I have often wondered…… do we really listen to sermons anymore? I mean, really listen to hear God speak? Or have they become something that entertains or bores? Do they challenge us, teach us, bring us any good news, encourage us to be growing disciples? Please note I am not putting the emphasis on the preacher here; are we, as the listeners, really thirsty to hear more of the Lord we follow? Do we expect anything serious to happen or is it a time to think about other things? You see, I’m really worried about ‘the sermon’ and for a number of reasons:
First of all, I believe they are ‘one-sided’. They take a long time to prepare – with the praying, preparatory reading, writing and crafting. They are the preacher’s attempt to ‘open the Word of God’ for the congregation to hear but how many of us as listeners really prepare ourselves and are able to take it all in? How many of us are able give a comment to the preacher at the end of the service about it?
Secondly, I think the sermon should supplement and enhance the Bible study, prayer life and development of the congregation. However, because so few of us engage in any of these things either corporately or individually during the week, we often don’t know our Bibles (or the literary giants often quoted) well enough to be able to really engage with what the preacher is on about.
Thirdly, because we aren’t always able to engage with the sermon, and that is the only time we perhaps get to listen to the Word of God, how much can we remember as Good News to sustain us and share with those people we meet and talk to during the following week?
Fourthly, how much does the sermon help us grow as disciples of Jesus? Discipleship is defined as being about a relationship between the teacher (Jesus) and student (us); something that is personal, a commitment, a responsibility. Do we develop that relationship Sunday by Sunday?
Fifthly: I am thrilled that there is a growing number of worship groups. I understand though, that some of them worry that no-one will ‘preach the sermon’. We could use this opportunity to use the ‘sermon slot’ to read the chosen Bible passages together and discuss them, sharing what they say to each of us. No-one has to be expert at Biblical criticism to do that! I believe we have become de-skilled, disabled and inhibited over the years and now we have a real opportunity to have holy conversations with each other, share stories of our faith and try to discern together what God is saying to us.
Perhaps this sounds shocking – not only to those who believe the sermon to be a vital part of our traditional heritage, but also to those who don’t like sharing their faith stories! I think it is shocking that disciples of Jesus Christ don’t talk about their faith and that we don’t seem to want to develop our discipleship. Let us use this opportunity to grow our confidence in Jesus Christ and talk more about him.
I’ll close with some words from Fred Kaan:
Give us faith to be more faithful,
give us hope to be more true,
give us love to go on learning:
God! Encourage and renew!
|Good Luck, Helen!Helen Hogg, our Synod Finance Officer, is raising money for the Mozambique Fund on August 14th by launching herself on a zip wire in Bethesda, Wales. This is the longest zip wire in Europe and the fastest in the world, travelling at up to 100 mph.If you would like to sponsor Helen please contact her at synod office on 0191 232 1168 or email email@example.com|
Northern Synod representatives travelled to Birmingham for the one day meeting of General Assembly called on June 27th to discuss the marriage of same-sex couples. Assembly agreed that local church meetings should be responsible for deciding whether to apply to register their church buildings for such services, but that this should be treated as a constitutional change to be referred to back synods before ratification by the 2016 Assembly. A pastoral letter outlining the process and inviting response has been sent by the General Secretary to all churches.
NEWS OF PEOPLE
There are a number of changes of ministry taking place in our churches during these summer months.
We send good wishes to Janet Appleby, Anglican minister of the Church of the Good Shepherd LEP, on leaving Battle Hill for the next stage of her ministry.
And also to Andrew Clarke as he moves from Trinity, Gosforth LEP, where the congregation will be welcoming the new Methodist superintendent Peter Holwell as their minister in September.
We look forward to welcoming Jane Rowell, formerly based at Church House as Secretary for International Relations, back to her home synod. Jane starts her new role as Mission Enabler for Northern and North Western synods this autumn.
Greetings too to Linda Gowland, who has been appointed local church leader at St Aidan’s, Hexham;
and to Matthew Prevett, a student from Westminster College, who will be ordained as minister at St Andrew’s Monkseaton on September 26th. This new ministry will include a 25% synod-based component.
Just a few weeks previously Ted Walton, another of our retired ministers, received a presentation at his home church of Bedlington, marking his decision after 70 years of preaching to “hang up his preaching scarf and retire”.
Low Row elder Daphne Clarke recently appeared on BBC One’s The One Show, following the much publicised death of Bristol poppy seller Olive Cooke. Daphne, who had earlier voiced her concerns in the local press that elderly people can be pressurised by the demands of charity letters, was introduced as the One Show’s “consumer crusader”. She agreed to work with Angela Ripon on a pro forma letter asking charities to cease contact – a letter which was downloaded over 30,000 times in the following week.
NEWS OF CHURCHES
The lunch club at St Columba’s, North Shields recently received a silver commendation award from the Chairman of North Tyneside Council for its service to the community. Three members of the congregation also received awards
Keen viewers of Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn, may like to know that while filming recently on Holy Island the crew used the St Cuthbert’s Centre as their base. Apparently the Centre itself will not feature, but we’ve heard that the Warden, Rachel Poolman, was invited to be an extra!
The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta was celebrated by our Warkworth congregation on June 13th with an open day and a historical exhibition which noted that Baron Warkworth was one of those present at Runnymede in 1215.
St George’s, High Heaton are signing up fantasy football managers again! Last year’s competition raised £65 for church funds – and was apparently a lot of fun, even for the non-sporting members of the congregation who relied on the closed eye and pin method of team selection.
Our church at Keld in Swaledale was again one of the venues for this year’s Swaledale Festival at the end of May. An ecumenical congregation of some 60 people heard a Russian vocal ensemble of four choir members from St Petersburg Cathedral filling the chapel with great depth and harmony.
To the West Bank with EAPPI
Commitment for Life churches who partner with Palestine will know that we support the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme, which brings together committed volunteers to live and work for a time on the West Bank, monitoring human rights and encouraging and supporting people under threat. Tees & Swale minister Hilary Collinson recently spent ten days in Palestine with her sister, Theresa Mansbridge, who is serving as an EAPPI volunteer for three months. Summing up her experiences, Hilary writes “however perplexing, however disturbing, the situation, the work of peacemakers is vital and we should support them in whatever way we can”.
One immediate expression of support comes in the person of our synod ecumenical officer, Andy Lie. Andy has just completed his EAPPI training, and will be taking up his volunteer accompanist post at the end of the year. Look out for opportunities in our churches to hear from Theresa and Andy after they return.
Keep the news coming in! –
Contact Wendy Watson at Synod Office – Tel 0191 2321168
A printed version of this news is sent to each church with the monthly mailing