Issue No 41
From our Minister
I’ve been struck recently by how many of the stories of Jesus revolve around hospitality, both giving it and receiving. Both Jesus’ parables and the stories that involve healing and forgiveness often seem to include a meal and nowhere is this more evident than in Luke’s Gospel. Perhaps that is why the fact has come to my attention, as we are following Luke in the lectionary this year.
For Jesus hospitality is something that includes, welcomes and unites; bringing in the outcast. Jesus is often criticised for eating with tax collectors and sinners and perhaps the most famous of these incidents is Zacchaeus. Jesus chooses to eat at Zacchaeus’ house and as Zacchaeus offers hospitality he is changed. He makes a commitment to pay back anyone he has cheated and to live an honest life in future. It is as if entertaining Jesus opens his heart.
Jesus also uses offers of hospitality and dinner parties to challenge peoples’ accepted views of the way of the world and to introduce kingdom values. Many of his parables are to do with wedding feasts or banquets and they often feature a complete reversal of the status quo. The parable of the great banquet sees the vulnerable and outcast taking their seat at the table and in another parable Jesus reminds those who think that they are important to act with humility. Kingdom parables remind us that God’s kingdom is glorious and generous, but that God is no respecter of status or worldly power and wealth.
Finally, Jesus uses table fellowship as an opportunity to teach us about growing in faith. Martha and Mary are reminded that listening to God is essential before action, the woman who anoints Jesus teaches the Pharisees that God welcomes extravagant acts of love and Jesus uses the Last Supper to teach his friends about his sacrifice on the cross; a meal we still share today in commemoration. Eating together opens hearts and minds and allows Jesus to feed others both spiritually and physically.
All of these stories about food and meals have led me to reflect on the kind of hospitality that we as churches offer today. Do we offer hospitality as a form of healing which is open to all? Do we stand on ceremony at the expense of making people feel at home and do we share the bread of life in a way that enables everyone to eat and be satisfied? Our hospitality is offered not just through church functions, but at worship as we are fed spiritually and through our bible studies and home groups where faith is shared and we are nourished in our Christian journey. Let us pray that in all of our activities we may offer as well as receive a balanced diet, with enough for all and some to spare!
Mission and Ministry
Vice President on Tour
The Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire District were delighted to welcome the Vice-President, Mike King, and his wife, Isabel, for a weekend focusing on mission and ministry in small chapels.
A day conference was held in Harlington, Bedfordshire to discuss the mission and ministry opportunities of small chapels. After a keynote address from the Vice-President, we heard stories from some of the smaller churches in the District. These covered subjects such as reviving morning worship, introducing messy church, engaging with families, engaging with local schools, working with elderly people and discipleship and mission through small groups.
More than 50 people attended the event from small churches within the three counties of the District, both in urban and rural contexts. This enabled us all to recognise that not all small churches are in villages. The Vice-President’s experience of being a rural church and community co-ordinator in the Banbury circuit was extremely useful and everyone left with at least one new idea to try out in their local context.
On the Sunday we travelled to north-east Essex, to the village of Boxted, to lead a united service for four small chapels who had come together for this special occasion. The Vice-President’s presence was a huge encouragement for the congregation which began to see that small churches do have a place in Methodism. A united service was held in Great Bentley in the Tendring circuit in the afternoon, giving people from all over the Tendring peninsula the chance to hear the Vice-President preach and meet with him and Isabel.The weekend was a real encouragement to many of the small chapels in the District – more than 60 per cent of the churches in Bedford shire, Essex and Hertfordshire have less than 50 members – and was also a way of valuing their ministry and offering them ideas for future mission initiatives.
Michael and Isabel were warmly received and their presence greatly appreciated as they gave most generously of their time during their visit.
Published in the Methodist Recorder on Friday, April 19 2013 and reproduced with thanks
Spotted in Church Notices
Don’t let worry kill you – let the church help.
Thursday night – Potluck supper. Prayer and medication to follow.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "hell" to someone who doesn’t care much about you.
The rosebud on the alter this morning is to announce the birth of David Alan Belzer, the sin of Rev. and Mrs. Julius Belzer.
This afternoon there will be a meeting in the South and North ends of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.
Tuesday at 4:00 pm there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early.
Thursday at 5:00 pm there will be a meeting of the Little Mothers Club. All ladies wishing to be "Little Mothers" will meet with the Pastor in his study.
This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.
The service will close with "Little Drops of Water." One of the ladies will start quietly and the rest of the congregation will join in.
Obviously not our notices
The Hymn Writers
We continue our series of hymn writers by looking at Cecil Frances Alexander. She was born in Red-cross, County Wicklow, Ireland in early April 1818 and was the third child of Major John Humphreys and Elizabeth (nee Reed). She began writing poetry as a child and was strongly influenced by Dr Walter Hook, Dean of Chichester. Her subsequent religious work was influenced by her contacts with the Oxford Movement and in particular with John Keble. By the 1840s she was already known as a hymn writer and her compositions were soon included in Church of Ireland hymnbooks. She wrote many narrative poems and Tennyson, the poet, said he would have been proud to have written her poem "The Burial of Moses".
Her book, Hymns for Little Children reached its 69th edition before the close of the nineteenth century. She wrote some 400 hymns of which the best known are probably: – "All Things Bright and Beautiful”, "There is a Green Hill Far Away" and “Once in Royal David’s City”. These hymns are known by Christians the world over, as is her translation of “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate”. She issued Verses for Holy Seasons in 1846, The Lord of the Forest and His Vassals in 1847 and Hymns for Little Children in 1848.
She married the Anglican clergyman William Alexander (later to become Bishop of Derry and then Archbishop of Armagh) in October 1850. Her husband also wrote several books of poetry, of which the best known is St. Augustine’s Holiday and other Poems. She was six years older than the clergyman, causing great family concern.
Alexander was involved in charitable work for much of her life. Money from her first publications had helped build the Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, which was founded in 1846 in Strabane. The profits from Hymns for Little Children were also donated to this school. She was involved with the Derry Home for Fallen Women, and worked to develop a district nurses service. She was an untiring visitor to poor and sick.
Seven hymns penned by Alexander were included in the 1873 issue of the Church of Ireland Hymnal, and eighteen of her works were contained in A Supplement to Hymns Ancient and Modern (1889). They continue to be well-accepted, as nine of her works were contained in both the 1960 and the 1987 editions of the Church of Ireland Hymnal. Cecil died in Londonderry on 12 October 1895 and is buried in the city cemetery. A posthumous collection of her poems was published in 1896 by William Alexander, titled Poems of the late Mrs Alexander.