Weekly Pastoral Letter - 22 May 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

We’re in the period between Ascension Day and Pentecost, St Luke tells us that Jesus told the disciples to go home and wait for the Holy Spirit to come.  We are doing a lot of waiting at home too and although it will be sometime after Pentecost that we will be able to gather back in church, we can start to be thinking about what sort of church we want to go back to and whether there are some things that we’d like to change.  To start off your thinking, could you make a list of the things that we have lost during this time of lockdown that you think must be regained?  I’ll give you some other areas to reflect on in the coming weeks, but I would be really interested to hear your ideas on this subject.

During these few days of waiting until Pentecost, we can use the “Thy Kingdom Come” resources which I wrote to you about earlier in the week – I hope that you are finding them helpful.

This coming Sunday, 24th May, is Wesley Day when we remember the conversion experiences of John and Charles Wesley and celebrate their lives and ministry.  Rosi MorganBarry is leading our worship this week and has prepared a wonderful Wesley Day service with the help of Bill Barry and Christine and David Morgan.

If you’d like to celebrate the Wesley’s a little more then take a look at this video from Kent College, the Methodist School in Canterbury.  Last year they premiered a new musical about the life of John Wesley called 'And Can It Be?' - part of the show was 200 children, a full orchestra and audience singing a new orchestration and descant for 'And Can It Be?', you can view it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnSyRLRHQro&t=6s

Elsewhere in our news bulletin this week, you’ll find details from Claire of our project to link up with Lovat House.  Do think about how you might be involved, particularly if you could write to one of the residents, it will be appreciated so much.

dial a prayerYou might be interested to know that the Methodist Church have started a “Dial a prayer” service.  This is a free phone line for prayer and news from the Methodist Church which is updated each Thursday afternoon:

You can listen to a prayer on 0808 281 2514

Or listen to news on 0808 281 2478

There is lots going on, lots to bring us encouragement and joy.  Keep on trusting in our loving and faithful God, keep on supporting and encouraging each other, and keep our joy and faith alive.

With every blessing,
Catherine

Extra Pastoral Letter - 20 May 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

A brief extra letter this week to remind you of a few things.

Tomorrow (Thursday) is Ascension Day. We don’t often have a service to celebrate Christ’s Ascension at our Church, but if you would like to mark the day then we are invited to join the service from St Paul’s Church. Fr Richard Lamey will be life streaming a service at 8.05pm and you can follow it on facebook or access it at the Parish website www.stpauls-wokingham.org.uk.

I also want to tell you about “Thy Kingdom Come” – this a global initiative started by the Archbishop of Canterbury 4 years ago. For the eleven days between Ascension Day and Pentecost (21st – 31st May this year) Christians are encouraged to find some time each day to pray for 5 individuals to come to faith, to pray for the world and to develop our own faith through daily prayer and Bible study.

There are lots of resources and suggestions on the website:

www.thykingdomcome.global/prayerresources

or you can access the resources via the Methodist Church website www.methodistchurch.org.uk

You might particularly like the prayer journals which give a Bible passage and suggestions for reflection and prayer each day.

I hope that you find these ideas helpful and I will write as usual later in the week,

With every blessing,
Catherine

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 15 May 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

I hope that you have all had a good week. In my phone conversations with people I find some common themes: all are missing being with their friends and family, but all are grateful for being able to keep contact with people and for modern technology. Those who have gardens to enjoy feel very blessed, and help from other people is much appreciated.

I’m so proud of the way in which people have been phoning one another, just to see how things are and have a chat. This interaction will have deepened our sense of connection with each other and that’s a good thing to continue. A significant area of learning for many of us has been about using technology, both in our personal lives and in our church life. I am sure that these are skills that we can take with us into the future and perhaps use more widely in the life of our church.

Technology has been particularly useful in our weekly worship. Many people gather at 10:30 to participate in our recorded worship – in fact more people listen in than we usually have on a Sunday morning.

I’m leading our service this week with help from Kate and Malcom Souter. We’re going to hear about St Paul’s visit to Athens in Acts 17 and Jesus’s promise to send the Holy Spirit in John 14. Our Gospel passage follows on from last week’s reading and we will hear Jesus repeat his comforting words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. These are good words for us to hold on to through these troubling times, for in those times when we feel anxious or afraid we can remind ourselves that God loves us and cares for us, and he sends the Holy Spirit so that we can know the peace that only God can give.

An initiative from the Borough Council and Churches Together in Wokingham is to link each church with one of the local care homes. Our linked home is Lovat House. We already have links with them, and we’re trying to think of ways that we can support the residents who are not receiving their usual visits from family and friends, and the staff who are working in exceptional circumstances. One idea is to get a team of people who are willing to write regular letters to the residents, the sort of chatty letter that you might send to a friend or relative, telling them a bit about yourself and what you’ve been doing. If you would like to be involved with this, please contact Claire and we’ll get this project going.

Do keep in touch with each other, do keep on encouraging and supporting each other. We will get through this time. It will be some time yet before we are able to gather in our building to worship together, but I hope that as we emerge from this time of difficulty, our church of the future will be better, stronger and more focussed on what God wants us to do.

With every blessing,
Catherine

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 8 May 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

I hope that you’ve had a good week. As I have spoken to people on the phone and seen others at our Zoom coffee mornings, it seems to me that we that we have settled into a new routine and are managing as best we can. If you’re like me, you have good days and bad days, so it’s important to remember that we are all doing the best that we can and that we can ask others for help and support each other as needed.

Our Zoom coffee mornings on Thursdays at 10am are good fun. We don’t invite too many people at once so that it’s not too overwhelming and makes it possible to chat to people. If you’d like to be involved please contact Claire, she’ll send you a link and can help you to set up with Zoom.

But these are, undeniably, difficult times and we need to find ways to sustain our faith and hope. The Psalm that has been helping me this week is Psalm 62 and I have been particularly struck by verse 11:

One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard, that you, O God are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”

The promise that God is both strong and loving fills me with confidence, it reassures me that we will get through this current crisis, for God is bigger and stronger than this virus, and he will give us the strength that we need each day. The fact that God is loving reassures me that his love for us is unending and that he cares for us.   He knows our struggles and appreciates that we are each doing our best. Our love and care for each other – within families, as a church and in the wider society, will enable us to emerge from this situation better and stronger. That’s why it’s important that we stay connected to God and keep up our contact with one another as we help each other to be both strong and loving.

To help us remember VE Day, Claire has put some pictures of those connected to our church community families who served in the two World Wars on our Facebook page and on our website. Maybe, the stories of those who celebrated VE Day and the courage that they showed in rebuilding our society after the end of the second World War can inspire us and give us the courage that we need right now.

This Sunday marks the beginning of Christian Aid Week. You can see what Christian Aid are doing by looking at their website www.christianaid.org.uk you can also make a donation there if you wish. Our service this week is led by Kim Tame and will have a Christian Aid theme. Meanwhile, I am leading the service at Bagshot Methodist Church which will similarly be using resources from Christian Aid. There is also a Churches Together in Wokingham service via “Zoom” at 6pm on Sunday 10th May - please ask for the link if required.

I hope that you have a good Bank Holiday Weekend, keep in touch and keep praying for one another.

With every blessing,
Catherine

Weekly Pastoral Letter - 1 May 2020

From Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

I hope you are managing to keep hopeful and positive through this difficult time.  I’m finding that it’s helpful to have a structure to each day and to the week,  I make sure to have my rest day each week and try to make Sunday a bit different and special from the other days of the week.  I’m enjoying my daily walks, and am finding some creative things to do and interesting things to watch – this week I’ve particularly enjoyed the virtual museum tours on BBC4, with the tour of the Young Rembrandt exhibition at the Ashmolean being my favourite.  It’s interesting to hear how others are using their time too.

Firstly, a note about finance: many thanks to all those who have responded to my request a few weeks ago.  Our treasurer, Liz, tells me that a number of people have begun to make their offerings by standing order and others have made generous donations.  This is so helpful to our current situation and I am very grateful for your continued support.

I am so impressed with the way in which people are learning to use technology to keep in touch with one another.  It’s not always easy and it can be so frustrating, but do keep persisting if you can, and ask others for help and advice.

Claire has started some “Zoom” coffee mornings this week.  To take part you need to download the “Zoom” software and then follow the link that Claire will send you – she can guide you through the process too if you wish.  People are finding it so helpful to see other people and spend time chatting to them.  We’re keeping numbers at each gathering quite low so that we can actually talk to each other, so contact Claire if you’d like to be involved.  Claire is also posting lots of interesting things on Facebook, which go on our website too, so do check in regularly to see what’s going on.

Our prayer group continues to pray each Tuesday morning at 10.  Do join in from home if you can, and contact Will if you’d like to be added to the prayer e-mail list.  You can pray for the life of our church community, for individuals you know to be in particular need, and for the current situation in our country and world.  You can pray just for a short time and know that others are praying too.

This week’s recorded service will be led by me with assistance from Rosi and Bill.  We’ll be thinking about Jesus the shepherd and exploring what “life in all its fullness” means.  Our Bible passages are Psalm 23 and John 10:1-10, so perhaps you could read through these in preparation for our worship and think about how it’s possible for us to experience “life in all its fullness” in our current situation.

I fear that this lockdown situation is going to continue for some time yet.  We have to learn to be resilient, remain positive and trust that God will continue to remain faithful to us.

St Paul wrote:

“Always try to be kind to each other … Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5: 15-18)

Let’s strive to do this together,

With every blessing,
Catherine