Creation Care & Fair Trade Fayre

Fayre IMG_1229One of the highlights of the year at TRINITY has come to be the Christmas Fair Trade Fayre, run every year in November. It brings together church and community, all in a beautifully set up and fun event to which anyone can come, and many contribute.

This year the TRINITY Creation Care group joined more than 20 other individuals or groups in having a stall at TRINITY Southover. We welcomed friends and casual droppers-in to learn more about our work and to buy goods that would benefit others and support the environment. Amanda’s team of helpers kept us supplied with hot drinks, and wonderful soups and other lunch items were on sale to sustain all the hungry.

Fayre IMG_1225Our position was a key one near the rear entrance where we had been given lots of space and every visitor passed by on their way in. There was even space to display the A Rocha banner, the Christian Environmental charity to which we had decided to give the takings of our stall.

Our stall displayed information about the Creation Care work, how to shop in an Eco-friendly manner, & TRINITY Creation Care bookmarks among other things. For sale on a “donations only” basis were some marvellous home-made cakes from Martin Pett (using local ingredients), bird seed, Christmas cards, bee- & butterfly-friendly plant seeds and other similar items.

Fayre IMG_1228In all we raised just over £100 for A Rocha which will go towards equipment for the lake to be constructed at their urban wildlife reserve Wolf Fields.

We all enjoyed the day and meeting so many people who came by, and look forward to next year’s event. If you missed it this year, make sure to come in 2017!

 

Mary Boyum
Creation Care Team

The Gift

GiftsIt’s around about this time of year that I start to feel rather bah humbug about things… It’s usually when I haven’t bought all the presents I need to, haven’t ordered the turkey or thought about Christmas cards, I start to panic and then get a bit stressed.

And the thing I focus on in that stress is: ‘WHY AM I DOING THIS?’. Which is a bit crazy really, especially for someone who happens to work for the church, where Christmas is, well kind of a big deal.

And I guess it isn’t really all that planning or even the money I object to (well maybe a little bit) but the heart of it all. Christmas is about Jesus! A message of love. A message of hope. A message of joy. For me perhaps the most important thing about Christmas is reflecting some of what Jesus came to give us, spending time with the people I love and sharing some of that love with each other.

Years ago I wrote a song about God’s ‘gift from heaven’ having been inspired by a Christmas sermon. These are some words from it:

You are the Saviour, You are the son

Sent to earth to save us, by God above.

Imagine his hurt and pain when every door was closed,

The Father sent his only son,

The gift for us he chose…

You are our gift from heaven,

Sent to save us all.

A gift from Heaven,

Jesus Lord of all…

Nativity

It goes on, but that is the sentiment that gets me riled, that God’s gift, the ultimate gift, His Son, is so often forgotten in the consumerism of Christmas. A gift that was full of love, given at great expense, but given also to us in our need. That’s what I want my Christmas gifts to reflect, not the 5 mins I’ve actually spent online choosing something almost at random (ignore that if you receive a gift from me…).

Now, my husband laughs at me and says ‘but we are blessing people’ in giving gifts. Which yes, we are, and that sentiment I love, but giving someone an Amazon voucher or a pot plant does not in my book constitute blessing someone, it means conforming to a standard – a worldly standard that is based on expectations. A blessing would be really doing something thoughtful, actually spending time thinking about what would be a really nice gift for that person, or doing something for them rather than buying tat, even if it is expensive tat.

I’ve now had this Christmas present ‘rant’ every year for the past 10 or so years. I make comments to my husband that we should buy everyone an Oxfam cow or twin a toilet for them, or do something different but, well here we are again and I’m saying the same old things, but I really want to encourage you to take some time out from the pre-Christmas planning, present buying and ordering, and just think about the ultimate gift that God gave us some 2000 years ago. How might that influence your present buying, your Christmas Day or those that you love?

 

Jules Middleton
pickingapplesofgold.com

Forgiveness, Belonging & Community

Who would guess that a greater number of people attend church each week than football matches? We are encouraged to feel that being Christian – especially to the extent of committing to regular church attendance – is distinctly weird!

liverpool-fans_1448235bYet, few people would argue the same of the hundreds of thousands of football fans who pay up to £100 for the pleasure and privilege of watching their team win or lose. And church is free! We are made to feel that we are distinctly different, often even that our beliefs are dogmatic, self-righteous, judgemental, anti-liberty and infantile.

However, at least those are the objections of people who care enough about religion to object to it, rather than the general indifference that seems to typify the wider approach. As Francis Spufford points out in ‘Unapologetic’, most people feel that we stand out “not in some respect-worthy or principled way…more in the way that some particularly styleless piece of dressing does, which makes the onlooker wince and look away”. But (and it bears repeating) there are more active Christians than active football fans. Clearly, faith in Jesus is not as unusual as we are occasionally led to believe. Why, in a modern world which seems to meet so many of our daily needs, where science seems to explain so much about our experiences, are so many people still led to God?

0ea1333e307183d9190cff57668d1ba7When it comes down to it, it’s about relationship. In essence, it is about making an emotional connection, not logically or philosophically explaining biology or physics or maths. That is not to say that apologetics are not important; we need to be able to understand and rationalise our beliefs, particularly in the face of secularism. An unthinking faith is not really a faith at all. However, as Spufford’s entire book is designed to point out, it is the emotional intelligibility of our faith which draws us in and keeps us from giving up.

Football fandom provides many of the same attractions as religion: community, a sense of belonging, cultural identity, a belief system of shared opinions etc. What no other collective experience can give us is the thing we need the most: the sense of total acceptance and forgiveness that comes from Jesus Christ. Often we humanly get the community stuff and the belief system stuff wrong or confused or become combative. Often we aren’t all chanting the same slogans or singing the same songs but, instead, bickering over whether the organ is the best example of worshipful experience or the guitar. But these human errors make the emotional coherence of the gospel more clear, not less. Of course we all need forgiveness; we can’t even agree on what style of music is ‘right’. Of course we all need forgiveness; we alienate people by our internal disagreements and disunity. Of course we all need forgiveness; we all still get things wrong. And only God can remedy this. Only Jesus says that everything can be mended.

GoldingAs long as mankind lives, we will not be able to heal our own brokenness. Shakespeare in the late 16th century called it our “sin of self-love” which causes even the best of us to be selfish and self-seeking; William Golding in the mid-20th century called it “mankind’s essential illness”. In the 350 years between the two, despite our technological and scientific advances, our sense of our own inability to do right did not change. Nor will it. Only Jesus can heal our wounds.

Since this has become an unexpectedly literary blog, it will end with one of the greatest Christian poets of all time, John Donne, in his final verse of ‘A Hymn to God the Father’:

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun

My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;

But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son

Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;

And, having done that, thou hast done;

I fear no more.

Not Alone

 

Or, to stick with the football theme, in the words of Liverpool football club’s famous anthem: “You’ll never walk alone”!

For further reading, try ‘Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity still makes surprising emotional sense’ by Francis Spufford.

 

 Kirsty Stannard

Create in me a clean heart

advent groupsIn our “Advent Groups” a fortnight ago, we were looking at John the Baptist and his call for repentance.

The study chimed a note with me concerning a book I have just read as part of our Antioch group discussions called The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. In it he explores the parable of the father and the two sons in Luke 15 . In the parable, we the-prodigal-godusually focus on the rebellious younger son, who takes his share of the family fortune and goes off to spend it on the good life. However, he eventually runs out of money and is forced into the most disgusting of jobs for a Jew feeding pigs. Eventually he comes to his senses and goes back to the loving forgiving father, who welcomes him with open arms. This is a most wonderful picture of the freegrace given by a loving God to a repentant sinner.
However, that is only part of the story. If we look at the whole of the chapter, we see that there are three stories about things that are lost and were found, and it is directed against the scribes and Pharisees who were criticising Jesus for welcoming sinners. In the third parable, we see a disconnect with the other two: in the first two, we see someone going out to search and find the one which was lost. In the third, we might ask, “where is the seeker”? We have to look at the elder brother in the story: he was being a good Jewish boy, staying at home and working on the farm, but what were his heart motives? We see from his reaction to the lavish feast given for the repentant younger brother that he is more in love with his inheritance than with love for his father.

All I want
The story posed a massive question for me: where was my first love? Was it actually for my loving heavenly Father, or had the practice of religion become a substitute for the overwhelming love of our heavenly Father who sent his Son Jesus to rescue us by his death on the cross and Resurrection to life in which we can all share? The older son in the story did not share His Father’s heart of love, to seek out the one who was lost.

Our stated aim as a community at TRINITY is: to see lives transformed by the love of Christ.

Only as individuals opening our hard hearts to be melted and enraptured by a loving Saviour can we pour out his welcoming, transforming love on a needy world. The arms of Jesus are always open wide for us to run into, and to be welcomed back by a loving Saviour.

 

Ian Hempshall
thykingdomcome.blogspot.co.uk