A poem by Adrian Plass (Clearing
Away the Rubbish, 1988, Minstrel Books) an imaginary phone conversation
with Jesus……

Phone Call

Lord Jesus – don’t come round tonight,

I’m busy at the hall,

And the chances of a chat with you

Are really rather small.

So many people need me,

And I can’t deny them all,

So! It looks as if I won’t be in,

If you decide to call.

Yes, Tuesday would be
better,

But I think the man next door

Is looking very troubled,

And I’ve helped him out before.

Well – a friend in need is something

I can never quite ignore,

No – don’t come round tomorrow night,

You understand, I’m sure.

Wednesday night? That’s study group,

Thursday I’m away,

On Friday I’ve got tickets

For the local Christian play.

Saturday’s the mission,

And that’ll take all day,

Better if we leave it now

Till Sunday night; okay?

Oh, Jesus? Do you love me?

Will you ever set me free?

I’ve built myself a prison,

I’ve thrown away the key.

I’m weeping in the darkness,

Yes, I’m longing now to see

The plans you have for both of us.

Please come and visit me.

Does
this poem ring true for you sometimes? It does for me and has at various times
throughout my life as a Christian.

Life
gets so busy, work, family, hobbies, even when ‘doing things for God’ that we
can so easily lose touch with Him.

Leave
Him out of the picture and we charge headlong in a direction which is
completely of our own choosing and we find like Adrian Plass that we’ve ‘built
ourselves a prison and thrown away the key.’

It’s
good to try to build a balanced life of work, family, friends, interests, but
if we lose touch with the Source of all Life then what’s it all for? Are we
really investing our time and energy into things of eternal value, or on short
term ‘fixes’ which clutter our lives and leave no room for Him.

As
Easter approaches, Lent is a great time to reflect on where we are with God and
how we can put Him more firmly at the centre of our lives.

Does
prayer get pushed out? Do we have any time in our lives for reflection at all?
Be Still, Sunday Services, Home Groups, Deeper Life online course/community are
just a few of the ways we as a church try to make space for God at different
times of the week.

With
Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection, the day of new life and hope for
all of us, only a short time away – how about asking yourself a few questions?

How much
of this poem do I identify with?

Is my
life just one event after another, a runaway train, hanging on for dear life?

Is it
time to slow down, to deliberately make time for God a higher priority?

So, will
you join me in making space for Jesus, the only One who claims to bring us life
to the full and Living Water that will never run dry?

With
love in Christ,

Nick

Dear Friends

A few months
ago Bishop Jonathan agreed that this coming summer I should take a 3 month
sabbatical. This will begin on 12th May. It’s recommended that clergy take one every 10
years; I’ve been ordained for 12, so it’s overdue!

Here’s a
quote from the Church of England Guidelines for sabbaticals which is quite
helpful:

The word sabbatical is
derived from the same root as Sabbath. A fundamental purpose of a sabbatical is to set aside time for mental
renewal, spiritual re-creation and physical rest, so as to return refreshed in
one’s ministry. To avoid possible misunderstanding,
it is clear that a sabbatical is not intended to be • simply an extended holiday. • doing the
same job in a different location. •
solely used for academic study.

After 12
years I do feel in need of rest, reflection and renewal and my aim is to come
back fully ready to lead the churches into the next stage of their life and
growth. I will be living in the Vicarage for most of the three months, Carole
and the boys will continue to be involved at St. David’s, Holmbridge and pretty
much carry on with life as normal.

I will be
doing a number of things; going on retreat, engaging in some study and doing
some research visiting churches and Christian organisations throughout the
country.

Through
study and research I will be looking at one of the biggest questions the church
faces in the western world today:

How do we make and
nurture followers of Jesus in a society where people are busier and have less
free time than in the past?

Finding an
effective response or responses to this is crucial for the future health and
growth of the church in this country. It is an under researched area and I hope
to contribute something which will be of practical value not only to
Netherthong and Holmbridge churches but to the wider church as well. I have
been asked to write a paper/booklet on my findings.

I am
thankful that so many of you contribute so much to the life of our churches and
that many things will continue while I’m away. Our Team Rector, Sean is very
supportive and will ensure that Sunday services, funerals, baptisms and any
weddings will be covered by the rest of the Team clergy for those 3 months.

I look
forward to returning towards the end of August rested, and having learned a great
deal, ready to work with you all to develop and grow our churches further in
the years to come.

With love in
Christ,

Nick


The angel said: ‘I bring good news of great joy for all people.’
Words which people don’t always associate with the Christian faith, but which in truth are at its very heart.
‘Good news’ – Perhaps you think Christianity is all about putting us in chains and limiting our lives? The news that God came to us, born as a helpless baby, fully God and fully human, really is good news. Millions of people past and present have found that Jesus has brought them purpose in life and a freedom from chains like guilt, failure, bitterness and fear.
‘Great joy’ – Perhaps your experience of Christianity has been dull and boring? The angel tells us this is the opposite of what Jesus came to bring. He captivated those who saw and heard him. He brought healing and new beginnings to lives he touched. Jesus said the new life he brings is the very best vintage wine, not the sour tasting plonk of dull religion.
‘All people’ – You might think you’re not a ‘religious type’ of person, that Jesus is fine for others but not for you. The announcement of his birth urges us to think again. Jesus is for all people, including you and me.
This Christmas (and every day of the year) God wants to fill us all with good news of great joy – You are invited to discover a little more of this news at St. David’s this Christmas. There’s truly something for everyone and a warm welcome guaranteed!

At this time of year we sometimes hear people say, ‘I am putting off the old year and putting on the new.’ It’s a seasonal version of that deep-seated human desire: the wish to start all over again. Who of us has not at some time wished that we could have a new beginning? To have another opportunity, a day, a week or even a year over again?

Read more: New Year, New start?

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:45-46

There have been about 70 generations since the time of Jesus, since Philip invited Nathaniel to ‘come and see’ who this Jesus was.
We have the privilege of being able to issue such an invitation because 69 previous generations have done just that down through the centuries.
The Christian, the call to follow Jesus, is here today because countless millions have faithfully followed the example of Philip. People went and saw…. And they found something life changing when they did.
If people are to encounter Jesus in the future, if they are to find the ‘life in all its fullness’ he spoke about then we, the church today, has to pass on the ancient faith; we have to invite people to ‘come and see.’
After almost five years in the valley I have to say that in general (though there are exceptions) we’re not terribly good at it. Perhaps it’s fear of rejection, perhaps it’s English reserve, perhaps it’s a lack of confidence in ourselves or in what we believe, perhaps it’s a number of other things too.
One thing I do know for sure is that we Christians need to find our confidence and we need to create and build a culture of invitation in the valley.
The recent Festival of Faith was a wonderful series of events, when some did begin to invite others to ‘come and see.’ It’s now crucial we build on all the successes and all the learning points of that 9 day period.
At the launch event as well as hearing ‘live’ from Bishop Jonathan we saw a video clip of an interview of Archbishop Welby. Asked what the church is here for he said: ‘We’re here to worship God and to make disciples – everything else is decoration’
The Archbishops and Bishops, for the first time I can remember, are giving us a consistent message. It’s about growing our churches in depth of spirituality, in service to the world around us and in numbers too – It’s about pointing people to Jesus and extending Philips invitation ‘Come and see.’
Just pause for a moment – when was the last time you invited a friend or a neighbour to ‘come and see’.
The thing is, for the Christian it’s not an option for enthusiasts, but an obligation for all. This is what 69 generations have done. Will we the 70th generation do it too? 69 generations believed Jesus changes lives, do we believe that? 69 generations believed that through them God would make a difference in the world, do we believe that too?
Here’s the kind of thing we’re inviting people to come and see:
‘Come and see the Community of Jesus followers and feel its warmth.’
‘Come and see and explore some of life’s big questions.’
‘Come and discover the reality of answered prayer.’
‘Come and see and experience God personally.’
‘Come and see how your life can be different now.’
‘Come and see and find peace and rest for your soul.’
‘Come and see and be drawn into the love of the Trinity – always open to others, inviting people in.’
The call of the church is to reflect who God is out into the world, always open, always inviting others in to enjoy the love of God. This means that no one is outside God’s embrace and that we’re the hands God will use to do that embracing.
The next great opportunity for invitation is ‘Invitation Sunday’ on 27th September at 9.15 am. More details elsewhere in this magazine.
This autumn will also see a number of Festival follow up events will be taking place. These include the Alpha Course in October and November – a relaxed and friendly way to explore the meaning of life (full details in this magazine and online). There’s the ‘Is God a Delusion’ evening on 13th October at St. David’s, an evening exploring the Science/Religion debate with specially invited experts from throughout the north of England and the ‘Be Still’ sessions on the last Thursday of each month – a chance to find peace in our often frantic lives.
Do you know someone who would benefit from one of these? Do you know someone who might be interested? Perhaps someone who may come along with you on a regular Sunday morning?
Ask God to show you who among those you know you could invite. Ask God for the courage to invite them to come along with you.
Ask God to help you follow the example of Philip.
May He give you the courage to invite someone to begin (or even re-start) the journey to know the love and deep peace of their creator and saviour.
May we all find we can learn to say: ‘Come and See.’
With love in Christ
Nick