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Here’s the Newsletter for our churches for the week beginning Sunday 3rd May, which is the fourth Sunday of Easter. We’re sending it out via email, and even through the post to some people who don’t have access to the Internet at home. We’re so used to the idea of ‘going to church’ and now we’re finding ways that church can come to you.

Newsletter and weekly update- Christ is still risen!

Peter and John at the Tomb | Brandon D. Smith

Dear friends,

Alleluia, Christ is risen: he is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Our usual Easter greeting, which we proclaim each Sunday between now and Pentecost, continues to be a statement of hope and a proclamation that the situation we face now is not the end, it is not even the main event, it is simply our current place and time. This is where we are, but it is not where we will remain. I have been struck this morning by a passage from Revelation 21:3, which says ‘I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ That is what we look ahead to- a time when our relationship with God is not partial or occasional, but permanent, fully realised, complete. The resurrection of Jesus which we celebrated last Sunday and continue to rejoice in casts its light forward all the way to today- and beyond us to the time when all the suffering will be finished and God’s kingdom will have come.

Last week we had a mix of events- during the week we recorded a Stations of the Cross service with 12 people from their homes, which we put onto Youtube and Facebook, then an online walk of witness in Bishop’s Tawton and reflections on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Easter Sunday we had family worship from our garden on Facebook and then Cathy led prayers and Bible reflections from her own home, as well as joining with the national ‘Sing Resurrection’ at 10am. The singing on the doorstep was great in our street and I hope you enjoyed it. It’s hard to gauge the level of engagement online, but well over a thousand people have watched the Easter videos and people are still viewing them this week. Excitingly we know for sure that people who don’t usually go to church are watching and appreciating this.

We’re developing a new pattern of weekly events, including livestreamed family worship on Facebook and recorded videos on Youtube, and are helping one another to access them- you can phone into a zoom meeting from your landline and watch Facebook videos without having an account. None of this beats seeing each other in person, and it’s been lovely to wave and chat to folk when out and about. We now also have 2 Bible study groups meeting on Zoom- if anyone is interested in joining those or coming to Cake Club just ask for the info. Do still read your Bibles and pray, and encourage one another over the phone. In this season you may wish to pick up an old devotional text or work through a book of the Bible- whether it’s Esther or Ephesians, find one you like and will be enriched by as a starting place.  It may be helpful to read a portion of the Psalms each day or to sing a hymn or song too.

So, with every blessing, do stay safe and let’s keep in touch,

Andy, Cathy, Dave, Jo, Marilyn and Sandra, on behalf of the PCC’s.

Approaching the strangest Easter of my life

Not so much an update on events, but a reflection this week…

This week you have, I hope, been able to engage with the Holy Week narrative from one of the Gospels. I know a few folk who’ve watched a film or play- Jesus of Nazareth, the Passion of Christ, or listened to St Matthew’s Passion, and there’s been a wealth of resources on radio, television and online to help us reflect on the journey Jesus made 2000 years ago. For me, I’ve been really struck by the passages that mention his isolation- particularly of the time in the garden of Gethsemane. Every year when we welcome children from the local schools into our churches for the Easter Experience, they spend some time sitting in a space made to represent the garden, titled ‘Alone’. It’s a space where some really profound questions arise, where some of the children express their fears; and find some hope as they are reminded that God is with us even in our aloneness.

For me, the garden usually follows on so closely from our Maundy Thursday meal that it doesn’t always register, but this year I am feeling keenly the tension between physical isolation and emotional connection. We miss one another, and no amount of phone calls and zoom meetings can quite overcome that, but it is incredibly strengthening to know that around us there is this community of love, support, hope and faith in God. A few of us have recorded an online service.

On Good Friday, Jesus went into the ultimate expression of self-isolation. On the cross he was separated from his friends, he was exposed before those who looked to him and he was isolated from his Father- ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ his words echoing those of the Psalmist centuries before. His suffering was not for himself, though he felt it in his own body. It was for others. In our current situation we are being asked to self-isolate, to suffer for a while, for the sake of those around us- to save and protect them. We know that this will pass, that we will gather together for a great celebration at which we will shout Hallelujah, worship and feast together with all those around us. That celebration will come after the time of suffering- without the isolation there is no coming together. Without Good Friday, there is no Easter Sunday.

This Good Friday our walks of witness will be individual, maybe not even leaving our homes. Our late night vigils will be solitary and our watching for the first light of dawn will by ourselves, but our celebration of the risen Christ will be together- together with the 3 billion other Christians around this world, and together with all who are looking for hope at this time. So in all we do- whether we’re caring for our neighbours, speaking to our friends, working on the frontline or staying in self-isolation, let us do it all trusting that God is with us.

We’ll be continuing to post online resources at 9.30 and 10am on each Sunday, plus prayers and reflections during the week ahead on the church Facebook page, as well as a Stations of the Cross service that we’re recording this week. If you’re not able to access this, then arrange to phone someone from church on a Sunday morning and read the prayers and Bible passage overleaf to one another if you can. On Easter day join the national celebration- sing a hymn at 10am outside.

Every blessing, let’s keep in touch,

Andy, Cathy, Dave, Jo, Marilyn and Sandra, on behalf of the PCC’s.

Facebook: @stjohnthebaptistchurchesbarnstaple

Shared Worship during the season of being unable to attend church
Opening words:

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us new life & hope, He has raised Jesus from the dead.

Alleluia. Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Hymn – Thine be the glory

Thine be the glory, Risen, conquering Son,
Endless is the victory
thou o’er death hast won;
Angels in bright raiment
rolled the stone away,
Kept the folded grave-clothes
where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory,
Risen, conquering Son;
Endless is the victory
Thou o’er death hast won!

Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us,
scatters fear and gloom;
Let the Church with gladness
Hymns of triumph sing,
For her Lord now liveth,
death hath lost its sting.
Thine be the glory, ….

No more we doubt thee,
Glorious Prince of life;
Life is naught without thee:
Aid us in our strife;
Make us more than conquerors
Through thy deathless love;
Bring us safe through Jordan To thy home above:
Thine be the glory, …
 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 28: 1-10- The resurrection of Jesus

Reflect on the passage

Is there a word or passage that stands out to you? Use it to pray and reflect on the passage.

Song – All heaven declares

All heaven declares
The glory of the risen Lord
Who can compare with
The beauty of the Lord

Forever He will be
The Lamb upon the throne
I gladly bow the knee
And worship Him alone

I will proclaim
The glory of the risen Lord
Who once was slain
To reconcile man to God

Forever You will be
The Lamb upon the throne
I gladly bow the knee
And worship You alone

Prayer Pointers for today and the week:
Sunday: the promise of new life this Easter morning
Monday: NHS staff and other key workers
Tuesday: those working to devise coronavirus tests and immunisations Wednesday: our neighbours
Thursday: Foodbanks and all who need them
Friday: Generous hearts and gratitude Saturday: dementia sufferers and their carers

Ending with the Lord’s Prayer
 
Easter Blessing: May we find in Christ Jesus, our Risen Lord,
a companion for our journeys, a sure ground for our hopes, the peace that passes understanding, and the joy that life is eternal.
And the blessing of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit be among us all evermore. Amen.  

Church letter, week 3, and resources for worship from home for Palm Sunday

Dear friends,

‘Greetings to you, beloved in Christ. To all who are loved by God and called his saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.’

We’re not quite in the same position as Paul, writing his letters to the early Christian churches from prison, or the writer of Hebrews, writing to the dispersed Christians after the destruction of Jerusalem, but it does feel odd- we can’t go out to see each other, and we can’t gather together to worship. Technology is really helping many of us- the virtual coffee morning via Zoom and the streamed service on Facebook, plus of course just chatting over the phone are helping us to feel connected despite the lock down, but there’s no denying that this is a strange time in many ways.

As a church we’re still grappling with how we express ourselves as a ‘gathered’ people, even while we’re very ‘dispersed’, but at our virtual meeting last night the ministry team agreed that while we can’t meet on Sunday mornings, we will be distributing a weekly newssheet like this. It will contain any updates to church news and a brief reflection on the front. On the reverse there will be some prayers, hymns and the Bible reading for that Sunday, alongside some prayer pointers for the week. Alongside this, at 9.30am we will post a video on the church Facebook page (www.facebook.com/StJohntheBaptistChurchesBarnstaple), for families with a retelling of the Bible passage (Jesus’ Triumphal Entry this week) with some discussion questions and prayers. Then at 10am we’ll post a talk on the same passage digging a bit deeper, using the prayer points overleaf.

If you’re able to, please do join us online or watch later- if not, we’d really encourage folk to get together at the same time as you normally would come to church- whether in your household or by phoning someone up, and look through the prayers, readings and hymns overleaf- you could take turns reading them, sing together (or find your own alternatives if you prefer), but do try to do something. Alongside this there are weekly services on the Radio, TV and streamed from other churches nationally- a good friend managed to join 5 congregations last Sunday without leaving her house! On Sunday evenings at 7pm we continue to join with the national prayer movement, lighting a candle of hope, as well as Thursday evening’s #clapforcarers at 8pm.

During Holy week, try to read through one of the Gospel accounts- divide the passages, such as Matthew chapters 21-28 or Luke 19-24 into sections so that you’re reading each passage on the correct day; and you’ll find that some days have more to read than others. We’re also recording Stations of the Cross so look out for that and other posts. On Good Friday, lets each go for a personal prayer walk (in your garden?) and put a cross in our windows as a sign of our witness.

You may already have had a phone call from someone ‘just ringing to see how you are’- if not, they’re on their way! This form of pastoral support is something we’ve meant to do for a while, and the current situation is just causing us to move on. If you’re interested in playing a part in this, or supporting those around us in practical ways, please contact Cathy.

Last week I mentioned the church finances. Please do pray about what you can give to support the church and those around us. We’re doing our best to keep the overheads down, but the bills don’t completely disappear. One important point- Martin Kennaugh’s phone number has changed, please contact me if you want to speak to him about setting up a direct debit for Newport church.

Every blessing, let’s keep in touch,

Andy, Cathy, Dave, Jo, Marilyn and Sandra, on behalf of the PCC’s.

Andy- revdodwell@gmail.com  

Cathy- cathyscoffield14@gmail.com

Shared Worship during the season of being unable to attend church

Opening words:

Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is
hewho comes in the name of the Lord.

Hymn – Ride on, ride on in majesty

1 Ride on, ride on in majesty
as all the crowds ‘Hosanna!’ cry:
through waving branches slowly ride,
O Saviour, to be crucified.

2 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
O Christ, your triumph now begin
with captured death, and conquered sin!

3 Ride on, ride on in majesty
the angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

4 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
the last and fiercest foe defy:
the Father on his sapphire throne
awaits his own anointed Son.

5 Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die:
bow your meek head to mortal pain,

Then take O God, your power and reign.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 21: 1-11

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem

Reflect on the passage

What does it mean to you to be welcomed?

Is there a word or passage that stands out to you.

Use it to pray and reflect on the passage.

Palm Cross blessing– Taking a pen and paper, draw a cross- you may prefer to make a cross out of paper, or to draw on the palm of your hand. Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, as you entered Jerusalem the crowds acclaimed you as King. May we lay our palms before you and kneel in worship at your feet, seeing in your humble majesty the source of our life and salvation.
We ask this in your precious name. Amen.  
224. Making a Palm Cross | Going on 80

Song – The Servant King

From heaven you came, helpless babe,
Entered our world, your glory veiled; 
Not to be served but to serve,
And give your life that we might live.

This is our God, the Servant King,
He calls us now to follow him,
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to the Servant King.

There in the garden of tears,
My heavy load he chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow was torn,
‘Yet not my will but yours,’ he said.
This is our God, the Servant King …

Come, see his hands and his feet,
The scars that speak of sacrifice,
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered.
This is our God, the Servant King …

So let us learn how to serve,
And in our lives enthrone him;
Each other’s needs to prefer,
For it is Christ we’re serving.
This is our God, the Servant King …

Prayer Pointers for today and the week:
Sunday: please pray for your friends from church
Monday: NHS staff and other key workers
Tuesday: those working to devise coronavirus tests and immunisations Wednesday: the people in your street
Thursday: the Foodbanks and all who need them
Friday: give thanks for the sacrifice Christ made so we can all live in hope
Saturday: those who know darkness and despair
Ending with the Lord’s Prayer
And we say- May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.  

 

Text of our church's letter to congregation… response to Covid-19

I’ve just uploaded a livestream of this onto our church Facebook page here, but if you prefer to read than listen, the text is as follows. Please note that this is all subject to change: some items have been updated since I sent the original email to the congregation last night, and others will change by the end of today…

‘Dear friends,
Many of you will have already seen from the news on Tuesday that the Church of England has taken the decision to cancel all public worship services. They have taken this decision on the best advice available and we feel it is entirely right that we should follow suit. Therefore, from this Sunday, until further notice, there will be no services at Newport or Bishop’s Tawton on Sunday mornings or evenings, alongside our cancellation of other midweek events and all hall activities.


We are able to open the church for prayer and to encourage each other in many other ways but won’t be doing this at the normal service times or allowing many people into the church at one time. We’d like to suggest that you might spend the time reading your Bible, listening to music and praying when you’d usually be in church. If the weather is good, try going for a prayer walk or planting some bulbs or seeds as a sign of hope for the future. For families, we recommend the Superbooks website for some great children’s Bible resources.
Bishop’s Tawton Church will be open as usual during the day, and Newport Church will be open for personal prayer at the following times:
Sunday 10.30-11.30am
Monday 9.30-10.30am
Wednesday 10-11am
Those coming to use the churches for prayer are asked to keep 2m from each other and to wash your hands regularly (and carefully). If there’s a need to open one of the churches in the evening, please get in touch. We will be praying for our communities in the churches through the week.


This particular Sunday, Bishop Jackie is recording a Mothering Sunday message which we encourage you to listen to on the Diocese of Exeter website (available from 9am), while Archbishop Justin is recording a service for BBC Radio 4 and Radio Devon at 8.10am. For the early risers Ruth Valerio is giving a reflection on Radio 4 at 6.05am. We’re also joining a national initiative to pray at 7pm in our homes- light a candle in your window as a sign of Christ’s presence in our communities- for more details see here


In the Archbishops’ letter they encourage us to consider how we can still be the church, and ‘do church differently’ at this time. While we may not be able to gather together for worship, teaching, prayer and fellowship in the same way as normal, it is important that we still maintain a rhythm of those things in our lives. We’ll be thinking about how we can do this creatively and sharing ideas over the coming days and weeks.


Alongside this, at this time we must look to our neighbours with compassionate hearts and look at what we can do for them- whether praying for them, getting some shopping or just phoning for a chat, we can all do something. If you would like to offer support for our local community, or you, or someone you know is in need at this time, please get in touch with Cathy who’s bringing this together for us.


We have a church Facebook page, which we encourage you to use to stay in touch and up to date, and to post any prayer requests, if you’re able to access it, and we’ll put links to online resources there and on the church website. If you’re aware of other church members who don’t have access to the internet, please pass this information on to them and keep in touch.


These are strange times, but as we were reminded on Sunday morning ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1.5).
Every blessing, let’s keep in touch,


Andy, Cathy, Dave, Jo, Marilyn and Sandra, on behalf of the PCC’s.
Andy- revdodwell@gmail.com

If you want email addresses for other members of the team or my phone number, please get in touch via my email in the first instance

With absolute fear and trembling…

So, for some time we’ve been uploading audio links to our recorded sermons alongside blog posts, and it’s been a bit unnerving to know that people anywhere in the world could choose to listen to us (in fairness, it’s been quite reassuring too as we’ve seen that there’s not very many who want to- it keeps us humble!).

However, for a couple of reasons, we’re trialling an occasional video and youtube upload of either sermons or short film clips, and just on the off-chance that you’re interested, here is last Sunday morning’s sermon, now in glorious technicolour… the sound quality is a bit ropey and the preacher is a bit self-conscious, but we’re just learning!

so much to learn…