January 2020 – Called to Healthy Growth

Over the past few years a shift has been taking place in the wider Church and in our own Diocese of Rochester. There is a new sense that the Church is called to healthy growth, and green shoots of new life are springing up in the most unusual and unlikely places. Our own parish in these villages has been experiencing this fresh sense of hope as we participate in this season of renewal. Instead of the management of decline we are now planning for growth. It’s not just about numbers, although it is encouraging to see our mid-week meetings becoming more and more popular. It’s also about deepening faith and there is a noticeable increase in the desire to grow in both our knowledge and experience of God.

Whilst we recognise that it is God who gives the growth we also know that we can do a lot to help in encouraging that God given growth. From the New Year we will be upgrading our Sunday teaching programme with an emphasis on intelligent, interesting, relevant and accessible weekly Bible teaching. Our week-day and evening study groups will also be opening their doors to anyone who wants to grow, so that as many people who want to, will have the opportunity to ‘learn’ Christ.

As a Church we will be looking ahead to see where else we sense the Spirit of God moving us in mission and engagement with our community. We have been so encouraged by Coffee in the Cloisters on Thursday mornings and the newly formed Anna Chaplaincy meeting at Fairseat Chapel on Wednesday mornings. However, growth brings challenges and we are conscious that we are in need of a new and coherent plan for the future. To this end we are thankful to have been offered external help for the purpose of casting vision and seeking to discern God’s plan for the future. The Diocesan Advisor in Church Growth is coming to lead a vision day for us on Saturday March 13th. This will give us an opportunity to look again at our current and future ministry and mission here in Stansted, Fairseat and Vigo.

Rev. Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector

St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo

Finishing the Job

April 2019 – Finishing the Job

This time last year I was attempting to complete the writing up of my PhD research in the form of a thesis. Finishing the job seemed to take for ever and at times no matter how hard I worked the finishing line seemed to get further and further away, as more unexpected obstacles appeared. I finally graduated in January this year which was the best part of a year after the initial submission of the thesis for examination.

In the gospel Jesus demonstrates a powerful sense of determination to finish the job, or as he says; ‘reach my goal’. There is a driving purpose underlying Jesus life that surfaces particularly in times of pressure and opposition. Even in the face of serious intimidation and when challenged by the orthodox ‘religious’ to leave the area around Jerusalem, Jesus refuses to be diverted from finishing the job that he had been sent to do. When challenged Jesus says: ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’. Jesus was determined to finish the job.

Jesus preached, drove out demons and healed people with the result that he was enormously popular. But these signs and wonders were just the spotlights for his main life’s work which was to die for the sin of the world and to rise to new life on the third day, demonstrating his power and complete victory over satan, sin and death. When Jesus had finished his work, he exclaimed from the cross the words ‘it is finished’. Jesus had finished the job that he came to do and fulfilled his purpose in life.

He tore down the barrier between us and God. He paid the penalty in his own body for the sins of the world and purchased our forgiveness through the shedding of his blood. No wonder that the primary symbol of the Christian faith is an empty cross representing the ‘finished work’ of Jesus Christ.

This Good Friday we proclaim Jesus victory as we gather to carry the cross through Vigo, Fairseat and Stansted, followed by a joyful celebration of his wonderful Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.

Rev Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector

eleanor-rigby-stanley

February 2019 – All the lonely people

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

This question that was raised in the song Eleanor Rigby by John Lennon and Paul McCartney on their 1966 Revolver album is still as relevant today as it was then. This song has become a ‘modern lament’ for lonely people, as it resonates with something that we all recognise as a painful and difficult aspect of life.

Even with people around us life can be very lonely. I remember hearing the testimony of a professional woman working for the EU in Brussels. She said that when she returned from work to her smart, but utilitarian apartment each evening, she was so lonely that she used to phone up the speaking-clock just to hear another voice. Even though materially she wanted for nothing and was surrounded by people all day, she found the loneliness unbearable. We cannot cure loneliness but as a community we can all do something. The farmers market and coffee in the Cloisters have been a great way for people to get out and have a chat. I am sure that we would all like to be able to do even more to help each other to combat isolation and loneliness.

With this in mind the church hosting a ‘caring concerns’ course on two Saturdays, one in February and one in March. The course is designed to help people in parishes like ours to develop our skills in pastoral care so that we can help one another, particularly those who are feeling isolated and lonely. The course covers listening skills, skills in spiritual care with different age groups, coping with stress, introduction to loss and bereavement, boundaries and confidentiality and setting up a pastoral care team. The course will consist of five main sessions that will be delivered on two teaching days at St Mary’s Church ‘Cloisters’. On completion of the course all participants will receive a certificate.

The two dates are Saturday 16th February and Saturday 9th March. This is an open course and it is geared towards those who have no previous experience as well as those who already have experience and training. If this is of interest to you then I would be really pleased to talk further with you. Please feel free to call or email me about it.

 Rev Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector