Around Church in April 2016

April – a month for reviewing our life together

At the end of April we have our annual church meeting (APCM), on Sunday 24th April, after our Sunday morning service.

The APCM is an opportunity for us to look back over the past year and to ready ourselves and the PCC for the year ahead.

Each year our annual meeting is accompanied by a booklet of reports which covers all areas of our life together; ranging from our toddler group, to our Christmas Market.

The booklet also includes an overview of our church finances, approved at March’s PCC meeting. Booklets are now available at the back of the church – one booklet per household. I am sure this report will be a real encouragement to you- we have so much to celebrate. I have also laid out the opportunities and challenges for Christ Church. Do pick up your copy next time you are in church.

At the APCM we will be electing six people onto the PCC (Parochial Church Council) of Christ Church. A member of the PCC has two roles, firstly to be involved in church council meetings, jut six a year; also to be part of one of the working groups of the PCC, which meet a similar number of times. The PCC seeks to ensure that the church is a safe and welcoming place for all, and that as a church we minister effectively in our worship, our prayer life and in serving the local community.  For the PCC to operate well we need a good mix of people and talents. The real work of the PCC is in these six sub-groups – from this year each member of the PCC will belong to one.

The groups are: Worship & Spirituality, Buildings & Safety, Pastoral Care, Children & Youth, Admin & Communication, and Finance.  The work of the PCC enables members of the congregation to play a real, active part, in shaping the current and future ministry of the church………so please consider coming on-board!  Come and talk to me or one of the wardens (Mark and Brendon) and pick up an application form.

Rev’d Rob

 

 

SHAPE Course

The Shape course starts on 13th April at 8.00pm. The Shape course is all about helping each one of us find out how our gifts, talents and heart’s  desire ‘shape’  us for God’s service. If you would like to find about where God is calling you, this course is for you: it will be in church, every other Wednesday at Christ Church at 8.00pm.

Tim

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April 2016

Dear friends,

Easter flowers are now appearing, songbirds are out in the gardens and the bees made it through the winter. The extra hour in the evening light is so welcome. Light is a real theme of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection was like a light that was at first dazzling – frightening – he had actually died a horrible death, confirmed by experts in execution: yet here he was alive. The reality of this new life was confirmed by the fact that his motley band of disciples were suddenly transformed almost overnight from a few fearful people to a huge gathering of people – a ‘church’ – with purpose and momentum. The Acts of the Apostles tells how the church brought ‘light into darkness’, and grew with an extraordinary vitality. The message of new life, the conquest of death and the gift of God’s forgiveness continues to touch the lives people in every generation. In our times the message of Easter new life is needed as much as ever.

I have been reading again the story of Rita Nightingale, who found new life in the darkest possible circumstances, in a prison in Thailand. Rita was arrested at Bankgok airport on drugs charges, and she was sentenced to twenty years in a Thai jail. Yet this is a story of an unexpected discovery of faith and real hope.

Rita at 24, thought life was going well when her rich boyfriend put her on a plane from Hong Kong to Paris to meet him for a romantic holiday. But when her luggage was searched at her stop-over in Bangkok hard drugs were found in the lining of her bags. Desperately she pleaded innocence, asked them to check with her boyfriend, but he had mysteriously vanished. He had been in the hotel room while she had been showering, alone with her bags. She never heard from him again.

After a short trial all in the Thai language, she was taken in a daze to a women’s prison. The book tells of her shock and refusal to accept the situation. Life in a Bangkok women’s prison was bleak: large numbers of women struggled for a space to sleep- and to keep their sanity. Months dragged on as her lawyers tried -and failed to get appeals through. She became embittered, a ‘problem prisoner’. When some missionary American ladies came to visit, she thought they were on some sort of weird moral crusade and sent them packing. Yet when an old lady travelled to see her all the way from her home town of Blackburn, she did accept a bag from her- some gifts including a small booklet about life and faith. She read the booklet: it was as if the words had been written just for her. She began to realise that not only had she been the victim of the wickedness of others, but also her own foolishness. She was angry at God, yet she realised that her anger came out of her own hardness, her selfishness, and she had been blind to the reality of life. And that reality was something beyond life as it often appears. She discovered that a man had already suffered a fate much worse than hers, an innocent man sentenced to death. And that man, Jesus, had given up his life for her out of love. God’s love and forgiveness was already hers for the asking, if she could only let go of the bitterness she carried around with her – she realized this was sin for her. She was to discover an even greater gift, a gift of new and much more real life than she had ever known, an experience like switching on a light of a new life. Within a matter of days she had a new confidence, eyes that saw possibilities and hope everywhere – this was not the end of her life but a new beginning. Other prisoners noticed. She started to notice as well, their sufferings, and felt she wanted to do something for them. Over time she was to share her discoveries, and help bring healing and hope to others in the prison.

As the appeal process went on, an appeal to the King of Thailand was suggested. She was told to plead guilty but she refused, a big risk. But she felt at peace with whatever would happen.

In a judgement that was almost unique, Rita Nightingale was given a royal pardon, and set free. After 18 months in a dingy Thai women’s prison, she was set free.

In John’s Gospel, Mary is crying outside the tomb when the risen Lord Jesus calls her. The first word of the Resurrection is to call her by name. We are, each one of us, called by name into new life, real forgiveness, called into the arms of the One who made us. That is the real and authentic message of Easter; and ours to share to an ever more needy world. Tim