Author Archives: Revd Sue Mann

Revd Sue Mann

4th August 2019

My husband is in a book group and recently he encouraged them to read the book ‘Frankenstein.’ Some of the book group members were slightly skeptical about this but it provoked some really good conversation.

A friend, who is also in the book group, shared some of her thoughts, saying that ‘Frankenstein’s monster does terrible things but is also a profoundly sad creature, longing for love, friendship, and belonging, and only prompted to acts of cruelty and destruction when these are denied him.’ She went on to suggest that this isn’t too dissimilar from the Gerasene man we recently read about in a Bible passage in church, who is possessed by demons, and who doesn’t obey the normal rules of society, with regard to wearing clothes and living in a house, although we don’t know whether he has done anything very dreadful at all. What we do know, though, is that the local community finds him more than difficult to deal with and, so, on occasion have imprisoned him, chained him and shackled his feet. They, themselves, have ‘demonised’ him. But Jesus treats the man differently even though he greets Jesus angrily. Jesus frees him from his troubles, and restores him to the ordinariness of life, clothed and able to sit in comfort alongside others, about which the locals are very upset. The locals are also, perhaps, somewhat fearful and maybe even disappointed that they, no longer, have a person against whom they could unite.’

My friend, who is a priest, went on to say that she preached to her congregation on this passage and related it to our current political situation sharing that, ‘So much of our current politics has been defined by who or what we are against. Brexit versus Remain. Boris versus the rest. Even in a recent opinion poll, England against, or at least without, Scotland or Northern Ireland.’ And she said that ‘it had crossed her mind to wonder how some people will find a common cause when we are no longer members of the EU, and can blame Europe for what we don’t like…’

We are, of course, concerned for the future of our nation and we want our leader to be someone we can trust and, by the time you read this, our new Prime Minister will have been appointed. But when we are tempted to demonize another person or group of people, by the way we relate to them or by the language we use in describing them, whether it be a politician or person of another faith or culture, or someone living on the streets or a person with a criminal conviction, I believe we are called first to look inwards and consider, in our proposed description of that person or group of particular people, what would we actually be implying about ourselves?  It can be so destructive to infer that someone else is less than us – less safe, less trustworthy, less honest, less loveable, less kind – ultimately less worthy of a place in the world. Sometimes it does us good just to pause and ask ourselves, who are our monsters or demons, worldwide, nationally or locally, to recognize this and act upon it as Jesus would…

My friend finished her sermon with the following words:

‘ “Here be monsters” it used to say on old maps. “Here be monsters” might very well be the headlines of some of our papers and news sources. Look a little closer, and we will see beings made in the image of God. ‘

With love and prayers,

Sue

 

Revd Sue Mann

1st July 2019

Recently I have started going to the outdoor gym on the Orsett Recreation Ground, for ten minutes a day, as I am conscious that I have been doing very little exercise of late and have begun to get rather unfit. Whenever I have joined the gym in the past I have never managed to keep it up for longer than about a month, and my great plans to ride my bike or walk to places often get thwarted because I always find another job to do, an email to send or a phone call to make.

So, for me, the outdoor gym is ideal because I like being outside, it’s free and what’s even better is it’s only about 100 metres from our front door! As I sit on the gym equipment in the park, I see other people exercising- running or playing cricket, bowls or rounders and that encourages me.

God calls us to look after the physical bodies he has given us. And he also calls us to exercise our spiritual muscles.

Recently the Bishop of Bradwell spoke to the clergy of Thurrock, stressing the importance of four things in our Christian lives: Prayer, Study, Fellowship and Worship.

Prayer is talking to God, but it isn’t just presenting our requests to him, it is about aligning our will with that of our Heavenly Father, so that our lives begin to reflect more of him in what we think, do and say. Of course, none of us are perfect and we all get it wrong and stray off the path at times, but because God loves us, when we say sorry, he welcomes us back and puts us back on track again.

In order to stay close to God and keep on track, it is important that we know what God has to say about things so it is important to study God’s word and read the Bible. There are many different translations of the Bible now, both in traditional and contemporary language, including apps that you can download on your phone. Familiarity with the stories and characters in the Bible can help us both on a day to day basis and serve to sustain when we are going through the tough times.

Similarly, it is important to meet and share fellowship, so that we can encourage, support, and challenge each other in order to grow in faith and build up the life of the church, both within and outside the buildings.

And we need to worship God. Worship means ‘worthship’ and it is important that we give ‘worth’ to God by attending church services, but our worship should also be apparent in our lives. One of my favourite places is Iona in Scotland. In 563AD the Irish monk St. Columba arrived on Iona with a handful of followers. He built his first Celtic church and established a monastic community on the island. He then set about spreading the Christian faith to most of pagan Scotland and northern England. This seat of learning and centre for Christian worship soon became a place of pilgrimage. When you attend an act of worship in the Abbey at Iona, it never has a defined end because it is a reminder that our lives should be a continuation of our worship.

Perhaps, this summer, as you think about putting on your trainers, it’s the time to take a personal check on your spiritual well – being…

With love and prayers,

Sue x

 

 

 

 

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