Category Archives: Rector’s Reflections

Revd Sue Mann

19th March 2020

For the past few weeks, as we all know, most of the news has revolved around the Coronavirus. As a result of this pandemic, the Church of England has put some measures into place, which have impacted our services and activities here in the Benefice.

The consequence of these measures is that all Sunday Services at Orsett, Bulphan and Horndon on the Hill, as well as Edward Bear Toddler Group, Messy Church, Oasis Café, Orsett Monthly Lunches, Horndon Coffee Mornings, Bible Study Groups, Baptism Preparation and activities in Bulphan Parish Room are suspended until further notice. Weddings and Funerals are still taking place at the moment, with the relevant restraints put in place. Baptisms are on hold until further notice.

However, all three Churches will remain open during the day for private prayer and reflection, in line with the Church of England’s advice, so that, whilst we are unable to hold conventional services, we can provide a space for people to spend time with God, with the recommended 2 metre distancing and sanitising precautions in place. The rapid spread of this virus has caused worry and confusion and it is at times of crisis and uncertainty like this that many look to God or the Church for support. I am working at producing some prayer cards and booklets to leave in the Churches for people to take if they wish. You can also find many prayer and service resources at hobnob.org.uk/coronavirus/resources

If you would like me to send you any email updates and you haven’t yet managed to fill in a GDPR form, you can complete one online at our website, hobnob.org.uk/data and I will then be able to ensure that you are included in the next mailing.

If you don’t have access to technology and would like to be kept updated on progress, and haven’t yet completed a Data Preferences form, please give me a ring on 01375 891254 and I will send one out to you. Similarly, if you would like me to send you some prayer and worship resources in the post, I am very happy to do that: just follow the same process of giving me a ring. And do leave a message if I’m unavailable to answer the phone.

We are still collecting food for the food bank and soup kitchen in our churches. Sadly, some homeless projects and foodbanks have run out of food due to dwindling resources as a result of people bulk-buying and stock-piling. It is my hope that both our foodbank in Corringham, and the soup kitchen in Grays on a Friday night are sustainable. Please do continue to pray for and support these projects if you can. It is so important that we show our love and care for one another at this time, especially those who are vulnerable, lonely and isolated; something I know everyone in these villages is really good at.

Max and I will continue to say daily services independently and I am still out and about doing ministry as usual. Please know that you are all very much in our thoughts and prayers and be assured that I will try to keep you updated with changes to the arrangements in accordance with the advice I receive.

Take care and God Bless,

Sue

Revd Sue Mann

1st March 2020

As you read this, the season of Lent will have just begun, the period of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘lencten’, which means Spring. The period of forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to commit themselves to a new spiritual discipline, to give something up or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

This year, the Church of England’s Lent focus is our care, as Christians, for creation, and I would like to encourage you to participate in our Lent Campaign, #LiveLent: Care for God’s Creation, which contains 40 daily reflections to help us protect and care for creation, one for each of the 40 days in Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday (26th February) and ending on Easter Day (12th April). 

For each week, there is:

• A theme, based on the days of creation as described in Genesis 1,
• A prayer for use throughout the week, with words taken from well-known hymns,
• An introduction to the week’s theme for children and families, with a Bible verse and a simple prayer.


For each day (Monday to Saturday) there are illustrated daily reflections with:


• A very short passage from the Bible,
• A short reflection on the message of the passage,
• A practical action to help you live in harmony with God, neighbour and nature,
• Full audio of the daily reflection, including a sung version of the prayer for the week.


There are also ‘next steps’ for individuals and churches on how to incorporate care for creation into life beyond Lent.

You can join in by downloading the LiveLent: Care for God’s creation app onto an android or apple device or you can receive daily emails. For instructions you just need to go to www.churchofengland.org/livelent And for anyone who doesn’t have a mobile phone or computer, don’t worry, there are a few booklets available in our churches.

The app also includes a daily challenge to honour and treasure the earth, suitable for children and families. On some days there are practical changes your family can make to help the environment. On others there are challenges to find out more about creation, to explore the Bible, to reflect and to pray.

Alongside this, a group of us will be doing a Bible study on our Christian response to climate change, based upon a book by Susan Sayers, called, ‘THIS.’ Anyone who would like to be part of this is welcome to join us at The Rectory on the Thursdays during Lent from 8 pm until 9.30pm.

With love and prayers,

Sue

Revd Sue Mann

26th January 2020

It’s the time of year, isn’t it, when many of us have become a bit fed up with the short days: dark mornings coupled with early nights. We long for the onset of warmer weather and the new growth of Spring.

But what I do love, living in this part of the world, is gazing at the dark silhouettes of the trees set against the big skies and, in the evenings, appreciating the beauty of the sun as it sets, with its warm rays shining through the skeleton branches.

As you receive this magazine we will be concluding the season of Epiphany, when we remember the Magi visiting Jesus, representing the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, and the revelation of his light to the world. Christ came for all; he came as light to shine in the darkness just as the sun shines through the bare branches, and that is good news for each of us.

I don’t watch much television but one thing I have seen this new year is the two episodes of ‘The Choir,’ when Gareth Malone went into Aylesbury Young Offenders Institution.

The statistics for Aylesbury are that the 400 inmates, aged between 18 and 21, are doing time for various offences, including drug crimes, robbery, GBH, manslaughter and murder. About a sixth are serving life sentences and forty per cent are struggling with mental health problems. Three months before Gareth Malone arrived in June 2019, Aylesbury was placed under special measures owing to high levels of self-harm and violence. Half the prisoners were moved out, and three wings were shut down.

The BBC introduces this programme with the following words.

Gareth Malone faces a challenge which will test him like no other – to form a choir in one of the toughest prisons for young offenders. What he learns takes him by surprise.

Gareth, however, is determined to produce a concert at the end of his nine weeks at Aylesbury. By building positive relationships with the individuals, engaging with their stories and giving them encouragement, he succeeds in enabling a group of inmates to write songs, and perform with and to staff and fellow inmates, and members of their families are invited to come and listen.

The performance, itself, was moving, but, more so, was the reaction of many of the parents, for whom the concert had provided an opportunity to embrace their sons and declare how proud they were of them. Perhaps these were words, because of the circumstances, those young people hadn’t heard from their parents for a long time.

It was also good to see the sense of achievement on the faces of the young offenders as they rapped and sang and were applauded by others. I viewed this as something of a metaphor of Christ’s light shining in the darkness. My prayer for each of those young people was that they would know that they are deeply loved and affirmed by God and that they would continue to recognise and realise their potential.

As a minister, it is my prayer that each one of us recognise and realise our God given potential.

This year, in 2020, let’s invite Christ’s light to shine in our lives, especially in any areas of personal struggle and darkness we might face and allow God to transform us.

God bless,

Sue

Revd Sue Mann

5th December 2019

The latest news is that we are now on Facebook and Twitter. You can find us at: @HOBNOBChurches.

We will be using both of these forms of social media, as well as this website and our magazine, to publicise our services, and it would be lovely if you are able to join us at some, or all, of our acts of worship over the Christmas period.

Of course, before we reach Christmas, we will be travelling through the season of Advent, a period of preparation for the birth of Jesus, reminding ourselves that we are also awaiting Christ’s second coming and reflecting upon how we might cast off those habits which distance us from God. We will also be approaching our general election, following which will be a waiting period as we anticipate who will be leading our country for the next few years.

In my upbringing sex, politics and religion were fairly taboo subjects, either because they were deemed as ‘private’ or because they were likely to ‘provoke an argument.’ But as I have journeyed in my Christian life, I have realised that if we are to take our faith seriously, we need to be able to talk about all of these three things, to engage, prayerfully, in dialogue and discussion, even if it means disagreeing with our brothers and sisters, in order both to be challenged and, subsequently, to reach our own conclusion as to what the right Christian approach is.

And, so, our preparation for Christ’s birth and our awaiting his second coming should not be kept separate from our consideration of who to vote for. In fact, my belief is that these are inextricably linked, and, for those of us who profess to be Christians, the question of ‘what Jesus would  do?’ should be at the forefront of our minds. And, in this time of political uncertainty, this, most definitely, requires some careful consideration.

My intention is not to recommend an allegiance with any particular party but to offer the suggestion that our political thinking should consider the contribution of policies to the promotion of justice and the common good, both nationally and worldwide, rather than just to defend our own interests. Also, In this time of climate and ecological crisis, my belief is that we should reflect upon which manifestos best reflect a care for the creation with which God has entrusted us. And we should, of course, enter into this prayerfully and be prepared to read, listen carefully to all views and be challenged and change our opinions, if necessary.

Christian Aid offers some helpful information on voting. Their election manifesto is: ‘For dignity, equality and justice’ and they are calling for:

  • A new deal for climate justice 
  • A fairer global economy
  • Sustainable development as a human right
  • And for the UK to prioritise peace over war

And you can download their ‘Guide to the General Election’ at christianaid.org.uk which gives more specific information on these issues.

Of course, by the time Christmas arrives, and as we begin a New Year, we will know the results of the General Election. My prayer is that, together, we travel closer towards a world of peace. And, let us reflect upon the words of Paul in his letter to the Colossians, 3: 15, when he said:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

I wish you all a peaceful, blessed and joyous Christmas and New Year!

With love and prayers,

Sue

Revd Sue Mann

4th November 2019

November is quite a busy time in the Church calendar.

We have our Commemoration of the Departed service at the beginning of the month, where people are invited to come and light a candle in memory of a loved one who has died. We then have our Remembrance Day services where, again, we remember those who have died, or those who are still active in the service of their country.  You are all welcome at those services.

It is so important in many aspects of life to remember. At funeral services we recall the life of the deceased. And in my addresses, I often speak about cherishing the memories of a loved one, but, together, we also ask God to help us to move on. Sometimes people feel a huge sense of guilt at learning to laugh and enjoy life again, when someone close to them has died. The words of the funeral service are written to allow people to grieve, to celebrate the life of the person who has died but also to give people permission to move on, in the knowledge that God is with them. I often find myself reassuring people that it is ok to laugh; that this isn’t disloyal to the friend or relative who had died and that it doesn’t remove the memories or the love for that person; those memories and that love will always be there.

Our church congregations are here due to a long history of traditions being passed on and it is due to faithful Christians of earlier generations that we are still worshipping today. And just as a funeral or memorial service needs to remember a loved one, so our services need to acknowledge that which we have inherited from previous generations. But we also need to give ourselves permission to move on.

When I was ordained, I was commissioned by the Bishop to ‘proclaim the good news of the Gospel afresh for this generation.’ Afresh means finding new ways to engage with people today and, in particular, those who do not know Jesus, because it is a sad fact that we live in an age when church attendance is in decline; serious decline. And as churches we need to do something about this.

In this Benefice we have introduced Messy Church for families, which happens during the week, details of which you will find in this magazine. More recently, I have been working on making our Sunday services more inclusive and accessible. And, after discussion with PCCs, I am hoping to introduce some of these newer services in the New Year. 

Moving on, in many different contexts, can be scary, particularly if we have loved, and lived with, someone or something for many years, but the one thing we can be assured of in the context of change of any kind is that we have a God who is unchanging. Whatever happens around us, whether it be in our personal lives or in our church life, God remains there for us, steadfast and reliable.

Faithful one, so unchanging,
ageless one, you’re my rock of peace.
Lord of all I depend on you.
I call out to you, again and again,
I call out to you, again and again.
You are my rock in times of trouble,
you lift me up when I fall down.
All through the storm, your love is the anchor,
my hope is in you alone.
(Brian Doerksen)

With love and prayers,

Sue