Monday, 25 June 2012

A different kind of sermon

Imagine walking into church and finding the chairs arranged in  number of semi circles, imagine how you might react - some were tempted to turn around and go home - but nobody did!

Simon welcomed us to the service and made the comment that 'nobody likes change'. Following the readings - Mark 4 35-41 (Jesus calms the storm) 1 Samuel 18 6 - 16 (Saul is jealous of David, a new leader)- and an appropriate film clip from 'Toy Story', we took part in three discussion exercises,  interspersed with hymns.

The first was 'Possibilities'  in which we discussed in groups - and wrote, in the spaces provided -   our thoughts about how our church could contribute to  the wellbeing of local community, of the wider church, of individuals and of  the environment.
The second was 'What should the minister be doing?' - everyone had a sheet to complete, rating  the different statements on a scale from 'very important' to 'not mportant'.

The third was 'Words' - each group had an envelope containing a selection of words that describe possible qualities we might look for in a minister.   We were instructed to choose just 5 words as a group.

The results of these three exercises were gathered together. They will enable us to complete our 'church profile' for seeking a new minister.
A sermon, Simon had explained,  should tell the good news. It should help people to work out what the Good News gospel means in their own lives, and should encourage people to respond. Our discussions, it is hoped,  did all of these.
Contributed by Marcia

Walking for Leprosy Mission

 Leprosy Mission is raising funds this year for Purulia Hospital, India, which treats around 74 000 people from West Bengal. Leprosy sufferers are Purulia's special focus, but other vulnerable sections of society are welcomed and treated there too, for a range of illnesses. The main fundraising effort for this  appeal is the sponsored walks arranged in South, Mid and North Wales respectively.

Sioned and Fiona joined the 'South Wales' walk, which started at the Brecon Beacons National Park Visitor Centre and involved a six mile  round trip to the valley of Cwm Camlais
People from churches all around South Wales  took part,  and we soon got into friendly, informal chatting as we walked!

The views were stunning and the rain mostly held off.  A cup of tea
and home made cake at the Visitor Centre cafe afterward  was the best you can imagine.

Thanks to Pat Howells for  publicising the walk in our news sheet.
Sponsorship / Donations to Leprosy Missions are  always welcomed.

Refugee Week Celebration

We were delighted to be approached by Refugee Voice Wales to host this year's Refugee Week celebration at St David's Uniting Church.

 The aim was to enable refugees to meet with people from the valleys and to  have two way conversation, sharing life experiences  and raising awareness of the everyday issues facing refugees.

So a significant part of the evening was spent in small groups including both refugees and local people, then sharing together some highlights of our conversations.   We heard, for example, a humorous tale about an escape from Iran in the back of  a refrigerated lorry, and more more sober account of being deported from Gatwick, only to be called off the
plane in a final reprieve... but with still no final decision on the application for asylum.

Someone commented  " I can't believe  that after such awful experiences, the refugees I spoke to were still smiling".
And someone learned an important lesson: " When people ask me 'where do you come from?' now I know that it is not some kind of racist comment, but a Welsh tradition -  the first question that everyone asks!"

In small groups and in one to one conversations over supper many, many more stories, and laughter, were shared.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

On Sunday 27th May, I celebrated Pentecost in St Mary's church, Burghfield, near Reading, where I had been celebrating my beloved niece’s Silver Wedding anniversary, with my lovely in-laws, the day before.

Rob, my husband, and I had shared the wonderful hospitality overnight of our niece's friends from the church, Linda and Michael Wood and their daughters. I travelled to church early, with Linda and Michael, as they have responsibilities there before worship begins, which gave me the opportunity to soak up the warm, welcoming atmosphere and take in the beauty of the church in which my great-nephew, Simon, will be married later this year, whilst singing along to the familiar hymn tunes being played by the talented music group, most of whom come from the same family!

We enjoyed a particularly special Pentecost service, as we witnessed the baptism of a delightful young girl, Francesca. She had wished to have had a full immersion baptism but the hose pipe ban in the area prevented this. However, she still got fairly wet! Thankfully, it was an extremely hot day, so she dried off pretty quickly! Along with Francesca, a number of other children were participating in their first Eucharist. It was a very moving experience. I felt so welcome at the church and very privileged to bear witness to a very special commitment by all the children involved.
I am looking forward to my next visit there, which will be for my great-nephew’s wedding.

If you'd like to learn more of St Mary's, visit their website. Gill, their vicar, was born in Wales! She describes herself as a ‘Disciple under Construction’.

Contributed by Claire Hughes