Lent From A Mouse Perspective

What is Lent for?

Compilers of Church Magazines are asked all sorts of tricky questions.

So I asked the Muse, who raised an elegant eyebrow and suggested I ask Rosy Mouse.

I pulled on boots, scarf and gloves and ventured down the middle path to the ‘Mouse-Hole’ – which all our readers know, is near (cannot publish exact location for Mouse Security reasons) the Celtic Cross at the bottom of the churchyard.

We had frost overnight, the air is clean and sharp, the sky an amazing blue, little pockets of Snowdrops everywhere, a good day to be alive and Rosy is Spring cleaning with her twig broom and pleased to have a chat.

‘Well,” she said, and I must ask you to bear in mind that Rosy, small mouse-mother that she is, spends most of her day thinking of food for her 14 children.

‘Well, I think, God always intended for us and Himself to be kind of like a big Swiss Roll, all wrapped up together, and sort of delicious, full of sweet goodness, so that it’s hard to say which tastes better sponge or cake, it’s just perfect together.’ Her little eyes became quite glazed over at this point….

‘And it’s like when the children are learning to walk, they’re so happy toddling along, holding Daddy’s hand, Fred (Mr Mouse to you) gets quite wrapped up with them, and it’s the same for them. Doesn’t last though, mice-lets and small people-persons like their independence, and can’t grow up fast enough, they let go Daddy’s hand and that’s when the fun and falls start. What’s important for us to know is that when we fall Daddy is around to help us up’

‘I think that’s what Lent is for, remembering that God wants to help us up and help us to pick up the pieces, and sort out the mess.’

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The smallest sin is a fall, and a fall is a fall from God, and to fall from God is to fall the greatest height in the universe.
(From a Mirror Set at the Right Angle: Henry Drummond)

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Who am I?

I am Jean, the girl, (not so young a girl) who has the pleasure and privilege of compiling her Church Magazine.

My church is a Church of England Parish Church named for St Giles of Provence, but known for miles around as ‘Rowley Church’ – Rowley Village has long since been swallowed up and pretty much all of our historical buildings have simply disappeared. A fact noted by a visiting archaeologist – who asked.

‘Where has a 1,000 years of history gone?”

In the case of the church, and burials once made within its walls. The answer is probably ‘right under our feet, waiting to be discovered again.’ Rather like Richard II’s body was in a Leicestershire car park

What the Magazine try’s to do is to keep people informed on what Worship services, Meetings are scheduled, report on events as they happen, entertain and encourage people to try their hand at writing, That encouraging bit is the bit I have most trouble with. Folk mostly seem to underestimate their abilities.

‘Rowley has talent,’ – was the name given to a day, when anyone, from s hook children to the retired were invited to come do a 15 minute slot. We had Singers, Choirs, . Musicians, Dancers, Crafts Demonstrated … a wonderful day … Which tells you, why I began ‘Tides and Tidings Blog – I am proud of my church, town and neighbours and would like to share a little of what they do, with the world.

By taking part in the 101 course, I hope to improve my personal skills to do just that.

Turning the page

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I always think that a New Year is like a new book, perhaps a Diary with blank pages to fill, and here we go, turning and filling the first pages in “2016”

The life of a Parish Church is a busy, bustle. Sometimes it is so good just to be still and quiet, to listen out for God. In our business we often forget, that our Heavenly Father just wants one thing, and that is our attention.

As the Lord Jesus said to Martha,
‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part.’
(Luke 10:38-42)

If I only keep one, New Year Resolution it would be to spend more time just being still and letting God fill in the pages.

Year End

The past few weeks have been busy, jam-packed with happy memories. Here are just a few.

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A busy craft table at Messy Church, 6th December. Numbers are growing at Messy Church life is getting exciting and real messy. Thought it best not to choose the photo of the marbles rolling in ink!

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The Christmas Fayre November 28th: There was plenty of Frozen Magic with princesses Anna and Elsa … The ice castle was perfect to hide away Santa, thank you Princess Elsa. The cake stall attracted plenty of visitors, getting to crowded for photos so here are a couple taken as it was being set up.

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St Giles looked really stunning this year, here are just a few photos, Carol Annetts and team created little spaces for quiet contemplation amongst the twinkling lights of Christmas Trees, there was s smaller tree in every window space, plenty of oohs and aahs from visiting infant and primary schools. This year Blackheath Primary, Rowley Hall, Westminster Special School and St Michaels Church School all held their Carol Services in Church.

Our own Carol Service with St Giles Singers under the direction of Mrs Agata Beaman, was attended by The Worshipful Mayor of Sandwell, Councillor Price her consort Councillor Bob Price, and Deputy Mayor Councillor Julie Price. Tenor, Brian Williams gave a solo rendition of Susser die Glockenspiel nie Klingon – sweeter the bells never sound ~ St Michael’s brass band bought the evening by reminding us “That it’s only just begun” Truly a memorable 9 Lessons and Carols.

The crib Service, 4:00pm Christmas Eve was very well attended, visiting children were invited to take part in telling the Christmas story as they came in, no child refused, and with Agata’s gentle encouragement sang Away in a Manger with a tenderness that bought tears to some eyes.

The Midnight Eucharist saw church filled to capacity, and the simple service on Christmas morning, bought visitors from Perth, Australia and Durban, South Africa.

The stained glass window depicting Saint Joseph, Virgin Mary and baby can be found in Saint Giles Lady Chapel. The crown of thorns and holly berries found on the Lady Chapel window sill remind us that the baby in the Manger became the Saviour on the Cross.

Happy New Year everyone. May you be blessed!

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The Nativity (beneath the altar)

A Time to Keep

My Dad’s clock stopped.

For 60 years it gave faithful service, counting moments, one by one, it’s steady tick lulled Mum’s only grand daughter to sleep on childhood sleepovers, and kept Mum company in old age. She always called it “your Dad’s clock” dusted it, moving it carefully, it was her pride: Mum outlived Dad by 36 years, and his clock outlived him by 49.

I bought a new one, with carved, wooden housing like, the old one. The new one has a modern quartz movement and no tick.

I told my sister, ‘I’ve put the old one on Mum’s dresser. I can’t bring myself to throw it out’

Always the practical one, she said,’You can’t keep everything.’

But, I guess I can keep the old clock a bit longer, just as I keep my mother’s diaries,

Mostly, Mum recorded the weather. Visits from growing grandchildren, and my two brothers and sister, are reported faithfully, times when they were ill, her worries and concerns for us all, our joys were her joys. Gathered together they tell the story of Mum’s life, and that of her family. They provide dates for half forgotten events, they tell us the way we were.

Kept safely for us in Smethwick Library Archive are issues of St Giles Parish Magazine from over 100 years ago. They too tell people’s stories, they Chronicle long forgotten events, record milestones. They bring to life that gone-forever Rowley Village known to our grandparents, great grandparents; they are a Treasure worth keeping.

Today’s Magazine still ‘keeps’ the names of newlyweds, the names of the newly baptised, and the names of those called home. Church events are reported on, dates are noted and people share their stories. “Around the Congregation” is very popular, a different person, (not always a church member) opens up their book of life for us

While it may be true that we don’t have celebrities amongst us, we certainly do have those whose live’s are worth sharing, those whose stories inspire and challenge us. This is how it should be. We learn from one another, and each of us, aware of it or not, is adding moment by moment to the history of our times.

Maybe, thinking nothing interesting, nothing worth recording ever happens to you, you’ve never kept a Diary – perhaps you should think again. Perhaps in years to come an entry that begins
“It was our Sue’s birthday today,” and goes on to describe your thoughts, your feelings, even that it rained, will be treasure to Sue and Sue’s children.

Remember,

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 6)

We live in a world of searching people, seeking people, looking for their roots, meaning for their lives, the keeping of a diary, is good time keeping, our life stories are the very fabric of time.

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Speak from the heart

Not all our days are sunny, life is rough sometimes.
Sometimes we need a quiet corner to hide away,
Sometimes the words we want to say don’t come easily, and the friendly listener we really need is God. But how do we speak to God?

Speak from the heart, as if someone is listening, someone who, in the dead of night, does not sleep, but keeps wide awake in case one of His children should cry”
George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Haven’t spoken to God just lately?

Well that’s how it is with all of us sometimes,

That’s how it was for this wayward child,

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
(Luke 15:20) N.I.V.

Speak from your heart. God is listening.

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We Are Getting Ready….

St Giles, (better known as Rowley) Church is hustling, bustling, getting ready:

Ready for Saturday 28th November and a Christmas Fayre with a ‘Frozen’ theme in the Church Hall, over in Hawes Lane. We are expecting Royalty.. Princesses Anna and Elsa, no less, and of course Father Christmas. Just so our V.I.P. Visitors feel right at home, an Ice Castle is being purposely built for them.

But, this is all very hush, hush, we don’t want to spoil the surprise for their Majesties, just to say the Fair opens at noon and all children are welcome to come to join the Parade in Fancy Dress, and things will feel far from ‘frozen’ a warm, friendly welcome is extended to all. Admission is free, and there will be plenty of ideas for Christmas gifts, so, come—see.

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(From the Disney Film, Frozen)

Ready for Advent
We will be joined by friends from the neighbouring parishes of St Paul’s, Blackheath and St James’, Rounds Green for an Advent Sunday Communion Service on the 29th. Time 10:15am. All are very welcome.

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Traditional Advent Candle Wreath.

Ready for the Christmas Season

Sunday 6th December, at 10:15am Holy Communion/Toy/Christingle Service. We bring new toys as gifts to local children in need, for distribution by our local food bank Loaves N’Fishes, we bring our offerings for the work of the Children’s Society… I love helping to make the Christingles; getting ready for Christmas is good for us, I reckon, and brings out the best in us, as we take thought and do for others. I suppose the Magi bringing gifts to a poor, child can be considered Role Models.

I look forward to watching the faces of little ones from our local primary Schools, Rowley Hall, Blackheath Primary as the altar frontal a are thrown back for them to take a peek, before Christmas Day at the Crib figures in the hay in the altar/stable. Nothing can match the glow of the child fortunate enough to hold ‘baby’ Jesus just for a few moments. Perhaps they have been blessed to hold baby brothers or sisters, at home with Mom and Dad looking on, I don’t know, but it always seems to me, that children and Jesus hold each other in their hearts, and that they really do meet each other at His Manger Bed.

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Street Nativity Scene-Barcelona

Keep Calm Have a Good Sing

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Really unsure what the title for this post should be?

The days are shorter, the evenings longer. In side church it’s getting a little chilly now but St Giles Singers are so keen that nothing deters them from Wednesday Evening Singing Practice.

Forget that old cliche, “They need all the practice they can get”

They actually sound great, confidence is building and they are a credit to our Church Music Director Agata Beaman. Agata (she’, front left, 2nd pic) is longing to form a young people’s choir, and we are sure that her dream will be realised, but meantime, as these pictures show, her Senior Choir are loving her gentle, patient coaching and are thrilled by the results as she leads them on; already they have found themselves doing things vocally, they thought impossible just a few months ago.

It maybe, that like me, you find music and singing, calming. A little sing whilst doing housework I find therapeutic; it brings out the rainbow on a cloudy day. It is a mood changer

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Messy Church Activity 1st November 2015

Messy Church was launched in Rowley Church Hall last month, yesterday afternoon’s session helped us to think about that tricky, mood anger. Somehow Christians find it difficult to own up to ‘anger’ – it is a taboo subject, something which we feel the bible condemns and yet, when we read of Jesus, upsetting the money changers’ tables and driving them out of the temple, we have to think again. The wife of a former Vicar was often heard to say,
“Don’t let anger use you. Use it!” Janet was good at this. She campaigned vigorously for Christian Aid, Age concern and any cause where she felt ‘fairness’ needed to be fought for. Somehow, I think that the Lord would have approved. If we want a fair world we have to make it so.

The picture shows the ingredients, vinegar, food colouring and bicarbonate of soda laid out with the sudden explosive, fizzy result – a picture of the sudden boiling out of raw anger.

By the Rivers of Babylon

The scripture we shared together was Psalm 137: 1-8. A psalm which Christians find hard to deal with, yet it does express, eloquently in vivid terms how human beings feel, when uprooted and forced from their homelands, when the memories of atrocities are fresh, when the vinegar bitterness won’t let them forget… What do they, what do we do with anger like that?

Jane, our Messy Church Co-ordinator suggested,

“We give it to God!”

Which is precisely what the writer of Psalm 137 is doing in these bitter, tearful words … Giving it to God and as Jesus taught God is just. We can trust the Him to convert our angry energy into the transforming energy of which works to bring good as His Heavenly wisdom, and Holy Spirit direct it.

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Autumn Skies

St Giles men’s Group are having a meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday 13th October in the Woolvin Room. My curiosity is aroused because the poster shows a radio telescope array and a talk is promised by Mr Ken Hadley. No ladies of course. (Though Rosy Mouse might squeeze under the door)

When younger, oh so much younger than today, my littler sister and I would wait for the darkening skies of Autumn eagerly, we weren’t allowed to stay up late, and were learning to find our way around the constellations, dark skies before bedtime – we needed them. It’s true to say that Rosemarie caught the star-gazing virus from myself, I went on to own two telescopes and to pass exams, but where did I get my inspiration from.

There is a short answer.

From the Bible.

He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations if the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.’ (job 9: 9.10 N.I.V)

And,

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
Their words to the ends of the world.’ (Psalm 19: 1-4)

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The glorious Pleiades, (image Wikipedia Commons).

Now I am older, Autumn Skies find me increasingly wondering about,

What no eye has seen,
What no ear has heard,
And what no human mind has conceived,
The things which God has prepared for those who love him’
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

Harvest

We celebrated Harvest Festival today.

Harvest Festivals in the 21st Century are not like those the Church Mouse talks about in his poem,
Click here to listen to poem: Diary of a Church Mouse

produce arrives in tins, packets, bottles and jars: at St Giles we donate those to Loaves ‘N Fishes, a local Food Bank. The vegetables come from supermarket shelves, all carefully graded in size; gone are the days when the gardeners competed with each other to bring along the biggest onions, cauliflowers, and the longest, straightest carrots.

Gone to are the days of growing glorious Chrysanthemums in glowing golds and bronzes, I recall a well loved uncle spending weeks and weeks carefully nurturing and pinching out all the side shoots leaving just one flower bud right on the top. to create a ‘bloomer’ which would then disappear beneath a brown paper bag, protected from insects, and soiling until the day of its unveiling. In those days, working class people had no conservatory, or glass houses, such things were beyond their dreams. In those days your dreams were small ones, limited to the size of a man’s wage.

But, small as dreams and wages were, hearts were large and generous and only the best was good enough for Harvest Festival.

Here is a true tale about real, true Black Country folk.

Doris was a flower arranger, and Doris liked to arrange the flowers by the altar for the Harvest Festival. Every year she would peek from her bedroom window, watching the paper bags in Mr B’s garden. Every year she would ask in advance for some of the precious blooms. Which were duly cut for her as required.

“I always pay for them,” she told another neighbour.

“She always takes my best ‘bloomers’ – I’d like to keep some for the Churchyard,” Mr B, confided to the same neighbour, ” But what can’t say no. I don’t grow them to sell, but for ….”

“Love,” the neighbour replied, understanding that Mr B’s devotion and care for the chrysanthemums matched his love and devotion to his late wife.

“Look Mr B. Do you know what Doris wants them for?”

She went on to explain the pride of place the treasured blooms would occupy.

“‘Er ay never tow’d me that, me luvver. Well ‘er ay ever gooin to pay agen. An next year I’m gooin to grow twice as meny. I dey know that. That’s an ‘onner, that is.”

Apologies to scholars of the Black Country Dialect. I have probably done a great injustice to the spelling…. But not, I hope to Yesteryear Black Country folk who had little in material goods, but were rich in generosity. And would have shared over garden walls, and back fences the things they grew with needy neighbours, and in days before Food Banks, whatever today’s dinner was…

Times change. Love never changes.

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Photos taken around St Giles Church, the amazing St Giles Flower Girls have been at work again.