United Benefice of
St Mildred’s, Whippingham
St James’, East Cowes
2nd May 2021 Fifth Sunday of Easter
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
CURRENT WORSHIP ARRANGEMENTS
As we are allowed to gather in groups of 6 or less outdoors, there will be coffee and tea available in the Parish Centre garden at St Mildred’s after the Sunday service if the weather remains suitable!
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.
Previous services at Whippingham are now being shown on YouTube via the following link:
Today’s service will appear on YouTube later this week.
FOR YOUR PRAYERS THIS WEEK:
Give thanks for: new baptisms; new opportunities to share our faith; Elyas’ continuing success*
Pray for: all lost in the Indonesian submarine and their families; all who travel
*See notices section below
PRAYERS FOR THOSE IN NEED:
Please pray for: Irene and Henry; Richard Gray; Bob Hitchens; Dave; Reg and Eileen King; Beryl; Maureen & Gordon; Joy and Dave; Oliver; Rita; Stuart; Thabani Maposa and family; Paul and family; James; Maureen; Jill; Catherine
Give thanks for: Rita’s improved mobility; all whom we are privileged to serve
If you wish particular names to be added to the prayer list, please inform Rev Susan. All names will be 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:
All whose anniversaries occur at this time
COLLECT FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father.
NEW TESTAMENT READING Acts 8 : 26-end
26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ 31He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.’
34The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptised?’ 37 And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptised him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
GOSPEL John 15 : 1-8
Jesus said, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
St Peter and St Paul are having an argument outside the pearly gates. Peter, carrying his clipboard, has got, he says, an accurate tally of everyone who is inside the heavenly city. They have all been counted in and come to an impressive total. Paul, who has been wandering round the city for some time, makes the total considerably higher. But he goes away to do a recount. When he returns the figures have, of course, all gone up. Peter knows how many more he has let in, but Paul’s score is even higher, and the gap has widened. Neither of them can understand this. But after a final recce round the city, Paul at last comes back beaming. “I know what it is,” he says. “I know why there are more people in there than you’ve got on your books. It’s Jesus. He’s sneaking them in over the wall.”
It’s Jesus: he’s sneaking them in over the wall. Now as a joke, that one is a bit weak, but let’s stop for a moment and think about the implications. Now I have every reason to think that this is a friendly and welcoming place. We don’t stand at the door with a clipboard assessing who is and isn’t allowed to come in. On a Sunday there are plenty of people to greet those who come in and to make sure they have everything they need. We should never underestimate the ministry of hospitality: it’s often God’s way of blessing us.
But that is just the beginning. We do our best on Sundays, especially if we are faced with people we haven’t seen before, because we want to encourage them. But that’s just for one or two hours, and there are 168 hours in the week! The question is, are we as open to God’s spirit of hospitality and encouragement during those other 168 hours? (Or at least say 100 of them, because I expect you want to sleep from time to time.)
Giving people a glimpse of heaven and helping them to get closer to God isn’t just a matter of what we do on Sundays, any more then it was for St. Philip about what he did within the worship of the early church. Of course we expect to receive a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when we share communion in this lovely place. But in our everyday lives there are plenty of people who have never heard of the heavenly banquet, never experienced the joy of knowing they are loved by God, have no idea of what it means to pray and be in any sort of relationship with God other than a vague idea that if they are desperate they might beg for his help. And yet Jesus loves them, and he is relying on us to do something about it.
The world of management likes to tick boxes and make things neat and tidy by putting people into categories, making up rules and finding reasons to exclude and prioritise. I know we need rules to exist as a civilised society, but when you look at the mess the world is in, with its market economies and addiction to power, I can’t say it seems to have worked out very well in terms of who has power and wealth and the lion’s share of the world’s resources. And I am ashamed of the wider Church when it connives at discrimination and exclusion, while it seems to me that Jesus is much more interested in sneaking people in over the wall. And I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it turned out that Jesus was doing far more than that but actually sneaking out himself and making his home among the very people who are being looked down on in life. He can’t be held captive by church walls, or by any particular brand of faith, or even by death itself. The season of Easter reminds us of that most powerfully.
As disciples, we do our best to imitate Jesus, and it’s good to notice that he isn’t going to wait until we feel ready, or until we think we know enough or have an accredited role, or have enough time. St. Philip probably had his own plans for how his day was going to pan out – but then God showed him, not a likely candidate for joining the church community, but a person of prayer in need of a guide, and he responded. He was not interested in what this foreigner might do for the church, but in what he could offer of God’s love – which included baptism, the sign of commitment and new beginnings. And the Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing.
There’s no reason why we can’t be as welcoming and accepting as Philip. In a spiritually healthy church, everyone can join in, and one of the best ways of belonging is to do precisely that – to join in. To see what we can give without worrying too much about what we might get in return. Because invariably our vision is too small, too narrow. God calls us to do things and be things we never thought of doing and being. Every one of us has a vocation, a front line in building the kingdom of God. While it might include a ministry within this building, sneaking people in, it will certainly also include a ministry out there, among families and friends, work colleagues and anyone else we happen to encounter. It can be exhausting, and sometimes we get it wrong. And so we come back together to receive God’s cleansing and blessing, to be shaped by him and if necessary broken of our bad habits – and then sent out to love and serve the Lord. In the name of Christ. Amen.
INTERCESSIONS (Supplied by Gillian Jackson)
Risen Lord, you are the true vine and we are the branches. Guide us, through your Holy Spirit, to a new understanding of your Word, and to be bearers of your fruits, of love, joy, patience and peace, for the benefit of others.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer
We pray for a strengthening of your churches across the world and here on the Island we ask for your blessing on all our clergy as they go about their work and your guidance in appointing a new Bishop of Portsmouth.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer
Bless and guide Elizabeth our Queen, our Government and all in Authority. We pray for all in our local community and particularly those in our NHS and all keyworkers. We thank you for our vaccines and pray that all who need them will get them.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer
We ask Lord that you will comfort and sustain with the light of your presence all those living with poverty, injustice, doubt, illness, loneliness or bereavement. In particular we pray for those in India now struggling with the pandemic’s worst second wave.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer
Merciful Father, in a time of quiet we bring before you all who have died for whatever reason.
Lord, in your mercy . . . hear our prayer
Grant us wisdom in taking the opportunities in life which you present us with, and guide us in the use of what we already have: our time, talents, possessions and money. Help us to be tolerant of others and obedient to you Lord as we place all our trust in your unfailing love, and put our hope in you for the future.
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:
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.
To conclude, either listen to the music links below or simply rest quietly in God’s presence
ST MILDRED’S CAFÉ
The Café is now open on Mondays to Thursdays from 10.00am – 3.00pm. Please contact Sue Richmond (297883) for up to date details! The church will again be open for visitors from Monday 17th May.
NEWS FROM ELYAS
The message below came through this week, and I thought you might like to see how Elyas is getting on!
Hi Susan, Hope you and Charles are very well. I am doing fine too, been very busy for 3 weeks placement at Guys Hospital in London, it was really good experience and treated many patients and sent them with a smile on their face. By June I will be done my first year of uni! Can’t wait for that. Currently got a job as an engagement officer in an organization called London mayors fund, it is working remotely 2 days a week. Have applied for a podiatry assistant job, hope I get it as it is related to my course. So it will keep me busy during the summer holiday. Another good news is I have finally confirmed last Sunday been waiting to get the certificate and then let you know but seems like I am too impatient. How are and Charles? How is cat? How is the church going? How is everyone at the church?
Elyas’ confirmation as a member of St John’s Church, Stratford E15
If anyone would like me to pass on any messages to Elyas, please let me know. For anyone with access to email, his address is: elyasiow2016. I can also post on letters to him. Rev Susan
At the APCM last week, St James’ agreed to restart the Teddy Club this term, and the hope is that sessions can resume on Thursday mornings after half-term, as the lockdown restrictions are easing. We are grateful to those who regularly volunteer: if anyone else would like to do so, please have a word with Jean Kirby or Beryl Harrison.
ST JAMES’ PCC
The PCC meets this coming Wednesday, 5th May, by Zoom at 7.30pm. Please read the paperwork in advance!
24th April 2021
What a contrast in these two Bible readings. Superficially I might be attracted to the first as it’s about priesthood, and Aaron’s robing in the symbolic vestments of his role reminds me of how I entered this church in a simple white robe in September 2010. I was anointed and was one by one clothed with the particular robes not of OT priesthood like Aaron, nor of a generic bishop, but of the Bishop of Portsmouth. My last act will be to lay down the most significant of them as I hand the crosier, the pastoral or shepherd’s staff to Debbie to be passed to my successor, as at the culmination of my installation Lucy gave it to me. Whatever the significance of oil, of cross and stole, ring, cope and mitre, that shepherd’s crook is a constant reminder to me and to you of our calling to care for God’s people and to draw more people into the church, the flock of the Good Shepherd. How many times have I said that it is not a hook to draw in those who stray but properly held horizontal to keep the flock together.
The trouble is that Aaron and his male descendants claimed a monopoly of priesthood. Theirs was the exclusive right and responsibility to make the required offerings, to determine the holy from the common and the clean from the unclean ‘by perpetual ordinance.’ By contrast the Gospel reading speaks to us, shouts indeed (though through the no-doubt quiet words of elderly prophets that we may strain to hear) of a new, open and redeeming future for everyone. It speaks memorably of the passing of one person, like this occasion, but it proclaims salvation for all people, a light for revelation to every nation.
Jesus is brought, eight days old, to the Temple in Jerusalem. Some of you have stood with me in that place or looked over the vast plaza from the Mount of Olives. Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, covers 37 acres. Its spaciousness is important not just in its dimensions but because it welcomed the young, like the baby Jesus, as well as the elderly Anna and Simeon, and indeed a host of other people and activities of varying and sometimes questionable type. There was not only physically room for them but there was space in a deeper sense, as there was twelve years later for Jesus with the scribes and teachers.
Throughout his ministry, as Simeon foretells and which enables him to celebrate his death, there is space for the unlikeliest, the least attractive, those of no reputation, those with questions and hesitations, those who are ill, the ostracised and the disliked or hated; there is space for all in the kingdom which Jesus comes to proclaim and herald. There is indeed a wideness in God’s mercy, and so there must be in the church.
The calling of every Christian, every friend and disciple of Jesus is to make and give space for others and for the Kingdom. It’s specifically the calling of a bishop, this bishop, to ensure space in the church for the richest and fullest variety of Christian expression and worship, to enable the thriving of all – from birth to old age – to have time and room in our hearts (and not just as paying users of our buildings) for the people, groups and institutions of our communities. We are proud to speak of parish, but God forbid we do not mean congregation when we refer to our parish.
Today we read of Anna and Simeon spotting and affirming the potential of Jesus to change everything, and to be the most significant of all God’s continuing actions in the world. By their words and their faithfulness, their prayer and fasting, they enable not a clinging to what they have known for eight and more decades but God’s new thing. It is about Jesus; the favour of God was upon him, and Jesus is our light and salvation as he does a new thing.
After all the excitement, perhaps the shock (but they were perhaps getting used to the unexpected!) we read that Mary and Joseph were amazed at what they heard in the Temple and then return to their own town Nazareth. We shall do the same in half an hour, and that is where most of you sharing in this service are now. That is where we live, pray and serve as fellow disciples of Jesus. There we are called to be spacious Christians, giving opportunity to outsiders more than insiders, young more than older, black more than white, gay more than straight, women more than men, refugees and asylum seekers more than those settled and comfortable, those whose learning or health is impaired or thwarted rather than the educated and well-to-do, not because any one of them or us is more precious in God’s sight but because there are very many whom we, the church which claims to be the church of God, continues to treat as different. We make God’s love too narrow by limits of our own, and we must not.
Over recent years I and we have said a lot about growth in depth, impact and number, and so we should. That’s the way to grow the Kingdom. The child Jesus ‘grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,’ we read. We too need spiritual deepening and physical growth to share with Jesus in transforming the world and making an impact where we are. From this pulpit at my installation I encouraged us to grow in confidence. Sometimes I fear I have found us needing to bolster our confidence, but the last year has enabled us to review and recommit to what we know is most important. Circumstances, sometimes tragic and frequently challenging, have shown we are a collaborative, courageous, generous, resourceful and pioneering church and, in strange circumstances, our faith and confidence have been transformed so that we may not only continue but thrive as a spacious church for others, for God, for the Kingdom.
At my installation I declined to approach closed doors at the west end and bang on them, as tradition suggests, asking to enter, preferring the doors to be wide open. Our doors should be open for all to enter and also so that we can go out. So,
Go forth and tell! the doors are open wide:
share God’s good gifts – let no one be denied;
live out your life as Christ your Lord shall choose,
your ransomed powers for his sole glory use.
MESSAGE FROM OUR COMMISSARY BISHOP FOLLOWING BISHOP CHRISTOPHER’S RETIREMENT
BISHOP ROB WICKHAM
INTRODUCTION TO THE DIOCESE OF PORTSMOUTH
Alleluia, Christ is risen.
Hello. My name is Rob Wickham and I’m the Bishop of Edmonton in North London. I also now have the privilege of being your commissary bishop in Portsmouth, until your new Diocesan Bishop has been discerned and installed.
It has been a treat once to immerse ourselves in the resurrection stories again this Easter hasn’t it? There is something important in Lent and Easter that brings us back to the basics of the Gospel, and the very core of our calling as the Diocese of Portsmouth.
Take Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel for example. Some of the disciples are on the sea of Tiberias, and they have gone back to business as usual- fishing.
Despite being caught up in the world changing events of the crucifixion and resurrection, it is now all back to normal- at least, they hope so. They want security. It would seem that ministry without the physical presence of Jesus giving them the answers and challenges has become difficult. So, comfort blanket time- let’s go back to that which we have always known.
But, critically, they catch nothing. It takes a stranger on the shore to shout out to them. They are tired, but surprisingly they listen and then put out the nets in a different way- and their catch is enormous.
But the story doesn’t end there. John recognises that this is Jesus who is the stranger speaking, but it is Peter who takes immediate action. This collaboration, where the disciples are learning to minister and work together, leads to a sumptuous bar b que on the beach.
But then, there is a twist to the story, which speaks to all of us as baptised Christians. Peter, the one who denies Jesus, the one who didn’t want his feet washed, the one who performs a knife attack- a stabbing as Jesus is arrested, yet also the one who is entrusted with the most extraordinary position of leadership is now taken on a walk of shame. Simon Peter, do you love me. How excruciating to be asked three times, once for each denial.
But then, Jesus utters the extraordinary words- feed my lambs, and then feed my sheep. The first command, the first imperative to feed the marginalised, the vulnerable, the outcast, the unwanted- this is to be the focus of your work.
Feed my lambs. These words have shaped God’s ministry through me for many years. From being a pastoral assistant in Wallsend and on the Meadow Well Estate in Newcastle, through to a Curacy in Willesden, and Incumbencies in Somers Town in Camden, and in Hackney. The command to feed my lambs in the context of the resurrection means that we cannot always do what we have always done.
Covid has been the significant disrupter, and in many homes there will be an empty chair this summer. Covid continues to affect every one of us, and I am so grateful for the way in which the Diocese of Portsmouth continues to respond. Our shaping of our response through Live, Pray, Serve seeking growth in depth of discipleship, our impact on society and the numbers of those who are becoming disciples of Christ are key aspirations, with many priorities in the mix. This is our shared and collaborative responsibility and privilege, and I look forward to journeying with you, albeit for a short time, in being good news for our communities here.
I’m very aware that bidding farewell last weekend to +Christopher was deeply emotional, and, like you, I am very grateful for his loving and pastoral oversight. With Christopher as your Bishop, you have set an ambitious strategy in place. We are seeking to learn from the disciples at Easter, in a collaborative approach in response to the resurrection. This isn’t business as usual, and our Diocesan Team- Peter, Jenny, Will, Anthony, Victoria, Area Deans, lay Chairs and others will be steering our conversations. However, change can make us uneasy and this, alongside LLF, our response to the Archbishop’s taskforce recommendations on racism, a developing terrain on safeguarding and the appointment of a new Bishop for the Diocese may all add to a sense of vulnerability, alongside the exciting new opportunities that they represent. These times are certainly not business as usual, but times of living, praying and serving- perhaps daring to cast the net in a different way- as Jesus leads.
Friends, as your Commissary Bishop, I am looking forward to being a small part of this journey with you. Please pray for me, as I for you. Please pray for each other, and please be immersed in the resurrection stories- be attentive to the voice of Jesus- tweak the nets accordingly. And in your private prayer times, do not be surprised if you are asked whether you love Him- possibly more than once. And do not be surprised if you are told to feed the lambs of this diocese. There is no privilege better than this.
VACANCY IN SEE PRAYER
In your Son, Jesus Christ,
the whole Body of the Church is joined together as one
with Christ as the Head,
Be with us, by your Holy Spirit,
as we pray for the appointment of a new bishop.
Preserve our unity and guide all involved in the appointment process,
that with prayer and honest reflection,
they may discern your will
that your Kingdom may come,
in this diocese, and in the world
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.