Magazine - Summer 2017
Letter From The Manse
If I said the words ‘Holy Habits’ I wonder what would come to mind?
To put your mind at rest, I’m not becoming a nun and it has nothing to do with a nun’s attire. Instead, Holy Habits is a buzz phrase that’s travelling around the Methodist Connexion and is the title of a book written by Andrew Roberts. It’s a book about the call of Jesus to follow him, the nature of that call to follow and how it is nurtured in our discipleship.
I’ve always been struck by that call of Jesus to follow him. I find the stories of Jesus calling his disciples inspiring, where they follow (according to the narrative) without a thought, without asking any further questions and are happy just to set off. I remember a book I read in training talked about this call to follow, saying that this style of Jesus’ leadership is full of authority, integrity, insight and self-sacrifice, that following is risky and may come with costs but this was a call of people who were and are courageous to follow.
That call to follow didn’t stop with those first disciples, but a call that has continued across time. The call to follow is one that is spoken to each of us throughout our lives. To me, this is where the book Holy Habits fits in, as a way of honouring and living out that call upon our lives. During a training session that the Ministers of the Sheffield District received from the author at the end of May, he confessed Holy Habits isn’t complicated, it isn’t even that new or original, but a way of exploring the nature of our discipleship and how we are nurtured as disciples through reflecting on the habits lived out in the first Christian communities described in the book of Acts.
The habits themselves are based on those described by Luke in Acts chapter 2 verses 43 – 47: “Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
From these the book suggests 10 habits which are biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, giving, service, eating together, gladness and generosity, worship and making more disciples. You can see why I mentioned these are nothing new and that the habits may seem obvious, but the habits invite us to reflect on the rhythm and pattern of our lives and discipleship as individuals and as a church. You might read them and think; well I do many of those already! But there might be one where you think ‘I wish I did that more often’ or ‘I’m not very good at that’. I don’t think the expectation is that each day we do all 10; although if you think you can I’ll make you a certificate! The habits are simply a way of living out the call of Jesus to follow him, by having the patterns and elements of these lived out through our daily lives.
For me, I’m going to be continuing to reflect on, pray about the habits and re-reading the book over the summer to discern how we can focus on the habits through all we do together. My hope is to bring some ideas of how to put these into practice in the first Church Council of 2018 and it will mark the beginning of our Holy Habit adventure together, as by then there will hopefully be some more materials published to help us!
As a Circuit, we are also focusing on Holy Habits this year and there will be a study day on Saturday 4th November, when Andrew Roberts the writer of the book will be coming to speak to us and there will be workshops.
So my plea! Over the coming months, please reflect and pray on the passage, the habits and what they might mean to be lived out in our daily lives. Reflect which of the habits we already do, which we could better or through these habits if God may be asking us to be courageous and start something new. If you would like a copy of the book to help you to do this, please speak to me, but I will be sharing my reflections on the book across my next few letters, through meetings and worship and other places I haven’t thought of yet! My prayer for you is that you will be ready to join me in this adventure, because I know Jesus has asked you to follow him, and I know he will be there to lead us, meet us, guide us and surprise us along the way. If you aren’t completely sure or don’t feel like you’ve heard that call, my prayer for you is that you will, and you will be caught up by the wonder of his call of asking you, yes you, to follow him.
So let’s get ready for a new adventure, because who knows where it will lead!
I’m writing this towards the end of June when the superb weather became so hot that most people began to complain about it. I hope we can look forward to more of the same in July etc.
The end of June brings the excellent Bradfield Music Festival, when for a whole week, an incredible collection of marvellous musicians of international repute and quality perform in the impressive surroundings of the ancient St Nicholas Church at High Bradfield. Sorry, you’ve missed this year’s event but bear it in mind for 2018. Brass bands, organists, singers, string quartets, pianists, violinists and all manner of musical experts perform for you – and it’s right on your doorstep!
Nostalgically, the local music scene is not what it was. Forty years ago almost every local church or chapel had its Anniversary Sermons when the Sunday School and church choir, supported by an itinerant group of singers and orchestral players, would rehearse and sing their collection of hymns and anthems, often outdoors, weather permitting! Wadsley, Loxley, Storrs, Dungworth, Bradfield and Worrall, to name but a few, would fill the Summer Sundays with music. They were great days but time moves on and we have to adapt to new circumstances and ideas. Cornwall – that almost separate part of England with its own language, flag and customs, has a mysterious history. The Cornish people are different – descended from – where? Spanish, Mediterranean, Middle East, Ireland – who knows? The county is full of Saints – St. Erth, St. Perryn, St. Petroc etc. There are ancient burial mounds and other strange places. Then there are the reminders of the now defunct tin mining industry and the more recent clay mining operations – but what a place to spend time on holiday. Superb sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, quaint villages with intriguing narrow alleyways, rolling hills and valleys, boat trips and fishing and usually plenty of sunshine. Cream teas, pasties, ice cream, all help to make Cornwall a prime spot for holidays. (I’m hoping to get paid for this advert). I did enjoy my recent visit to this distant outpost of our country, revisiting many well remembered spots from previous visits. St Ives is as beautiful as ever ( and wasn’t as crowded as it will be later on) with its lovely harbour, whatever the state of the tide, the Island, with its old chapel and views over Porthmeor beach, then there’s Porthgwidden and Porthminster beaches and so much more. Add to this a visit to the Isles of Scilly, without feeling ill, and all in a week well-spent. Have I made you feel envious – good!
Easy being a Methodist, isn’t it?
It may be easy now but that was not always the case. Nowadays at Wisewood, we have central heating, cups of tea, a dish washer, running water, and little, if any, trouble from the local people. We also have a wonderful church community. However, the extract below tells a different story of what it was like to be a Methodist in Sheffield in the late eighteenth century.
It is taken from a book entitled “A Popular History of Sheffield”, written by J. Edward Vickers.
“The Wesleyan Methodists met with much opposition when they founded their first chapels in Sheffield. In 1753 the little chapel they had built in Pinstone Lane was completely demolished by rioters.
Through the whole of the winter of 1766 Mulberry Street Chapel was repeatedly attacked by ruffians and foul names were hurled at the people entering the building. Women in particular bore the brunt of these attacks and their cloaks and gowns were often slashed with knives.
A favourite trick of the ruffians would be to enter the chapel with a cat or fowl tucked underneath their coats. These would then make loud noises during the service, annoying the preacher and the congregation alike.
At one time the objectors to the Methodists climbed up the outside of the chapel to the skylight, which was situated just over the pulpit. They then made such a nuisance of themselves by mimicking the preacher that shutters had to be fixed over the window. After this the rioters threw stones at the locked doors and battered them with wooden clubs.”
Oh, the good old days!
Readings in the New Testament
We continue to read in Matthew Chapter 22, starting at verse 34.
Last time we read that Jesus had stumped the Sadducees when answering a question about life after death. The Sadducees were politically (and religiously, which was just about the same thing) opposed to the Pharisees. Here we see the Pharisees trying to do what their opponents had failed to do, to beat Jesus in argument.
‘Which is the greatest commandment?’ Jesus sums up all the ten commandments in his answer. The first four of the commandments are about loving God, the last six about loving other people. This enables Jesus to condense them into two, most important is to love God and from this will flow the second, to love others.
In Mark’s gospel this story has the lawyer saying that Jesus had given a good answer. In Luke’s version it is followed immediately by the story of the Good Samaritan. The best way for us to deal with the lessons of this encounter is to realise that the two commandments are dependent on each other. Thus, if we sometimes have problems with trying to follow God’s wishes for us, we can work out His plans for us by loving all other people.
Remember, we are not required to like all other people, which is a relief. We are, however, commanded to love them. That is to believe that they are entitled to the same qualities of life as everyone else, food, shelter, education, health treatment, a war free life, justice. These are the sort of things that we also want.
V. 41-46 has a different question being put, this time by Jesus to the Pharisees. Jewish teaching was quite clear. The Messiah would be a descendent of David. David was the most famous of their past kings and they looked back on the time of his rule as a golden age. Surely this should be the root from which the Messiah comes? We ourselves use this as a source for many of our hymns and readings, particularly at Christmas. What then is Jesus saying?
The title ‘Son of David’ was so tied up with the idea of a successor to David and all that he stood for that it was a distraction from the concept of The Messiah. The Jews were waiting for, and looking forward to, a strong and mighty king in the steps of David. He would restore their pride in a conquering nation that would again be a leader in history. Jesus is distancing himself from this idea. The Messiah that He is proclaiming is nothing to do with the conquering of land, the subjugation of people. The Messiah is coming to conquer hearts and minds, to end wars and conquest, to make a world for all God’s people to live together in mutual support, understanding and toleration. To achieve this required a shift in beliefs and in aims. The David centred concept has to be left aside and a new world order developed in its place.
Chapter 23;1-12 is a condemnation of the ostentatious behaviour of so many of the religious leaders of the Jews. So many of them were self-seeking, demanding honour, showing off and parading their ‘religiosity’ (what a lovely word), whilst at the same time ignoring those very commandments that we have been looking at. True religion in a person is illustrated by humility, attention to others, a willingness to give time, energy and self to God.
Once upon a time… several members of Wisewood Methodist Church took part in a poetry competition with the theme ‘Happiness’ and all their masterpieces were collated into an anthology of poetry, as the Christmas Fair 1973 was approaching. If you wish to have a look, please ask Di. Some of the authors are Dorothy Battye, Irene Gibbons, Edwin Leggett, Barbara Norton, J. Cockburn, M. Anderson, M.E.Ford, K. M.Wadham, Walt Basford and J.Garrett, who won the competition. There are many very good rhymes in this booklet. Worth a read. We thought we would share with you John’s winning entry.
O welcome, but elusive, guest
Our heart is light when you are near
But if we try to hold you fast
Then, like the mist, you disappear.
We cannot understand just how
We failed to find you when most needed
Yet oft, too busy for the search
We unaccountably succeeded.
We find you not in things we own
Until we share them with our brothers
And, sharing thus our happiness
Is multiplied in many others.
So welcome, but elusive guest
Spread wide your spirit in our hearts
Help us the paradox to see
‘Happy the man who happiness imparts.’
If possible, mow your lawn every week. It’s easier on the muscles, takes less time and there is not as much grass to dispose of. Trimming the edges of the grass makes it look neater.
Stake and tie up tall plants to save them from wind damage. Don’t forget to water and feed all plants now and again. Deadheading is a must. It makes the plant produce more flowers and keeps the garden looking neat.
Feed roses after the first flush of flowers to encourage them to bloom again. Remove rose suckers as they appear. Suckers grow from the bottom of the plant, below the graft and can overtake the original rose bush if left.
Take cuttings of geraniums and fuchsias in July and they will be rooted by autumn. Take them into the greenhouse for the winter.
Make sure camellias have enough water in August, as this is when the buds are being made for next year.
Prune shrubs soon after they have flowered to an outward facing bud. This will help to stop them getting overgrown and keep them a good size and shape.
We have always had tomato plants in our greenhouse. We fitted an automatic opener onto the window, which helps to prevent it getting too hot. Regular watering is most important. You may need to do this early in the morning as well as in the evening. Tomatoes particularly resent inconsistent watering. You’ll know this has happened if you find the bottoms of the fruit are sunken and blackened.
Whitefly populations can be reduced by hanging sticky yellow sheets above or among the plants to trap adult whitefly. We plant marigolds in between tomato plants, as apparently aphids do not like the scent.
Here’s wishing you some warm summer days so you can lie back and enjoy all your efforts in the garden!