Category Archives: Rector’s Reflections

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

 

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

 

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

December 2018-January 2019

Rector’s Reflections 

Welcome to the December and January edition of the Hobnob. Thank you, so much, to those who kindly donated a Christmas Shoebox to Operation Christmas Child this year. We received over 90 shoeboxes which we collected at our United Benefice Service in November. It was a great community effort, including churches, schools, the uniformed organisations and The Whitecroft Residential Care Home, to name a few, and I am sure your generous gifts will be greatly appreciated by those who receive them.

As I write this, a group of us from Christian Churches in Thurrock have been meeting, and are in the process of setting up a means of providing meals on Friday and/or Saturday afternoons for homeless people, at a church in Thurrock. If anyone feels able to be part of this project, either on a regular or occasional basis, then please do let me know.

And, as we approach Christmas we, indeed, remember that Jesus began his life as a refugee, born in very basic conditions. It’s tempting, isn’t it, in the warm candle glow of Christmas services, to romanticise the birth of Jesus, but we also need to remember that we worship a Saviour, the incarnation of God, on earth, who knows, only too well, the reality of being fully human, and all that this entails, including both the good and bad, the joys and the struggles. Jesus loves each one of us deeply and longs to be part of our lives today, both individually and corporately and this includes being with us in the mess we often find ourselves.

As we reflect upon Jesus and the purpose for which he came to be born among us, or, as some might put it ‘the reason for the season,’ perhaps, this year, in our domestic preparations, it might be time to step out of the pattern of familiarity and do something slightly differently in order to share the love of Jesus with others.

There is, in fact, a Christian book called ‘Doing December Differently: An alternative Christmas Handbook.’ Sometimes, when we step out of the mould, we can experience Jesus in a profound new way.

Here are some of the suggestions in the book:

  • With family and friends, agree on a limit to what you are going to spend. Send the rest to charity.
  • Buy your gifts from charities.
  • Give a goat etc.
  • Give fair trade goods.
  • Make your own Christmas cards.
  • Recycle last year’s Christmas Cards.
  • Send a Christmas card to a prisoner of conscience or human rights defender. See www.amnesty.org.uk for further details.

These are just a few ideas, but to finish with – a few words by Jo Jones, a former Christian Aid worker:

I heard a story about a woman who asked all her friends to send her a candle for Christmas and the money they would have spent on presents to charity. She then had a room full of candles reflecting the love of friends and family – and the knowledge that money had gone to those much more in need.

I look forward to seeing you at Church over the Christmas period and wish you a joyous and peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

With love and prayers for you all,

Sue

November 2018

Rector’s Reflections

We have just celebrated Harvest in all three parishes and I would like to thank all those who worked so hard and imaginatively to decorate our Churches. St Mary’s Church, the Church of St Peter and St Paul and St Giles and All Saints Church all looked lovely; each completely different but the three reflecting the glory of God’s creation and the abundance of his provision for us.

Our Harvest reading this year was from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 6, verses 25-33, the passage in the Bible which tells us not to worry about what we wear or eat or drink. During Harvest, not only have we been thanking God for what we have received, but we have been reflecting upon our part in God’s purpose to ensure that our world’s resources are shared fairly so that no one goes without and so that no one needs to worry about having their needs met.

Most of us are fortunate enough to have warm homes, clean water and nutritious food, but we are only too aware that there are people not far away from us who will have no meal today. A group of ministers in Thurrock have met recently to consider how the churches might help those who are currently without a home. Our news has highlighted the plight of people affected by the devastation of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia. We are constantly reminded of the effects of climate change and the consequences of our greed and overuse of resources such as plastic. There are children in some countries who will receive nothing this Christmas.

Harvest has been a good time to consider our responses, both individually and as a church, to situations of need in our world such as those mentioned above. We have collected food for the foodbank and financial donations for the DEC Indonesia Tsunami Appeal. Harvest also provided us with an opportunity to encourage people to put together Christmas shoeboxes for children in other countries who, otherwise, would not receive a Christmas present. Thank you, so much, for your Harvest donations and for your responses to the DEC appeal and thank you to those of you who have put together a Christmas shoebox. These boxes will be collected at our United Benefice Service on November 4th at 10am at Bulphan Church. You are all very welcome to come along.

Also, on the afternoon of 4th November, at 4pm, we will be holding a service to Commemorate the Departed, at Bulphan Church, where everyone is invited to light a candle in memory of a friend or loved one who has died. You are all invited to attend this moving service. You don’t need a formal invitation, you can just turn up. And, of course on November 11th we will be holding Remembrance services which, this year, will be particularly poignant as we celebrate the anniversary of the end of the First World War.

There is lots going on in November and I look forward to seeing you soon.

With my continued love and prayers.

 Sue 

 

 

 

October 2018

We are now well into the swing of the Autumn term. Pupils and staff have returned to school after the summer holiday; clubs and societies have recommenced and, at church, several things have happened, or are happening.

Over the summer we were pleased to welcome a new parishioner into Horndon, The Right Reverend John Perumbalath, our new Bishop of Bradwell, along with his wife Jessy and their daughter Anugraha. We were very fortunate that Bishop John came to preside and preach at our United Benefice Service at Orsett in September and, at this service, he made a presentation to Canon Glyn Jones who, after many years of faithful service in this Benefice has decided to rescind his licence giving him permission to officiate. On behalf of the Benefice, I would like to express grateful thanks to Glyn for all he has contributed over many years. And, as Bishop John said, although he will no longer officiate, he will always be a priest.

Messy Church is now established and, this year, we are very fortunate that we are able to offer Messy Church, once a term, in all three of the primary schools in the Benefice, the dates of which are in this magazine. We are also very grateful to W. Howard and Son, who have kindly supplied us with lots of stationery, craft material and posters for this, and to Tesco, who have given us some vouchers to spend in their store on food. Families are welcome at all three Messy Church locations and not limited to the one in their particular parish. We look forward to seeing you at Messy Church; it is great fun! Please remember, though, that children need to be accompanied by an adult. We have also just set up a ‘WhatsApp’ group to advertise this, and an email circulation list, so please do let me know if you wish to be added to these groups.

You are probably aware that, in May, the Government introduced some new legislation with regard to data protection, with which we have to comply. This means that all members of the three church electoral rolls are required to fill in a GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) form in order for us to be able to contact them regarding church matters. If you are on one of our church electoral rolls and have not yet filled in one of these forms, please could you do this as soon as possible. Also, if you are not on an electoral roll, but attend church or church activities and would like to be kept informed, I encourage you to fill in a form too. The forms are available at the back of all three churches. And, perhaps, when you do this, if you are not currently on a church electoral roll, it might be the time to consider whether you might like to be, giving you the right to vote on church matters. Forms for this are also available at the back of all three churches.

Recently I attended the Orsett Forum meeting where I was presented with a cheque for St Giles and All Saints Roof Fund, raised by the proceeds of the Fun Run. Thank you, so much, to Orsett Forum. We are very grateful for this kind donation which has helped towards the roof fund.

And, finally, we have just launched our new website. You can find it at hobnob.org.uk.

I am very grateful to David Mortimer, Thomas Mann and Charles Mortimer who have been working hard since last October, to create this website and we are fortunate, now, that Philip Oderinlo has also joined the team to share his expertise. We hope that you find this website helpful and informative. It is a work in progress and, as time goes by, we hope to develop it. We would like to keep our new website fresh and up to date, so I encourage anyone who leads a church group and who would like upcoming activities publicised, or news or photos of events which have taken place, shown, (provided that GDPR rules are complied with) to send this to, either:

p.oderinlo@hobnob.org.uk or d.mortimer@hobnob.org.uk

I look forward to seeing you soon.

With love and prayers,

Sue

 

August/September 2018

As I write this, Youth HUB, our Youth group ‘HERE in the UNITED BENEFICE,’ has just returned from SOLID, a Christian Festival held at Stubbers Activity Centre in Upminster every July. We returned this year, after enjoying ourselves last year.

The festival is organised by Scripture Union and a number of partnering agencies, including Chelmsford Diocese, and is open to all youth groups from any denominational background.

SOLID brings together hundreds of young people from across the South East of England to discover and worship Jesus while taking part in all kinds of adventure, creative and sporting activities, including Laser Tag, canoeing, high ropes, banana boating and jet skiing, to name just a few.

Ten young people from Youth HUB, and four leaders – Christine and David Mortimer, Phil – my husband and I, arrived at Stubbers on the Friday evening to put up our tents and we then began the weekend by participating in an opening act of worship in the ‘Jump-in’ tent. The worship was lively, with contemporary music, a professional Christian theatre group and an engaging speaker and it challenged each person to consider what it means to fully commit his or her life to Jesus Christ. Throughout the weekend, the worship reiterated the message that we can all be used by Jesus to share the good news of the Gospel with others. And Phil, the speaker, gave lots of examples of young people he had encountered in his ministry, who thought they were worthless, but who have been used powerfully by God to bring others to faith after giving their own lives to Jesus. He recounted how individuals have done this through prayer and by daring to step out of the boat, trusting in God as they have started something new.

I encourage you to pray for our young people. It was a tremendous privilege to take them away and to see them grow in confidence in their faith as they shared in worship and had fun together over the weekend. As Bishop John Wraw said, before he sadly died last year, ‘our young people are not the church of tomorrow, they are an important part of the church of today.’

Of course, it is essential that we recognise that our churches are made up of people of all ages and that we value all. It was in contrast to the Stubbers gathering that, at our Deanery meeting last week, we were fortunate to hear a speaker, Canon Hugh Dibbens, talking about evangelism for the senior members of our congregations. Hugh has written a five – week course for those of more mature years, to help them become more confident in sharing the good news of Jesus with others. The course is called ‘Calling all Seniors.’ Jesus calls us all ‘to make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19); none of us Christians are exempt from this command. At the meeting Hugh encouraged us to discuss some of the ways in which retired members of our congregations share their faith and he spoke, positively, about his own experiences as a man of mature age. It is hoped that Hugh’s course will be run in Thurrock Deanery in the coming year, so if you are someone who thinks you might be interested in attending, then please do let me know and I can pass your details on to Revd Darren Barlow, our Area Dean; it would be great to have some representatives from this Benefice attending.

I am running out of space now, so will sign off until October’s edition. I pray that, if you are going away over the summer, you will have a refreshing break, just as we did at SOLID, but that, wherever you are, you will know God’s presence with you.

With love and prayers,

Sue