Clergy Letters 2013
Christmas again already!?
Christmas is fast approaching once again and what sort of feelings are rising within us? Anxiety about the number of shopping days left? Worry about what presents to buy? Irritation with relatives? Wondering what it’s all for? Frustration with the children?
There are all sorts of things that we do for our children/grandchildren. We may feel that we should do more, we may feel guilty when we hear what their friends parents/grandparents are doing, but when it comes to it we all do quite a bit – it’s just that we often don’t feel that we’ve got it right.
Christmas sums it up. There are presents to buy, the preparations to make, the parties, the cards and so on and so on. It never seems to end. We tell ourselves – and hear others say it – it’s for the children. Even older children get caught up in the same approach.
Dare we ask if we have got it right? There has been so much invested in what we do, and the way we do it, that the question can seem too much. We put so much time, effort, money, worry and even our very selves into it, that there may be no time or energy left to ask if we’ve got it right. It can be somewhat embarrassing in the run up to Christmas – here we are as Christians but with a certain reluctance to embrace the season or face the questions.
Can I suggest that we think carefully about what we do for the children? And think carefully about what we do for ourselves too.
Let’s start with the whole task of coming to church. Don’t do it for the children. Do it as your response to God’s love for you. Think carefully about which services you are going to come to. Don’t leave it to the chance last minute decisions, and if someone turns up unexpectedly, just as you’re about to set off for church, don’t turn back, just bring them along with you.
And what of the other frustrations? Have you tried praying for your relatives and friends as you plan how many cards you need and what presents you are going to buy? We can find attitudes changing if we do. God has a chance to make his perspective count in the way we look at things – and his outlook and ours don’t overlap nearly as often as we might like.
But suppose we’ve got it right with the children and you’ve prayed for those relatives who irritate you – and there’s a real improvement – but somehow it feels a bit thin. Then perhaps we need to go deeper with the Lord.
Too much of our Christmas celebration is just about a baby, born 2000 years ago, in a strange and wonderful manner. Now you may be different, but at my last birthday I didn’t spend hours looking at pictures of myself as a baby – cooing at the little face that looked back, I didn’t work out what was the particular music of that year and play it endlessly! No I spent the day occupied with things that interest me now - and if we go deeper with God and ask on Jesus’ birthday, what is he interested in now, the thinness of so many Christmases will disappear and be replaced with a richness that can take us further into next year than many of the presents we either give or receive.
Have a happy and thoughtful Christmas
Time to Remember
Along with the days drawing in, the trees loosing their leaves, the fresh frosty mornings, the berries bright and red, November comes as a month to remember. There’s November 5th, remembering Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot. Then in the churches calendar there is All Saints’ Day – time to remember the Saints; All Souls’ Day – time to remember the faithful departed; there are memorial services to remember loved ones and Remembrance Services to remember those who gave their lives in the service of this country. Between the long summer days and the bustle of Christmas, November is a time to pause – and remember.
The Bible prompts us too – to remember and remember. I counted 262 references in my concordance to the words remember, remembrance and remembered. There are verses which speak of things not to be remembered e.g. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43: 25). Other verses speak of God remembering e.g. “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Genesis 9: 16).
But most of the verses instruct, command or remind us to remember, such as:
- “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it Holy” (Exodus 28: 8)
- “Remember the wonders God has done, his miracles and the judgements he pronounced” (1 Corinthians 16: 12)
- “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me” – “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11: 24-25)
- “Continue to remember the poor” (Galatians 2: 10)
Our remembering is vital, it is significant and important. And let’s also always remember to pray, as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1: 3 “night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers”.
Let us commit ourselves to pray for each other and for the world – that God’s ways will be remembered and heeded and that the coming years will be remembered for peace and placing our hope in God.
God bless you all
During the service we will read out the names of loved ones who have died, we will hold a moment’s silence and give those who want to the opportunity to light a candle in their memory. It is an opportunity to give thanks once again for their earthly lives and to affirm all that they mean to us.
If you would like the name of a loved one read out at this service, please complete the slip in the magzine and return it to church as soon as possible, marked for my attention.
The service will be a time of encouragement and strength as we sing some of the great hymns of the Christian faith and look at bereavement in the light of Jesus Christ, who died for us and has been raised to eternal life.
Following the service a cuppa will be served at the front of the church and, should you feel the need, both myself and other members of the church family will be available to listen and talk to you.
You continue to be in our prayers and we look forward to welcoming you to the service on 3rd November.
Did you know that in Madagascar, more than half of the 18 million people have no access to clean water. In rural areas they can walk for up to three hours a day to collect dirty water. They don’t have enough water to grow crops, so children go to school hungry as well as thirsty.
This year, as a church, we will be supporting the work of WaterAid for our Harvest Thanksgiving.
- 89% of homes in Madagascar don’t have a toilet
- 70% of Madagascans live below the poverty line
- Madagascar is the fifth worst country in the world for access to safe drinking water.
The Archbishop of York writes: “Access to water and sanitation form the first, essential step in overcoming poverty. Please join me in supporting WaterAid in this essential work.”
This Harvest we can help people in Madagascar gain access to safe water.
As we give this Harvest time, in thanksgiving for all God has given to us, let us help WaterAid give water and give life and hope.
Giving envelopes are available in church, or simply send your gift in an envelope marked WaterAid.
As I write this for our July & August Magazine the summer months stretch ahead and many of us will be looking forward to holidays and days out. Perhaps those with children, or who are simply just big kids themselves, are planning a visit to an Amusement Park. Amusement Parks are designed to take us to another world. The designers and owners want those who go to be lost in joy and excitement. But of course it is all make believe. At the end of the day you have to leave the park and come back to the real world.
There is no make believe with prayer. Prayer takes us to the heavenly realms. It puts us in a place where we can speak to God, hear God speaking to us and then apply his word to our needs and circumstances. But if we are honest prayer can be hard work. It requires discipline, time and effort. I am sure that we all know what it is like to get down on our knees full of good intentions only to find our minds wandering, to run out of words or to nod off after just a few minutes.
There is an old saying – we probably know it well – ‘Prayer changes things’. But first of all it has to change us, turn us around from being focussed on ourselves, to being centred on God, so that we can understand and do His will. In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews (Chapter 4, verses 14 to 16) we are reminded that we have a great high priest who knows what it is like to be human, who has been through weakness and testing and has shared our experience.
Perhaps during the coming summer months, traditionally a time to relax and reflect, we can spend time with God and receive from Him what He so longs to give us.
As we approach the season of Petertide (29th June), after whom our church is named, the day on which in many Diocese in this country and thoughout the world men and women are ordained to follow him into ministry, I thought it might be timely to remember the disciple, who, for all his many mistakes, knew how to recover and hold on, who, for all his waverings, was called by Jesus ‘the rock’, who learned the threefold lesson that every betrayal can ultimately be restored by love.
Impulsive master of misunderstanding
You comfort me with all your big mistakes;
Jumping the ship before you make the landing,
Placing the bet before you know the stakes.
I love the way you step out without knowing,
The way you sometimes speak before you think,
The way your broken faith is always growing,
The way he holds you even when you sink.
Born to a world that always tried to shame you,
Your shaky ego vulnerable to shame,
I love the way that Jesus chose to name you,
Before you knew how to deserve that name.
And in the end your Saviour let you prove
That each denial is undone by love.
Why not join us in church on 30th June as we celebrate the life, witness and service of St. Peter.
God is Number 1?
Pressures, demands, expectations and jobs push in on us from all sides putting pressure on our time etc. Do this! Finish that! Get in touch with them! It seems as if everyone wants something from us – family, friends, employers, church, clubs etc. Soon there is very little left to give and we run out of energy and time. We find ourselves rushing through life attending to the necessary, the immediate and the urgent. The thing that is important is all too often left in the dust. The problem we have is not the volume of demands or the lack of planning, but our values – what is truly important to us.
Our values and priorities are reflected in how we use our resources – time, money, strength and talent. Often our actions belie our words. We say that God is Number 1, but then we relegate him to a lesser number on our “to do” lists.
2,500 years ago, a voice was heard, calling men and women to get their priorities right. The prophet Haggai knew what was important and what had to be done and he challenged God’s people to respond.
In 586BC, the armies of Babylon had destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem – God’s house, the symbol of his presence with His people. In 538BC King Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to their beloved city and rebuild the Temple. So they travelled to Jerusalem and began the work. But they forgot their purpose and lost their priorities. Opposition and apathy brought the work to a standstill. Then Haggai spoke, calling the people back to God’s values “Is it time for you yourselves to live in your well roofed houses, while this house lies in ruin?” The people were more concerned with their own needs than doing God’s will. Then Haggai called them to action: “These are the words of the Lord of Hosts: Consider your way of life. Go up into the hill-country, fetch timber, and build a house acceptable to me, where I can reveal my glory.” And God’s message through his servant became the catalyst for finishing the work.
Although the book of Haggai is small, only 2 chapters, it is filled with challenge and promise, reminding us of God’s claim on our lives and our priorities. It is a book we need to read again and again.
As you read the book of Haggai, imagine him walking through the streets and alleys of Jerusalem, urging people to get back to doing God’s work. Listen to Haggai speaking to you, urging you to reorder your priorities in accordance with God’s will.
What is God telling you to do? Put everything else aside and obey Him.
This month I offer a copy of my ‘Remarks’ made to The Annual Church Meeting held on 24 March
If I were to ask you to draw a picture of a church, I wonder what you would draw? Would it be a building with a spire or tower; stained glass windows etc.
In fact, the church is a collection of people of different ages, races, backgrounds, jobs, male and female. The Church is in fact - The People of God - not a building!
Sadly today many people, including some Christians, do not have a high opinion of the church. They may say 'Jesus Christ, yes; the church, no'. Some people claim to love Jesus and have a desire to follow him, but yet have little time for the church. Perhaps this is because they lack an understanding of what the church truly is, as taught in the Bible. Perhaps it comes from mistaken views of the church held by many.
The individualistic nature of our society is also an influence which causes people to concentrate on their own faith whilst ignoring the part they are called to play in the local church, both in giving and receiving.
Some people claim to be Christians today and say that they do not need to go to church to be a Christian. This is true in the sense that you could continue being a Christian if you were marooned on a desert island. But it is not the best way to live out the Christian life. It is not the way that God intended it to be.
It is like someone claiming to be a good football player, but when you ask him what team he plays for he says he doesn't play for a team! Without a team you cannot fulfil a role or position. You can't be a defender because you haven't got anyone else to play in goal, midfield, or in attack. You haven't got anyone to congratulate you when you score a goal, to encourage you when you make a mistake, or to cover you when you go to another position. Yes, you can kick a ball around an empty park, but it soon gets boring and you are unable to develop to your full potential.
As a church we are to grow, spiritually and numerically.
How does this happen? In partnership with the Holy Spirit.....
God lives in His people by His Spirit. He changes people by His Spirit.
But we have to co-operate. This does not excuse us from working hard for him. For it is only when the whole church works hard together that there will be radical growth. Like a football team, working together.
Some time ago the public service union UNISON ran a television advert. It was a cartoon featuring a lovely, lumbering white bear, sitting on a path. An ant, carrying a leaf comes to the bear and says 'Excuse me'. But the bear doesn't hear the quiet, squeaky voice. The ant returns with a friend. They both squeak 'Excuse me'. The bear tilts his head to one side, but doesn't hear what is being said, or who is saying it. The ants go away and come back with ten thousand friends. They all rear up on their back legs and the noise is deafening : 'Get out of the way !' The bear gets up and runs away. The ants go their way. And Johnny Morris' voice says 'UNISON, because there are some things you cannot do by yourself.'
We cannot 'do' Christianity on our own. God calls every Christian to be one of his people, to relate to one another, to love and minister to one another and to minister together to the world.
The church is an integral part of the gospel - Jesus invented it. If we are going to live out and spread the gospel we need to be wholeheartedly committed to the church, here in Salesbury, Wilpshire & Clayton-le-dale, the Diocese of Blackburn, the Church of England, and in the world.
The arrival of a new incumbent provides a wonderful opportunity for us as a church to stop for a moment to prayerfully review our life, our activity, our worship, our giving, our outreach to the community and the talents/gifts that God has given to us.
I see the next few months as an opportunity for me to get to know you, for you to get to know me and for us together to get to know God better and discover, as Isaiah put it is chapter 43:19, the ‘new thing’ that God is going to do in and through us. So let’s focus on God: looking ahead not back; discovering what God wants for us; and committing ourselves to God’s plan.
WOW! What a wonderful day yesterday was. What a wonderful welcome you gave to us and to our family and friends at the Institution Service and in the Memorial Hall afterwards. Sue and I have been deeply touched by the love, prayers and welcome we have received as we begin this new part of our ministry. Thank you to everyone who helped to make the day so special for us.
Beginning a new ministry is very humbling as you realise the awesome responsibility that God lays upon you.
At a time like this I am taken back to a verse from Scripture that became important to me at theological college, as I prepared for Ordination, and has remained important throughout the past 25 years. That verse is the 24th verse of 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5 “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” It is only God who can prevent us from becoming stale and feeble. We are to yield all our powers to him – intellectual, emotional and physical – so that nothing goes missing or begins to go wrong. If we place ourselves completely in his hands there is no need to be uncertain or anxious about the future.
I pray that as we go forward together, as a church family, that it will not about what we do, but about how we open ourselves up and allow God to work & minister through us.
Preparing For Lent
As I write this Sue and I are in a period of preparation. Preparing to say goodbye to church families where I have ministered for the past 6 years and amongst whom Sue has lived and worshipped for all of her life. Preparing to move house and home. Preparing to arrive, together, in Salesbury with the anticipation of all that God has for us here.
As you read this Ash Wednesday will only be a few days away, and for that I am both thankful and relieved. It means I have a head start in thinking about how to observe the journey toward Easter known as Lent. And of course, the journey toward Easter also includes Good Friday—a fact which, if I really take it in, changes everything.
I have always understood Lent as something to be observed in community—that’s the good news. Yet too often, I don’t start seriously thinking about this season until the night before it starts (reminds me of that car bumper sticker, “Jesus is Coming—Look Busy”). Some years go better than others. The year I gave up listening to my car stereo, I discovered (eventually) God’s still, small voice in the silence—a discovery that hasn't left me, at least not entirely. The year I made a vague resolution to "do more good deeds," well, I can't recall a single one. And not because I'm so humble that I forgot what they are—I’m not sure I actually did any.
So while I'm determined this year to make Lent more intentional and more fruitful, I'm finally realizing that Lent is, among other things, a journey for two, not one—and I'm not the One in charge.
So my Lenten theme this year will be 1 Samuel 3:9 (“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”). How will this work out? I don't know yet, which is why I'm asking God for direction. I do know that the very act of asking, and turning things over to Him, changes things—and changes us. Whatever Christ asks me to give up, I’m guessing it won’t be chocolate (I’m sort of hoping not). I have a feeling it’ll be something more along the lines of Pride. And yet I’m also trusting Him to be more specific. For example, praying daily for humility, or turning off my TV or iphone, or both.
Who am I kidding? He's asking for Everything. To quote C.S. Lewis, “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.’” (Mere Christianity) Funny how we never see these words on an Easter card.
Yet as Christ-followers, we know C.S. Lewis is right—and that the project of dying to self continues every hour of our lives. Lent gives us the opportunity to experience Christ’s death and resurrection in a deeper way—and with it, our own need for ongoing conversion.
Let the journey toward Easter begin.
Hello from Martin & Sue Duerden
As I write I am aware that you would like to know something about us:
I was born and brought up in Liverpool, living on the south side of the city, in the village of Woolton, worshipping at St. Peter’s Church with my mum, dad and sister. It was there that I became a Christian, at the age of 16, and also felt the first call to Ordained Ministry. I lived just off Penny Lane for a time before moving to London in 1982, where I felt God’s call again and trained for ministry at Oak Hill College, before serving a 4 year curacy in Tunbridge Wells. In 1991 I moved back to Merseyside and to Southport, becoming Vicar of St. Simon and St. Jude, before moving to become Team Rector in Maghull in 1998 and then on to Wigan in 2007, as vicar of the United Benefice of St. Barnabas, Marsh Green and St. Mark, Newtown.
Before training for ministry I trained and worked as an accountant, within industry. This led me from a large American multinational company, to a small privately owned company, where I became Chief Accountant and Company Secretary.
Sue was born and brought up in Wigan, attending St. Mark’s Church from a very early age, where her parents took her each week, along with her 2 brothers and 1 sister. Growing up Sue belonged to Brownies, Guides and Rangers and also attended the church youth group. However it was only when she was 16 that she realised that she needed a personal faith of her own and subsequently gave her life to Christ.
Sue currently works in St Marks Primary School as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant in the Reception class.
Sue & I married in 2009 and we have been richly blessed in the way that God has brought our two families together. Between us we have 4 children. I have a son and a daughter, Alan 32 and Naomi 26 and Sue has two sons, Daniel 26 and Matthew 21. Alan lives and works in London, where he is PR Director with Thomson Reuters and Naomi lives in Warrington, with her husband Jon, and is an Account Manager with John Lewis. Daniel & Matthew both live in Wigan, where Daniel is an Architectural Assistant and Matthew runs football and sports sessions in primary schools in Warrington.
Both Sue and I have to confess to being football fans. Sue is a season ticket holder with Wigan Athletic and I get along to Anfield as often as I can with Naomi, who shares her dad’s passion for the finer things of life!
I hope that this, in a few words, begins to paint a picture of us. We are very much looking forward to being a part of what God is doing at St. Peter’s and St. Leonard’s and we look forward to getting to know you and working with you in the weeks, months, years that lie ahead.
Every blessing to you all