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Golders Green Parish Church – Newsletter
16 December 2020
Greetings to Everyone from Sally
Hoping all is well with you as we approach Christmas. How difficult it is to go up into another Tier from 2 to 3 at this particular time. It is hard and will be disappointing for many of us but, if the restrictions are taken seriously, let us hope it helps to lower the Covid infection which we so badly need to do.
One hopeful, piece of news is that we have a vaccine coming very soon and can give thanks for the amazing male and female scientists who, using their God-given gifts, their knowledge and expertise, have created it in such a short time. A further reason to give thanks is to know that those who are responsible come from many different countries and faiths collaborating together for the benefit of all of us. What wonderful role models they are. We are all indeed precious in God’s sight as are they.
Thank you to Tatiana for sending us her Christmas drawings to decorate our newsletter. Celeste too sent us some snowflakes that definitely won’t melt!!!
Celeste sent some snowflakes
In this week’s edition we have:
a letter from the Bishop of London, Sarah, especially for our children. I love her mischievous dog, Bracken, who behaves like most of our dogs when something new comes out for display and want to run off with it! She sends her Christmas greetings
Tony’s update which has some important news about church heating
A message from Nehar about our proposed Christmas Eve service
Christmas Greetings and message from Rose
Charlotte’s Advent 2 Sermon
Nehar’s weekly Advent reflection
News about us
Christmas greetings from you
An article, commissioned by the Bishop of London, from Monica B, recounting her story of experiencing racism as a black woman growing up in the UK. Monica has worked for the Diocese of London for many years as Synodical Secretary, and has been a member of LDF staff since 1981. She has been a great support to those of us who have needed help and advice on all kinds of queries relating to Church or General Synod governance. Many of us have appreciated the work she has done and is doing. When I read Monica’s first episode it resonated so much with the experiences of some members of my family, as I know it will with many of yours, I just had to put it in our newsletter. Her story will cover three episodes.
Church Update from Tony
“Yesterday I saw the boiler being repaired and I am hoping and praying that by Wednesday lunchtime it would have been on for nearly 24 hours. That should give me an indication that we have heat. So unless you hear otherwise, we can reopen on Sunday, subject to this - social distancing when in the building and as I know we would all love to get close to each other to converse, please, please could we have some distance between us!
We will hold an informal gathering on 24th December as noted by Nehar, so if you have an appropriate reading let her know. I will choose some carols and we will put something together- this gathering will be from our homes.
Finally please pray for the work of choosing our new incumbent.”
Message from Nehar about our proposed Christmas Eve service
We are hoping to have a service at 11pm on the 24th via zoom. If you have a reading that you would like to share with us or a carol that you are particularly fond of – do send to the office and it will be passed on. We can then include it in the newsletter and share with each other on the 24th. Jennifer will send the joining details next week in the newsletter”.
A Christmas letter to our children from Bishop Sarah
Let me please start this letter by thanking you all. This has been such a difficult time for all of us, but the way this pandemic has affected children and young people is easily forgotten. You have done so much to change the way you live to help control the virus and keep those more vulnerable to the virus safe. I know that the way school has changed has caused a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty for all of you, but you’ve kept going and I hear from our schools so many stories of how hard you are still working and, more importantly, being so kind to one another. You have been an inspiration to me in difficult days.
Although there is now hope on the horizon with the coming of a vaccine, we are about to have a Christmas that will be very different from any before. My dog Bracken has been making the best of the situation by inventing a new game, which gives him hours of fun. He likes to steal the baby Jesus from our nativity and then hare around the flat with him until we manage to catch Bracken and rescue Jesus from being chewed! We are all having to make new plans, maybe you won’t be able to see all the people you would normally see. Please remember if you find this all very stressful; that is okay and it is always good to talk to someone about how you feel, we all feel worried or sad at times and it is very normal to do so. A phrase you hear a lot at Christmas is “Comfort and Joy” and I pray you will find that this year through all the mess.
It is funny that the first people to hear the Christmas message of comfort and joy were a group of shepherds who heard it from the angels telling them about Jesus’ birth. These were poor men who lived in the fields with the sheep in a country that was ruled harshly by the Romans. I wonder if they thought that message would mean that someone was going to kick the Romans out or they would get better jobs? God’s plan was different. In Jesus he came to be with people in all the mess of a stable, but also in all the mess of our lives. The wonder of Christmas is it reminds us that in all the mess that is happening now, Jesus is still with us and he still brings comfort and joy.
When I last wrote to you, I said that you could send me an email and that I would pray for you. I want you to know that you still can. Lots of you did and I was very privileged to be able to pray for you. If you want to, please pray for me too. Being a Bishop can mean dealing with some difficult things and I would be very grateful if you asked God to help me and give me wisdom.
I hope you have a very happy Christmas and I pray that you would experience the comfort and joy that God gave us through Jesus.
From Bishop Sarah
From Rose O - How wonderful that we are all alive to celebrate Christmas this year!
I thank God for His love and protection and for all His other countless blessings on us and our families throughout his really difficult year.
On behalf of all my family, l wish you all a very happy, albeit quiet, Christmas.
A rather different kind of Christmas, no doubt, devoid of the characteristic flavour of joyful Christmas carol services in candle -lit churches; large family reunions and sumptuous Christmas dinners and parties with the accompanying fun, entertainment and merriment that often go on for days and into the new year!
But , in spite of COVID-19 restrictions and its many challenges, we should welcome the rare opportunity this affords us and utilise it to actually focus more closely on CHRIST- the centre of the season of Christmas-and the real reason behind this popular celebration!
Indeed we should be delighted that this year, for a change, the world will not be able to hijack our Christmas by commercialising it with their usual lavish display of luxury , glamour ,pomp and pageantry that often lure people away from focusing fully on the good news of Christmas-the birth of the Messiah ,Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour of the world! This is a good time to cut down on waste and make a little saving to feed the poor and the hungry as Christ did.
May Christ be the centre of your Christmas; the unseen guest at your Christmas dinner; the silent listener to your conversations and your singing of Christmas carols and hymns. May He hear your prayers and abide with you and your loved ones.
May He bring you perfect joy and peace this Christmas and fill you with hope for a happier, much safer year in 2021. Amen
Merry Christmas to you all.
Tatyanna sent us some decorations
Advent III from Charlotte
A couple of weeks ago on Advent Sunday I told you about a new Advent devotion we would be trialling in our household this year – the Jesse Tree. I thought I'd update you on how this is going. Well although my sewing certainly makes the decorations very much 'home-made' I've been really pleased with how my son has engaged with it. Each day, we start with an activity, then we read a passage of Scripture, working our way through the great characters and stories of the Old Testament. Then we talk about the story and relate it to Jesus' coming then we hang the decoration on the tree, light the Advent candle and say a prayer. Of course some of that you might not do if you don't have small children, but I think it's a really fantastic Advent devotion for any age of Christian, precisely because it takes you on a journey through the story of Israel and helps you work out how each of these characters and stories point towards Christ.
The person we celebrate today, who we heard in our Gospel reading, who we light the third candle on the Advent wreath for, is someone whose entire life and ministry revolves around pointing – and often he is depicted in art (when he's not being beheaded) – pointing. He points away from himself, towards Christ. And the reason I bring up the Jesse Tree is because the characters and stories on that tree are forerunners to John the Baptist, people who also point forward to Christ, and I wanted to talk about three of them in particular.
In Luke's account of the birth of John the Baptist, he tells us of an angel's visit to the elderly prophet Zechariah whilst he was in the temple, to tell him that his wife Elizabeth, also an old woman, would bear a son. Now immediately that's supposed to jog our memories. Who else was told by God, in old age and after years of grief over not being able to have children, that they would bear a son? Abraham and Sarah, of course, who were told that they would have their son Isaac.
Secondly, an angel visited Manoah's wife and told him that in her old age, she and her husband would have a son (Samson).
Thirdly, Elkanah and Hannah, another elderly couple, were given a promise (after Hannah prayed for a son, also whilst in the temple) that they would have a son, who grew up to be Samuel.
Each of these couples were told that they would have a son, and not just that they would have a son and then be left alone to enjoy bringing him up – they were told that that son would have a role in bringing God's kingdom to light:
Isaac – brought about the start of God's promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations.
Samson – the purpose of his birth was to deliver Israel from the Philistines, a fighter against foreign political forces.
Samuel – called by God in the temple to be a prophet, to cleanse the worship of Israel, remove corruption to anoint Kings.
These three characters stand as forerunners to John the Baptist. John is to be a new Isaac, a new Samuel, and a new Samson. As a new Isaac he would bring God's people, alienated from him, back to God; as a new Samson, he was a voice in the wilderness resisting the political forces of his day; as a new Samuel, he was a new prophet challenging the worship of Israel, and anointing a new King for them in the person of Jesus. And finally, he was also to be a new Elijah – who brought people back to God – preparing people for the Lord. So that's why I have become a great advocate of the Jesse Tree in Advent; it reminds us that Christ's birth does not come from nowhere; that before his birth, and before John the Baptist, stand these forerunners who are also pointing towards him. John is the last person to stand in a long, long line of people called to draw people back to God, and he stands, pointing at the final piece of that chain, the chain that will finally link people to God in an unbreakable bond, that piece of the chain being, of course, the person of Jesus Christ.
Now in Luke's Gospel there's quite a bit of preparation for John's arrival – there is the story of the angel visiting Zechariah and all the detail over the unexpected pregnancy of his wife Elizabeth, then the visit of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth and the detail of the unborn John leaping in her womb when the two women meet; all the fuss over his name.. But in Mark's account, which we heard last week, and John the Evangelists' account which we heard this morning, we get none of that. John the Baptist bursts onto the scene, with his message of repentance; he's disruptive and irritating and unsettling.
We're familiar with the concept of baptism; many of us have been baptised, attended numerous baptisms of children and adults being welcomed into the family of the church. So to us, it can seem a not particularly disruptive message. But to his hearers it was completely radical; a baptism into forgiveness of sins? Ritual washing before worship was commonplace in C1st Judaism – a bit like it has become commonplace in the last year! - but what John was preaching was one, single, unrepeatable action. And the other big difference was that one washed oneself; John was preaching a message that one person would cleanse another; John would baptise people himself, rather than them doing the washing of themselves. It was no longer a private, individual event; but a public, community one with a significance beyond the rituals of one particular individual.
John was obviously such a powerful personality that his followers had to be reminded (as we read in the Gospel passage this morning) that John was merely a witness; a prophet; his role was to point towards someone much more significant, away from himself, towards Christ. He draws peoples attention to Christ.
And herein lies the message for us. Our society places so much value on individual worth and status and success so his is a pretty counter-cultural calling – both in his society and in ours. He points beyond himself and he stands on the bridge between those who have gone before him – Abraham, and Samuel and Samson and Elijah among them – and those who will come after who we know as the community of saints, who are made saints because they point to Christ. The prophets and the saints, John the Baptist among them as he is the only example in the western church to be both, recognise that they are not to be the centre of attention, the purpose of their lives is to use their lives to draw attention to Christ. That is the calling of all of us as Christians, from our baptism, the new kind of ritual that John the Baptist initiated – we are called to draw people’s attention away from ourselves and onto Christ. I talked at the beginning of Advent about using this – much quieter than usual – Advent to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. We have 12 days left to do that; to make sure that there is enough room in our lives not just to receive Christ, but to make room for him to be at the centre of our lives, so that like John the Baptist, the prophets before and the saints after him, we can point to him and draw others to his light.
A Weekly Advent Reflection from Nehar
O come, O come Emmanuel
As we move into the third week of Advent we continue to look at the first coming of Jesus when he came to us as a baby… and to His second coming when he will come again to establish His kingdom which will never end.
The third week of advent focuses on joy – joy that comes from knowing God’s salvation, his eternal peace – peace with God; peace with ourselves; and peace with others.
You Lord Jesus left the riches of heaven to wrap yourself in rags; to be born in a manger; the fullness of God wrapped in the flesh of a tiny infant; God the Son giving up His divinity to dwell among us;
Emmanuel God with us.
On that night angels appeared to shepherds during the darkest watches of the night saying:
“Glory to God in the highest heavens and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests”
Lord Jesus you are the Prince of Peace; you brought your light into our darkness; into our chaos you brought your peace and eternal hope.
So what is this peace?
Firstly, it is peace with God – the inner peace to receive the good news of salvation and to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit; Jesus told us He was leaving His peace with us; for us not be to be troubled or worried (Jn 14:27)
And secondly it is peace with one another – outer peace. Jesus asks us to put our differences with our Christian brothers and sisters aside because we are one family under the headship of the Prince of Peace (Galatians:6:30)
As we look at the baby in the manger, we remember that the baby grew up to be the God-man Jesus who again humbled himself to death on a cruel cross; God’s precious blood poured out for our sins to defeat death; to bring reconciliation between the Father and those created in His image and through them to God’s entire creation. The Father in turn exalted Him and gave Him a name above all names; every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth bows to the name of Jesus whose kingdom and peace will never end.
The peace of God, shalom, is not the world’s peace. It calls us to look at others through heaven’s eyes; to see that God’s kingdom is here now and yet still to come – so at this time of Christmas we wait in expectation for the first coming and look beyond that to the second coming.
You bless your people with peace (Ps 29:11).
O come deliverer of nations, bind all people’s in one heart and mind;
Bind all envy, strife and quarrels
Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.
For this peace flows from you like living water, like a raging river to calm our hearts;
In this year so filled with uncertainty and isolation we know that you are always with us
Letting your peace to flow into our hearts, our minds, our bodies and our souls.
So dear Prince of Peace
Give us peace in our hearts;
Peace in our homes;
Peace with each other;
Peace in our world.
Message from Nehar
I am a trained councilor. If anyone would welcome a chat on anything you would like to talk over and discuss, in confidence, please don’t hesitate to give me a ring and we could fix up a time. This would be in a voluntary capacity.
Please contact the office for my contact details. Please get in touch.
Sarah M - Bishop of London writes, “I am grateful to Monica for sharing her story”.
My Story by Monica B – Part 1 Golden opportunity to tackle racism
I write this narrative - which I am content to be passed to others - as a black woman. I hope that as a reader, you do not only feel sadness at what I impart of the pain and difficulties that arise as a result of the affliction of racism on black people. My hope is that, particularly if you are white, you will feel that you have a key part to play in the demise of racism. I do believe that we all have a contribution to make in this endeavour, and that in order for change to occur, it is as much about the efforts of individuals as it is about anything that happens at organisational and institutional levels.
My hope is that my story and insights that follow will inspire you as a reader, and lead you to seek out what your contribution might be, or give you fresh impetus in what you are already doing. I hope that my courage in writing this narrative might encourage you in the steps you take or are already taking. Writing this has taken several months, and during this time I could quite easily have said ‘It’s all too difficult!’
This narrative has turned out to be a kind of testimony, which is because my faith in Christ - who I came to own as Lord at the early age of 14 - is key to my life. A few years ago I discerned the purpose and mission of my life as being: ‘To serve God, to be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ, and to be open to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit’.
The well-known story of the paralytic brought to Jesus for healing in Mark chapter 2 has been a source of prayer and contemplation for me over many years. It conveys something of my demeanour in writing this narrative, and also portrays how I see others before God. In the story, Jesus prays over the paralysed man brought to him by his friends. Thoughts about ‘humility’, ‘knowing our need of God’,’ letting others minister to us’, ‘trusting God’, ‘allowing God in Christ to break through our fear, and release us from the things that bind us’ – have all resonated with me from this story.
I am very grateful to Bishop Sarah, Bishop of London, for inviting me to write this narrative. The challenges in writing it have been considerable and have involved a great deal of prayer: both mine and others’, which I have sought. These challenges have been due to the emotional upheaval involved for me as a black person looking deeply into racism and its effects, and also because I am writing with frankness about white people, which includes people with whom I live, work, play and worship. Basically, people I love and with whom my life in its fullness, is interwoven.
One might wonder why I bothered to write at all, as it has been such a challenge! It is because I have a profound sense that because of the person that I am, and the circumstances in which God has placed me, my story and insights is a ‘unique contribution’ that I alone can make to what has already been written and said about racism. My hope and prayer are that it might be used to God’s glory and for the furtherance of His kingdom.
A golden opportunity
I think that the current time presents a golden opportunity for us all to grasp at the roots of racism. I have been struck by how perturbed I have been by the events of 2020, surrounding the death of George Floyd in the US which reverberated around the world. I have been greatly affected, and I have wondered why. I think it is because I have now been in the world for six decades, and these events have heightened my awareness that the foundations of racism are still intact, and that its roots go deeply into our human life and experience. The pernicious nature of racism and its firm grip on humanity have hit me afresh. That racism persists in the face of black people holding high office, frankly, makes me shudder, for it conveys to me the deep complexity and tenacity which marks out racism.
Catastrophe on the human landscape
I am acutely aware that God created us His children in His image, as equals, and I believe that the enslavement, trading and dehumanising of black people (being chained like animals in the bowels of ships) by white people, is a catastrophe of seismic proportions on the human landscape. It is as though an earthquake took place which fractured the earth’s surface leaving one plate - white people - elevated, and the other plate - black people - depressed. How can we know that this atrocity does not remain, like a sealed container, in the past, but has a bearing on us today? How does what our forebears did (as white slave masters), or have done to them (as black slaves), affect us today? How can it be that we all have a part to play; a contribution to make to undo the damage and move forward? I hope that my story and insights go some way into shedding light in these areas.
My life’s journey
I was born in London to black parents of the ‘Windrush’ generation, who came to England in the mid-1950s from St Kitts in the Caribbean. The hostile environment which greeted them included signs for accommodation stating, ‘no blacks, no dogs, no children’. A bus driver once refused to drive the bus because my father was on it. Tough decisions had to be made for any headway to be possible in England, and so, I was sent to spend a few of my early years in St Kitts with relatives, later returning to England. These proved to be fruitful and memorable years.
I have been blessed with parents who conveyed to me what the equality of God’s children truly means. In spite of their difficult experiences, racial prejudice was an alien concept in our home. My parents taught me about the love of Christ by their words and actions towards other people. My mother was always quick to point out behaviours in others that it was worth learning from and emulating. My parents also instilled in me a sense of dignity, pride, and confidence in being black. This prepared me well for my encounters and relationships with white people from early on in primary school through the rest of my life. That I am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, as my favourite Psalm 139 states, has been with me throughout my life.
In the practically all-white school, which I attended from the age of 12, I recall feeling like a kind of ‘ambassador for black people’. I had a close friend with whom, as teenagers, we would share conversations about our parents both being post-war immigrants to England. Hers seeking refuge from a non-English speaking country, and mine responding to the UK’s calls for labour from the Caribbean. We would often discuss the disparities in the way in which the world beyond school saw us and treated us: she as a white person, who as such was indistinguishable from other white people in the population, and me as a black person.
The experiences which my friend and I compared, included when I would be asked on numerous occasions in my life outside school - both at that time and in fact also later into adulthood - by white people, ‘How is it that you speak so well. Where did you learn to speak?’ My white friend was never asked this. It was as though black people were, for some reason, inherently incapable of marshalling their thoughts and delivering clear speech. The awful irony was, of course, that my parents were from an English-speaking country, whereas hers were not, and so had to learn the language. Another question I would be asked was, ‘How come you have such good manners?’ A question which, again, my white friend, was never asked. It was as though black people were by nature unruly, and not in command of themselves, so it was a surprise to come across a black person who did not match those expectations. I would also be asked, ‘Where are you from?’ When I would answer ‘London’, this would be followed by, ‘But where are you really from?’ For my white friend, it was invariably sufficient for her to simply say she was from London. The painful reality for me was that these people saw being black as incompatible with being from England, however deep a black person’s roots here might be (and for some it is hundreds of years). My thoughts were that the people who asked me these questions, were not ‘bad’, but in a state of profound ignorance. My sincere hope was that they would not be complacent in their ignorance.
Extract from: ‘My Story’ by Monica B -TO BE CONTINUED.
Tatyanna says thanks to the NHS - so say we all
News About Us:
Update from Ify:
Our mummy, Mrs Florence O suffered a stroke on the 29/10/20 whilst in Nigeria. She is still in the hospital out there. Despite facing challenging healthcare, by the grace of God she is now beginning to make some recovery albeit slow. Just to let you know, I’ll be travelling on the 22/12 to be with her. Please keep her in your prayers, that God will perfect his healing on her. In Jesus name we pray. Amen
Ify O, Ezim C, Onyeka O, Chinwe A
Simon’s mother is still in hospital and making better progress but is likely to be there for sometime.
We send our prayers and good wishes to both of them and to all we know who are unwell.
Please keep us in touch with how you, your families and friends are doing and send in messages so we know and can pray for them.
Christmas Greetings to all
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas with Much Love and Good Wishes from
Sally and family including Titch and Pepper who have already had enough!
Happy Christmas from Rotini, William, Tatiana and Tyrone
YouTube - Worship Video of the week
Song for the week: COME HOME (LIVE ACOUSTIC) | Melissa Mahoney | Heartcry of David
Do you have favourite worship songs? Please email them to Sally
Please continue to pray for those who have asked us as a community to pray for them
Okey Jnr. O, Margaret M, Yvone S, Anna M, Jason E, Ian K, Eva M, Juliette D, Ivor S, Myfanwy K , Dorothy N, Sheila G, Sisi O , Dorothy N, Sheila G, Sisi O, Mirela B , Marlies A and Nwando E & family.
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.
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 have a list of volunteers we can call on to help. If anyone wants to add their names to this, please email the churchwardens on firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
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/