Yes, you do.

Dear Friends,

I must admit there have been many times when I have been guilty of thinking, “oh no, I don’t have to work with them, do I Lord?” The answer has been, “yes, you do,” and the experience has been one of valuable learning. That doesn’t mean the experience was enjoyable, but the learning was necessary for my ministry to grow.

A friend reminded me on Tuesday that it was the 25th anniversary of my ordination and although there have been many wonderful experiences since June 29th 1996 it is the difficult ones that have taught me most. The gospel reading this weekend (Mark 6: 1-13) encouraged me to reflect on how God brings us together so that we can overcome our differences to achieve a shared vision.

When we come together with our differences the demons will run away from us and the sick will be healed. That’s why Jesus encourages us to work together!

Jesus called his disciples to him and then sent them out two by two and our differences are more pronounced today than they were then so I want to explore who we might be sent out with in our Zoom service tonight. On Sunday we also welcome our Methodist friends to our building to share in a goodbye service for their minister, Revd. Israel Selvanayagam, who is moving to Leicester. Israel knows more than most of us the importance of overcoming our differences to work together from his experiences of the Church in South India. He has written a book, ’The Greatest Act of Faith: The first organic Union of the Church of South India,’ that “expounds the forgotten meaning of faith as the ability to move forward, to dare the impossible and to transform situations for good.”

I was shocked when reminded that the Church of South India was inaugurated in 1947 — the year of my birth — as the first organic union of Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and members of the Basel Mission Church. There has been a lot of talk in this country about ecumenical working together, but the differences have been too great for us to overcome and until they are the Kingdom of God will remain near, but not here! The United Reformed Church is still waiting for others to follow its example from 1972!

I have become more convinced over my 25 years of ordained ministry that God wants us to go into our community together with our differences, but with one common mission: To SHOW that the Kingdom of God is near. Jesus sends us two by two, different denominations side by side; different people united in the one mission, but we allow our differences to keep us apart rather than being united by what we have in common. When we repent we can go out and preach the good news of the Kingdom of God, but we can’t preach it with integrity until we repent of dividing the kingdom!

We are different in so many ways….. but there is so much more that should unite us! Time for us to go two by two into our community or even as a Broadway partnership of FOUR!

We will have two more Friday evening Zoom meetings and then we will stop and review the future plans. Next week Delroy Brown will be a guest speaker and the above link will be the same each week.

If you would like to attend the Manse Garden Party on Saturday July 10th please let Margaret Harrington know by Wednesday. You will be welcome to come even if you don’t tell Margaret, but there might not be enough strawberries for everyone. Better to say you are coming and then not come because then there will be more for me!! (No, don’t do that because it could be expensive!)

Don’t miss Sunday night’s Communion service (6-30 pm) with YourChurch because we’re in for a treat with German pastor Revd Nomi Banerji-Gévaudan reflecting on Bonhoeffer’s legacy – particularly the way in which his activism as a follower of Jesus has been misappropriated by the contemporary German Far Right.

Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor who resisted his government when he recognized, very early and very clearly, the dangers of Hitler’s regime. His first warning about the dangers of a leader who makes an idol of himself came in a radio address delivered in February 1933, just two days after Hitler took office.

Despite an abiding Christ-centered peace ethic, a desire to study nonviolent political resistance with Gandhi, and extensive writing about loving one’s enemies, Bonhoeffer eventually became a member of a conspiracy that was responsible for a coup attempt against Hitler. Twelve years after he became one of the first voices in Germany to offer public opposition to the Nazis, Bonhoeffer was executed by them, as a traitor.

Although I don’t usually sing I do, like most of you, miss singing in Church, but I do understand why we can’t. Or, at least, I think I understand with my limited knowledge of a very complex Covid science. However, I also understand the reason for a campaign to overturn the ban on singing in churches across the country being launched by Premier Christian Communications. Organisers of Sign to Sing, are calling on the Government to overturn the frustrating rule which forbids praise in the form of vocal musical expression through song. Under the current Covid-19 restrictions, members of congregations are not allowed to sing hymns or songs of worship inside church buildings in England. Music can only be played on a PA system or performed by socially distanced choirs and musicians.

Churches across the country have complied with all of the restrictions imposed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and taken all necessary precautions as they have tentatively reopened their doors to worshipers again. However, as lockdown has eased and we have seen singing being permitted for football fans at Wembley or even in small pubs across the country, the ban remains in place for church goers. Peter Kerridge, CEO of Premier Christian Communications said: “It’s ironic that hymns we listen to at church often exhort us to sing our praises to God, but we can only sit in silence because of the latest government guidelines. It’s frustrating because singing in communion with others is a form of prayer and a much valued part of the church service.

“We were right to be cautious about singing in front of others because we couldn’t be fully sure of the risks. But now we know more about the science and we know that singing poses no more risk than talking, especially when you consider that when we sing we do so mainly in the same direction, but when we talk we are often facing each other.

“The Government is preparing to lift most of the remaining restrictions on July 19th. This is due in large part to the NHS’s hugely successful vaccination programme. For many social and cultural activities, like big sport events and festivals, we will see some level of normality return. However, we can’t be sure yet that congregational singing will be allowed. So, while it could be fine for football fans to return to their terrace chants at Wembley – or even in small pubs around the country, we could still be banned from singing our favourite hymns in our own congregations. That can’t be right, can it? We are calling for regulations to treat Christian church-goers fairly and equally and for singing to be brought back into churches across the whole of the UK on 19th July at the very latest. 

The Evangelical Alliance has described the ban on singing in church as “nonsensical”. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev Nick Baines described the measures as “inconsistent” while speaking in the House of Lords while the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Dame Sarah Mullaly has said she would continue to press for an “ongoing appraisal of choral and congregational signing”.

PCC is now asking for as many people as possible to respond to the Sign to Sign petition.

To sign the petition visit: premier.org.uk/sing

‘We Seek Your Kingdom’ Official single release

Last Friday saw the official release of ‘We Seek Your Kingdom’, this year’s anthem for Thy Kingdom Come, in partnership with LICC.

The beautiful civic hymn, with fresh lyrics, set to the tune of Abide with Me, features worship leaders Noel Robinson, Andy Flannagan, Donna Akodu and Lou Fellingham. Download the track here.

If anyone has some packing boxes and you don’t anticipate moving house in the near future please send them in our direction!!

Sunday’s service from the URC Daily Devotions team will be led by Peter Pay who is a member of Salisbury URC, and one of the outgoing Moderators of General Assembly, taking place next weekend (9th-12th July). Hymns include Lord of all hopefulness, Alan Dale’s God’s Spirit is in my heart, and Martin Rinkart’s Now we all thank our God.

The United Reformed Church (URC) has launched a new fortnightly podcast, that explores the denomination’s focus on Christian discipleship, mission and what it means to be Walking the Way of Jesus today.The podcast will explore what it means to be a disciple across all aspects of our lives, as we respond to the concerns, issues and topics that we encounter. New episodes will be published fortnightly on a Wednesday.

Simon Peters, Walking the Way Project Manager, said: “As followers of Jesus, we need to help each other figure out what it means to truly see and serve God through everything around us. This podcast will share different voices and perspectives on what this means as we explore the big questions and issues life throws at us.”

In the first series, topics to be discussed include climate justice, Christians at work, coronavirus a year on, Walking the Way, money, and racism. Francis Brienen, URC Deputy General Secretary (Mission), added: “This podcast series takes a fresh look at everyday discipleship and connects it with the issues of today. It is accessible, engaging and it will make you think….and act! Don’t miss it.”

The podcast is available on Anchor, Spotify and all major podcast platforms. Search for ‘The United Reformed Church Podcast’ on your preferred platform, or listen here.

A PANDEMIC PRAYER

God of all times,
you teach us that there is a time for everything;
we have had our fill of the unsettled time,
we are so acquainted with death and grief that we might forget it’s sting,
the time of unjust sharing of the vaccine and all resources, hurts us.
We lament the struggles of the global pandemic 
and trust that you continue to guide us through the questions it has raised.
Remind us that this is only one time 
and that times of joy and laughing are present with us also.
Amen

By the Revd Martin Knight, Minister of St Paul’s URC and South Croydon United Church

Please pray for Pat Wallace’s sister Sue     Tom and Janet    John and Jean     Vicki       Kathy Hancock         Susan Nuttall         Pam and Alex       June and John

Pray for the final preparations for the United Reformed Church General Assembly that starts at the end of next week.

Pray for the Elders meeting on Monday and the discussions about the future.

God Bless, Richard