Thursday, January 09, 2020

January News from Rochester Diocese

Thursday 9 January 2020

Happy New Year! Welcome to the first edition of Rochester Diocese's monthly e-newsletter in 2020.
Events and Training

Finding God in the everyday 

With the start of a New Year, are you looking for a new approach to finding and following God?

On the 12 January, The Church of England launches 'Everyday Faith'. A series of reflections and prayers shared over 21 days, to help us all find and follow God in everyday life. 

To tie in with this, three new films have been produced to highlight the Diocesan-wide Life Together initiative. Like #EverydayFaith, it aims to help deepen relationships with God across the Diocese, by encouraging 
a rhythm of listening, commitment and regular prayer, inspired by Benedictine spirituality.

Watch all three films here, or look out for them on our social media channels over the coming weeks.

We'll also be highlighting stories of #EverydayFaith throughout the year too, as part of our committment to Grow Disciples, as expressed in our shared Called Together vision.

Watch this space!

Diocesan Update
All you need to know this month from the Diocese and National Church

'We need a decade that warms our rapidly cooling relationships.'  As we begin a new year, Bishop Simon Burton-Jones considers what needs to define the decade ahead. Read more
We'll be joining in with the national church's, Care for God's Creation, Lent materials this year. A series of films throughout Lent will highlight local church eco-initiatives. Get ready. Sign-up for daily reflections or order material here
On 23 February, the environmentalist, theologian and author of Archbishop Justin's 2020 Lent Book, Dr Ruth Valerio, will give a lecture following her installation service Canon Theologian at Rochester Cathedral. All welcome. More here
Churches across the Diocese are invited to test a new tool to help them measure their carbon footprint. Designed by the national Research and Statistics team, it is available through the Online Parish Returns System. More here
The deadline is fast approaching to apply for grants from the Church of England for fabric repairs  and the conservation of paintings and wall paintings. The deadline is 27 January. More here

The search for Britain's best church magazine is on. The Association for Church Editors, is now welcoming entries from any church magazine, large or small but not printed in colour. Closing date 3 February. For details, email:

Want to get more out of your churchyard as an educational resource, a place to nurture bio-diversity and more? 2020 is the Year of the Burial Ground. For a host of resources, as well as the different ways you can get involved, click here

News in brief
Stories from around the parishes

Parishes tackle domestic abuse
Raising awareness of domestic abuse across the Diocese. Read more
South Gillingham goes live
First steps with Facebook Live prove positive. Read more

Events and Training

For more local and Diocesan events, visit our What's On Calendar. Add your own event too. You can also explore the full range of courses and events available at:
  • St. Benedict's Centre here
  • St. Augustine's College of Theology here
  • The Diocese of Rochester's Spiriitualty Network here
  • For listings of forthcoming Safeguarding training, click here
Saturday 18 January, 1pm to 4pm
Bessels Green Baptist Church, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, TN13 2PS.

Help end modern slavery in your community. A day for anyone who wants to learn more about modern slavery, how to spot the signs and how best to respond to it locally.

Parking will be available at Riverhead Infants School, Worships Hill, Riverhead, Sevenoaks, TN13 2AS.

Free of charge. Please bring your own packed lunch and refreshments will be provided. Full disabled access, including an accessible toilet. 
Saturday 1 February - 10am to 4pm
Companions of Christ, 65 Maidstone Road, Chatham, ME4 6DP

For the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, come and watch a full-length feature film that deals with matters we are presented with in life, and asks what it means for us to live in the present. The film is in German, with subtitles.

Come with an open mind and a readiness to use your imagination. Some Ignatian exercises will be used to explore scenes from the film.

Please bring a packed lunch, drinks will be provided. Email:
Saturday 1 February, 4pm

St Matthew’s, South Gillingham, ME8 0NX
An opportunity to remember and to pray for those living in the Holy Land in the 21st century, with pictures and recent reporting back from the land.

Whether you consider yourself to be well informed or only slightly aware, you are invited to come along and be updated on the current situation, and to learn of the work of Friends of the Holy Land, who give practical support to our brothers and sisters in need.

Email: Brian:
22 February, 1pm to 5.30pm
St. George's, Beckenham

An event aiming to bring together people of BAME heritage from the local church to talk about vocation in the Church of England.

Be inspired in your vocational journey, be equipped with knowledge about the various ministries in the Church and be informed about the current state of BAME vocations nationally.

Speakers include, Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed, National Advisor of BAME Vocations for the Church of England.
For more details and booking click here


Top resources to support you in your work, life and faith - or just to share with others.
The 15th Lambeth Conference takes place in July. To mark this, the Anglican Communion will be featuring blogs each week written by Primates of the Anglican Communion, to introduce their Provinces, set out prayer pointers, and help us learn more about our worldwide family. More here
Digital offers us a unique opportunity to meet people where they are. Is your church ready to make the most of this incredible tool in 2020? The national Digital Team has collated a list of online trends they think churches should be exploring over the next 12 months. Read it here

Vision and aims

RESOURCE: Administration & Support – ‘Making it Easier’ Make it easier for parishes to work with the Diocese Office and legal requirements

As a Diocese we take our safeguarding responsibilities seriously and we are committed to ensuring that our churches and buildings are safe places for all.

A new quarterly safeguarding bulletin, aimed primarily at Parish Safeguarding Officers, Incumbents and Church Wardens where a parish is in vacancy, has recently been launched.

Through these regular bulletins, we hope to keep those with a particular parish responsibility for safeguarding up to date with the latest safeguarding developments from the national church and the Diocese, as well as support and affirm them in this vital area of work.

Find it here

If you need safeguarding advice please visit our safeguarding pages at:

Vacancies and appointments
Archdeaconry of Bromley & Bexley
Archdeaconry of Rochester
Lay and volunteer posts
Archdeaconry of Tonbridge
Volunteer & other posts
Copyright © 2020 DIocese of Rochester, All rights reserved.  Tel 01634 560000

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

24. …full of grace and truth.

Truth is an important word in John’s Gospel. “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” says Jesus (John 8.32) Truth, in John’s Gospel, doesn’t mean the opposite of lying, or an accurate description of things. It also means “faithfulness”.  In this context it reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us. The Bible tells a story of God’s unending love. No matter how people fail and fall, he never gives up on them. Although the book of Genesis describes Adam and Eve being driven out of the Garden of Eden into a world where life is often hard, (Genesis 3.23), we soon discover that God seems to have gone out into that world with them. He makes himself known to Noah, warning him of the flood (Genesis 6). He calls Abraham to go to a new land and make a new life there (Genesis 12). He turns up in the shape of three strangers who tell Abraham that he will have a child, (Genesis 18) and later in a burning bush from which he calls Moses to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3). The story goes on. Prophets hear God speak to them. People find him in the words of scripture, in their worship in the Temple, in the depths of their own hearts, ready to forgive and to heal as many times as they need it. God is faithful – true – to them, no matter what they do. Christians believe that in the vulnerability of the child born in Bethlehem, we see this faithfulness taken to its extreme. God not only speaks in words, but through the Word who lives, dies and is raised among us. And he is a Word of grace, an unearned, unmerited gift, given to all.

As you prepare for the gift-giving and receiving of Christmas Day, think about what the gift of Jesus might mean to you?
Who has shown you faithful love in your life?
What truth might you need to discover  in order to be made free?

Jesus is God’s gift to us. Make a gift tag to put on a present for someone you love. Draw a picture of Baby Jesus on it.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Well done to the three members of our Children's Choir who started our Carol service with the first verse of Once in Royal David's City. It's a big gig for small people and they did brilliantly!

23. …the glory as of a father's only son...

Christians believe that Jesus revealed the glory of his Father in a unique and complete way in the world. He was God made visible, the perfect image of his Father. Yesterday’s reflection reminded us, though, that “glory” in John’s Gospel is linked not with kingly splendour but with suffering love, so today’s phrase is a poignant one. It reminds us of the closeness of Jesus’ relationship with his Father, the love which is at the heart of the Godhead, and therefore the cost of Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross. If we love someone, we will do almost anything to prevent their suffering. It can be unbearably hard for us to watch someone we love struggle, and yet people cannot be who they were meant to be, cannot have life at all, without the risk of pain and sorrow. In Jesus, God gives away what is most precious to him, because he knows that the world needs to see his love embodied in Jesus, no matter what that might cost.

Have you ever had to watch someone you love struggle or suffer in order for them to do what they felt called to do? (Imagine what Greta Thunberg or Malala Yousafzai’s parents might feel?) How did you feel and what did you do in that situation?
Have you ever had to give up or give away something that is precious to you? What do you feel about that now?
What do you think people saw in Jesus that made them feel that they were looking at God?

Draw a heart shape and write or draw in it what you think love looks like? Who loves and cares for you? Who do you love and care for?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Christmas at Seal

22. And we have seen his glory...

Glory is a very important word in John’s Gospel, but it often doesn’t look as people might expect it to. The Hebrew word which is translated as “glory” has at its root a word which means “heaviness” or “substance”. God’s glory is splendid, shiny, substantial, like solid gold. After Moses saw God’s glory on Mount Sinai (Exodus 33.17 -23), his own face shone so brightly that he had to wear a veil over it so he wouldn’t dazzle others. In Luke’s Gospel, God’s glory shines around the angels who announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds (Luke 2.8). Later on the disciples see Jesus himself shining with glory (Luke 9.28)
In John’s Gospel, though, God’s glory is seen not in shining light, but in Jesus’ death. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before he is arrested and crucified, Jesus prays “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” (John 17.1) Earlier, Jesus tells his disciples that “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” (John 15.8), and the fruit he expects them to bear is the fruit of love. “By this everyone willl know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13.35) God’s glory is revealed in Jesus, and in his followers, in costly love and service.

What do you think of when you hear the word “glory”? What is the most glorious thing you have ever seen?
Have you ever felt touched by God’s glory in a moment of pain, fear or failure? How did that happen?
The cross has been depicted in many ways – plain wood or golden and richly jewelled, with Jesus dying , dead or risen in glory on it. What messages do these different images convey to us?

Draw a cross and decorate it as richly as you can. It is a reminder of God’s love. Think about ways in which you can show God’s love to others.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

21...and lived among us...

We are often surprised when anything extraordinary – good or bad – happens close to us. We are proud of our own local heroes simply because they are local. Their success might have had nothing to do with us but we enjoy the reflected glory. “Who would have thought that an Olympic sportsperson would live next door to me!” We are horrified, though, if a neighbour turns out to be a notorious criminal. “You don’t expect things like that to happen around here!” we say. Yet everything has to happen somewhere.

In Jesus, says John, God comes to us where we are, hallowing the places that we might think are ordinary, or even “God-forsaken”. Nazareth was a small settlement, with nothing particular to recommend it. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” asked one man, Nathaniel, when Jesus’ disciples told him that they had found the Messiah. (John 1.46) When he met Jesus, he was forced to re-evaluate that prejudice. God could be at work, even in this unlikely place!

Has anything noteworthy – good or bad - happened in the places where you have lived? What are the stories which have been told about those places?
Have you ever encountered a famous person in an unlikely place – on the train, in a shop, on holiday…What did it feel like? What did you do?
Jesus found that the people of Nazareth were among the most resistant to his message (see Luke 4.16-30). Why do you think this might have been?

The Bible says that when we welcome and care for others we are welcoming Jesus in them. Make a “welcome” sign for your house, so that all your visitors feel cared for.

Friday, December 20, 2019

20. And the Word became flesh...

This is perhaps the most extraordinary part of the Prologue, the part John has been leading up to. He has told us about this Word, God himself, Creator of the universe, who made and sustains all things, and yet now, the Word becomes flesh, born as a vulnerable, helpless child in Bethlehem. For his first hearers this would have been extraordinary. Jewish people were brought up to regard God as so holy that his name could not even be uttered. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies in the centre of the Temple complex, where God’s presence was thought to dwell. No one could see God and live.  Greek philosophy thought of God as pure spirit, unchangeable, incapable of suffering. Flesh was seen as inferior, something which would be gladly cast off at death.  The idea that God would willingly become flesh was puzzling and shocking. And yet, this is what had happened, said John. God had entered into his creation (or perhaps revealed himself in a creation he had already been part of?) He had felt what we feel, suffered as we suffer, died as we die. “What if God was one of us?” sang Joan Osborne “Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home?” In Jesus, that is just what the Gospels tell us happened – God became a human being, someone you might see on the bus (or the donkey!), someone who you could touch, see and hear.

How do you feel about your flesh, your body? Is it a source of delight or anxiety to you?
Right now, how does your body feel? Spend a few minutes being aware of what you are seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling with it.
Why do you think it mattered that “the Word became flesh”? How does it change our idea of God?

Draw a body, or around your own body. Thank God for all the amazing things it can do.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

19. ..who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will man, but of God.

John’s Gospel speaks of the need for us to be born again (John 3.3.) if we are to live as the children of God we are meant to be.  John is clear, though, that this status isn’t anything to do with our physical birth – “not by blood or of the will of the flesh of the will of man”. It doesn’t matter who your biological parents are or what ethnic group you come from. God makes a family for himself. The Gospels often sit very light to what we might think of as “traditional family values”. Jesus’ own birth is surrounded by scandal and mystery; Mary isn’t married to Joseph when she conceives him. When he grows up, instead of marrying, fathering children, and looking after his mother as a “good” son should, Jesus goes off preaching and teaching, stirring up trouble which could rebound on all the family. He gathers a group of disciples around him, a rag-tag bunch of men and women from all walks of life, and welcomes followers who others might regard as outcasts. It did not fit the model of family life in his time, and it doesn’t fit it now either. The church he founded saw itself as a new family, gathered together by God, in which all were brothers and sisters to each other, across the divides of gender, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Whoever had given them life physically, it was God which gave them life spiritually, binding them together in his love.

Have you ever felt yourself to be on the “outside” of your family , friendship group or social circle? What did it feel like?
Have you ever had to make a decision which put you at odds with your family or friendship group? What happened and what did it feel like?
The Bible says that we are made in the image of God. How can you show God’s likeness to others?

Make a badge or a sign saying “I am a child of God”. Think about what it means to you.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

18. ...he gave power to become children of God,

“To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,” says John. Children of God; that’s a powerful claim. And yet it is who we were always meant to be. Early in Luke’s Gospel, Luke traces the family tree of Jesus, back to the great king of Israel, King David, then through the patriarchs, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham, until he gets to the first generations of humankind, “…son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.” (Luke 3.23-38). The genealogies of the Bible can seem boring and irrelevant, but they are there for a reason, in this case to make the point that Jesus restores to humankind their true identity.  Adam and Eve were God’s creation, his children, but we have often forgotten this. Jesus calls us to  “abide in God” as John later puts it in chapter 15, enjoying the closeness for which we were created, rediscovering the family relationship God always meant us to have. In the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit, their first instinct is to hide from God, who comes looking for them “at the time of the evening breeze”. “Where are you?” calls God, plaintively. In the birth of Jesus, once again God comes looking for us. It is up to us whether we respond and let him draw us back into the relationship we were always meant to have with him.

Think about those who raised you and gave you life, your biological and/or adoptive or foster parents. What does it mean to you to think of yourself as their child? Are you glad to identify yourself as their son or daughter or not?
How close do you feel to God right now?
Imagine God asking you, “Where are you?” What would you answer?

Look at yourself in a mirror. What do you see?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

17. …who believed in his name...

“Believing in Jesus” or “believing in his name” is such a familiar phrase that it can become mere jargon. (A person’s name stood for the whole of themselves in the ancient world, and often still does today, so these phrases are really the same.) . It can be no more than a box to tick on a survey identifying ourselves as part of the Christian “tribe”. Some Christians treat it as if it is the “terms and conditions” we have to assent to in order to get our ticket to heaven. But John means us to understand far more and deeper things than this. The Greek word he uses, the one used generally for “belief” in the New Testament, is pistis, and it really means something more like trust than belief. It’s not so much about agreeing  with some ideas about Jesus – that he was the Son of God, or that he rose from the dead, for instance – as about being prepared to put yourself into his hands, living the way he lived, following in his footsteps. We can “believe” that a parachute exists, understand how it works, feel its weight, even carry it on around on our backs. It is quite another thing, though, to jump out of a plane knowing that it is only the parachute which will stop us from plummeting to our deaths. That’s the kind of belief, trust, faith, which John is talking about here.

Who do you trust in life, and why?
How do people earn your trust? Have you ever thought you could trust someone only to find yourself let down by them?
What does it mean to you to say that you “believe in Jesus”, if you do?

Build a tower out of bricks, cards, yogurt pots, or whatever you have to hand. What makes it stable? What makes it more or less likely to fall down? As you build, think or talk about what makes someone trustworthy, the sort of person you can rely on.

Monday, December 16, 2019

16. But to all who received him...

What might it mean to “receive” Jesus? “Receiving lines” are a feature of formal occasions – weddings for example. They give a chance for every person to be welcomed by the hosts, for their presence to be noticed. But John means far more than a formality here, far more than a simple “so glad you could come…”. The Greek word John uses, “elabon”, means “to take to one’s self”. Receiving Jesus isn’t just about acknowledging Jesus’ existence, or even his importance to the world. It’s about allowing him to make a difference to us, letting him get involved in our lives, transforming us. Going back to the wedding analogy, it’s not so much about saying hello in passing to a guest, but about taking a new person into the family, gaining a son or a daughter who will change the whole family dynamics, bringing (hopefully!) new perspectives and new life.

Have you ever “received” someone into your life who you knew would change you forever – a spouse, a child, a partner, a friend? How have they changed you?
Have you ever been “received” into someone else’s life? What did it feel like to know you were now part of their lives for good?
Do you feel that way about Jesus? Does letting him be a part of your life make a difference to you, or does he feel like a distant acquaintance or a guest at a formal “do”?


Draw a picture of the people who you feel belong to you, and to whom you belong. Pray for each one as you draw them.