Letter from the Right Reverend Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton For Parish Newsletters – June 2020

Recognise the one who stands beside you.

‘Stay alert’ is the message as we ‘ease out of lockdown’. We know that for some there is little ease as we begin to re-engage with a world that is still fearful of Covid-19 and uncertain about its future. The requirement to ‘stay alert’ is to encourage us to watch out for signs of the virus and protect ourselves and others as necessary.

We’ve just celebrated Pentecost, often recognised as the birthday of the Church. Jesus’ message to his followers as he left them to return to his Father was that they were to ‘stay alert’, not to guard against something fearful to come but rather to be watchful for the Spirit that would free them from fear. It didn’t mean that there weren’t still physical dangers to face but rather that their spiritual lives should grow in boldness.

We have seen much courage exhibited throughout this crisis to date. Key workers who have continued to serve us day by day even whilst most of us have remained at home. The NHS has quite rightly been applauded and appreciated at this time and there are so many more.

I’ve been especially impressed by our schools and their teams who have largely been open throughout this period to be provide care for key worker families and vulnerable children. Even at weekends and during this past half term holiday they have been tirelessly supporting their local communities. Staying alert to the needs of our young, they have shown their commitment and care. I want to express my huge gratitude to them!

As we move into June we may be seeing more children returning to schools having been home-schooled for a time. This will not be without fear for some and a need to be especially alert to physical dangers. Whatever the situation we find ourselves to be in at this point, we are reminded that we have a Comforter, an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who strengthens and encourages our faith even at times of doubt and anxiety.

Whether still at home and isolated or beginning a return to wider community life, may you find yourself being alert for and recognising the one who stands alongside you, the Spirit, who is friend, guardian and comforter.

With every good wish

Bishop Ruth

A Word from David Rhodes

I’m missing the opportunity to prepare a sermon for St Luke’s Centre this month, so I thought I’d commit a few ideas to paper and share them here:

In the last few weeks, we’ve all been snowed under with statistics in news broadcasts and on social media. Here’s my favourite: The use of the word “unprecedented” has reached unprecedented levels! It seems that everything has changed – the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we worship. It’s a challenge for people in all walks of life and it is certainly a challenge for the church.

Christians are reminded, of course, that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8), so there is always one constant that we can rely on, however turbulent the rest of our lives may become. In the present circumstances, it really is something we must rely on, but it needs a little thought.

I’ve been reading the book of Acts in the Bible over the last couple of weeks. It’s the book in which we read about the growth of the church in its first 25 years or so, beginning just after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Those were turbulent times, indeed. As the story unfolds it is absolutely clear that the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the constants around which everything else revolves – but that isn’t the whole story. As we read about the beginnings of the churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Phillipi, Athens, Corinth and the rest we cannot escape the fact that in each place those early missionaries faced different situations, different cultures, different languages and different people. They had to adapt to each situation.

Right at the beginning of the book, in Acts Chapter 1, we read of the disciples gathered together in Jerusalem after the Ascension, hiding away, sorting out only the most urgent matters and waiting for God to do something spectacular. In our present situation, we can feel bit like an Acts Chapter 1 church – but that’s not what we are.

The book of Acts doesn’t really have an ending – in Chapter 28 the church is still growing, the great missionary apostle, Paul, is under house arrest in Rome but still preaching and writing to other Christians. It’s not the end of the story, it’s just that it’s reached the time at which Luke wrote it all down and he didn’t know what would happen next. He couldn’t write Chapter 29, because he didn’t know what the future would hold. We’re not an Acts Chapter 1 church – we’re an Acts Chapter 29 church. We are stepping out into new places, new situations, “unprecedented” times. Christians must adapt to the “new normal”. Jesus Christ is, indeed, the same yesterday and today and forever, but to do his work we, with the power of the Holy Spirit, must find new ways to be His voice, His hands and His feet.

Many people are finding ways to worship and meet in prayer with the help of the internet as well as television and radio. Do take a look on line at the services and discussions being shared by local churches and national Christian organisations. Think about what more we can do as a church even without the use of our wonderful buildings – and about what we might do differently when we can open them up again. Keep on the work that so many of you are doing in the community, look after your families, your neighbours and yourselves and keep us all in your prayers.

Here are some links which may be helpful:

Church without Walls Sundays @10am Everyone welcome, whatever your age or stage. Email Katherinelyddon35@gmail.com and she can send you the zoom link and password.

Worship, discussions and children’s activities from Taunton:

https://en-gb.facebook.com/stjamestaunton

“Spring Harvest Home” – Discussions and activities for adults and children:

https://springharvest.org/spring-harvest-home/

Bible games for all ages

www.biblegamescentral.com

 

Out of the Ark craft at home

www.outoftheark.co.uk/resources/downloadable-resources

 

Faith Inkubators – Share/Read/Talk/Pray/Bless – family devotions for Covid 19

www.faithink.com/

 

Kitchen Table – 10 things to do at home to maintain faith

https://kitchentable.org.uk/10things/

 

Together at home – weekly resources

www.tath.co.uk

 

Sessions for home based on the lectionary readings

https://www.rootsontheweb.com/

 

God venture @ home

www.godventure.co.uk/news/faith-at-home-in-a-time-of-covoravirus/

 

Pilgrims at home

https://www.rochester.anglican.org/content/pages/documents/1587552422.pdf

Bible story videos

https://www.max7athome.org/en

 

Cotford Community Church, St Luke’s Centre & St John’s Church, Heathfield [our parish church]

With regret, all public worship services in Cotford and Heathfield are suspended until further notice.

Also suspended are: the Hub cafe in Cotford; Baby group; Toddler group; Toddler church; Bereavement cafe; home study groups; Farmers’ Market; Saturday breakfast cafe.

We continue to follow the advice given by the Diocese of Bath and Wells, which is set out in detail on their website www.bathandwells.org.uk. We will re-open our church buildings and resume our full programme of activities as soon as they advise us that it is safe to do so.

Where they can, church members in the villages will be happy to help anyone you know who isn’t coping, and to work with other community support groups [such as Cotford St Luke Coronavirus Community Help on Facebook].

For more information, please contact one of our church wardens:

                 Ally Gabell                      433125

                 Philip Hall [deputy]      430818

                 Dawn Mitford-Slade     432255

                 Clare Reid [deputy]      433590

‘…but all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’ [Julian of Norwich]

‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble’ [Psalm 46:1]

Let’s talk

‘It’s good to talk!’ so the old BT advert (other telecommunications firms are available) used to say. I agree. Who doesn’t feel better after having a good old chat with a friend, or even after having a quick chat with a stranger when stuck in a tedious queue? It may seem then, that this year’s Lent Challenge from Bishop Peter and myself is no great challenge at all as we are simply suggesting that we have conversations with our neighbours, family and friends.

The challenge comes in what we might talk about. We are encouraging all of us, including Bishops, to step outside what may be our normal topics of conversation, and perhaps our comfort zones, and grapple with some simple questions about life, death and everything in between. The challenge is both to listen to someone else’s viewpoint and to ask ourselves how our own answers connect to what we believe.

In order to help us have those conversations the Go Team and discipleship team have produced a handy pack of question cards, and by the time Lent begins, we hope that each church will have received at least one of these packs of 40 Everyday Questions. The questions are suitable for all ages so can be used in a whole host of ways – with friends, family, colleagues, in school, with a Lent group, at a ‘bring and share’ lunch, even in church on a Sunday.

We’ve already been out and about across the diocese asking people some of the questions on the cards. And you can bet that asking school children questions like ‘Should all bad people be punished?’ or ‘How would you describe God?’ has yielded some very interesting conversations. We will be sharing some of the conversations we’ve had with a range of people on Facebook and Twitter so if you are on social media then do keep an eye out for them during Lent, and by all means let our communications team know how you are getting on using the hashtag #40questions.

We really hope the 40 Everyday Questions cards generate some interesting, meaningful and indeed, Godly conversations that will help us hear the point of view of those around us and refresh and deepen our faith in God this Lent.

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton

Lent Challenge

This year’s Bishops’ Lent challenge sounds straightforward: simply to have conversations with our friends, family, colleagues, or people we just bump into in our daily life.

How can that be a challenge?

Often the conversations we have are on the same topics (you can probably name them!) or they are about practicalities like who is going to get the tea. This challenge provides an excuse to grapple with some simple questions about life, death and everything in between.

In a society where loneliness is on the rise, it’s good to find ways of connecting with those around us and having meaningful conversations.

Are they all ‘Christian’ questions?

No! These are questions, big and small, on a variety of topics about life, the world and faith.

These are everyday questions that many of us wonder about, even if we wouldn’t usually have a conversation about them.

What happens if I don’t know the answers?

Don’t worry, this is about conversation, not about answers! The Challenge is two fold:

  • · To listen to someone else’s viewpoint
  • · To ask ourselves how our own answers connect to what we believe

How do I get started?

We’ve produced a pack of question cards, suitable for people of all ages. The question can be used in any way you want but in the pack there are some suggestions to get you started. You can even use the questions with a Lent Group or school class if you want to. We’ll share the questions each day from Ash Wednesday (26 February) on our Twitter and Facebook feeds with the hashtag #40questions. We’ll also share some very short videos of people of all ages having a go at some of the questions, just as a conversation starter!

A Rich Journey

‘A cold coming we had of it 
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey…’
T.S. Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’

How many of us are making journeys over the turning of this new year? Perhaps it has been an opportunity to catch up with family or friends we haven’t seen for a while. Perhaps for some of us, it’s been about fun and relaxation, (although skiing doesn’t appeal for either, for me!)

Perhaps some of those journeys have been disrupted by weather or illness. Or perhaps they’ve been punctuated by the plaintive cry, ‘Are we there yet?’ During winter months we are often seeing the journey as a ‘means to an end’ rather than something of value in itself. However travelling with others or meeting people on the way can make journeys so much richer.

On my windowsill at home sits a wooden cross with a shell attached. It’s made from the stick my son used to walk the Camino de Santiago, one of the most popular of pilgrim paths in Europe. I’m not sure I have the legs to do it! Two of my sons have walked it from France to the coast of Spain, each on their own, but meeting strangers along the way who have become friends.

2020 is being marked by our Cathedrals as a year of pilgrimage. You will be hearing more from our Cathedral here in Wells as they invite us to share in pilgrimage with them. Journeying together gives opportunity for us to discover something new as we share in others’ perspectives and experiences, not just our own. At this time of Epiphany we remember the journey of the wise men who travelled together to seek out something new. A star had appeared which indicated to them there was new learning to be had. And so they left the familiar and went to explore what was new.

So… what new thing might you wish to explore this year? Who might you travel with? And what might you do once you find it?

Wishing you a very special new year!

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley
Bishop of Taunton

Election Thoughts from Bishop Peter

So it has been decided. There is to be a General Election on 12 December and much has been made of the fact that this is the first December election since 1923. Things could be worse however, as the 1885 General Election took place over three weeks from 24 November to 18 December 1885. It was nonetheless an important milestone in social history, as it extended voting rights so that for the first time a majority of adult males could vote and most constituencies returned only a single member to Parliament. These were quite radical developments and at that election large numbers of men voted for the first time. It saw the Liberals, led by Gladstone win the most seats, but not an overall majority, with the Irish Nationalists holding the balance of power and the Unionist MPs having a significant voice. The 1885 election also saw the first socialist party, the Social Democratic Freedom participate.

So significant was this election that my predecessor, Bishop Arthur Hervey, wrote an open letter on 2 October 1885 suggesting that ‘all Christian subjects of the Queen had a duty of special prayer to Almighty God that He will be pleased to guide the minds of the Electors to make such a choice of representatives as shall tend most to the glory of God, the honour and welfare of our Sovereign, and the happiness of the people.’ In His view Parliament was responsible for establishing ‘peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety’ and the ‘welfare of all people.’ In asking people to pray, as well as to vote, he made it clear that whilst people would have different ‘political leanings’ that they needed to come together to pray for the ‘peace and happiness of the nation at large’.

I think we all know that this General Election before us now will similarly be critical in helping to determine the future of the United Kingdom – at least for the immediate future. In writing this article I am therefore seeking to follow Bishop Arthur Hervey by reminding us all of the responsibility we have to pray for our country and to work with all people for the welfare and the well-being of everyone.

With my prayers and very best wishes,

The Right Revd Peter Hancock

Treasure the Earth

As I write this parish letter, we are in the midst of two weeks of action by Extinction Rebellion drawing our attention to the concerns of climate change. Following Greta Thunberg’s rousing speech to the UN and the various climate strikes undertaken by young people around the world, we are becoming more aware of the dangers of neglecting such an important matter. Whether we are young and passionate about this issue or one of Boris’s so-called ‘crusties’ and equally passionate, it seems to me that we are all called to be passionate about caring for the world God has made, and which He has entrusted to our care.

The fifth Mark of Mission calls for us to ‘Treasure the Earth’ or, to ‘safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’. Here in Bath and Wells we focus on placing mission and evangelism at the heart of all we do. This often means we highlight the story of Jesus and the opportunity for us to know God’s grace and forgiveness in personal ways. All really important for us to know how much we are loved. However, mission and evangelism isn’t just limited to those people we live amongst in the present day. St Paul speaks about how our salvation and that of the world or creation are bound up together….

‘The created universe is waiting with eager expectation for God’s children to be revealed. It was made subject to frustration, not of its own choice but by the will of him who subjected it, yet with the hope that the universe itself is to be freed from the shackles of mortality and is to enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God.’ Romans 8: 19-21

Sometimes I hear people dismiss concerns for the world and its future as being insignificant in the light of the eternal hope we have in Christ. I think this misguided and often selfish. It’s a bit like the attitude which says, ‘well as long as it sees me out!…’

This month you have the opportunity to get involved yourself. On Monday 18th November at Wells Cathedral and in Christ Church, Weston-Super-Mare on Saturday November 9th, there are opportunities for you to find out more. Look on the diocesan website.

And it’s not just for individual action, we as a diocese want to encourage churches to look at how they might become Eco churches in the way in which they respond in worship, theological reflection, make practical changes to their carbon footprint, and in bringing about that freedom for the whole universe to be sustained and renewed.

What might you get passionate about and do?

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton

Message from Preb Alison

This is a letter I’ve been meaning to write for over a month now… but finding the computer has been a problem!

A huge thank you to you all for my wonderful send off at the end of July and your generous gifts. The whole weekend was more than I could have dared hope for and I was overwhelmed by the sense of love and friendship. As the saying goes “Missing you already!”

It has been an odd transitional time – packing to leave one home and community where most people know you (or have at least heard of you) and move into a new house where no one knows you. So far we’ve managed to keep our previous identities a secret!

Unpacking has kept us very busy and we still have no curtains! Andrew has already embarked on some hobbies, but I am taking things slowly and waiting to see where God leads me next.

My time with you in Deane Vale was very special and I continue to thank God for you, praying too that the right person to be your next incumbent is just waiting for that advert in the Church Times!

Go well, be kind to each other and give thanks to our amazing God daily!
With love and thanks,
Alison of Bath and Wells

A time for grace and patience

September is the month when schools go back, harvest services are being planned, and the College of Bishops takes place. Yippee! Actually I’m not being sarcastic. Of course there’s always a sense of this is a month when many of us feel ‘back at work’. It can seem a busy month with lots to challenge us. However we do have some agency in how we approach the tasks of daily living, don’t we?

So, for instance, at the College of Bishops this month, we shall do more work on ‘Living in Love and Faith’, the theology, social anthropology, biblical scholarship and scientific knowledge being considered as the Church reflects on issues of human identity, sexuality and marriage. I’m looking forward to it. And that’s not being sarcastic either. You see it is not that this will be an easy topic, something which we can just all agree to but rather it will be an opportunity to meet together with one another in the presence of God. We will no doubt have some difficult conversations, grapple over imponderables, find ourselves feeling vulnerable but this is the stuff of life, and seeking to find God’s way in a world which has little time for religious faith anymore. The College meets in an Oxford college over a few days and it can sometimes seem rather distant from the everyday world in which we live. However we always celebrate Holy Cross day while we are there. The Collect for that day reminds us that “the passion of thy blessed Son hast made an instrument of painful death to be for us the means of life and peace”. That surely means that life and peace can be found even through the experience of pain and death. In fact sometimes it’s the only way to find them. Dealing with complex issues, tackling challenging tasks is not about finding the easiest and quickest route to an answer. Sometimes it requires much more from us and we need the grace and patience of the Christ who made Himself a sacrifice for us.

The following is the prayer we use on Holy Cross Day after we receive bread and wine together, perhaps we need to use it more as we face the challenge of seeking to live as men and women of God in His world today. 

“O faithful God, whose Son bore our sins in his body on the tree and gave us this sacrament to show forth his death until he come: give us grace to glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he is our salvation, our life and our hope.”

The Right Revd Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton