Sunday 28 February 2021, Archbishop Michael presided and spoke at St Helena’s
Sunday 28 February 2021, Archbishop Michael presided and spoke at St Helena’s
It all started as a germ of an idea resulting from a casual conversation in a coffee shop about what we could do, as a church, to cater for those who’d be on their own at Christmas. Should we have a Christmas party either in church or the Upper Room; should it be a ‘bring and share’ meal’ should we cook a meal ourselves etc., etc.? The idea was received with enthusiasm, and when word got out, those who already had their own plans and couldn’t come, kindly offered help to those of us who would be involved. It was all systems go!!
Our hopes were dashed however, when due to the alarming rise of new cases of the virus it was announced that further measures being taken would involve the closure of churches again. Thankfully, mindful of how important the festival of Christmas is to the Christian community, the government announced a relaxation for Christmas Day Services as long as they were carried out under strict Covid measures, which of course we were all used to. It also announced that gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed in private dwellings for this one day only so we could gather in the private flat above church – the ‘Upper Room’.
We were now left with little time to put our plan into action, but with a flurry of telephone calls and enthusiasm that was overwhelming we rounded up all those who’d volunteered to help and within a few days our Upper Room was beautifully decorated, guests invited, food planned, Christmas crackers and serviettes bought, mulled wine promised, Christmas music organised, and beautifully wrapped gifts donated and in place under the tree.
On Christmas Eve, complying with all the distancing rules, a few of us gathered together and prepared the tables. By the time we’d finished the Upper Room looked absolutely beautiful!
After a lovely Christmas Day Service, (with a higher attendance than normal – but still within the Covid guidelines), a small blessing in these difficult and anxious times, we repaired to the Upper Room for celebrations to begin. Well, the delight on the faces of our guests when they saw the room was just the beginning of a wonderful, joyful and very happy afternoon.
To break the ice, one of us, whose party trick is folding serviettes into ‘water lilies’, got others having a go – and as you can see hidden talents were discovered!
Amongst the ten of us there were four different nationalities and between us we’d prepared a three-course meal with dishes representing each culture. It was a joy to behold the faces of those who’d never tasted mulled wine before – it certainly had the desired effect with everyone laughing and chattering especially after the second glass! Next surprise, apart from those of us from the UK, was the age-old tradition of pulling the Christmas crackers. That most definitely put paid to any shyness left especially when we were all wearing our Christmas hats!
We had to explain the jokes which led to a few puzzled looks, but in general they caused a lot of laughter. With everyone very relaxed the meal was a great success and enjoyed by all. The apple crumbles, Christmas cake and mince pies, all new to most of our guests were very well received and we enjoyed trying all the African dishes. Plenty of food to take home afterwards too – and we didn’t have to do any washing up. Our guests took care of that!!
It was an absolute joy and a great privilege to be part of those very special
festivities. All of us were far from home but some were there knowing they may never be able to return to theirs and to families left behind. Some had suffered great tragedy in their lives but on that one day together we experienced much joy, happiness and real fellowship and were able to put some of the sadness and loneliness aside for a few happy hours to make memories which will last a lifetime.
Christmas Day 2020 was indeed a very special day for all of us.
Three cameras and extra lighting for the live streams from Saint Helena’s during lockdown.
Due to the new restrictions announced early in January, both charity shops will be closed until at least the end of the month.
We look forward to welcoming you, and your donations, later in the year.
Following St Helena’s tradition we held a Carol Service – but with only Christopher and Anne present, but streamed live.
All the readers were recorded and played in. We had some technical hitches at the start when the software but received thanks from as far away as Wales for the service!
New restrictions came into operation today, which mean that congregations are unable to attend worship in church buildings.
All our Sunday services from St Helena’s are streamed, so we will continue with that as the clergy are permitted to be in the church to lead worship.
We hope to be able to design the Christmas Carol Service on Sunday 20 December at 6.00pm so that a number of voices take part.
As we will not be able to meet face to face at church, please do keep in touch with us and with each other by phone and email, and make a daily time to pray for each other.
Those of you who attended our service in St Helena’s or who joined us online on 15th November will have observed that while he was presiding at the service Geoff Graham became unwell.
What you will not have been able to see is that, after moving to sit in the porch, he was attended by paramedics. By this time he was already feeling much better and was able to stay at church for refreshments after the service and then go out to lunch before going home.
Geoff is going to take some sick leave for a while to recover his strength and we look forward to seeing him back behind the lectern and altar before long.
Not only do we have to be spaced apart by 2m during the service, but everyone has to wear masks!
The Gospel reading set for today is from Mark Chapter 12, verses 18-27 and the story itself is the question posed by the Sadducees regarding marriage at the resurrection. Essentially, they were trying to catch Jesus out, so that they could accuse him of some kind of offence. The story relates to a husband who died with no children, leaving the widow to marry his brother. In fact, there were seven brothers and none had children with the widow before they all died. Then the widow died. The Sadducees asked what would happen at the resurrection when the widow would have seven husbands at the same time.
Jesus accused them of not knowing the Scriptures and not understanding the real nature of the power of God. He told them that, at the resurrection, there would be no marriages. He also told them that, at that future time, they would have to understand that He was not the God of the dead, as there would be no more dead people, that He would in fact be the God of all the living.
This is an interesting concept. I wonder about the mindset of those resurrected people. If they had had long and happy marriages that were only separated by death, would there not be an expectation that they would be married again in their new lives? Would their blissful new lives not be quite as blissful as they might have expected? It’s a bit of a conundrum, which is why the Sadducees thought that it would be a good, trick question that would show Jesus up and catch him out. But they hadn’t done their homework very well because Jesus was easily able to catch the Sadducees out for not understanding the Scriptures, not what God could actually do.
I think that we today may also have an occasional doubt and, even after much scholarly study of the Scriptures over the last 2,000 years, I wonder if we fully understand the power of God, or is it just too huge a concept for us to grasp much more than a very small understanding of His nature – if at all. I think that to develop our understanding, we need to read the Bible regularly and pray for God’s guidance in developing that understanding. As a result, we may feel that we are drawn closer in our relationship with God.