Christmas calm

In the middle of crowded Christmas shoppers, the true spirit of Christmas found me out. Earlier a gentle friend had been saying that she really was finding it difficult to find that true spirit this year and why she felt it was; she was of course feeling back in time, to Christmas Past, when folk had less, spent less, but gave more, sharing with a good, glad heart what was theirs to share, days when you didn’t pass a neighbour by without wishing them Merry Christmas!

In my own case, I have been overwhelmed with last minute business. But surrounded by shoppers, laden with parcels from out of nowhere the Spirit of Christmas Calm stopped fluttering, folded His Wings and came to rest. And I entered worship.

No, I didn’t throw my arms in the air, burst into Hallelujah’s, Christmas Carols or even Jingle bells .. but the wing of God’s angel of peace had brushed my cheek, bidding me follow Him into that most secret of places, where worship is deeper than words or songs.. where love is speech .. where our love and God’s love meet and embrace.

Sunday, church celebrated Christmas with a Carol Service, Church Music Director Agata Beaman, St Giles Singers, St Michael’s School Band led about 200 in worship; a full report of that will be in January’s edition, and over the past few days I have met men older than me, with memories of Christmases past, choristers no longer with us .. and that has turned my mind to Christmases and years past. Firstly my thoughts turned to my own choir days, and that in turned called to mind the reason I chose St Giles for my spiritual home back in the 1960’s

Such a simple reason really,the Lord had left that choice to me, and I chose the church where the Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, Psalms and Canticles were sung not just by the choir but by everyone. Like this afternoons angel those familiar Bible Songs of Praise led me to the place of worship. 50 years have flown, and we no longer sing The Songs of Mary and Simeon, The Benedictus and Te Deum, and I miss them, but cannot imagine that they are not still being sung in that place from which Christmas Angels come to hush our noise and bring us into the Christmas Presence.

My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
For He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.”

(Luke 1: 46-48 N.I.V.)

I pray that angels of peace surround you and lead you gently into Christmas and the New Year.

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Reverend Ian’s Pastoral Letter November 1st 2016

God sent His Son that we might no longer fear the dark


November 1st 2016

Around this time of the year I’m away from Rowley for 3 days – “on retreat” – something every Vicar is expected to do each year, and it doesn’t count as their holiday! It’s a time of stillness and prayer.
Last year I went to the Franciscan Monastery at Glasshampton, near Stourport, I was given a small room in a corridor, with a bed, desk, chair and wash basin. Everything is pretty basic: there’s no TV, Internet or mobile phone signal. The Monastery is up a ¾ mile rough track, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it is very isolated, very quiet.
As you might expect the day is regulated by a bell which rings for the services in a simple chapel, and for silent meals in the Refectory (if you want salt or pepper you have to wait silently for someone to notice and pass it down!) And then, afterwards. You wash up!
Last year, on my first night, about 7pm, all the lights went out.
Following a storm the overhead power cable came down and the resulting power cut lasted 8 hours. I can vouch for that; I had forgotten to switch the light off and the bedroom was suddenly very bright at 3am.
Finding the chapel wasn’t very easy that night; I literally felt my way down a very dark corridor to say the church evening office of Compline by candlelight. This was an unforgettable experience and at the end of the service the monks gave us a small candle each to light our way to bed, not a lot of light and certainly not enough to read by, but sufficient not to get lost on the way back.
Candles are very powerful symbols of faith. We give godparents of a child a candle at baptism as we say “Shine as a light in the world, to the glory of God the Father.”
A candle is a delicate gentle light, that doesn’t force itself, but guides and reminds us of Jesus, the Light of the world.
In the coming months many candles will be lit. At our Annual Memorial Service as names are read, families wll step forward to light a small candle in memory of their loved ones. Approaching Christmas Candles will be lit around church as we sing carols, and at the end of the Christmas Season comes Candlemas (held in church January 29th) to remind us of Jesus taken to the Temple as a baby by Mary and Joseph, of his being recognised there as a Light to lighten the gentiles.
As we approach the holy season of Advent, you might like to think of lighting as candle at home; to remember a loved one as you say your prayers; as you think at Christmas of those who for whatever reason can’t be with you; and above all, to thank God for giving us His Son that we might not, any longer fear the dark.
With every good wish.
Ian

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Coracle and Tide

Postings which were formerly made in the category ‘Reflections’ are now being made on a weekly basis on Coracle and Tide, also published by Tides and Tidings.

To visit Coracle and Tide please click here.

Tides and Tidings will continue to report on church events and occasions. Tides and Tidings represents the mother ship. St Giles Parish Church, Rowley Regis and Coracle and Tide the Christian journey and reflections of one member of the crew.

A Coracle, still used today is a small and seemingly flimsy craft, but used much by early Christian saints and missionaries in bringing the Gospel to the people of Scotland, England. In times when the only good, safe roads were those left behind by the Romans, they were used often, to travel along Rivers.

Solitary pilgrims in a small boat, travelling only with God’s Spirit to guide, and keep them from harm, navigating treacherous currents and tides, reached inaccessible places with God’s Word and love. Their only motivation was that God should be known, hearts filled with the knowledge and love of God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

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Praise the Lord on a Monday

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The children are counting down the days to back to school, some counting down the days to starting school for the first time, and Rosy Mouse is watching the crab apple trees.
‘I like September’ she says, ‘And Autumn and Harvest Festival,’ of course,
she’s counting down the days to her share in Autumn’s bounty. But that’s Rosy, dreaming of apples, pies, crumbs … and she’s started knitting, 16 tiny hats and scarves to keep her family warm during winter months!

One thing about our little mouse. She is always cheerful, always humming, always squeaking hymns, psalms and songs of mousy praise.

Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
Lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
Stormy winds that do his bidding.
You mountains and hills, fruit trees and all cedars,
Wild animals and all cattle,
Small creatures and flying birds,
Kings of the earth and all nations,
You princes and all rulers on earth,
Young men and women,
Old men and children.

Psalm 148: 7-12

Well, you can’t get much smaller than Rosy, but she had a big heart and wishes all small people-persons (children) well, as they start new school term.

Oh, by the way if you could put some nice juicy pears in your harvest basket, St Giles Harvest Festival is Sunday 2nd October, she would much appreciate it!

Not Just By Water

John the Baptist said;
“I baptise with water but among you stands one you do not know, He baptises with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus said:
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God, unless they are born of water and the Spirit”

The Spirit and the bride say,
“Come! And let the one who hears say, Come! Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

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(Baptismal Ewer, St Giles Church)

Sarah’s Work Placement

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Birmingham Cathedral (Anglican) in its 300th Year

Sarah, aged 15, is a year 10 student at St Michael’s (C of E School) and this week has been on work placement at St Giles – a taste of what work may be like when school is finally finished and the rest of Sarah’s life begins.

Sarah, thinks she might like to work with the church. So this week is all about looking at the various roles and ministries of a church inside its building and out.

So far, Sarah has visited a family with a newly baptised child and Mary, an older person no longer able to attend church. She has created and designed a poster to publicise the coming, Churchyard Tidy, when anyone in the Rowley Community is invited to come along and join us in a bit of hard work tidying up our large Churchyard. Sarah has not only designed the posters but helped to deliver them to local shops, saying hello to people she has never met before, in the company of Revd. Shelton. I bet that was scary for shy, and softly spoken Sarah.

I think this year’s Churchyard Tidy, should really be called Sarah’s Project, she walked the site, taking notes for the Risk Assessment needed for Insurance Purposes, and typed it up together with the ‘sign in sheets’ needed for Saturday Morning. Oh, and she’s coming to work with us, exchanging her smart office clothes for jeans and sun cream.

Taking photographs of church items came next, rather involved that one, since accurate measurements and identity markings had to be included in the photographs. The photographer allowed her to take a few shots with his very expensive, professional camera and so far I think that has been the highlight of Sarah’s week.

Today, a visit to St Philips, Birmingham Cathedral comes first, then a behind the scenes look at the Diocesan Offices in Colmore Row, Birmingham.

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(Stained glass -Birmingham Cathedral)

By now, Sarah has come to know,that there is far more to church than Sunday Services, and many more jobs and roles needing filling than the sermon slot, or organ stool, the church is truly a body, and needs all of its bodily members to be able to function properly.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Whatever life holds for you, Sarah, we wish you well. Thank you for choosing St Giles for your Work Placement and helping our work, this week.

Growing up and good little mice

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The Tailor of Gloucester (A Beatrix Potter Tale) ~ Display/Vera Round/June 2016

The church lectionary says we are now in Ordinary Time, the frontal and falls in church are green, sometimes that serves me as a reminder, green things are growing things and the scripture readings for this long period Trinity Sunday to All Saints Day have all something to teach us, to help us grow in grace as Gods children, little ones
s in Christ, should. Perhaps it is easy to forget that the Saints celebrated on All Saints Day also needed to grow and learn.

Vera, who made the display pictured above, always underestimates what she may achieve but always, always tries and gives “it a go” that is part of growing up too, we learn by giving “it a go” ~ I guess Saints give love, and the Christian disciplines, graces another go, time after time after time.

Having never read the story before, I picked up the picture book also on display and gave the story of The Tailor of Gloucester a go. The tale of the kindness of little mice in completing the Tailor’s work whilst he lies sick with a raging fever is contrasted with the spitefulness of his cat. By the end of the book, the cat has learnt the lesson of kindness but I won’t give the ending away, just in case you have n’t read it.

This is the lesson I am still learning

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Yes God knows us through and through, and yes, none of us knows anything yet as we ought to know. I praise God, wonderful in his patience, gentle in his upbringing and teaching of me, his little child and mouse, by every means at his disposal, every day the most important lesson of all. Perhaps I don’t see him face to face, but I sense as a blind person might, his face is ever towards me, and sense too his invitation to reach out with baby fingers and explore that beautiful face.

Love is the lesson the Lord teaches and his story the never ending one.

And now these three remain. Faith hope and love. But the greatest if these is love.

(Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13)

We can only go forward

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(Image Superjew/Wikimedia Commons)

We can’t go back
We can only go forward

This is true none of us can go back to those wonderful days of childhood,to that heart stopping moment when our eyes fixed on our.beloved spouse. Neither can we re-visit and fix that time when we were so in the wrong; if only we hadn’t said,or we hadn’t done this or that.

As it is with our earthly life’s journey, so it is with our spiritual pilgrimage. We have decided to follow Jesus and we can’t, we mustn’t go back. Hasn’t Jesus explicitly warned us, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’

Yet our God knows there are times, and they are many, when we need to stop, rest, eat and drink – he himself is our rest, our food, our drink. This is what i have found, I have been young and now am old, but I am still following on and finding it’s an upward climb, here’s a well loved hymn from years gone by,

Wr are marching upwards to Zion
Please follow link to listen on YouTube


We are marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.

A song is always a good companion whether we are a solitary marcher or a company. Pilgrims have always packed them in their rucksacks.

Here is one Jesus could well have sung on his journeys to Passover in Jerusalem

Psalm 121

I lift my eyes to the mountains
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harmg—
he will watch over your life;

8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and for ever more.

When I find the going hard, life tough and rough, or maybe fear I may be a little off track, I rest prayerfully, look up, and put my best foot forward I’m marching upwards.