Monday, 24 February 2014

Fighting for the Faith

Yesterday, our sermon series on St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians finished with chapter 6, and in particular verses 13-17, with the title “The Armour of God.”. These verses are in the context of the battle that is going on in the spiritual realm between good and evil, between Christ and the devil.

The verses read 13 Therefore, put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The Armour of God was the theme of both the sermon, during which Steve also rehearsed the principal themes of the letter, and the children’s talk. In the latter, two children were dressed up in the armour as the meaning of each piece of the armour was explained and then attached to them.

May we all stand firm as soldiers of Christ in our witness to Him. And may evil be defeated.

Something Worth Reading

In many parts of the world, Christians consider themselves very fortunate if they own a New Testament. The whole Bible may not even have been translated into their mother tongue or, if it has been, may be beyond what they can afford to spend. In England, we are in a much more fortunate situation. There are Bibles available suitable for every reading ability and every age.

There is also an enormous amount of other Christian literature. This varies from Bible reading aids, study literature, devotional literature and accounts of the lives of past and present Christians.

Yesterday, members of the Christian Literature Crusade, who run a Christian bookshop in Bishop Street, brought some of their wares to St Paul’s at the time of the morning service, so that over coffee, after the service, people could study the range of material available and buy what they would find helpful.

Many local shops are under threat, and the slogan “use it or lose it” is as true for Christian bookshops as for other retailers. Hopefully, this will have helped their sales and will have increased people’s understanding of the background to their faith.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

New Members

The diocese of Leicester has just released “Growing Together,” a summary of "Statistics for Mission" returns from 2013.

This gives a wealth of statistics, but perhaps most interesting is that, over this five period, over 2000 people joined our local Anglican churches, of which half had never worshipped at any church before. During this time, somewhat over 1000 people had either left or died.

In his introduction to the report, Bishop Tim, the Bishop of Leicester, wrote: “On any reading of the Gospels, it is clear that it is the task of Christians to make disciples. We are called to invite others into the fellowship of those who follow Jesus Christ. From  time to time it is important to pause and consider how well we are doing that. In recent years, our Department of Mission and Ministry has been in the lead in the Church of England in enabling us to understand our statistics for mission and in producing some of the very best training programmes to help us respond to the challenge of Church growth.

We all know that in the end it is not in our own strength that this work is done, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Statistics change and times and opportunities change. But year by year the information which we receive about the fruit of our mission becomes increasingly important in helping us understand what God is calling us to do and giving us the tools to do it.

I very much hope you will take these figures seriously and consider carefully how they are enabling each of our parishes and mission partnerships to become more effective in responding to the task which Jesus Christ has given us in our day.”

The full report can be found here.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Big Promise – We All Promised

As part of the “big promise” event (see previous blog) 18 couples gathered at St Paul’s soon after 4 PM on Saturday 8 February. Although this was mainly a St Paul’s event, we were joined by several couples from other churches. Each couple was registered after showing their Marriage Certificate and then had their photograph taken with their certificate.
Although this event was part of a nationwide attempt at a Guinness book of records record for the number of couples renewing their vows at the same time, Steve Bailey made it clear that we were gathered for a very serious purpose in renewing our vows. There were reminiscences about the hymns and readings that had featured in the original wedding services and account of how many years people have been married – from 7 to nearly 60.

The service included prayers and blessings and a homily on the meaning of true love by J John was read. At 5:15 PM a cameraman and videographer came to the stage, as required by the organisers and the recommitment of vows was taken as each couple faced each other to renew their vows.

At the end of the event we all celebrated with sparkling wine and cake. We hope that our numbers will help the organisers to reach the required record. But even should that fail (and indications suggest that it won’t) it had been a worthwhile event in our marriages.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

BIG Promise –"Together – We will!!" – 4 February 2014

This week is National Marriage Week. Even though he never married, Jesus had a very high view of marriage, seeing it as a gift that God gave society at creation. This year, the Marriage Week Organisation is celebrating National Marriage Week with “The Big Promise.” This is an attempt to break the world record for the largest ever renewal of marriage vows. The organisation explains:

Marriage vows are the most long-term promises we ever make – to love and care for someone else for the rest of our lives! They are a commitment to put someone else’s interests as equal to our own, and they involve setting aside our own short-term ‘wants’ for long-term stability and satisfaction.

They are life changing – and have a huge impact on the way our lives work out. For those that make them they are ‘the BIG Promise’.

Every year more than a quarter of a million couples across the UK signify their commitment to each other by getting married – they make, explicitly or implicitly, promises to each other that form the bedrock on which successful marriages are built.

 And every year Marriage Week celebrates all those promises down the years, and seeks to encourage and support couples in their marriages.

In 2014 we plan that on 8th Feb, at 5,15pm, every couple in the UK will have the opportunity to re-affirm their Big promises to each other, and St Paul’s will be one venue. We plan to draw attention to the BIG Promise by coordinating those venues that wish to, in setting a new Guinness World Record for couples reaffirming their vows.

Couples taking part locally will have to arrive at St Paul’s well in advance of the act of renewal of commitment, say 4.0 p.m. to allow time to register. People will need some ID and their marriage certificate. The event will be videoed as a record that it happened.

After the ceremony, we hope to have champagne and cake.

That’s what the BIG Promise is all about – celebrating, supporting, strengthening couples across the nation! Do join us.
                                       "Together – We will!!"

New Banners

Much of the year, the interior of St Paul’s is brightened by some banners, halfway back on either side of the church. These are often seasonal, telling of God’s work at Easter, Christmas, Harvest etc. Today, we unveiled two new banners, each telling of God’s work, but unrelated to the season. 

As we are in the middle of a series of studies on Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, one was particularly appropriate as it came from Ephesians 2:8, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

The other quotes the well-known verse from John’s Gospel 3:16: “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." This is the timeless message that it is the duty of the church to proclaim.

May both banners encourage us in our worship over the next few weeks.