I recently listened to the New Scientist’s on-line Event, ‘CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC’, led by climatologist Professor Mark Maslin of University College London
Climate change is the most critical issue facing the world in the 21st century. Everyone agrees we must keep global warming to under 2˚C or under 1.5˚C if possible. But how can we do this while dealing with the other great challenges of our age: pandemics, poverty, security, population growth and environmental degradation?
Prof. Maslin showed how we can rebuild the global economy after covid-19, saving our planet from climate change while improving everyone's lives. He discussed the various actions that would need to be taken by governments, by companies and by individuals.
At individual level, some of his thoughts were as follows:-
* Talk to others about the problem.
* Change to renewable energy at home.
* Reduce, reuse and recycle more.
* Change to an electric car.
* Stop flying (or offset the carbon emissions).
* Divest investments from fossil fuel companies
* Protest and vote as appropriate.
We have all heard these various points before…...but could we consider how they might apply to us personally?
This article was found in the April 1952 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by B. C. Wood and originally titled London Pride.
Not many months ago I was given the privilege of introducing some transatlantic visitors to London, the city that Emerson once called the Capital of the Human Race. I set about my task with joy and with pride because London is not only an incomparable capital but it has the capacity of arousing and sustaining complete devotion in the hearts of its sons.
Soon, however, my joy gave place to sense of inadequacy for London does not give itself to guide-book treatment. While any visitor should be impressed by the dignity of the Mall and the excitement of Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square the true throb of London's pulse can only be felt in its accidental and sudden beauty, in the discovering of its labyrinth of streets, in the fascination of its river and in the beauty of its parks.
When I stood for the first time on Westminster Bridge and gazed expectantly around me I felt ashamed of my dullness, for I could see nothing majestic in the panorama before me. Yet, on another occasion, probably it was autumn, Wordsworth's seemed an inspired description of a noble scene. In the same way Somerset House, the house of the Protector, is sometimes the shabbiest building and sometimes one of the handsomest to be seen.
Many visitors, including, I think, mine, who are accustomed to the stone triumphs of millionaire financiers are surprised by London's modesty. When the big and bold in architecture is sought we must turn to Bush or Shell-Mex House or to the monstrosity which is the London University building, and it is only by chance and Goering's bombers that St. Paul's Cathedral has yet been set free to shout its sturdy Protestantism at a larger audience. Besides Versailles St. James' Palace is the last word in self-effacement while in comparison with the White House No. 10 Downing Street must be almost sinister in its anonymity.
But the anonymity is a characteristic of both the Londoner and his city. I have met Londoners who are inordinately proud because they have no idea who their neighbours are and no wish to find out. Here is a have for those - from the deserter to the revolutionary - who wish to live in oblivion. "The only spot on earth left to be discovered," said one of Pinero's characters, "is the end of Cromwell Road."
Again, there are many cities within London; from Spitalfields to Golders Green there is toleration to all races, while Hampstead and West Ham might be in different continents. Some say too that the climate in Battersea is far milder than that in Chelsea, but about this I cannot tell.
London's parks are all of them significant and most of them beautiful, but Hyde Park is perhaps nearest of all to the Londoner's heart. In its own diversity it is a reflection of the whole city; and it has been observed, I think with some perception, that Orators' Corner and the Pets' Cemetery represent the extremities of the British mind. And so it is with the patrician acres of Kensington Gardens and the more plebeian Lido on the Serpentine - the Lido which was inspired by one of the greatest Londoners of all.
I think so too, that George Lansbury would dearly loved to have seen the exciting new vista of London opened up with the buildings on South Bank. For here we have not only a fresh view of London's present glories but a promise that we may be privileged to witness the writing of another historic chapter in the story of our city.
“Jesus ‘sent out’ the disciples. This week’s Gospel reading is about what happens when they arrive!
What do you expect to happen when you arrive at someone’s front door? Will you have to take off your shoes, or wipe them on a mat? Perhaps you have a gift to give the host – how will it be received? How do those various actions make you feel? How do you feel if they don’t happen? Now, with the boot on the other foot, what if you are giving the welcome? If you are the person opening the door – what do you do or say? Do you take their coat, or offer a drink? Does it depend on who is at the door? Who might it be hard to welcome in?”
In the current climate we are not able to fulfil the instructions given here, we are all having to find other ways of discipleship – and until that time when we can worship together it is absolutely vital that we stay strong in our faith, that we are kind and generous of spirit. We don’t need a building to do Gods work, but I do look forward to the day when we can worship together.
“Jesus stresses the importance of ‘going out’, of interacting with others. He refers to ‘whoever welcomes you’ – and that leaves room for those who don’t! In what sense do we ‘go in the name of Jesus’? Is Jesus reflected in us, in our words and actions, or do we need specifically to say who we are? A country’s new ambassador, meeting the Queen for the first time, will always offer her their ‘credentials’ – assuring her that she can trust them to speak on behalf of those who sent them. What credentials can we offer to show that we are sent by Jesus?”
I think all of us have the credentials we just have to be patient we will worship together again but in the meantime let’s continue to be our Lords disciples. Jesus says “whoever welcomes you” at this time that’s not in a place of worship but we mast welcome all into our hearts, interacting with others with all the tools at our disposal.
Singing off for now, I will complete a single Blog in July.
Spirit of fire, warm us with your
Spirit of fire, warm us with your everlasting love.
Spirit of wind, blow away hurtful words that
Spirit of earthquake, carry away our fears.
Spirit of breeze, restore our peace with your
Spirit of the living God, speak to us in words
we can understand.
Go in the name of Jesus,
Go in the name of Jesus,
to follow the way of Jesus,
to love with the love of Jesus,
and to be sustained by the peace of Jesus.
Source: © ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission.
This article was found in the April 1952 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church
Letters from an Uncle to his Niece and Nephew
Dear Jack and Betty,
It is pleasing to know that you really enjoy my monthly "essay". That certainly encourages me to continue. I did not realise when I started what a labour it was going to be. However, it is a labour of love - so here goes for another instalment.
You will recollect that in my previous letter we reached the Reformation. We now come to that period of history known to us in England as the Tudor Period.
As you know it was Henry VIII who finally broke the power of Rome in this country, although his action in doing so was far more political than spiritual, but even if he had not done so most historians agree that an English Reformation would have occurred. English men and women were reading the Bible for themselves. They were discovering the simple faith of the early Apostolic Churches and were comparing them with the pomp and ceremonies of Rome. Martin Luther was proclaiming to the German peoples that the Bible was supreme over the Cardinal and Pope and that men did not need a priest to give them pardon and absolution for their sins.
During the reign of Edward VI many Protestant exiles from the Continent found refuge in this country, but on his death and with the accession of Mary to the throne bitter persecution broke out and leading Protestants in England had to find refuge in Continental cities. Here they came under the influence of Calvin and lived in such cities as Geneva, Frankfort, Strasbourg and Basel. It was in Frankfort that a significant dispute broke out. Many of the exiles wanted to follow the more austere worship of Calvin in Geneva. The dispute was really one between the relative powers of the Minister and Congregation. It lasted a long time and it contained the germs of Episcopacy, Presbyterianism, and Independency amongst the Protestants themselves. It is only of interest because it foreshadowed the struggle that was shortly transferred to English Churches in the reign of Elizabeth.
On the death of Mary in 1558 and the succession to the throne of Elizabeth, a Protestant, most of the exiles on the Continent returned to England and loud was their demand for the elimination in English Churches of all forms of Popery and the establishment of the English Church on the lines of Frankfort and Geneva. And now began a long and bitter struggle over the future form which worship was to take in this country. Although recognition of the Pope had ceased the Church retained many of its Roman practices and to the bitter disappointment of the exiles Elizabeth refused to alter them. The Act of Uniformity in 1559 restored the Prayer Book. The Act of Supremacy made the Queen the supreme head of the Church. The exiles used to the simple and austere worship of the Reformed Continental Churches were not satisfied with the English variety with so many rites and ceremonies associated with the Roman Church. Here was really born Puritanism - the demand for purity of worship.
The Queen, however, was determined to have uniformity and in 1566 the Puritan clergy in London were given the option of conforming forthwith or getting out. Most of them gave in but a minority refused and were suspended from their livings. The result of all this was to split the Puritan movement into three groups. This split was very important to us as Congregationalists. The three groups were:
(1) Those who conformed but still hoped to influence the State Church away from its Roman practices, i.e. to purify it internally. They were probably the forerunners of the present day low churchmen as distinct from the High Church and Anglo-Catholics.
(2) This group also remained in the State Church, but tried to go even further than the first group. Not only did they wish to purify it but to change its form of government from Episcopacy to Presbyterianism.
(3) This group was called the Separatists. Bitterly disappointed at the failure of the State Church to purge all the "offensive habits and ceremonies" they declined to use even the Book of Common Prayer. They refused to obey the law and conform with the State Church and they refused to acknowledge the Queen's or the State's authority in spiritual matters. They took the perilous and yet heroic path of setting up their own Churches to worship in their own way.
These Separatists were our Congregational forefathers and of them I will tell you more next month.
The Gospel reading I am looking at today is taken from Mathew 10: 40-42, other lectionary readings that you may want to look at are as follows: Jeremiah 28: 5-9, Psalm 89: 1-4, 15-18. Romans 6: 12-23.
Gospel Matthew 10. 40 -42
“This short excerpt, which closes the block of Jesus’ teaching on mission in Matthew’s Gospel, mirrors the beginning of last week’s Gospel reading (10.24-39). That passage began (10.24-25) by discussing how those who reject Jesus will act the same way towards his followers. This week’s verses discuss how those who respond positively to the disciples will be understood to have welcomed Jesus. Moreover, in a line that demonstrates a high view of Christ, those who welcome Jesus are understood to be welcoming the one who sent him; that is, God the Father. Jesus is God’s mediator.
If the welcome is made on the basis that the one received is a prophet or a righteous person, then the host might expect a reward; it is not clear if that is the reward due to a prophet/righteous person themselves, or that which a prophet might give to those who receive them (as seen in some Old Testament stories – e.g. 1 Kings 17.8-24; 2 Kings 4.8-37). Either way, it is a promise of reward and this is probably intended in the sense of a consequence at the end of the age.
The passage highlights again the importance, in that culture, of offering hospitality. The reference to giving water, which was the basic requirement of hospitality then as now (and for which no reward would be expected), is echoed in Matthew 25.35-40, speaking of the time ‘when the Son of Man comes in his glory’. Jesus welcomes and rewards those who, in giving a drink to one of his ‘brothers’, are viewed as having ministered to Jesus himself.”
The links between the readings
The Gospel and Old Testament readings are both concerned with the ways in which the people of God who bring the message of God are received by others. As such, they demonstrate that the reception is not always positive, but, at the end of the age, there will be profound consequences for the recipients. The Romans’ passage discusses the response of the believer to their new status in Christ; should they continue to live as they used to, effectively remaining slaves to sin? Or should they act in the way appropriate to their new status and consider themselves slaves of righteousness? Each of these options will also have consequences at the end-time.
Source: © ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission.
Where did religion come from? This is the question Reza Aslan, a scholar of religions, attempts to answer in his latest publication, God: A Human History. To date, Aslan has tackled subjects such as the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and the origins, evolution and future of Islam. In this book, the author journeys back to the earliest evidence of human existence and, using a mix of resources, theories and investigations, tries to determine how our ancestors conceived the idea of gods and souls. Maintaining the idea that the majority of humans think of God as a divine version of ourselves, Aslan also looks at the way our perception of life after death has altered due to the changes in our governments and cultures.
Reza Aslan claims that he, a Muslim-devout-Christian-convert-turned-Sufi, is neither trying to prove or disprove the existence of God or gods. Instead, he is providing readers with a thorough history of religion with a strong suggestion that we, as believers, have fashioned God in our image, and not the other way around.
Insisting that belief systems are inherited from each previous generation, Aslan takes a look at ancient cave drawings where he, and many other theorists, surmise that a form of religion was already well underway. Lack of written word results in a lot of speculation and hypothesis as to what these, usually animal-like, drawings represent, however, many have come to the conclusion that early humans had some form of animistic belief system.
Although not a dig at religion, after all, the author is religious himself, the following chapters bring in to question the authenticity of past and present beliefs. With reference to various psychologists, Aslan poses the theory that ancient humans may have misinterpreted dreams as evidence of a spirit realm. With no one qualified to clarify the things they did not understand, anything without a clear explanation may have been attributed to a god or gods.
As the author describes how religious ideas may have developed from these primitive beliefs to the fully detailed faiths of today, he labels the human race as anthropocentric creatures that have based their religions on human traits and emotions. By reporting in this way, it comes across that the past ideas of the soul, spiritual realms, gods and so forth could not possibly be true, yet, as the final chapters suggest, Aslan is still adamant about the existence of God.
Aslan’s narrative speeds up, finally reaching the recognizable religions of today. Beginning with the Israelites, enslaved by the Egyptians, the author explains, using biblical references, how the first successful monotheistic religion came about. However, researchers have studied the early Bible texts and are inconclusive as to whether the God worshipped by the Jews was the only divine being or whether there were others of a similar standing.
Next, Aslan explores Christianity, posing more questions than he solves, for example, is God one or is God three (i.e. the Holy Trinity)? He defines and compares the definitions of monotheism and pantheism, eventually bringing in Islam and the development of Sufism, which he is not afraid of admitting he agrees with.
God: A Human History is disappointingly short, ending with the feeble conclusion that humans are born with the ability to be convinced of the existence of a divine being and the soul, but it is our own choice to decide whether or not to believe in them. The remaining third of the book is an abundance of notes on the texts, bibliographical references, and Reza Aslan’s personal opinions about the ideas and theories mentioned in his history of religion.
Although an extensive history on the origins of religion, God: A Human History leaves readers none the wiser as to whether their belief is founded in truth or whether it is something that has evolved over time due to lack of understanding about the world. Granted, it was not the aim of the book to prove or disprove the existence of God, however, it may unintentionally sow seeds of doubt or, potentially, anger devout believers. However, there is no attempt at persuading readers to believe one thing or another, thus making it suitable for people of all religion and none.
The steadfast love of the Lord is established forever.
His faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.
The Lord invites us and welcomes us.
Let us worship the Lord.
In the name of……………………………………?
The gift of following.
You have given me a disciples tongue to speak words which build up a word planted in the right season.
You have given me a disciple’s ear to listen for your guidance through each changing scene.
You have given me a disciple’s heart to prefer your way rather than to turn back and give up.
You have given me a disciple’s peace to accept mockery and unjust blows without retaliation.
Lord, help me to follow where you lead, using the best of our gifts to remain faithful to the end.
Taken from Season of the Spirit adapted by Richard Church (Isaiah 50: 4-9a)
I am writing this blog on Wednesday 17th June, as I look back to March 23rd, the day lockdown started for me & Pauline, I set myself the task of writing a blog per week, one thing I have learnt of many varied things is how difficult it is to write fresh thoughts every week, I have the greatest respect for all those ordained and lay preachers that are able to do that.
I was concerned at the start of the year about achieving the goal of nine sermons, during these last weeks I have found it very beneficial to put my thoughts on paper, aware that my audience may be small, but happy in my own mind that in some small way I was acting in a Christian way. During the last few weeks reality has started to kick in, we as a Church have been looking at if & how we can open for prayer, this has & does involve a lot of work, we ask our Lords guidance to do what is correct & proper, as you read this part one of my blog the answers to those questions may already be in place, add onto that my own Trust work and my work on the Huguenot council and suddenly things are starting to rack up, so it is with a certain amount of sadness that I felt this would be my last weekly blog for a time, I intend to follow on with a Monthly blog, and by then let us all pray that we will find a way to be able to worship together, it is a different world & I personally feel that we have over these weeks benefited greatly as a Church Family from pastoral contact, with John sending out the weekly news sheet including the URC devotions, and from being able to watch & listen to God words through many media channels.
You might now be thinking let’s get on with it? So I will start we have an image of a door, in today’s world we tend to be security conscious. In the past your doors may have been unlocked all the time, I was brought up in Ilford, my mother had been an Nurse during the war, she became a go to person for so many things, from birth to death, we had people down our road with may skill sets all of which were utilized at one time or the other. Now our homes are identified as places of privacy and retreat, social action would normally take place elsewhere maybe on neutral ground, not so through the pandemic, face to face meetings have been on hold, and only recently have families been able to meet up ( socially distanced of course) Jesus would under normal circumstances stress the importance of going out and interacting with others “ whoever welcomes you” we may not be able to go out in the name of Jesus, knocking on the imaginary door – but we can all still spread his love in so many other ways.
Sources: © ROOTS for Churches Ltd. Reproduced with permission.
This article was found in the March 1952 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church
Letters from an Uncle to his Niece and Nephew
Unfortunately, the beginning of this letter has been lost.
... They called one of their number to be their minister and others they appointed deacons. These folk who joined together in one church in order to worship God in praise and prayer were very conscious of the fact that they had direct access to Christ himself without the need to call upon any civil or religious authority.
In the second century of our era things began to alter quite a lot. Bishops had been appointed and Churches came more and more under their rule. To the Bishops gradually accrued all the powers formerly held by the members themselves. Creeds also began to be formed. No longer could you join the Church by a simple direct confession of faith, you had to do so by subscribing to a creed. (In the end Christian people even came to believe that the Grace of God came through Bishops and not by way of associations with fellow Christians.) By the middle of the third century the Bishop was controlling all the Churches in his area. Slowly but surely a vast and outwardly imposing edifice was erected of Pope, Cardinal, Bishop and Priest, with the result that the Church itself became enfeebled and weak. Congregational life became impossible and its power vanished. More and more Christian people became content to leave everything to the "spiritual head" of the Church and real Christian religion decayed and with decay came corruption and evil.
This process continued until the Reformation, and while the Church became very wealthy it also became very unreal. Throughout these centuries, however, Congregationalism remained alive; although often driven underground it yet never died. You see it cannot die, because whenever men and women came freely together in spiritual association there is the fundamental principle of Congregationalism. Sects like the Montanists and Donatists in the earlier centuries; the Beguines in the Netherlands and the Waldenses in France and Italy all tried to recapture the spiritual freedom of the 1st century.
Then came an event which shook the Church to its very foundations and heralded the centuries of persecution which were to follow. The discovery of the Printing Press and the translation of the Bible into common tongue. Christians began to read the Bible for themselves. They found how Bishop and Priest had interfered with the Divine flow of God's Grace to ordinary men and women. There grew up a demand for the "Open Bible." Folk urged that Christian men and women should have the Bible and only the Bible as their supreme authority for Christian living and faith.
It is perhaps hard for us in the 20th century to realise what the "Open Bible" meant to those people. Remember when you see that Bible in your own Church the many centuries of strife and persecution that had to be endured before men and women won the right to use it.
May God bless you,
To be continued
This article was found in the April 1952 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by Rev. Ronald M. Ward.
I have not had a lively interest in Noah for years. I have been inclined to think of him more as the founder of a remarkably representative zoo than anything else, but the other day I started reading "Ur of the Chaldees" by Sir Leonard Woolley who spent seven years excavating Ur and its suburbs. I suppose that few people who read the Old Testament realise how remarkable was the civilisation which existed at the time of Abraham and even of Noah. Unfriendly critics have tried to make us believe that these ancient peoples were crude and ignorant, and in fact until the excavation of Ur in the thirties there was little evidence to show what they were like.
The archaeologist's description of the reforms or rather religious innovations of Nebuchadnezzar as shown in his alterations of the temples and holy buildings adds to our understanding of the story of the Three Children in the Book of Daniel, and his drawings on the ziggurats or stage-towers of which the Tower of Babel was a type made me think about the Bible story with more interest. If we are sceptical about the account of people building a tower with the idea that it should reach to heaven, the learned comments of Egyptologists on the meaning of pyramids and stage-towers will probably make us change our minds.
Writing about excavations of a suburb of Ur Sir Leonard Woolley describes a small relief in alabaster which he dug up under the foundations of a house attached to a temple. It was a high-prowed boat with a cabin amidships and on one side a man was shown standing in the stern and a cow in the cabin and on the other were two fish and a goose. Apparently this was the type of boat used by marsh dwellers of that period, and it was so like the Ark that it was jokingly called Noah's Ark by the excavators. Having read this I immediately began to imagine Noah as a marshland farmer who spent most of time in the lonely flat country by the river. Probably he was skilled at hunting wildfowl and fishing and was used to handling boats, because that part of Mesopotamia was liable to flood. What better place could there have been for religious contemplation and for observing the signs of the weather and that behaviour of the river. As a countryman Noah probably had definite options about the life of the cities in the plain, and we know that Ur had an advanced civilisation at the time of the Flood. As a man used to working hard and with strong religious feelings he may not have approved of the luxurious life of some of the citizens of Ur. We might imagine him perceiving with a Churchillian grimness the signs of the gathering storm and receiving as a Divine message the warning of coming disaster. Like the man in the alabaster relief he took his domestic animals and his family on board this marsh-boat, and as for the "creeping things of the earth" mentioned in Genesis, they probably came in with the beasts without any organised assistance from Noah. The Kon-Tiki Expedition has shown us what perils a frail craft can endure, and we can imagine Noah's ark weathering the storm which destroyed all the villages over a vast area measuring 400 by 100 miles, and left a few of the cities which were built up high but which must have suffered severely from the flooding of so much agricultural land.
If anyone is inclined to draw an unfavourable comparison between this disaster and the Biblical implication that it was universal, it should be pointed out that the near destruction of the Sumerian civilisation was of the greatest significance because it was from the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates that culture passed to Egypt and so through Crete to Greece and Rome.
It is a pity that the results of these excavations cannot be popularly presented. Many people have not enough imagination to picture the social life of the times from its remains, nor enough patience to follow the detailed accounts of scholars. Perhaps where Noah is concerned my imagination has wandered off in the wrong direction but at any rate it has restored him to reality.
“‘Lifestyle choices’. What kind of consequences do the choices have – good or not so good? Do you stick with some choices even though there are not so good, or even bad, consequences? Advertising for lifestyle choices certainly tells you about the good things – does it ever tell about the not so good?”
So now let’s talk about the Huguenots who lived in Spitalfields, they were not there out of choice, most were driven there because they were excluded from worshiping in the way they deemed correct, some came for economic reasons but the vast early majority came to escape from faith tyranny They believed that God would watch over their lives, that God would keep them safe, they were on the whole very different from the London norm of the time, they grew plants in there cramped houses, they loved the sound of captive song birds, mimicking the clatter of the looms. Some kept to their faith, some drifted out of faith but for the majority their faith kept them grounded it was a relatively short period in history, but just as we reflect on the time of Jesus and are sometimes perplexed having more questions than answers, so might we be as we look at the History of the Huguenots across Europe.
“To be a follower of Jesus is a lifestyle choice. Jesus spelt out the challenging realities of being his disciple with both good and not so good news. The good news is that we are hugely valued by God, and God knows every detail of our lives. So, never be afraid, Jesus says – God loves you. On the other hand, the not so good news, he says, is that it is not easy to be a disciple. What do you think some of the risks and dangers are?”
But when we reflect on History and that will include the current pandemic, do we have the thought at the forefront of our mind that Jesus keeps us safe, do we question our faith, I think we all need someone to help us get up and over the obstacles that are put in our way just as the picture in part 1 identifies.
“Jesus’ advert is realistic: he doesn’t offer a life without problems. Rather he promises to help us through the difficulties we will meet. We are not immune from the problems everyone has to face (for example, health issues and death/loss). And there are additional challenges created by living out our faith. Jesus encourages us to recognise them – to be forewarned – and to face them with a resilience that comes from an assurance of our value in God’s sight.”
So maybe we are a little like pencils, maybe we need to reflect on that and how we write our own pencil story, we are living in very difficult times but we have to keep our Faith, the lead in our pencil should be for writing good, for being understanding and for forgiving, one final referral to my Huguenot ancestors, weaving went through highs and lows ( some Golden periods) but at the end the 19th Century nearly everything was gone, most descended into poverty in both wealth and faith terms, we have to endure to keep our faith and climb those obstacles.
May you have discernment to see whom to serve.
May you have wisdom to know how to serve.
May you have strength to serve as a faithful disciple of the Lord
Jesus Christ. Amen.
© ROOTS for Churches Ltd www.rootsontheweb.com Reproduced with permission