Yesterday (2nd February) was the Feast of Candlemas, or the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. I have put together a service online, in collaboration with Susan, for ourselves and the Fellside Team. You may find this on the Grimsargh St Michael YouTube channel, or directly via the following link:
You might wish to view the service now, or as part of your own prayer time this coming Sunday. It takes the form of a meditation on Christ's life from two perspectives in parallel - Mary recalling her Son's birth and a disciple recalling Christ's death on the cross. Interspersed there are three hymns (Christ be our light, When I survey the wondrous cross and Lead kindly light) and a couple of brief moments for quiet reflection with music. The text was compiled by a friend of mine, Rev. Sue Martin, a retired priest in Portsmouth Diocese, with whose kind permission we used the meditation.
Suspension of worship:
It was with great sadness that the decision was taken to temporarily suspend public worship at St Michael's. The key word here is 'temporarily,' and the decision remains under review. I am keeping a close eye on infection rates locally as this is a key indicator of how the situation is progressing. Headline figures for the nation hide a wide range of local variation, but the Government coronavirus 'dashboard' offers more localised information. The most recent statistics for our area (Grimsargh & Goosnargh) remain well above the national average, so we can only hope that the ongoing vaccination programme and our collective efforts to stay safe will soon see infection rates reducing. All decisions about suspending or restarting worship are taken collectively, with the churchwardens and PCC, taking into account official guidance from the CofE and Public Health.
You can view the coronavirus data map here:
Church remains open for private prayer on Sundays 10-11am and Thursdays 11-12noon.
The February magazine is once again online only - please go to our website to view. Click on 'Read the Magazine' about 2/3 of the way down the left hand menu.
It could be your lucky day! Peter Croft and I both have spare computer ink, following renewal of printers. If you can make use of any of the following, please let me know. Donation to church funds welcome in return:
4 black HP 304 and 1 colour HP 304
2 each of Canon 540xl (black) & 541xl (colour)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone one who is able to contribute financially to the ongoing work of St Michael's, Grimsargh. New weekly envelopes have been going out during the last month, and several people have opted to start paying by standing order, which is of great benefit to the church in helping to ensure a smoother flow of incoming funds. Those who value the life of the Church will always want to ensure that the building is maintained and the ministry of the Church available to those who need it. Your contributions are not just about keeping the show on the road, but ensuring St Michael's is able to continue serving the community of Grimsargh well into the future. We have managed to keep going for 305 years, and as far as I can see there is a lot of life left in the parish yet! However you pay and however much you can contribute, my thanks go to you.
On the subject of finance, please remember we will soon require a new treasurer. Please give this some thought and if there are any volunteers, or if you know of someone who could help, please contact me.
Please do have a look at the magazine online to see the latest update from St Michael's School and a personal introduction from Mr Booth,our new headteacher. We are all aware that this is a difficult period for the whole education sector. All the staff at St Michael's are working incredibly hard to maintain lessons for the children who attend as well as those learning remotely at home. Please continue to pray for our parish school, and do remember Mr Booth in your prayers, taking on his new role at such a difficult and challenging time.
Let us also remember in our prayers the many families in our parish who will be struggling with homeschooling on top of work and other commitments, as well as the children missing out on so much of the normal contact with friends that makes childhood such a special time for most people.
We are all aware of the pressures being placed upon the NHS, which means pressure on the staff who work in the organisation (not forgetting also those working in care homes and carers in the community). A number of our congregation work in health and social care and I know that it has not been an easy time for them. They all deserve our sincere gratitude and our ongoing prayers.
This moment in the Church year is truly pivotal. We move from our celebration of Christmas and Epiphany and turn our attention to the suffering and death of Christ on the cross. The day focuses on the presentation of Christ in the Temple - a perfectly normal event in the days of Jesus, where a male infant at 40 days old was 'presented to the Lord'. The law designated every firstborn male as “holy to the Lord”. Most Jewish parents would visit the Temple to make an offering to 'redeem' the first-born son and to complete the mother's ritual of purification. A perfectly ordinary occasion. For the proud parents Mary and Joseph, however, it became a most extraordinary day. Simeon and Anna, both of whom were apparently well known as deeply prayerful prophets in the Temple precincts, spoke words that would have astonished any parent. All this is found in the reading from Luke 2.22-40, presented in dramatised form in the service posted online. The main emphasis of the message is that this child would have a special calling in God's service, but it was one which would bring suffering too, in particular to Mary (as reflected in the words of Simeon - "a sword will pierce your own soul too.")
Thus the joy of Christmas fades as we focus on the road to the cross. Yet we also hold on to the words of Anna in Luke 2.38: "At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem." The suffering that Christ will go through is redemptive. It offers hope that sinful or damaged lives can be restored, that our relationship with God can be made whole again, that we have the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We look to Christ's suffering as a way to resurrection.
Services in church at Candlemas often feature a lot of light and in some traditions candlelit processions feature prominently. It is not just a last, longing look back to the joy of Christmas, but a looking forward to the light of the resurrection. In the context of the pandemic, this is something we might hold on to. The suffering of this present time will come to an end. There will be a restoration of aspects of our life together that are currently lost. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. That light is the eternal light of Christ, the living Word of God.
With my prayers for you all.
Please stay safe.