“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me.”
Have you seen the blossom on the trees recently? Or a cluster of crocus and daffodils emerging from the grass? Spring is here again, and it is time for these plants to decide about opening up again after the winter shut-down. But it isn’t just the natural world that has to make tough decisions at the moment. With the end of Covid-19 restrictions in England, it can sometimes feel very difficult to know what to do for the best. As we watch the news, and hear about the daily struggle that is now life for the people of Ukraine, or the impact of the rises in the cost of living. Many people will ask: where is God in all of this? Well, recently the children and I have been looking at the theme of God’s presence with us, even in the difficult times.
At Family Church, we thought about the parable of the Lost Sheep, particularly about the character and role of the shepherd. A shepherd searches out nourishment for the sheep, so we planted some cress seeds to remind us of how God provides. The shepherd knows that it won’t always be easy for the sheep. Sometimes they have to travel across empty, desert spaces, but the shepherd leads them through. Sometimes, there is the threat from other animals, like lions and bears. But the shepherd keeps his flock together, even sleeping with them, to make sure that they are safe. He also employs some rather unusual looking dogs to move in amongst the sheep without being recognised by the predators. So, we made our own flock of sheep, huddled together under the protection of the shepherd. We had great fun looking for sheep, and re-telling the story, but at the centre of everything was one question. If we are the sheep, and God is our shepherd, then what does all this mean for how God cares for us?
The theme of God being with us carried on into our March Creative Space as well. As it was close to the 17th March, we looked at the prayer of St Patrick, which begins with the famous words above. A saint who was captured by pirates, and then sold as a slave, probably knew quite a lot about trusting in God to take care of him. We went out to explore the area around the church and look for places where God might be (everywhere!) We even made our own badge using items that we found outside.
As we move in to April, it will be time to celebrate Easter, when we remember Jesus ultimate victory over death on the cross. There is nothing so terrible that He cannot conquer it, and as we have seen: Jesus walks with us always.
Church and Community Worker
“There are different kinds of gifts. But it is the same Holy Spirit Who gives them… There are different ways of doing His work. But it is the same God who uses all these ways in all people. The Holy Spirit works in each person in one way or another for the good of all.”
This passage may be familiar to you. It comes from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, and appears just before he lists some of the gifts that can come from the Holy Spirit. I am sure you can name some of them. What about wisdom? Or faith? Or public speaking? We all know people who are blessed with some of the gifts that Paul lists. I would like to briefly reflect on how different gifts have helped me so far, and will continue to be important, in the role of Church and Community Worker. There are two gifts that are particularly important: passion and inspiration.
Many years ago, I had a poster on the wall above my desk that said ‘Nothing in the world was ever accomplished without passion’. Passion and enthusiasm are at the heart of any enterprise, and without them, little can be achieved. The large number of people who enthusiastically turned up to help at the first Family Church I ran in September is a perfect demonstration. That passion covered the welcomers, those organising refreshments and those who enthusiastically joined in the storytelling. As we sailed “boats” around the Long Room, or hunted for the hidden five loaves and two fishes, there was a lot of laughter. Many of the children didn’t want to leave! As Family Church continues over the coming months, I hope that sense of joy will continue. The same enthusiasm can be witnessed every Tuesday at Playtime@Church, where all the volunteers help to make the group such a warm and welcoming place.
Of course, where there is great passion, inspiration often follows. I am sure that we all have people who have inspired us, both in our journey of faith, and in life in general. For me, as I have been working out my new role, seeing the passion that different people have for different things has provided me with a lot of inspiration. One of the first things I encountered was the passion for creativity, and there was a considerable amount of skill to back it up. That skill provided some wonderful ideas for the Advent Creative Space that was held at the end of November. On that Sunday morning, we made our own (non-flammable) candles and wreathes, and explored the significance of these Advent symbols. In February, there will be another Creative Space, this time close to Valentine’s Day, and exploring the theme of ‘God Loves Me’.
Part of that creativity has been a passion for music and performance, and so over the coming months I will be starting to develop Toddler Praise, an opportunity for the youngest members of the church to make music and worship. I also hope for another visit by Manuel the cockerel, and some of his friends. Manuel assures me that he enjoyed his first visit to café church, and hopes to be invited back again.
Another gift that I encountered early on was a passion for the environment and taking care of our world. As we emerge in to spring, with the promise of new life and new beginnings all around us, I will be running some sessions of Muddy Church, for children and their families. This is a movement that focuses on learning about God by celebrating and protecting His creation. I hope that we will be able to make full use of the outdoor space available at Heaton Mersey.
Looking forwards, 2022 feels to me like a year full of hope, with new opportunities and challenges to take up. I very much look forwards to sharing that hope with you all, and embracing your own unique gifts and talents, which lie at the heart of the journey.
An introduction from our new Church and Community Worker (Oct 2021):
My name is Sarah Rose, and I am the new Church and Community Worker at Heaton Mersey Methodist Church. I have been involved in outreach work for nearly twenty years now, firstly as a volunteer, and later as a lay worker. My first role was as a team leader at a Holiday Club in the summer of 2003. I am very much looking forward to getting involved with all aspects of life at Heaton Mersey.
One of my favourite aspects of worship has to be music and singing. There are so many hymns that I love, although Lord, for the Years would probably come out on top. For me, it is a constant reminder that God is with us throughout the changes and challenges of life. It also shows us the importance of praying for our world, and for all God’s people. For a similar reason, one of my favourite Bible verses would have to be Jeremiah 29: 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Outside of community work, my big passion is the theatre. Over the years, I have been involved with many productions, doing everything from costumes to lighting, and of course, acting. In the largest role I ever did, I only left the stage for two pages out of the whole play.
I look forwards to meeting you all soon. If you see me around, please do come over and say hello.