A letter from the Rector
Yesterday, Weds 14th October, I went to visit my Dad and look after him for the day. It was good to see him and he asked me if I’d take some flowers to Mum’s grave in the cemetery in Shepshed. I didn’t take my Dad on this occasion as he wasn’t in good health (he was recovering after having pneumonia for three weeks). I took her some flowers and though the wind and temperature seemed to be cooler in the cemetery I also noticed the beauty. Is that strange? It’s a well-kept area, although there is a ‘catholic’ bit and a ‘protestant’ bit and simply a ‘civil’ bit!! The self-evident reality came to mind again. when we die, we all are the same. There’s an equality in the cemetery.
In November we traditionally remember our dead, loved ones, family members, including those we’ve never met – servicemen and women who died in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Iraq, and Afghanistan (to name just a few). An old phrase called the War Dead ‘the Glorious Dead’. I’ve never been with someone who was about to die and who thought they were ‘glorious’.
Some of the military people I’ve spoken to are brave and patriotic but often anti-war. They said the war was a sign of failure on many levels. Yet, these people down the years have gone off to war and died. They have paid the price for other people’s, mainly politicians’ failure. When we keep silent on the 11th of November at 11.00am or on the 8th of November (Remembrance Sunday), we have to promise to the silent dead that we will try to be better people; try to be more loving, more civil, and more caring people.
Covid19 has brought out the best in many people – members of the NHS, Nursing Home Carers, the Emergency Services, and even the Military who have helped with testing. We’ve seen real courage and real bravery. Sadly, other people have provoked and stoked fear, frustration, anger, xenophobia, and other negative feelings (and many of these feelings are, in a Christian sense, sinful).
Walking through Shepshed Cemetery I saw family members, former parishioners, and war graves. It was interesting to see the forms of military service covered – vets, Sherwood Foresters infantry, Medical Corps and the Royal Flying Corps. Some of these men knew that their lives were soon to end. For some, they thought the world itself would end. Yet they did their duty.
Here and now we are called to do our duty. If we are people of faith, we are called to live out the Gospel values. We are called to die to self and live for Christ. This means serving with love all people in need, doing what’s best for the Common Good and also putting others first. If we’re of no faith or if we’re unsure, we are still called as part of our society and communities, to live in a civil way doing all the possible good we can.
St Francis, the saint of peace and community lived in total poverty without power or influence yet, little by little he changed the world. He had the first interfaith dialogue with the Muslim Kalif in Egypt. Francis (in a typically arrogant, judgemental Christian mindset) thought that he’d be a martyr but something much more challenging happened. There was a conversation, learning from each other, there was a time of listening to each other. The following quote came from a study on St Francis: Encounter is the one way in which self-understanding and new horizons can be put to the test. World wars and illnesses and Covid-19 give us the opportunity to be faced with a new horizon. One that calls us to once more rediscover the needs to be good brothers and sisters in Christ and also good men and women and children who share single humanity.
As we remember the past may we be willing to learn from those events and those people who were close to us. This November may we as a United Benefice and as various villages and hamlets accept that we have links of affection and bonds of love. May we work together for a better world. I Finish this letter with words from Pope Francis:
We are all brothers and sisters; as St Francis of Assisi used to say:
” Fratelli tutti”. And so, men and women of every religious confession are uniting themselves today in prayer and penance to ask for the grace of healing from this pandemic.
Please be very much assured of my prayers for you and our community. We pray for people’s jobs, workplaces, and those who are ill at this time.
Revd. Stephen Monk
SERVICES AT ST. HELEN’S
From 25th October there will be a service every Sunday at 11.00 a.m.
On Remembrance Sunday only, 8th November, the service will begin at 10.50 a.m.
The church is open every Thursday for Private Prayer 10.00 a.m. to 12 noon
November, the month of Remembrance. We hold in sacred memory the men, women and children who died in wars and conflicts down the ages. We remember the names etched into our War Memorials and we pause to be silent for two minutes. Sadly, this year we won’t gather in our scores and our hundreds at church or in the park.
But, I hope, in our own homes we’ll remember every drop of blood spilt for the cause of freedom and justice. Where some may gather in small groups to recall the dead, may there be a time of silence for silence is one of the only reactions to such terrible loss. May all the dead rest in peace and rise in glory.
A SONNET FOR REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY
November pierces with its black remembrance
Of all the bitterness and waste of war.
Our silence tries but fails to make a semblance
Of that lost peace they thought worth fighting for.
Our silence seethes instead with wraiths and whispers,
And all the restless rumours of new wars,
The shells are singing as we sing our vespers,
No moment is unscarred, there is no pause,
In every instant bloodied innocence
Falls to the weary earth, and whilst we stand
Quiescence ends again in acquiescence,
And Abel’s blood still cries in every land.
One silence only might redeem that blood
Only the silence of a dying God.
“Do this in memory of me”
These words of Christ at the Last Supper were more than a simple command to commemorate. They are a call to awakening that in this life this important historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, has left his mark on the world. As we come to the altar to follow this command the effects of that first Good Friday are not only called to mind, but are brought to effect having a direct bearing on our lives.
This Month of the Holy Souls is a particular time where we recall with an act of memory those who have gone before us from this life and have left their mark, directly or indirectly. It is good that we should have a season of the year for remembrance a time when we feel that that veil between time and eternity is thin, and we can sense that a greater and wider communion of saints to which we belong. The Church has settled this feast on a time in the turning of the year when the pre-Christian Celtic religions were accustomed to think of and make offerings for the dead. The Church kept the day, but it changed the custom.
The greatest and only offering, to redeem both living and dead, has already been made by Christ, and if we want to celebrate our loving connection on both sides of the veil, we need only now to make gifts for and to the living.
Today we especially ‘remember’ those who have given their lives through war in service of our country. They have left home and family often to foreign lands in the search of justice, freedom and peace; the effects of which we feel in our society today. The world could have been a very different place for us without their sacrifice, which cannot and should not be forgotten.
The memories we recall this Remembrance Sunday should spur us forward in the search for true harmony and peace throughout the world. As the Lord commanded the apostles to “Do this in memory of me” we gather this day praying for the graces of the great sacrifice of Calvary to engulf the whole world that we may live in the harmony for which Christ prayed; and to our fallen we say “We will remember them”.
With Kind Regards and every prayer.
Revd. Stephen Monk
(Rector Darley Dale, South Darley & Winster.)
Stephen has put the following together so that we may take part in an Act of Remembrance even in our own homes.
Act of Remembrance 2020
Adapted for the Covid19 Special Measures
Revelation Chapter 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. ‘And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also, he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
Pause to think about those named on our War Memorial.
They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.
We will remember them.
Two Minute Silence
we remember those whom you have gathered
from the storm of war into the peace of your presence;
may that same peace calm our fears,
bring justice to all peoples
and establish harmony among the nations,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today.
I believe in the sun,
even when it does not shine.
I believe in love,
even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God,
even when he is silent.
The Cenotaph Charlotte Mew, 1919 first published 1919
Not yet will those measureless fields be green again
Where only yesterday the wild sweet blood of wonderful youth was shed;
There is a grave whose earth must hold too long, too deep a stain,
Though for ever over it we may speak as proudly as we may tread.
But here, where the watchers by lonely hearths from the thrust of an inward sword have more slowly bled,
We shall build the Cenotaph: Victory, winged, with Peace, winged too, at the column’s head.
And over the stairway, at the foot—oh! here, leave desolate, passionate hands to spread
Violets, roses, and laurel with the small sweet twinkling country things
Speaking so wistfully of other Springs
From the little gardens of little places where son or sweetheart was born and bred.
In splendid sleep, with a thousand brothers
To lovers—to mothers
Here, too, lies he:
Under the purple, the green, the red,
It is all young life: it must break some women’s hearts to see
Such a brave, gay coverlet to such a bed!
Only, when all is done and said,
God is not mocked and neither are the dead.
For this will stand in our Market-place—
Who’ll sell, who’ll buy
(Will you or I
Lie each to each with the better grace)?
While looking into every busy whore’s and huckster’s face
As they drive their bargains, is the Face
Of God: and some young, piteous, murdered face.
Editor: Canon Paul Hardingham considers how we cope with an uncertain future. From the Parish Pump
We Will Remember – 80 years on
This year we’ve been remembering the Battle of Britain, described by Winston Churchill in August 1940 as ‘one of the decisive battles of the war… never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ It was a dramatic turning point in the history of the Second World War. The occasions for Remembrance this month will provide us times of gratitude for what was achieved in the darkest moments of war.
However, this year we are very aware of our own struggles with the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. We face an unseen enemy, but the effects on our lives and society are almost as devastating as world war.
Remembering is not just about focusing on past events. It is also about making present past events, as we give thanks for all that took place. The Battle of Britain was fought by the Few and won in the skies over the Channel. In our battle with the virus, we can call to mind the victory of Jesus: ‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.’ (2 Timothy 2:8). Jesus secured the victory of death by His cross and resurrection, so that we don’t need to fear death, but trust in His loving purposes for our lives.
Currently we can’t see clearly what the future holds for us; it may be very different from what we might expect. However, we can pray for God’s will to be done and that we will play our part, just as each of those airmen did so many years ago.
‘They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.’
‘Renewal’ for Church is coming despite ‘trauma’ of pandemic – Archbishops of Canterbury and York (from the Parish Pump)
The Church will emerge “renewed and changed” from the crisis of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said. In a recent joint address to members of the Church of England’s General Synod, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell said that amid a time of trauma, loss and struggle in this country and around the world, Christians have proved to be a “people of hope”. The address came at the start of special, one-day sitting of Synod in London, with reduced numbers, to make a rule change to enable it to meet remotely during pandemic restrictions.
Archbishop Justin acknowledged the multiple challenges and crises we are facing including hunger, poverty, domestic violence and climate change. He said churches have played a vital role serving their communities and bringing hope through the gospel. But the Church itself will, he said, emerge changed. “We do not know what kind of Church of England will emerge from this time except that it will be different,” he said.
“It will be changed by the reality that for the first time all churches have closed – first time in 800 years. It will be changed because for the first time we have worshipped virtually.” He continued: “Out of these times we will see renewal – not because we are clever but because God is faithful. “We will see a renewed and changed Church emerging from the shocks of lockdown. “It is a Church that at the most local has fed so many, been in touch with the isolated through the heroic efforts of all who take part in it, of clergy and laity and those who even weren’t near the church before these times. “It is a Church which has continued to pray and to offer worship through our Lord Jesus Christ, even if in new and unusual ways.”
Archbishop Stephen spoke with emotion about the impact of pandemic. “I hate this Coronavirus,” he said.
“I hate it not only because so many people have died, but because so many people have died alone, unable to hold the hand of their beloved.
I hate it because our health service has been stretched to the limit. I hate it because so many are bereaved and could not even sit next to a family member at a funeral.
I hate it because weddings and baptisms and ordinations have been postponed or have gone ahead without the parties that were meant to be with them.”
“I hate it because children’s schooling has been disrupted. I hate it because so many people are so ill, so many crying out in pain, so many isolated, lonely, fearful, depressed.
I hate it because behind locked doors terrible things have happened. I hate it because the poor and the disadvantaged have been hit the hardest.
I hate it because it has left so many people across the world feeling hopeless as if life itself has been taken from us.”
But he said he was also thankful for the faithfulness of all who have served others during the crisis and risen to the challenge.
He added: “I am thankful that despite all the horrors of a Covid world we are learning a new commitment to Christ and how to be a humbler, simpler, church and we are putting Christ at the centre of our lives and learning very, very, very painfully what it really means to be a church that is dependent on Christ alone.“
“And I am filled with longing: I long for us to be a more Christ-centred and Jesus-shaped church witnessing to Christ and bringing the healing balm of the Gospel to our nation for this is our vocation.”
Editor: Dr Peter Brierley considers how the churches have coped during the pandemic. PP article
Among the number of new concepts introduced to us by the coronavirus pandemic is the idea of ‘church online,’ both among the Christian population and those less familiar with ‘church.’ Many ministers have commented that, while they may initially have struggled, the new format has worked, and has drawn in people who would not normally go to church; theirs or anyone else’s.
One Church of England Diocese carried out a survey across its many benefices, receiving some 180 replies to its questions. Five-sixths, 84%, had made some kind of online provision for its work, with three-quarters, 76%, providing worship services. Over half did this more than once a week!
In total, the online church respondents had almost 1,300 participants on a Sunday, but these were augmented by a further almost 800 who tuned in subsequently. Normally, if you aren’t at a church service, you’ve missed it. Not now! To have so many who followed the service subsequently, an increase of over three-fifths, 62%, of the original Sunday watchers, must say something about the usefulness of this format, popularity, and the convenience of being able to worship at an alternative time.
Do online services ‘work’? For many, the overall answer is positive. “Although online services have (a number) of limitations, people can meet with God. Two people have come to faith through online services,” wrote one minister. It enables the church to re-connect with those who have moved away, and not found another church to attend. “It’s easier for people to come than to walk through a church door,” said another.
“We have overcome being a physically dispersed rural church. We are now a church built on a praying community across 30 different people praying together morning and evening,” was the testimony of another. Housebound people, providing they have the necessary facilities and technological ‘know-how,’ can also participate.
Is it worth all the bother? Evidently so, as over half, 55%, of the churches aim to continue online services once lockdown is over. Only 7% said they wouldn’t, with the remaining 38% uncertain.
Two-fifths of the churches, 41%, found that their numbers watching the service had increased over the weeks of lockdown, but this was offset by the 45% who found their numbers decreased. The remaining 14% said they had stayed the same. Overall, have online services been beneficial? In the technical sense, yes, as “we are more capable than we thought at first,” said one respondent, but spoke for many. So new technical skills have been learned. “Planning online is very different – it needs to be engaging and concise,” said one person, so teaching skills presumably need to be sharpened also.
Faith-wise, as mentioned above, some have come to faith. Some have ‘come back’ to church. Many have watched for the first time. Some have watched services from other churches. Others, though, will have been put off by the format. “Online services are no substitute for a church service,” wrote one leader, and another said, “There is opportunity to reach wider, but more difficult to go deeper.”
Dr Peter Brierley may be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helping the spiritually curious find hope
HOPE Spaces was launched at the start of 2020 inviting churches to use a public place as a space for the spiritually curious to explore prayer. Then the world went into lockdown. Undeterred, HOPE Together has developed a virtual HOPE Space at hopespaces.com to help people to pray – maybe for the first time.
Dr Rachel Jordan-Wolf, who inspired the project says, “As lockdown began and research showed that many non-Christians were exploring prayer, we looked online and found that most websites about prayer were for practising Christians. So, we began to develop a virtual HOPE Space online, where people can post their prayers and explore ways to engage with God in prayer.”
hopespaces.com is a multimedia, interactive site for anyone who wants to try praying, the spiritually curious and anyone looking for hope. It includes a specially made film to help people call out to God and a virtual HOPE prayer wall where anyone can post a prayer. There’s also a meditation on rest to watch, plus content to help visitors think about their life’s direction and pray for justice or peace.
“Would you help us to publicise this non-Christian facing website?” Rachel asks.
“Visit the site at hopespaces.com and share it with your friends, especially those who are not-yet Christians. You can download social media images to use. We hope that Christians will use social media to invite their friends, colleagues, and neighbours to explore prayer at hopespaces.com and we hope churches will add a link from their website to this new resource.”
Caring for others
Offering hope as we face a second wave – Archbishops’ letter to bishops (from the Parish Pump)
The Church has a vital role to play in offering hope and comfort to the nation as we face an expected second wave of the coronavirus, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said.
In a joint letter to the bishops of the Church of England, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell set out a stark assessment of the challenges facing the country amid the pandemic including hunger, homelessness, mental health pressures and domestic violence.
But, they say, the Church of England, through its presence in every community, can play a vital role in serving the nation – especially those most in need – and in bringing hope to all through the gospel.
Churches are especially well placed, through networks and partnerships across the country, to help those most in need, who are hungry and homeless, they point out.
“Most of all we need to draw close to Christ and continue to offer the hope and stability of the Gospel,” the Archbishops write.
“It is this gospel joy, even in the darkest times, that alone can help us through this crisis, bringing hope and an eternal perspective to the very pressing trials of the moment.”
The Archbishops also highlight the particular pressures faced by small businesses after months of restrictions and issue a challenge to banks to show the same mercy to those in difficulties now as banks themselves received during the financial crisis.
Referencing the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, they add: “It will be for us and others to encourage the banks, who received such help in 2009, to be equally merciful to others as the nation was to them.
“St Matthew 18:23-35 seems highly relevant.”
Churches report rising food bank demand as a result of pandemic
Nearly 100,000 households sought food aid from the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks for the first time earlier this year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Demand is surging further this autumn, as a result of the economic fallout from the virus.
The research comes after food banks run or supported by Church of England churches reported rocketing demand during lockdown with some opening food banks for the first time while some opened new food banks after lockdown.
Just two examples:
Hackney Church in East London was distributing parcels with enough food for 1,000 meals a week at start of lockdown. This figure rose to 8,000 and 9,000 meals a week in June, after the church opened a second food bank. It has since served 120,000 meals.
In Co. Durham, the Shildon Alive food bank, founded by St John’s Church, has seen demand surge by 500 percent during lockdown.
Call for the Government to #KeepTheLifeline
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has joined more than 60 other anti-poverty charities to call on the Government to #KeepTheLifeline, and not lower the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £20 a week in April 2021, to the level at which it was before lockdown.
A spokesman for CAP said: “We’re in this together. Our social security system will be vital to keep our society steady through the challenges ahead. This is our opportunity to choose to do the right thing: keep the lifeline and keep families afloat.
“For the people we help at CAP, an extra £20 a week goes a long way.
It allows them to put food on the table, top up the prepayment meter or replace school shoes that are falling apart.”
Estimates are that 4.1 million people already in financial difficulty have seen a reduction in their income because of coronavirus, and that peak unemployment will hit more than 18% in areas with the highest proportion of low paid jobs.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported in June that these temporary changes to benefits were the reason that households in the poorest fifth had not fallen further behind, despite having been hit the hardest in terms of earnings (losing £160 per month on average).
But this temporary increase is due to end in April 2021. “Dropping the lifeline will slash the incomes of roughly 16 million people overnight, cutting them adrift while the storm is still raging, and with further turmoil ahead,” said CAP.
One World – His World
UK needs a new Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief
Following Rehman Chishti’s recent resignation as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Open Doors, who works with the Persecuted Church, has called for another Special Envoy to be appointed as quickly as possible, “to continue this important work”.
It was in September that Rehman Chishti MP resigned his position. He had been a “tireless advocate”, said Open Doors, on the important issue of freedom of religion or belief, and during his time, 17 of the 22 Truro Report recommendations had been progressed or implemented.
The Bishop of Truro’s Independent Review was produced in 2019 for the UK Foreign Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Office Support for Persecuted Christians.
It examined how the UK Government was responding to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world, and what it could do.
Open Doors urges that it is vital that a new Special Envoy is appointed soon. Izzy, from the Open Doors Advocacy team, says: “As persecution has been exacerbated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that the baton is picked up as rapidly as possible and the post is fully resourced to ensure maximum effectiveness.
“It would be great if a new Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief were already up to speed on this vital task by the time of the Open Doors World Watch List launch event on Wednesday
13th January 2021 – and making a difference for those made so vulnerable to persecution by the failure to uphold freedom of religion or belief.”
Editor: Do continue to pray for and, as possible via appropriate organisations, support all those who are persecuted for their faith.
Egypt tops list as 3.7 million Scriptures given to children last year
Bible Society teams worldwide provided almost 3.7 million Scripture items for children last year. More than 1.1 million children’s Scriptures were distributed in Egypt alone. This is the largest number for one nation, in a place where ministry with young people is a top priority.
Through festivals, competitions and quizzes, the Bible Society of Egypt engages with hundreds of thousands of children each year.