Sunday September 3rd Worship at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday September 3rd our minister Rev. Christine Gillespie led the communion service at our chapel.  Our opening hymn was ‘Sing for God’s glory that colours the dawn of creation’ before Christine led the prayers of thanksgiving, praise, confession and the Lord’s Prayer.  We then sang, ‘Through all the changing scenes of life,’ before 1 Peter 4.12-19 was read describing suffering as a Christian.  Matthew 16.21-28 was read where Jesus foretold his death and resurrection.  We sang, ‘Deep in the darkness a starlight is gleaming’, before Christine preached.

Christine reminded us that there had been a welcome service for Ben, our new superintendant minister, and a young probationary minister called Grace supported by a supernumerary Gillian Ann.  The new chairman of the district was Lesley Newton, who had also just been appointed to the York and Humber District, of which our Nidd Valley Circuit is now a part.  Formerly we were part of the Leeds District.  Christine knew there would have been times when they had questioned their calling.  Where was the church calling them to go?   What happened when Jesus called the first disciples on the Lakeside, when they just left their nets and followed him?  Former disciples of John the Baptist asked Jesus where he was staying and Jesus told them to come and see.  Levi a tax man was asked to leave and follow Jesus and he did.  Later on there was another call to the disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross if they were to follow him.  This is different, not just a simple call, but the disciples were now asked to take something up.  Jesus began to talk about his coming suffering and death.  Peter blurted out that Jesus must not suffer, having previously recognised Jesus as the Messiah and was rebuked by Jesus.  The call to the disciples was deeper and more challenging; Jesus was coming to the end of his earthly ministry, so the disciples would need to grow in their faith to take over his ministry.  We all expect children to grow and parents are called to meetings if a child is not progressing as expected.  The Salvation Army shared testimonies of how God had led them each week; it was not a one off conversion but a faith which grew.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians to encourage them to grow in the faith; he told them that they were infants in Christ still living on milk, not solid food.  He rejoiced when they were newborn Christians, but they had to mature because of who Jesus was, and act and be prepared to deny themselves.  Parents deny themselves for their children.  The disciples knew what a cruel form of torture the cross was and found it difficult to contemplate that happening to Jesus. It would be difficult for the disciples to accept such a call.  When Christine had the call to preach, she felt she had no strength to preach, but accepted the call and the strength came.  We don’t know what we will be called to do as believers but we know what Jesus did for us, even going to die on the cross.  Would my love and faith be enough or would yours?  Jesus took up his cross and went resolutely to Jerusalem.

Christine then led the prayers of intercession before we sang, ‘God of Bethel by whose hand thy people still are fed.’  Christine then led the communion service and worship closed when we sang, ‘Lord for the years.’

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Worship at Pannal Chapel on August 27th

On Sunday August 27th I led worship at Pannal Chapel.  We sang, ‘Thou whose almighty word’ before I led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer.  Then there was a dramatised reading based on Exodus 1. 8-2.10 about how the baby Moses was put in the bulrushes.  I gave a children’s address, when I was able to tell them I had just heard that my grandson Alexander Stephen had been born in the early hours of that day, although I had not yet met him.  He was 5 days late and my daughter Cathy had to have an emergency caesarean.  I told them a true story about the arrival of Danae, following an emergency caesarean at 24 weeks in 1991!  Diana’s precious daughter was not expected to live and if by some chance Danae should survive, she would most likely be mentally retarded and have cerebral palsy.  Diana could not think of that; she was the longed for daughter, a little sister for her son.   Danae was so fragile that she could not be touched, so Diana prayed that God would stay close to their precious daughter.  Against all odds Danae left hospital 2 months later.  In 1996 their perfect little daughter had no signs of mental or physical impairment; she was a feisty young lady with glittering eyes and an unquenchable zest for life.  One blistering afternoon in the summer near her home in Irving as she was sitting on her mother’s knee, she asked her mum if she could smell that.  Her mother thought it smelt like rain, but Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced, ‘No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest.’  Diana’s eyes blurred with tears as those confirmed that their prayers had been answered.  When Danae was too sensitive to be touched God was holding her on His chest and it was a loving scene that she remembers so well.  In the same way Moses’ mother had prayed that he might be kept safe and he was rescued by the princess and grew up under the protection of the princess.  There he was prepared for his later leadership of the people of Israel and with God’s help free them from slavery.

We sang, ‘Father I place into your hands’ before I read Romans 12.1-8 and Matthew 16. 13-20 was read.   We sang ‘O Thou, who camest from above’ before I preached.

I asked the question about who I am.  I am the daughter of my father and mother and sister of my three sisters and two brothers.  At Nottingham University I became a Christian.  I gained a degree in German and Biblical Studies, before training to teach at Leeds University.  I then became Stephen’s wife and mother of Beth and Cathy and a Methodist Local Preacher.  After Stephen became ill I went back to teaching German and French.  After Stephen died I became a widow and went back to the Anglican Church St Mark’s Church to rebuild my life.  I had a break from preaching and met and fell in love with my second husband Malcolm.  I had a breakdown and left teaching and rebuilt my life with Malcolm  My roles in life were teacher, wife, mother, local preacher, widow, wife again, clinical coder and summariser at a doctor’s surgery and now a pensioner; recently becoming a granny to Alexander.

Do I really know who I am?  I am aware of how I let God down, but at the same time I know he loves me as I am.  God loves you too as you are.   Paul in Romans reminded us that we are called to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and not to be shaped by the world we live in.   We are to fix our eyes on Jesus until our lives reflect him through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul urged us to recognise our own capabilities and accept ourselves, using the gifts God has given us.  I know that serving coffee causes me to struggle; and I get very stressed about cooking for a large number of people.  I love baking cakes as that can be done in advance.  However I feel called to preach and lead our Bible study group with my beloved and that I am an encourager.  I do help with serving coffee if needed but do not feel comfortable doing that.  I am learning to pray with Brian, my prayer partner better than I can alone.

Jesus at Caesarea Philippi came to a personal crisis, as he recognised his time left was short, so he asked his disciples who people thought he was.  He knew he was not John the Baptist, nor Elijah but Peter recognised him as the Messiah, the son of God.  I too see Jesus as the Son of God who came to show us how much God loves us.  He never gives up on us, loving and accepting us as we are.  Each of us is invited to give our heart to Jesus, our constant companion and guide.  How are we to share our faith in Jesus with others?  Does knowing Jesus make a difference to our lives so others want to come to know him? We can only serve Jesus if we come daily to speak to him, filling our lives with his love and acceptance through the power of His Holy Spirit.

We sang, ‘For the healing of the nations’ before I led the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour’.

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Family time and retail history

I spent a night with my sister Fran in a hotel in Grassington, whilst her ex husband and first friend of Malcolm, Dave spent the night with Malcolm.  It was early August and the weather was variable.  It was just lovely to have a break in Grassington.  We enjoyed popping into different cafés for drinks and nibbles.  We were booked in for a meal at the hotel.  I was pleased to see how dog friendly the town was.  All cafés seemed to allow dogs in and the hotel we were in also was happy for dogs to stay.  I thought it would be an ideal place to come with my beloved and Piper when the weather improved.  I bought some special doggy treats back for Piper and a funny guide on how to care for a dog and a lovely carving of a dog almost identical to Piper for my beloved.  The time passed quickly and it was relaxing despite a lot of wet weather.  My beloved and Piper were glad to have me back home.

On August 10th we had a talk at the Guild about the history of the Retail Trade by Mr G. Brian Greenwood.  Greenwood’s men’s shops were opened in Nidderdale and there is still one in Harrogate.  The first market trading started thousands of years ago initially in the open air.  Department Stores were built at the end of the 18th Century.  Apparently the first escalator was installed in Harrods in 1898; a nurse would be waiting at the top with a tot of brandy for the ladies!  Before the war Selfridge’s had a golf club on the roof and there was also a ladies’ gun club on the roof!  The first multiple department store was in London in 1792 and was W. H. Smiths and Sons. Unique features of department stores were standardised products and prices; as they had multiple buying power they were able to undercut the prices of the small traders.  Multiples were all very similar like Burton’s Men’s Stores.  There were 616 stores by 1952, so there were 10,000 staff based in Leeds and 50,000 suits were made a week.  Boots the Chemist has been there since 1849.  Jessie Boot was initially a herbalist.  There are now many multiples of charities like Save the Children and British Heart Foundations.

Mr Spencer started a business in Leeds in 1884 selling everything for a penny; later he joined with Mr Marks and became as M&S.  Woolworth began in America selling items at 5 and 10 cents stores.    Woolworth came to Liverpool in 1909 items were sold for 3d and 6d for everything in the store.     In 1950 New York had the first self service food shops and in 1951 the first service food shop came to London.  Tesco opened its first shop in 1929 after having started as a market trader.

Benjamin Franklin set up a mail order catalogue which sold science books and other books.  In the UK big business is now conducted over the internet and it continues to grow.  Montgomery Ward had the first catalogue in 1872, which had railway times in different areas of the USA. There continues to be a slow decline in independent traders with the increase in supermarket.  We learnt a few interesting facts about the growth of the retail trade.

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Theology Talk by Bishop John Pritchard on January 27th

The retired Bishop of Oxford, Bishop John Pritchard now living in Richmond came to talk to us about the 5 events that made Christianity.  Jesus is the centre of his faith and he told us that many people are fascinated by Jesus.  Apparently 52% of the UK has no religion but there are 2.3 billion Christians in the world. 70,000 Christians are added to that number daily worldwide.  Jesus is still respected by non believers.  Apparently Jesus is the no 1 person people would like to meet from history.  Philip Bulmer is very critical of the church but very pro Jesus.  Even Ghandi admitted that the Spirit of Jesus was the only one that could save.  Einstein an unbeliever recognised Jesus as a luminous figure.  Jesus made such an impact on people of different or no faith, yet he was only in public life for 3 years!  In New Zealand there was a poster on a wall describing a radical, non-violent  teacher, never anti gay nor mentioned birth control, longhaired brown skin middle Eastern Jew – Jesus!! Albert Schweitzer said that Jesus came to us as one unknown, spoke to us asking us to follow him; to those who obey him he will reveal himself and they will learn who he is in their own experience.

John repeated the phrase that Jesus is the centre of his faith.  He studied Law at Oxford University and there he met Jesus and everything made sense.  He loves taking people on pilgrimages to the Holy Land.  On the last day of a pilgrimage they can see one of 3 possible sites for the road to Emmaus story. There they go into a monastery garden which is quiet.  He loves the strength and serenity of the Monastery building.  There they share their final communion and pull all their experiences together.  He also leads retreats in the Holy Land, which he finds a more profound experience as they are not just going from one site to another.

The five events that made Christianity are (a) birth (b) death (c) resurrection (d) ascension and (e) Pentecost.  These are held together by the person of Jesus.  We tell of this love story, the origins of which are in the nature of God. The first letter of John states that God is love.  It is the Biography of love and the Biography of faith.  Love is creative; a couple create a home; a writer loves words; a gardener loves plants; a scientist loves discovery.  God wanted to share his joy and love of the world and his desire to create led to the incarnation.  We only know God’s love as expressed in Jesus’ words and actions.  John 1 is the outpouring of the light and love of God, revealed in Jesus.  If we go into a house with no windows we stumble in the dark until we come into a room with a large window and we find the view stunning, but also it can be overwhelming; do we stay inside and look out of the window or dare we go into the light and experience it?  We see God through the window of Jesus, but some might go out of the window into the mystery of God.

Jesus preached with authority, healing people in Galilee and everyone took notice.  He announced the Kingdom of God which was at hand, where love reigned expressed in new ways of love, justice and peace.  Such a message seemed dangerous to the religious authorities. The accuracy and power of the message was dangerous to the religious and secular leaders, as it upset neatly constructed rules of behaviour.  Jesus had too much truth and light and they needed to get rid of it; the light was too much for them.  Father Paulo went to talk with ISIS, but he was killed for standing up for love, as Jesus did.

  1. The resurrection

The authorities had to get rid of the dangerous Galilean, but love like his was too full of life for him to remain dead.  Of course Jesus died, but God raised him and he lives; love has come again; the cross was a victory not a defeat; death was defeated.  We are an Easter People, so we should not let the sorrows of the world hide the joy of the risen Christ.

  1. What you do with a love like this? That love needs to be given its proper place. The Ascension put everyone in its place; Jesus at the right hand of his Father; the disciples now on earth rejoicing and worshipping God in the temple.
  2. The power of God, his Holy Spirit is available to every believer; that transformational love, which is there for us and the world. Anyone can co-operate with God’s energy, renewing the world away from its self-centredness. We are part of the 5th or 6th chapter of the Biography of love, a tough love, which is the last hope for the world. In the Eucharist we reclaim his love in our lives, so that God can continue to write his love to world.

Biography of Faith

Five events echo the faith story of Christian people like us.  God’s love is in us, not just manifested in Jesus. That is not prescriptive but is descriptive of what many of us experience.

  1. The birth of faith can be expressed in different ways such as twice born or being converted. John Pritchard had a sort of faith when he went up to Oxford to study, but that faith became real for him at the university.
  2. The crisis of faith comes for us all; hopefully not too soon after we have made a commitment in faith. We need time to root ourselves in Jesus before we face complex questions or find more questions than answers. In Christianity many Christians find themselves as it were outside worship, feeling critical of it.  That can become a full scale crisis of faith.  They might still worship masking their true feelings in the church, but life has gone from their faith.  The darkness of Holy Week can be a bitter experience.  Will we come through it alive?  It is tragic how many founder at that time without a wise guide; Andrew Motion lost his faith when his mother had a bad accident.
  3. New Life can come after the crisis; for some that means leaving the church altogether; for others it means having a more liberating faith, which is open, more inclusive and kinder. After a crisis of faith, faith can be less definite, not as clear cut as it was before, but that faith can be deeper.  John now feels he is a better listener and not so ready to proclaim what he believes as right.
  4. Faith finds its true place in our lives, as happened at Jesus’ ascension into heaven and our faith has a more natural expression. John now finds his faith is the centred motor of his life.  Jesus has gone to heaven and the disciples had to learn to relate to God as Jesus had done.  God is God and we can relax in him, who we trust and he is our ‘home’.  We recognise that we are at home with Christ.
  5. Finally we are set free and empowered for love.

In the first stage of faith we are inward looking, but after a crisis our faith deepens and becomes essential for our lives.  Love has to overflow from us into action in the world.  Love has to be expressed, so we can reach out to others with mercy, compassion and peace.  Our own personal Pentecost comes when we are empowered by love of God to love our neighbour.  Faith is a journey likely to have a period of complexity  in crisis before we learn to accept the grace of God resulting in a deeper and more open and wider faith.

John finds the Holy Land a wonderful place to reflect on the 5 events of Christianity, in a journey of the mind and heart. It is a single story told in 5 chapters in which we follow the main character of Jesus in the biography of love, leading to our biography of faith in 5 sessions, changing us gradually into the likeness of Christ.

God is the God of the whole world, not just of Christians but of all faiths and of those who have no faith.  We have a unique faith in God through Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s energy and power. That divine energy of love, justice and compassion puts the life of the Spirit into our very selves.  We worship a huge God, uniquely revealed in Jesus.  John finds that God gets bigger and bigger and he sees the Holy Spirit as active in the world beyond faiths.  He is sure the Holy Spirit will direct people towards the truest route to God.  For John Jesus is the truest route to God.  Jesus is still at work in the world; wherever people are open the Holy Spirit will be there.  Jesus is the most direct line to God.  Any descriptions of God are metaphors, as God is beyond our understanding.  God has given us Jesus, who revealed the nature of God in his biography of love.  We limit God to our ways, but God is beyond God; there is always more love and grace to discover.

  1. We need to be properly attentive to another person and not put our own interpretations in.
  2. We need to listen really not just to the words the person is saying, but also to see the feelings underlying the words.
  3. Only then can we tentatively suggest, ‘I wonder if this would make sense?’, making a suggestion or inviting them to consider commitment. We need to be truthful to who we are.

I found John compelling to listen to.  I had a more simplistic faith until my first husband died after his fourth overdose, when I had a crisis of faith.  Now my faith is less simplistic but deeper and I have more questions than answers.

 

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Sunday August 6th Worship at Wesley Chapel

On August 6th Rev Christine Gillespie led our communion service at Wesley Chapel.  Worship began when we sang, ‘I sing the almighty power of God’.  Christine led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer, before we sang, ‘From heaven you come helpless babe.’  The Gospel reading was the feeding of the 5000 as described by Matthew 14.13-23, after which we sang, ‘God grant us words to speak,’

Christine preached.  She reminded us of the party game of Consequences, where different people put down a woman or man’s name, the place and event and the consequence of it.  In real life there can be unexpected consequences and when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed he withdrew to a solitary place by boat.  John the Baptist had been criticising King Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife, even though his brother was still alive.  John had been imprisoned for challenging King Herod about that marriage. King Herod had been celebrating his birthday with a meal and had too much to drink and his wife’s daughter had danced inappropriately in front of him.  He was so impressed that he rashly promised to give Salome, anything, up to half his kingdom, but at her mother’s instigation she demanded the head of John the Baptist on a plate.  That resulted in John’s violent death after the excesses of the party.

Jesus had heard of the execution from the disciples of John the Baptist, so it was right for him to withdraw from the people and grieve for the loss of his cousin.  It gave him the chance to reflect on what John had preached, the Baptism of repentance.  That reminded him that things might end in the same way for him.

That time of prayer and reflection was cut short, when crowds arrived before him.  He felt compassion on the crowd even though he needed space; he healed the sick being generous with his time.  Even at the end of the day came, he did not send them away, as he saw their need of food.  He fed them from a little bread and fish, so that they were all satisfied and there was even enough over to spare and be collected in baskets.  We are the Body of Christ and we are called to have compassion on the needy and stand against injustice.

When we consider how many actions of compassion began in churches like food banks, the homeless hostel and earlier hospitals. When we are called to care in our discipleship; that care has consequences.  We may find we have less money, or we may be more tired and doing what we don’t want to do.  John’s honest challenges led to his death and Jesus knew he would be facing a similar fate and needed time to be quiet, rest and pray.  Although Jesus needed time to pray and rest, he met the needs of the crowd and finally dismissed the crowds, sent the disciples off and then he prayed alone.  We as Methodists tend to be doers but we also need time to pray.  The Methodist Conference had called for a day of prayer and fasting to begin the new Church’s year, which would be a time to withdraw to pray and find strength from God.

Christine led the prayers of intercession before we sang, ‘Lord we have come at your own invitation’.  She then led the preparation to receive communion and we received his body and blood.  Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Give me the faith, which can remove.’

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July 11th Service at Berwick Grange MHA

On July 11th I led worship at Berwick Grange Methodist Home for the Aged.  We began worship as we sang ‘To God be the glory, great things he has done!’  I led the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, and intercession and the Lord’s Prayer.  I read excerpts from Genesis 24 before we sang ‘Just as I am, without one plea.’  For the talk I acted out the story of Abraham, now an old man, sending his servant to his relatives to find a wife for Isaac, after the death of his mother Sarah.  The servant prayed to be led by God to the right family and woman.  The servant’s prayers were answered, when he arrived in Mesopotamia to where Abraham’s relative Nahor lived.  A young woman Rebecca offered him a drink and watered his camels, just as he had prayed.  Then she turned out to be the daughter of Nahor’s son, Bethuel, relatives of Abraham.  Just as the servant had prayed Rebecca agreed to come and marry Isaac and he was comforted after the death of his mother.  Worship finished when we sang, ‘Ye servants of God, your master proclaim.

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Sunday July 9th Worship at Woodlands Chapel

On Sunday July 9th I led worship at Woodlands Chapel and we sang ‘To God be the glory,’ before I led the opening prayers.  Romans 7.15-25a was read about how difficult it was for Paul to do good things.  I talked with the children about bad habits and how we can ask Jesus to give us strength and help us fight bad habits.  We sang ‘Give thanks with a grateful heart’, before the children took up the offering and I blessed them as they went to their groups.  There was a dramatised reading based on Genesis 24 followed by the reading from Matthew 11.16-19; 25-30 before we sang ‘Beauty for brokenness, Hope for despair.’  Then I preached.

After Sarah died Abraham, now an old man, decided to send his oldest servant back to his relatives to find a wife for Isaac from his relatives but she needed to agree to come back to marry Isaac.   If the girl would not leave with him, the servant would be released from his obligation. However the servant was successful and Rebecca came to be married to Isaac and he was comforted after his mother’s death.  The servant had prayed for guidance, on his journey, for the right wife and with thankfulness when God had answered his prayer.

Jesus was saddened by the perversity of human nature as they had criticised John for living in the desert, cut off from society, fasting, but they criticised Jesus for partying and mixing with all kinds of people, even those considered outsiders!  They preferred to find fault with them both rather than listening to their messages.  John’s message was of repentance, forgiveness and baptism.  Jesus’ message was of God’s love, his loving acceptance of all and healing and teaching.    If people are determined not to respond they will be critical for very different reasons no matter what invitation has been extended.  However much John was criticised he moved people’s hearts to recognise their need for repentance and to return to God.  Jesus’ mixing with ordinary people enabled them to find new life and closer access to God.

Paul was only too aware of the conflict he faced between

his better self with its good intensions and his flesh which sought to dominate his life.  He called out in helplessness and misery for deliverance from the body of death, but then in relief in gratitude to God as he realised that only Jesus Christ could rescue him from the torment through his Holy Spirit.  Jesus recognised those who were open to seeing him for who he was and responding to him.  Those caught up in obeying the many rules that the Pharisees and Sadducees did, failed to see their need of Jesus.  Those people who burdened by the many regulations could come to Jesus and he would give them rest.  His yoke was well-fitting and all it called for was to love God with all their heart and soul and strength; as God had loved us first that calls us to love him in response.

What can we learn from these passages?  We need to pray so that we can grow closer to Jesus.  Help us not to be critical of those whose approach is different, but just be glad that those different approaches lead them closer to God.  We need to learn to rely on Jesus as our guide and helper to help us not to struggle with our bad habits.  Whenever we feel exhausted help us to remember that Jesus has called us to come to him and have rest.

We sang ‘Jesus Christ is waiting, waiting in the street’ before one of the worship leaders Florence led the prayers of intercession.  Worship concluded when we sang ‘Make me your prophet Lord.’

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