Author Archives: Revd Sue Mann

Revd Sue Mann

21st May 2019

In May it was Christian Aid Week. This year the focus was on Sierra Leone where, sadly, many women die in childbirth. During Christian Aid Week, several of us used a seven – day Bible reading and prayer devotional as we reflected upon the sorrow, hope and joy of the biblical character, Hannah, becoming a mother. We learned, too, about Tenneh, a mum from Sierra Leone, whose story is also one of both sorrow and hope, having lost her first baby, at three months, but later having given birth to a healthy baby boy.

Christian Aid describes Sierra Leone as the most dangerous place to become a mum, with ten women dying every day from giving birth. And gifts sent to Christian Aid this year are being used to help build more health clinics, provide health training and improve hygiene in Sierra Leone to enable mums and babies to live long and happy lives. Thank you to those of you who gave financially to this project.

Part of the problem in Sierra Leone is that, as a result of the Ebola crisis in 2014, they had to borrow money from other countries to help fight the disease and, consequently, have become saddled with debt. So, coupled with the appeal for financial donations, this year a request has been made for us to petition our Government to ensure all Sierra Leone’s debts on the loans it received for fighting the 2014 Ebola outbreak are written off. We have also been called to ask our Government to take urgent action to prevent new debt crises in developing countries and to tackle them effectively when they arise. If you would like to support this, there is a petition form later on in this magazine for you to use to collect signatures. Or, alternatively, you can download it yourself from caweek.org/resources

We are fortunate to have medical childbirth resources that are freely available in this country. Perhaps you might like to use the prayer below to give thanks for all we have whilst remembering our brothers and sisters who experience sadness in their family life and, in particular, those in the world who don’t have access to the same health care that we do.

God our Mother and Father,

we praise you

for the blessings you shower upon us.

Bless the lives of our sisters and brothers

and their precious children.

In life’s saddest moments,

may we feel your love most, O Jesus.

Continue to dwell in our hearts, Lord.

May your love keep us strong.

Amen

With love and prayers,

 

Sue

 

Revd Sue Mann

12th May 2019

In April, Holy Week began with Palm Sunday services, when we waved palm crosses marking Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of his ministry. This was followed, two days later, by a reflective Taize style service at Orsett Church with some beautiful flute and keyboard accompaniment and, during which, people had the opportunity to light a candle. On Maundy Thursday, at Horndon Church, we held a foot washing Eucharist, to reflect upon the humility of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples and to remember the last supper Jesus shared with his friends before he was crucified. On Good Friday, we congregated at Bulphan and people elected, either to go on a Walk of Witness around the village as we shared Bible readings, prayers, reflections and songs, or to follow the Stations of the Cross – the powerful and moving journey of Christ to his crucifixion, superbly illustrated by Revd Max Blake.  And Holy Week culminated, on Easter Sunday, with a service at Bulphan when we gathered together as a united church family to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. At this service 8 young people received the sacraments, the bread and wine, for the first time and it was a joy to prepare these children for this. Thank you, so much, to all those who helped in any way during Holy Week, both to arrange the services and to provide and arrange flowers, food and refreshment; none of this could have happened without you.

At the same time as preparing the children for taking their first communion, Youth HUB, our Benefice youth group have been doing Youth Alpha, a Christianity course, with Hannah our student from Ridley Hall Theological College, and I have been exploring confirmation with a group of adults using a course called the ‘Start’ course. The Start Course, in six sessions, looks at: Our own life journeys so far; Discussions about the evidence for God’s existence; The person of Jesus; What’s gone wrong in the world; Jesus death and resurrection; Taking steps into the arms of Christ’s love. It has been a real privilege to be able to engage with people in all of these groups as they have shared stories and questions, and as we have journeyed together.

At the heart of any Christian nurture course is a desire to lead people to a greater understanding of God’s love for them, demonstrated by Christ’s death and resurrection, and of what following Christ means for each of us today. Christ came into the world for us all. He longs for each of us to be in relationship with him. He welcomes everyone, whatever their background, to journey with him. In Coventry Cathedral, in the front of many of their service books they have the following words:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down at heel. We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers.

We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woken up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven’t been to church since Christmas ten years ago.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps or don’t like ‘organised religion.’ (We’re not that keen on it either!)

We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because granny is visiting and wanted to come to the Cathedral.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as kids or got lost on the ring road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters… and you!

And  I believe these words reflect the Jesus Christ of Easter.

With love and prayers,

Sue

 

 

Revd Sue Mann

2nd April 2019

In March, we gathered at Bulphan Zion Chapel with friends from the churches in Orsett, Bulphan and Horndon for a beautiful ‘World Day of Prayer’ service, created by women from Slovenia, on the theme of ‘Come-Everything is ready,’ at the heart of which was an open invitation for all to come to God’s table. We heard stories of some of those coming to the table: wives, mothers and grandmothers, Roma people, refugees and migrant workers. Their stories painted a picture of the political and economic situation of Slovenia from the time it was a socialist-communist state to the present day. Whilst listening to these stories we reflected upon the fact that through prayer and commitment, change can be brought about. We asked God for forgiveness for our own silence in the face of injustice and asked him to help us to be a people of compassion and understanding with a commitment to working for freedom, justice and peace. Grateful thanks are due to Jane Barry who coordinated and organised this in such a thoughtful and creative way, and to our friends at the Zion Chapel for their kind hospitality.

The 2019 Mothering Sunday theme is ‘Nurturing hope in a broken world.’  This theme is particularly poignant at a time when the world is mourning the terrible loss of life in Christchurch New Zealand following the terrorist attacks on two mosques; when three young people have been crushed to death in Northern Ireland; when the world is still shocked by the shooting in Holland and when the lives of hundreds have been claimed by Cyclone Idai as it hit South Africa.

In the midst of all of this, with regard to the ongoing Brexit debate, our Diocesan Bishop, Bishop Stephen, called communities to come together to serve the common good, in our nation and in our relationship with the rest of Europe. And together with the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, he invited us to join a national prayer initiative of five days. With this in mind, Horndon Church hosted a Benefice morning of prayer, during which people were invited to light candles, using the following prayer as a focus:

God of hope,
in these times of change,
unite our nation
and guide our leaders with your wisdom. Give us courage to overcome our fears, and help us to build a future
in which all may prosper and share; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

There is a lot going on in our world at the moment. Problems can feel overwhelming and, for those who are directly affected by disasters, the pain must be unbearable at times. But, as we approach Easter, whatever we face in our personal lives or in our world, we need to hold on to the fact that God is a God of hope. Because, at Easter we reflect upon not only the painful death, but the glorious resurrection of Jesus, which is what we remember every time we celebrate Holy Communion.

So, just as we did in the World Day of Prayer service, this Easter let’s continue to ask God to transform us into a people of compassion and understanding with a commitment to working for freedom, justice and peace in our world.

Do join us at any of our Holy Week and Easter services as we journey with Christ from pain and suffering into hope. We would love to see you.

With love and prayers,

Sue

 

Revd Sue Mann

2nd March 2019

Recently, on one of my days off, I was in Leigh on Sea and went into a shop which has just opened, called ‘The Refill Room.’ The main ethos of the shop is to eliminate single use packaging. There are shelves full of glass dispensers containing all kinds of organic foods like nuts, cereals, different rices, chocolate, herbs, flours, loose leaf tea and ground coffee beans to name just a few. In fact, I saw varieties of foods I have never heard of before. You take your own container or buy the packaging in store and pay for the weight of the product. They also sell things like soaps, shampoos, cleaning products, water bottles, coffee cups, metal straws and sandwich boxes.

I had a look on their website and it says,

‘The origin of the store stemmed from the owner Gemma, who has a growing concern about the ecological state of the world. Gemma’s husband is a diver and has seen first- hand what the wastage and over use of un-recyclable plastic products has done to our oceans and they wanted to do something about it.’

Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter, back in 2015, said:

‘The earth cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).’

God calls us to be good stewards of the creation with which he has blessed us and it is a call which we must all take seriously. And, to this end, following the impassioned campaign and speech by 15 year old Swede, Greta Thunberg, last week thousands of schoolchildren and young people joined a strike to challenge politicians to tackle the escalating ecological crisis. More than 10,000 young people in at least 60 towns and cities from the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall joined the strike. Our son and a fellow pupil at his school, with the permission of their headteacher, organised a three-hour strike, during which time the students wrote letters urging the Government to act upon this.

As I was in ‘The Refill Room,’ I spotted a book called ‘Living Plastic Free,’ and it inspired me to see if our family, in the 40 day run up to Easter, can try to have a plastic free Lent. Perhaps you might like to join us in this challenge. But even if you don’t do that, I challenge you to try to minimise the amount of plastic you use. Perhaps, if you don’t do so already, you could carry a cup in your bag so that, if you are offered tea or coffee in a paper or polystyrene cup, you can use your own instead.

Just as God calls us to care for the environment, he also calls us to care for one another. This year, the Thurrock Food Bank, already supported by many of you, has created a Lent Challenge which is included in this magazine and you might like to join in with this and take the things you collect to one of the foodbank boxes in each of our churches.

And, finally, as you prepare to celebrate Easter, if you have anyone to buy Easter eggs for, you may like to consider buying either a Fairtrade egg ‘The Real Easter Egg’, from the Meaningful Chocolate Company, with chocolate which has been ethically produced and which contains the Easter Story, or a plastic free organic Easter egg from the Refill Room. Just a few ideas to reflect upon…

With continued love and prayers for you all.

God bless, Sue x

 

Revd Sue Mann

8th February 2019

Rector’s Reflections

I hope you had a blessed and peaceful Christmas; thank you, so much, for all your cards, presents and greetings. And may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year!

We are now well into 2019 and there is, of course, lots happening in our world, our nation and our local community.

I really urge you to keep praying for our Government as they are faced with the task of negotiating and securing Brexit deals. It is an unenviable job, yet so easy for us, whatever our view, to sit on the side lines and criticise. May I encourage you to continue to pray for our leaders that, in all this decision making, God’s will might be done to create a worldwide community which is fair and just for all. Of course, we do need to be mindful that, whenever we pray, we need to be prepared to answer that prayer ourselves.

Those of us who are Christians appreciate the joy and privilege of being members of God’s family. But God, as well as giving us this deep sense of joy, also calls us to make sacrifices. One of the ways he calls us to do this is in our sharing of the resources he has given us, including our time and money.

In all Church of England churches, as many of you know, we have a Parish Share to pay, which is to finance clergy, clergy housing and insurance, the training of priests and the pension fund. In addition, churches have to pay their own in-house bills for things like heating, water, repairs, maintenance, service sheets, ministerial expenses and giving outside the parish. As three parishes in relatively affluent areas, we are also called to support poorer parishes in the Diocese.

Whilst, in 2018, we celebrated many good things, the end of the year was marred by the huge struggle to meet our Parish Share costs. We did manage to fulfil our payment, as we did in 2017, but a significant amount of this money was taken out of reserves which are now depleted, to complement our monies accrued through giving and fundraising.

Our Benefice Share, alone, for 2019 is £82,614 which, divided between the three parishes, requires Orsett to pay £35,425, Bulphan £17,828 and Horndon £29,361. This is before we even begin to add our in-house bills, resulting in the weekly cost of keeping our three churches open, with a serving stipendiary priest and self-supporting associate priest, approaching three thousand pounds.

Before Christmas, all clergy in Essex received a letter from Bishop Stephen, our Diocesan Bishop, stating that the Diocese of Chelmsford is similarly struggling. It received insufficient Parish Share money to pay its clergy last year, so this deficit had to be mitigated by the use of savings and the selling of vacant clergy properties, both of which are unsustainable means of income. Bishop Stephen stated, ‘…the message we need to give out in our parishes is very simple: if you want stipendiary priests serving your parish, then pay the Parish Share.’

I would like to thank those of you who give to the Churches in the Benefice, through one off donations, envelopes, standing orders, direct debit and loose plate collections and to those who organise and support fundraising events. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

As the Priest in Charge, I am rooting for our Churches here. We have a committed worshipping community with lots of people working hard and I believe it is the desire of us all that the churches remain open for occasional services such as weddings, baptisms, funerals and regular acts of worship and that they continue to thrive, grow and share the love of God with others, with the continued support and guidance of a stipendiary priest.

Sadly, though, the reality is that our income falls far short of our Parish Share costs, let alone the other bills and, currently, the huge amount of time required for fund raising limits the opportunity for the mission of the Church. We will only be able to meet our expenses and continue our ministry effectively if our regular giving increases significantly.

All three parishes have now registered with a scheme called the Parish Giving Scheme, whereby tax payers are able to give by direct debit. This has the advantage over standing order in that each parish is able to receive the Gift Aid rebate of 25% within only a few days of each payment being made. There is also the opportunity to tick a box agreeing to a yearly increase at the rate of inflation. In Bulphan and Orsett they are already using this scheme and Horndon will be launching it in due course.

As a regular or occasional congregation member or someone who has benefited from an important service, please do pray and consider whether you might be able to support us financially on a regular basis or, if you are already doing this, whether you might be able to increase your giving or join the Parish Giving Scheme, for which each of the churches has packs. I would be very happy for you to contact me with any questions you might have and am sure that the wardens or treasurers would be happy to do the same.

With love and prayers, Sue