Living life to the full through knowing Jesus

Over the past few weeks, the Bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin has led the LIveLife Lent Mission into West London’s Church of England Secondary Schools. Rachel Burnell writes about her involvement…

We were joined by a team of youth workers and clergy who were assigned to go into the schools and share the gospel message of John 10:10 on living life to the full through knowing Jesus. This required a huge amount of organisation by the wonderful Mary Kok, the Kensington Area’s Youth and Schools chaplain, who timetabled us to go into lessons, hold assemblies or run the prayer space.

I spent a week at the Green School and thoroughly enjoyed engaging with the girls in a number of ways. On my first day I taught an RE lesson on Happiness and how we can only truly find this through knowing God and through serving others. I also joined in with lessons such as English, Maths and PSHE where the young people were encouraged to consider how they are so precious to God and how He wants us all to find fullness of life because of this.

This last week I also had the opportunity of working with sixth formers at Bishop Wand and discussing how they could find space to reflect and slow down, as well as hearing them put some challenging questions to Bishop Graham and other members of the team during a Q&A panel. My favourite thing I took away from the experience, however, was the chapel prayer space where we had a chance to read the worries young people have (which they shared as written prayers) as well as a deep desire from many of them to find out more about God. Many of the girls at The Green School said that the ‘Be Still’ corner was a welcome escape from usual busy, noisy school life. As a result of this I’ve been inspired to create a similar corner at the back of St. John’s for people to utilise over the Easter weekend and to be able to use their senses to pray in a variety of ways.

Rachel Burnell is our Youth and Children’s Team Leader. Please visit the prayer space corner she has prepared at St John’s if you get a chance. For more details of the Bishop’s Live Life Lent Mission please visit www.livelife.london

Living with gods?

Hannah Boulton is our church PCC secretary and works at the British Museum. Here she discusses some of the issues raised by a recent exhibition about religious belief.

There is no known culture in the world or in history without religious beliefs. But is there a connection between believing and belonging?  It is a question explored by a current exhibition at the British Museum which looks at – through objects – the practice and expression of religious beliefs in the lives of communities around the world and through time.

Scientists and Archaeologists believe that for the last forty thousand years – for as long as human beings have had the same sort of brain as we do – it seems that groups of people living together have tried to find patterns underlying the natural world on which they depend. All groups appear to come to a shared story, which seeks to explain their community’s place in the world, and to reconcile the transience of an individual life with the enduring existence of the group. They also develop rituals and festivals which reinforce the belief in that story. These shared stories and the rituals together powerfully help us forge a shared identity. They are something that bind us, even if we don’t always acknowledge it. For us as Christians, our faith, our meeting together at church and our prayers are part of this.

The exhibition is full of objects that reference these shared stories or are used in such rituals, from the everyday to the spectacular; from the celebrated Ice Age sculpture of the ‘Lion Man’ to posters relating to Soviet atheism, to an 18th century replica of a Hindu ceremonial chariot and the deeply moving Lampedusa Cross (pictured) – a cross made from pieces of wood recovered from a capsized boat which had been carrying refugees. These objects show that believing and belonging appear, everywhere in the world, as definers of community.

The exhibition runs until 8th April at the British Museum and the accompanying BBC Radio 4 series is still available to download via the BBC website.

Hannah Boulton

Who supplies your wisdom?

In our services throughout Lent we’ve been looking at the “Freedoms of Jesus” – his habits and disciplines that gave him the freedom to love God more and love others better. Last week we looked at the Freedom of Study and Stories. Here are 10 ways we can follow Jesus by turning up the wisdom of the Bible in our own lives… Please contact Dave (davidmaclure@gmail.com) for any more info on any of these.

1 Quiet Time. Some people enjoy spending time alone each day reading the Bible sometimes with reading notes or books to help.

2 Small Groups. Studying with others in an open and accepting environment is perhaps the best way to get to grips with the Bible. We have several Bible study groups at St John’s and St Mary’s – why not consider joining one?

3 Podcasts. While walking the dog, or on your commute, you could listen to some Bible discussion. WordLive, Richard Rohr, Tim Keller sermons, Godpod or even BBC Radio 4’s “Thought for the day” are good ones.

4 Audio Bibles. Many people prefer listening to the Bible being read – rather than actually listening to it. Some apps will do this for you, and the website Faithcomesbyhearing.com contains audio versions of the Bible in English for free. These can be downloaded as mp3s.

5 Apps. The Bible App will give you a new verse for each day on your phone home screen – a good way to look at just one verse at a time and maybe consider how that verse impacts your life.

6 Query the Bible. Read – and ask questions. Ask the vicar!

7 Read a different version. For example, the “Message” version which is a translation of the Bible in modern, contemporary language.

8 Action Bible. A version of the Bible drawn as a comic strip – illustrated by a Marvel comics artist who converted into the faith. Great for all ages.

9 Online. Biblegateway.com has many English versions available for free.

10 Come to church and hear the sermons. The sermons are often recorded so if you missed one you can always catch it later.

Florence Baker – 100 Years and still going strong

Florrie Baker has been a regular of St John’s for many years and lives very near the church on St John’s Road. On the 26th February she celebrated her 100th birthday with her family and friends at a small party held in her honour at her home.

Are you from Isleworth, Florrie?

No, I’m not – I’ve “only” been in Isleworth 59 years. I used to live in Waterloo. But since I’ve been here I’ve been involved at the church – I’ve helped welcome people, and with the chalice, the women’s fellowship and fundraising and many other things! We’ve seen a lot of changes at church over the years. I’ve seen quite a few vicars come and go.

What are some of the things you’ve done in life, Florrie?

I left school quite early and trained in dress-making, and did my apprenticeship at Marshall and Snelgrove on Oxford Street. We sometimes had to fix dresses for royalty! I had to stop after I got married – those were the rules back then. During the war, I worked in a factory making shells and military equipment. In the evenings, at 6pm we would have to make our way to the bomb shelter, which for us was under the arches at Waterloo. I have kept my needlework over the years, I’ve always enjoyed that.

My husband served in the war for a while. He lived until he was 98 years old and died just a few years ago. We raised our two daughters, and I have a granddaughter.

Did you get your card from the Queen?

Yes, I did. It was organised through the pension. It says, “I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion.” I also got a letter from Esther McVey the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

What’s your secret to living to a good age and remaining so sharp?

Work hard. I’ve always had things to do and kept myself busy.

Picture above: Florrie with her card from the Queen, and the vicar!

Why not try contemplative prayer this Lent?

Prayer is a joy… Prayer is boring… Prayer is a source of blessing…Prayer is a struggle…

Whatever our experience of prayer so far, I expect many of us can relate to some or perhaps all of those statements.

As we read the gospels, we find that Jesus often withdrew from the demands of daily life to a solitary place to pray, and he instructed his disciples to do the same. For Jesus prayer was something at the centre of his life which energised and directed his ministry and enabled him to remain close to his heavenly Father.

This lent, during the forty days leading up to Easter, there will be a number of opportunities to join with others in developing our experience of prayer. There will be a special focus on the kind of prayer that goes beyond words and images and enables us to draw closer to God by simply being present to Him in stillness and silence. Sometimes called contemplative prayer, this can be a great source of solace and strength amid the frantic busyness and noise of life.

On Saturday Feb 17th we will be led by the sisters of Gumley House Convent, who are offering a Lenten themed morning of prayer and reflection. Then there will be a series of four sessions on Wednesday evenings at St Mary’s (Feb 21 – March 14) to continue to learn about and practice contemplative prayer. In this we will be guided by the parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-8) and the symbols which Jesus uses in this story to illustrate the themes of receptiveness and spiritual growth.

If you would like to feel more comfortable praying in this way, do consider coming along if you can. There will be plenty of guidance and encouragement, and I’m sure we will have some fun as well!

I do hope you can join us.

Rachel Michael