During this month we journey through Lent towards Easter. We are heading towards the cross and the empty tomb. Easter is a special time of the year when we remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent has traditionally been seen as a time of preparation for Easter, a time of getting ready. Preparation takes time and effort.
When I go away on holiday or study leave then I don't just get to the day and then go. Plans have to be made in advance, packing has to be done, arrangements have to be put in place. Likewise when we have a big celebration there is much that has to be done in advance in order for the event to happen. When my niece got married last summer, the whole thing had taken months of organising and we had been sent a 'Save the Date' card well over a year in advance. Nothing was left to chance, although there were a number of hiccups on the day, including a flooded road that meant an altered route for us.
Jesus jad spent time trying to prepare his disciples for his death. He had spoken to them a number of times about what was going to happen regarding his death and resurrection. He had sent them out in pairs to sample what ministry was really like. He had promised them that they wouldn't be abandoned but would receive the Holy Spirit.
All this was part of the procvess of preparation for them. Of course, we know that this wasn't totally understood at the time by the disciples and it was only in hindsight that they were able to make sense of it all. But the preparation of the disciples was undertaken by Jesus. He saw it as important, even if they didn't understand or appreciate it at the time.
If we choose to take Lent seriously it gives us an opportunity to focus on our relationship with God and our life of faith. It is about much more than a time for giving something up. It can be a real deepening of our relationship with God and a challenge to us as to what impact our faith has on daily life. Sometimes we can be guilty of trivialising Lent, or we ignore it completely by choosing to get on with business as usual.
There are many ways we can use Lent as a time of preparation. There are many resources available for us to use Lent constructively to take stock of our relationship with God and our walk of faith. These resources offer a variety of ways of using Lent. Some are meant to challenge our understanding of God. Some have an emphasis on teaching. Some are much more task orientated, giving us practical things to do each day. Some are weighty tomes that take up a lot of time while others are in bite-sized chunks. There is bound to be something that will encourage your faith, if you care to look for it.
Let each of us be challenged to spend time and energy this Lent in tending our relationship with God and being challenged in how we live out our faith in our daily lives. May this Lent be a time of transformation for each one of us.
Extracts from the Annual Reports for 2019
Every year we have an Annual Church Members’ Meeting when reports of the various activities of the church are received. Words on a page can’t convey adequately the strength of our fellowship together, but they do give some clues as to what matters to us. What follows are some highlights from the reports.
Each Tuesday morning up to ten of us meet for half an hour of guided prayer led by different individuals, using a Northumbrian style of worship. The invitation is given by social media, the website and other means to anyone who wishes to send prayer requests and although we have received very few requests from outside the group, we believe that it is a service that we should continue to offer to others.
Following prayer, we share refreshments and conversation together, and some take the opportunity to do craft work, play dominoes or tackle small jobs around the church buildings. Others who were not able to join us for prayer sometimes join us for this time. Every third Tuesday in the month we stay for a soup and pudding lunch. No charge is made for In Touch, but voluntary donations more than cover the cost. For the last two years this has enabled us to lay on a Christmas lunch and contribute to the general funds of the church.
Apart from Sunday morning worship, In Touch is probably the most consistent and regular time we meet as a church community and therefore it seems important to think about how we can develop it further as a bridge so that those on the fringe of the church or living close to our building can be encouraged to find support, request prayer and become more involved in the fellowship.
We meet for Scrabble on the 3rd Thursday of each month and it is enjoyed by those who come. Our numbers have fluctuated between 8 and 3 this year. We need to think whether these numbers are viable especially during winter months and we do need to be more proactive in inviting others to come along.
Church Secretary’s report
I would firstly like to say thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the year.
The first service of the year was our Covenant service led by our minister Rosalyn Wilkes and Ros has led most of our regular Sunday gatherings. We’re also grateful for visiting preachers. A special thank you goes to Rosemary Knowles for arranging the flowers each week in the church. We would also like to thank Pauline Johnson and Brian Nicholls for playing the piano.
Church prayer breakfasts are held on the first Saturday of each month. We continue with our ‘bring and share’ lunch on the first Sunday of each month. Deacons meetings and Church Members meetings are held regularly. We were able to participate in the Swanwick Well Dressing event, and in the village Remembrance Day service.
We would like to say a big thank you to the church maintenance team for keeping on top of work and thanks to the generosity of members and grant giving bodies we’ve been able to replace rotten windows, repair the office, repaint the schoolroom and refurbish the Manse.
We had a great away day thanks to the generous hospitality of our friends at Milford Baptist Church and this has encouraged and given us strength to keep moving forward.
We have had both happy and sad occasions during December. We mourned the loss of a wonderful lady, Margaret Miles who will always be remembered for her strong faith as well as for her jam making and cakes and offering an open house, giving great support to the church and never seeking praise. On a happier note Olivia Marjorie Rose Hardstaff came into the world on Boxing day. She has already attended church with her Mum, Dad and brother, and we look forward to her dedication in the next few months.
The Church remains committed to supporting the East Midland Baptist Association, the Baptist Union and BMS World Mission. We have supported many other causes including Derby City Mission and Operation Agri at Harvest and we had a special Toy service where toys were donated to Derby City Mission. Derby City Mission make it possible for deprived families to give their children a Christmas present. We also supported the Shoe Box appeal together with Churches Together in Swanwick, the Leprosy Mission and Christian Aid.
We had a great evening in December when the Alfreton Male Voice Choir came to join us for a sing along concert with Christmas carols. It was attended well and people from the community and other churches joined us.
We look forward to what 2020 will bring.
LEPROSY MISSION REPORT
In 2019 individual contributions in aid of the Leprosy Mission raised £55.56. Further funds were also raised by our fellowship purchasing goods from the Leprosy Mission Catalogue organised by Alison Briddon.
BMS BIRTHDAY SCHEME
The total amount raised through the Birthday Scheme in 2019 was £146 (This includes £20 sent to BMS earlier in the year). On behalf of BMS, thanks to every member for contributing towards the provision of medical care, clean water to drink, etc. Val Cundey
Church Treasurer’s Report
2019 has seen a demanding year for our finances. The year ended with an overall SURPLUS of £5,413 instead of the £4,431 DEFICIT indicated in the revised budget. However, this SURPLUS has only occurred due to the donations and pledges arising from our Gift Day, a generous grant from the EMBA and gift aid claim submissions.
This meant that income was a lot more than anticipated, with offerings and donations totalling £46541 as against the revised 2019 budget projection of £27593.
Income tax refunds on gift aid at £9104 were higher than the 2019 forecast total of £8070, partly due to the claims being made from 2018 in addition to 2019 and from the gift aided Gift Day Donations. Rental income of £1490 came from the letting of the Manse for a sort period and from schoolroom hire.
Ministry costs were £23522, and we made donations to Home Mission and BMS in 2019 of nearly £2000.
Upkeep costs in 2019 for the Church premises totalled £12088, which was a lot higher than we estimated. This was due to extra fabric repairs and replacements in addition to the usual upkeep costs.
The Gift Day fund meant that we were able to repay in full the EMBA 10-year loan in 2019. However, we had a large solicitor’s bill to pay regarding the Manse. Although the SURPLUS indicated in the audited accounts for2019 appears to be a satisfactory result, if it hadn’t been for the generous amount amassed from the Gift Day, there would more than likely have been a large DEFICIT. Chris Fissenden.
Our thanks go to Chris for her excellent and careful work as Treasurer!
Another year has swept by. It’s the year when we finally regained the Manse following several years of waiting. It wasn’t an easy journey to that point, involving anguish and much energy and expense but perseverance won the day. Since then many people within the fellowship have been involved in cleaning & decorating as well as tidying the garden. Thank you to all of you who have been involved. This made it possible for me to move into the Manse and make the village my home.
The year, however, ended with the death of Margaret Miles, who had served the church in remarkable ways over many decades. Margaret had played such an integral role until recent years when she moved into a care home and was unable to join us on Sundays. We miss her but continue to celebrate her legacy. This year also saw the death of Ray Smith, with his funeral being held at the Chapel. But on a happier note we celebrated the birth of a daughter for Emily & Adam & a baby sister for Martyn. We look forward to celebrating with them as a family at her Dedication soon.
The Deacons have worked hard once again this year with all the extra work that the Manse seemed to generate. We say a big thank you to them for the way they serve the church so willingly.
Going forward into this year we have started to explore ways within Churches Together that we can act together in bringing Hope into people’s life during this year of HOPE. Some ideas have already been suggested and there seems to be a willingness to make care for the environment a focus for these initiatives.
We once again had a Christmas Dinner for the fellowship thanks to Elsie and her team of helpers.
With the other churches in the village we have had a busy year under the umbrella of Churches Together in Swanwick. The year started with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. During the year there was the usual variety of events including SCT Messy Easter, Shoeboxes, Beer & Carols & Thy Kingdom Come.
We look ahead to 2020 with expectation, trusting that God is at work in our fellowship and within the community of Swanwick that we serve. Ros Wilkes.
Sometimes life doesn't run smoothly. We have our plans and expectations which have a habit of turning pear shaped. The end of January certainly turned out like that for me!
I took Mum for an appointment with her consultant only to be told that the patient had cancelled the appointment, which was news to the two of us. We now have an appointment for February and I shall be checking a few days before that she is still on the list to be seen.
My parents' heating system decided to misbehave.
My telephone at the Manse had a problem on the line which meant that no calls could be made or received. After several days an engineer came to renew the connection on the pole outside. Then my internet connection was lost so no emails or browsing on my computer or tablet.
Then there was the morning spent shivering while a smart meter was fitted.
It was not the best of weeks...
But... in the middle of all this I was thinking once again about HOPE. As you may know, we are supporting the HOPE2020 initiative as part of Churches Together. I know that some of you have also been thinking about it and have started to make suggestions regarding how we can bring HOPE to the village. And this excites me. The thought that we can help to make a difference in our own neighbourhood is exciting.
As part of the initiative we are joining in the commitment to pray on the 20th of each month at twenty past eight in tbe evening (20.20) for 20 minutes. At the launch of the initiative we were reminded of the passage in Scripture: Pray that God will give many opportunities to speak about Christ (Colossians 4:3)
Having prayed this, I shouldn't have been surprised that in the middle of a frustrating week, God did just that. One of the engineers who came to the Manse wanted to know if I was a Christian and a 'Reverend'. This was before he started work. He then went on to say that I was the second Reverend he'd been sent to and he thought maybe God was chasing him. He was the one steering the conversation through topics including repentance... apparently the list of things he would need to repent of would be very long! His parting words as he left were that if he gets sent to a third Reverend he will have to do something about it!
This one encounter made up for all the difficulties the week brought. It also reminded me of the fact that God wants to answer our prayers and wants to give us opportunities to share his love and good news with those we meet. So often he opens opportunities which we just don't recognise or are too scared to seize in case we get it wrong. We need to be oipen to the Holy Spirit prompting us and trust that he will give us words to say and actions to take and the power to step out with him. He's not calling us to preach from a soapbox on The Green but to be willing to respond to his prompting with simple, quiet words and small loving actions. He wants us to make a difference in the lives of people we encounter. He may surprise us with the opportunities he gives to us. He wants to do more than we can hope for or imagine.
HAPPY NEW YEAR?
Each year I take the New Year period as a time for reflection. I look back over the prevjous year with all of its events. I remember the times of joy as well as the challenging, sad or discouraging times. I consider the lessons I've learned and hope to see how I have changed during the year, hopefully for the positive rather than the negative! I also extend this to include us as a church.
Out of this time of reflection, I've been encouraged. During this last year we have struggled, but I think we are in good heart. We have pulled together, worked together and supported each other. The year ended with both celebration and sadness. We feel grief due to the death of Margaret who has been such a cornerstone of the church over many decades. But we are also feeling incredible joy at the birth of Olivia to Emily and Adam.
My reflection also looks forward into the year we are entering and in this case, a new decade. I bring my hopes and fears before God. On a personal note there are a number of imminent fears, but more hopes than fears. On a church note similarly there are fears regarding our small number, our finances and the demands of an older building. These fears keep me grounded in reality and help to focus my prayers. Being an optimist by nature, the fears are overridden by my hopes, my hopes that this will be the year when God breaks into people's lives and takes us by surprise once again.
It is one thing to look back on the past and another to look forward, but it is also important to live in the present, and to allow the highs and lows to speak into the present, having learned the lessons from them, but not being weighed down by them.
As part of my reflections I went for an amble around the lakes which form part of the lower estate at Hardwick Hall. i took my camera with me so progress was very slow, but this gave me plenty of time to ponder. There were two themes that became evident. One was to do with trees. I kept noticing the shapes that they formed with their branches, something you only notice in windter when there are no leaves hiding them. Each tree was different. Some of them had been pruned or had become misshapen by difficult conditions. Others had died completely. Some of them had nooks and crannies where animals could hide or build their nests. Some were leaning at odd angles. But I kept reminding myself that the sap would start rising in most of them, and the leaves, flowers and fruit would follow. I was reminded that each of us is unique and shaped by our experiences. We will grow in different ways but we will hopefully mature, flower and bear fruit.
The other theme was that of streams. In places streams fed into the lakes, and in other places streams flowed out from them. The lakes were not stagnant, but life-giving. It was breezy and there were ripples on the surface. My thoughts were drawn to the Holy Spirit who is described both as wind and as a stream or river. It was good to have a timely reminder of the difference the Holy Spirit makes and our need for him in our lives - both flowing in to empower us but also flowing out in our actions and character.
All this was brought together for me in the words of Psalm 1:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and nigth. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers.
May this year be blessed by God for each one of us and together as a fellowshio.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas & God’s blessing on 2020…
I’m starting this while in County Durham doing my Christmas Preparation with my friend Jean. We’ve been catching up on what’s been happening in our lives & reminiscing about past times together, as well as planning future times away. It is good to get together with friends & we’ve also spent some time with someone else we trained for ministry with & had a meal with his family.
One of the joys of Christmas is meeting up with people who are special to us & receiving cards & catch up letters from friends who we don’t get to see very often. While Christmas can be a very busy time, with so much to do & so much going on, it is also a special time of year.
In church life we have some special things going on for us & alongside the other churches in the village. The singing of carols feature in many of these. There is the Beer & Carols at the Gate pub organised by Churches Together in Swanwick. Why not come along & join in the fun? There will be a further opportunity to join together at the carol service at Rowthorne Nursing Home. The Parish Council are organising a Civic Carol Service at St Andrews Church & it would be good if some of us could go along to support this. These are all opportunities to make people aware of our church & of the real meaning of Christmas.
Closer to home, there will be opportunities for us to celebrate Christmas together. We have our Christmas Dinner to look forward to, thanks to Elsie & her team of little helpers. This is always a special time of fellowship together. Then we have Alfreton Male Voice Choir coming along for a SING-A-LONG again this year. What a fantastic opportunity to invite others to a fun evening. Please invite as many as you can as it would be brilliant to see a full church. Many people like to sing carols & even if they don’t like singing they like to hear carols being sung. If they can’t make this, they might like to come along to our Carol Service or even both!
This Advent, we are going to have an active time! Each week we will be looking at the Christmas story, not necessarily in the usual order, in the context of some verbs. So we will start by journeying with the Wise Men as we travel to the manger to worship the new born King. Then we will be saying yes with Mary. waiting & watching with Simeon & Anna & rejoicing with the angels before doing something with the shepherds on Christmas Day.
All of this emphasises that our December will be a busy time but let us make space for Christ in the middle of all the preparations. If you want some help in creating some quiet space, Pauline & I are planning to have a quiet hour or so each week with some Celtic reflections. You are very welcome to join us. The day & time will vary in order to fit in with other things, so you will need to check each week when & where.
For me, Christmas has already begun. We tried to get in the mood for our preparations by listening to carols & putting up some decorations. I know it’s a bit early but Jean won’t be going up North again until Christmas. One thing we did notice was that when we took the time to step away from our preparation, God took us by surprise. Our walks in the countryside were times of discovery & we collected some treasures to take home with us to explore & ponder further. What we found was that it were the small details that we noticed most rather than the big vistas. The most memorable was a tree which was devoid of any leaves but with roots going into the River Wear. The most amazing thing was the colourful lichens & mosses growing on the branches of the tree, & some of these had raindrops glistening on them. It really took our breath away & we kept talking about it as we explored our thoughts. I took a photograph of it which Jean gave the title supporting ourselves & others. It triggered the reflection that over Christmas we need to nurture our own connection with God & support others to encounter him. To bring the real meaning of Christmas.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6