Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Prayer for Wednesday 30 April

Today from our church family we pray for Jo Haddock

Merciful Father, we pray for the safety of the citizens of the Ukraine. We pray that Russia and the West will maintain dialogue to support the government of this country and not destabilise what is already a fragile situation. If the country ends up being divided we pray that it will be done peacefully and that the wishes of all its citizens are respected. Help us to learn from past conflicts so that we do not repeat actions that cause violence and loss of life.

Lord, help us to strive for peace, justice and tolerance throughout our world.  Guide us all to work together to end enmity between races, sects and creeds. 
“Grant, O God, unto all your people
Freedom from hatred and suspicion;
A desire to live together in peace;
A respect for the views of one another; 
A true regard for your holy Word;
And may your peace be with us all.”
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Prayer for Tuesday 29 April

Today from our church family we pray for Elisabeth Gutermuth

Dearest Father, we bring before you the residents and staff in our local care home at Daisy Bank Annexe. May the residents receiving respite care there, feel comfortable and secure, valued as individuals and also retain links with the wider community. We pray for the staff, and ask you Lord to make them always kind and sympathetic of the needs of those in their care. We pray for all those with learning difficulties and those whose emotional and psychological special needs leave them vulnerable. May those who are receiving “care in the community” be properly supported and not left to cope alone. We pray for the Walsall Older Persons group which meets at St Martins, both for those who attend and those who organise meals, trips and activities for them. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Monday, 28 April 2014

War tears lives apart, love can help piece them back together

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer … in whom I take refuge.’ (2 Samuel 22-23)

For a growing number of people across the world, the horror of war is a part of daily life.  Right now, fuelled by the devastating violence in both Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the numbers of people driven from their homes by war is on the rise.  It stands at 42 million people – an appalling statistic and a stain on the conscience of humanity.  We can’t turn our backs.  We must act now. 

The good news is that our church can make a real difference.  Last year, a magnificent 20,000 churches across the country helped raise over £12 million during Christian Aid Week.  This Christian AidWeek (11th- 17th May) we want to go even further.  We want every church in Britain and Ireland to get involved – whether by giving, acting or praying.  Together we can send people living in fear this message: You are not alone.  We’re with you, helping to rebuild your lives, and working for peace.

Imagine what such an expression of love would mean to people searching for the strength to cope with the devastation of war, and how it could help to drive out their fear.  Demonstrate God’s love for those living in poverty and show how much good the church is doing in the world this Christian Aid Week.  Together we can reach the 42 million people caught up in conflict and help them live a life free from fear. Volunteer to take out some Christian Aid envelopes.  Tell your families and friends about Christian Aid Week.
Could you provide the gift of hope?
£15 could provide blankets for refugee children to protect them from bitter night-time temperatures.
£40 could provide enough good quality and nutritious food for two refugee children for a month.
£150 could help provide specialist emotional support for a child deeply traumatised by the horror of war that they’ve witnessed or experienced.
Anything you give will help a suffering person.                                               
(Adapted from Christian Aid article)

Be an instrument of God’s peace.  Give, act and pray this Christian Aid Week.
                                                                                                                                                                    God bless, Jackie

Prayer for Monday 28 April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for Carole Gregory

We continue to pray for an end to the civil war in Syria, now in its third year and with no end in sight. We pray that fundamentalists and extremists will not be able to use this conflict to further their goals. We pray for the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other aid agencies, whose volunteers, despite the dangers, have been responding on the ground throughout the conflict to give aid to millions in desperate need, both within Syria and the surrounding countries We pray for the safety of these volunteers and for sufficient support to continue this work. We pray for an end to violence and atrocities by both sides in the conflict and some means to achieve peace and reconciliation. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Prayer for Sunday 27th April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for David Gregory

Collect for 2nd Sunday of Easter:
“Almighty Father, you have given your only Son to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and
wickedness that we may always serve you in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

As we come together to worship at St Martin’s today, we pray for those elected at our Annual Church Meeting at the beginning of the month. Lord, we ask for your blessing, guidance and support for our wardens, their deputies, the members of the PCC and Deanery Synod Representatives, and especially for those new to these posts. We give thanks for those prepared to serve St Martin’s in these roles. We also pray for our Ministry Team and for guidance for the calling out process to appoint new members later this year. Finally we pray for Simon and Phill our ministers, for Penny our reader and for Margaret as she comes towards the end of her training for reader. Inspire them Lord, as they move forward on their personal spiritual journeys and their mission at St Martins.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Saturday 26th April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for Ray Genway

Our prayers for our town of Walsall focus today on Civic Authorities. We give thanks for those prepared to give up their time to serve us as councillors and pray for them and also for the civil servants involved with the administration of our town, that they may all use their offices wisely for the benefit of all citizens. Guide and support them in their decisions, give them strength for all their tasks, and a true vision as they plan for the future. May what they say or do be for the good of all and may they be ever mindful of the need to make good and constructive use of the resources available. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Friday 25th April

Today from our church family we pray for Yvonne Garbett

Collect for St Mark
“Almighty God, who enlightened your holy Church through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark: grant that we, being firmly grounded in the truth of the gospel, may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever." Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Thursday 24th April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for John Garbett

Heavenly Father we pray for your church, for its leaders and for unity and dialogue between all branches of Christianity. We pray that the Christian message of humility and support for the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged will be echoed in our churches and influence those in positions of power in our secular world. May we take inspiration from the words of our Archbishop to work to transform our world. Lord, help us to welcome new challenges and new beginnings.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,
where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union: where there is doubt, ,faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy; for thy mercy’s sake.” (St Francis of Assisi)
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Wednesday 23rd April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for David Fussell

Collect for St George’s Day
“God of hosts, who so kindled the flame of love in the heart of your servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death: give us the same faith and power of love that we who rejoice in his triumphs may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

Loving Father, on this St George’s day we pray not just for England but for all of the United Kingdom. For those who govern us and the members of our judiciary who interpret our laws. Give wisdom to those who make decisions on our behalf so that all their implications are understood. We pray for Elizabeth our Queen and give thanks for the devoted service she has given to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

We pray for those in our armed forces, who we send to fight and serve peacekeeping roles on our behalf, that we will support them adequately both during conflict and later if they suffer physical or psychological harm.

We pray that we will not take for granted the human rights we enjoy: freedom of speech and belief, the right to a democratic vote, free medical care and education and give thanks for the lives of those whose endeavours in the past gave us these freedoms. However we pray that we will not be complacent but remain aware and strive to improve anything that is failing society.  We pray for all the people and businesses in our country with financial problems. For the elderly, sick and disabled, the homeless and for all those who feel forgotten and neglected. Help us to find ways to combat low aspirations and dysfunction in parts of our society. Make us ever mindful that we have a responsibility as citizens not just of this country but of the world. Help our leaders to maintain dialogues with other nations, to strive for peace and  understanding and to support those fighting against tyranny. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Tuesday 22nd April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for Janice Fussell

Loving Lord, we pray for all those who have responsibility for the care of elderly and frail relatives. For those who have a role as carers and for those who support loved ones in their homes, and in care and nursing homes. Guide them in the decisions they make, support them through the difficult times and help them find sufficient respite to maintain their own health and strength. May they still be able to share and value precious times and memories.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Monday 21st April

Today from our church family we pray for Ann Firkins

Compassionate Father, we pray for comfort and strength for those who mourn the loss of loved ones. We think of those whose friends and relatives were on Malaysian flight MH370, now believed to be lost in the southern Indian Ocean, and pray that eventually  a reason for this inexplicable loss of life will be found. Also for those whose loved ones have died in the horrendous mud slide at Oso in NW Washington state.  Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

Prayer for Easter Sunday 20th April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for Maurice Emerson.

Collect for Easter Day:
Lord of all life and power, who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death to make all things new in him: grant that we, being dead to sin and alive to you in Jesus Christ, may reign with you in glory; to whom with you and the Holy Spirit be praise and honour, glory and might, now and in all eternity. Amen.

When everything was dark and it seemed that the sun would never shine again, your love broke through. Your love was too strong, too wide, too deep for death to hold. The sparks cast by your love dance and spread and burst forth with resurrection light. Gracious God, we praise you for the light of new life made possible through Jesus. We praise you for the light of new life that shone on the first  witnesses of resurrection. We praise you for the light of new life that continues to shine in our hearts today. We pray that the Easter light of life, hope and joy, will live in us each day; and that we will be bearers of that light into the lives of others. (Michaela Youngson) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Prayer for Holy Saturday 19th April 2014

Today from our Church family we pray for Gladys Emerson.

Collect for Easter Eve:
Grant, Lord, that we who are baptized into the death of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ may continually put to death our evil desires and be buried with him; and that through the grave and gate of death we may pass to our joyful resurrection; through his merits, who died and was buried and rose again for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Yesterday we remembered the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and today we wait for the glorious celebration of his resurrection tomorrow. On this day of waiting, we remember the disciples as they mourned the death of their friend and Lord, and we pray for those in our community who are mourning today. We pray for all those whose world has been shattered, and whose present is dark and frightening. The disciples felt that all was lost, but on Sunday morning came the wonderful discovery of the glorious truth – that death is not the end, and that a new world has begun. Lord Jesus, help us to trust in the promise of your resurrection life. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Prayer for Good Friday 18th April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for Michael Elsmore.

Collect for Good Friday:
Almighty Father, look with mercy on this your family for which our Lord Jesus Christ was content to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who is alive and glorified with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Christ our teacher, for our sake you were obedient even to accepting death; teach us to obey the Father's will in all things. Christ our life, by your death on the cross you destroyed the power of evil and death; may we die with you, to rise with you in glory. Christ our King, you became an outcast among us, suffering mockery and a criminal’s execution; teach us the humility by which you saved the world. Christ our salvation, you gave yourself up to death out of love for us; help us to show your love to one another. Christ our Saviour, on the cross you embraced all time with your outstretched arms; unite God's scattered children in your kingdom of salvation. (Adapted from Creighton University Online Ministries) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Prayer for Maundy Thursday 17th April 2014

Today from our church family we pray for Molly Ellis.

Embedded image permalink

On this Maundy Thursday, we remember the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his friends. He shared with them the bread and wine, symbols of his body that would so soon be broken for them and for us, and of his blood that would soon be shed. He knelt down and washed his disciples’ feet, teaching us all to love and serve one another. In the dark and lonely hour before his arrest, Jesus prayed in the garden that ‘your will, not mine, be done.’ Lord Jesus, teach us your humility, give us grace to love one another as you loved us, and the faith to face suffering with confidence in the ultimate goodness of your will, whenever our own dark night should come. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Prayer for Wednesday 16th April

Today from our church family we pray for Michael Ellis

As we prepare for a busy few days of services commemorating your Passion and celebrating your Resurrection, we pray for those who may be attending church for the first time, or returning after a long absence. We pray for neighbours, friends and family who have never heard of your great gift of love, or have never been taught why events of 2,000 years ago should be so important for us all today. We ask that you will help us to be ready to share our faith with the people we meet, sensitively, lovingly and with confidence, that they may be drawn to learn more about you, and come to share in your love. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Prayer for Tuesday 15th April

Today from our church family we pray for Betty Dyke.

We continue to hold in prayer our friends at St Matthew’s. Their search for a new rector to replace Colin suffered a setback last month, when they were unable to make an appointment following interviews, and the process of advertising must begin all over again. Lord, we ask for your strength and patience for the people of St Matthew’s as they continue to wait for the post to be filled. We pray for Liz Chamberlain and the leadership team as they work to uphold the ministry of St Matthew’s at this difficult time. We ask that you will direct the right person to apply in this next phase of the process, that your church in the heart of Walsall may find the leader it needs to help its mission to flourish and grow. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Monday, 14 April 2014

So the clocks have gone forward...

So the clocks have gone forward, and winter is giving way to spring, dark days changing to
Lighter days. This is most apt for Lent and for Easter Winter and Lent is a time of Darkness and a journey towards that Dark Friday, and then through Jesus’s triumph on the cross, to everlasting light on Easter day, with Dark death defeated forever, and the promise of life and light living in us now and for eternity, because “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” 

The thrill of hope within the message spools out to touch a weary world with anticipation of tasting some lasting  good! Romans 14:17 says that the kingdom of God is "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." That should tell us just how valuable joy is to the believer. 

Jesus spoke about joy a lot. It was the Saviour’s desire that His disciples would be filled with joy. (John 16:22, 17:13) And, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 ), Paul just writes, "Be joyful always."
Our joy and our praise were never intended to be kept hidden behind closed doors! Jesus is full of joy and if you are full of Jesus then you have all the joy you need. You always have a reason to rejoice. Jesus was able to look beyond the horrors of the cross because of the joy set before Him. We can rejoice that He paid the price for us. If we never had anything else to rejoice about, that would be plenty, but we have so much more to rejoice over.

This love becomes overwhelming and overflows into the lives of those around us because it is produced by a reciprocal relationship with the Living God.

We ought to expect trouble. Jesus said, "In the world you [will] have tribulation" (John 16:33). God has His own profound purpose in our afflictions, but it's never to take away our joy. When we yield to the working of His Spirit in our lives, our difficulties will not overwhelm us.

Joy comes from knowing we are never alone. Prayer is the ongoing conversation we have, Spirit to Spirit, with God. Giving thanks is the great reminder that we have been blessed no matter what the circumstances may suggest. Joy is not about our circumstances. We rejoice in spite of everything. Joy is about being with God. Forever!

Watch The Lamb

Prayer for Monday 14th April

Today from our church family we pray for Judith Dunthorne.

As we keep Holy Week, and prepare for the great celebration of Easter, we give thanks that we live in a country where we can enjoy freedom of worship and religious expression. Our churches are unthreatened by violence, and we can praise you and spread the good news of your love without fear of arrest or persecution. Yet we know that for millions of Christians around the world such freedom of worship is an unimaginable luxury. We remember the courage and devotion shown by our brothers and sisters as they regularly risk life and liberty for the chance to gather in your name, and are ashamed of our own failure to make even the most modest sacrifices and risks to stand up for your truth. Give us the courage of our convictions, inspire us with the example of so many faithful Christians in terrifying situations, and help us to seek your kingdom with all our hearts. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Prayer for Palm Sunday 13th April

Today from our church family we pray for Liz Dunthorne.

Collect for Palm Sunday:
Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today we remember the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of our Lord Jesus Christ, riding on a donkey. Lord, help us to share in the excitement of the crowds who lined the streets of the city on that day, waving palm branches and singing praises to God. The crowds acclaimed you as the Son of David and heir to the throne; help us to crown you as king in our lives today. But the crowds that sang so joyfully on Sunday were soon crying for your death, and exulting over your execution. Lord, forgive our fickleness. Help us to withstand the pressure of those who urge us to reject you, and worship you always as Saviour and King over all. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Prayer for Saturday 12th April

Today from our church family we pray for Janet Duder.

In our Saturday prayers for Walsall, we remember the work of the churches and charitable organizations. We pray for the work of the Glebe Centre, Hi’s n Lows, The Vine Trust, Food Bank, Street Pastors, and all who care for vulnerable members of our community. We pray for the many people in Walsall who suffer poverty, homelessness, hunger, drug and alcohol addictions, physical and mental illness, loneliness and low self-esteem. We pray for those who fall through the cracks in the system, and are unable to get the help they need at the time they need it from social services and government organizations. We give thanks for the dedication of the staff and volunteers who do so much for our community, and ask that through such projects, your church may shine as a beacon of hope in a troubled world. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Prayer for Friday 11th April

Today from our church family we pray for John Duder.

Let us pray for Iraq, which continues to suffer from extreme violence and instability. We pray for Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and the government in Baghdad, and the leaders of the various provinces, ethnic and religious groups. We pray for an end to the violence between Sunni and Shia militias, and for the threat posed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). 

Congregation of St George's Baghdad

In particular we pray for the Christian community of Iraq, especially for Canon Andrew White and the congregation of St George's Baghdad.  

Canon Andrew White, Vicar of Baghdad

Since the start of the war in 2003, the Christian population in Iraq has fallen by two-thirds as hundreds of thousands have fled violence and persecution to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. We ask for your protection on all your children, and a new world of freedom and security for all. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Prayer for Thursday 10th April

Today from our church family, we pray for Dorothy Doody.
We pray for the communion service which will take place this morning and for all the other activities which will take place in the church building today: the café, the Tai Chi Classes, U3A, Over 55s Group etc. Lord, please give us opportunities to make connections with the various community groups which use our church halls. Give us the openings to reach out to and serve the community around us, we pray. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Prayer for Wednesday 9th April 2014

Today, from our church family, we pray for Jossie Devey.

Loving Father, as we remember all those affected by the dreadful flooding in the south west of our country, we give you thank for the wonderful work done by FLAG (Flooding on the Levels Action Group). This voluntary group is doing an amazing job helping to clear up the properties of the victims of the floods. Without their help families would still be struggling to clear out the horrible debris etc. left after the flood water subsided. FLAG are organised, have the right equipment, personnel and leadership skills to co-ordinate an efficient clean up. Thank you for each and every person who has volunteered to do this messy and unpleasant job. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Prayer for Tuesday 8th April

Today, from our church family, we pray for Katrina Nicole, Georgina and Roberta Healey-Davis.

Today over lunch the clergy chapter are meeting.  Lord, we pray for all who are taking part in this meetings. Give them energy, stamina, integrity and a willingness to work wisely and co-operatively together as they seek to do your will.

“Loving God, infinite and majestic: 
beyond time and space, and our deepest thought.
Give me wisdom to perceive you, intellect to understand you,
diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the Spirit of  our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Benedict 480-543)
(Taken from The Five Rhythms of Grace) 
Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Prayer for Monday 7th April

Today, from our church family, we pray for Marcus and Antonia Davis.

We pray for the churches in our cluster.  We pray for St. Matthew’s Church as they continue to search for the right person for the position of Rector.  Thank you for Liz Chamberlain who is staying at St. Matthew’s while they continue their search for the right person to fill that post.  We pray for St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s as Nigel Taylor holds the fort while Mark Kinder is on Sabbatical.  We pray for St. John’s and especially for Gennie Evans as she continues to recover from serious illness.  We pray for St. Martin’s and for Simon, Phill, Penny and Margaret as they seek to fulfil your vision for our church. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

St Martin's Church Annual Church Meeting - Vicar's Report

Today is our Annual Church Meeting, an important occasion in the life of the church, when we have the opportunity to look back at the events of the past year, and look ahead to the challenges and opportunities that lie before us.

This is the ninth annual report that I have delivered at St Martin's, but in some ways I feel that it is one of the most important that I have delivered, as the next few years will be a crucial time for St Martin's.

Looking Back

I want to start this report by thanking our wardens David and Mick, for their commitment and service to St Martin's during the past year.  It is not only their help in practical matters, but their concern for the spiritual life of the church as well which is so important.  Particular thanks must go to Mick who is stepping as Church Warden after many years in the role, and to Julie who has agreed to stand as warden along with David.

This year we also saw three people leave the Ministry Team, Diane Sainsbury, Jane Quinn and Jackie Brown.  They have all contributed so much to the life of St Martin's through the Ministry Team, and I would like to thank them for their continued service of the church.  Their departure does however create a number of vacancies on the Ministry Team, which I hope we will fill in the next few months.  A lot of new initiatives have grown out of the Ministry Team over the years, including Messy Church, the Prayer Breakfast, and the Community Cafe, and having a strong Ministry Team is important if St Martin's is going to rise to the challenges facing us as a church in the future.

I would also like to thank Roger Turner for his careful oversight of church finances as treasurer.  Roger has said he is prepared to serve as treasurer for one more year, but intends to step down from the role at next year’s Annual Church Meeting, which means we will need to find someone who can take over this important responsibility in a year’s time. 

I would like also to thank Jane Wharton for the work she does as hall lettings manager, particularly in being the main point of contact between the church and hall users.  As a church we are heavily reliant on the income that we receive through letting our halls - we simply couldn't do the things we do without this income.  We are however very vulnerable should we lose any of our hall users.  It costs £1700 a week to run St Martin's, or £20 per week per adult based on our average Sunday attendance of 84 adults a week.  One of the challenges we face as a church is to become less reliant on the income that we get through hall lettings.  In a few weeks’ time I will writing to everyone on the Electoral Roll to ask you to review your giving to the church.  Please do give prayerful consideration to my letter.  As Christians we are called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us, and to give generously and enthusiastically. 

It was just over a year since we completed the reordering project in the church.  I am particularly grateful to Bill Bolus for his professional advice and guidance, and for acting as intermediary between the church, the architect and contractors.  We have now had chance to get use to the changes, and I believe the time and effort that went into this project was well worth it.  The focus now is on addressing the problems with the flat roof over the corridor, toilets and prayer room, which will entail quite a significant financial undertaking. 

During this last year we have also seen the launch of a new adult daytime home group, plus the launch of a monthly Messy Church Home Group for children in Year 4 and above, that Martin and Jackie run.  I would like to see everyone in St Martin's involved in a home group, as I believe they are key to helping people grow and mature as Christians, as well as strengthening the bonds of fellowship.

The PCC established two subcommittees.  One to look into the possibility of appointing a children's and families worker - which I will come onto later, and one to look into the needs and priorities of the older members of our church family.  A lot of the focus of the Older Persons Sub Committee has been on the question of pastoral care.  We recognise that a lot of pastoral care takes place in St Martin's on a very informal level, but we are keen to explore how we can build on this.  With this in mind a pastoral care group has been formed, and we are looking at how we can ensure that everyone receives the support and help that they may need, whoever they may be.  If you know anyone who needs pastoral support, please let Lesley Bates know, as she is the contact person for the pastoral care group.  We will soon be producing pastoral care cards which will be available in church, so if you know anyone who has a pastoral need, you will be able to put their details on this pastoral care card and either place it in a secured box so others can’t see the request, or pass it on to Lesley. 

Looking Forward

Last year I was able to take a three month sabbatical, I am extremely grateful to Phill, the Wardens and Ministry Team for so ably looking after St Martin's in my absence.  The sabbatical gave me the opportunity to reflect on my ministry and priorities for the future.  As I said at the start of this report, I believe the next few years will be crucial for St Martin's, and the main thing that came out of my sabbatical for me, was that as a church we need to be putting much more emphasis into the task of discipleship. 

The great commission that Jesus gave to his church was to go and make disciples of all nations, to grow committed, faithful followers of Jesus.  What struck me about visiting Malaysia last year, was to see the impact churches were having on their communities, which was a direct result of the emphasis placed on discipleship. 

It is for this reason that I have launched the Pilgrim Course here at St Martin's, which is a new discipleship course produced by the Church of England, designed to help people consider what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  It is my hope and prayer that Pilgrim will have a significant impact on the lives of people here in St Martin's, and that we can build on this course to develop a rolling discipleship program.  I would encourage anyone who wants to grow in their faith, or to explore where God may be leading them next, to consider joining the Pilgrim Course. 

In May we will also be launching a new sermon series entitled 'Fruitfulness on the Frontline,' which I hope will help us to explore how God can work in and through us on our frontline, the place where we spend the majority of our time, whether that be at work, looking after children, or grandchildren, in the club, wherever we may be. 

Also in May we plan to launch a worship course, entitled Worship Matters.  We hope that everyone involved in leading worship, whether that be singing in the choir, playing in the music group, leading prayers, doing Bible readings, or leading worship in church, will join this course, along with those who'd like to get involved in leading worship at St Martin's.  The purpose of this course is to provide theological reflection on why worship is so important, as well as offering practical help and support for those who lead worship. 

Helping to train and equip people for leadership in the church is all part of the focus on discipleship. 

Walsall Deanery is currently in the process of reducing the number of stipendiary clergy to 17.5 posts by 2017.  This has meant some difficult decisions have had to be made about where clergy are deployed, and that the days of one clergyperson to one church is no longer sustainable. 

I have been in post 8 and a half years, and for me the last 12 months have been an important time to pray and reflect on what God wants for me and my ministry.  I believe that for the time being, God wants me to be here at St Martin's, but when I do eventually move on, we need to face the possibility that St Martin's will not be offered a full stipendiary post.  We therefore need to think about what our priorities are as a church when it comes to leadership and how we can encourage greater lay involvement in the life of the church.  This leads us back to the importance of discipleship. 

I mentioned earlier that a subcommittee has been looking into the possibility of appointing a children's and family worker for the church.  Before I say more about this I would like to show you the following video:

I appreciate that sometimes children can be a bit noisy and disruptive, but we are extremely fortunate that we have children in church, and it is vital that we value and support the youngest members of our church family as well as their parents and grandparents.  Sadly there are many churches in Walsall and beyond who have no children at all, and it is important St Martin's does not become one of those churches. 

It is for this reason that we are exploring the possibility of employing a part time children’s and family worker, in order to build and develop the work that is already going on through the parent and toddler group, Messy Church, Messy Home Group and the Sunday groups. 

If we do decide to appoint a children’s and family worker it will be a significant undertaking, both financially and also in terms of stepping out in faith, as there is no guarantee of success. If we were to appoint a children’s and family worker, we would be looking at a 3 year contract.  Please pray about this decision, as it would be a significant one for the whole church, and therefore needs the whole church to back this project, both financially and also through a commitment to prayer. 

I do believe the next few years will be crucial for St Martin’s.  Where do we hope to see the church in five or ten years’ time?  How can we grow committed disciples, reach new generations and serve the wider community?

We will not achieve anything on our own, only with God leading and directing us will we see growth transformation and renewal in the life of St Martin’s. 

The Bible readings today all have the theme of resurrection and new life at the heart of them.  The Old Testament reading which we didn’t have, is from Ezekiel chapter 37, and the valley of the dry bones.  God says through his prophet Ezekiel ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’  And God promises to ‘put my spirit within you, and you shall live’. 

The Gospel reading tells us the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and in our reading from Romans we are reminded that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells within us.

These readings should give us hope and confidence.  The God who raises the dead, can breathe new life and new hope into his church and it is to him we should place our hope and trust. 

It is for this reason that Paul wrote to the Ephesians, ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’ (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Prayer for Sunday 6th April 2014

Today, from our church family, we pray for Sue and Rosie Davidson.

Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
“Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen”

Messy Church in the Morning are meeting today so we’ll be greeted by the beautiful smell of toast and coffee.  Thank you, Father, for all who come to share this as a church family. We pray that everything we offer to you today will be worthy of your acceptance as we praise and worship you.

It is our Annual Church Meeting today, Lord, so we pray for your special guidance as we seek to find a new warden, new members of the PCC and new Deanery Synod Representatives.  We pray that there will be people in our church family willing to volunteer for these important positions.  We pray for Simon as he chairs the meeting and for everything that will be discussed this day. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Prayer for Saturday 5th April

Today, from our church family, we pray for Chris and Robert Davidson.

In our Saturday prayers for Walsall, we focus today on all involved in 
commerce and industry.  We pray for all who work in the service, retail and manufacturing industries from the humblest shop floor worker to the board of directors and the decisions makers.  We pray for our town centre.  May all the plans come to fruition and create new opportunities for builders, shop fitters, and service industry workers.  We pray for all the board of directors and decision makers.  We pray for the promised redevelopment plans who are struggling with the problems created by the economy and for those made redundant as a result.  Give them hope that the situation may soon improve.

Today is an exciting day for St. Martin’s as Samuel Mensah Akoto and Rufaro Machekanyanga are getting married.  Loving Lord, we ask you to bless this marriage with love, joy and happiness.  May Samuel and Rufaro have a wonderful wedding day. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Archbishop Justin Welby Live Phone In

Archbishop Justin Welby speaking today on LBC Radio about a range of issues, including same sex marriage.  

Prayer for Friday 4th April 2014

Today, from our church family, we pray for Doreen Crowder.

Loving Lord, we are so privileged to live in a safe, free country where our children can have innocent childhoods where they can play, learn and grow in a protected environment.  We pray for our Parent and Toddler Group that does so much to nurture and develop the children who come to it. It provides such a happy, relaxed and caring environment where the children feel welcomed and the parents and carers can make new friends and share the issues childrearing brings.  Thank you for Beata and all the volunteers who make this group possible.  Their commitment and dedication has an impact on so many lives and gives joy to all those who attend. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Brendan Eich - A Worrying Precedent

Brendan Eich chief executive of Mozilla - the company best known for its Firefox browser - has stepped down after only one month in post.  He came under a lot of criticism for his views on same sex marriage. In 2008 he gave a $1000 (£600) donation in support of Californian anti-gar marriage law Proposition 8.

Pressure on Brendan Eich grew when earlier this week, the dating website OKcupid sought to deter its users from accessing its site via the Mozilla Firefox because of Mr Eich's views on same sex marriage.  Visitors to OKCupid's website using Mozilla's free Firefox browser see a message that reads: 

"Mozilla's new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid."  
This led to #firefoxboycott trending on twitter, with comments such as these being posted online:

I'm sad I won't be able to use #firefox anymore because @mozilla has a homophobic CEO. #firefoxboycott

Bye Firefox! I don't support your homophobic CEO. I think you're finding many of us don't. #firefoxboycott

VOTE YES ‏@Independent_SCO  Apr 1

In writing about Mr Eich's decision to stand down Mozilla's executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker wrote in a blog post. 

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn't live up to it, we know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it's because we haven't stayed true to ourselves. We didn't act like you'd expect Mozilla to act. We didn't move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We're sorry. We must do better."
Mr Eich's decision to stand down as chief executive of Mozilla concerns me for several reasons.

Firstly it seems that those that support a traditional view of marriage (between a man and a woman) are increasingly accused of being homophobic.  As Rick Warren is recently quoted as saying 

"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

Secondly that this could set a new precedent, where opponents of same sex marriage are either barred from office or forced from office.  I cannot see how Mr Eich's personal views were an impediment to his role of CEO of Mozilla.

Thirdly a society that emphasises the importance of tolerance and understanding, appears to be growing increasingly intolerant towards people who do not support same sex marriage.  

Whether you agree with Mr Eich's personal stance or not, I don't believe that he should have been forced from office.  

As one friend posted on twitter:

.@mozilla support for freedom of speech necessitates the defence of your CEO even if you disagree with his view on marriage #firefoxboycott

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Prayer for Thursday 3rd April 2014

Today, from our church family, we pray for Iris Collins.

Although slavery was abolished more than 150 years ago, today there are 27 million people in slavery across our planet.  There are people enslaved in bonded and forced labour; there are children enslaved in forced labour; there are men, women and children trafficked for the sex industry;  there are people enslaved because they have been born into the wrong caste.  Tearfund have launched a new anti-slavery initiative in India called “Oasis” and there are many other organisations trying to end this hideous injustice.  Together with them we pray:

“Lord, we lift up to you men, women and children everywhere who have been trafficked.  Please move in power to free them.  Surround them with your love.  We know their suffering breaks your heart as it breaks ours.  We also bring before you families who feel powerless in the grip of poverty.  Please provide for their needs, so they can keep their children safe.  Thank you for the amazing work of our Tearfund partners in India who are setting captives free.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”  (Tearfund) Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Father God

A while ago I asked for suggestions for sermon topics.  One person asked if there could be some preaching about God the Father, as they felt there was some confusion about God the Father, because they had talked to people whose view of the Father is that he is a God of vengeance bent on punishment, from whom we have to be rescued by Jesus.
I suspect one of the reasons people have this view, is because of the way God is sometimes portrayed in the Old Testament.  But as I explained at the Lent Course on Tuesday, whilst there are difficult and uncomfortable passages of Scripture in the OT, we also see that God IS loving, just, forgiving, patient and generous.  In the OT we encounter the God of the Exodus, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. 
Our own experiences of our fathers can also shape and influence how we view our heavenly Father.  These experiences can makes it difficult for people to relate to the idea of a loving Father, or to experience God in this way. 
People say things like:
  • "To me, God the Father seems distant.  I can't see Him.  I can't hear Him.  I can't touch Him.  I don't feel His love.  It's a lot like my dad.  He provided for us, but I didn't have much of a relationship with him." 
  • "My parents divorced when I was three.  I hardly ever saw my father after that.  Now it's hard for me to connect with God." 
  • "My dad was an angry alcoholic.  He used to refer to himself as G.O.D., short for `Good Old Dad.'  He thought it was a joke, but I have the same distrust and disdain for my Heavenly Father."
  • "There is a child in me who can't tell the difference between Daddy who was always angry at me and God.  Inside, I'm scared to death of God."
  • "When you say that God loves me I have a hard time not remembering my father molesting me while telling me he loved me so much."

Think about your relationship with you father.  How has it impacted your image of your Heavenly Father?  Have you projected onto God disappointments or hurts you experienced with your father? If so this can change. 

God is not a vengeful Father that we need rescuing from.  Quite the opposite, the Father sent his Son into the world because he loves us and because he wants to save us.  That is why Jesus said ‘For the works that the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I am doing – testify that the Father has sent me.’ (John 5:36).   

Just as Jesus said that the Scriptures testify to him, so the Scriptures also testify to the heart of God our Father.

I want to finish with the Father’s Love Letter, which is an intimate message from our Father to each one of us. 

You may not know me, 
but I know everything about you. 
Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up. 
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways. 
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. 
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image. 
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring. 
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived. 
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation. 
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake, 
for all your days are written in my book. 
Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth 
and where you would live. 
Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb. 
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born. 
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented 
by those who don't know me.
John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry, 
but am the complete expression of love. 
1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. 
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child 
and I am your Father. 
1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. 
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father. 
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. 
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs. 
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. 
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love. 
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless 
as the sand on the seashore.
Psalm 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing. 
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you. 
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession. 
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul. 
Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things. 
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart, 
you will find me. 
Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you 
the desires of your heart. 
Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires. 
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you 
than you could possibly imagine. 
Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager. 
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you 
in all your troubles. 
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted, 
I am close to you. 
Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb, 
I have carried you close to my heart. 
Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away 
every tear from your eyes. 
Revelation 21:3-4

And I'll take away all the pain 
you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you 
even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. 
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being. 
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, 
not against you. 
Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression 
of my love for you. 
1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love. 
Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, 
you receive me. 
1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you 
from my love again.
Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I'll throw the biggest party 
heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7

I have always been Father, 
and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child? 
John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you. 
Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God