Christmas Morning – Has anyone seen the baby Jesus?

With 4 different Christmas plays in rehearsal– and performance dates looming, that question often rang around school in the run up to Christmas. Each class had their own angels, shepherds, aliens (it’s amazing who gets into the Christmas story these days), but we shared the baby Jesus – a doll from the reception classroom.

Well we could hardly use a real baby…but it was rather ironic that the star of the show was so completely passive that he was frequently mislaid.

If we’re not careful though, it’s not only in school nativities that we reduce God incarnate to a passive object…very precious…but an object never-the-less.

Think of crib sets – often delicate as well as beautiful – unwrapped lovingly, set out on a shelf out of reach of small hands – admired, then wrapped up again just as lovingly and put away for another year.

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Some thoughts on the church year for the start of Advent

This last year – and particularly since my priesting in June – I’ve been initiated into the strange and wonderful world of Anglican vestments. And since they were all made for men, I’ve had to work on me wearing them – rather than them wearing me…

And it isn’t just one set – the liturgical year (and the glories of the Whitkirk cupboards) demand regular changes. Today we begin Advent – so having presided at 8.30 I now know there’s at least one chasuble of each liturgical colour that I can wear. Today we begin Advent, so the legendary four candles banner is also on show.

Why do we go to all that trouble? Well I guess for the same reason Matthew makes an effort to celebrate festivals on their correct day – with week-day Eucharists – and why as well as spurning your coffee, at this time of year he will also refuse your mince pies…

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Forgive our foolish ways.

At the age of seven I joined the Brownies.  It was a big deal, being part of a uniformed organisation.  I was proud of my uniform and the badges which I had earned.  Being a Brownie was important to me making my promise and following this law:

“A brownie guide thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day!”

To this day those words have stuck with and even though my active guiding and brownie days have finished, the promise I made aged seven and the Brownie law have remained as part of my thinking.  Over the years, trying to be a good person will have amounted to a lot of good turns.

I might have tried for years but you see the thing is I’m not perfect.

I am impatient. I get cross, I can be rude. I am quick to judge.  As fellow human beings you are all sat there thinking, well I’m like that sometimes too.  Yes, we are all guilty of being in the wrong or hurting someone back because they have hurt us.

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Losing our life to gain our life

When faced, as we were recently, with the sight of white supremacists sporting swastikas and executing Nazi salutes, we are naturally horrified. We automatically side with their opponents. Surely if these are the sort of people rallying around a statue of General Lee – then that statue should go. After all, he fought to enslave people just because of their skin colour.

What about those protecting such statues – can we dismiss them all as driven by hatred? Are they always motivated by wanting to cling on to racial segregation?

I wonder. If we look beyond men in KKK costumes – there are perhaps many others afraid that they are losing their lives. Not that they are threatened with death – but that the life stories, the identities they have grown up with are being eroded – and they no longer know who they are. After all, an accident of birth or geography may have decided which side they were on in the conflict.

I was made to think about this when the debate widened to other statues around the world – including those to the explorer Captain James Cook.

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August 2017 Update

Recent Progress

In April this year questionnaires were delivered to 7,413 households in the area by some 35 volunteers from the congregation, Whitkirk Arts Guild and the community, for which we were extremely grateful. The feedback that we have received has been encouraging and has enabled us to understand further the views and the needs of local residents. A very big thank you to all those people who took the time to respond. This information has been used, along with the findings from the earlier walk in sessions to start formulating ideas about additional activities and services that could run from the redeveloped Hall.

During June and July 2017 the redevelopment team have met with various local and national organisations (Cross Gates Good Neighbours, Age UK, local schools, Alzheimer’s Society etc) and a number of them have indicated their interest in the redevelopment. Further meetings will be held with them as we go forward to develop ideas. We have to bear in mind that the building works are just a starting point and foundation for all the desired community outcomes which will take several more years of hard work to bring to fruition.

Additional consultations regarding the design of the kitchen were undertaken with some of the groups and individuals who use the kitchen on a regular basis. Some good ideas were generated through this process and a number of changes to the kitchen design have been made. The revised plans can be viewed on this website and are also on the display board in the Church Hall foyer.

Design & Costs

The current estimated cost of the project is £434,000. We already have £150,000 from our property fund leaving £284,000 to be raised through fundraising.

What Next?

Work will begin soon on preparing bids for funding to a wide range of trust funding bodies. This will be a lengthy process with the results of our initial bids unlikely to be known until early next year. While we are hopeful that the majority of funding can be raised in this way, we will also be looking to our local community to take ownership and help raise funds for this project.

In terms of timescales for the actual redevelopment work, we are currently planning on a start by June 2018 with completion in September 2018.

If you have any questions please speak directly to any members of the Hall Redevelopment team who are:

Trevor Sirrell, Mike Jackson, Tony Bond, Revd. Matthew Peat, Revd. Alison Battye, Janet Blenkinsop, Liz Hayes and Shelagh Freer.

On behalf of the Parochial Church Council, St Mary’s Church Whitkirk.

Leave your comfort zone – get outta the boat.

Words and phrases in the English language come and go. So what’s fashionable for one generation may not be for the next. I find that jargon words crop up all the time, some are easier to use than others.

So do you know what it means when someone begins a sentence with “hash-tag”?  Would you know what “eating the frog” means? Well it means exactly what it sounds like – doing the one thing you have been avoiding.  “Eat the frog” – getting it over and done with.

The opposite of eating the frog I suppose would be being in your comfort zone. So let me ask you. Where is your comfort zone?

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Evensong Sermon for the Transfiguration

On the eve of day of his assassination Martin Luther King gave his last speech.    It was filmed and watching it all these years on, it has lost none of its power.

As he draws to his conclusion, he talks of scripture.   “I have been to the mountain top” he says, he has “seen the promised land”.    He encourages his listeners no doubt wearied by the struggle for equality “we will get to the promised land” he tells them for “mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

King was a man who had spent time with God.   He had glimpsed more and he knew that he couldn’t let the injustice of segregation and inequality go unchallenged.    Being with God had changed him.

Moses had, as we heard in our Old Testament reading been with God too, on Mount Sinai.   This mountain top experience had changed him too, so that ‘the skin of his face shone because he had been with God.

This morning we heard of how Jesus, together with some of his friends also went up the mountain to pray when ‘the appearance of his face changed’.

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The Transfiguration

Doreen was nice enough.    A faithful member of another St Mary’s, Walney Island where I served my curacy.   She lived with her husband Bill (who never went to church) in one of the posher terraced houses, built for the managers of Vickers Shipbuilding in Barrow.

From the outside theirs was a house like any other on the terrace.    Inside beyond the well cleaned hallway and polished statuettes I found Bill in the back room.    At first glance he looked rather crumpled, he wasn’t really very well, he had trouble breathing and so on.

If I’m honest I expected the conversation to be pleasant and friendly which it was yet there was more.    The large bust of Richard Wagner I glimpsed on the way in should have told me that.

When I spent time with that crumpled little man I was surprised time and again.    Here was a man who taught me always to look twice, to try and be attentive, to look beneath the surface.

He may not have looked much but this was a man who loved poetry and Dostoevsky and Shakespeare.   He might have been stuck indoors for much of the time, but his days were filled with the sounds of famous theatrical performances on audio tape or with classical music.    He loved music, Wagner yes, but more Mozart, Beethoven and so on.    Movies too.   We were never short of something to talk about.

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