The Church is like a garden

Dear Friends,

The Church is like a garden that has grown with seeds and weeds side by side — and both are valuable to God!

Last Friday we considered how the Earth is heaven’s Garden and God is the Gardener, preparing, sowing, pruning and so pleased with the goodness that grows. When the Gardener’s will is grown from the earth as in heaven the work will be done and God will take a rest!

Like most of us I have become accustomed to making judgements about what should grow in my garden and assumed the expectation that weeds are bad news that will choke the beauty of the good news to be planted in people’s hearts. Weeds however, have their purpose and, as the hymn suggests, “God is working His purpose out as year succeeds to year; God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near, nearer and nearer draws the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God….” God has a purpose for the weeds in the bigger plan and “will awaken the seed” because all that we do will have no worth unless God blesses the deed!

Having been one of those who has seen weeds as being ‘bad’ and preventing ‘good’ from growing in the garden it has been too easy to use the same measure about people in our churches who prevent us from growing as WE want. If we scatter the seeds in the right places they might take root and grow (reflect on Matthew 13: 1-8) or, if we are always awake to the challenges our ministry will confront we will be strengthened and become better for it. What we perceive as our ‘enemy’ can become that of a ‘friend.’ Not being the most knowledgable of gardeners I turned to ‘google’ for some answers and found that:

“Weeds are helpful plants for your organic garden because each beneficial weed thrives in a specific imbalanced soil condition and works to bring the soil back into balance. So if you’ve heard that healthy soil grows weeds just as well as the plants you’re trying to grow, it’s a myth. If the weeds are doing better than your lawn or garden plants, it’s because the soil isn’t optimally healthy and the weeds have set up shop to fix that. The long-term goal is to help fix the soil in order to speed up the process.”

In case that ‘google’ information was wrong I looked further and found that as a committed Eco Church we should be encouraging the weeds — and that’s not my excuse for neglecting the garden! “Some lawn and garden weeds bring nutrients and water up from deep in the soil and down from the air, and subsequently make them available to microbes and plants. Some weeds break up hardpans and compaction and control erosion. Another benefit of weeds is that they increase the organic matter content of the soil as they continually grow and die.”

People can be like weeds with a troublesome reputation, and we forget that dandelions can do a lot of good for the earth if utilized correctly: “…. their roots loosen the soil and impart a large number of nutrients to it in return, and like chickweed, it can attract ladybugs and other pollinators that are good for your garden in the spring and summer.” So, when we think we have awkward people in our churches, raising the challenging questions that seem to prevent our ministry from growing, they could be serving God’s purpose for the great vision of the Garden to come….when you see the weeds growing with the wheat be patient for they are among us for a reason and as we grow together we will produce a better harvest. (Matthew 13: 24-30)

So, if you are like someone who is being treated like an unwanted weed THANK YOU for growing among us because we need you as God works his purpose out!

If the jam makers, marmalade and pickle makers, among you need some jars for your products we have about 50 that have been behind the garden shed for over a year. Any takers among you marmalade makers before they are dispatched to a recycling centre?

St. James Church in Badsey will be hosting the world-famous travelling Knitted Bible Exhibition.The opening times will be from 11am to 4 pm except for Wednesday the 18 when it will be open until 7pm

Its usual home is in St George’s Church, Hartlepool, County Durham and we have booked and waited over two years for our chance to share it with everyone in the benefice and wider community. In the last twelve months, the Knitted Bible has visited Chester Cathedral, and various churches spanning the entire length of the country. There are 34 biblical scenes entirely knitted by hand that will appeal to adults and children alike. There are tiny animals, knitted trees, props and lots of well-known bible figures with a brief explanation of the story.

We want the exhibition to be free at point of entry for anyone wishing to visit. There will be an opportunity to purchase refreshments and knitted souvenirs, with proceeds to be divided between the charities Caring Hands in the Vale and Friends of the Holy Land.

Reverend Val Towler of St. George’s Church, Hartlepool said, “When we started knitting at the end of February 2008, we were only intending to create the scene of ‘The Last Supper’, but, enthusiasm and imagination combined to make us much more ambitious! Our hope is that in depicting some of the best-known stories in the Bible, everyone who sees them will be able to understand and enjoy them – and may discover some detail that they had forgotten or never noticed before – whilst learning more about God and his love for this world and its people.”

The Church Meeting will be held next Thursday (June 24th) at 7pm and as the lifting of Covid restrictions have been delayed it will be on Zoom again.

PANDEMIC PRAYERS:

God of the Ages,
to whom a day is as a thousand years,
be with us as we wait for infections to decrease,
for data to be analysed,
for decisions to be made,
and for life to return to something more normal.
But help us, O God,
to learn from these long months,
to value new ways of accessing worship,
new ways of ministry,
and new patterns of working,
that we may not return unquestioningly to the old
but listen to your voice speaking through the chaos.
Amen.

By the Revd Andy Braunston who works with four churches in and around south Glasgow

Healing Father, giver of wholeness, 
as we move once again out of a life of restriction and into the glory of your world,
we give thanks for places and people of healing, 
for individuals in communities, churches, hospitals, and care homes.

We pray for your healing to be present
in the lives of all who hurt and grieve and in the midst of a broken world.
As we move towards being able to worship you again in our communities,
Let us not forget those churches that remain closed and the congregations
that may never worship together again.

We ask that we too will receive the touch of your presence in our lives
so that we can pass it to others who have not yet seen your glory and majesty.
Help us to open ourselves to You as our lives gradually open up, 
and give us hope enough to trust in Your resurrection promises.

When I survey the wondrous cross, 
on which the Prince of glory died, 
My richest gain I count but loss, 
and pour contempt on all my pride.
God be merciful to me, a sinner. Amen

By Ann Barton, local leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod

When Wychavon District Council introduced Sunday morning parking charges in Broadway (principally to tap the tourist trade), they were persuaded to allow those of us who regularly attend morning worship to park for free.  At present we can park until 12.30 pm without payment, provided that we are displaying a pass.  If we are to have a Sunday Church Meeting after the service, we are permitted to buy a ticket before we go to church which will run from 12.30.  (So, for example, although the expiry time on my one-hour ticket may read 11:00, it will in fact take me through to 1.30 pm.)

Since parking charges resumed a few weeks ago (having been waived during lockdown), Wychavon are currently granting 2 hours’ parking on the 1-hour ticket (£1). If you need an application form for a parking pass please speak to Marilyn or Marion.

God Bless, Richard