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Golders Green Parish Church – Newsletter
24th June 2020
This weeks guest contributor is Tony
Last week I thought I should write something for the newsletter and then I was asked to do just that. Then panic, what do I write about. My mind has not settled on anything - I thought how about a potted history of my life and then I thought something theological, something about the current issues - black life matters, Covid-19. So here goes but as you will see not all of these things get a look in.
Some of you may know, my father is a Nigerian from a tribe in southern Nigerian. He died a few years ago and so as his son, his family responsibilities are technically mine along with his surviving brother. His father had three wives and his mother is the first wife. My mother, who is still alive, is half English, half American. Her father was Jewish, and his father an Orthodox Jew, who I think was involved in making sure establishments were selling kosher food. One day I will say more about them, suffice to say that my mother's father was a Japanese POW, capturer was in Singapore. I have three sisters and a younger brother who died at a very young age. I was born in a mission hospital. I think I have always been an introvert.
I started my schooling in Port Harcourt in an international school as it then was, before the civil war, came to England and went to an all English primary school. From memory I think I was the only black person there. Eventually back in Nigeria it was back to all Nigerian primary schools and then to one of the top secondary schools in Nigeria, where I was generally regarded as white. Now in those days you had to be in the top 10 percent to get into that school academically. It was here I met Jesus.
There were two things that were at the back of mind then. The first was how was I going to live in this world, remembering all that I had already been through by then, the war, the upheavals and anxiety that wars cause, with people who always thought I was different. The second was, as I had sort of experienced all my life, I needed a companion, a friend. My brother was not there and I had no one like me to turn to. On the back of this I met Jesus, and know now that He is the friend closer than a brother as Prov. 18:24 tells us. The son of a close family friend, who was at secondary school a year or so ahead, said to me that this 'conversion' would be short lived. I remember once when we started shaving, another tried to bring up the different skin issues. When shaving he developed bumps on his throat skin I did not and he was annoyed when I said it could be down to our skin meaning biologically not because he was black and I was brown. He did not like it. Ops.
My early years as a believing Christian saw me spend my two final years at school leading the Christian group. This entailed, as I hinted at when I preached a few months ago in Golders Green, preaching at the services at school for those who were not Catholics or Muslims who had their own arrangements. However, because of the downward slide with the education system in Nigeria in the late 1970's an exodus of Nigerians to the UK and the USA to school began. I ended up in Bristol at a school built to train colonial officers. I got involved with my school's Christian group, and I was able to go to a local Anglican Church where I met a couple, Mike and Mary. They took me in so to speak. I went to the home group that met in their house. Mary taught at my school. There was one incident I remember in my boarding house when a fellow sixth former asked me if I lived in a tree. I could not believe it!
One of the curates at church finished his curacy to be a senior curate and to lead the work of the summer camps that I went on. I remember as a senior campers at one of them, the leaders did not know what to do with the this young black/white boy who turned up as a Christian not brought up in their network but to give them their due I was invited to senior bible study group on camp. I elected though to go with the curate to the camps he was running as part of the same set up, which were more relaxed. I remember he and I went to see Chariots of Fire when it came out and on leaving after the film he reminded me of the verse given to Eric Liddle at the start of his gold winning race: "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed better than the fat of rams." (1 Sam. 15:22). As I left school on my way to university for my degree in history and economics via 6 months of learning German in Hamburg, his successor at church in Bristol said to me: "Tony, you need to make up your mind if you will go all out for Him or just get on with life."
It was in Hamburg after a few weeks that I came to the conclusion that I would live for Jesus and purposes in my heart to follow Jesus. I had already been in an incident with my father, who was a lawyer, and had wanted me to go straight to study law, because my a-level results were not great, rather than what I did for my first degree. I said to him, if it is God's will then He will open that door, but He did not. So in Hamburg I went to the English church, became proficient in German, and purposes in my heart to read and meditate on the entire Bible in a year and to serve Him. Since then with God's help I have read through the Bible every year along side devotional booklets. At university both for my first degree and then my law degree and then my professional course, God put me in leadership positions.
I could go on, but what I want to say is this: over the years I have found it easy to get entangled with codes of conduct, with righting this wrong or that, debating whether this or that is Biblical or not. In fact what is more important is where is your heart. Is your heart inclined towards Him or not. Jesus, quoting Moses, says
“The most important one,” ... , “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these." (Deut. 6:5 & Lev. 19:18)
But what we may miss in the book of the Law is that God reminded Moses that the heart had to be circumcised (Deut. 10:16). (Jeremiah says in chapter 9 verse 26 that all the nations have uncircumcised hearts, as does the whole house of Israel). Then when Israel asks for a King and things go wrong, God tells Samuel that the real reason things are going wrong is that they had no real heart for Him. He tells Samuel "... the LORD has sought a man after his own heart ..." (1 Sam. 13:14) and leads him to David. Samuel seems to have forgotten the heart business when he starts to look at the outward appearances of David's brothers and is told "... the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7). Do not forget is damning indictment: Jeremiah says that the heart is deceptive above all things (Jer. 17:9). What matters is not the externals but the internal condition of the heart.
But this is why it is clear from the life of David, that even the slightest inclination of the heart towards God, towards having Him as the centre of my life and yours, having Him as the focus of my worship and desires, is so critical. As David's life shows, God will use that inclination, and use us, for His glory; will display His love for us through our lives, no matter what other people do or say or think. As Jesus shows us, in the Gospels, and as Hebrews 11 confirms, David knew Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. So only Jesus can mend the heart, can change the heart and make it more inclined towards Him, as we work with Him, we see His way is the best fit with us, and despite all that happens to us He is the Friend closer than a brother.
So I have come to realise over everything, every label description or whatever, ultimately what matters most in His Kingdom is faithfulness to Him, being self-sacrificing in love for one another."
Thank you Tony
Financial Update from Tim Nurse our Treasurer
In a normal year, we would by now have held our Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM), which includes presenting the Annual Report and Accounts for the previous year. This is an important document since, as well as informing church members, it is part of the returns to the Charity Commission and the Diocese, so is available to the public. While we have not yet been able to hold our APCM, the PCC have now approved the report and accounts for 2019. The good news is that at the end of 2019, the church was in a sound financial position; however, the lockdown has caused some issues with the loss of significant income from collections at services and the Toddler Group, while we still have ongoing and one-off expenses to pay. For example, we recently had a routine electrical safety report highlight a number of problems that we have had to have put right at a cost of around £2,000 . We may not be able to use the church building, but the usual outgoings in relation to electricity, gas, insurance and staff salaries have not gone away!
At this time we are extremely grateful to those who have been able to continue their giving, and their commitment encourages us greatly in these uncertain times. We appreciate that everyone is affected by the implications of Covid-19, including financially, but please do consider whether you are able to help secure the church finances for the future, whether by a one-off gift, by standing order / online or through the Parish Giving Scheme (PGS) – the preferred method. If you would like to know more about PGS, please visit https://www.parishgivingscheme.org.uk/for-donors/ - you can now join by phone 0333 002 1271, quoting our Parish Code 230623302. Thank you very much.
Daily Hope - The Church of England Phone line church service - is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.
Please continue to pray for those who have asked us as a community to pray for them
Okey Jnr, Margaret, Yvone, Anna, Jason, Ian, Eva, Juliette, Ivor, Myfanwy, Tim and Dorothy
We at Golders Green Church will continue to offer a number of ways we can and will keep in contact though emailing and phoning each other, the use of Facebook and the website, sending out updates by supporting those who need shopping, prescriptions fetched, letters posted and anything else you may need if you are isolated at home, whether you are in the over 70-year-old age group, or, have underlying health conditions.
The important thing is, PLEASE LET US KNOW. We are drawing up a list of volunteers we can call on to help. If anyone wants to add their names to this, please email Rex firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio, Television and Online Worship
You may wish to join in worship during this time through television and radio.
Check online, in the Radio Times and elsewhere for details:
Songs of Praise BBC 1, Sunday afternoon, variable times
Sunday Worship BBC Radio 4, Sunday, 8.10am Choral Evensong BBC
Radio 3, Wednesday Daily Service
BBC Radio 4 (Longwave only), weekdays, 9.45am
Big Sunday Service Premier Christian Radio, Sunday, 7am, 8am, 10am Easter Sunday Eucharist A service is usually broadcast on the BBC on Easter morning
Free 24 hour telephone church service 0800 804 8044
Online resources Church of England Daily Prayer https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-dailyprayer
https://mailchi.mp/b9d86a4acdc7/coming-up-from-st-pauls-cathedral-1274047?e=377e26b1db St Paul’s Cathedral have a number of resources available for us to use.
Church of England Online Resources during this time https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronaviruscovid-19-liturgy-and-prayer-resources
Go On-line to " ps://www.achurchnearyou.com", put in Area or post code and find a local church that broadcasts Worship.
Prayers from Christian Aid https://www.christianaid.org.uk/pray/churches/coronavirus-prayers
https://pray-as-you-go.org/ Pray as you Go (a short service each day in the Jesuit Tradition)
LICC have some great resources on their website https://www.licc.org.uk/
Especially on Covid-19 https://www.licc.org.uk/ourresources/prayer-journeys/presence-pressure-purpose/
YouTube - Worship Video of the week
Guvna B - Cast Your Cares https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKj6xjjhQvE
Do you have favourite worship songs? Please email them to Rex at email@example.com