Wednesday Meditation

This week’s meditation has been prepared for us by Arline Griffiths of St John’s, Llandudno. Thank you. Arline.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

One day at the end of September, as I went out into the garden, I was faced with the sight of a huge daddy-longlegs, a magnificent specimen but, for me, significant because it was the first of the season.  Later that same day, as I ducked under the pear tree to put something in the compost bin, a cob-web draped itself across my face.  Yes, I thought, it really is autumn!

Autumn, “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”:  many of us will be familiar with Keats’ beautiful poem.  But wait a minute, his picture does not tally with my idea of autumn.  For me, autumn is regular visits to Bodnant to check on the progress of the developing amazing spectrum of colours in the Maple Grove and each time being struck by the proliferation of other leaf colours too; the golden birches, the russet beeches and the unexpected vivid red leaf lurking on a shrub; walking through the arboretum  enjoying the gentle rain of the confetti leaves drifting lazily down from the canopy as the crisp dried leave s crunch beneath my feet and watching the squirrels busily scurrying about burying nuts for the lean time – although they will  forget  where they  put a lot of them.  But further reflection told me that my memory was as equally at fault as was Keats’.  Both scenes are idealistic; an idyllic amalgamation of all the best bits stored in our memory.

I turned again to reread the poem:  yes, I could resonate with the sweet kernels plumping the hazel shells (ready for the squirrels),  the bees, still busy on the last, late flowers and ”the redbreast whistling from a garden croft”, yet so much seems to have changed!  And yet I also have vivid memories of the “wailful choir (of) small gnats mourn(ing) among the river sallows,” but these were common sights and sounds among the meres, dew-ponds and sluggish Bridgewater Canal of my early days.  And no doubt they are still to be seen there, though not in breezy Llandudno with its restless waters. So, too, the “swallows twitter(ing)” as they gathered on the telephone wires.  Telephone  wires? Do we still have telephone wires for them to gather on?  Modern technology has brought a lot of changes, but the swallows still gather somewhere for their annual migration, which continues to take place. But surely, these days the harvests of fruit and cereal crops are finished by the end of September and the “warm days they think will never cease” are a distant memory? – if they ever existed.  Perhaps so, but the distressing, man-madel modern climate change apart , there have been variations  in weather patterns recorded throughout the ages.

Essentially, all these aspects of autumn are still present somewhere in the world. Dependent on geography or local climatic conditions they can still be found, and always will be, for they are a part of God’s perfect, eternal plan. During autumn the harvests will always be brought in, the leaves change colour and fall to the ground, the squirrels hide their nuts and the annual migrations take place.  Then everything will gradually close down ready for the hibernation of winter.  All will look sombre, bleak even, and a hush will fall over the land. Yet the season has a certain majestic beauty of its own and there is still a great deal of activity taking place.  In their snug winter quarters the hibernating animals, replete from their autumn feeding frenzy, are fast asleep, living on the energy from the food they have eaten.  Underground, even when the earth is locked in frost or clothed in snow, the dormant seeds and bulbs are safe and warm also, being nourished by the nutrients supplied by the rotting fallen leaves while waiting for their hour to come.  Waiting: that surely is the key word for the season, for us Christians too as we await the coming into the world of the promised Saviour…but that is a subject for another meditation.

Before too long there will be a faint, almost indiscernible, change in the quality of the light, a slight, almost unnoticeable rise in the temperature.  Then shoots, including those from the nuts forgotten by the squirrels, will start to appear in the fields, woods and gardens, and soon the trees will start to produce their spring foliage of fresh, verdant green and lambs and baby rabbits to appear in the fields. Soon the world will again be clothed in the copious, rich magnificence of its summer array and the annual cycle will continue.

The 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich recognised this when she looked at the hazel nut in the palm of her hand and saw three things: that God made it, God loves it and God saves it.  And how can we doubt that it will be so?  In Genesis 9 vv 21b and 22, God says in his heart, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.

                                                      As long as the earth endures,
                                                      seedtime and harvest,    
                                                      cold and heat,  
                                                      summer and winter,
                                                      day and night
                                                      will never cease.”

Then he repeated his promise to Noah in the form of a covenant, and placed “his bow in the sky” as a constant sign of this.

As the theme of this year’s Prayer Handbook is “The Earth is the Lord’s”, I felt that that was the place to find my closing prayer, so in faith I turned to Day 21 (today, when this is posted) and there it was, provided by Paul Davis, Lancashire District Chair:

Gracious God, creator of all, we thank you for the endless cycle of nature through the changing seasons that mark our days.

Forgive us when we are ungrateful for all you have given us in this world and for our selfish use of resources, causing others to suffer. May we recognise how fragile this planet is and understand the implications of our choices.

Help us to respect creation and tread lightly so that we do little harm to your precious world and our neighbours. May our lives reflect your creative love.  Amen.

Churches Role in Community Life

Huw Davies of St David’s, shares this with us from the Daily Telegraph. Further details can be foundf at www.telegraph.co.uk. Thanks, Huw.

There is only one word that troubles me in the article, the use of the word “just” in relation to spiritual care…

Sixteen years ago, St Stephen’s Church in Bradford was on the verge of closure. Today, it provides internet services for people who don’t otherwise have them, and volunteers provide mentoring for people trying to get back into work. Some 100 miles south, in Tamworth in the West Midlands, parishioners at the Sacred Heart Church are busy packing food parcels for people unable to go shopping because they are shielding due to the Covid pandemic.

Across the country, hundreds of other churches are hosting similar activities, with parishioners and other local residents coming together to help people in their neighbourhoods. It’s important work – work that is unpaid and makes a huge difference to society. That it happens at all is down to the buildings that are available to make it happen: churches.

In the past few months, we have heard a lot about the key workers who kept the NHS going, ran the buses and kept the supermarket shelves stacked. Without them, society could not have survived the Covid-19 pandemic. Just as vital are key places: hospitals, schools, shops – the institutions that make this sort of work possible.

Churches, too, are key places, not just for providing spiritual care but as venues for the voluntary effort so essential to life in this country. This effort is taking place not only in St Stephen’s, Bradford and Sacred Heart, Tamworth but in tens of thousands of other sacred spaces across Britain.

Today, the National Churches Trust, of which I am a trustee, will publish new research showing that the social value of churches is a staggering £12.4 billion. While £2 billion is direct market value, made up of money used to pay clergy salaries, and on the maintenance of buildings, the rest is an assessment of what would need to be spent to replace what is currently achieved through voluntary effort if it disappeared. And disappear it will if church buildings are not looked after.

One of the curious aspects of life in an increasingly secular Britain is that its churches play as great, if not a more substantial role than ever before in the life of our towns and villages because of all the work that goes on in them. Churches run food banks, provide support for people with mental health problems, offer a welcome to the elderly and the isolated. While church worship went online during lockdown, much of the practical help churches provide kept going. So while many people might turn up only at Christmas for a service, they know they can rely on the church 52 weeks of the year to be at the heart of their community.

But the problem is that while the whole community benefits, the responsibility and the cost of maintaining these buildings rests on the shoulders of just a few: the people who form the congregation, whose money in the collection plate – or these days, by standing order – keep the roof repaired and the electrics safe. This is a huge financial burden, and one that those people struggle to afford. This economic system just isn’t viable.

That something needs to change is obvious if we think of the alternative. If churches had to close because the congregations could no longer afford the expense of running them, what would replace them? New community centres? Who would pay for those?

There are limited sources of funding to help churches with their buildings. The National Churches Trust gives out around £2 million a year in grants for maintenance and building vital facilities such as toilets and kitchens. But for every applicant it helps, it has to turn away another ten.

What these churches need is some financial back-up from government. Heritage lottery funds that were once ring-fenced for churches have gone. A VAT relief scheme on building works for churches is due to come to an end this year. While churches kept many vital services running during lockdown, their normal fundraising activities were curtailed.

What is needed is a rethink on church grants at central government level so that local services in local buildings can keep responding to local need. And with 900 churches on the English Heritage “at risk” register and many more in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a parlous state, this is not just a problem for clerics and churchgoers. It’s a national crisis.

Catherine Pepinster is the author of ‘Martrydom: Why Martyrs Still Matter’ (SPCK Publishing). Follow her on Twitter @CPsPepTalk; read more at telegraph.co.uk/opinion

Daily Telegraph, October 19, 2020

Discipleship Group – a life of prayer

Image from The Methodist Church’s Our Calling

The second of our discipleship group series on a life of prayer will be taking place this Wednesday 21st October at 2.30pm and repeated next Wednesday 28th October at 7.30pm, both via zoom. Please email me on bev_ramsden@hotmail.com if you want to join the meetings (telling me which one) and I will send you the zoom invitation.

If you want to take part by yourself rather than as part of a group, you can find the study below. The first study can be found by looking back to the blog post on 6th October.

The theme of this second session is “Prayer as enjoying God.”

Here we go again…

So, we are in full lockdown again as of 6pm this Friday until the morning of Monday 9th November. Ah well, we are better prepared this time compared to last because we have learnt a lot since then.

St John’s, Llandudno, Open Church (for private prayer), will be available this Friday from 10am – 12noon as usual but will then be stopped for the following two Fridays. It should be open again on Friday 13th November.

The healing service at St John’s will not be happening on 29th October or 5th November but should be returning on 12th November.

But what about Sunday worship?

Although we won’t be able to have our usual “new normal” congregational services, we will be able to have livestreamed versions. Ministers are allowed to access church premises and, as I have my technical expert living with me, I can take him too! So, there will be a service available to take part in from home on each of the three affected Sundays. Details will appear here on the blog.

The remembering service (for those who have lost loved ones, to remember and give thanks for their lives) will be livestreamed at 3pm on Sunday 1st November.

And don’t forget that there are other ways to participate in worship via the radio and TV for those with no access to the internet. And, on that subject, I will be doing the Sunday Celebration service at 7.30am on BBC Radio Wales on Sunday 1st November.

Experiences of compline

Rhian Smith of St John’s shares her experience of lockdown compline with us. Thank you, Rhian, for these insights.

When lockdown happened at the end of March a friend suggested we gather on Zoom on a Sunday evening and say compline prayers.  So we have done this most Sunday evenings since, at 9pm for around 15 minutes.

I didn’t know much about compline before this, apart from the fact that the nuns in ‘Call the midwife’ talk about it!  The Church of England website says ‘the ancient office of compline service takes its name from a latin word meaning completion (completorium).  It is a service of quietness and reflection before rest at the end of the day.

The liturgy varies but follows a format where a blessing is given, we thank God for the day that has been, place the next day in His hands and ask for His blessing and protection on our rest.  The readings are short, often just a verse or two and then there is a short reflection, often a poem.  

I share with you the reflection from compline on 18 October, a poem from the Church of Scotland, written at the start of lockdown in Spring. It summed up so many of my thoughts as we potentially face a harsher lockdown again. In the fourth stanza it speaks of unexpected connection, this is definitely what compline has been for me, as several people I share it with each Sunday I have never met! It also speaks of Peace, Jesus’ peace that passes all understanding. A peace that each one of us needs and can experience in Him.

You can find the poem Rhian is referring to here.

Sunday Worship

This Sunday’s worship at St David’s, Craig y Don (10am) and St John’s, Llandudno (11am) is led by me, Rev Bev.

We will be sharing in Holy Communion together for the first time since lockdown back in March. It will be a joy to share in the familiar words we have not said together for so long. I will be using the Methodist Worship Book liturgy for Holy Communion during ordinary seasons (first service), which can be found on p.185. Apart from a couple of hymns and a Bible reading (John 6:35 and 53-58) we will be doing nothing but the liturgy itself and sharing the bread and wine (in a covid secure way.)

For those of you at home, joining in via the live-stream at 10am (you can find it here), I can provide consecrated wafer and wine if required. And you can find the liturgy (or close to it) here.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Coronvirus Blues

Chris Cooper has created another song for our times. Here’s what he has to sayy about it.

This song was inspired by Psalm 13, a lament which perfectly fits our current situation.

As Christians do we feel guilty about lamenting?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God waved a magic wand to banish covid-19 ?

Or would it? Although I can’t see it, there is probably a down side to intervening in this way.

No doubt, God is helping us to find a solution but it all takes time. because it involves working through human beings who have free choice.

So it’s OK to lament, knowing that God will be lamenting with us. And when it’s all over and we look back, we should be able to see where God was at work.

Prayers for healing and wholeness

Today’s service of prayers for healing and wholeness are being led at St John’s, Llandudno, at 1.45pm, by Frances Williams. Her reflection is included below for those of us taking part from home.

‘My grace is sufficient for you,
For my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9)

In the ministry of Christ healing was a sign of the presence of God’s kingdom, bringing renewal and wholeness of life to those who turned to God in their need.  Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the kingdom and heal the sick (Luke 9:2).  The Church believes that the healing power of Christ is exercised through medical and related professions, through faith and prayer, and the care of the Christian community. 

God desires wholeness for all people. We bring to God our frailty and brokenness  –  felt not only in physical illness, but in guilt, anxiety, and all the burdens which weigh us down.  We also bring our concerns for others and for the world. We come to God who knows our needs before we ask, and whose love revealed in Jesus Christ is stronger than suffering and death.

To start, take some time to bring yourself into an awareness of the presence of God. If it helps, imagine yourself sitting in your church alone, resting in the prayerful atmosphere.

Jesus said:  ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Matt 11:28-30

Jesus said:  ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ John 10:10

Loving God,
in whom all things are made whole,
you sent your Son our Saviour to heal a broken world.
Visit us with your salvation,
that we may be blessed in body, mind and spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said:
‘Anyone who comes to me I will never turn away.’ (John 6:37)

In the presence of God, let us confess our sins.

Lord Jesus, you came to reconcile us to God and to one another.
Lord Jesus, you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Lord Jesus, you offer us a new beginning.
Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.

God is love.  Through Jesus our sins are forgiven.
Let us live in the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Holy God, you give life to all;
you meet us in our need
and bring hope to those who look to you.
Give peace to our hearts and minds as we pray to you with confidence;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Reflection:

Matthew 12:46 – 50
While Jesus was talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘ Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whosoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’


This year October 4th was Grandparents Day. I did not see any publicity about it and heard nothing from my family.  When I mentioned it to my son, his comment was that it was an American idea that has not caught on in Britain and, that as far as he was concerned, every day was Grandparent’s day. I don’t expect a card next year either!

I have fond memories of my Grandmother. My brother and I spent many Sunday evenings at her house, probably so that our parents could attend the evening service.  As my Grandma owned a shop, she did her cleaning on Sundays and we helped her whilst listening to ‘Sing something simple’ on the radio. We then moved to the lounge where she would often help me make clothes for my dolls – she had been a seamstress – then we would watch ‘Sunday night at the London Palladium’.

I have a list of quotations about grandparents, here are two of them:

‘Sometimes our grandmas and grandpas are like grand-angels.’

‘A child needs a grandparent, anybody’s grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world.’

Someone once said that God does not have any grandchildren. The reason is that we are all children of God. And Jesus, as well as being Saviour, Redeemer and Friend, is also our Brother. We heard it in the reading from Matthew’s gospel. Jesus said ‘ Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’

We are all invited to be part of God’s family, whatever our family circumstances. The words of one of our more modern hymns, ‘Father God I wonder how I managed to exist without the knowledge of your parenthood and your loving care. But now I am your child, I am adopted in your family and I can never be alone ‘cos Father God you’re there beside me.I will sing your praises for evermore’.

Whatever memories you have of parents and grandparents, and we know that people can let us down, remember that, as a child of God, you are loved unconditionally.  Jesus is your brother, ready to love you, to support you and to care for you each and every day of the year.May you know God’s love and care today and in the days to come.  Amen


A prayer from North America ( printed in ‘Oceans of Prayer’)
Grandfather, look at our brokenness. We know that in all creation only the human family has strayed from the sacred way.  We know that we are the ones who are divided and we are the ones who must come back together to walk in the sacred way. Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love,compassion and honour that we may heal the earth and heal each other.  Amen

Christ our Saviour, born for us,
bring healing and peace to all people….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, baptized in the Jordan,
give hope to all who come to you….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, tested in the desert,
give courage to those who are tempted….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who comforted and healed,
bring wholeness to all who are broken….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who hung in agony on the cross,
bring strength to those who suffer….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, who died to save us,
give peace to all who face death….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, raised from the tomb,
bring light and life to all the world….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

Christ, present among your disciples,
unite all your people in love….

Lord have mercy.          Christ, have mercy.

We thank you, gracious God.
You have loved us from the beginning of time
and remembered us when we were in trouble.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, redeeming God.
You have come to us in Jesus Christ
to save us from our sins.
Your mercy endures for ever.

We thank you, holy God.
You have sent us your Spirit
to comfort us and lead us into all truth.
Your mercy endures for ever.

Gracious, redeeming and Holy God,
glory and praise be yours, now and for ever.  Amen

Together, let us bring to the Lord those for whom we have been asked to pray….

Aiden
Peg
Dafydd
Margaret B
David & Carolyn
David Barratt
Eva
Joan Long

We say the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

Our Father in Heaven
Hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil,
For the kingdom, the
power and the glory are yours,
now and for ever.  Amen

Almighty God,
you have made us for yourself
and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
Teach us to offer ourselves to your service,
that here we may have your peace,
and in the world to come we may see you face to face;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord look on you with kindness
and give you peace.  Amen.

Go in peace to rejoice in God’s love
and to reflect his glory.
May the Lord go with us and grant us the joy of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Some material included in this service is copyright © 1989 National Council of Churches USA

Some material included in this service is copyright ©1999 Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes

Wednesday Meditation

Today’s meditation is from Jack Waddington of St David’s. Thank you, Jack.

Photo by Kirill Pershin on Unsplash

Jamie Andrew liked to climb mountains so, along with his girlfriend, his best friend (also called Jamie) and a few other friends, they decided to go to Chamonmix in the French Alps for a week, for a mixture of socialising, skiing and climbing. While the others were skiing the two Jamies decided to go mountain climbing for a couple of days. They were experienced climbers and had all the necessary equipment. They checked the weather before going and it seemed OK for a couple of days so off they went.  Unexpectedly, they were forced to spend a few nights on a ledge high up on the mountain, the weather being so bad that even the mountain rescue team could not get to them either on foot or with their helicopter.  During the last night on the mountain Jamie’s friend died and Jamie was rescued the following morning just in time to save his life.  Sadly, his frostbite was so severe that both his hands and both his feet had to be amputated.  Can you begin to imagine what this meant to him, losing all four limbs and his best friend dying next to him while he survived?  His inspiring and challenging book “Life and Limb” tells the story of his fight back, both physical and mental.

Towards the end of the book he says “However, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past few years, it’s not to dwell on what might have been.  We only have one reality to deal with in this life and that’s difficult enough so there’s no point in dreaming up others”.  Essentially, he seems to be saying we can only live in the present, not the past and not the future, only in today. Doesn’t this remind you of something Jesus said?  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow wll worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6 v 34). It seems to me that this is a very relevant truth at this time of coronavirus.

I think Jesus understood natural human worry and I would be surprised if he didn’t feel it at times himself (when the Scriptures say “fear not” I don’t think they’re talking about natural human fear as it seems to me that Jesus  experienced this in Gethsemane).    I think Jesus was saying something like this : don’t get paranoid – don’t let worry overtake you, freeze you out – remember who is in control.

During his mountain experience I don’t think Jamie knew who was in control but during this time of coronavirus we Christians do, don’t we?  My mind keeps going back to a Christian Endeavour Convention I attended in Glasgow many years ago on the theme “That I may know Him” (based on Philippians 3 v 10) and, in particular, to the convention theme chorus composed by the locals :

“that I may know Him……….and the power of His rising again…………that I may show Him and His Love and Compassion to men…………that I may take His cross to bear and in His burden have a share…………that I may know Him…………that I may know Him”.  

May this be our experience at this time.