A Message from the Wardens – 3rd April 2020

Dear Friends,
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
These words have begun to take on such significance as our daily lives have changed beyond all recognition. On Sunday Neil spoke to us about the need for us all to have the light of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Lent 5 – 29th March 2020).

Everything that we previously took for granted is changed in some way but in spite of that we can still catch glimpses of the Holy Spirit at work.

There is so much LOVE being demonstrated; even by staying indoors we are showing our love for others.

JOY may be in short supply at the moment, but to someone who is alone all day, a phone call or a letter may give them great joy.

PEACE: again, perhaps not so obvious but we have “The Peace of God which passes all understanding.” even if we don’t always feel this in our hearts right at the moment.

FORBEARANCE: Certainly we are having to learn this. In a world where we are used to instant responses, we are having to wait patiently because services are so stretched and we can’t always get what we want immediately.

KINDNESS AND GOODNESS: so many people are going out of their way to offer kind words and deeds.

FAITHFULNESS: Powerfully demonstrated by all the millions of key workers who are carrying on their work for the benefit of others.

GENTLENESS: Countless examples of compassionate and loving care of one for another.

SELF-CONTROL: Shown by all those people who, in spite of their concerns, take only what they need so that there will be enough for all.
Angela’s reading for today (Wednesday 1st April) also offers us great hope and encouragement

The Bible tells us: ‘Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy’ (1 Peter 4: 12 – 13).

In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases Peter’s words: ‘Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.’

Times of testing feel ‘strange’, but they are normal and necessary! They are how you grow in grace. They are how God equips and prepares you to do great things in His kingdom. God never afflicts us, but He most assuredly tests us. And His tests measure us, reveal us, strengthen our faith, purify us, and cause us to grow spiritually.

To quote the apostle Paul: ’Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! So, we are not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart around us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without His enfolding grace’ (2 Corinthians 4: 15 –17 MSG).

If you could see the blessings that are waiting for you on the other side of this fiery trial, you’d stop feeling worried and afraid, and start praising God for His goodness and mercy.
It is however often very hard to feel encouraged and hopeful when day by day the news brings home to us the scale and horror of this terrible pandemic.

Sadly, the next few weeks are likely to see yet further increases in the death toll BUT in spite of this there is much to be thankful for and to feel encouraged by.
Bishop Pete sends a regular letter to clergy, readers and wardens. Today he enclosed a link to the radio 4 Thought for the Day and some words of encouragement
Bishop Pete writes: If you haven’t heard it, you might like to catch up on a simply outstanding ‘Thought for the Day’ by Bishop Philip North on BBC Radio 4 on Monday. You can find it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00szxv6/clip

‘Trust in the LORD and do good’ (Psalm 37.3a) When life is not easy, when the future is uncertain, when I feel stretched and challenged and almost overwhelmed, I want to hold fast to these two things: I want to go on trusting in the LORD, who holds the future and whose Faithfulness knows no need; and I want to go on doing good — doing whatever good I can do, even within the restrictions in which I am forced to live out my life today. My prayer for each of you today, all of you who are reading this update, is that you will be given grace to ‘trust in the LORD, and do good’.

We were delighted to hear that some of you are sharing this letter with friends in the community and beyond. Please do share it with others if you think it will be helpful for them, this is a very powerful demonstration of fruitfulness on our frontlines.

It is also encouraging to read that over 750.000 people have signed up to volunteer in various roles to help others during this crisis.

Locally there are so many people willing to offer help. Without exception, everyone we have spoken to who is living alone has spoken of neighbours or church family, who are helping with shopping etc.

All around Totley people are displaying Rainbows (and Teddy Bears in some cases) in their windows. This was initially as a “treasure hunt” activity for children but it also serves as a visual symbol of hope. Our children’s team have sent a poster to display during Holy Week. The bottom of the poster says He is Risen and the idea is that this is folded up and hidden until Easter day and then revealed as a witness to your neighbours. The poster is here.

Technology is allowing us to stay connected with friends and family and in spite of not being able to be together in the same room, virtual parties, board games and quizzes are all taking place. Many fitness groups, choirs and important conversations are happening that might otherwise have been cancelled indefinitely.

For those not able to access the internet and e mail, the telephone service and the Postal service are still working and our postmen and women are delivering letters and parcels just as before. Maybe you know someone who would enjoy receiving a letter from you?

Spring Harvest Home is a completely free online conference programme with content suitable for everyone in the family.

Lined up for the week after Easter, they have some amazing material all built around the 2020 theme of “Unleashed – The Acts Church Today “.

Never has there been a more appropriate time for us to gather together as a community to worship, learn, laugh and pray together. https://springharvest.org/spring-harvest-home/

Please do continue to send us your news of hope and encouragement so that we can share this with one another. We have another quiz for you for this week. It also contains the answer to last week’s missing flower.

On Sunday, Ali will lead us in virtual worship for Palm Sunday as we prepare to enter Holy Week. We are extremely grateful that as a church family we are blessed by her ministry to us. Please pray for Ali as she prepares for this and for Easter Sunday (AST Virtual Church).

We do not know what lies ahead of us and how long and painful the road may be but we do know that we will not make this journey alone.
And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.

With Love
Angela and Liz