Materials for Worship at Home on 25th July

Nerys writes: Historians show us that great evil and great good don’t simply happen out of the blue. They both usually begin in small incidents, barely noticed – incidents whose significance only becomes apparent once the evil or goodness has snowballed. The current pandemic and many major international conflicts can be traced back to a number of small wrongs, misjudgements, misguided attitudes or sometimes an early absence of communication. Thankfully, the same is true of goodness. Our readings today, 2 Kings 4.42-44 and John 6.1-21, give us an opportunity to celebrate the way that small acts of obedience and faith, generosity and love, can be blessed and transformed for great, widespread good, giving us glimpses of the growth of the kingdom of God in action.

First we read about the distribution of twenty barley loaves among a hundred men by the prophet Elisha at a time of famine. The bringer of the food, a man from a town dedicated to the fertility god Baal, shows remarkable selflessness and trust in God. The first of his new crop would have been welcome either to feed his family or to sell for the highest price in the market. Instead, he brings it to Elisha, a representative of God, the true Lord of the harvest. It is an impossibly small amount among such a large number, but the combination of this man’s obedience and Elisha’s faithfulness results in many more people being fed than could have been imagined.

In our Gospel reading, the generosity of the boy and Jesus’ compassion result in a vast crowd of hungry people being fed.

Most depictions of the loaves and fishes, including this one by Ilse KLeyn, aren’t accurate according to the account you’ve just read. John tells us that the loaves are made of barley – they would have been coarse and brown – and the Greek word he uses for fish means a small dried or pickled fish, not the fresh fish you’d expect so near a lake. Through these details, John is stressing not just how meagre the offering is, but also that it is the food of the poor.

It is no wonder that Andrew is tempted to despair like his friend Phillip did. What was the point of offering such a small amount when there were so many thousands of people to feed? I suppose it’s always a temptation when we look at the huge problems and needs of our world to dismiss what we have to offer. It seems so pathetically inadequate that we are often discouraged and end up doing nothing. But Jesus taught that the kingdom of God grows from small beginnings, like the tiny mustard seed that develops into a huge tree. Small acts of generosity, like that of the boy and his packed lunch, can be transformed by God who is love, for the good of many.

The work of Saint Teresa on the streets of Calcutta was sometimes dismissed by her critics as being too little to make any difference, but, in her mind, every little act of loving kindness was something beautiful for God, and infinitely worth doing. ‘Not all of us can do great things’, she used to say. ‘But we can do small things with great love’.

It is my experience that God is very good at giving us more than we asked for in our prayers and giving in ways we hadn’t even imagined. In order for God to do this, however, we need to be ready to offer, not just what we have to give, but who we are, for God to use.

In our Gospel story, John says that Jesus ‘gave thanks’ over the bread, using the Greek word which gives us ‘eucharist’, the term we use for our communion service.  In our eucharistic prayer we give thanks to God but we also offer ourselves along with the bread and the wine as a gift to God, just as Jesus offered himself when he was on the earth. When we give ourselves to God like this over and over again at the eucharist or in our prayers at home, God can use our lives in ways we haven’t even thought of to be a blessing to others.

I like to think of it like this. Each of us has a lifetime’s worth of moments to offer for the use of God who is love. Each of these moments in themselves are very small, but over our lifetime, if they are filled with God’s love, they can make a huge difference to those we know and also to people we maybe will never meet.

Take a moment now to think what little things you might have to offer God this week. They might include

• a commitment to pray the news each day,
• solidarity with all who suffer or are in need.
• your homes and your relationships for God to work in,
• your conversations and your smiles,
• your involvement in God’s Church,
• every moment of every day.

Loving Father, accept the little that we offer to you in obedience and faith for we do this in the name of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

News Update

 

 

Dear friends,

I’m sure that many of you will be glad to hear that from Sunday, congregational singing will be allowed at St Mary’s once more. We will still need to wear masks during the service to protect each other but at the 1030 a.m. service we will once more stand for hymns, the Gloria, the Peace and the Blessing. We will continue to keep alternate pews vacant for now but more people can sit in each pew if they wish to do so, so long as a 1 metre space is kept between households. Please let the Welcomer know what you would prefer. This means that you will no longer need to book a place at a service in advance although welcomers will continue to make a note of your name for Contact Tracing. We will be reviewing the arrangements for attending church at our next Vestry meeting on 18th August. Please get in touch with any thoughts.

Our next Monday afternoon gathering will be on 26th July in the church hall. This is open to anybody who would like to meet with other members of the congregation over a cup of tea or coffee between 2.30 and 4 p.m. There will be a short time of prayer and you are welcome to bring a crafting project, a table-top game or just yourselves! Two-metre distancing will be observed in the hall and all other precautions will be in place.

A new way of providing refreshments after the 10.30 service is being explored. The idea is to hold mini coffee mornings so that church members or groups from the wider community can raise money for a charity they support. If you would like to know more, to volunteer or to get involved by ordering supplies or keeping the calendar, please get in touch with me. The scheme will be trialled on a monthly basis from mid August.

The deadline for contributing ‘back to school’ items for needy families in Castlemilk is 30th July. Please bring them to the Rectory or get in touch if you wish for them to be collected. The Rectory garage is starting to fill up once more with donations of children’s clothes, toys and baby equipment kindly donated by Dunblane families.

With love to you all,
Nerys

Materials for Worship at Home on 18th July

Nerys asks: I wonder when you last ran and why you did it?

In the first century, a middle Eastern man never ran. If he were to do so, he would have to hitch up his tunic and show his bare legs which was a humiliating and shameful thing to do. A man of standing would only run if his life or the life of others depended on it. You’ll remember the loving father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, running to save his son from the violent rejection of his community, taking upon himself the shame his son deserved. In both of today’s short Gospel passages, Mark 6.30-34 and 53-56, we hear of men running, although the Greek verb is not always translated as such in our English Bibles. These are connecting passages, part of the framework of one of the multi-layered sandwiches which Mark is famous for. Between them are the accounts of the feeding of the five thousand and of Jesus walking on the water. Before them is the sending out of the disciples and the story of the death of John the Baptist we heard last week

Jesus’ fame is spreading. He is being recognised and followed by crowds wherever he goes, with little time to rest or even to eat on occasions. People are responding to the message but not always in the way Jesus would wish …

(James Tissot)

Have you ever thought what motivated such a large group of men (the word is specifically masculine in Mark) to run around the lake to meet Jesus in such a remote spot? After all, they and their families could have heard him preaching in Capernaum any time. John tells us that after being miraculously fed by Jesus, this same crowd tried to take him by force to make him king. Mark is not so explicit, but there are a few hints to suggest that these men might have seen him as the charismatic figure they needed to rise up against Roman occupation, The wilderness was the traditional place to prepare for an uprising. Were they desperately running in the hope that Jesus would lead them in an armed rebellion?

As Jesus and the disciples seek another deserted place in order to rest, they meet with another crowd, even larger in number and needs than the one they left behind. The town of Gennesaret with its numerous hot mineral springs had attracted the sick and the injured for centuries. Recognising Jesus, people ran to fetch those who couldn’t walk, believing that touching a tassel on Jesus cloak would be enough to heal them. Could it be that the news of how the woman with the haemorrhage was healed had got around. What is certain is that there was a large element of superstition mixed in with their faith. They had no idea who Jesus really was and no interest in getting to know him further. All they wanted was for him to satisfy their need for physical healing.

And yet, Jesus responds to them all with compassion, despite his tiredness and grief, and his need to be alone with his disciples. As he sees the eagerness of these people who are ready to throw away public decorum in order to get to him, his heart is moved. These are people desperate for leadership and desperate for healing. He describes them as sheep without a shepherd, drawing on the rich Jewish imagery familiar to him since childhood, and he responds as the shepherd-king of Jeremiah 23.1-6, our Old Testament reading for today.

In these short passages Jesus through his actions shows himself to be the one who has real concern for God’s scattered, confused and undisciplined sheep. He gives the people what they need, right teaching, feeding and healing.

Here are some questions to ponder and to take to God in prayer:

• Are there times when we run on ahead of Christ instead of following him?

• Are there times when we demand of God physical healing for ourselves or others?

• How does our compassion for all God’s sheep measure up to that of Jesus?

• How can we obtain a greater trust and understanding of God?

From stories like this of Jesus’ ministry we know with certainty that God never ever turns any of us away. None of our needs or wounds or sorrows are hidden from him. Whenever we run ahead of him, whenever we demand healing, he will minister to us, because he loves us. What about finishing your time of worship by reading slowly or singing the well-known paraphrase of Psalm 23, giving God thanks and praise.

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me; and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house forever more
My dwelling place shall be.

Materials for Worship at Home for Sunday 11th July

Jeanette writes: Both our readings today are about dancing: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19, and Mark 6: 14-29. The first tells of King David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant, the second Salome dancing before King Herod.

Take a look at the two pictures. What differences in attitude or intention can you see between them? How do each of them make you feel?

       

Certainly, the actions are similar, but the intentions behind the actions could not be more different. David is dancing in worship and love before God, Salome is dancing to seduce King Herod into killing John the Baptist. To be fair to Herod, that was something he didn’t want to do. John intrigued him – he was a little in awe of him and a little afraid of him as well – but as he didn’t want to lose face before his court, he had no alternative. He had foolishly promised the girl whatever she asked for.

These passages very clearly illustrate for us that any action cannot simply be labelled “good” or “bad”, but that everything that we do has to be looked at within its context and intention, before we label it one or the other. Is the action a loving one, or one calculated to cause harm? In other words, is what we are doing drawing us closer to God, or driving us farther away from our creator, the source of our being.

This may seem like a simple choice to make, but think again. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an eminent German theologian and pacifist, a member of the Confessing Church which was politically opposed to Hitler, was also a member of the German Resistance, working to get many Jews out of Germany. He was involved in the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944. His involvement was discovered and he was arrested and later hanged for his part in the plot. As a Christian and a pacifist, was it right for him to be involved in an assassination attempt, or did the greater good of the fall of the Nazi regime, and the many thousands of lives which would have been saved as a result, justify the action? Was his involvement in the plot an action of love for God’s world or not? He obviously believed it was, and he died for his belief.

So, it isn’t so simple after all. Now I know it isn’t likely that any of us are likely to be involved in such world-shaping events, as Bonhoeffer was, but the principle still applies to us in our daily lives and in the choices we make. Are the motives and intentions of what we do based on love of God and our neighbour, or our own self-interest? Even, are we keen to be seen to be doing good?

Many years ago, I learnt, very painfully I might add, that if I was looking for God in any situation, God, who is love, would be found where I found love in that situation, however unlikely a place that might seem to be. It has informed my thinking and theology ever since, and sometimes led me to some surprising conclusions. I commend it to you.

So let’s pray. (Please ponder each petition and its implications for you before you go on to the next one.)

Loving God, help us to see the world through your eyes.

Loving God, help us not to deceive ourselves about our intentions.

Loving God, guide us in the decisions we make.

Loving God, give us the courage to work for your love and justice in our broken world.

Loving God, give us the will to make the necessary changes in our living, so that our environment may be healed, and the future of our planet safeguarded.

The God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rector’s Letter, July 2021

Dear friends,
I wonder how many of you watched Jimmy McGovern’s gritty prison drama starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham? Its title, ‘Time’, is obviously an allusion to the saying ‘doing time’ but there’s more to it than that. It got me thinking about our attitude to time, especially since our freedom has been curtailed by the pandemic. Then, this graphic appeared on my Facebook feed …


I suppose some people will see the whole of 2020 as a weird loop in the chronology of their lives; a period when time stood still, nothing moved forward, and everything was wasted. For these people, time is measured according to targets met, goals achieved, and life is all about pursuing progress. For people of faith, however, our growth is gauged by the grace we offer and receive. No step is wasted as we walk with Christ the path of prayer that leads us to become more wholly human, more fully faithful. Our aim is not to go further, faster, but to go deeper, dancing to the easy, unforced rhythms of goodness and grace.

The shape of a labyrinth is a visual reminder that the journey of life is rarely linear, and yet as we follow the twists and turns of the path, we are drawn ever nearer to the centre of God’s love.

This summer, I invite you to take time to find a pattern of prayer that suits you and enables you to go deeper with God. You are welcome to walk the labyrinth on the Rectory lawn or to explore the finger labyrinth included in the July-August issue of the St Mary’s magazine.. You may prefer to experiment with the imaginative method of reading scripture called Lectio Divina, to set aside a time to reflect on your day using the Examen as your framework, or to try using set prayers or words to help you connect with God. For guidance visit the ‘Ancient Prayer Rhythms’ page at www.24-7prayer.com or speak to me or another member of the Ministry Team.

With love,
Nerys

Materials for Worship in 4th July, 2021

Jeanette writes: There are times for all of us when God has something to say to us that may involve opening us up more to God’s love in our lives and hearts. Perhaps we need to have some of our fixed or self-centred attitudes or behaviour chal¬lenged, or to do some spiritual growing-up. At these times God will tell us. But if we aren’t ready to hear, or prepared to hear, what is being said to us, then we just won’t hear it. Often, we won’t even notice God is speaking to us. Later we might look back and wonder why we couldn’t see the obvious, but at the time we’re far more likely to either completely ignore what God is saying or to react with hostility and defensive¬ness, rather like the people did in Jesus’ hometown.

Read Mark 6: 1 – 13.

We can hear their indignant, self-righteous wounded egos as they mutter their complaints about Jesus. When they look at the facts, he’s not even on a level with them for background; he’s only a carpenter’s son, so who does he think he is? He’s just an upstart who’s far too big for his boots. What right has he to be displaying more wisdom and miracle working than any of them can do? Sadly, it is not unusual to resent holi¬ness, or any other gift, in those close to us, those we want to be ordinary like us, not to set us an example which makes us feel inadequate — holi¬ness in strangers is far easier to cope with as we don’t tend to take that as a personal criticism.

But any rebellion on our part, any defensiveness or hostility, however discreet, does not go unnoticed by God. Whatever we proclaim with our lips, whatever we claim that we believe, and however cleverly we disguise our rebellion from other people, God sees and knows exactly where our hearts really are, and which way we are really facing. It simply isn’t possible for us to pull the wool over God’s eyes. This however isn’t something that should make us scared of approaching God. It’s actually quite a relief to find there’s no point in pretending or try¬ing to impress the God we worship.

If you are like me, there are some people who, when they come to visit have me checking the house to make sure everything is spick and span, as I’d hate them to find me in a girdle. It usually results in a spate of frantic tidying. There are others who know me so well, and who I trust not to judge me but to love me and accept me as I am, so that I don’t have to rush around — they know and love me whatever the house looks like! I don’t have to try and impress them – they’d see though it anyway! Thank God, God’s one of them!

When Jesus sends out his disciples, it is in pairs so that they can support each other, and they are to preach the Gospel of repentance and God’s forgiveness, whether the people are ready to listen or not. Jesus prepares his disciples for the like¬lihood that there will be people who are stubbornly resistant or rebellious and not take kindly to their challenge. He helps them to be ready to face rejections. He knows that some people will be like the people of his own town and not be ready or want to listen to what they have to say.

Brushing the dust from their feet is not a vindic¬tive move, but a visual sign — a testimony — that the Gospel of repentance has been offered to them and has been refused. It is also important from the disciples’ point of view, and from ours too. There are times for all of us when we fail, times when it is right for us to put the failure behind us and to move on, leaving the Holy Spirit to continue working in people’s hearts and minds, and for us not to wallow in failure, or be overwhelmed and bogged down by the rejection we feel at the time. Things happen in God’s time not ours. God knows we will fail in some of the things we try to do. Sometimes he plans it that way so that we can learn and grow.

This too comes down to a matter of trust; faith and trust in the God who loves us, longs for our good and longs for us to show the world how much it is loved by God and God’s people.

Let’s pray

Loving God, there are times when we do not want to hear what you want us to know, about how we can serve you better and become more faithful disciples. Open our hearts and minds so that we can hear you and listen to you, knowing that whatever you say to us is said in love for our learning and wellbeing.

We pray for a fair and just distribution of the Covid vaccines. And we pray that all those who need the vaccine will have access to it, whether they can pay for it or not.

We pray for countries where people are still dying in huge numbers from Covid.

We pray for the peoples of the west coast of North America, as they struggle with temperatures of almost 50 degrees Celsius, many have already died.

Finally, we pray for Dunblane, and its community. For all those who are struggling, for whatever reason. For its churches and the work they do in supporting the community. Amen.

Materials for Worship on 27th June

Nerys writes: This Sunday we dedicate to the glory of God a candle stand gifted in memory of Shareene Potter who died a year ago this week. This is not an ornament but, as Peter explains in a piece he has written in the magazine, it is a tool to help us to pray at those times when words don’t come easily or at all.

It is appropriate that the dedication is happening on a day when our Gospel reading illustrates the healing power of Christ, and especially the way he can take us from a place of fear and brokenness to a place of faith and wholeness.

Our Old Testament reading from the Book of Lamentations 3.22-33, also encourages us to hold on to a belief in God’s goodness even when things are difficult. Listen to the passage being read by Moira.

As you listen to the familiar story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter from Mark 5.21-43, being read by Morag, imagine that you are in the crowd watching it all happen. I wonder what you would have learned from the experience?

You may choose to listen to  the account again putting yourself in the place of one of the characters at the center of the drama. I wonder what kind of healing that person receives from Jesus and what kind you may wish to receive for yourself or for  a loved one?

Jean Holloway’s hymn to the Welsh tune, ‘Ar hyd y nos’, played on the organ by David, is especially appropriate for all of us at St Mary’s at this difficult time of transition. I invite you to use it as a prayer of healing for our worshiping community.

Lord, we come to ask your healing,
teach us of love;
all unspoken shame revealing,
teach us of love.
Take our selfish thoughts and actions,
petty feuds, divisive factions,
hear us now to you appealing,
teach us of love.

Soothe away our pain and sorrow,
hold us in love;
grace we cannot buy or borrow,
hold us in love.
Though we see but dark and danger,
though we spurn both friend and stranger,
though we often dread tomorrow,
hold us in love.

When the bread is raised and broken,
fill us with love;
words of consecration spoken,
fill us with love.
As our grateful prayers continue,
make the faith that we have in you
more than just an empty token,
fill us with love.

Help us live for one another,
bind us in love;
stranger, neighbour, father, mother –
bind us in love.
All are equal at your table,
through your Spirit make us able
to embrace as sister, brother,
bind us in love.

It was the woman in the story within today’s Gospel story who drew my attention this last week, especially after I came across this unusual depiction of her encounter with Jesus.

It is from a stunning mural by Daniel Carriola in the Encounter Chapel in Duc in Altum, a place for prayer, teaching and worship on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is often referred to by tourists and pilgrims as ‘the picture with the feet’, but it is to the hand that my eye was drawn,  the delicate hand of a once-wealthy woman – a woman whose fear and brokenness led her to Jesus. She is not named but is known as the woman with a hemorrhage, rendered untouchable because of the flow of blood which had blighted her life for twelve long years. Her fear was not only that she would never be well again but also that she would always be alone, isolated from those who could help make her life bearable. This fear had changed her from the easy-going, confident person she used to be. It had worn her down. She was now poor, cowed and tired. She didn’t have the confidence even to ask Jesus for healing, but in her desperation reached out her hand to touch his clothes.

There are many like this woman in our communities today, people  whose mental and physical health has been affected by the pandemic, whose personalities have been transformed because of fear and loneliness. We are called to pray for these people and to respond to their need. Despite being surrounded by a jostling crowd, Jesus is aware of the woman’s desperate touch and makes time to acknowledge her faith and to give her a voice. We are not told what becomes of her but it is clear that these are the first steps to her recovery and restoration.

Our Night Service this week will be a service of prayers for healing based on that which takes place every Tuesday evening in Iona Abbey. In the service, prayers are said not only for the healing of the bodies and minds of named individuals but also for the healing of oppressed communities and divided countries, of natural environments and of the planet itself. These prayers presuppose that asking something of Christ will lead to a deeper relationship with him and will inspire us to act to tackle the sources of injustice and violence which cause suffering.

Loving God, we hold in your healing presence

  • those who suffer pain and ill-health, with their families, friends and those who care for them …
  • those who suffer in mind and spirit, and all who care for them …
  • the suffering people of our world, and the places where people are experiencing division, injustice and violence …
  • natural environments destroyed by pollution and threatened by climate change …
  • those who are struggling to overcome addiction or abuse, those supporting and working with them, and all whose suffering has distanced them from those who love them …
  • those facing bereavement or experiencing grief …
  • those whose needs are not known to us …
  • those whose names we do not know but who are known to you.

May they know the deep peace of Christ.  Amen.
(Prayers taken from Iona Abbey Worship Book and adapted)

We finish our time of prayer and worship with Bernadette Farrell’s song of longing for the  light of Christ. Here is David playing the tune.

Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has power to save us.
Make us your living voice.
Christ, be our light!

Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
Christ, be our light!

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
Christ, be our light!

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.
Christ, be our light!

Materials for Worship at Home for Refugee Sunday

Nerys writes: Once you’ve lit your candle today, look around the room you’re sitting in. If you had to leave home in a hurry not knowing when you’d be back, I wonder what would you take with you? What would you leave behind?

No one wants to leave home but all over the world, people are forced to move because of danger. Every 2 seconds, a person is forced to flee for safety. Every day, 44,000 more people are driven from their homes. Most people don’t seek refuge in another country but every year up to a billion people cross a border and become asylum seekers, asking for protection as a refugee. Can you imagine what it’s like to arrive somewhere where everything is different from home, with no money, few possessions, no family, no friends? Can you imagine how lonely and frightened you might feel?

Our Gospel story today is set in a storm. As you read or listen to Mark 4.35-41, imagine what it was like for Jesus’ disciples. How might they have felt?

If it was you in that boat in the storm – with Jesus, your teacher, asleep, I wonder what would you have done, what would you have said to him?

According to Mark’s account, the disciples responded with the words, ‘Don’t you care that we’re in danger?’ A strange question but an important one to ask God and each other. Don’t you care about me? Don’t you care that I’m lonely and frightened?

It’s a question that the people of God have asked down the centuries. It’s a question the people of Israel sang about in their psalms.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 13.1-3)

Sometimes it feels like nobody cares about us, nobody is listening. Everyone is busy with their own lives and it feels like God is asleep. At a time like this we need to call out to God like the psalmist did and like the disciples did in the boat. We do this because God has promised to be always with us, God is always listening. We do this because knowing that we’ve been heard makes a difference.

It can take away the fear. It can take away the loneliness. It can help us face the storm.

‘Why are you so afraid?’ Jesus was puzzled that his disciples had got into such a state. He was expecting them to trust in him, no matter what, and that’s what we’re called to do also.

Don’t you care that we’re in danger? Sometimes to people who have had to leave their homes, their families, their friends to become refugees, it seems that nobody cares about them. They call out but it seems that nobody is listening.

This is the last day of Refugee Week 2021. Some of us have been making people chains to remind us that ‘We cannot walk alone’.

Hugh Grant has been involved in Refugee Week in Dunblane but also volunteers with an organisation called Forth Valley Welcome.

I asked him, is there anybody out there caring for refugees?
Yes, as you know, Forth Valley Welcome supports refugees who have come to Stirling and Clackmannanshire, up to 154 people now including 88 children. We have 75 volunteers, some of those go into the house or flat before people arrive and turn them into a nice homely space with cheerful bedspreads and curtains and toys for children.

Some volunteers are assigned as befrienders to families, visit them regularly, especially at the beginning, help them get to know the area, the shops, the buses, and practice speaking in English. As they become settled in the area, we introduce them to local community organisations.

Pre-Covid we used to run a ‘Snack and Chat’ every six weeks or so people could come together and meet each other and volunteers, and again practice their English. Over the last year, when we’ve not been able to visit families, we’ve provided occasional food deliveries, especially at Eid and Christmas, and run online competitions through our WhatsApp group.

There are groups like us around the UK. Other organisations who help are the Scottish Refugee Council, who provide advice and support to refugees and to asylum seekers who are still in the process of being assessed by the Home Office as to whether they will be allowed to stay in the UK. Positive Action in Housing in Glasgow helps with people like asylum-seekers who end up on the streets if their claims to stay are not successful, and some individuals take people into their homes. Stirling’s Aid4All provides food packages and other items for people in one of the camps that is not run by UNHCR. And there are people who go to provide voluntary support to people in the unofficial camps in Calais, and in Lesbos island in Greece.

In what way can we show our care?
All of us can try to understand better the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers. The media often highlight extreme cases, not always in a sympathetic light, so we can try to keep a clear mind about the whole picture.

If we’re out shopping in Stirling or elsewhere and see people who might be refugees, people different from us, we can smile and say hello and let people feel welcome.

Some people in Dunblane are volunteers, or have been in the past, visiting families and helping in other ways. Some give donations to Forth Valley Welcome and other organisations. We have a store that’s been provided to us free in Dunblane where we keep clothes, toys, and other items but we have quite a lot in there at the moment, more than we need for now, but from time to time there’s a need for items and we can let you know about those requests when they arise.

Our Men’s Group have been discussing what we might do as a church, perhaps welcoming some here from time to time so that we can get to know some of the people affected.

There’s an organisation called Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees which provides a network for people of all faiths on the issue. They have a study course available that was produced by CBTI (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland). We could think about using that course in future.

We can pray together about refugees, their situation, the reasons why they have to flee from their homes, asking for God‘s love to be present to all – the refugees and asylum-seekers themselves, and those who work to help them.

After you have reflected on Hugh’s words, you are invited to read the words of a new hymn by Martin Pratt and use it perhaps as a prayer of confession and commitment. Here is David Sawyer playing the tune.

There are no strangers to God’s love,
yet we have privatised God’s grace.
Bounded by nationhood and lies,
in fear we shrouded love’s own face.
Acknowledging our sin and greed we come
confessing common need.

These are our neighbours and our friends,
the ones who run in fear from war,
who read abuse by power or state,
or seek the means to be less poor;
these are the ones we have denied,
as in each one the Christ has cried.

When people seeking sanctuary come
to our shores and need our aid,
then in Christ’s name let’s offer care
through this our debt of love is paid.
God’s grace is free, this grace receive,
let actions show what we believe.

Martin Wisher who is a board member for Forth Valley Welcome, invites us to join him in the following prayers of intercession:

Heavenly Father as we come to you in prayer we lament that in this world of plenty and in this age of ‘civilization’ so many of our fellow human beings have been forced as refugees to flee from their homes and countries, leaving possessions, family and friends because of wars, persecution, poverty and climate change. Children are separated from family and friend and make perilous journeys to try to reach safety. We cry out to the God who executes justice for the orphan and the widow and who loves the stranger.

We pray for those individuals and organizations seeking to provide refuge, to alleviate suffering and to bring justice for refugees and asylum seekers. We ask that your Holy Spirit empower this ministry and bring love, peace and justice out of suffering.

We pray for those in authority and particularly our UK government as it administers care to refugees and asylum seekers. We pray that there would be more compassion shown and that resources would increase to positively affect this refugee crisis.

We pray for the Church worldwide and at St Mary’s locally. May we be empowered by your Holy Spirit to find ways to care for refugees and asylum seekers and to effectively represent their needs to our society.

We pray for those known to us who are ill, those mourning the loss of a loved one..

We pray for those dealing with stress, financial concerns, the loss of their job, loneliness and depression caused by the COVID pandemic.

We pray for ourselves that we may love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbour, the refugee, as ourselves.

We finish our time of prayer with the well-known hymn, ‘Brother, sister, let me serve you’ which reminds us on our dependence on God and on one another. Here is David playing the tune.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
And companions on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping,
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony.

Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I may have the grace to
Let you be my servant, too.

Richard Gillard

Material for Worship for Carers Week 2021

Nerys writes: As you light your candle this morning and prepare your heart for worship, I invite you to think of the people you know who care for others. Once you start counting, I’m sure you’d be surprised to find that there are quite a few – folk who are looking after family members who have a disability, a mental or physical illness or who need extra help as they grow older. You may be receiving care yourself or have been a care-giver in the past. You’ll be aware how difficult it has been for carers during this past year and how important it is to recognise the contribution they make to their families, to the local community and to society as a whole, and ensure that they get the support they need.

Today I will be joined at the morning and evening services by Kate Sainsbury from Comrie. I first got to know Kate as a fellow Lay Reader many years ago but when I asked her how she would describe herself, this is what she said:

I have been a carer for almost thirty five years, since my son, Louis, developed meningitis aged three days, leaving him with profound brain injury. This is the non-negotiable WHO I am. Caring involves all kinds of activities: personal care, project management, advocacy, translating, research; it requires a lot of mental agility: planning ahead, reflecting, noticing, collaborating. Caring often requires you give away your own desire, but it can compensate, too, with moments of joy. Somebody said, ’if you can’t do what you want, want what you can do.’ Another spoke of ‘being an ambassador’, communicating the value of the person you care for by how you speak of them. I’d say, too, caring wasn’t a role I chose: it chose me. It shaped me. I used to resent it, now I love it.

Today is an opportunity to reflect on the vocation of caring. The strapline for this year’s Carers Week is ‘Make Caring Visible and Valued’. We can offer to God the serving of the carers we know and ask God’s blessing on them.

 

But first, I invite you to read or sing the words of a hymn that is well known to you as David plays the tune. It was chosen by Kate because it’s Louis’ favourite hymn. Let’s use it as a prayer of preparation.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Caring can be so difficult without proper support, so exhausting, so isolating and lonely. Everything else is put on hold and it’s easy for resentment to creep in. In our psalm today, Psalm 130, read by Morag, the author’s honesty encourages us all to bring any negative feelings or thoughts to God, knowing that we are not alone or without hope.

The Gospel for today is Mark 3.20-35, read here by Morag.

I asked Kate is there was anything in the passage that spoke to her:

What struck me was the way it shows Jesus’ biological family being replaced by a new ‘family’, made up of his followers, who we know were from all walks of life, all united through commitment to him. There is a resemblance for me, of the ‘family’ of care, who form around somebody needing support.

It reminds me of all the people who’ve ever helped me care for Louis, from his first childminder, though school, to the team growing around him, who will care for him when he moves out of hospital into his own house, at Appletree. I always needed help because Louis’ needs were too great for me to meet alone. That is still true. And as I get older, the best thing I can do for Louis is to build him a long-term future, working with the parents of the housemates he will share with, and a professional care organisation, Scottish Autism.

Appletree is the community, at Aberuthven, where Louis is going to live. He is offering two places in his spacious converted steading home, in order to benefit from community living. Scottish Autism’s values are to enable all people to live healthy, happy, fulfilled lives. At Appletree, families and professional carers are building relationships of mutual regard. Offering and receiving hospitality will be a core part of regular activities, along with the creative arts, living healthily in nature.

Appletree was founded and continues in prayer and faith. We hope that our story brings something to your life.

Take some time now to pray for your own situation,

for those you care for now or have cared for in the past,
for those who care for you,
for family and friends.

Pray for those known to you and for the 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers.
Pray for children who care for their parents or siblings.
Pray for those in positions of influence, who could provide more appropriate and generous support for carers.
Give thanks for the hope that the Appletree Community represents, praying that the vision may be realised and that we at St Mary’s may be part of the circle of support for Louis and others for years to come.

You may wish to finish your time of prayer by reading or singing the words of ‘Take my life and let it be’ as David plays the tune.

Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine:
it shall be no longer mine;
take my heart: it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store;
take my self, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.

Frances Ridley Havergal