December 2020 / January 2021 Magazaine
“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?” Bob Hope
Most December’s priests sit down to write a Christmas message for the people of the community. Not simply for those who attend church nor those of other Christian Traditions but everyone from the people of no faith to the, ‘Hatch, Match and Dispatch’ members of the community. We are all (within reason) united in wanting peace, joy, hope for a better next year and the festive festivals – I could eat mince pies all year round!!
But this year isn’t like any other year. This year we won’t have our children’s Nativity Services, nor our own Carol Services. We’ll not have the chaos of the family services at St Helen’s and St Mary’s on Christmas Day. We’ll not have the beautiful and moving Eucharists over Christmas along with a good mix of Christmas Carols. We’ll not be having collections for good causes and yet these good causes need our money more now than ever – RBL, Hospice, Marie Curie, Dignity Bags (for the homeless), Christian Aid and many other charities.
No, this Christmas will be like no other. I don’t think I’m over stating it but there will be much mourning this year – more isolation, more tears, more fears and sadly even more abuse. And yet this Christmas will be more akin to that first Christmas, and that first Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel said God had chosen this young girl Mary, this nobody, this fearful girl. Mary was not perfect – she couldn’t write a book on bringing up a baby etc.
No, what made her special was that she trusted God. She knew that God knew what he was doing. God our Father didn’t do this lightly. He didn’t do it to smite and destroy and drown people in sin. God has tried so many times to get over to humanity that they are loved and special and unique and had such potential. The only way to bring us into a right relationship again was by letting Jesus the Christ into our human history. Through Jesus God knew our human sufferings and heartaches and fears. God understood this to the extreme when he freely allowed Jesus to die upon the Cross out of love for all of us.
That infant baby, that vulnerable Child, was the most wonderful sign that our lives will end in love. They will end in blessings if we allow God to help us. This Christmas please take time in your own way to do three things: 1) accept that Jesus the babe in the Crib and the man on the Cross sincerely loves you; 2) accept that whatever you’ve done in life good or bad you cannot put yourself outside the love of God; and 3) accept that the God who loves you and forgives you also forgives those around you. God loves those around you. These are the reasons why even this very strange Christmas will indeed be a very Blessed Christmas.
On Behalf of all our churches may I wish you all a very safe and Blessed Christmas. Everyday you’ll all be very much in my prayers.
Revd. Stephen Monk
Christ became what we are that He might make us what He is. – Athanasius
“Humankind is a great, an immense family… This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.’ Pope John XXIII
Come Lord, come again
Come Lord, your wounded world is yearning
for you to come again.
Come Lord, your weary world is crying out
for you to lift us up
out of our despair, our hunger,
our thirst for something better,
our need for the food that will last.
Come Lord, come again,
we need to begin again. Sue Allerton/CAFOD
God of hope
God of hope,
we cling to you,
for you renew the face of the earth.
Through the gift of your Son,
our Lord Jesus,
we follow you on the path of dawn.
Enlightened by your love and wisdom,
help us to lead each other
and all creatures
back to your open arms.
Amen. Rachel McCarthy/CAFOD
Wake us up Lord!
God of Salvation,
Wake us up Lord!
The night is nearly over.
Let us begin our Advent journey.
Move us from our lives
Of greed and selfishness,
From our globalised world
Of inequality and exploitation,
To your kingdom
Of righteousness and mercy.
To a transformed world,
Where peace is built on understanding not weapons,
The poor are empowered to live their lives to the full,
Businesses are built on need not greed
And your Creation is nurtured not abused.
Wake us up Lord!
Let us live as people of the light.
Amen. Sue Cooper/CAFOD
Open our eyes to the dignity of all people
And our ears to the cries of the earth.
Let us walk in solidarity with the poor
And cleanse our world from oppression.
Let us shout out for justice for all
And renew our hope for change.
The Lord is coming
Let us share the Good News!
Amen. Sue Cooper/CAFOD
Believe in God and you’ll believe in miracles. Believe in the baby of Bethlehem, and you’ll experience one. – Anon
“God is with us in our pain and fear’ – Bishop of London’s message of hope
The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, has said that despite this being a time of “great uncertainty and challenge” as the world struggles to “overcome a devastating pandemic that has cut short earthly lives, destroyed livelihoods, and separated us from the people and activities we enjoy,” yet still “we are not without hope.”
Speaking recently in St Paul’s Cathedral, she said: “Through word, prayer, song and symbol, we are reminded that God’s love for us can never be destroyed. God is with us in our pain and fear and will lead us to a yet more glorious day.”
Bishop Sarah also praised the ongoing work of the “real heroes and heroines at work in intensive care units, the Emergency Department, oncology and elderly care wards.”
These people have been “giving their all, and are continuing to give their all, because we are still very much in the midst of the Covid pandemic.”
“Yet,” she went on, ‘The hope we have in our hearts as Christians is eternal. Hope that is in Christ will not be disappointed.”
Going to church in the coronavirus pandemic
More than 17,000 online services and events have been provided by Church of England churches since the introduction of the lockdown and restrictions on public worship earlier this year.
Figures from the Church of England’s A Church Near You website, which allows people to search for church services and events, show that more than 17,000 online services or events are now listed, including Sunday Communion services, Bible studies and morning or night prayer. Many of these services take place regularly and this figure represents a snapshot of the likely total number.
The statistics do not include the Church of England’s national online weekly services broadcast on Sundays and shared on Facebook and YouTube. There have been nearly three million views of the national online services and posts about the weekly broadcasts have been seen 23.6 million times. Contributors have included the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Duke of Cambridge and Pope Francis.
The national online services are being watched by a wide range of ages and around one in five people viewing go to church infrequently or not at all.
Other figures in the report show that official Church of England apps from Church House Publishing – the most popular being Daily Prayer, or the Daily Office of morning, evening and night prayer – have been used more than seven million times so far this year, up from five million in 2019. Church of England social media posts have been seen 86 million times so far, nearly double the total for last year.
The growth in online services has been helped by the Church of England stepping up its digital training programme for congregations. More than 4,200 vicars and local church leaders have taken part in remote digital training courses so far this year, four times the number as in 2019.
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “At a time when many have felt isolated and fearful, Church of England parishes and clergy have broadcast thousands of online church services and events, seeking to bring comfort and hope to their communities. We know that tens of thousands of those tuning in will never have had contact with their local Church of England parish before and may never have heard the Christian message. Their welcome presence is a sign of the great hunger we all have for spiritual meaning in our lives.”
Matlock Food Bank
In our area, there are also many people who have a roof over their heads but they are living below the bread line. Living in poverty. There are children who often go without breakfast. So we are placing the ‘Food Donation’ boxes in the porch at St Helen’s church for contributions. Steve Walker has kindly volunteered to take them into the Matlock foodbank.
Being part of the Inclusive Church Network calls us at different times to serve, question, challenge, and help people be ‘liberated’, to live better lives, flourishing in the love of God. Our role isn’t to judge nor is it to enable people to live negative or harmful lifestyles but to help other people move from a place of darkness to a place of light, to be all they are called to be.
Fr Robbie from St Joseph’s Church in Matlock has asked me to pass on the thanks of all involved with the Working with people who are homeless in our county. To be honest, I lost count of how many bags I took but it must have been over 30!! Think for a moment, you’ve helped over 30 people feel loved and accepted. That’s truly amazing. During lockdown I know it’s very difficult to continue this project but I will speak to the committee involved in the ‘Live Simply Project’ to see how we can work together in the coming year. Thanks again for your great generosity.