3 August 2020
Thought for the Week
Among the many things we have forgotten to do in these strange times is change the altar frontals and other decorations in church. When people came back for personal prayer the altar was decorated in the simple, stark colour we use in Lent, and the noticeboards still said ‘Lent 3’ – it was, of course, 15th March – the Third Sunday of Lent – when we were last in church together. Several people commented on that when they came into the building for personal prayer. It does sometimes feel like we’re stuck in a never-ending Lent; even as we get back a bit more towards normal, a world of face coverings and physical distancing is still so very far from what we’re used to. And not knowing how long this is going to go on for, or when things may change, can feel like wandering in the wilderness – not knowing quite where the destination is, still less the route or the journey time. In these times of what may feel like social, spiritual, and emotional deprivation, we can be reminded that God is with his people even in those wilderness experiences. As a great hymn reminds us, he gives us light by night and shade by day, and feeds us daily with spiritual strength in these time of wandering. May that refreshing, guiding divine presence be with us all.
Thank you to everyone who gives financially to the work of our church. We are so grateful for all the work this allows us to do together, albeit most of it online or over the phone at the moment! We know these are uncertain times for many, and we’re particularly grateful to everyone who has continued to give through these recent months. We have lost a good deal of income from hall rental, fees, and so on, and we have worked carefully to limit costs as much as we can. It’s now the time of year when we would be ordering envelopes for those who use envelope schemes, and we will be writing to everyone on those schemes this week. Also, we would have held our Gift Day in June which is normally a moment when many of us give something specially to the church’s work. So we would like to encourage everyone to consider whether they can join the Parish Giving Scheme – over 30 of us already have switched over to it – it is a safe and secure system, where all the administration is handled centrally (so saving the parish time and admin costs) but the parish receives every penny given. You can find more information at https://www.parishgiving.org.uk/home/ or Helen Price, our Treasurer, would be happy to answer your questions on 0118 987 1771 or email here. You can of course continue to give by envelope scheme, cheque, or bank transfer – see here for details – please note we cannot accept cash donations for now. Thank you again for all you give, in whatever way, which makes possible all the work we continue to do in these strange times.
Worshipping and Praying at Home
Our website www.earleystpeters.org.uk/resources/ contains ways to pray at home and links to live-streams of services as well as radio and television worship. Do also keep checking on our Facebook page and YouTube channel for regular reflections and worship.
- This week’s Service is available here and here – thank you to all those who participated, and to the Bishop of Oxford for the sermon. Next week like many parishes in the area we will have the Bishop of Reading as our guest preacher.
- Philip led this week’s Midweek Reflection, available here and here; there will be no midweek reflections during August.
Children’s Church, Tots and Teddies, Bible Explorers, and Song School are all on their summer break. Please be praying for them and their families, and that we would find good ways to continue our work with children and young people. Please ask to join the Facebook group or email Hannah for more details – there will be more news shortly about plans for the autumn.
Tuesdays and Thursdays
Throughout August we will continue Morning Prayer on Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays; everyone is welcome to join us and you don’t need a book as we share the words on the screen. Of course, we will review this when it becomes feasible to gather in church. To join Morning Prayer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 5th August, 11am-12noon on Zoom
To join our regular monthly Bible Study, contact email@example.com
Summer Coffee Morning
Wednesday 19th August, 11am-12.15pm on Zoom
Our regular coffee morning on Zoom – a chance to catch up with brief prayers at the end. To join, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Private prayer in the church: update
The church is open for private prayer on Thursdays from 10am to 12 noon and 6 to 8.30pm. The law will change from 8th August to require the wearing of face coverings in places of worship, so if you are coming for personal prayer and you are not exempt, please wear one while in the church building. More details here.
As we begin to reopen the church and hall you will see more activity on the site over the coming weeks. However, for the moment, the Parish Office remains closed to personal visitors. This is so we can put appropriate measures in place to keep our staff and visitors safe. Mary our Parish Administrator and Judith our Hall Manager regularly check their emails and the office answerphone and can do this when away from the office too. If you feel you have some reason to come in person to the office, please ring first on 0118 966 8575.
We are sad to share the news that May Phillips, a longstanding member of our congregation, died recently. Please keep the family in your prayers. There is likely to be a private family funeral and then a public memorial service later in the year.
In our prayers please
- pray for those who are unable to take a holiday at the moment or who are fearful for their jobs;
- pray for the work of Anna, our Mission Partner in Peru.
- among the departed we remember May Phillips and all those who mourn.
Quote of the week
Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing make you afraid. All things are passing. God alone never changes.
St Theresa of Avila (1515-82)
Please let Philip know if you have words, pictures, or poetry you think others may find helpful.
Prayer for the week
Watch now, dear Lord, with those who wake or watch or weep tonight,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ, rest your weary ones,
bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones,
pity your afflicted ones, shield your joyous ones,
and all for your love’s sake. Amen.
St Augustine (354-430)
Love and prayers to you all,
Hannah & Philip
The Reverends Hannah and Philip Hobday, parish priests
email@example.com, 0118 966 8575
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Like many parishes in the area, for this Sunday’s sermon we heard from The Bishop of Oxford, The Right Reverend Dr Steven Croft. This is his text, based on Matthew 14.13-21.
What’s your favourite story in the gospels? It’s a question I like to ask when I visit churches for informal meetings. Time and again, over the years, the story that comes to the top of the list is today’s bible reading: the feeding of the five thousand. I wonder if it’s yours.
It’s a story that begins when Jesus and the disciples are exhausted and they need to get away – a good story for the beginning of August. Jesus withdraws by boat to a deserted place. But the crowds follow him, thousands and thousands of people.
Jesus has compassion on them and heals the sick. We love Jesus for his humanity. We love that he is exhausted and we love that he puts his tiredness aside for the sake of the crowds.
At the end of the day, the disciples try to take over and manage the situation. We might have done the same.
“Send the crowds away so that they might go into the villages and buy food for themselves”. But Jesus gives his disciples a seemingly impossible challenge. “They need not go away. You yourselves give them something to eat”. The problem is set.
The disciples look around at the vast crowd. Five thousand men with women and children. There is nothing for miles around. They see the sun beginning to set over the western hills. They look at one another.
Their response is a curious mixture of honesty and hope.
We have nothing here….that’s the honesty. We have nothing here but….five loaves and two fish. Did you hear the but? That’s the hope.
Every authentic call of God has that curious mixture of honesty and hope: it’s that mixture which takes us away from ourselves and draws us into God.
We have nothing here but….five loaves and two fish. This is why we love this story: because we see it lived out in the life of the church year by year.
We look at the vast needs in the communities around us. We see children going hungry. We hear Jesus say: you yourselves give them something to eat. We say: “We have nothing here….but maybe we could start a foodbank, or a breakfast club, or a meals service for the shielding”.
We look at the financial needs of our churches. We say, truthfully, we have nothing but perhaps we could give something extra because the needs are so great.
We look at the children and young people of our churches who need loving and caring for and teaching the faith. We have nothing ….but if there’s no-one else, I could offer the little I do have.
We look at the vast needs in the world in the Disasters Emergency Appeal. We have nothing to match that need. But we could text and give £10.
We see our local church has no Wardens or treasurer. We have nothing it seems – but I could offer some of my spare time in retirement.
Jesus takes five loaves and two fish, the little we have, sincerely offered. Jesus gives thanks. He breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples. The disciples give it to the crowds. A miracle happens. And all ate and were filled.
Every Eucharist, every service of Holy Communion, is a sign and a re-enactment of this story. The priest takes ordinary bread and wine, offered by God’s people. The priest gives thanks, breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples. All are fed by the very bread of heaven, the presence of Christ.
And then, at the end of the service, we offer our very lives to God, all that we have. God takes what is offered and turns it into a miracle. We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish. Amen.