In the Psalm set for today, the Psalmist cries out to the Lord: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings”. We repeat these beautiful, evocative, comforting words each week in our Compline service on a Monday evening. I am beginning to perceive, as I’m sure you are, a growing sense of anger and frustration amongst the population as the pandemic continues unabated and the initial shock of it all turns to resentment and conflict. We will have to dig deep in coming months to prevent these feelings from overwhelming us and to maintain the difficult discipline of love. I pray that the words of the Psalmist, and the images they convey of the depth and permanence of God’s loving kindness towards each one of us, will help bring you peace this coming week. Stick them up on your fridge and whisper them in the darkest moments.
Services and other events
Here are details of the services and other events coming up at St Margaret’s and St Luke’s over the next few days:
* Saturday, 19 September from 10.30am to 11.30am - personal prayer followed by a simple service of Holy Communion at St Luke’s church.
* Sunday, 20 September at 8am - Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service at St Margaret’s church.
* Sunday, 20 September at 10am - online all-age Holy Communion service live via Zoom and also by telephone link.
* Monday, 21 September from 2.30pm to 3.30pm - personal prayer followed by contemplative worship at St Margaret’s church.
* Monday, 21 September at 7pm - a short service of Compline (reflective night prayer) streamed live via Zoom, including a time when we reflect on a short Gospel passage together.
* Wednesday, 23 September at 8am - live online morning prayer via Zoom focusing on the Holy Spirit.
* Wednesday, 23 September at 10am - online midweek Holy Communion service streamed live via Zoom.
* Thursday, 24 September at 7pm - the first session of our new Bible Study Course (via Zoom) looking at St Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
* Friday, 25 September from 9.00am to 10.00am - morning prayer in St Margaret’s church followed by time for personal prayer.
The Zoom links and meeting IDs for all the Zoom events are on our pages on A Church Near You (ACNY): https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/8641/ (St Margaret’s) or https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/8688/ (St Luke’s) - see “Zoom links for on-line services” in the tabs on the left hand side of the opening page. If you are having trouble accessing these links, try going onto the Zoom website via your internet browser, click on “Join a meeting” at the top of the page and enter the relevant meeting ID shown on A Church Near You.
Please note there will be no Thursday "Coffee and Chat” this week as Tony is on a well-deserved holiday.
For the services in church, you will find details on ACNY of the various Covid-19 guidelines that we are required to follow - see https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/8688/page/60659/view/ or https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/8641/page/60609/view/. These are the guidelines that I set out in last week’s and the previous week’s newsletters. Do take a look at them again if you are planning on attending any of the services, and feel free of course to ask me if you have any questions ([email protected]).
News and notices
The St Luke's Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) will take place online via Zoom this year on Tuesday, 6 October at 6.30pm. And the St Margaret’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) will take place, also online via Zoom, on Wednesday, 7 October at 7pm. The attached announcements give further details of the meetings. All are very welcome to attend. My thanks to Ken Greedy and Gill Yates for organising these meetings and putting together all the documentation so efficiently. The agenda and other reports will be posted shortly on our pages on A Church Near You.
You will be sad to learn of the death of a wonderful lady in our local community, Margaret Rossall. Margaret was in her 90s when she died. She had lived here her entire life together with her twin sister Mary (who passed away just last year). The stories of these two strong, humble women have been an inspiration to me. As teenagers, they entered the Lancashire mills, but then went on to become educated women - at a time when few women pursued education very far, let alone women like Margaret and Mary from very working class backgrounds. Both twins later became involved in cutting-edge politics and social work, managing to change cultural norms in bold but steady, grassroots ways. Margaret told me how they used to sew pairs of trousers for themselves at a time when it was impossible to buy trousers for women in the shops! It's amazing sometimes when you hear the stories of people living just down the street from you, people you pass by every day in the shops without knowing all their wonderful achievements.
In that context, I have been thinking recently about the unsung heroes of our community. Who are the true servants of Topsham and Countess Wear who beaver away quietly to sustain and support us, especially during this crisis? So often in the Gospels, after Jesus has healed someone, he tells the person to arise and go back to their community - to rejoin the flock, to become part once again of something bigger. How can we acknowledge and honour those who have served us, often in hidden, unexpected ways? Those who have made our lives just that little bit easier. There are some obvious examples, such as the people who run Love Topsham or the Estuary League of Friends, but there are also many less obvious examples. Why not take a moment this week to think of someone who has made a difference to your life in recent months and drop them a card to say thank-you? Over our harvest festival this year, we will be reflecting on and giving thanks for the nourishment we receive not just from God’s beautiful creation but also from the people all around us. Perhaps we might think of making a gift to charity or doing something special in honour of someone who has inspired us with their kindness and dedication?
In a few weeks’ time, we will be circulating a questionnaire to you all to ask about your experience of worship over recent months during the pandemic - what’s worked for you and what perhaps hasn’t worked so well. The information you provide will help us to plan sustainably for the future and to direct our resources appropriately. You might like to start giving this some thought in advance of receiving the questionnaire. And please also commit this to prayer and ask God to guide us as a Mission Community as we, like all churches and other organisations across the land, try to plan for a future in flux.
Looking further afield, there are lots of events, courses and information sessions taking place this autumn across the diocese and the Exeter area that you may be interested in. Here are just one or two examples taken from Christians Together Across Exeter:
* From now till 24 September: The Leaves of the Trees: Art Installation by Peter Walker at Exeter Cathedral. Reflective Coronavirus Memorial Comes to Exeter Cathedral. More info: https://www.exeter-cathedral.org.uk/news-events/whats-on/the-leaves-of-the-trees-art-installation-by-peter-walker/
* 27 September (and last Sunday of each month after that): Exeter Prays. 8-8.40pm. Praying for our city, land, and the nations. Online at www.southwestawake.com/ Also aiming to host a live watchparty on https://www.facebook.com/CTAXChristiansTogether
* 1 October: Called by Name 7.30pm-9pm on Zoom. Could God be calling you into a new role on your Christian journey? Perhaps you feel a mixture of nerves and excitement at this question! If you have sensed a nudge from God to church leadership, or people around you have suggested it, do come along. This vocations enquiry event will be a great chance to consider what it means to follow God’s call and to hear from people involved in different shapes and sizes of ministry. Attending does not commit you to anything, but could be the next step you need to explore further! To book a place and receive the zoom invite please email m&[email protected]
* 5 October (and every Monday until 16 November): Relationship Course Online 7.30pm On Zoom (contact [email protected] or 01392 258029 for the link). A series of seven sessions, designed to help couples invest in and build a strong and lasting relationship. Topics include strengthening connection, the power of forgiveness, good sex, and love in action.
* 8 Oct, 12 Nov: Families for Children online information session 4-5.30pm Are you considering adoption but not sure where to start? Families for Children is holding ONLINE information sessions for you to find out more. You will hear from adopters / how you can adopt / the qualities needed / and of course about the children waiting. Go to https://familiesforchildren.org.uk/book-online-information-event/ or call 01364 645480 to book. Thursdays 4-5.30pm on 10th Sept / 8th Oct / 12th Nov.
And finally, just a reminder that I am now using a new email address for all church-related matters ([email protected]). I will be checking this email account and responding to emails on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Friday is my day off, so I won't be checking the account that day. Over the weekends, I will be checking it to deal with emails relating to the services taking place that weekend or anything really urgent.
Lectionary readings for this week
Here are the Gospel readings set by the lectionary for the coming week:
Saturday 19th - Luke 8, vs. 4-15
Sunday 20th - Matthew 20, vs. 1-16
Monday 21st - Matthew 9, vs. 9-13
Tuesday 22nd - Luke 8, vs.19-21
Wednesday 23rd - Luke 9, vs. 1-6
Thursday 24th - Luke 9, vs. 7-9
Friday, 25th - Luke 9, vs. 18-22.
Looking ahead a bit
* A reminder that our online Bible Study Course looking at St Paul’s Letter to the Romans begins this coming Thursday at 7pm. If you haven’t already done so, it is not too late to email Peter ([email protected]) to sign up for the course. There will be an introduction to the whole book of Romans, followed by a treasure hunt for some of those special verses that have been helpful in times of difficulty and doubt. Feel free to give it a try, even if you just come for the first session for a simple overview of the main theme. To whet your appetite, here are some inspiring quotes: Romans 3.23, 8.26-28, 8.38-39 and 12.1-2.
* Our monthly Choral Evening will take place online (via Zoom) on Sunday, 27 September at 6.30pm.
* Our Harvest Festival is now scheduled for Sunday, 11 October. This promises to be a very special occasion, a chance in these unpredictable times to give thanks for all God’s bounty and to remind ourselves that all things come from God. Save the date, and I'll hope to be able to give you more details next week. That particular Sunday is also CAP (Christians Against Poverty) Sunday when the church will be exploring a vision of what it can do to bring hope and support to those trapped in debt or poverty. More information is available on the CAP website: https://capuk.org/get-involved/your-church/cap-sunday
And finally, on a lighter note, do take a look at these photos when you have a few minutes to spare - they will cheer you up, I promise!