April 2019: April Fools

The fool says in their heart, ‘There is no God!’
Psalm 14: 1

CrossThankfully, as I write this letter, April Fool’s Day is past and I wasn’t caught out by any tricks this year, though my daughters were planning an email as if from my wedding venue telling me ‘tripe’ would be on the menu! They know my dislike of even the sight of it.

Some April Fools are very entertaining and having a good laugh with people can be fun, but equally we can too easily use fun and pranks to hurt others, even if unintentionally. Proverbs is right to warn us to be wise and do what is right, even in our entertainment and fun.

A person without wisdom enjoys being foolish, but someone with understanding does what is right.
Proverbs 15:21

April was named by the Romans ‘Aprilis’ from the verb ‘to open’ recognising it as the month when trees and flowers begin to open and spring arrives. Though it would be foolish not to recognise that this is not so for people in the southern hemisphere who are facing Autumn.

But I like the idea that April is a month when we not only think about, but do things (a verb is a doing word) that make us ‘open to’

‘open to’ the beauty of nature, new life, hope, the joy of blue tits nesting in my bird box, or seeds planted beginning to grow.

But also ‘open to’…

new challenges, as a church and individual.

I did manage to control my fear of flying enough to take a short trip to Jersey recently. I can’t say I enjoyed it but I am delighted that I did it.

I wonder what you could be ‘open to’? What would push you out of your comfort zone or the church out of its comfort zone, so we can experience more of life, however frightening it might be.

And of course, we need to be ‘open to’ the changes and challenges of our world. It would be foolish not to mention the B word and the impact it is having and will have on so many people. Some see what is happening in Parliament as a big April Fool joke that is unending.

April is the month when we will celebrate Easter this year. An event that includes political and religious misuse of power, injustice, suffering, betrayal, weakness, denial, chaos, confusion, heartbreak, a loss of hope. Sounds familiar for many of us today. And yet we celebrate it as a time of hope and new life coming out of such situations. Of having a Saviour of what seems impossible and a God of resurrection.
Will we be ‘open to’ finding God again this Easter?
Not only in an empty tomb, resurrection hymn, flowery cross or church service, but in all we face in the reality of our living today.
Is our faith still in a God of Resurrection and a Saviour of our world today?
Or is Easter just something that happened a long time ago to other people?
May we, in our hearts not be foolish but say, there is such a God!
And in such a God we will trust and hope and work for what is good.

May we have a blessed and meaningful Easter, as we are ‘open to’ the living God.

Rev Dee

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Methodist Talents Festival 2019

Wesley Hall should feel very proud as last Saturday marked a mega day for showcasing how much talent we have in our church. From art, cookery, writing, crafts, reading and acting to instrumental, vocal and choral, we excelled in them all and won many first places. I was particularly pleased and proud of our Theatre Club and Worship Group (same people) who came together to form a choir and win the two sections we were in. Who says that Theatre Club is failing? Yesterday proved otherwise. Eighteen members, some with super talent and others who were happy to be singing together again made a joyful noise and made it a joyful day. Well done everyone.

Margaret

-Methodist Talents Festival 2019The Talents Festival takes place every two years at Shirley Methodist Church, and this year for the first time there were also entries from local churches of other denominations.

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March 2019: Lion and lamb

lion and lamb

God, people have seen your victory march; God my King marched into the holy place.

Psalm 68:24 (New Century Version)

The old saying goes that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, the idea being that at the start of March it is still winter with its fierce biting weather and by the end of the month we are into the gentler climate of spring with lambs in the fields. But this year we can’t really say that because we have experienced record winter temperatures and as I write this (in late February), I am sat in beautiful warm sunshine and the temperature is expected to reach 20˚C. Is this a gentle blessing to be enjoyed? Or a roaring warning about the effects of global warming and the damage we are doing to our planet? There is talk of a blast of winter returning soon.

March used to be the first month of the year in the old calendar because it did bring the start of spring, but we do well to remember that it is named after Mars the Roman God of war. And the Psalm quoted above is a Battle Psalm, based on part of the song of Deborah from Judges 5. It calls for God to rise in judgment on the things that are wrong and cold and harsh in this world, but also reminds them of the times God has done that in the past with his people, so ends with that victory march. May that encourage us as we live in our world today with many things that are wrong and need the hope of justice – not just pollution and care of the earth, but also things like poverty, knife crime, homelessness, unjust benefit systems, war, unfair trade (it is also Fairtrade Fortnight as I write this).

Julius Caesar was told to beware the ides of March, a warning that by the mid-point of the month, known as the ides, he would face disaster. He did not listen to the warning and because of such, died. A reminder of our own political situation at present and how precarious it is for politicians. We start March still in the European Union but who knows where we will be by the end of March. We do need to pray for our politicians at this time. May we not be like Julius Caesar, but listen to the warnings in this world and seek to bring the victories of God into them.

Of course, we have plenty of warnings and inspiration from Jesus Christ. The beginning of March also brings the start of Lent, a time of prayer, self-denial, self-examination, repentance, charitable giving and meditation on God and his word as we follow Jesus on his journey to the cross.

May this March come in with us being aware of the lion, our strong and victorious God of justice and love, so that it might go out with us focussing on the lamb of God who gave his life in love and calls us to follow.

Blessings

Rev Dee

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Dates for your diary

The Wesley Hall Sunday Service details for March to May 2019 have now been added to the online calendar.

calendarThe calendar also includes other events including Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade meetings, Church Council etc., plus relevant circuit-wide events. Right at the beginning of March many church members will take part in the Talents Festival at Shirley, in April there are several special services as we celebrate Easter, and then later in the season we have our annual Spring Fair. Do come along to any and all events!

Take a look at the calendar and if there’s something you expect to see but don’t, or if there’s anything you’d like to find out more about, do leave a reply and we’ll get back to you.

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February 2019: Happy New Year!

2019But you were taught to be made new in your hearts, to become a new person. That new person is made to be like God – made to be truly good and holy.
Ephesians 4:23-24

It may be a little bit late to be wishing people a Happy New Year as we head into February, but this is the first ‘Church Chat’ of the new year. Also, the Chinese New Year is today, 5 February, so maybe it is appropriate.

And there is a lot to learn from the celebration of the Chinese New Year that can be a blessing and lesson to us all as we venture further into 2019.

Part of this spring festival that is celebrated widely across our world is to have an annual meeting up of family, which is what causes this to be one of the busiest times of the year for migration. People travel to be with family if they can. We have had our Annual Covenant Service in January, a time when we try to meet as a church family and make our covenant together. Some may have missed that and are not able to be at church regularly anymore, so maybe the Chinese New Year is a time to remember our church family and try to visit as many of our church members as we can this month, to let them know they are loved and held dear.

Another custom of the Chinese New Year is to clean the house thoroughly, both a practical and emotional practice, in order to get rid of the dirt and ill and make room for the good. We have our long-held traditions of ‘spring cleaning’ but I am not sure how many people still do this. Yet having a good clear out, practically and mentally is good practice. Most church buildings would benefit from this, but also, as our bible verse above suggests, this time of year is good for new starts and godly habits in our lives as well as our buildings.

And Chinese New Year is also a time of giving monetary gifts in little red envelopes. This is not so much about the monetary value of the gift but as a sign of wishing wealth and prosperity. A reminder to us, in a world of increasing need and poverty, to have other peoples’ wealth and prosperity as a concern and to give what we can, however little, to help others.

Chinese New Year 2019 is the Year of the Pig and the pig represents honesty, hard-working, peace-loving, generosity, trust, patience, reliability and with a large sense of humour and understanding. Qualities we could all do with developing in the coming year.

So Happy New Year to you all.

May God bless you and make you a blessing.

Rev Dee

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Bible Study

HebrewsThe Bible Study Group starts back on Thursday 17 January. We are going to be starting to study the book of Hebrews. It is said to be the least studied book of the New Testament and yet is one of the most rich and helpful in many ways. If you want to know more please come along to Forest Hill Methodist Church on the following dates at 2.30pm:

  • Thursday 17 January
  • Thursday 28 February
  • Wednesday 20 March
  • Thursday 25 April

The above dates are all on the online calendar if you would like to set reminders.

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Quiz Night!

Question markThe next Wesley Hall Quiz Evening is on Saturday 26 January – come along to exercise your brain, or just to have a laugh!

  • Time: 7.00 for a 7.30pm start
  • Teams: Maximum 6 people
  • Tickets: £7 per person
  • Supper, tea and coffee provided during the evening
  • Please bring your own nibbles
  • There will be a raffle
  • All proceeds go towards church funds

Contact us for more info and to book your team’s place. See you there!

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