To all members of the Congregation at St John’s Abbeydale and Holy Trinity Millhouses:
From the Vicarage
Dear friends in Christ
There is no doubt we live in unprecedented times, not one of us will have experienced anything quite like the times we are going through at the moment. Only a few short weeks ago we were considering the impact of receiving our communion in one element, a week later public acts of worship were suspended but we were allowed to have our buildings open for private prayer. On Monday of this week it was announced that all churches were to be closed, no one is allowed to enter, clergy are not permitted to be in church, not even to say our prayers on our own. So our church buildings remain locked for the foreseeable future.
As we approach Holy Week and Easter it is hard not to imagine journeying with our Lord on the road to Calvary and then on the greatest day celebrating his glorious resurrection.
We may feel bereft at this moment, we may miss all that is familiar to us by not being able to join together to worship in our lovely buildings, but remember he is always with us, walking along side us, guiding us, wherever may be, whatever situation we may be in. We are his disciples, the Body of Christ, the sign of his sacramental presence in this broken world.
On a practical note, one of our biggest challenges is how to keep in touch, I know many of you are already making contact with folk, doing bits of shopping etc. much will be happening that is unseen. I commend to you the parish support group set up by Liz Frost. Liz will, with a team of volunteers co-ordinate help with shopping or prescription collection for those who need to self-isolate or who are housebound at this time. Liz can be contacted on 0114 2351828 or 07884078489 if you can either help and be part of the team or if you would like some help. Please don’t be afraid to ask!
I encourage you all to look out for one another, please take a moment each day to contact someone from the church family, a short call can mean all the world on a day when that person might not have any contact with the outside world.
We hope that later this year will be able to continue with ‘difference’ our Lent course, please keep your booklets!
The continuing prayer life of the parish is vital, modern technology means that Angie, Gerrie, Ian and I can pray together each day at 9.30am from our homes. Be assured of our continuous prayers. If you can, pause at 9.30 perhaps light a candle and join with us, as we pray for our world at this critical time. Our hope is that shortly we will be able to stream our service live so you can join with us, meanwhile you should be able to access a recorded version from Monday next week.
Please keep taking a look at our website. Each week the Sunday readings and a reflection on the readings will be published on this page, and other material will be added to encourage us through Holy Week and Easter. If you can’t access the web site please let us know so we can make arrangements to let you have information.
Please take care of yourselves, stay safe, each one of you is precious in the eyes of God.
With every blessing in these extraordinary times
Whilst we have closed our collection points for the foodbank you can still help with this vital work by making cash payments to the Grace Food bank direct.
Full details can be found on their website:
Fifth Sunday of Lent: 29th March
Whilst services are suspended we would like to share with you a reflection on the week’s readings from the lectionary, which you will find above. Each week a member of the ministry team will write a short piece for this page. This week Rev Gerrie Sturgeon thinks about the reading from John 11, v1-45:
“As always it is difficult to know which parts of a passage to centre on, but the message that spoke to me was of Jesus appearing to be absent, uncaring even, when in fact he was, indeed is, always there. My reflection therefore starts with wondering how Mary and Martha felt when they sent a message to Jesus to inform him that Lazarus was ill. Surely they had expected Jesus to react immediately, to at least send word but I suspect that what they really hoped was that he would come to them as quickly as he could. But that’s not what happened. Did the sisters feel abandoned? Did they wonder whether Jesus really cared for them, for their brother? How often do we feel like that; frustrated because our prayers are not answered immediately? I am not the most patient person and God seems to have been showing me time and time again in recent months that his timing is not mine, but that he has not abandoned me.
John tells us that after a couple of days Jesus decided that the time was right to visit Lazarus. The disciples seemed somewhat troubled at the decision because they were concerned for his safety. With today’s restrictions on movements we must all be careful about where we go and what we do. But whilst staying safe, we must not neglect the needy and vulnerable. I’m sure like me you have been amazed at the response the NHS has had to its call for volunteers, or by stories of local communities supporting each other – including all the help being offered by and for our church family. Good can and does come through despite everything. As we wonder and worry about how each one of us can help we should remember that these are decisions we do not have to make alone. Jesus is at our side, helping us. He told his disciples that they had to walk in the light so that they did not stumble. This was not only practical help for the journey but advice for life in general. We also need to walk in God’s light, to stay close to him, so that we do not stumble or lose our way.
But, back to the reading: I pick up the story with Jesus arriving at Bethany. I am struck by the frustration, and I suspect anger, that Martha expresses when Jesus finally arrives at their house. “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. She knows for sure that Jesus’ presence would have changed everything. At no point did she think that Jesus was unable to change the outcome, she thought instead that he had chosen not to help them, or at least had neglected their urgent needs. But she was wrong, Jesus had not done that. Indeed that’s not what he ever does. He always works for good for those who love him. It is, I believe, that sometimes we find it hard to see the bigger picture and therefore to trust in his provision.
Elsewhere in John’s gospel Jesus told the people that whoever sees Him, sees the Father (John 12, v45). By looking at what Jesus did we see God at work; by listening to what Jesus said we listen to God. And in this account we see God weeping, something I find quite remarkable. We may feel that God is too far from us to know our grief and our sorrow, our troubles and worries. We might think he merely does not understand because he is God and we are human. But Jesus has experienced the emotions that we experience; he knows what grief and frustration and pain feel like. God knows exactly how we feel and he is always there for us. We cannot always see or feel his love and compassion because we are limited by our human perspective. However, that he loves us is beyond doubt and even when our prayers seem unanswered God is listening and responding. We need to just remember that it might not be as we wanted or in the time frame we think is appropriate.”
Mothering Sunday: 22nd March
Please see the sermon delivered by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury as we celebrate Mothering Sunday. See also the readings, prayers and collect for this day:
Digital Resources from the Church of England:
Please see the Church of England's Website for Prayers and Worship. See also ways to worship online below:
#LiveLent: Care for God's Creation - the Church of England's Lent campaign for 2020. With weekly themes shaped around the first Genesis account of creation, it explores the urgent need for humans to value and protect the abundance God has created. This daily audio content is available via the app and daily emails. Sign up for free.
The BBC's Daily Service and Sunday Worship - radio programmes will be using some of the themes from #LiveLent as part of their broadcasts.
Prayer for the day - each day the Church of England publishes audio and text of the Prayer for the Day.
Smart speakers – daily prayer and #LiveLent audio content can be accessed via our smart speaker apps.
Live streaming services - users can watch live streams of services from a range of churches and we will be improving AChurchNearYou.com in the days ahead to make this clearer.
More information, guidance and worship is available at: