Come to Christingle

Come to Christingle on Sunday, February 3, at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, at 11.30am.

Christingle is a celebration that takes place sometime between the beginning of December and early February.

‘Christingles’ are created out of oranges, sweets and dried fruit stuck in them using cocktail sticks, red ribbon around the oranges, and a candle which is then lit.

The orange represents the world, the red ribbon (or tape) symbolises the love and blood of Christ, the sweets and dried fruit represent all of God’s creations, and the lit candle represents Jesus’ light in the world, bringing hope to people living in darkness.

There are prayers and songs and a lot of fun and it’s aimed at everyone in the family. Come along at 11.30am, join in and also raise money for the charity The Children’s Society. Bring your friends too.

If you want to know more about the service or anything to do with the church call us on 01252 820537 or email revd.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org

Hear God in the stillness

There are two new services being introduced into the parish in the next few weeks, both of them opportunities to have some stillness and pray.

The first is Said Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer (BCP), a service beloved by many but which has declined in popularity in the last few decades. The second is a Taizé service, a simple service based on chants and silence.  They will take place monthly for  a trial period of six months, starting with Evensong on the final Sunday of the month at 5pm at St George’s, Badshot Lea – January 27 is the first one –  and  Taizé on the first Sunday of the month at 6pm at St John’s, Hale, with the first one on February 3.

The idea is to give us a chance to find some stillness so that we may hear God speak. Lesley Crawley says: “It feels so amazing, miraculous even, that God speaks to us ordinary folks and our lives are transformed forever.

“I believe that to experience such things we have to deliberately put ourselves in the way of God. We won’t hear God speaking unless we make time and space to do so. In our parish there is so much going on that sometimes I wonder whether God can accidentally get sidelined; and so we are offering two opportunities each month to have some additional stillness and prayerfulness. These will be located in particular buildings but are for everyone, irrespective of whether you go to a different church, or no church.”

BCP Said Evensong has been chosen by Lesley because it is a service she has loved since she discovered it during her curacy. She says of this discovery: “I loved the BCP, I loved the poetry of the language, I was charmed by the way that words have changed their meaning, and I enjoyed using those words with their old meaning. I found particular words and phrases incredibly challenging or comforting or meaningful – they pulled me into the presence of God. I loved the way that words were paired together like peace and concord, celebrating the depth and range of our language and behind that the diversity of all the peoples with their languages over many centuries who have come together to make our complex and many-faceted nation. The repetition was also helpful – saying almost exactly the same thing each week meant that I could experience the same words that had so blessed me the previous week and I found that those words continued to bless me from then on, week in and week out.”

Taizé has been chosen as a ‘doorway’ through to a closer experience of God. Lesley says: “I find that the experience of chanting enables me to step through the chants into the presence of God. Perhaps it is because I’ve always found it easier to learn things that are sung rather than said. For instance, at school I was rubbish at learning poems but I knew lots of pop songs off by heart! The chants are in various languages (although I tend to stick to the English and Latin chants) but actually language is irrelevant, it is just a tool to step into that place of intimacy with God.”

Craig Nobbs will be leading Said Evensong at 5pm St George’s on Sunday, January 27, and thereafter on the last Sunday of the month. Come along if you love BCP or have never experienced it and be swept along with its beauty.

Lesley will be leading the Taizé service at 6pm at St John’s on Sunday, February 3, and thereafter on the first Sunday of the month.

Lesley adds: “If neither of these services speak to you but something else will help you draw closer to God then please do that, and if you want some help setting something up then please contact me”.

 

New collection to help refugees

If your wardrobes are feeling a bit full, or you are thinking of having a clear out ahead of the spring, fill your bags with clothes and take them to St George’s Church on Friday (January 25) between 3pm and 7pm.

As well as winter clothing, maternity wear and new underwear (nothing XL or XXL) Farnham Help for Refugees needs medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, crutches, walking frames and neck braces; new, unopened painkillers and new toothbrushes and toothpaste. A full list is shown on the poster below. Items will be sorted and shipped to agencies working with refugees both overseas and in the UK.

If you have any strong cardboard boxes that can be closed or have lids – especially removal boxes – they will be very useful, and as it costs £5 to send a box of aid to refugees, financial donations are also welcome on the day.

The group is also looking for volunteers to help sort and pack donations between 1.30pm and 9pm on Friday, January 25, and from 9am to 11am on Saturday, January 26.

If you can help, e-mail farnhamhelpforrefugees@gmail.com.

farnham help for refugees poster

A celebration of gifts

The Epiphany story tells us that the three kings brought three gifts to the infant Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Gold is an obvious one and very useful to a poor family; frankincense seems a little odd but could be used as a perfume; but myrrh? What sort of a gift was that for a tiny child? Perhaps it foretold his death – a bitter gift which yet was a gift for us all.

What are your gifts – your gold, your frankincense, your myrrh? That is what we were all challenged at the start of the Rainbow Epiphany service held at St Mary’s, Quarry Street, Guildford, last week (January 10). We each had to write three gifts on slips of paper and put them in envelopes designed by Dave and Helena Walker from St Mark’s. Then we were asked to decorate the envelopes in whatever way we fancied, and keep them until it was time to offer them to God on the altar.

The gold gift was not so hard – talents such as art, music, being a great cook, a good administrator, a listening ear, you can think of plenty more. Frankincense was the gift of relationship, with God and others, the gift that gives fragrance to our lives.

Then myrrh. The bitter gift, the one we didn’t want. What that gift is for each of us differs. It could be a health problem; it could be a fallow period of life; it could be living conditions; it could be one’s sexuality, in a family or church which is not accepting; it could be being transgender. These are gifts which can cause pain and yet which may  turn out to be gifts of extraordinary power and worth. Such a gift is, in the words of one of the speakers there, “a strange, confusing, awkward, uncomfortable and very un-obvious gift”.

In the service we gave thanks for and celebrated the many gifts of the LGBTI+ community; gifts which enrich the church and the wider world, gifts given by God. It was a moving service and an affirming one, with uplifting music led by Julie Shaw, and one of both great joy and vulnerability, particularly when we heard from several individuals who spoke about their ‘myrrh’ gifts.

For many LGBTI+ people accepting themselves has been hard, and acceptance has been made harder still by the attitude of the church.  “After so many years of making myself unhappy trying to be a straight woman and suppressing many other aspects of my identity, it’s taken me a long time to figure out my identity and to realise that God made me to be the way I am,” said one person, one of the leaders of Kairos, a group which provides a safe space for LGBTI+ people, especially those who are Christian or seeking God.

They concluded: “It’s time to heal from the shame and become confident to love and worship and serve God as whole people, with everything he’s given us, not just bits of ourselves.” The gift of leading others to love, worship and serve God as whole people is a real gift to the church and world.

For Sara, who spoke at St Mark’s last summer, being intersex has been a myrrh gift. She said that the arrival of an intersex child may be treated as something unwanted, but such a child can also be a healing gift. “Our birth reminds all those who feel different, be it our ethnicity, mental health, social status, physical ability…..that we are all wonderfully made in the image of God. Our difference is our gift, like myrrh our presence can heal others, reminding all that being different is not a barrier to living to our full potential, or a barrier to love or to being loved.”

Brian spoke of the importance of us being God’s representatives of righteousness and truth, partnered with God’s love, which offers us that most radical message of all – that we don’t have to try to be loved and acceptable, we simply are: “In a culture which constantly harasses people that they need to ‘get things right’, it is hard for us to believe or accept that (God’s) love for us might not be at all conditional on us firstly having met all requirements of being an acceptably changed person.”

Rebecca, a transgender woman, said her trans journey, despite the difficulties it presents to her, “has also been an enormous blessing and a profoundly spiritual experience… Being a trans-woman is something you wouldn’t rush to choose; it is not a bandwagon you’d jump on because it’s apparently fashionable.  We, and many other groups, still have a loooooong way to go to achieve full acceptance and inclusion.

“But like all things in the Lord’s kingdom, it also comes with insight and blessing that you might not otherwise experience.  And whilst perhaps it is a two-edged gift, there are times when I am very grateful for what it brings.”

The message throughout the service was that God has created us just as we are and loves us just as we are, and there is nothing we can do to stop that love. Accepting ourselves as we are will allow us to thrive and be who we were born to be, and the joy and security that this brings will spread out to other people.  This will be a gift to the world.

There will be another Rainbow service in the summer. You can email us to find out more: news@badshotleaandhale.org

 

 

Picture by Chris Barbalis. Unsplash.

 

 

The Story that Matters Most

We are still early in the new year, still at the time when any new year’s resolutions are at least not a distant memory (the second Friday in January is said to be the one when most of us have given up on resolutions). What if one of our resolutions this year could be to follow Jesus more truly? What if we were able to respond to the question “is this the year we’ll walk in Your ways?” with a promise to do all we can?

That question is one asked in a carol which was sung at St Mark’s last month. It was in fact a world premiere of a carol by author, songworker and artist Ash Brockwell. The carol was ‘The Story that Matters Most’.

Just before we sang it, I told the congregation how I had come across it. Ash had shared it on Facebook because of his concern and compassion for a 17-year-old transgender boy, Eli, who had already attempted suicide twice, who had then been asked to leave his church. Ash asked: ‘How is it possible that we still have church leaders who can reject and hurt such a vulnerable young person and yet convince themselves they’re doing God’s work?’. I don’t know the answer to that, but the God I put my faith in is one who welcomes all and loves all and who asks us to walk in his ways and do the same. We dedicated the song to Eli and others like him.

The carol, sung to the tune of William Parry’s Jerusalem, is going to be part of our canon. The story of how Ash came to write it is recorded here.

And here are the words:

The Story that Matters Most

Two thousand years this story’s been told,
Two thousand years and still we sing:
The Magi came with spices and gold
To glorify the new-born king;
The stable bare, the angels there,
the humble shepherds gathered around…
To tell the story that mattered most,
The love and hope their hearts had found.

Two thousand years and still we’re the same,
Watching the flames of hatred burn,
The grief and fear still spread in Your name…
Beloved, will we ever learn?
I know Your only law is Love,
I’ll hold to what I know to be true,
Perhaps the story that matters most
Is one that starts with me and You?

I won’t let hatred tear me apart,
I will not yield to doubt and fear;
I’ll look within the core of my heart,
And find You always waiting here.
You know the truth of who I am:
Open my eyes and help me to see,
Until the story that matters most
Begins again with You and me.

Is this the year we’ll walk in Your ways?
Is this the year we’ll learn to lead,
And share Your truth through worship and praise,
But also thought and word and deed?
What leads to fear is never right,
what leads to Love can never be wrong;
We know the story that matters most
Is one in which we ALL belong.

 

 

Stella Wiseman

 

 

 

The 25-year story behind The Story that Matters Most

By Ash Brockwell

The song that evolved into ‘The Story that Matters Most’, which had its world premiere at St Mark’s, Hale, in December 2018, started life in Southampton a quarter of a century ago.  That makes me feel old!

At secondary school, I was well known as a poet, composing odes on everything from Bonfire Night to homelessness.  So when the music teacher, Duncan Bradley, decided that he was bored with teaching the choir the same old carols every year, and wanted to write some new ones, I was the student that he approached for help with the lyrics.  It was the early 1990s, and at the time, a lot of people were convinced that Jesus would return in the year 2000 – so several of the carols that we collaborated on, as well as a short poem that never made it into song form, had a bit of a millennial flavour,

This particular song, then called ‘Peace and Goodwill’, examined how, 2,000 years after the message of peace and goodwill came to earth in the shape of a child, there was still war and oppression. It ended with a call to action to bring that peace and the challenge ‘Could it begin with me and you?’

The original carol was performed two or three times in school carol services, before Mr Bradley retired and the choir went back to a more traditional repertoire.  A few years ago I tried to track down a copy in the hope of getting it arranged for a four-part choir – but to no avail and with more immediate concerns like work, money and parenting, I forgot all about the song.

Fast forward to November 2017, when I was figuring out how to admit – to myself, to my church, and to the world at large – that I wasn’t the straight cisgender woman I’d always assumed myself to be.  I’d tried coming out as a lesbian in 2011, and again in 2016 to a bigger audience, but the word never quite felt right to me.  After discovering the term ‘non-binary transgender’ (neither fully female nor fully male), I’d embraced it enthusiastically as my new label – at least to myself and a few close friends.  My conservative rural Baptist church was less than impressed with my declaration that I was a lesbian, coming out with some version of ‘well, gay sex is a sin so you’ll have to take a vow of lifelong chastity if you want to become a member’ – so I didn’t even try to go there with my newly discovered non-binary identity.  But then a friend of a friend introduced me to Inclusive Church, and I somehow found myself signing up for their free Faith Leaders’ Gathering in London.

At the gathering however I found myself freaking out with social anxiety and unable to say anything at all, other than my name (which I hated anyway).  I knew I couldn’t possibly fit in. My non-binary identity was difficult to explain, my theology felt much too ‘out there’ and heretical to be discussed in front of bona fide vicars, and I wasn’t even a proper faith leader.  Most people had a congregation of some sort, and wanted to talk about practical things like how to get them to participate in Pride marches:  I didn’t even lead a prayer group.  I couldn’t understand what I was meant to be doing there, or why the ‘calling’ to attend had felt so strong.

But then there was a labyrinth walk, and everything suddenly clicked into place.  After everyone had walked the labyrinth, the conversation took on a very different tone.  It wasn’t about the practicalities of Pride any more: it was a deep sense of love, commitment, and passion to do something that would make things better for the thousands of LGBT+ people hurt by the Church.  On the train home, I was inspired to write two brand new sets of inclusive Christian song lyrics.

That gathering was a new beginning for me, in amazing ways.  One of the other participants introduced me to a private Facebook group for LGBT+ Christians, in which I later met my wonderful fiancée.  After the group chats helped me accept that it isn’t ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’ to dress in a masculine style and accept myself as non-female, I started describing myself as transmasculine – and eventually came to realise that I’m actually a transgender man.  Coming out as male, changing my name and switching to ‘he/him’ pronouns has helped me to feel much more comfortable and confident in myself, and to experience moments of joy that trans people refer to as ‘gender euphoria’ – that feeling of finally being seen for who you really are.  I’m now registered with the NHS Gender Identity Clinic in London, and hoping to have HRT and chest surgery in the future, although there’s still a long road ahead (the usual waiting time for a first appointment is 18-24 months).

Being in the group also inspired me to collect up all the Christian songs I’d written over time, both traditional ones and more controversial ones, and compile them into a book.  It was in the process of doing this that I remembered the carols I’d written as a teenager, and decided to update them for a post-millennial age; and after trying out some songs with a women’s group on the Isle of Wight and receiving the feedback that they were too difficult to learn, I came up with the idea of setting some of my lyrics to well-known hymn tunes.  I needed music that would be out of copyright, and of the old Victorian hymns, ‘Jerusalem’ has always been a favourite of mine.  And so ‘The Story That Matters Most’ was born, focusing not on war this time, but on the exclusivity and holier-than-thou attitude of so many churches – the ‘grief and fear still spread’ in Jesus’ name, especially among LGBT+ people!   I was sorry to miss the premiere because I was travelling overseas in December 2018, but I’m looking forward to hearing it sung in the future.

Emily and the Generations on the radio

Emily and the Generations may sound a little like a pop group, but today’s blog post title actually refers to an interview with Lesley Crawley on BBC Radio Surrey this morning (Sunday, Jan 13).

She was interviewed on the Sunday Breakfast show about our final push to raise money for Emily the organ – just £559 to go folks, come on, we can do it – but the interview spanned far more than just Emily, important and beloved as she is.

Interviewer Emily Jeffery talked to Lesley about how Emily the organ is a beloved part of the community and how her overhaul will allow us to use her again in worship, concerts and for children to learn on.

Then the interview broadened out to something that is also dear to our parish – the way we try to bring old and young and in between together.

Lesley spoke about the fact that local school children will be welcomed in to see the organ when it is being restored, how the table tennis club we run has become a ‘youth group for all ages’, the fact that we don’t send the children out of church for a separate Sunday school (“we are an inclusive church … and it seems wrong to send out part of our congregation”), the plans for opening St John’s up more to the community and bringing people together with a café, and other resources, perhaps even a nursery which could link in with a local care home.

To hear the interview click here and go to 2:38:52.

 

 

Picture by Will Francis. Unsplash.

 

Have your say on the future of St John’s

As St John’s Church turns 175 this year, we are launching a major improvement and fundraising project and want to know what facilities you would like the church to offer.

Residents and local organisations are invited to complete a short survey to help us learn more about what our community needs and how the church can better provide this.  It can be found by clicking here.

 

Beetle drive!

Join in the fun of a Beetle Drive, beginning at 6:30pm with fish and chips (bring your own drink), at St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, on Saturday, January 19.

Games start promptly at 7.15pm.

A Beetle Drive involves several tables with players, each of whom takes turns to roll a die to try to collect parts of a beetle, which are either pre-drawn or which players draw themselves. To start collecting each player must roll a six which represents the beetle’s body. After that they may start adding parts with each number on the die representing a part of the body. Once a player has a complete beetle they shout ‘beetle’ and the game stops. The person on each table with the most nearly complete beetle moves to a table clockwise round the room while the player who has collected the fewest parts moves anti-clockwise and the game begins again.

Tickets are £8 each and must be bought by Wednesday (January 16). To buy them, contact Carol Le Page 07798 640815.

Keep on moving

If you want to grow in your Christian faith, discover more about following Jesus and find out more about being a committed member of the church, then maybe it’s time for ‘Moving On’.

We are running a series of sessions at the Rectory between now and Easter considering some of the aspects of faith and how we live it out. Each session lasts roughly 90 minutes and involves watching a ‘Moving On’ video, followed by time to talk, listen and ask questions. The sessions are all on Thursday evenings at the Rectory starting at 7.30pm.

The first one is on January 17 when we will consider ‘What does it mean to be a disciple?’, followed by ‘What is the point of church?’ on January 31, and ‘Why do we do the things we do at church?’ on February 7. In subsequent weeks we will look at prayer, the Creed, the Holy Spirit, why bad things happen, giving, and putting God at the centre of our lives.

To find out more, contact Lesley on 01252 820537 or email revd.lesley@badshotleaandhale.org

 

moving on poster

Top image by Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash.