’s son
Not only as friend, but also as Saviour, and Ransom, and Redeemer, and Victor, and Lord

The empty tomb shapes everything for me…
It shapes the way I live, my behaviour, my choices
The risks I take, the place I bring up my family, the way I spend my money,
the approach I take to possessions, the amount I give away.
The empty tomb makes all kinds of things plausible and possible – wild things, crazy things, ridiculous things, adventurous things.
Things that others would think of as mad, as stupid, as folly.
"I am alive with Christ. For me to live is Christ. To die is gain."
That could only be true if there was an empty tomb

And it shapes my ethics, my morality, my judgements and discernment about what is right, what is wrong.
It shapes the way I use my body, the places I take it, the way I use it, for if I am united to Christ - raised with him - this has implications!
And it affects the things I think about, the way I use my mind - "Since, I have been raised with Christ, I set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God... and I set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For I died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God."

But it's more than that... the open tomb opens things up.
It shatters my fears, my expectations, the boxes I put around things
And it opens up new possibilities, new relationships, new directions
It re-orientates me
It restores me
It redeploys me

My life is no longer my own. I have been bought with a price. It convinces me that Jesus died for me and I am his. that he has declared me free of judgement, that he has forgiven my sin, that he has born the debt and he has cancelled the written code that hung over me, condemned me. It persuades me that he has atoned for me, covered my sin, taken it way, washed me whiter than snow. I am his and he is mine. He lives in me and my life is his. The empty tomb has done all this.

And it sends me out... for through the empty tomb I have been commissioned, given a role. I have authorised, gifted, equipped. I have been enlisted and enrolled. I have signed up. His mission is now mine. His message is now mine. His purpose is now mine. His life is now mine. His way of doing things is now mine. His approach is now mine. His will is now mine. Jesus has promised me his Spirit, his breath, his life, to flow through me, drawing me into relationship with the Father.

The empty tomb is everything for me…
It is my past and it is my future
It is my present occupation
It is everything.
I am an Easter person, a ‘new day’ person, a ‘Christian’
I live in the first of the week, trying to make my life point towards those great truths – the resurrection of Jesus and the life of the world to come…
I reign in life through Jesus’ life.
I receive his life – his humility, love and forgiveness, his integrity, his wisdom, strength, joy, his union with the Father. Christ is now my life, the one who strengthens me.
I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my spirit, soul, body, my heart, mind and will.

The empty tomb shapes everything
The resurrection is everything to me
It’s all I have to boast in.
It’s all I live for
It’s all I rest in
It’s all I believe in


Holy week ideas

Hi everyone...

I mentioned briefly on Sunday a few ideas for helping us to engage with the amazing story of this week and thought I might put some of them on the website as I wasn't the most articulate at that point...

Like many of us (most of us?) I need help to dig deep into the Easter story and making it personal to me, alive... Getting together with others who want to explore the themes with me or to chat about them always helps and that is why we are having a few specific meetings this week looking at the story together. On Thursday night we are looking at the last supper and the events just after that... on Friday morning at 10am we are going to focus on the walk to the cross and the death of Jesus... and on Sunday we are going to celebrate the resurrection together as a family with breakfast between the two services at 10.30. Come ready to listen, to reflect, to pray, to pray, to give thanks, to explore... On a lighter note I imagine, Clare and others are going to open up Rose Cottage on Easter evening, from 5pm, for a bring and share supper : )

Check out the services at other churches too that might connect - Bath Abbey are putting on some beautiful services around music that some are thinking of going to, such as St Matthew's passion on Wednesday night...

As well as gathering as a big group how about getting together with one or two others and having an 'Easter Chat' or something like that - a time to discuss with a couple of others the impact of Jesus death and resurrection on your lives and to pray together rooting it's benefits in your lives. Tory and I have been using a daily prayer Tory found, written by John Eldredge, which we are loving. If you haven't picked up a copy over the last few weeks, then you can download it from the website here

If you want to read something online try these short daily readings from beliefnet

Or how about giving up a few minutes to reflect using this haunting flash narration of Jesus' passion and death with illustrations and quotes... here

There are loads of other resources online, so enjoy searching out good ones... and if you find any that help, send me the link : )

Others of us might like to use art or music to express something, and others still might find it helpful to write a letter to God or to do some other kind of written reflection...

Over all, the aim is not to do a whole load of religious or spiritual stuff - it is simply to find a way of helping yourself to reconnect with this truest of all stories that changes our world and our lives.

Live it. Pray it. Love it.

Have a great week
Rich


Signs of the Kingdom

God is working all the time... although we can't always see it or recognise it.  But sometimes God's actions in our lives feel so real that we can't help but talk about them.

As we journey together as a church family we want to encourage each other with stories of what we see God doing in our lives.  Simple stories, simply told. Real. Authentic.

To help us in all this we are going to make sure that each week we hear from each other when we meet.  So come ready to share your stories.  Get used to looking out for the workings of God and listen out for what the Spirit is saying to us as a family being shaped into the life of Jesus.


Two months of Sundays

I am excited about what is happening on Sundays over the next few weeks through to the end of November and wanted to let everyone know about it.

This Sunday is normal (if there is ever a normal Sunday here!), and I am going to be looking a the Sower in the last of our 'Level Teaching' series...
The week after (25th October) we are going to have a healing service where the focus will be on us praying for each other and blessing one another in Jesus' name.

On the 1st November Louise and Toby are going to be baptised with Dan reaffirming his vows... Always a great time - if there is anyone else who wants to be baptised let me know.

Then over the next 4 weeks I have invited 4 church leaders from across the city
Paul Langham - 8th November
Patrick Whitworth - 15th November
Stewart Keiller - 22nd November
Paul Wakely - 29th November

What quality!

I invited them along time ago - back in May - to come and speak into our situation, to bring a blessing and to pray for us in Twerton. They may well bring a few of their churches to come too to join them... It should be good as we listen for what God is saying to us from leaders outside our situation and whom we respect.

So in all in all 7 weeks of Sundays all jammed packed with goodies...

Bring your friends, invite others who are local Christians to listen too (it's not just for St Michael's) and join me as we listen out for what God is saying together...

Looking forward to them all
God bless
Rich

Oh and here's a picky to forward to your mates : )


November


Simple Church

Check out this really fascinating and inspiring video about 'simple' church - a church about people not services...  Worth watching : )
Read more