News & Events

Dear Friends,

December is here, that most wonderful time of the year when we lie in bed, unable to sleep for the pure joy and excitement of yet another General Election; peace on earth and good will to all men, and women, I am sure.  However, that being  said, I can’t remember an election that has seemed so focussed on a single issue; I can’t remember an election being held against such a backdrop of divisiveness and even hatred; I can’t remember any election where accusations of misogyny, antisemitism and Islamophobia have been so to the fore.  Politicians, so often the target of gentle, and sometimes not so gentle, mocking now face a barrage of daily abuse of the vilest kind, including death threats, particularly if they are female or from a religious or racial minority.  Record numbers of MPs have taken the decision to stand down at this election because of the amount of vitriol directed at them.

I invite you to join with me in prayer over the election period and beyond, praying not for victory for one party or the other but for healing and reconciliation in our politics and in our country as a whole.

Now, you may be sat there thinking, “Come on Ian, that’s not very Christmassy is it?” but in truth it is.  The whole reason God became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth was because of the need for healing and reconciliation.  The Bible tells us that the religious leaders had abandoned the path of God and sought only to fulfil their own desires, as we read in Jeremiah 23, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord.”  This same analogy was picked up by Jesus in Matthew 9, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  And Jesus lived a life of reconciliation, both to God and to one another, constantly reaffirming that gospel imperative in different ways, “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also”, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you”, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness”, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” to quote just a few.

Reconciliation is one of the primary roles of the Christian and I both affirm and challenge you to be agents of reconciliation in the name of Jesus this election time and this Christmas time.

Yours in Christ,
Ian.

 

Advent & Christmas at St. Wilfrid's 

Advent Carol Service

Advent is the time of looking forward to the fulfilment of our Christian hope, the hope that Christ will return to earth and, in the words of Jesus himself, we ‘will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory’ to establish God’s kingdom of justice and of peace.  This kingdom of God will be the theme of our Advent Carol Service at 10.00 a.m. on Sunday 1st December.

Christingle Service

With roots in the Moravian Church, founded in Bohemia in the 15th century, the Christingle was widely promoted by the Children’s Society as a distinctive way of celebrating Jesus as the Light of the World.  As a Festival of Light it naturally found a place in the winter seasons of the Church, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  We shall be celebrating Christingle at 10.00 a.m. on Sunday 8th December.

Open-Air Carol Service

We are very grateful to the Village Bakery for hosting our Open-Air Carol Service again this year.  This simple, informal, service brings the Christmas message right into the heart of our village with short scripture readings and loads of our favourite carols.  Our service this year will take place on Saturday 14th December at 10.00 a.m.

Children’s Nativity Service

Those of you who have seen Love Actually may remember the school nativity where one child was excited to be given the role not just of a lobster but of ‘first lobster’, “There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?” her mother exclaims.  There will be no lobsters, or indeed any other crustaceans present, at our very traditional style children’s nativity service on Sunday 22nd December at 10.00 a.m.

Service of Nine Lessons & Carols

This service has become synonymous with King’s College Cambridge where it was popularised by the Dean, Eric Milner-White.  The service was first held at King’s in 1918 and became firmly established.  The King’s service was first broadcast on radio in 1928 and on television in 1954.  This simple service takes us through the story of salvation from the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to the birth of Jesus.  We shall be holding the service on Sunday 22nd December at 6.30 p.m. and the service will be followed by mulled wine and minced pies.

Family Crib Services

Our Family Crib Services have become a popular focus of our Christmas celebrations.  In these services we hear told, in a very informal way, the story of Jesus’ birth involving lots of participation from the children who during the service help put the Christmas crib together.  The Christmas Crib services take place on Christmas Eve at 2.00 p.m. and 4.00 p.m.

Midnight Mass

This is the evocative, if theologically suspect, name for the first Communion of Christmas.  There is something deeply evocative about travelling through the darkness and arriving at our beautiful lamp-lit church to welcome the birth of our Lord.  This service is a traditional Book of Common Prayer Communion with readings from the King James Bible.  Midnight Mass takes place on Christmas Eve at 11.30 p.m.

Christmas Day Communions

As the sun rises on Christmas day so also a new hope washes across the world, for today “a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  We have 2 services of Holy Communion on Christmas Day.  At 8.30 a.m. we have a said BCP service and at 10.00 a.m. a sung service in contemporary language.

A Time for Giving

As Sir Cliff Richard eloquently reminded us in his festive smash ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ Christmas is a time for giving and in December we support two different but very good causes.

At our Christingle service on the 8th December we shall be supporting the work of The Children’s Society which has done so much over the years to promote this service.  The Children’s Society’s vision is, “We fight for change, supporting disadvantaged children to have better lives. We are building a country where children are free from disadvantage.”  If you would like to support the work of the Children’s Society but can’t come to our Christingle Service then please feel free to make a donation at any time, please place it in an envelope marked ‘Children’s Society’ and it will be included in the collection for that service.  We also support the Children’s Society throughout the year with home collection boxes.  If you would like to have one please contact Philippa Mort, her phone number is on the back of this magazine.

Also, throughout Christmas our Christmas Crib will be sponsoring the work of Mampong Babies Home in the Asante region of Ghana, West Africa.  St. Wilfrid’s has supported the Babies Home for many years and a number of our congregation have had the opportunity to visit the Home.  The home takes in babies whose mothers died at child-birth or shortly afterwards, or who were born to mentally impaired persons, as well as born to destitute people with disabilities.  The babies are often collected by their fathers, usually after they have been weaned, or are taken in by extended family.  If not collected children remain at the Home until the age of 5 when they are passed into the government childcare system.  The Crib is up from Christmas Eve until Candlemas at the start of February.

A Prayer

Loving God, your Son told his disciples to become like little children.  Bless the Children’s Society, Mampong Babies Home and all who work for the welfare and protection of all young people.  May we be encouraged to uphold and support them as they seek to serve you by serving the weak and vulnerable, following the example of the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Messy Church

December, as you might imagine, is a busy time for Messy Church.  We begin with our Messy Church Christmas Party on Saturday 21st December at 10.00 a.m. at the Rajar. 

There will be fun and games, with the biggest Pass-the-Parcel you have ever seen, followed by our festive party with sandwiches, sausage rolls, cake and a visit from a very special guest… I can’t imagine who, with a present for each child.

The following day, Sunday 22nd December, the children will be presenting to us their own unique version of the Christmas story at our Nativity Service at 10.00 a.m.  One of the great pleasures of Messy Church has been watching the children grow to the point where they are now taking on more and more speaking parts.

This being a joint December and January magazine our first Messy Church of the new year will take place on Saturday 25th January at 10.00 a.m. at the Rajar.

December Messy Church
Christmas Party
Saturday 22nd December at 10 a.m.
The Rajar

January Messy Church
Saturday 25th January at 10 a.m.

The Rajar

Feast of the Epiphany

A celebration on the 6th January began in the Eastern Church in the 3rd century where it was a celebration of the baptism of Jesus.  By the 4th century it was taken up by the Western Church where it became more closely associated with the arrival of the Magi, perceived as being the first manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.

Fascination with these mysterious visitors who drift in and out of the Christmas story was huge.  By the turn of the 6th century the three had acquired the names by which they are now commonly known, although other church traditions also hold different names.  In their depictions there developed over the centuries a tradition of depicting them as being of different ages and different races, representing an ‘every man’.  Caspar is Western and elderly, traditionally 60 years old, and presents the gold; Melchior is Arabian and aged 40 years old and gives frankincense and Balthazar is African and the youngest at 20 years and presents the myrrh.  These groupings have become increasingly dominant since the 16th century but are by no means consistent.

Alongside the arrival of the Magi there are two other stories that make up the Epiphany themes of revelation.  The first of these, reflecting the very start of the Epiphany tradition in the Eastern church, is the Baptism of Jesus when the voice of God is heard declaring over Jesus, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased”, and the second is the story of Jesus’ first miracle when he turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana.  These themes, and others, are picked up in that great Epiphany hymn, ‘Songs of thankfulness and praise’ which includes -

Manifested by the star to the sages from afar,

Manifest at Jordan's stream, prophet, Priest, and King supreme,

Manifest in power divine, changing water into wine.

Manifest in making whole palsied limbs and fainting soul;

We shall be celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany, and specifically the arrival of the Magi, on Sunday 5th January.

Plough Sunday

We have so many reasons to be thankful for our farmers.  As well as producing our daily food to strengthen our bodies they are also largely responsible for managing the land, the beauty of which lightens our spirits. 

Yet our farming communities are suffering from increasing problems including low incomes, increased bureaucracy, and mounting debts, none of which has been helped by 3½ years of uncertainty over Brexit.  According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England as much as 50% of farms depend on basic subsidies to survive, one third of UK farms have disappeared with dairy farms going down from 35,000 in 1995 to 10,000 in 2015 whilst 8,650 acres of farmland is being built on each year.

At St. Wilfrid’s we seek to draw farming matters and the cycle of the agricultural year into the liturgical calendar of the church.  As well as Harvest we also keep Lammas Day and Plough Sunday where, as well as asking God’s blessing on the seed and the plough, we also keep in our prayers our suffering farming community.

Do join us on Plough Sunday, January 12th, when at our All-Age Service at 10.00 a.m. we offer our farmers our thanksgiving, support and prayers.  In the meantime I encourage you to make this following prayer for our farming community.

A prayer for farmers -

Loving God, we pray for farmers everywhere, giving thanks for their skill and dedication in producing our food and caring for the countryside.  We remember those for whom this year has been an anxious one because of the wet weather and floods. We pray for livestock farmers who worry about feeding their animals and the lack of feed for the winter.  We pray for all organisations who seek to support farming families under pressure, and when the harvest is sold we pray for justice and a fair price for all producers.  Amen.

Work Party - Get Some In

We are very fortunate at St. Wilfrid’s to have a quiet, if not army then at least Corp of people who just quietly get on and do things around the church and graveyard, like a bit of polishing, cleaning, raking and tidying and such stuff.  The PCC are very grateful for everybody who helps in these ways and would like to encourage others to give a little bit of time to keeping the church and grounds looking neat and tidy.

To do that we are making the first Saturday of each month Work Party Day.  These Work Parties are completely ad hoc, you don’t need to sign up to anything just turn up from 10-12 if you are free and crack on with something.  Our Churchwardens have drawn up a list of simple jobs that need doing on a regular basis and that list is available in church. 

If you can’t make the first Saturday don’t worry, you can come along anytime and get stuck in, there is always something that needs doing.

Work Party dates coming up are -

Saturday 1st February
Saturday 7th March                 
Saturday 4th April

If you have a spare couple of hours and would like to lend a hand then please just roll up between 10-12, you will be most welcome.

Our Next Bishop of Chester

The Diocese has now produced the Statement of Need detailing what we are looking for in a new Bishop and this is available on the Diocesan website.  The selection panel is due to meet and the expectation is that shortlisting will take place in February with a decision and announcement made in March.  The new person it is hoped will be in post either July or September at the latest.  In the meantime, Bishop Keith is inviting everyone in the Diocese to join in prayer for this appointment process and offers the following -

Almighty God, who sent Jesus Christ to be the cornerstone of your Kingdom and to call us to follow him; guide your Church, by the Holy Spirit, to show love and mercy as we build your kingdom.  We pray for the person you are calling to be our next Bishop of Chester; bless, guide and strengthen them to answer your call; in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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