Monday, April 06, 2020


 Our Lady of the Lake Church, Sparta, NJ
Today's reading is the story of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus at her home in Bethany from John 12 . 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

Mary's loving gesture, using ointment which might have been used to anoint a dead body in preparation for burial, shows that she, at least, understands what is coming. The disciples are scandalised by her action, though it is only Judas who says so. He focuses on the waste of what could have been sold "for the poor", though John say that this wasn't the real reason for his disapproval. Jesus response that "you always have the poor with you" can sound as if Jesus doesn't care about the poor, but in reality he has spent his whole life caring about and for them. Jesus isn't saying that helping the poor doesn't matter; it is just that he wants to recognise and affirm the value of this act of tenderness and empathy. We don't have to choose one or the other. Indeed, we cannot truly love the poor (or any other group of people) if we aren't capable of showing love and empathy to those around us. Mary sees Jesus, not just as a great teacher and leader, but as a human being who knows that he faces a terrible time. 

Questions to ponder: 

  • Has anyone ever done a small act of kindness which made a big difference to you?
  • What do you think Judas' real problem was with this act?
  • Imagine you were there - where would you be in the story? who do you most identify with?

Join us tonight for our podcast service of Compline
You can find the podcast here.

The reading tonight is John 12.1-11 (see above)

You might like to find a candle to use through the week, if you have one.

You might also like to listen to the YouTube clips below before you start the podcast, or some music you have which you like.

Drop, drop slow tears, by Orlando Gibbons

The woman with the Alabaster Box, by Arvo Part. 
This refers to the story recorded in Luke 7.36, when Jesus is anointed by a woman who gatecrashes a dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee, but this story is echoed by the story in John 12, when the woman who anoints Jesus is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. In both cases the women's gesture of love and gratitude is frowned upon by the onlookers, but affirmed by Jesus.


A poem for Monday in Holy Week, by Malcolm Guite.

The Anointing at Bethany

Come close with Mary, Martha , Lazarus
So close the candles stir with their soft breath
And kindle heart and soul to flame within us
Lit by these mysteries of life and death.
For beauty now begins the final movement
In quietness and intimate encounter
The alabaster jar of precious ointment
Is broken open for the world’s true lover,

The whole room richly fills to feast the senses
With all the yearning such a fragrance brings,
The heart is mourning but the spirit dances,
Here at the very centre of all things,
Here at the meeting place of love and loss
We all foresee, and see beyond the cross.


Decorate a jam jar by sticking things to the outside of it - pictures, coloured tissue, ribbons, lace etc. Through the week, add notes to it whenever you notice an act of kindness, for you or for others, or if you see references to kindness in the news. At the end of the week, empty out the jar and thank God for the kindness people show.

Find things around the house that smell (nice!) Blindfold each other and see if you can identify them.

Check out the suggestions on today's Pinterest board.

Sunday, April 05, 2020



Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, when Christians around the world remember the events in the last week of Jesus’ ministry, his death and his resurrection.
During this week there will be blog posts here every day, with ideas for reflection and worship, music, art and craft activities for all ages etc. I have put together Pinterest boards for each day, with ideas. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for all age ideas.

Check back each day for ways to mark this very special time together. There are all sorts of other resources and opportunities around, and Chelmsford Diocese has a really good selection here, so you might like to check that out too.

COMPLINE FOR HOLY WEEK. From Monday to Saturday this week, there will be a short podcast service of Compline (Night Prayer) available in the daily blog post here. The service sheet to go with that, if you would like to follow it, is here.

EASTER GARDEN CHALLENGE During  this week, why not make an Easter Garden, with a tomb and a cross on it?  When you have finished it,  take a photo of it and send it to me, so I can share it here and on our social media.
It could be made of real plants, in a seed tray or shallow pot. Or you could make it out of junk or craft materials, perhaps in a shallow cardboard box ,a paper plate  or a tray.
There are some ideas on the Pinterest board I have created (link below), but do your own thing!
Easter Garden Pinterest board

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, he was consciously playing into the expectation of his people that God would one day send a leader who would bring in his kingdom. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah (Chapter 9.9-12) had said:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Entry into Jerusalem by Lorenzetti 1280 – 1348
   Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
   triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
   on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
   and the warhorse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
   and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
   and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
   I will set your prisoners free
from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
   today I declare that I will restore to you double.

No wonder the crowds went wild, tearing branches off the trees and laying down their cloaks. They thought Jesus would be a leader who would free them from the oppression of the Romans, and restore them to the place of power and glory in the world that they thought they should have.
But while the crowds of ordinary people greeted him with enthusiasm, the powers that ruled the land – Jewish and Roman – saw this as a direct threat to their authority. It simply made them more convinced that Jesus was a dangerous troublemaker, who they should get rid of as soon as possible. Jesus knew this would happen. He also knew that the kingdom he was bringing in was not like the kingdoms people were used to, where military might ruled. It was a kingdom of peace and non-violence. Even the people who had shouted “Hosanna”, a Hebrew word  which means “save us!”, seem to have turned away from him when they realised that salvation didn’t seem to involve earthly power. They wanted an easy answer, delivered by someone else, rather than something which involved change on their part.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Think of situations in the world which you think need to change. How do you think that change might come, and what is your part in “being the change you want to see”?
  • Have you ever looked to someone else to solve a problem that was really your own to fix, and been disappointed when it turned out that they couldn’t or wouldn’t?
  • What do you think Zechariah meant when he called the people he wrote to "prisoners of hope"?
  • Imagine you were there in the scene when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. What can you see and hear? Where are you? What are you feeling and hoping as you see him enter the city? What would you like to say to him, and what do you think he might say to you?
Here are two Palm Sunday hymns which which you might like to listen to.

All Glory, laud and honour.

Ride on, ride on in majesty

And here is a poem, by G.K. Chesterton, called The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
   On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.

All Age ideas

A video telling the story of Palm Sunday

Decorate your front door with a branch from a bush or tree from your garden (don’t tear one off from someone else’s garden or a public park , though!) or draw a palm branch and stick it in your window (there is one in the Palm Sunday resources below.

Some colouring and puzzles etc to explore Palm Sunday
Colouring, puzzles etc.

Check out today’s Pinterest board for other Palm Sunday crafts and activities – Palms, donkeys, colouring and puzzle pages etc.

In their own words: Day 40

Romans 15. 5-7

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

These few verses sum up what Paul has been trying to do in this long letter. For all its complex theology, in the end it is a pastoral letter, intended to help the Roman Christians get along with each other. Jews and Gentiles alike have been welcomed by God, and because of that, they should welcome each other. They are as good, and as bad, as each other, and as much in need of God’s forgiveness and help as each other. Paul longs for a world in which the love of God, which he discovered in Damascus when Ananias welcomed him, is known by all. The church in Rome is called to model that love, a tough challenge then, and now too. We have a God who is “steadfast and encouraging” though, so we should not give up!

·         As we come to the end of these reflections, what picture of Peter and Paul have you formed? What will you take away from their words?

Saturday, April 04, 2020

In their own words: Day 39

Romans 12.9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

It is easy for a list like this to sound trite to us, because it is so familiar, the kind of thing we might find on an inspirational poster. In reality, though, Paul’s words are extremely challenging, especially when we consider them against the background of his life and eventual death. Blessing those who persecute you is easy when you aren’t actually being persecuted, for example. In Paul’s context it involved real pain and real death.

·         Read Paul’s words slowly. Which phrases do you find most challenging?

Friday, April 03, 2020

In their own words: Day 38

Romans 8.31-37

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Roman Christians were well aware of the dangers of following Christ. Intermittent waves of persecution had meant that many of them had probably seen friends and family killed. Paul had suffered much already, and would eventually be killed by the Romans, but he is confident in the face of suffering, because nothing can separate him from God’s love.

What sustains you in hard times? 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

In their own words: Day 37

Romans 8.26

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

Paul knows that the world is not as it should be, and longs for change. In the passage that precedes this, Paul has spoken about “the whole of creation groaning in labour pains”, waiting for God to bring to birth his new kingdom, “the revealing of the children of God.” But sometimes, for him, and for us, that change can seem to be a long time coming. Paul compares it to a woman in labour, knowing something good will happen, but going through pain in the process.  Sometimes we can’t even find the words to express what we feel and long for.
At these times, says Paul, God’s Spirit prays within us “with sighs too deep for words”. We don’t have to know what we want to say to God. He knows what is on our hearts.

·         Today, just sit with God and remind yourself that he knows what you feel and need. Can you trust that he hears you even when you can’t find the words you need?

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

In their own words: Day 36

Romans 2.1

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.

Paul’s letter to the Romans has often been regarded as the summation of his theological thinking. It can feel complex and hard to understand, but it has been very influential in shaping Christian thought. Like many other letters, a major theme in it is the tension between Christians with Jewish ancestry and those who have come from non-Jewish (Gentile) backgrounds. Judgmentalism seems to have taken hold. In the first chapter, Paul talks about a number of lifestyles and behaviours which would have seemed shocking to his hearers, but just when they might have stoked up a bank of disapproval he turns the tables on them, pointing out that while they are tut-tutting at others, they are doing things just as bad, judging others in a way which is destructive and harmful.

We all have to make judgements about people, sometimes for our own safety and well-being, but when does judgement slide into judgementalism? Have you ever felt you were being condemned by someone else unjustly? What did it feel like?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

In their own words: Day 35

2 Corinthians 9.6-8

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.

Paul has previously shared with the Corinthians the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem, where there has been famine and hardship. The Corinthians have promised to help, but it seems that no actual money has been forthcoming – yet! Paul encourages them to set this right.
Fear is a great enemy of generosity. What if there isn’t enough left for us? But Paul reminds his readers that everything they have comes from God. Their generosity should be rooted in an awareness of God’s generosity to them. “God loves a cheerful giver”, he says, not one who gives because they must, but who gives because they know how much God has given to them.  

How do you feel about giving? What has shaped your attitudes? Have there been times in your life when it has felt hard to give?

Monday, March 30, 2020

...and in other news...

...and in other news...

A weekly newsletter from St Peter and St Paul, Seal, to help us keep in touch with one another at this time. 
The raising of Lazarus by Van Gogh
The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt)
Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Saint-Rรฉmy-de-Provence, May 1890

oil on paper, 50 cm x 65.5 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

The Gospel reading for March 29 was the story of the Raising of Lazarus. you can find it in John chapter 11. It's a dramatic story full of anguished waiting. I explored it a bit in the talk during our Sunday  morning. You can find the text of the talk on the church's sermon blog, and the whole recorded service here. (You don't have to listen on Spotify, by the way. Just scroll down the page and you'll find the direct links.)

Van Gogh's painting of the Raising of Lazarus catches the moment when Lazarus is called back from death into the world of the living. He has been buried in a cave cut out of the rock, like the one Jesus will be laid in, and we, the viewers, are inside it, looking out. The two women witnessing this are Martha and Mary, his sisters - one outside with her arms raised and the other, with her back to us, inside in the shadows.  Lazarus is sitting slowly up and seeing the world he thought he had bade farewell to, with a look on his face of numb bafflement.  Van Gogh painted this while he was in the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy in France, in the last year of his life, inspired by an etching of the same scene from a painting by Rembrandt and it is suggested that the figure of Lazarus is a self-portrait, since Lazarus has the same red beard as Van Gogh did. Apparently the colours of the pigments have faded a bit over time. The blues in the foreground contrasted more originally with the bright colours of the background, but it still captures very well the astonishment of the moment, and the complexity of this strange story which points forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus, which happened just a few weeks later, according to the Gospels.
What do you think of this picture?
What do you think the figures in it would say to us, if we could talk to them?

This lovely prayer comes from "Each Day, Each Night" by Philip J. Newell, and it is one which I use every morning at the beginning of my morning prayer. It encourages me to look for Christ "and his sunlit company" throughout the day, in all that happens in it, even in situations which don't seem all that likely to contain any blessing. The photo is one I took last year of the sunrise over the Sea of Galilee.
By request from Hilary Curtis, our podcast worship this week started with a verse of "O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder". Here's the whole thing to sing along with! I wrote about this hymn a few years ago in our 2017 Lent reflections

What's everyone doing to keep busy and cheerful? 

Listening in on the chat between Friday Group members, it sounds like there has been a huge amount of gardening going on. Here at the vicarage, Philip has been hacking back brambles and stinging nettles .I'm starting to worry that there won't be any garden left by the time he's finished!

Seal Cubs and Beavers, and children from the school too, have been making rainbows to decorate their windows.(My contribution to all this was a youtube video of me telling the story of Noah )

Friday "groupers" have also been digging out the Christmas lights... (Why should they just be for Christmas?) ... and putting them in their windows, along with a candle, lit as a prayer each evening. See Sue Buddin's picture below. (Make sure you don't burn the house down if you do this - there is quite enough to deal with without that!)

Home Groups have been "Zooming" and "Skyping" and What'sapping, and there's a lot of phoning going on -  it's been great to see how the people of Seal have been finding ways of keeping in contact. We had a PCC Standing Committee meeting by Zoom conference call the other day, to catch up on some of the practicalities of running the church, which worked quite well - though you really do have to listen, and not talk over each other, which is a good discipline for any time!

My appeal a few weeks back for book recommendations for "the duration" produced some interesting suggestions. Some people are going for the classics - Jane Austen and Agatha Christie are Gesiena's choices. Others prefer non fiction. Heather Alwen recommended a lovely book of letters, compiled by Simon Sebag Montefiore "Written in History: Letters that Changed the World" . If, like me, you're finding it hard to concentrate for long at the moment, then something you can dip into is ideal.

Maybe there's a film you can recommend that people could find on Netflix or some such. I have discovered which streams ballet, opera and plays - there's a 30 day free trial offer on at the moment.

Crafts are another great way of occupying the mind just enough to help us forget all the other things we may be worrying about, and I confess to buying wool to crochet yet another blanket. I know I don't need one, but there's need and "need"... (evidence of crochet-related activity below)

Let me know if you have any tips to pass on for things that might occupy time and cheer us up - send along photos if you can, and I'll include them here. 

And finally...

I know I promised a Co****v***s free zone, but I couldn't resist including this story from the Guardian, about an astrophysicist who decided to try to invent a device to remind people not to touch their faces. Suffice it to say, it didn't turn out quite as he imagined.
"An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at Melbourne university, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night.
The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets.
“I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face. A bit of boredom in isolation made me think of that.”
However, the academic realised the electronic part he had did the opposite – and would only complete a circuit when there was no magnetic field present.
“I accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face,” he said.
“After scrapping that idea, I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets. It’s the same logic as clipping pegs to your ears – I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.”
Reardon said he placed two magnets inside his nostrils, and two on the outside. When he removed the magnets from the outside of his nose, the two inside stuck together. Unfortunately, the researcher then attempted to use his remaining magnets to remove them.
“At this point, my partner who works at a hospital was laughing at me,” he said. “I was trying to pull them out but there is a ridge at the bottom of my nose you can’t get past.
“After struggling for 20 minutes, I decided to Google the problem and found an article about an 11-year-old boy who had the same problem. The solution in that was more magnets. To put on the outside to offset the pull from the ones inside.
“As I was pulling downwards to try and remove the magnets, they clipped on to each other and I lost my grip. And those two magnets ended up in my left nostril while the other one was in my right. At this point I ran out of magnets.”
Before attending the hospital, Reardon attempted to use pliers to pull them out, but they became magnetised by the magnets inside his nose.
“My partner took me to the hospital that she works in because she wanted all her colleagues to laugh at me. The doctors thought it was quite funny, making comments like ‘This is an injury due to self-isolation and boredom.’”
At the hospital, a team of two doctors applied an anaesthetic spray and manually removed the magnets from Reardon’s nose. "

Just don't do it, people, however bored you are!

(I showed Philip this story, and then wondered if I should have done. He's a keen "inventor" and I worry that he might take it as a challenge rather than a warning...)

Anyway - that's all for now. Stay at home and stay well!
best wishes

In their own words: Day 34

2 Corinthians 4.7-12

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

The second letter to the Corinthians, which may be two letters put together, picks up some of the same themes we find in 1 Corinthians. It seems that Paul visited the Corinthians between the writing of the letters, and that the visit didn’t go well. They prefer a Gospel which looks strong and in control, what would now be called a “prosperity” Gospel. But God doesn’t necessarily work like that, says Paul. Worldly success isn’t necessarily a sign of God’s blessing. Sometimes God works through apparent failure and suffering, as he did in Jesus’s death on the cross. Paul has faced much hardship but he sees God at work in this too, and hopes the Corinthians might see it in their lives.

How do you cope with your own failure and weakness?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

In their own words: Day 33

Philemon 10-17

I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back for ever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.

The very brief letter to Philemon, just 21 verses long, concerns a slave, Onesimus, (whose name means “useful”) who’s run away from Philemon. He’s found his way to Paul, who is in prison. He can’t stay with Paul though, so Paul appeals to Philemon to take him back, “not as a slave but as a beloved brother.” Paul challenges the slave-owning culture of the ancient world. In God’s kingdom, all should be free.

What do you think Philemon might have done in response to Paul's appeal? 
Slavery can come in many forms. What does slavery look like today? Check out to find out.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

In their own words: Day 32

Phil 4.11-13

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Contentment is a precious thing. It is far more than a comfy pair of slippers, a mug of cocoa and a roaring fire to relax in front of. It is the state of wanting what we have, or at least accepting it, rather than having to have what we want all the time. We know contentment when we feel it, but it is hard to summon at will. Paul, from his prison cell, says that it is something that can be learned, however. What is the “secret”  to this? He has found it by discovering that he “can do all things through God who strengthens me.” Whatever happens, Paul has found that he cannot fall out of the hands of God. His love is indestructible.

When did you last feel truly content? How content are you with your life at the moment? Are there things you need to change to find the contentment God wills for you, or do you need to come to terms with the things you have which you can’t change? 

Friday, March 27, 2020

In their own words: Day 31

Phil 4.4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

This passage is full of joy, which is surprising when we remember that it was written from prison. Yet even here – perhaps especially here – Paul is aware of God’s presence. It is this which keeps him from worrying and helps him to know the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”

Are you worried about anything today? How can you remind yourself that God is with you?

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Some resources for children and families

Here's a video I made for our church and school families, with the story of Noah and the big flood. If your children are drawing rainbows to put in their windows, you might like to watch the story to put the rainbow in context.

There's a great idea below which I picked up in a Facebook post from Katie Eborall, to make a jar into which children (and adults!) can put notes with things they would like to have done, but can't because they can't go out, to help them look forward to the things that they will be able to do once this is over, rather than just being sad that they can't do them now. Perhaps it could go with a jar for suggestions for things they can do now as well, so that the family has ideas that they can draw on in the present. 

Katie says:
"We’ve started a new thing in our house today and sharing it in case anyone else wants to try. Every time we wish we could do something, go somewhere, treat ourselves, see someone we love, visit a new place, invite people to visit us, we’re going to write it down on a post it note and put it in a jar. When all this is over this will be our bucket list and we’ll work our way through the jar and be more grateful than ever for the little and lovely things in our lives. Until then we’ll enjoy watching the jar fill up with magical things to look forward to ๐Ÿฆ„๐Ÿฆ–๐Ÿ–๐Ÿ‘ต๐Ÿผ ๐Ÿงš‍♂️๐Ÿงœ‍♀️๐Ÿงž‍♂️๐Ÿƒ๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿคฟ⛸๐ŸŽญ๐Ÿคน‍♂️๐Ÿฉฐ๐ŸŽจ๐ŸŽธ✈️๐ŸŽข๐ŸŸ "

And finally, here's a lovely video to help children understand why they have to stay at home.

In their own words: Day 30

Phil 2.6-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi was written while he was in prison, facing an uncertain future. Despite this, it is full of faith and hope. It includes this hymn- like mediation on the humility of Jesus which may have been used in worship. Paul uses it here to encourage the Philippian Christians to develop the same humble and open attitude to one another as Jesus had, to have the “same mind that was in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever felt powerless, as Paul did when he wrote this, and Jesus did when he “took the form of a slave”? How did you feel and react?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

In their own words: Day 29

1 Corinthians 15.51-52

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Many Jewish people believed that there would eventually be a general resurrection of the dead. Christians – of both Jewish and Gentile origin - believed that it would happen when Jesus returned. The Corinthian Christians had been debating this hot topic. There was feverish debate about how and when this would happen, however. Some early Christians believed it would be in their own lifetimes.

Paul explores ideas about resurrection in this chapter, but concludes with his real point; that it is a mystery whose details we cannot fathom, but which will involve change and re-creation. Whenever and however it happens, we prepare best by getting on with the job of loving others and living as we are called to, says Paul, “because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.” 1 Cor 15.58

What do you believe about life after death? What has shaped that belief? How does it affect the way you live your life, if at all? 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Our doors are closed, but our hearts are open

Like all churches, we now have to lock the doors of our buildings, so they can no longer be used for private prayer. Fortunately, God is not locked in the building, and never was. He is with us wherever we are, so we can pray at home, and love and serve others around us too, by keeping in contact by phone and online with those who might be feeling lonely, and protecting our wonderful NHS and those among us who are most vulnerable by staying at home and sticking to the new rules.
#StayAtHome #washyourhands #loveoneanother #protecttheNHS

Resources for children and families

March (2) 2020
Apologies for a second March Child in the Midst!
Although the last edition had a huge amount in it, there are resources which I forgot about and that are worth noting.
If you're finding you have extra time for prayer now that we are locked down more tightly, please pray for:
  • All those looking after the children of key workers.
  • Children for whom home is not a safe space.
  • Health workers who are facing additional stress and hard decisions.
  • Households who are learning new ways of being together.
And do let me know if you come across stories of families discovering how to live faith/worship at home, or if you come across a resource or idea worth sharing.
Stay safe and well,
Prayer Spaces in Schools have suggested stations that help with prayer during the Coronavirus crisis. You'll need to register, but the resources are free.
Why not set up a prayer station in your home, or in the school (if you are open and looking after the children of key workers)? You could take a photograph and share it on social media to encourage others to pray.
IsingPop combine music, faith and fun. They've made many of their songs available on their YouTube channel, great for bopping around at home or school (if you are open for key worker children).
The Diocese of Gloucester's Growing Together pages have resources for households to use together. Some of the material is available freely to those in the Diocese, and available for sale to those outside. Howsever they are also making some material freely available to all during the crisis. THey are hoping to add new pages regularly.
Many primary aged children will be familiar with Out of the Ark Music , who have made some of their resources freely available during this crisis.
Their sister site, Same Boat Music, also has songs free to download (with a more faith-focused slant).
The Reflectionary site has always been an excellent source of resources to follow the lectionary with all ages. In this time of crisis, it now provides Together, Apart for households of all ages and all sizes to use be church together whilst apart.
Faith5 is a simple examen for the end of the day, using the pattern:
Share - your highs and lows of the day
Read - a Bible story or passage
Talk - about how that might relate to your highs and lows
Pray - for one another's highs and lows
Bless - one another
They've made a Pandemic Hope resource available with 8 week's worth of daily readings and faith practices, as well as a chart of Hymnal Handwashing Hits and a Prayer Bingo chart!
It could be used with grandparents/godparents/anyone over Zoom, WhatsApp or Facetime.
Copyright © 2020 Archbishops' Council - Education Divsion, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Archbishops' Council - Education Divsion
Church House
Great Smith Street
London, England SW1P 3AZ
United Kingdom

Add us to your address book

You are receiving this email because you are currently subscribing to Child in the Midst
Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp