United Benefice of
St Mildred’s, Whippingham
St James’, East Cowes
12th September 2021 : Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
CURRENT AND FUTURE WORSHIP ARRANGEMENTS
Our current service pattern is now set to continue – but the bad news is that with the recent outbreak of Covid within St James’ congregation although we will be able to serve coffee after the service, Café Church has to be put on hold for a little longer. Please continue to be vigilant and to observe social distancing measures at all times. With the summer season, cases on the island are increasing, and we need to maintain due caution, especially remembering that to have had two vaccinations does not stop people from carrying the virus.
Meanwhile 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.
FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:
Give thanks for: government recognition of the need to better fund social care; lower Covid rates on the Island
Pray for: the safety of visitors to the Island Festival; all in fear that government decisions will further impoverish the poorest in our society; all who are suffering alone
PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:
Please pray for: Reg and Eileen; Irene and Henry; Richard Gray; Bob Hitchens; Beryl; Joy and Dave; Margaret Perkins; Paul and family; William and family; Gemma; the family of Emily and Sammie; Beccy and family, Richard Sewell, Jemma
Please also continue to pray for Sheila Dunn and Mary Blow. Sheila is now home, Mary doing well on the ward at St Mary’s.
Give thanks for: the recent weddings of Joshua Griffiths and Emily Ward; Samuel Killoran and Ellie Yearby
If you wish particular names to be added to the prayer list, please inform Rev Susan. All names are reviewed on a monthly basis. Please keep Rev Susan updated if you would like a name to stay on the list beyond the current month.
PRAYERS FOR THE DEPARTED:
Peter Butler; Elizabeth Langridge
defend your Church from all false teaching
and give to your people knowledge of your truth,
that we may enjoy eternal life
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
NEW TESTAMENT READING James 3 : 1-12
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
GOSPEL Mark 8 : 27-end
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ 28And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’
Hindsight is a terrible thing. We can all think of times in our lives when we have made some sort of mistake and found ourselves saying, “With hindsight, I shouldn’t have ….made that journey, or bought that item or had that argument….” etc. But at the time, with our limited knowledge, we simply did what felt best. Kicking ourselves for getting it wrong isn’t always a helpful thing to do – though perhaps it might save us from making the same mistake again.
We read our gospels with hindsight, and indeed they were written with hindsight. They are far more complicated than simple eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life: each gospel has a target audience, and each writer has his own purpose in setting down and editing what he knows into a form that gets across their message. With Mark, the key message is a question: who is this man Jesus? And he sets about enlightening his readers in stages, capturing the wonder and amazement of the people Jesus meets and equally capturing the slowness of his disciples to understand what sort of a king they are following. It’s no coincidence that today’s section of the gospel is set soon after the healing of a blind man, who acquires his sight in stages: first of all he can see people who look like trees, and only after a further action of Jesus can he see clearly. Now you see God, now you don’t. Peter sees clearly that Jesus is the Messiah: and then in the next instant he is getting it all wrong again and trying to stop Jesus from fulfilling his calling to suffer and to die. Three close disciples might get to see Jesus transfigured on the mountain top – but that won’t stop them later arguing about who is the greatest among them and who deserves the best seats in the kingdom they imagine to be coming.
I would say that that is a fairly typical experience for all of us: we have moments of clarity, punctuated by huge periods of uncertainty and doubt, where we get it wrong and misunderstand God’s purposes for us. St John of the Cross called it the dark night of the soul, when the apparent absence of God eventually leads us into a deeper faith. Saints such as Mother Theresa experienced it on a regular basis.
You might wonder how Mother Theresa managed to carry on with such a vivid contrast between her outward appearance and actions and her inner doubts, but the answer is actually quite simple: she kept doing the work that she saw was at hand. When spiritually things seem dry and dead, it’s often a matter of battening down the hatches and simply trying to get on with the work of the Lord until he reappears. Which tends to happen unexpectedly, but always does in the end. After all, if we had constant certainty, we would not feel the need for faith, and then we wouldn’t grow. So having a tough time spiritually is actually a sign that God is up to something in us, teaching us a new level of trust and awareness. The important thing is to persevere, because we aren’t necessarily called to succeed, just to be faithful.
However… Being faithful doesn’t necessarily mean just marking time and doing things exactly the same way we have always done them. Being faithful means responding to the promptings of the Spirit and keeping on trying, even if the things we undertake don’t necessarily have the effects we hope for. Being faithful means giving our all, not just the loose change in our pockets for the collection, the fag end of the day when we are tired for our praying, or the tasks that don’t inconvenience us or cost us anything to do. Jesus demands our commitment, that we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him, with all that that entails. It’s a call to live dangerously, not to take up a little hobby on Sundays. The thing about risk-taking is just that: it involves the risk that things will go wrong. At East Cowes, the risk of opening our church every day as a holy space for the community is one that I believe we should take on. The risk of just asking for donations instead of charging a hall rental fee would be another area to consider. At Whippingham, the risk of offering a cut-price wedding deal where we let people use our space for their receptions would be worth investigating. The risk of us all getting to know our fellow Christians in Wootton is hardly worth calling a risk at all, and well within our means to do. It’s a call to celebrate another local community and share their fellowship. Why not?
I am closing with an extended quotation from Cardinal Newman, who had this to say about the Christian call to action:
God knows me and calls me by my name.…
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission—I never may know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…
I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments
and serve Him in my calling.
Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am,
I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be
necessary causes of some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life,
He may shorten it;
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends,
He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—
still He knows what He is about.…
Let me be Thy blind instrument. I ask not to see—
I ask not to know—I ask simply to be used.
INTERCESSIONS (Supplied by Sylvia Ash)
God is gracious, just and compassionate.
Let us now bring our needs and concerns before him.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
For all churches, clergy and congregations:
Help us to follow the example of your saints in light
that together with St James and St Mildred,
our deeds may bear witness to the faith we profess in our words.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
For Elizabeth our Queen, grant upon her your blessing and guidance, as she diligently serves our Nation.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
For families in Afghanistan who are fearful of what the future may bring. We pray that they will know your peace
and that there will be an end to any more evil.
For all your people Lord, who are attempting the dangerous crossing of the English Channel, keep them safe and may those in power quickly come to a just solution before anymore lives are lost.
For all government leaders: that they may strive to create a society
in which all of God’s children can live in freedom and dignity.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
For all gathered here: that the prayers we say for others
may never take the place of the things we should do for them.
May each of us strive to be the unique people that God made us to be.
For our own special needs,
for those who cannot be with us today for whatever reason.
We name them before you now,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer.
God of compassion, you know our weakness.
May we reach out with joy to grasp your hand,
and so walk more readily in your ways.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.)
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:
and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall,
keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful,
and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
To conclude, either listen to the music links below or simply rest quietly in God’s presence
ST MILDRED’S CREAM TEAS
Thank you to everyone who helped out at last Sunday’s cream teas at Whippingham, which were extremely popular! Special thanks to Beryl and Peter, and their team of kitchen staff! We served 70 people and raised £180, which was an excellent bonus: but the chief joy was in serving people who went away refreshed and wanting to return another time. Thanks to Jo Walkden, too, for her musical contribution to the afternoon. Well done, everyone!
RIDE AND STRIDE
If you kindly sponsored Peter Robinson for the Rise and Stride event, please see him to pay your dues! Thank you – and thanks to Peter for yet again embarking on this worthy feat.
ST JAMES’ EAST COWES PCC
St James’ PCC meets on Wednesday 15th September at 7.30pm. NB THIS MEETING WILL NOW TAKE PLACE BY ZOOM.
St James’ Friendship Guild is looking for volunteers to lead or act as treasurer to this very worthwhile group as we recommence activities. Talk to Wendy Farrow if you are interested, and see the Jigsaw magazine for details of a special meeting due to happen on 6th October. Lockdown has shown us the value of companionship, and as a church we are very well placed to offer outreach to the lonely as well as sharing our own friendship with each other.
COFFEE MORNINGS AT ST JAMES’
We have reluctantly decided to postpone the return of our popular coffee mornings for another month, as we wait to see whether there is a further Covid spike in the wake of the Island Festival. Please bear with us as we try to keep everyone safe and be aware of potential dangers…..Thank you!
Have you been along to the Browsers Library at St James’ yet? Do drop in on Saturday from 10.00-12.00 for a coffee, choose a free book, buy a jigsaw or just have a socially distanced chat. All visitors please wash your hands on entry: all returned stock is kept separate until it is safe to return it to the shelves. (Not that you have to bring them back, of course…!) We can always use more volunteers – it isn’t arduous, but it is unfair to expect Gillian and Rita to bear the brunt of the work unaided.
Canon Hugh Wright, Vicar of St Catherine’s, Ventnor, and Holy Trinity, Ventnor, and Rector of St Boniface’s, Bonchurch, wrote a helpful article which was published in Church Times last week. It is reproduced here for your benefit – see what you think!
These days, the clergy conduct far fewer funerals than when I was a curate 34 years ago. (My record was four in a day.) Statistics show that there was a 29-per-cent fall in clergy-led funerals between 2008 and 2018, and that, in 2019, there were 14,000 fewer funerals than the previous year.
I wrote a few years ago about the preference of many people for pop songs at their loved one’s funerals, as opposed to hymns. This is beginning to feel like yesterday’s news. Today, there is a continual growth in families’ choosing direct cremations, and no funeral at all for their loved one.
The reasons for this are many and varied, but the pastoral and psychological effects of this innovation are yet to be assessed. Recently, a couple in one of my congregations suffered the incalculable loss of their daughter, who had two young children. Her life, well lived and much loved, though without faith, was one to celebrate, and yet she chose (in her will) to have no funeral, causing her parents considerable pain. The moment I heard this, I asked them: “Would you like us to do something?” So we did, gathering their friends together, none of whom knew their daughter, to celebrate her life. For us, she is a much-loved child of God, and that is enough.
It occurs to me that this is the kind of thing that the Church may be asked to do often in the future. As secularisation powers on, leading to unseen side-effects like this, it falls to the Church to “keep the faith” that others have abandoned.
In one of the letters to churches at the beginning of the Revelation of St John, our Lord is quoted as saying: “Wake up and strengthen the things that remain!” The Church would do well to adopt this as its mission statement or strapline for the coming years.
Such words could inspire our care of church buildings. I am blessed with the care of an 11th-century church, kept open every day, whose power to communicate — often to young people — never ceases to amaze me. Every Sunday, we repeat the many prayers requested during the week, sometimes receiving feedback of the most heart-wrenching kind.
This is a recent example from an unknown visitor: “Love your life. Be grateful for breath and the chance to experience the wonders around you. Life truly is amazing if we see it with open eyes and open hearts.” When I hear this, it makes me very angry at the lost opportunities of the first lockdown, when people so needed us, and our doors were locked. Keeping a church watertight and open is much more than that: it strengthens the ties that bind us to the past and to God.
The words from Revelation might also encourage us in the fewer funerals, baptisms, and marriages that we are asked to conduct these days. Fewer means more time spent on them, more individual attention, and more chance to make the timeless beauty of the liturgy speak. So often young, unchurched people, used to registrars and secular funeral celebrants, have said “That was amazing, mate!” when I did little more than I have done on countless occasions.
Finally, the Church needs to wake up to its place in the 21st century, as people in exile in a strange land: few, maybe, but faithful. If the results of the census next year reveal nominal Christianity to have declined again, I hope that bishops and other leaders will not be defensive, but remind the nation that much of our Bible was conceived in exile, when the numbers were small, and encourage the Church’s ministers in its work of strengthening what remains.
“Strengthen the things that remain.” The greatest of these, as St Paul reminds us at the end of 1 Corinthians 13, is love: love of all people, not just our nation, our tribe, our fellow Christians.
In his wonderful book on the mission of the Church in a post-Christian society, Pilgrims and Priests, the Dutch missiologist Stefan Paas speaks of the adventure of exile: “In exile we can learn that God is the God of Babylon, the God of everywhere. In exile we can learn that God is not ours, but that we are his, wherever we are. In this way exile can become an adventure, an invitation to a life outside the gates, and to rediscover your own tradition in Babylon.”
So let us spend our time there strengthening the things that remain, and so be ready and faithful if and when the people’s faith turns once more in our direction.