Sunday, August 16, 2020

Sunday Worship links and other news


August 16 - Trinity 10

Sunday worship podcasts
Morning Worship         Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)
Evensong                    Evensong service sheet
From this Sunday onwards, I will be using the same readings and hymns for morning and evening services, to simplify the work of producing the podcasts. I hope you will understand the need to reduce my workload a bit, so that I can maintain the online “offering” alongside the three services each Sunday in the church and churchyard each Sunday! It will mean, however that I will also be able to include the sermon in the Evensong podcast.
In Seal Church
Please note – face coverings are mandatory in church unless you are exempt.

10 am              Holy Communion in church
4pm                 Outdoor Church in the churchyard (weather permitting - this is currently going ahead today,  but the ground is very wet, so you may want to bring something to sit on!)
6.30pm            Breathing Space Holy Communion in church
Monday 11 am             Private funeral: Kathleen Johnson

Wednesday 9.15 am   Morning Prayer

Friday 10.30 am          Friday Group on Seal Recreation Ground in groups of six, socially distanced.

Sunday Aug 23 in Seal Church
10 am              Holy Communion in church
4pm                 Outdoor Church
6.30pm            Evensong

On Zoom this week
Zoffee – Zoom chat at 11.15 am (note the later time)
Meeting ID: 889 1806 2932
Passcode: 842159

Wednesday Zoom Church 11 am 
Zoom Children’s Choirs:  Wed 5pm and Thurs 4pm
email for links

Wednesday at 7.15 pm Adult Choir on Zoom 
email for link

Trinity 7
Today’s Gospel reading is a puzzling one, in which a woman comes to Jesus to ask for healing for her daughter. Jesus is in the district of Tyre and Sidon, a coastal district to the north of Galilee, modern day Lebanon –foreign territory for Jesus, in other words – but home for this woman. This was an area which had been inhabited for thousands of years by Canaanites, also known as Phoenicians, who had lived here since before the Israelites had settled the land to the south, driving them out of that land. The Phoenicians were famous seagoers, importing and exporting through the ports of Tyre and Sidon, and founding many colonies around the Mediterranean including Carthage in North Africa, parts of Sardinia and Sicily and the southern tip of Spain. Valuable exports included the purple dye made from the tiny murex sea-shell, which was reserved for the ruling classes of the ancient world (and is why purple is still regarded as a somewhat luxurious colour – think of the Cadbury’s chocolate wrapper if you don’t believe me!). The Phoenicians produced one of the earliest known alphabets – long distance traders need ways of communicating efficiently with people they can’t talk to face to face, and another Phoenecian port, Byblos, specialised in the import of papyrus made in Egypt, on which the earliest books were written. That’s why the Greek word for book is Biblos, plural Biblia, which is where we get the word Bible from (and bibliography, bibliophine and everything else to do with books!)
But along with this history of thriving industry and invention, these Phoenician territories had a seedier side, at least according to the Bible, which is often suspicious of what goes on in them. This is probably partly rooted in fact. Archaeologists have found evidence that they practiced infant sacrifice, which the Bible castigates them for, and those seaport towns are likely to have been rackety places, with a lot of people coming and going, wheeling and dealing. There would have been sailors from all over the world, far from home and living by their own rules, out on the razzle after long weeks at sea, maybe with a “girl in every port”. I wonder whether the woman in today’s Gospel story might have been one of those women, abandoned by her lover with a child to raise, as there seems to be no man to speak for her or defend her, which would have been unusual in the culture of Jesus’ time. Phoenician women had a bad reputation in the Bible, embodied in the stories of Jezebel, the Phoenician princess who had married Israel’s King Ahab. Even if people know nothing about the Bible, they know what a “Jezebel” is – her name has become shorthand for a temptress, a woman who is up to no good somehow.
The first puzzle then is why on earth Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon. If he wanted to get away from the rising tensions around his ministry in Galilee, to take a break, to have time to ponder and pray, this was hardly the place for a devout Jew to do that. It seems to me that it was a deliberate decision to go somewhere where he knew he would be challenged, faced with things which would stretch even his tolerance, expanding his vision of God’s love. If that is the case, it is certainly what happened when this woman came to him, demanding help.
The second puzzle is why he seems intent on turning her away at first, quite rudely… It seems that even for Jesus, this woman is, at first, a bridge too far. In today’s sermon, I ponder what might have been going on, and why this story might matter to us.

  • Have you ever been somewhere, or found yourself in a situation, which feels so “foreign” to you that you have had trouble dealing with it? What happened?


All Age Ideas and Resources
 If you can, why not join us for our Outdoor Worship in Seal Churchyard today, with a story from me, and some time to pray and chat at a safe distance. Bring a rug or a folding chair. 4pm for about 20 - 25 mins.

Children's sheet linked to the Sunday theme from Roots

Adult reflection ideas from Roots
Prayer of the week
A prayer to end the day
Christ stands before me
and peace is in his mind.
Sleep, O sleep
in the calm of all calm.
Sleep, O sleep
in the love of all love
Sleep I this night
in the God of all life.
J. Philip Newell, from Each Day, Each Night.

This little prayer, which is part of my personal evening prayer is, I think, profoundly comforting. At the end of a day, any day, when things have gone wrong as well as right, and when some things that ought to have been done haven’t been done at all, it is good to be reminded that Christ has “peace in his mind” towards me, even if I might not feel that way about myself!
Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings
1 Sometimes a light surprises
the Christian while he sings;
it is the Lord, who rises
with healing in his wings:
when comforts are declining,
he grants the soul again
a season of clear shining,
to cheer it after rain.
2 In holy contemplation
we sweetly then pursue
the theme of God’s salvation,
and find it ever new;
set free from present sorrow,
we cheerfully can say,
“Let the unknown tomorrow
bring with it what it may.”
3 It can bring with it nothing
but he will bear us through;
who gives the lilies clothing
will clothe his people too:
beneath the spreading heavens
no creature but is fed;
and he who feeds the ravens
will give his children bread.
4 Though vine nor fig tree neither
their wonted [expected] fruit should bear,
though all the field should wither,
nor flocks nor herds be there;
yet God the same abideth,
his praise shall tune my voice,
for, while in him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.

This lovely hymn is not sung nearly as often as it ought to be, so I was glad that the choristers of St Martin in the Fields recorded it to be used in C of E church online worship services during the pandemic, and why I included it in this week’s podcasts.

It was written by William Cowper (pronounced Cooper), 1731-1800, a prolific hymn writer and Romantic poet. His life was not easy, dogged by mental health problems from his teenage years, which often manifested itself in a belief that God was angry with him or had rejected him, not helped by the rather grim Calvinist theology of the religious circles in which he moved, which placed a heavy emphasis on sin and damnation. He had originally intended to be a lawyer, but his dread of the public examination he would have to take triggered a profound depression which led him to attempt suicide several times. He was hospitalised on a number of occasions, but eventually found some peace and support when he went to live in Olney, whose curate was John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote “Amazing Grace”. Cowper became an ardent and vocal opponent of the slave trade, along with Newton and his ballad poem 
“The Negro’s Complaint” became very popular among Abolitionists. Respite from his mental ill-health was only ever intermittent, however, aided according to a 1907 biography of him, by “carpentering, gardening, glazing, and the tendance of some tame hares and other playmates”. I have never encountered “tame hare” therapy for depression, but I can well believe there might be something in it!

The best of Cowper’s hymns, many of which were included in John Newton’s Olney Hymnal come out of his lifelong battle with his depression, acknowledging the reality of his feelings of despair, but also looking beyond them to the love of God. He is also the author of “God moves in a mysterious way”, “O for a closer walk with God”, “Jesus where’er thy people meet” and  “Hark my soul, it is the Lord”, with its lovely lines inspired by Isaiah 49.15, “Can a woman’s tender care, cease toward the child she bare? Yes, she may forgetful be, yet will I [God] remember thee.” Cowper’s own mother had died when giving birth to his younger brother when he was six, and it is speculated that the feeling of abandonment this produced seems to have been a factor in his depression. 

“Sometimes a light surprises” draws its inspiration from a number of Bible passages. “Healing in his wings”, (also familiar from the third verse of “Hark the Herald Angels sing”) comes from Malachi 4.2, and in verse three, you may recognise the reference to Jesus’ words to “consider the lilies”, who God clothes more splendidly than Solomon, and the birds who are fed by God – if he cares for them so well, surely he will care for us too. The last verse, which is my favourite, is inspired by Habbakuk 3.17. Habbakuk was an Old Testament prophet whose message was that although he lived in times of great destruction and difficulty, God was still present. Habbakuk, and Cowper, don’t deny the real and justifiable sorrow they feel, but find God within it.
We usually sing this hymn to the tune Offertorium, by Michael Haydn (brother of the famous Joseph Haydn), but there is another version below, set to the folk tune “Salley Gardens”  which I think is a lovely setting.

The SCARECROW FESTIVAL has been brought forward this year, to enable more children to get involved, whilst they are off school, and often with nowhere to go!  Scarecrows can go up outside your property, or another agreed venue, from August 15th, and there will be a trail for you and yours to follow, over August Bank Holiday weekend. If you wish your scarecrow to be 'ON THE TRAIL', please contact Janetta on 01732 762729 or Barbara on 01732 762255. It has been agreed to have no prizes awarded this year, as there are always amazing entries, and everybody deserves a huge THANK YOU for making the effort to contribute to the festival. We will be holding a lockdown exhibition, hopefully later in the year, so please take a selfie of yourself/selves, with your scarecrow and also send to either Barbara or Janetta or email to If you have nowhere to display your scarecrow, or you feel you are too far out of the village, please ask the local shops and businesses if they would like one outside their premises. They often like to join in, but don't have the time to make their own!
During the summer, the Church is fund raising to help plug the financial gaps caused by this pandemic. We are looking for people to host small (maximum 6 people) garden tea/lunch/supper parties, with donations being made to the church. If you feel you could host such an event, please contact Rosemary on 01959 524914 or Chris on 01732 763585.You could also contact us by emailing A pack containing invitations, guidelines and a risk assessment is ready for your use. There have been several Gatherings so far – many thanks to those who have hosted them – and they seemed to go smoothly and safely, so do join in.
Many thanks to those of you (46 in all) who completed the survey I put out over the last few weeks. I have closed the surveys now, but if you missed them, I would still be very glad to hear from you in an email, letter, phone call, or socially distanced visit, how this time of lockdown has been for you, and how you are feeling about the future, both personally and in terms of what Seal Church can do to support you.
I am pondering the findings of the survey but initial impressions are that, although these past few months have been difficult in many different ways for people, and there are real concerns about the future, people have appreciated the things Seal Church has been doing, and that many have felt a deepening of their faith and their connection with one another, the church and with God.
It is clear to me from your responses that it is important to keep offering the widest variety of ways of accessing worship and spiritual nourishment, because everyone has different needs, and different abilities and limitations in what they can do to connect with the church at the moment,  so please be assured that , as well as what we offer in church and in the church yard (Outdoor Church has been well received!), the podcasts and phone line will continue, as will, in some form, this weekly newsletter.
The question I asked about what activities people might like us to try to develop in the future produced interesting results. Top of the list was a walking group of some sort, so my question is, what sort? Do people want a short stroll, or a yomp? Would you like local walks, starting in or near the parish, or something further afield? Would you like something with a reflective element – a mini-pilgrimage – or just a walk? Let me know what you think.
Another request was for some sort of online Bible study group or opportunity to explore faith together or individually – watch this space for developments on that front!
Many thanks again for your feedback, which was interesting and affirming.
And finally...
Facemasks are now mandatory for worshippers in church, unless you are exempt from wearing them. The inimitable Dave Walker has reflected on the range of facemask possibilities…

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