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

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 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 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.

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:
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. 

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 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!

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