Highlights of February 2012 Messenger
This is our first magazine of the year and I believe that 2012 will be an exciting time at Christ Church as we live out our faith both inside the church building and outside in our own lives.
Last year was a time of preparation and listening to God as we sought his vision for our fellowship. But this year we need to build on that foundation as we expand the work of the church café to welcome more people into the church building. We also need to continue the growth of the many organisations who use our Church Centre so that we fulfil the vision of being a Christian resource for the town.
One of the main challenges this year is to encourage more families and young people into our services on Sunday. This will involve praying and asking the Lord to provide us with a team of gifted people to take on this vital task. We will need to make our services more family friendly with regular monthly all age worship services and perhaps trying something like ‘messy church.’
I am starting a mid-week ’thought for the day’ service at lunchtime on Wednesdays at 12.45pm from the 1st February to see if this is something that will be helpful to people as we pause for 15 minutes in the middle of a busy day to come close to God.
We are in the process of updating and changing our church building, church centre, and kitchen and some members are concerned that we are focussing too much on buildings and not enough on people especially children and families. But God gave me a vision for Christ Church before Sue and I came here three years ago. It was to remove anything that was a barrier to his kingdom work. To follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in welcoming all people with loving hospitality, teaching the fellowship to love and trust one another, and lead the church in fulfilling the mission of the church in being disciples and making new disciples for Jesus Christ.
A church should be made up of all age groups and my passion is to bring that to fruition here at Christ Church. But these things can only be done in the Lord’s own time and he will make that possible as he sends us the right, gifted people to work in each area of the church’s life.
My prayer is that all those who belong to this fellowship will support my leadership and the leadership team of elders as we strive to listen for God’s voice and then trust, obey and follow him.
I told you it was exciting! With love in Christ,
Carers First Drugs & Alcohol (D&A) Support Group joined us here at Christ Church in the New Year and meet on Wednesday mornings. Like Al Anon, on Monday evenings, Carers First D&A will be providing direct support for families suffering from the effects of substance misuse, by others in their family. They do this by offering support themselves, or by signposting people to other organisations.
Christ Church already hosts three very successful Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for those with alcohol related problems. So now there are organisations within the building to support all those whose lives are affected, directly or indirectly, by alcohol or substance misuse. Additionally we have Crisis Recovery, a Christian run and led recovery programme who are supporting those with any sort of addiction – alcohol, drugs or gambling. They take a pro-Christian, holistic look at the whole of the person’s life when working though a programme for recovery.
Carers First would like to ask if you know of anyone where the taking of drugs or alcohol is impacting on family life, as there is now help out there for the whole family. Carers First runs a confidential support group where anyone who comes can feel safe. There is peer support – where you can talk to others who have been in similar situations, and others still having difficulties. Carers First DnA can give emotional and practical support. Come and chat to them to find out what is available locally. Also what help is available from other local drug and alcohol agencies, or others.
Most importantly – be listened to, & find a voice. No one need be alone in this.
Some comments by carers:
“This group helps you to think about yourself, and take care of yourself.
I haven’t thought about me for years.
“I need to come I need the support. They are reassuring.”
“I make the effort to come even if I don’t feel like it, I don’t want to miss them.”
“For 2 hours a week someone listens to me, gives me advice. I can offload ready for the week ahead. When I’m under pressure it gives me the strength to carry on”.
“The group is there for me, both emotionally and mentally! Keeps me going.”
“It gives me the strength and support I need to deal with the issues I have to face in my life. A real lifeline.”
Carers First D&A group runs every Wednesday morning from 10 – 12 and is open to any adult family member, or friends who are impacted by someone else’s substance misuse. You would be very welcome. Please call/text Fiona for a confidential chat on 07827296307. If you leave a message – Fiona will call you back.
Carers First is an organisation for carers of all kinds, and they are really looking forward to the possibility of working with other groups within the church, such as Parents+Plus and many others. They have recently started a youth group for children with learning disabilities, also based here in the Christ Church centre.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Wednesdays at 12.45 pm
From Wednesday 1st February we will be holding a 20-minute lunchtime service at 12.45 pm on Wednesdays. Prayers – Songs – “Thought for the Week”
Please come and join us. Everyone is welcome.
When I was made redundant last summer I knew it was another milestone on the journey that God has been taking me along in the past couple of years. I have often thought of it as being like walking up a mountain in the fog, unable to see where I’m going, but holding the hand of the Only One who has the map and compass – Jesus.
My first step was to upgrade the English teaching qualification that I had already been working on in the previous year. The course I took last autumn was run by a Christian organisation, and they put me in contact with WEC, an international missionary organisation that (among other things) is involved in teaching English, as a means to befriend people and share the gospel, in the UK as well as overseas. I found out that they accept people for short term mission experiences (‘Treks’), and that they have a team working among Asian immigrants (mainly Pakistani, also Yemeni and several other nationalities) in and around Birmingham.
This combined teaching English with a desire that I feel God has given me to reach out to people on the edges of our society with the love of Jesus. The people that the projects reach in Birmingham and Walsall are mostly Moslem women who face big cultural and language barriers in this country. I also liked the thought of working in an international team of people who know what it is to trust the Lord and step out in faith. And it would provide the opportunity to get involved in church-based outreach – which is my heart. So when they offered me a place, I said yes!
I’m going on 5th February and staying for three months. It’s very much a step into the unknown, so I really value your prayers. If you would like to receive my prayer letter while I’m away, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also arrange postal copies – have a word with someone who is in contact with me. You can find out more about WEC at: www.wec-it.org.uk.
God bless you, and thank you in advance for your partnership in the gospel.
THE YEAR AHEAD
2012 is a big year for the UK – and a big year for the United Reformed Church. The Revd Roberta Rominger, general secretary of the URC, sets out some highlights of the next 12 months,
“We have quite a year ahead of us. The Queen celebrated her diamond jubilee in June and the 2012 Games come to the UK in July. National events like these provide opportunities for creativity in church mission. What can we do that will catch the public imagination, deepen our community engagement and enable us to share what we believe?
“Alongside these national events we have celebrations of our own to look forward to. 2012 begins with a service in Westminster Abbey to express reconciliation between the United Reformed Church and the Church of England. It’s the fruit of bilateral conversations that resulted in resolutions at URC Mission Council and the Anglican General Synod in 2011. This service, on 7th February, will mark the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Great Ejectment by looking to a future of shared work and witness.
“And, when General Assembly meets in Scarborough this July, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the URC as well as the 350th anniversary of some of our churches. The unofficial theme for this commemoration is ’courage, conscience and conviction’ and these three qualities are indeed what we offer in our determination to live faithfully in these challenging times. Our valiant Church makes contributions out of all proportion to its size. God bless you for all the lives you will touch in the year ahead and the faith that will shine from you.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRF!
2012 marks Bible Reading Fellowship’s 90th anniversary. Something that began as one vicar’s solution to the needs of his own congregation has gone on to be used by God to touch the lives of literally millions of people over nine decades.
It all started back in January 1922 in a single church – St Matthew’s, Brixton – where the Revd Leslie Mannering just wanted to help his congregation, in his words, ‘to get a move on spiritually’. His idea – a monthly leaflet of daily Bible readings, along with midweek group discussion and prayer – had a transforming effect on the congregation. Word spread and soon other churches were requesting copies and encouraging the same pattern of daily reading and prayer.
Interest grew internationally; other series were developed, including notes for children and teenagers; during World War II one of BRF’s series actually saw a net increase of 80,000 readers! From the very beginning, daily Bible reading notes have been the backbone of BRF’s ministry.
Today BRF’s ministries include publishing Bible reading notes and books, Barnabas for Children, Foundations21, Messy Church and Faith in Homes. Nowadays, the internet is a core part of all that that BRF does.
To find out more about BRF visit www.brfonline.org.uk.
ASH WEDNESDAY – 22 FEBRUARY
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. But why ‘Ash’ Wednesday? The reason has to do with getting things right between you and God, and the tradition goes right back to the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites often sinned. When they finally came to their senses, and saw their evil ways as God saw them, they could do nothing but repent in sorrow. They mourned for the damage and evil they had done. As part of this repentance, they covered their heads with ashes. For the Israelites, putting ashes on your head, and even rending your clothes, was an outward sign of their heart-felt repentance and acknowledgement of sin. (See Genesis 18:27; 2 Samuel 13:19; Job 2:8, 30:19; Isaiah 58:5; Jeremiah 6:26; Jonah 3:6)
In the very early Christian Church, the yearly ‘class’ of penitents had ashes sprinkled over them at the beginning of Lent. They were turning to God for the first time, and mourning their sins. But soon many other Christians wanted to take part in the custom, and to do so at the very start of Lent. They heeded Joel’s call to ‘rend your hearts and not your garments’ (Joel 2:12-19). Ash Wednesday became known as either the ‘beginning of the fast’ or ‘the day of the ashes’.
The Bible readings for today are often Joel 2:1-2, 12 – 18, Matthew 6: 1-6,16 – 21 and Paul’s moving catalogue of suffering, “as having nothing and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10)
The actual custom of ‘ashing’ was abolished at the Reformation, though the old name for the day remained. The late medieval custom was to burn the branches used on Palm Sunday in the previous year in order to create the ashes for today.
The following story is being made into a movie called The Fence.
August 1942. Piotrkow, Poland
The sky was gloomy that morning as we waited anxiously. All the men, women and children of Piotrkow’s Jewish ghetto had been herded into a square. Word had gotten around that we were being moved. My father had only recently died from typhus, which had run rampant through the crowded ghetto. My greatest fear was that our family would be separated. Whatever you do,’ Isidore, my eldest brother, whispered to me, ‘don’t tell them your age. Say you’re sixteen.’ I was tall for a boy of 11, so I could pull it off. That way I might be deemed valuable as a worker.
An SS man approached me, boots clicking against the cobblestones. He looked me up and down, and then asked my age. ‘Sixteen,’ I said. He directed me to the left, where my three brothers and other healthy young men already stood. My mother was motioned to the right with the other women, children, sick and elderly people. I whispered to Isidore, ‘Why?’ He didn’t answer. I ran to Mama’s side and said I wanted to stay with her. ‘No, ‘she said sternly. ‘Get away. Don’t be a nuisance. Go with your brothers.’ She had never spoken so harshly before. But I understood: She was protecting me. She loved me so much that, just this once, she pretended not to. It was the last I ever saw of her.
My brothers and I were transported in a cattle car to Germany. We arrived at the Buchenwald concentration camp one night weeks later and were led into a crowded barrack. The next day, we were issued uniforms and identification numbers. ‘Don’t call me Herman anymore.’ I said to my brothers. ‘Call me 94983.’ I was put to work in the camp’s crematorium, loading the dead into a hand-cranked elevator. I, too, felt dead. Hardened, I had become a number. Soon, my brothers and I were sent to Schlieben, one of Buchenwald’s sub-camps near Berlin.
One morning I thought I heard my mother’s voice. ‘Son,’ she said softly but clearly, I am going to send you an angel.’ Then I woke up. Just a dream. A beautiful dream. But in this place there could be no angels. There was only work. And hunger And fear. A couple of days later, I was walking around the camp, around the barracks, near the barbed-wire fence where the guards could not easily see. I was alone. On the other side of the fence, I spotted someone: a little girl with light, almost luminous curls. She was half-hidden behind a birch tree. I glanced around to make sure no one saw me. I called to her softly in German. ‘Do you have something to eat?’ She didn’t understand. I inched closer to the fence and repeated the question in Polish. She stepped forward. I was thin and gaunt, with rags wrapped around my feet, but the girl looked unafraid. In her eyes, I saw life. She pulled an apple from her woollen jacket and threw it over the fence. I grabbed the fruit and, as I started to run away, I heard her say faintly, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’
I returned to the same spot by the fence at the same time every day. She was always there with something for me to eat – a hunk of bread or, better yet, an apple. We didn’t dare speak or linger. To be caught would mean death for us both. I didn’t know anything about her, just a kind farm girl, except that she understood Polish. What was her name? Why was she risking her life for me? Hope was in such short supply, and this girl on the other side of the fence gave me some, as nourishing in its way as the bread and apples.
Nearly seven months later, my brothers and I were crammed into a coal car and shipped to Theresienstadt camp in Czechoslovakia . ‘Don’t return,’ I told the girl that day. ‘We’re leaving.’ I turned toward the barracks and didn’t look back, didn’t even say good-bye to the little girl whose name I’d never learned, the girl with the apples. We were in Theresienstadt for three months. The war was winding down and Allied forces were closing in, yet my fate seemed sealed.
On May 10, 1945, I was scheduled to die in the gas chamber at 10:00 am. In the quiet of dawn, I tried to prepare myself. So many times death seemed ready to claim me, but somehow I’d survived. Now, it was over. I thought of my parents. At least, I thought, we will be reunited. But at 8 am there was a commotion. I heard shouts, and saw people running every which way through camp. I caught up with my brothers. Russian troops had liberated the camp! The gates swung open. Everyone was running, so I did too. Amazingly, all of my brothers had survived; I’m not sure how. But I knew that the girl with the apples had been the key to my survival. In a place where evil seemed triumphant, one person’s goodness had saved my life, had given me hope in a place where there was none. My mother had promised to send me an angel, and the angel had come.
Eventually I made my way to England where I was sponsored by a Jewish charity, put up in a hostel with other boys who had survived the Holocaust and trained in electronics. Then I came to America, where my brother Sam had already moved. I served in the US Army during the Korean War, and returned to New York City after two years. By August 1957 I’d opened my own electronics repair shop. I was starting to settle in.
One day, my friend Sid who I knew from England called me. ‘I’ve got a date. She’s got a Polish friend. Let’s double date.’ A blind date? Nah, that wasn’t for me. But Sid kept pestering me, and a few days later we headed up to the Bronx to pick up his date and her friend Roma. I had to admit, for a blind date this wasn’t so bad. Roma was a nurse at a Bronx hospital. She was kind and smart. Beautiful, too, with swirling brown curls and green, almond-shaped eyes that sparkled with life. The four of us drove out to Coney Island. Roma was easy to talk to, easy to be with. Turned out she was wary of blind dates too!
We were both just doing our friends a favour. We took a stroll on the boardwalk, enjoying the salty Atlantic breeze, and then had dinner by the shore. I couldn’t remember having a better time. We piled back into Sid’s car, Roma and I sharing the backseat. As European Jews who had survived the war, we were aware that much had been left unsaid between us. She broached the subject, ‘Where were you,’ she asked softly, ‘during the war?’. ‘The camps,’ I said. The terrible memories still vivid, the irreparable loss. I had tried to forget. But you can never forget. She nodded. ‘My family was hiding on a farm in Germany, not far from Berlin,’ she told me. ‘My father knew a priest, and he got us Aryan papers.’ I imagined how she must have suffered too, fear, a constant companion. And yet here we were both survivors, in a new world.
‘There was a camp next to the farm.’ Roma continued. ‘I saw a boy there and I would throw him apples every day.’ What an amazing coincidence that she had helped some other boy. ‘What did he look like? I asked. ‘He was tall, skinny, and hungry. I must have seen him every day for six months.’ My heart was racing. I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be. ‘Did he tell you one day not to come back because he was leaving Schlieben?’ Roma looked at me in amazement. ‘Yes!’ ‘That was me!’
I was ready to burst with joy and awe, flooded with emotions. I couldn’t believe it! My angel. ‘I’m not letting you go.’ I said to Roma. And in the back of the car on that blind date, I proposed to her. I didn’t want to wait. ‘You’re crazy!’ she said. But she invited me to meet her parents for Shabbat dinner the following week. There was so much I looked forward to learning about Roma, but the most important things I always knew: her steadfastness, her goodness. For many months, in the worst of circumstances, she had come to the fence and given me hope. Now that I’d found her again, I could never let her go. That day, she said yes. And I kept my word. After nearly 50 years of marriage, two children and three grandchildren, I have never let her go.
Herman Rosenblat of Miami Beach, Florida
“GETTING MORE OF GOD INTO US”
The West Kent and East Sussex Synod area pastoral committee is running two courses this year to encourage spiritual growth in our area of the URC.
There is a starter session called “The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Christ”, run by Paula and Steve Allott from Swanley URC. Those of us who were at the Christ Church Together day last autumn have already done this starter session.
Gifts and Baptism in the Holy Spirit
This will consist of four sessions of scripture and teaching: Gifts of the Mind of God; Gifts of the Power of God; Gift s of the Speech of God; Jesus’ teaching on these matters.
Venue: Christ Church, Tonbridge on Sunday evenings March 18th, April 15th, May 20th and June 17th.
“Lord Teach us to Minister”
These three sessions will be in the form of services focusing on different themes: worship together with simple music, letting things flow; encouraging message with elements of teaching; the many praying with and blessing the many.
Venue: Swanley URC in the evenings of April 8th, May 13th and June 10th.
Everyone is welcome to attend these courses BUT there is an enrolment form to be filled out and signed by either Jim Thorneycroft or Lesley Cumming. Please ask Lesley for forms and further details of these courses. The latest date to register is March 4th 2012.
ROBERSTON STREET URC, HASTINGS
Christ Church is in the West Kent and East Sussex Synod Area of the Southern Synod of the URC. Geographically we are at the centre of the WKESSA area, which stretches from Dartford in the north to Hastings in the south, where Robertson Street URC is located. Some of you may have visited the 20/20 Coffee Shop. This was open for six years and was visited by almost 1000 people a week but unfortunately has had to close.
I visited this church for the first time just before Christmas and it is a magnificent grade II listed Victorian building although it is in a very bad state of repair. As the saying goes “you can always find someone worse off than yourself”: Pam Rowden is the church secretary there and one of her jobs is to regularly empty all the buckets catching the rainwater coming through the leaky roof! They also have had to excavate large amounts of pigeon droppings – gas masks required! I decided to find out a little about the history of this church.
The town of Hastings was developing rapidly in the early years of the second half of the nineteenth century. The railway had at last pierced through the hill lying between it and St Leonards and had made a direct link with London possible. The Old Town was bursting its bounds and spreading rapidly westwards. Since 1805 there had stood a Congregational Chapel in the Croft, a narrow street in the Old Town. Among its members was a group of men who saw the direction that the town was likely to develop and decided to look for a site for a new church. With financial backing form the English Congregational Chapel Building Society they obtained a site, building commenced and on 13th March 1858 the Robertson Street Congregational Church was formally constituted with a membership roll of 43. For almost 25 years the church fulfilled its mission to the people of Hastings and beyond but by 1880 it was obvious that it was simply not spacious enough to serve its purpose. By purchasing an adjoining shop it was possible to erect a building considerably larger than the existing one and plans were drawn up by the architect Henry Ward for a new chapel seating 1000 persons! During the 15 months of construction the congregation worshipped in the Pier Pavilion in summer and the Gaiety Theatre in winter. The cost, including furnishings was some £12,000, a very large sum in those days.
Henry Ward was a prolific architect whose work is still highly visible in the town: he designed department stores for Plummer Roddis (their Hastings site is now occupied by Debenhams); Hastings Town Hall, the Buchanan Hospital, the Observer Building, the interior of the Havelock pub and many other churches in the area.
Please pray for the congregation of Robertson Street as they continue to bring the good news of God to the people of Hastings and pray that the resources will be found to make all the necessary repairs. They worship at 10.30 am on Sundays so do join them if you are on holiday in the area!
Come and Join at Christ Church on Thursday mornings at 10.00am
2nd February 10.00 am refreshments
10.30 am Beetle Drive
Followed by lunch together
9th February 10.00 am Refreshments
10.30 am ‘Music and poetry’ with Robin Morrish,
Musical Director of Tonbridge Philharmonic
16th February 10.00 am Refreshments
‘10 years at Groombridge Place’ –
a talk by Howard Ansdell
23rd February 10.00 am Refreshments
10.00 am Let’s study Thessalonians (2) with Roy
Open to everyone. No subscription required
For more information contact Brenda or Howard Ansdell
WEEKLY COLLECTION FIGURES
Standing orders (Nov) 816.00
Total £ 4871.05
Standing orders (Nov) 816.00
Total £ 3928.91
Weekly average for 2010 to 31 December 2010 = £752.43
Weekly average for 2011 to 31 December 2011 = £874.13
WOMEN’S WORLD DAY OF PRAYER SERVICE 2012
The local Women’s World Day of Prayer service this year will be at Tonbridge Methodist Church, Higham Lane, on Friday 2nd March at 10.30am. The service is written by the Women of Malaysia and the theme is ‘Let Justice Prevail’.