Sunday, 29 January 2012

Pray for Nigeria

One of our members, Emmanuel, Oladipo hails from Nigeria. On 23 January he preached to us about the great wedding breakfasts to be found in the Bible. But after the sermon, he shared with us his concerns about his native country:

"Nigeria’s population of about 150 million people is split roughly half and half between Muslims and Christians. The two lived happily together without any serious incidents until about ten or fifteen years ago when some of the States instituted Sharia law and radical Islam started causing trouble by killing Christians and burning churches at the slightest excuse, such as when one of their number is converted. Christians felt they were not adequately protected, and church leaders were struggling to restrain some of the youth who believed they should not merely defend themselves but fight back in retaliation for the killing of Christians.

A new element came into the picture just a couple of years back when a new sect arose which does not only want to bring all of the country under Sharia Law but also to banish western education. They frequently target pastors to be killed and destroy churches and police stations. They were responsible for the suicide attack on the UN offices in Nigeria which killed 25 people in August 2011 and for the Christmas day bombing of a church which left 37 dead. They are known as Boko Haram, which literally means “western education is sinful.” Their latest atrocity was a series of coordinated attacks on Police and immigration offices in the largely Muslim city of Kano, killing 186 people.

It is difficult to see how security services which cannot protect police stations can protect churches! Please pray for wisdom for the leadership to know how best to handle the crisis and for Christians to realise that the real battle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of darkness which inspire these satanic acts."

Let's join Emmanuel in prayer for Nigeria.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Principal Services – January - March

Happy New Year! Welcome to the start of 2012. In a year which offers us some amazing one off experiences such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic and Para-Olympic Games everything else may seem like the same old thing. Whilst God stays the same and never changes there are always new things for us to discover and experience of God. We worship a living and active God who is always at work in the lives of His people, a God who is faithful and good.

If 2011 was the year of the Bible then maybe 2012 should be the year of Prayer. Could you make your New Year’s resolution to pray more than you already do? You are very welcome to join us in our worship and prayer at any of these services.

In Christ,

Revd Steve Bailey.

See the
New Programme

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

War Horse - A Modern-Day Parallel

The film "War Horse" is on general release and has come to Leicester. I went on Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed it – if that's the right phrase for an occasion when you get through several handkerchiefs!

In outline it is a story of a teenager from a troubled home who breaks-in and trains a difficult horse, forming a strong bond with it. The boy and horse are separated as the horse is sold for use in the First World War. After multiple exploits the two finish together in a field hospital with the boy unable to see. But when someone describes the horse to him, he calls and the horse comes to him. Eventually, someone pays the auction price and gives the horse back to him. (A totally inadequate précis, but go and see the film)

I was fascinated by the parallels to the story of the Bible. Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice and come to me," just as the War Horse heard Albert's call and went to him. Is our relationship with Christ equally strong to that of War Horse and Albert?

And there was a second parallel. At our origins, we were God's because he created us but humankind became separated from Him. The Bible tells us that by dying on the cross Jesus bought us back (redeemed us). A price was paid. So, we are now able to be children of God again, just as the War Horse was bought back and he and Albert were reunited.

An interesting modern day parallel.

Half night of prayer – well 3½ hours at least

Prayer is a mystery. Why does God need our prayer? We know that he can answer before we pray. Yet we know that just as a parent loves to hear their children talk to them, God delights to hear us pray. Prayer was never an option for Jesus. He never said "if you pray." He said "when you pray."

So, as we enter 2012 with new initiatives and new concerns, our vicar, Steve, called us to a half night of prayer on Friday 13 January. (Perhaps the best thing we could do on Friday 13th !).

About 20 people came, although at each half hour people were given the opportunity to come and go as we broke from prayer to sing songs of worship.It was good to meet together to commit each aspect of our Church's programme to God and bring all our hopes and fears to him. We ended by joining together in saying "Compline" a service of Night Prayer.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Good News! The Christian Church is Growing in Numbers

– at least in London. An article by Peter Oborne in the Telegraph on Sunday on 1 January, called "The Return to Religion," highlighted the increased numbers in congregations, over recent years, in London churches.

It featured the increase in congregation at St Mary's Islington, where our previous vicar, Simon Harvey, now serves. (However unlikely his description of Simon as “… an anachronistic figure. His white surplice flapping in the wind” might seem.)

Yet this rise was very modest compared to some of the other churches mentioned. The increase had been found in churches with widely different styles of worship – from Pentecostal churches to Anglican cathedrals.

When Bishop Tom Butler, the previous Bishop of Leicester, was asked in 1999 what he hoped for the church in the new millennium, he replied: "bums on seats aren't everything, but it would be a good start."

We must rejoice for this evidence of the increased numbers of "bums on seats," which is a change from the previous trend. But what is important is not the number of people in church but whether they have met with the living Lord Jesus and whether that experience has changed their lives. As the church attenders encounter Christ, may that become their reality.

At present, this growth in church attendance is mainly in London. Our prayer must be that it should spread to Oadby and Leicester. To all and sundry: you would be very welcome at St Paul's.

Monday, 2 January 2012

A New Start

For its morning service on New Year's Day, St Paul's welcomed the congregation of our sister church, St Peter's. As he began his sermon, the Rector of the parish, Canon Michael Rusk, asked the congregation if they had made any New Year's resolutions. In one sense, moving forward 24 hours changes nothing. But in another, the coming of the New Year is a chance to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

2011 has certainly been a momentous year with natural disasters (several major earthquakes including a Tsunami with nuclear threats, and devastating floods), the city riots, the continuing financial collapse. By contrast, was the joy of Royal weddings. Only too often, the problems that there have been have had a human element. The riots in our cities showed how fragile was the veneer of civilisation. Even in the financial meltdown, greed played an important part.

The Queen picked up the issue of our individual responsibility in her Christmas message when she said: "Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed." and she pointed to the Christ child as someone who had come to save us from ourselves, as she continued:

“God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love. In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there's a prayer:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today.”

As we go forward into 2012, that's a message of joy and peace and hope. It’s a message that St Paul's wants to share with all who live in our community.

The Queen concluded:
"It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”

That's our prayer, too. We wish you a Very Happy New Year!