Hope is one of those gifts from God that comes to us at the most difficult of times. Hope is a word that I am sure many of us have often used lightly in the past. “I hope the weather will be good tomorrow” But, as we know, hope is so much more, so much deeper, and so much more important.
Hope may seem difficult for us to feel at the moment. We dwell and ponder instead. Is this virus under control? Are people taking notice of social distancing? Are my exam results good enough for University? Will we get away on holiday? Have I got a job after furloughing? Will I see my grandchildren more regularly? There are so many changes to our lives, to our world; there are so many questions doing circles through our minds.
And yet, as we ponder and move on to hope, perhaps we’ve recognised God’s presence and strength, and even peace with us, in a way that at the time of our worries couldn’t expect.
I believe that just as God has been in the past, God is with us now, in this time, offering us those same gifts of strength, peace and above all hope.
In July our church building at Holy Trinity reopened. The church has not been closed – I and many others have been busy doing other things across our communities and on line. The doors might have been closed but we have been busy. I am sure we will need to discover new ways of being church, beyond and living with Covid.
One key aspect of which will be how we supported one another over the lockdown phase of the pandemic is how we shared those simple acts of love: by a phone call, an email, an offer of help to one another and to our neighbours and above all in prayer. We may have been physically separated but we remained and continue united in faith as the Body of Christ both here and throughout the world. Together that is a powerful force of prayer and source of hope for us and others.
With the church reopened, there is much to do. Our finances may not be great, but our spirit and faith are solid. We hope that you will all come back to church soon. We may lose some people, but will we gain others? We need people to help us in gifts of service, money, and prayer. Could that be you I wonder?
Now at the end of August and as we approach September, we are all conscious that we are developing a new “normal”. People are starting to get out and about again, the shops are seeing customers and we are all wearing masks. Our community is waking up again and changing to adapt to different circumstances. Like many town centres Weymouth continues to see an increase in closed businesses. What a shame the landlords do not help them to get back on their feet by reducing rents. Despite this, so much compassion has been realised through acts and deeds of kindness for others. Friendships might have developed. It is time to build on those friendships, re-galvanise our communities, not retreat behind the triple glazing and slump into Netflix. And what about Sundays? What about Church?
So where is the community spirit heading now as the lock down eases, schools reopen in a few days, furloughing changes, the busyness of live resumes some sense of normality (whatever that means)? What does all this mean for you, me and our church?.
Let me take you into the scriptures for inspiration and reflection. It is a verse from the Book of Hebrews which I think sums up what we all need to do, moving forward:
‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching’ Hebrews 10:24-25
We are in this together, and together with the God who loves us more than we can ever know or understand we will get through it. More than that I pray we will emerge into the next phase of this pandemic – walking in the light with our faith, hope and love strengthened and love for each other, and willingness to help one another when called for, assured.
Canon AndrewRead More
It’s hard to believe that we are now in the season of Trinity. Having just presided at the Eucharist, alone in church, I can officially declare that the Trinity season has begun. Our Parish church dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity has celebrated it’s birthday. I hope that I was able to convey something of the celebration through technology.
It has also been a great blessing to introduce to you in our Sunday virtual Eucharist for Trinity Sunday, James Thomas our new Director of Music, and his wife Lizzie Peacock. They will be moving to join us in Weymouth in the next few weeks. I am looking forward to working with James and learning from his vast experience of church music.
The Thursday after Trinity Sunday we celebrate a day more famously known as Corpus Christi and is sometimes in people’s eyes associated with the Roman catholic church. It is the day in the year when we give thanks for the Holy Eucharist. It is also firmly set in our Anglican calander.
But I would ask you to think about the importance of the Eucharist this year perhaps more than ever before.
We have not been able to gather to worship for nearly three months. We have not been together as People and Priest around the Altar in all of that time. The lack of open celebrations of the Eucharist has I know been a very difficult sacrifice for many. Perhaps you have been receiving Spiritual Communion each week from watching me preside at the Eucharist in church which is then streamed to Youtube, Facebook and on to our website.
Whichever is the case the fact that we are at present deprived of this most precious gift should make us even more conscious of its value and importance to us. When the Parish Communion became the normal main celebration in Churches instead of Mattins, the then Archbishop of Canterbury warned against tripping too lightly to the Altar. In other words, we should prepare ourselves properly with prayer and reflection before receiving communion. In the century before Queen Victoria allegedly said that it took her three months to prepare to receive the Sacrament. In her case it was not because of lockdown but the custom of the time not to partake frequently. Alas we do not yet know when we will be allowed to come back into our Churches to receive the Eucharist. We know that from the middle of June we may open the church for private prayer only. But remember that throughout this time of lockdown our Lord is with us and his Spirit will sustain and guide us. Please also use this time to think of the many sacrifices so many are making and face in these challenging days and pray for them.
Your parish priest & friend
Canon AndrewRead More
As I sit writing my letter to you for the February/March Trinity Voice I am conscious that we are moving swiftly on into a new year and the cycle of a new church year with Candlemass on the 2nd February and then Ash Wednesday 26th February and the beginning of Lent.
I remember a time when antique furniture had to be old, really genuinely old. Now it is easy to buy brand-new furniture in a ‘distressed’ state. That is to say that it is made to look old: a bit of paint rubbed off on the corners, a few wormholes made with a very narrow drill-bit, the odd light scratch or two. Once if we bought a new piece of furniture and it looked like that we should either have sent it back to the shop or expected a heavy discount off the price. Today it can be seen as added value: an instant antique. Many people like the idea of the instant – instant meals, instant e mails, instant music and films on hand-held devices; so why not instant antiques?
Some people want their faith to be instant – low input, low cost, low maintenance. But faith is just not like that. Like love it takes time to mature. Like love it is tested by the knocks and blows that happen to us all. Like love it also deepens as the days go by, always providing that, like love, it receives the attention and support that it needs. Faith is not a sudden, blinding flash of awareness of the truth, although that sort of experience may well be the beginning of a person’s journey towards faith, or push it forward. Faith is more of a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. It is the sort of relationship that grows until life would be quite unthinkable without that bond, that trust, that knowledge of the other. As with other, human, relationships our relationship with God takes time to build to become faith.
The Bible shows us how God’s people often had to wait: the Hebrews did not enter the Promised Land overnight nor did the waters of the Flood recede to allow the land to dry out instantly. Jesus called many to follow him but the rich young man was not ready to give up his riches; the blind man at Bethsaida had an encounter with Jesus, but he still had to wait for Jesus’s hands to be placed upon his eyes a second time before he could truly see.
As we approach Lent remember that the season is given to us to help us reflect on ourselves and lives as we journey towards Holy Week and what Christ endured for us on the cross. Nothing is truly instant, it all takes time to come to completion. Our faith in God and our relationship with Christ Jesus needs to deepen and that takes a lifetime. Even in a busy Lent it is worth our allowing time for faith to grow.
Blessings for a prayerful Lent Canon Andrew Gough – Parish PriestRead More
We live in a society where we are very conscious that we should be careful of what we say or do in case we cause any offence to anyone. So much so that some fear speaking the truth. Perhaps we have taken this all a bit too far, as many whom we may think we might offend are often not remotely bothered. Christmas is often caught up in this, as every year we can find rather silly examples of local authorities, charities, schools, shops or whoever else, diluting or even doing away entirely with this Christian celebration because of the fear of causing offence. Why should this be? The Christmas story is actually very modern and multicultural. An unmarried mother, homelessness and sleeping rough, foreign visitors, travelling from afar, and then a very modern parable with refugees fleeing persecution seeking shelter in a far-off land. So, what is the problem? Christianity is being more and more marginalised across Europe and, for that matter, persecuted in numerous other regions across the globe. Perhaps it is because the true message of Christmas is indeed offensive to our modern, selfish way of thinking because it demands a response from us. The message of the angels is dynamite, and it would transform our world for the better, if only we’d let it. ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’. It demands a response. That response is either to acknowledge His lordship over history and to bow down in worship, or it is to judge the claims made of this baby as false and to move on, ignoring Christmas altogether.
However, if anyone is tempted to the latter course of action, they should first examine the life and teachings of who this child grew up to be. I believe His teachings speak so powerfully across the generations right into our lives today. They are still transforming lives for the better and they can transform ours. ‘Love your neighbours as yourselves. Forgive those who sin against you. Don’t hoard wealth, share it with those who have little. Help the stranger, love the outcast, love each other, love God.’ It is actually so simple, but the world thinks it knows best. Yet here is the answer to the world’s many, many problems. Here is God’s answer to the mess we so often make of our own lives. It is a message so alien to the way humanity conducts itself, and God knew that. He knew what we needed, and so he gave it to us; He gave freely of His love, His guidance, His forgiveness and His redemption, clothed in the fragile, yet perfect form of the Christ child. Yes, this message is uncomfortable for many. Much better to gloss over it and hold a winter festival beginning in October or better to elbow out the life-changing message of the Prince of Peace by using the risible excuse that we don’t want to cause offence. What really lies at the heart of these negative responses to Christmas as it’s meant to be is an unwillingness to engage with that simple invitation that God gives us in the person of Christ.
The all-embracing, loving example of Jesus of Nazareth has been causing ‘offence’ for over 2,000 years. Remember King Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Pharisees of Jerusalem, the Roman Empire and we still see such violent reactions across the globe today. All have been offended by the teachings of Christ and by his followers’ devotion, and as we enjoy our celebrations, let us spare a thought for our persecuted brothers and sisters who face danger and death simply for loving God. Jesus Christ has been resisted in every century, with violence, contempt and, as we see in our so-called sophisticated modern society, through marginalisation, prompted by not wanting to face up to the challenge He presents as to how we should live our lives. Yet the light which first shone from Bethlehem’s stable will never be extinguished. It continues to shine all around our world, usually at its brightest when facing the greatest resistance. Why do so many fight it? The gracious invitation is for us all. ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to all people.’ Christ, the saviour of the world came to bring you light and hope and peace. What is your response to be?
May God bless you this Christmas and in the year ahead
Canon AndrewRead More
I always listen to classic radio when I am driving. It is something I have done for many years. As certain tracks are played again which I have heard before I try and remember where I was driving the last time I heard it played. Sometimes it is easier to remember than others. November is a time of remembering in the church year.
The period from All Saints to Advent is a time when we are reminded of the fact that ‘no Christian is solitary’. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are days when we reflect on this sense of belonging and remembering. On All Saints’ we celebrate men and women in whose lives the Church as a whole has seen God at work. God’s work of grace can be seen in the ordinary and extraordinary, as any flick through a dictionary of saints will demonstrate. The services where we commemorate the faithful departed are a more local and personal way of remembering those whom we have loved and are no longer with us. They allow us to remember those whom we have known more directly, those saints in our lives, who have nurtured us, who gave us life, and made us who we are.
Then we move to Remembrance Sunday, where we explore further the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-giving, memory and forgetting. So November – a time of remembering, of reflecting, of moving towards a renewed hope as we prepare to celebrate the birth of God’s son sent to save us.
That’s worth remembering.
Canon AndrewRead More
I was interested to read recently about an amusing exercise which had taken place, asking people about their washing habits. Here are some of the responses:
‘I tried washing once but I didn’t like it’. ‘I was forced to wash as a child, which put me off washing’. ‘I used to wash, but it got boring so I stopped’. ‘Very few of my friends wash’. ‘I wash on special occasions like Christmas and Easter’. ‘I used to wash regularly but I don’t have the time anymore’. ‘Washing once a month is more than enough’. ‘People who wash are hypocrites, they think they are cleaner than everyone else’.
These responses are all quite amusing, but I was drawn to thinking that these are the sort of excuses that people sometimes use for not going to church. But why is attending church with others in a public act of worship so important? Here are a few reasons:
We are instructed to do so: ‘Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing’, Hebrews 10:25. In Matthew 18:20 we are told that ‘when two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.’
It is important to remember that we do not go to church to be entertained, but to worship Almighty God as equals and brothers and sisters and to be nourished in the Eucharist. This was very important in the early church. It is also the same for us: when we neglect our public worship, it impacts our faith in Jesus Christ. Christians cannot grow in isolation. If the Church is to function properly, all its body parts need to be present and working, so 1 Corinthians 12: 14-20 tells us. The reason for this is that WE ARE THE CHURCH.
I want to focus on the feast of the Transfiguration (6th August) in this double summer edition magazine. So far I haven’t come across many mountains in Weymouth, but there are some beautiful views. I have been blessed in my ministry to have had some experiences with a view. Perhaps not your conventional views. As a student I spent time on placement working for the inner London probation service and working at St Matthew’s Church at the Elephant and Castle.
This was thirty-five years ago. I lived in a flat on the 11th floor of one of the long blocks on the New Kent Road. The area has all been demolished now and a huge regeneration has taken place. You may not have been able to see all the nations of the earth from my flat, but from the kitchen window you did get a full view of the city panorama from the Houses of Parliament (if you leant out a bit), the Telecom Tower, the Barbican, past Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Behind that a new skyline was emerging the Nat West Tower, the Lloyds building and the definite shape of Canary Wharf. One was very aware of a skyline that proclaimed wealth and security while ministering in a deprived, fractured parish which lay in its shadow. Mountains are usually remote places of withdrawal.
A place where one gets life in perspective. The mountain we encounter in the story of the transfiguration, like other mountains in the Bible, is a place very much away from the places where the action takes place, away from the towns and villages of Galilee where Jesus had been teaching. Yet on that mountain all reality bursts in, priorities are decided, agendas are set – there is no getting away from the demands and the responsibilities in store for those who find themselves high on the mountainside. Jesus knows the responsibilities, the issues and tensions that lie below.
The glory those disciples glimpse defines the vocation of their master and the possibilities for themselves. In that moment they glimpsed the reality behind all Jesus said and did, and the possibility of their part in it. There is no discipleship without a master to listen and learn from, there is no discipleship without following Jesus and, as Jesus explains to them as they descend the mountain, that following leads to the cross. I think for us two millennia later our transfiguration can happen when our lives, our stories, our lives together as church, become joined in their deepest core to the gospel.
That will demand listening and discerning God’s vision for us. That will be worked out in reality, not on the mountain top but in our everyday lives, the places we live and work. Where we are called to seek God’s kingdom and its righteousness. What vision are we part of, that might help people see things differently? Christians should talk more about a transfigured community, a transfigured Weymouth – where justice and faithfulness matter, where values and vocation, are caught in a new vision, that affects the way we live. The church must be the first witness of what it proclaims to the world. We need structures for the future which will speak to church members and society of a gospel of self-worth, mutual trust, tenderness, openness, and a holistic balance between achieving and letting be – the integration of gentleness and strength. Our very practise of Christian discipleships, as church, must speak of the type of society we are willing to work for.
Canon Andrew – VicarRead More
Back in 2004 I went to see Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of Christ. It was reported in the newspapers as the one of the most touching, powerful, heartfelt, shocking, inspiring, and riveting films ever made. There is no doubt that crucifixion was most cruel and ghastly. The age was extremely cruel. Codes of conduct as we know them, when treating aliens and prisoners did not exist – as is still often the case today. For the Roman army of occupation, inflicting maximum degrading violence asserted racial superiority. Similar cruel behaviour would also be the usual way of the Jewish Temple police. Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness was outside accepted thinking and behaviour.
However, as more people watched the film, reviewers started pointing to the serious need of a different warning.
The film concentrates on the final hours of Jesus’ life. It is about Good Friday, and really concludes with his death. With 126 minutes concentrating on the events of the Passion, and only 2 minutes alluding to the Resurrection, viewers may have left the cinema in shock without having grasped the joyful and essential news of Easter. Without the powerful events of Easter morning, then Good Friday is just a tale of dreadful violence.
As we approach Holy Week and Easter I want to put the film in context. Truly, the violence of Good Friday was real, was unspeakable. But it is quite overshadowed by the Good News that Jesus overcame it all. He lives again and is invincible. More so than all the pain and cruelty that the world has ever known and will ever know.
I hope that you will join us at Holy Trinity for our Holy week services and on Easter Day.
Wishing you all a very Happy Easter
Canon Andrew Gough – Vicar of Holy Trinity with St Nicholas
At this time of year there is always a great sense of anticipation and of hope. As we make our plans for Christmas, we anticipate the variety of services which help us to celebrate the birth of Jesus: carol services, crib services and the uniquely special service of midnight Mass.
One of my favourite stories about a school nativity service (not in our school!) is of the little boy who wanted to play the part of Joseph. He was very disappointed to be given instead the part of the innkeeper, but he appeared to accept his teacher’s decision and got on with his part in the play. However, on the day of the performance, in front of a school hall packed with parents, the boy took his revenge. When Joseph and Mary asked him if there was any room in his inn, he abandoned the script, stood back so that the door to the inn was wide open and said, ‘yes there’s plenty of room; come on in!’
That might not be the way the familiar story goes but I think the little boy’s actions have some things to say to us at Christmas. We all are invited to ‘come in’ to greet the holy child, born into such very humble surroundings. All will be welcomed to the variety of different services which our churches offer at Christmas as we join together in celebrating the birth of Jesus, the One who comes to save us and bring us joy. There literally is ‘room for all’ because God welcomes each and every one of us. He does not want anyone to be turned away, because He loves each of us so much. God has shown the depth of that love in His unique gift to us; the gift of His Son, born as one of us, part of a loving human family; the One who was willing ultimately to give his life for us, so that we might share in his life, for ever.
We anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth, not only because it is a great excuse for a bit of a party, but also because his birth gives us hope. Hope for the future. Hope in the midst of much that seems to be changing all around us. Our Christmas celebrations lead into celebrations of the new year, with a heightened sense of anticipation for all that 2019 might bring. Many will be praying that the next year will be better than the last; others will be going into the New Year with a deep sense of anxiety and uncertainty. However as we approach 2019, we should remember the wonderful promise which Jesus made to us: ‘remember that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’ (Matthew 28, verse 20). Jesus promises to be there with us in whatever it is that life brings; in the happy times and in the sadnesses; in the pain and also in the joy.
At Christmas, God welcomes us all to celebrate the birth of His Son, the One who brings hope to the world. God invites us to come in because He has made sure that there is room for us all.
I wish everyone a very HAPPY & HOLY CHRISTMAS and a peaceful New Year.