This last week, Christmas festivities got going with two events hosted at St Mary’s.
Advent is here and on December 3rd we had the Church Family Christmas party. We had children that frequently attend Flightpath as well as some of the younger ones and toddlers. We also had quite a few parents joining in the celebration. It was a most enjoyable evening.
Nicole Hanekom was extremely good at face painting and the children queued eagerly to be transformed. The Christmas tree went up without a hitch this year (thanks to Naeem). It was then beautifully decorated by the children. There was art and craft as well as several games which the children enjoyed. Of course, we had two major highlights of the evening. Brian Grumbridge presented his annual Christmas Nativity play. This year it was very interactive and let’s say most of the ‘audience’ ended up on stage including many of the adults. There was no holding back. Last but not least, we had Santa Claus who came all the way from the North Pole. It was really touching to see and hear the little ones talking to Santa Claus. It was a great party and everyone I am sure had a good time.
The festivities continued on December 7th at St Mary’s. The church hosted a Carol Service organised by Crossways Pregnancy Crisis Centre. We had bible readings and carols (accompanied by Kevin on piano) and we also had performances from the St John’s and St Mary’s Gospel choir as well from the visiting ‘Up Beat Choir’. The church looked beautiful with its decorations and lighting. There was mulled wine and mince pies for all who wanted and Christmas craft and cakes on sale in support of the charity. So it’s been a busy week at St Mary’s and now we have the Carol service to look forward to at St John’s on 17 December. See you there!
The Crossway Pregnancy Crisis Centre was set up in 1999, to support those facing the trauma of an unplanned pregnancy or pregnancy loss. We became a charity in 2005. Based in East Twickenham, London, we seek to support women, and their partners, in the boroughs of Richmond, Hounslow and Kingston. Our ethos is that no woman should have to go through the experience of considering having an abortion, or dealing with a miscarriage or post abortion, without being supported. These are tricky and challenging issues, and we are committed to non-directive care and support – we encourage women and their partners to slow down and consider carefully the options before them, and then we seek to be there for them following their decisions. We work with health professionals, social services and local councils in seeking referrals and striving for best practice and we have delivered sex and relationships education in schools.
On Thursday, 7th December, at St Mary’s, we will have our first CPCC Christmas Carol service. Local groups will be performing, and we will all have the chance to sing some well-known carols together. The event runs from 7:30pm-9:30pm with an interval and refreshments. St John’s and St Mary’s very own Gospel Singers will be performing! To buy tickets and for further details please visit their website . Tickets can be bought on the night too.
We start our Shelter Project next week and at St John’s this Sunday we will be hearing about the work of Crossway Pregnancy Crisis Centre. But beyond this, there is a lot the church in London is doing to care for vulnerable people.
Andy Burns, Executive Director of Capital Mass, and Alison Tsang from Just Finance gave an enthusiastic and inspiring talk to the Hounslow Deanery Synod earlier this month. Capital Mass aims to engage and support every parish in the Diocese of London in tackling poverty and inequality. It does this by providing an extensive range of resources through its website, online newsletter and events. Parishes are encouraged to register local initiatives so that experience can be shared across the diocese. So far 240 projects addressing poverty have been registered. Other projects cover issues such as homelessness, modern day slavery and assisting refugees.
Proverbs 31:8-9 reminds us that we should “speak out for those who cannot speak” and “defend the rights of the poor and needy”, Capital Mass also campaigns for social justice and employs an expert immigration lawyer as Refugee Response Co-ordinator. The Just Finance Foundation is a separate part of Capital Mass, focusing on providing advice and assistance in cases of financial crisis, e.g. job loss, housing, funeral costs and debt.
Capital mass links up parishes online so that those considering starting projects can be in touch with others who are running or considering similar initiatives such as drop-in centres, lunch clubs, English language tuition.
Building on the success of the Shelter project Hounslow in which we participate, maybe we could consider whether there are other areas in which our church might seek to offer help to people in need. Do have a look at the website and speak to Dave if you have any suggestions.
We gave out surveys at church some weeks ago. Nearly 90 surveys were returned. Nicole Hanekom compiled the results. Here’s what we found out…
People come to church for many reasons – but for community, for a sense of peace, to learn about Jesus and how to follow him and to pray scored highly in the surveys. Prayer (rather than personal Bible study, for example) is very important for people in both churches in personal life. At home, about 40% of us live with people who do not attend church.
Most of us walk to church, especially those at St John’s. Few of us are part of Christian groups elsewhere which indicates St John’s and St Mary’s are our primary communities for learning about Jesus and growing in the Christian faith. In both communities there is quite a good spread of older and newer members. We are diverse in other ways. About two thirds of us are white British, but, on the other hand, a third of us are not. Two thirds of us have come from non-CofE backgrounds or from no church background. St John’s also has a wide variety of ages attending.
Coming out to midweek events is not easy for many people – about half say they don’t have much free time during the working week. More than half of us would likely or possibly attend a short service on a Sunday afternoon. The majority of us get our news from the BBC (and some of us even work for the BBC!). Well over half us are checking facebook and using smartphones.
In the comments section of the survey “relaxed”, “welcoming”, “friendly”, “community” were words that came up frequently. St John’s is liked for its family atmosphere, and St Mary’s for its peaceful atmosphere. And the music? About half of us are happy with the way things are – the other half are split between wanting more contemporary and more traditional – so it’s a stalemate!
Our God is a God who loves those who are marginalised and at risk. The Bible shows us God has a heart for children, from the stories of Moses and Esther to the birth of Jesus himself who, though the Son of God, was brought up on earth by the Joseph and Mary. The apostle Paul talks about how we are adopted into God’s family ourselves through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:5)
In the UK today there is a real fostering crisis as 35,000 children each year enter the care system but there is a shortage of the almost 9000 homes needed for them. As local authorities are stretched and cannot always accommodate the number of children in need of a safe, loving home, more and more children are having to be redirected to private agencies, which can mean they end up split up from their siblings. In particular, there is an on-going and urgent need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and sibling groups. These children are the ones who are often hard to place, but for those carers who do take them in it can be very rewarding. Being taken into care can be a heart-wrenching experience and I believe that part of our mission in the church is to support and love the children who may have experienced a huge amount of loss and rejection at an early age.
Adoption is also facing similar challenges as the number of children being adopted dropped by 12% last year, which means that almost 6000 children are missing out on being part of a warm, caring family. This Adoption Sunday it is a chance for us to consider our own story of adoption into God’s family while we commit ourselves to help the most vulnerable in our society. As God reminds us in Psalm 82:3 ‘Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the poor and the oppressed.’