Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sunday Worship podcast links and other news from Seal Church

 

Dear friends

The links to our audio podcasts, Zoom sessions etc are below, as usual. If you, or someone you know is in need of any kind, please let us know and we will do our best to help.  
Stay at home and stay safe!

Best wishes
Revd Canon Anne Le Bas


Jan 24 Third Sunday after Epiphany

Online
Morning Worship podcast   Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

 
In Church
No services in church until further notice.

On Zoom this week  email sealpandp@gmail.com for links

Zoffee - Zoom chat at coffee time
Time: Jan 24, 2021 11:15 AM 

Wednesday Zoom Church 11 am. An informal service including Bible reading, prayer and a short talk.
 
Zoom Children’s Choir  Wed 5-5.30pm  Fun singing with Anne Le Bas
 
Zoom Adult choir  Wednesday 7.15 pm contact philiplebas@gmail.com for the link.


Epiphany 3
Today’s Gospel story is the story of the Wedding at Cana in Galilee, when Jesus turned a very great quantity of water into extremely good wine. That’s my kind of miracle…
As I explore in today’s sermon, though, it wasn’t really just a gift to those who like a glass or two of an evening. It is about the generosity of God, who can bring hope even to the most hopeless situations. It is a story which has been portrayed in art many times over the years – an excuse to paint a party, full of colour and incident. The miracle itself is usually happening in a corner of the picture, unseen and unnoticed by the celebrating crowd.

This picture by Veronese, which hangs in the Louvre, opposite the Mona Lisa, is their largest picture. Veronese set it in the Venice of his time, and populated the scene with people known to those who might first have seen it, including Suleiman the Magnificent, Titian, who is the musician in red in the centre of the picture, and Veronese himself, the musician clad in white. It also has a number of animals to spot – I have counted at least six dogs, a parrot, and a cat playing with one of the water jars on the right. The miracle itself is happening right under the noses of the guests – in the bottom right hand corner – but they are oblivious to it!
 
 
 
 
You can see a larger version by clicking on the picture, and there is a lovely meditative pan around the picture in this youtube clip.


All Age Ideas

  • The story of the Wedding at Cana is a great excuse to have a home-made party.
  • It's also a good moment to talk about what we feel we are running low on - energy, patience, love etc.Perhaps you could draw a jug and mark on it how much you think you have, and ask God to help you.
  • There's a video of the story here from St Albans Diocese Childrens work department. https://youtu.be/aERLzzeduj4 
Would you like us to pray for you?
Email your prayer requests to:

sealchurchprayer@gmail.com
Your email will be read by Anne Le Bas and Kevin Bright, the Vicar and Reader of Seal Church who will hold you in their prayers. 
CHURCH AND COMMUNITY NEWS

Great Garden Birdwatch. We were reminded at Friday Group Zoom that the RSPB Great Garden Birdwatch is next weekend. It’s a survey which anyone can join in with, counting the numbers of different varieties of birds you can see outside during any one hour between 29 and 31 Jan I do it every year – a great way to relax, and you can do it from the warmth of your house, just looking out of a window! More details here https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/
 
Marion Gilchrist passed along news of various community and Know Your Neighbours events happening or planned. If you aren’t on Marion’s email list and would like to be, you can contact her on marionjgilchrist@gmail.com
 
Marion writes: “Luci Napleton, who has been running her Dance For Fun classes in Seal Village Hall for some years, is running her classes on line. So, if like me, you are starting to feel a bit of fun exercise is desperately needed now, you can contact Luci to book your slot by emailing luci.napleton@googlemail.com 
Luci will give you information of times, and send a joining form before you get started.
 
We have a few names already, of people interested in Zoomed quizzes, games nights, etc. If you are interested in joining in , please contact me, as we are hoping to get these up and running soon.
 
Finally, Chris is in the process of making some of her beautiful Valentine's and Easter cards. They will cost £1 each and proceeds will go to the church. If you would be interested please contact Chris by emailing  c_rampton@hotmail.com . Photos are available.”
 
There are also lots of ways of connecting with others through things like our Zoffee, Zoom Church, Zoom choir and Friday Group Zoom. It is possible to join in with Zoom groups by phone, so you don’t need a computer to do so. Please ask me if you would like to know how to do this!
 
If you or someone you know is in need of a bit of support, or just a friendly chat, please do get in touch – don’t sit at home feeling lonely!

 
HYMN OF THE WEEK  Just as I am
This famous and much-loved hymn, like so many others, has a personal story behind it.   Charlotte Elliot (1789-1871) was the daughter of a silk merchant. In her early 30s she suffered an illness which left her permanently disabled, weak and depressed – she had been a gifted artist and writer of humorous verse.  She lived with her brother, a clergyman, and one day, frustrated at her inability to help with parish tasks, and struggling to know how she could be any use to God, she remembered the words of a visiting preacher, Dr Cesar Malan, spoken to her many years before, that she could come to God, “just as she was”. She wrote the hymn (originally a poem) that day.
 
Just as I am is sung to several tunes. Woodworth (1849) , the tune in the video above, by William Bradbury was the earliest and is the most popular across the world, but hymn books commonly used in the Church of England usually set it either to Misericordia (1875 Henry Thomas Smart) or Saffron Walden (1877) written by Arthur Henry Brown (in the video below). Saffron Walden is the tune we usually use at Seal.
 
Appropriately for the times we are in, in her later years, when she was not able to attend public worship, Elliott wrote, "My Bible is my church. It is always open, and there is my High Priest ever waiting to receive me. There I have my confessional, my thanksgiving, my psalm of praise, and a congregation of whom the world is not worthy – prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors; in short, all I can want I find there."  
 
 
Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd'st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.
 
[Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come.]
 
Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt;
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.
 
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.
 
Just as I am, thou wilt receive;
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.
 
Just as I am, thy love unknown
has broken every barrier down;
now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come.
 
Just as I am, of that free love
the breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
here for a season, then above:
O Lamb of God, I come.

 
 
Just as I am to the tune "Saffron Walden"
Prayer of the week

Earlier this week, Jonathan Heeb sent me a selection of prayers which he had been translating into English, written by the Finnish Lutheran scholar Michael Agricola (1510-1557) . Jonathan said “He was trained by Luther and together with Olaus Petri brought the Reformation to Sweden/Finland.  He also gave Finnish a written form; his ABC book was the first book published in Finnish. His prayerbook was published in 1544 in Finnish, one of the first books published in that language.
 
Lord Jesus Christ, you gave us the stillness of night.  In it we may rest.  In it, the body regains its strength.  You created the night in your mercy to wash away all our sorrows and calm our worries. Let us this night rest happy, without worry.  Surround us in your completeness and protect us with your peace.  Amen
(Click on the picture to hear a recording of Jonathan reading the prayer in Swedish)

I did a bit more scouting about and found out that Agricola is known as the “father of literary Finnish”. He was born in Finland and lived through tumultuous times not only for Church, during the Protestant Reformation, but also for the Nordic countries, which had been united under one monarch from 1397 to 1523 in the Kalmar Union, but broke apart in Agricola’s lifetime. (Finland continued to be ruled by Sweden until the early 1800s, when Russia took control of it and established it as a Grand Duchy after wars with Sweden. Finland became independent in 1917, at the time of the Russian revolution.) 
Michael Agricola by Albert Edelfelt (1854-1900)Michael Agricola was only 7 years old when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses – arguments against Roman Catholic ideas – to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, in an attempt to reform the Church. The turmoil and splits that followed led to the spread of Protestant ideas across Europe. Agricola was ordained at a time when Lutheran beliefs had reached Finland, but were not yet widespread. His work as a scribe in the office of the Bishop of Turku is thought to have brought him into contact with the first Finnish student of Luther, Petrus Särkilahti, He was sent to Wittenburg to study under Luther and other reformers. When he came back he was appointed as a teacher at Turku cathedral school, which he apparently didn’t enjoy, calling his students “untamed animals”… Eventually, however, he became Bishop of Turku, appointed not by the Pope, but by the Swedish King Gustav Vasa, a supporter of the Reformation. Agricola was a key figure, therefore, in establishing the Lutheran church in Finland, and its first Lutheran bishop. He was married, and his son eventually became Bishop of Tallinn.

Agricola’s fame, though, rests as much on his writing and translating as on his leadership of the Church. He produced the first Finnish translation of the New Testament, among other works, and in doing so, had to work out a way of writing down the language, which had never been done systematically before. Swedish was Agricola’s mother tongue, though he was also fluent, possibly bilingual, in Finnish Finnish was a minority language and  it belongs to an entirely different family of languages from Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. Working out how to represent its sounds in writing was no mean feat. His first book was the Abckiria, which included the alphabet, some spelling exercises and the Catechism in Finnish.
 
Agricola also wrote a number of collections of prayers and liturgies, from which the poem Jonathan has translated comes, so in a way he is the equivalent of Wycliffe, Tyndale and Cranmer all rolled into one.  I thought this prayer was particularly lovely – a comforting prayer for the end of the day. Many thanks to Jonathan for the prayer, and for the recording of him reading it in Swedish, as well as for sending me down the interesting rabbit-hole of the history of the Nordic Reformation, about which I knew almost nothing. Sincere apologies to him for any errors in the above account, which are entirely mine! I hope that your rest this night “washes away your sorrows and calms your worries”.
And Finally...
Tomorrow (25th) is Burn’s Night. If you have any Scottish ancestry and will be celebrating you might be interested to know that this celebration has now reached the edge of space, with the launching of a Haggis. No, I don’t know why either…
 

Haggis launched to the edge of space in celebration of Burns Night

Scots celebrate Burns Night on 25 January in celebration of the life and works of national poet Robert Burns.
By Manpreet Sachdeva, news reporter
Friday 22 January 2021  Pic: Stratonauts/Simon Howie  

In honour of Burns Night, a packet of haggis has been launched to the edge of space for the first time.
Scottish butcher Simon Howie worked with space education and research firm Stratonauts to launch the 454g haggis in Perth and Kinross this month. The haggis was attached to a weather balloon and soared more than 20 miles (107,293ft) above the Earth - equivalent to nearly four times the height of Everest.

After taking off from the Simon Howie headquarters in Dunning, it travelled over Stirling, Falkirk, Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills before landing safely in Lauder in the Borders. Mr Howie said he wanted to start the year by "lifting the spirits of the general public" and was thrilled to work with Stratonauts "to take Scotland's national dish to new heights".
"Burns Night is one of the most important dates on the food calendar for us and we wanted to mark the occasion by sending the UK's best-selling haggis, the original 454g, to the edge of space," he said.
Mr Howie said his company had worked hard to increase production in the run-up to Christmas and now Burns Night, which Scots celebrate on 25 January to mark the life and works of poet Robert Burns.
https://news.sky.com/story/haggis-launched-to-the-edge-of-space-in-celebration-of-burns-night-12195194

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sunday Worship podcast links and other news

 

Dear friends

The links to our audio podcasts, Zoom sessions etc are below, as usual. If you, or someone you know is in need of any kind, please let us know and we will do our best to help.  
Stay at home and stay safe!

Best wishes
Revd Canon Anne Le Bas


Jan 17 Second Sunday after Epiphany

Online
Morning Worship podcast   Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

 
In Church
No services in church until further notice.

On Zoom this week  email sealpandp@gmail.com for links

Zoffee Sunday chat on Zoom.  Jan 17, 2021 11:15 AM 

Wednesday Zoom Church 11 am. An informal service including Bible reading, prayer and a short talk.
 
Zoom Children’s Choir  Wed 5-5.30pm  Fun singing with Anne Le Bas
 
Zoom Adult choir  Wednesday 7.15 pm contact philiplebas@gmail.com for the link.


Epiphany 2

Samuel and Nathanael 


Samuel tells Eli God's message. Painting by John Singleton Copley 1759-1813Today’s readings  introduce us to  two people who  heard God’s call to them – eventually!  Samuel was just a small boy,  entrusted to the keeping of Eli , an old priest who looked after the shrine at Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant, the box in which the Ten Commandments, was kept . His mother had been desperate for a child, having been unable to have one,  and  came to pray at the shrine. (1 Samuel 1) When her prayers were answered, she brought her child to the shrine to live there.  Priesthood was hereditary, so Eli’s sons should have been the ones to succeed him in his spiritual leadership of the people, but they had proved to be corrupt, stealing the offerings people brought to the shrine for themselves. Eli was in failing health, and the story tells us that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread”. It seemed as if the faith which had sustained Israel was in terminal decline . But God had other ideas, and in the middle of the night, called to Samuel and gives him a message for Eli. Although it is a tough message for Eli to hear, it does carry with it the  promise that God  has not finished with Israel. Samuel goes  on to become one of the most important   prophets and leaders in Israel’s history. 

Nathanael, in the Gospel of John, is similarly caught off guard.  He can’t believe that anyone from Nazareth could be the Messiah – it would have seemed much more likely that it would be someone from a significant family,  one of the Temple elite, perhaps, not a carpenter from a backwater town in Galilee. But meeting Jesus changes his mind completely and Nathanael becomes a follower of Christ. Nathanael isn’t mentioned in the other Gospels, but is often  identified with Bartholomew . Tradition says that Bartholomew/Nathanael went on to take the Gospel eastwards, reaching India. Some traditions say that he was martyred in Armenia, by being flayed alive (rather gruesomely, many depictions of him show him holding his own skin…), but other stories say that he died in India. Armenians claims him, along with St Thaddeus, as their Patron Saints, however. 

All Age Ideas

If you are feeling bored, here are some ideas for things to do at home or out taking some daily exercise. 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1I00LY58YaLp5UnYHCgqKETz3yUi8mu4U/view?usp=sharing


In this video we hear the story of Jesus' meeting with Nathanael.  
Would you like us to pray for you?
Email your prayer requests to:

sealchurchprayer@gmail.com
Your email will be read by Anne Le Bas and Kevin Bright, the Vicar and Reader of Seal Church who will hold you in their prayers. 
CHURCH NEWS

The PCC met last Thursday evening by Zoom. We noted our thanks to Jenny Elliott, who has stepped down as Chuchwarden and from the PCC, for her service in these roles.
As always we discussed safeguarding – it is a standing item on the agenda because it is so vital – and the importance of appropriate training, depending on what people are doing within the church community. Everyone in the church community is invited and encouraged to do the basic awareness level of training, which is done online, so that we all know what danger signs to look out for and what we should do if we are worried that something is amiss. Some people also need to go on to do the “Foundations” or “Leadership” courses, if they are working with children or vulnerable adults. Find out more here. https://safeguardingtraining.cofeportal.org/
 
Building and repair projects are progressing steadily. The Tea Station should be installed within the next month, and the boundary wall is due to be repaired once the winter is over (it can’t be done while there is still a danger of hard frosts). A major item of expenditure this year will be the installation of a replacement oil-fired boiler, as our current one is on its last legs, and we have been warned that it won’t go through another winter. We have researched and discussed alternatives, like a new electric heating system, and various green alternatives, but at the moment a new heating system (at least £40,000, plus a lot of disruption) is beyond our resources, so the only realistic option is to replace our current boiler with a new one. It will be much more efficient, probably saving up to 30% in heating costs, but it will cost between £10,000 and 15,000, so it will be a major expense this year. We are looking for ways of fund-raising and seeking grants, but some of the cost may have to come from our reserves.
 
We also reviewed Advent and Christmas. Despite the inevitable restrictions and disruption caused by coronavirus, people felt that the opportunities for worship and reflection (and even some singing outside!) had been good and had been appreciated. If you have any feedback on Advent and Christmas and how it felt for you, please feel free to get in touch. Although we hope never to have to go through another festive season like 2020’s, there may be things we could learn which would be valuable for future years.
 
Lent
Lent is just around the corner! It hardly seems possible, but it is only just over a month away. Ash Wednesday is on Feb 17. It is a bit challenging to work out how we might mark this if we are still in lockdown, but I have a Cunning Plan, so watch this space!
 
Jesus teaching a crowd: Lent Course imageThis year we can’t meet for our usual Lent discussion sessions in person, of course, but I will be leading two Lent Groups via Zoom, on Monday mornings at 11 am and Monday evenings at 7.30pm, starting on Monday Feb 22. I will also be producing material that you can use at home or with friends or family if you don’t want to Zoom.
I thought it might be good to do a bit of spiritual “stocktaking”, to reflect on where we are with God after such a tumultuous and challenging year, so I am going to be doing four sessions focussed on questions Jesus asked people who came to him. “What are you looking for?” (John 1.38) “ Do you know what I have done to you?” (John 13.12) “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6.5) and “ Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16.8). The course will be called “What do you think?” which is another of the questions Jesus asks. It will follow a similar format to the “Meeting Jesus” sessions some of us joined in a few months ago, with opportunities to reflect on a Bible passage with our heads, hearts and hands. I will let you know more in a couple of weeks, but I thought you might like some advance notice of what is planned.

 
HYMN OF THE WEEK
I the Lord of Sea and Sky (Here I am, Lord)
This is one of the most popular modern hymns. Its composer, Dan Schutte, was a member of the St Louis Jesuits, a group of composers who were at the time they got together all members of the Roman Catholic Jesuit order who were at the time academics based at St Louis University. They wrote many songs, especially in the 1970s and 80s, in a popular idiom, which have become staples, especially in Catholic churches. Dan Schutte left the order in 1986, but remains close to the Jesuits and very active in church music.  He is currently Composer-in-Residence at the University of San Francisco. He also writes on spirituality and liturgy.
 
Here I am Lord is probably his best known hymn, especially outside Catholic circles. It is often sung at confirmations and ordinations, with its emphasis on God’s calling, but in a survey I conducted a few years ago at Seal it came high on peoples’ list, so we sing it fairly regularly. It is a belter of a hymn, with a rousing chorus which can’t fail to inspire! The hymn is based mainly on God’s call to the prophet Isaiah, (Isaiah 6.8) in which Isaiah has a vision of God’s glory and hears God call “Whom shall I send?” Despite feeling unworthy, Isaiah responds “Here am I: Send me!” but it also invokes the imagery of the calling of Samuel “I have heard you calling in the night”.
 
I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
 
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
 
I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them.
Whom shall I send?
 
I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?
 
©Copyright Daniel L Schutte 1981 and New Dawn Music
Prayer of the week
 
Picture of sunrise with prayer. As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you; now and forever. AmenThis little prayer comes from the beginning of Morning Prayer in the Church of England’s Common Worship order of service. It has a wealth of meaning packed into four short lines. It proclaims each day, every day, to be a gift, and something to rejoice in. It encourages us to trust that God will be present in it, and it doesn’t just invite us to see God’s light, but also to be set ablaze by it, so that light shines out to others.
It’s a great prayer for the days we look forward to, but it’s an even better prayer for the days we don’t, the grey January days which seem to have nothing in them but the “same old, same old”, or the days which bring anxiety or pain. These days too, are days in which God is at work, and reminding ourselves of that can make all the difference to the way we approach them.
 
In case you haven’t found them, here are some links to resources which can help us to live out our faith, in prayer and action, every day.
 
Prayer apps – you can also find these by searching for “Daily Prayer” and “Time to Pray” on your smartphone’s App store.
Daily prayer:
https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer The daily prayer of the Church of England.
https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray (this now includes an audio recording of short services of prayer during the day and at night, with music.)
 
More C of E apps can be found here https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps
 
 
Faith in daily life
Inspiration for ways of living out our faith in daily life.
https://www.churchofengland.org/about/renewal-reform/setting-gods-people-free
https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/everyday-faith/everyday-stories
 
Exploring your calling at an “It’s your calling” day with Rochester Diocese. The next one is online on Feb 6. This is for anyone wanting to think about what they are called to do, in the church or out of it, in authorised ministry or in some other sphere.
https://www.rochester.anglican.org/ministry/vocations/its-your-calling/
And Finally...
Bearing in mind our PCC discussions about the need to replace the boiler, perhaps Ron, in his Church Time “St Gargoyles” cartoon this week has an idea for alternative fuel…
 

A couple of tweaks, and the church boiler was good to run on facemasks.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sunday Worship podcast links and other news

 

Dear friends

With the permission of the Bishop, we have decided that because of the rapidly escalating number of coronavirus cases locally we shouldn't have any services in church, though the building will be open for private prayer as normal between about 9.30 and dusk. Please worship with us online or by phone - links to our audio podcasts, Zoom links etc are below, as usual. If you, or someone you know is in need of any kind, please let us know and we will do our best to help.  
Stay at home and stay safe!

Best wishes
Revd Canon Anne Le Bas


Jan 10 Baptism of Christ

Online
Morning Worship podcast  Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

 
In Church
No services in church until further notice.

On Zoom this week  email sealpandp@gmail.com for links

Zoffee: Sunday morning Zoom chat
Jan 10, 2021 11:15 AM

Wednesday Zoom Church 11 am. An informal service including Bible reading, prayer and a short talk.
 
Zoom Children’s Choir  Wed 5-5.30pm  Fun singing with Anne Le Bas
 
Zoom Adult choir  Wednesday 7.15 pm contact philiplebas@gmail.com for the link.


Baptism of Christ
Today marks the feast of the Baptism of Christ, when we think about the story of Jesus coming to John the Baptist and insisting on being baptised by him. It is a story which has puzzled theologians. Why would Jesus need to be baptised, a ritual which symbolised the washing away of sin, if he was sinless? It is a story which is repeated in all four Gospels, though, so it was clearly important to the early Christian community. Christians have often regarded this story as a powerful reminder that Jesus shared in, and was prepared to be immersed in, the whole of human experience. It marks the beginning of his ministry, the first time he is publicly noticed, and is followed in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, with the story of Jesus’ Temptation in the wilderness. It’s a story which is part of the Epiphany season, which lasts until Candlemas on Feb 2, because Epiphany means “Revelation” and this is one of the stories in which people start to realise who Jesus is. David Zelenka’s picture captures that moment of revelation beautifully, with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove coming down on Jesus as he rises from the waters.

ALL AGE SUGGESTIONS
In the video below we hear the story of Jesus' Baptism. There are some "wondering questions" to think and talk together about.
  • Today is a good day to play with some water. What do we use water for? Have you ever felt scared in water? What do you think it would be like to be out in deep water? God promises that he will always be with us, however stormy the waters we might find ourselves in.
Would you like us to pray for you?
Email your prayer requests to:

sealchurchprayer@gmail.com
Your email will be read by Anne Le Bas and Kevin Bright, the Vicar and Reader of Seal Church who will hold you in their prayers. 
CHURCH NEWS

Jenny Elliott,  one of our two lovely churchwardens has decided to step back from the role and come off the Parochial Church Council. Churchwardening can feel quite demanding, and Jenny feels she has too much on her plate at the moment to do it justice. Of course, she will still be around and helping out in all sorts of capacities, but I quite understand her need to relinquish this particular responsibility. I am sure that, along with me, you will want to thank her very much for all that she has brought to the role over the last couple of years, which have not only included a pandemic, but began with my sabbatical in 2019. Thank you, Jenny!

This will mean that we will need to find two new churchwardens later this year, as Gesiena is coming to the end of her term of office, and has already served several years more than she originally signed up for… If it is something you would be interested in exploring, please let me know. While it is easier if you are already on the PCC, or have been in the recent past, it’s not essential, so if you would like to know more, please get in touch. 

Keeping in touch
Although we are all feeling the ongoing lack of the normal groups and activities which usually keep us in touch with one another, there are various opportunities to keep in contact. Friday Group is still going strong on Zoom – last Friday’s conversations ranged around deterring pigeons by using old CDs (no, not by using them as frisbees to aim at the poor birds, as someone suggested), whether John Wayne was actually a “rubbish actor” and the somewhat startling titbit of information that one of our number, who will remain nameless, had once been kissed by Nicholas Parsons on New Year’s Eve… As you can tell, the conversation is not exactly highbrow…in fact its brows are usually somewhere near ground level!
There is also our Sunday morning “Zoffee”, another chance for some light-hearted chit chat. If you are looking for something a bit more devotional, there are a couple of home groups meeting on Zoom, and our Wednesday morning Zoom Church, which I find to be a lovely little oasis of prayer in the week. 
If you don’t use Zoom, you can join these discussions on an ordinary phone, at normal phone rates. If you would like to try that, please let me know and I will send you the passcodes you would need to enter to join in. 
Our Zoom choirs restart this week – Children’s Choir on Wednesday at 5pm for half an hour of (mostly fairly silly) songs, and Adult Choir, which gives the chance for some good old hymn singing, at 7.15pm. Get in contact if you would like the codes to join in. Anyone is welcome at these.

I would also like to stress that I am available to chat to or pray with people, on the phone, on Zoom/Sykpe, or even in person if that is necessary. I am happy to go for a socially distanced walk with anyone who would like to chat outside, but can visit you at home if there is an urgent pastoral need and no other way to meet, as I am classed as an essential worker. 

There are also a number of people who are willing to make time to phone people on a regular basis, just to keep in touch, and to offer practical help if that is needed, so don’t suffer in silence. We are here to help.


Lent 
Lent is just around the corner! It hardly seems possible, but it is only just over a month away. Ash Wednesday is on Feb 17. It is a bit challenging to work out how we might mark this if we are still in lockdown, but I have a Cunning Plan, so watch this space!

This year we can’t meet for our usual Lent discussion sessions in person, of course, but I will be leading two Lent Groups via Zoom, on Monday mornings at 11 am and Monday evenings at 7.30pm, starting on Monday Feb 22. I will also be producing material that you can use at home or with friends or family if you don’t want to Zoom. 
I thought it might be good to do a bit of spiritual “stocktaking”, to reflect on where we are with God after such a tumultuous and challenging year, so I am going to be doing four sessions focussed on questions Jesus asked people who came to him. “What are you looking for?” (John 1.38) “ Do you know what I have done to you?” (John 13.12) “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6.5) and “ Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16.8). The course will be called “What do you think?” which is another of the questions Jesus asks. It will follow a similar format to the “Meeting Jesus” sessions some of us joined in a few months ago, with opportunities to reflect on a Bible passage with our heads, hearts and hands. I will let you know more in a couple of weeks, but I thought you might like some advance notice of what is planned.
HYMN OF THE WEEK Brightest and best of the sons of the morning
 
This hymn, written for the feast of the Epiphany, was the first written by Reginald Heber (1783-1826) who eventually became Bishop of Calcutta. It was during his 16 years as a parish priest in Hodnet, Shropshire, however, that he wrote the hymns  he became famous for, including “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”.
There was some controversy around this hymn, and it was omitted from many hymn books originally because it is addressed to a star – the star of Bethlehem – rather than to God.
It invites us imaginatively to step into the story of the Wise men and make our own journey to Bethlehem. What will we give the infant Jesus as a gift? Not the gold, frankincense and myrrh they did, but our “heart’s adoration”. The last line reminds us that “the prayers of the poor” are worth far more than any material gift.
 
The tune most often used for this hymn in the Church of England is Epiphany, by Joseph Francis Thrupp( 1827-67) vicar of Barrington, Cambridgeshire.
 
 
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning;
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
 
Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!
 
Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?
 
Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favour secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
 
 
  • Have you ever tried to buy God’s favour or bargain with him? How difficult is it for you to trust that he loves you as you are?
Prayer of the week
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,Howard Thurman
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
 
Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was an author, theologian, pastor and civil rights leader who was a profound influence on Martin Luther King. His grandmother had been enslaved on a plantation in Florida, so Thurman grew up with an acute awareness of prejudice and a deep determination to fight it wherever he could. This prayer is a meditation on the “work of Christmas” which starts when the tinsel and trappings are packed away, as we ponder and live out the message of God’s love. We may respond emotionally to the ancient stories of shepherds, angels and wise men, but we are called to find and serve Christ in our own time and place, by sharing in his work of creating justice.
This beautiful setting of Thurman’s words, is set to music by Dan Forrest.
And Finally...

 
There are a number of traditions associated with the season of Epiphany. At Seal last Sunday we blessed chalk to use to write a welcome to the wise men above our doors – there are still a few chalk blessing packs in the porch if you missed out, with instructions for what to write. In some countries they bake special cakes with crowns or beans hidden in them. Whoever finds them is king for the day, provided they don't choke on what they find. I can entirely understand and get behind these customs.
I am less convinced, however, by the Russian Orthodox tradition of diving into freezing cold water to celebrate Epiphany… (The Orthodox Church still calculates the dates of feasts by the old Julian Calendar, so Christmas is on Jan 7th and Epiphany on Jan 19
th, in case you wonder why the dates are different to ours)
 
Here’s some more information from the BBC here, including a video of people making ice holes to bathe in. That’s right. Making ice holes to bathe in. There is so much wrong with that phrase that I don’t know where to start… I won’t stop you if you are determined, but I can’t see us taking a holy dip in the Guzzle Brook any Epiphany soon!


https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51162735
 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Christmas Stories: The Gift of the Star

Today, for the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Church celebrates the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, we hear this story The Gift of the Star. It is adapted from a French folktale about a fourth wise man, and the gift  he brought to Bethlehem. It's also about the gift he took away - and the gifts we can take away too. My version was inspired by the version told by Mary Joslin, in her book "The Fourth Wise Man", but only loosely. Folktales change with every teller, and every audience, and this one is no exception.

This is the last in our series of Christmas Stories. I hope you have enjoyed them, and that they have given you comfort, and food for thought, in this difficult time. Do let me know, in the comments below, which was your favourite! 







Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Stories for Christmas: The Owl's Christmas

Today's story, the Owl's Christmas, is spun from the old folk belief that all the birds of the air visited the manger, except the  Owl. Owls were regarded as birds of ill-omen, but what if it wasn't like that?





Sunday, January 03, 2021

Stories for Christmas: Old Befana

 Today's story is a tale from Italy; the story of Old Befana

Befana is the traditional gift giver in Italy, often portrayed as a witch with a broomstick, her story originally didn't have any connection with witches. The broomstick is an integral part of the story, though, for this houseproud woman! The name Befana probably derives from "Epiphania" - the feast of Epiphany on Jan 6, when the arrival of the Magi (the Wise Men/Three Kings) in Bethlehem is celebrated. 



Sunday worship links from Seal Church

 Happy New Year!


There's only this brief newsletter this week, because I am trying to take time off this week, but there are podcasts as usual, and also a Zoffee chat at 11.15. Kevin Bright, our Reader, is preaching on today's podcasts and at our 10 am service. This service will be the only one today.
Bearing in mind the rapid spread of the virus, which is still increasing in Sevenoaks, while I realise that there are some people who feel a particular need to worship in church I would STRONGLY ADVISE  that if you can, you worship at home for the time being. 

I am planning on there being three services in church next Sunday as "normal" - if anything is normal these days! - but I will be keeping it under advisement, so please do check next Sunday if you are planning on coming to Story Church or Evensong. 

Scroll down for the series of Christmas Stories which are being released each day from Christmas Day to Jan 6. A new one appears on this blog each day.

Best wishes
Revd Canon Anne Le Bas


Jan 3 Epiphany Sunday

Online

Morning Worship podcast   Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

 
In Church today 
10 am Holy Communion

Please note that there will be no Story Church or Evensong today 

On Zoom this week  email sealpandp@gmail.com for links

 Zoffee  Jan 3, 2021 11:15 AM


There will be no Wednesday Zoom Church, Children's Choir or Adult Choir until Jan 13