United Benefice of
St Mildred’s, Whippingham
St James’, East Cowes
10th January 2021 : The Baptism of Christ (2nd Sunday of Epiphany)
WORSHIP IN THE EPIPHANY SEASON
As we are currently unable to offer communal worship in church, please remember that the diocesan website www.portsmouth.anglican.org still has a direct link to parishes that are streaming live worship, while for those unable to access such resources this pewsheet continues to contain material for offering a “spiritual communion” at home. You must do whatever feels right and safe for you – though of course we very much hope to be able to resume regular worship as soon as possible.
Services at Whippingham are now being shown on YouTube: you can catch recent worship via the following link:
Alternatively, search on Youtube for St Mildred’s Church and find all previous services.
FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:
Give thanks for: the work of the Holy Spirit; acts of generosity and service
Pray for: the people of America; all threatened with poverty; our government
PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:
Please pray for: Irene and Henry; Richard Gray; Bob Hitchens; Dave; Reg and Eileen King; Beryl; Ena Young; Brenda; Stuart; Andrew; Maureen & Gordon; Joy and Dave; Rosie and family; Barbara Blacklock; Hilda Bell; Paul & family; Emily; Lilly; Jenny and Mike Abbott; Gary; Oliver; Jenny; Ruth’s family; Gemma and her family; baby Ada; Robert Hall; Rita; Rev Dion and his family; Jamie; Catherine Rushworth and family
Give thanks for: work on the vaccine and its distribution; all who seek to follow the government rules for our collective safety and making personal sacrifices to do so
PRAYERS FOR THE DEPARTED:
All who have lost their lives to Covid; our island hospice
COLLECT FOR THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
NEW TESTAMENT READING Acts 19 : 1-7
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the inland regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2He said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ They replied, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ 3Then he said, ‘Into what then were you baptised?’ They answered, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ 4Paul said, ‘John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.’ 5On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— 7altogether there were about twelve of them.
GOSPEL READING Mark 1 : 4-11
4John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptised by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
Have you ever wondered where the idea of baptism comes from? It’s not something that has ever troubled me until now. But I found myself wondering why Jesus chose to go to the Jordan to be baptised, and that led me on to wonder whether there was an initiation ceremony in the Temple, and if so, what it would have been like. So I did some research and discovered that the idea of baptism goes right back in history to the Exodus, when the Jews escaped from Egypt. If you remember, they had been redeemed by God through Moses, and spared from the plague of death through smearing the blood of a lamb on the doorposts, so that the angel of death passed over that household. Then in an amazing act of faith they left, and at the Red Sea they passed through a great wall of water on each side of them that was higher than their heads. At the moment when they did this, they sang a song of triumph that is recorded in Exodus: “The Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” So from that story you get the idea that God does his work of redemption, of saving his people, that the people follow him in obedience, and that this act is followed by a sign that serves as a witness to the ways of God.
Now when it comes to the giving of the Law, the writing down of God’s instructions for his people, you get a reflection of this historical event in the creation of a rite for purification called the mikveh, which is a sort of ritual cleansing. The word mikveh literally means “a collection or gathering together”, and over time it came to be associated with a collection of water, such as a pond or a reservoir. Furthermore, it had to be fed from a stream, from living water. You couldn’t just use any old stagnant puddle. (I suspect that is because originally the waters of the Red Sea moved, but that’s a guess. Maybe it is much more prosaic: running water will be cleaner than still water.) In the Jewish Law, you had to go through the ritual of the mikveh bath if you had become unclean, so that you could then rejoin the community and take your share of responsibilities and receive a new life of blessings. To put it bluntly, if you haven’t crossed the Red Sea, you’re not part of the people of God, and if you haven’t gone through the mikveh rite of passage you are not part of the worshipping community.
The rite is not in itself a saving act. God has already done that, first by saving the Jewish people from their slavery in Egypt and then by saving the whole world through the life death and resurrection of Jesus. Between those two points comes the figure of John the Baptist. John baptises those who have repented of their sins to give them a fresh start. So the salvation has already happened in the turning away from sin, and his baptism confirms that act of faith. When Jesus comes to John, it is because he has made a commitment to God, not because he has been particularly sinful in any way. And in so doing, he identifies himself utterly with the Jewish people – it’s like an extension of incarnation. As he goes under the water, he is completely immersed in this world, in its sinfulness, in its choices, in its faith community. That’s why baptism is such a profound symbol of dying and rising to new life. But it isn’t just an individual thing: it is related to the whole community and to service in that community. That’s why baptism should always be done in your home church, too, among the community of which you will be part. Baptism commits you to serving your community.
That is why John the Baptist urged people to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance”. The fruits in question were blessings and acts of service within the community. So those who were baptised were to share their belongings with others, tax collectors were to be honest, soldiers were to be content with their pay and not to bully those in their power. All these things were signs of a people who accepted their responsibilities in being part of a community.
If you think about the life of discipleship, quite often it follows a similar pattern to the symbolic dying and rising to new life that baptism gives us. The first step is that we make a commitment – maybe a gradual one, over years, or maybe an instant decision because we suddenly realise that God is calling us. But that is almost always followed by a time of negativity. We feel under attack. Temptations hit us. Things don’t seem to be going as we imagined they would. That is definitely the case with many instant converts. And that negative time is like the immersion in water, going right down under the surface.
But that is only half of the picture, because we then rise up into our new life. That’s when we really feel we can start fulfilling our calling. As we begin this new year, it’s a good time to think about our own baptism as we celebrate Christ’s baptism. It’s time to come up out of the water, to look around and find our place, to look up and sense not just that we are blessed, but that God loves us, each of us, as his sons and daughters. You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased. We are his beloved children, and we rejoice that he is well pleased with us, too. Amen.
INTERCESSIONS(Supplied by Robert Hall)
We pray for the life of the Church, especially in these troublesome times when we can’t meet together and sing your praises. Give us strength in these times, and we especially pray for Bishop Christopher, Archdeacon Peter, Rev Susan, and our associate priests Mike and Pete. We also think of our Churchwardens Rose, Colin, Peter and Robin. Give them all strength and guidance as they go about the Church’s work in these difficult times.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
We think of all those people who are troubled in body, mind or soul. We also think of all those people who are troubled by Covid 19 and those that are ill through other complaints. Place your guiding hand on them all so that they can be calmer with your strength. Give also strength to all their friends and relatives who are worried at this time.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
We also think of all those that have been elevated to your Lord’s House in recent days and suffer no more pain, only the peace with you, Lord. Give the people who they left behind the wisdom to remember the good times that they had together, knowing full well that they will rejoin them in your house one day. We also remember all those whose anniversaries fall at this time, some we know, some not known to us and some only known to you.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
We think of all the places in the world where peace does not reign. Give these leaders strength and wisdom that they can talk to their opponents—not always agreeing, but understanding the other person’s point of view. That they can live, peacefully, side by side.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
We think of all the people who are working this troublesome time. All the scientists who have developed the vaccine, all the NHS staff who are working very long hours and putting their lives at risk, all the emergency staff who are attending to incidents, all the key workers who are keeping us safe and feeding us and finally all the volunteers who are running all the foodbanks, and emergency shelters. Please protect them and see that they return to their families safe and well.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer
accept these prayers,
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
PREPARING FOR SPIRITUAL COMMUNION
In union, Lord, with the faithful at every altar of your Church, where the Holy Eucharist is celebrated, I offer you praise and thanksgiving. I present to you my soul and body with the sure hope that I may always be united to you. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you and embrace you with all my being. Let nothing ever separate you from me. May I live and die in your love. Amen.
You might like to sit in silence for a while, then pray:
Lord of all time and eternity,
you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father
in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son:
by the power of your Spirit
complete the heavenly work of our rebirth
through the waters of the new creation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To conclude, either listen to the music links below or simply rest quietly in God’s presence.
Robert would like to thank everyone for their support and presence at Beryl’s funeral and for your prayers and kind wishes. We hope he will feel able to be back with us in the congregation soon.
While it is undoubtedly a wise precaution to pause our collective worship for the present, I am hopeful that we might be able to resume when Covid numbers go down. The vaccine programme might also offer us a ray of light.
I have been asked whether we might also consider live streaming our services, so it would be helpful to know your thoughts on that topic: it would require investing in IT resources, but I understand there are grants available for such projects. Of course, somebody would need to operate the cameras! It will never be a straight alternative to gathered worship, but in a time of crisis it could be helpful in reaching individuals at home.
ST MILDRED’S CAFÉ
The Café is currently open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11.00am – 2.00pm for takeaways only. While we are grateful to those who volunteer, it must be stressed that we will ONLY open if people feel it is safe to offer this service and that any volunteer should feel free at any point to withdraw if they need to do so. Our continued thanks to the team for their dedication at this very difficult time.
As the Church of England tries to plan for the future, yet with decreasing numbers of both people and pounds at its disposal, every deanery in the diocese has been asked to draw up a Deanery Plan, with an emphasis on mission and action.
Below is the information recently sent by our current Area Dean. See what you think!
This is a proposal for future ministry on the island, for discussion, amendment and adjustment!!
Each hub will be made up of a number of parishes/benefices brought together through similar churchmanship, geography or previous experience of successfully working together.
There will be no defined number of parishes that has to be in each hub, but it makes sense that there is as big a number as you think would be successful in order to ensure the maximum amount of efficiency and economies of scale.
I would like you to reflect on your specific area of the island, with as many other members of clergy and laity as possible and agree what parishes would work best as your own ‘local hub’.
Once that area has been proposed, (can) I then invite you to look at the churches within it and see where there is duplication of services and to come up with a solution removing all duplication and hopefully providing a greater range of services for the local population.
If there are churches that are struggling either financially or with attendance, I would like you to explore alternative options for them, inasmuch as could they become community buildings, art galleries etc: Could they become festival churches, opening 4-5 times a year, or perhaps a pilgrim church, a term Archdeacon Peter Sutton used in his ‘Living Together’ document? Or perhaps they are buildings like Holy Trinity, Ryde or St Faith’s, Cowes that could be sold and used for a completely different purpose? As many people have noted, closing churches does not automatically remove our responsibility to maintain them, unless they are handed over to Historic Churches et al who take over ownership and thus responsibility of it……so we need to think creatively as to how our buildings are used better – making them assets and not liabilities!
Sarah McCarthy-Fry very helpfully gave us some financial figures to work with in that during the last proper year (2019) we managed to collect £950k which could support 17 full time stipends, but should we want administrators etc for each hub (so) this number will have to reduce. However, considering we have less than that now we may not need to do any significant reductions of clergy. However, we must also ensure that we fully utilise our other useful resources we already have available to us in our Readers, Lay Worship Leaders and Occasional Preachers….and we have to be constantly aware that we have a huge deficit which needs addressing as soon as possible.
Many people have asked if this is a cost cutting exercise, and whilst we are clearly living in times of financial struggles, this is certainly not the main driver of the process: they are mission and growth.
Is this a perfect plan, which will easily be implemented, and everyone be happy with it? No, of course not. But I have taken a significant number of people’s views, opinions and ideas and tried to make them into some sort of plan. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any suggestions or amendments but be aware that this area/team/hub ministry seems to be the way the Diocese would like us to explore, so please help me work within this particular parameter.
I would appreciate your thoughts within two weeks, so we can start putting the ‘bones’ of a plan together…. which will then be presented to Synod for discussion, amendment and hopefully approval.
With heartfelt thanks for your support and all that you are doing in your parishes,
IW Area Dean
Any comments or requests for more information please to Rev Susan.