Our minister is the Reverend Kim Stilwell


May 2018 

Dear Friends

 The walk of faith involves living with many contradictions - the God who is Creator of the Universe but loving Father, the Jesus who is fully human yet fully divine, the Spirit who is person yet force, the God who is three yet one, merciful yet just, loving and omnipotent yet permissive of suffering, the kingdom that is here but not yet, and at Easter the triumph over evil that isn't yet defeated.

 It was for me a memorable Holy Week and Easter - the message itself, together with a packed church, joyous singing, sunshine and the floral cross left me with a deep sense of the privilege of serving a church and a God who fills our hearts with praise. But it's impossible to be ever smiling when the reality of life for brothers and sisters in the human family is suffering - knifings, chemical weapons attacks, bombings, wrongful detention and deportation, lies, pain, poverty, disease and hunger. The contrast is stark, yet both the Easter worldview and the one we gain from our newspapers are valid. It is wrong to dismiss either.

 Some will try to find immunity from distress by narrowing their horizons - switching off the news, connecting only with like-minded people, convincing themselves that there is nothing they can do to make a difference in the world "out there". Others have found that shocking world events have paralysed them with despair. Yet they crave to be shocked more - shocking headlines sell papers! And unable to see a way forward, their only hope is a speedy end to it all.

 As we look forward to Pentecost, we are reminded of a Spirit who sets us on fire with a passion to share the Good News that God is love and mercy, that God has a future for Creation that is good, and acknowledging we're not there yet, God has a mission to work with us to make that future a present reality. That to me is God's hint at an answer to living with the contradiction of being a resurrection people in a world where there is so much tragedy.

 A contradiction is a reminder that answers are seldom easy, but there is real hope for creativity and the work of God in abiding with the "on the other hand."

 The Peace of the risen Jesus be with you



  March 2018



Dear Friends

 'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.' (1 Peter 3.15)

For me, it has been an encouraging start to Lent. After some controversy over the dropping of the CTAL Lent groups and the running of an Alpha course in its place, I was delighted to see the level of support for the "Abiding" course led by Neil Richardson at St Peter's. Between this course and Alpha there are well over 100 people actively engaged in exploring what it means to follow Jesus today. And between the courses a reasonable spectrum of ages and backgrounds is covered.

Some of the remarks at the Alpha session I attended challenged me afresh over how to respond to the kinds of questions people have today - and the same is true for the "conversations" we have with young people at the Youth Café. (There one person was heard to say "I quite like this church - it's less religious!" - Amen to that!)

People ask why we go to church "in this day and age" (wrongly thinking that the scientific community has led us to reject belief in God). For many of us the answer will begin with an observation about there being something intrinsically good about the church community - and the people who go. People who care for one another and for those outside, responding with generosity and love where they see need. People who give a warm welcome to all and have time for one another. Worship may come into the discussion with an account of the joy and sense of being moved by the singing of hymns.

This is all good but may not satisfy the one asking the question. What they want to know is do we really believe in God, and if so why, and what sort of God do we believe in?

Many who have been in hospital will know the experience of anticipating that critical moment of the Consultant's round - here is the very brief, and perhaps only chance to find out what I need to know from the one who really knows. It's a frightening thought but for a young person at the Café we are the 'consultants' - the way we answer may be critical for someone searching. Lent is a really good time to prepare ourselves for this - to revisit our questions, to put our faith on a firm footing. It's not too late to join one of the courses, read a book or speak to myself or someone else about what might be another good avenue of exploration.

May this Lent be a time of blessing and spiritual nourishment for us all



February 2018 

Dear Friends

 February begins with the marking of another desperately tragic loss in the church.

It is very hard to find the right words to say or the silence to keep with relatives and friends for whom the pain is most acute.

But what can we say to one another? What words of truth or comfort does our faith bring?

For me, the starting point is the shortest verse in the bible - John 11.35: Jesus wept.

There is a time and place for putting on a brave face, for accentuating the positive - and there is much that is positive to be said. But the reality is that God's world experiences suffering and pain of which God's story of Calvary is our defining example. Another son's life is cut short - and the pain of the onlookers does not go unnoticed - "Mother, behold your son".

To leap to the truth of resurrection can be to deny the pain and the lessons of suffering and death. It is so easy to negate the hurt of another which cries out for comfort and companionship.

Churches are often places that make people (us) feel that to share their (our) hurt - physical or mental - is wrong. We encourage them to speak about something else, or we quash their confessions of hurt with platitudes. In church you put on a false mask, a brave face, while the reality of how you feel is scarcely bearable.

There is no shame in pain, physical or mental - Jesus wept! - and the church must be the place where we are most able to be open and find support, not the place where there is a strict requirement that pain be glossed over because we are meant to be brave and happy.

"Love your neighbour as yourself" Jesus said. To love a neighbour is to be alongside them where they genuinely are. That involves relationship, time, patience, listening, "rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn" as Paul writes. It also involves loving ourselves enough to believe that we are worth listening to. As the hymn says: "Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too".

May we find God's help in being both honest and compassionate with one another - "See how these Christians love one another" - and may that love bring comfort especially at this sad time.

 May the peace of God which passes all understanding be with you.