from our Ministers Joseph & Peter
and our Family worker, Troy...
Blackheath and Halesowen Pastoral Letter
“The Lord Almighty is with us…” (Psalm 46)
By God’s grace and strength we have completed another month in isolation for which I thank God.
Not knowing what is awaiting us in the days to come we shall continue to trust God because He knows what is ahead and He will sustain us. Therefore, let us offer all that is known and also the unknown to Jesus, all for Jesus, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1Wa2msOq9c&list=RDmv8wo-t6C1I&index=6
As we know that the CV19 has impacted us so much that it has raised many questions. It will not disappear so soon but will present a continuing challenge for us to live our lives carefully and meaningfully to be fruitful in all that we intend to do. Therefore, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ( Hebrews 4:16 NIV). In the light of the government advice and Church office, it is a challenge for us to see how we are preparing ourselves in terms of worship, different activities and fellowship groups in relation to our Mission and Ministry. This matters for all who have responsibility and duty of care for people in our churches. It is not what we wish or intend to do for one day but the greater question is what Next after every next?? So let us place our lives into his caring hands,
There is no doubt that CV 19 presents practical challenges for all churches in terms of human resources, age, underlying health conditions and also how we continue to maintain the social distance as we come through the doors of our buildings. Also how we encourage all those who use our buildings for different activities to do the same. I am confident that we shall overcome and we will come out stronger but before we come out of the lockdown we need to ask the following questions for us to reflect objectively–
1. What are we going to leave behind,
2. What are we going to let go,
3. What are we going to bring out with us and
how are we going to live our lives in relationship with each other and God?
I am aware that while trying to do different things in order to meet the needs of families, we also need to pay careful pastoral attention to the older generation…. Once upon a time they were always young and energetic like some of us today and that is how they have established the existing Christian witness and built the buildings for us to come together to worship. So how are we going to rise up to re-build the broken, damaged walls today so that we may also leave a lasting legacy beyond our boxes for another generation to know Christ and worship God?
I am conscious that with all our difficulties, we are brought to a situation to use the opportunity to renew our faith in Christ and to know that the God we have been worshipping all these years is not dead and abandoned us but he is with us, He will strengthens us to follow him till we complete the race on this planet.
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23).
In times like these we are called to be firm and hold fast to the hope we have claimed all these years because the one who has called us is faithful and he will see us through.
CV19 will continue to change our way of living, thinking, relationships, attitudes and how we spend our remaining life in serving God. I pray that when the restrictions are eased, people may have the courage to trust each other, confidence to start fresh by maintaining any social distances and be liberated from any fear that may hold any one back from joining the fellowships. I also pray that people may experience fresh healing touch of Christ in their body, mind and soul; that they may also experience reconciliation to God and to their past months in order to trust him for the grace to move on; that they may know that our life is God’s gift, every morning when God wakes us up he places eternity in our hands, empowers us to live that eternity today and therefore recognise that this life will pass away soon without our permission. As we are not here on this planet forever, let us live the eternity today with a sense that every day is the last day of our life on this earth. Therefore, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews. 10:22 NIV).
It is my hope and prayer that this Pentecost be the Explosion of the Holy Spirit in the life of every individual of our Circuit in order for the nation to explode with the good news of Jesus by all means to reach out anyone at any cost to know Jesus.
May I encourage you to what St Paul says,
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58). May the Lord be your Strength and shelter for you to be safe forever.
Be assured of my prayers for you all.
God bless you all. With much appreciation.
Joseph, Peter, Troy
OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES
One of the rare gems of blessing that we discover through our relationship with God is that obstacles can become steppingstones for great and exciting opportunities for personal growth and development and for advancing the Kingdom of God. David, a Shepherd boy, with no apparent military skills, confronted and defeated an opponent who outmatched him in size and strength. What seemed to be an unfair contest became an opportunity for David to demonstrate his skills and prowess on the field of battle.
An army that was being gripped by fear and terrorised by a seemingly unassailable enemy, and on the verge of defeat, rallied behind David’s inspirational leadership, routed the enemy, and rescued their nation from a future of subjugation and oppression. David saw this obstacle as an historic opportunity, a defining moment, in which his destiny would change from being an unknown Shepherd to Israel’s future anointed King. He chose faith over fear. His heart as a worshipper and his calling as a warrior were stirred when he heard the Name of God being defiled and his army defied. Both Saul and David heard the challenge of the huge Philistine. Saul, who was Israel’s greatest warrior hid in fear. David, a nipper of a lad, seized the moment, rose to the challenge, and won glory and honour for God and freedom for his people. The rest as they say is history.
One of the most significant principles of leadership that is illustrated and confirmed in the story of David is that a crisis will reveal the true nature and character of a leader. Saul, who was the current king, was by contrast, a ‘lid’ holding back the potential of the army and the future of the nation. He should have been an example of courageous leadership to unite the army and ignite their potential into a formidable fighting force (See 1 Samuel 17:52-53). He sent others when he should have gone himself and later allowed his poor self-image to cloud his judgement regarding David. This proved to be a serious obstacle that undermined not only his relationship with David but prevented him from capitalising on key opportunities to advance the nation and grow in his obedience and walk with God (Read 1 Samuel 15).
Everyone who wants to lead must first be a good follower. The greatest leaders are servant leaders. On one occasion Jesus shared some perceptive insights on leadership with his disciples when a dispute broke out among them about who should hold the senior positions in his future Cabinet. He called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
The manner in which a leader chose to exercise power and use his authority will reveal the depth of his character and shape his destiny and that of those under his leadership. Power in the hands of a leader can become a corrupting influence and an obstacle to personal growth and self-development or it can be stewarded and exercised for the common good, where it is used to transform dungeons of darkness into domiciles of hope, prosperity, national regeneration and transformation. Ultimately, power does not corrupt, it simply reveals the true nature and character of a leader. That is the law of leadership and the true nature of power.
The Covid-19 crisis has revealed a number of servant leaders, like Captain Tom Moore, who has shown us that great age and the lack of physical agility should not be an obstacle or an excuse not to serve others. He has demonstrated that a person with restricted or reduced capacity can overcome obstacles and seize the opportunity to serve the common good. The heroes whom we applaud every Thursday remind us of the very best of our humanity and give us an opportunity to celebrate the depth of commitment and sacrificial service that is unstintingly given by our Care Givers. It has revealed that at the heart of our nation are people who are not motivated by selfish ambition but a self-less desire to serve the weak and vulnerable with love and compassion. Three cheers for our Care Givers!
These are indeed strange and unprecedented times. For many, these uncertain times have created a sense of disorientation, fragility, vulnerability, and fear. In my judgement these are not just strange but serious times in which we need to choose to live serious lives if we are going to change the course of history. COVID-19 has ensured that life will never be the same again, and we have to choose, not how we live after this crisis, but how to live during this crisis, because how we live now will determine our future. What is the current spiritual picture that is emerging in our nation? Are there any clues or insights? The April 27th edition of New Statesman Magazine reported that more people have been engaging with religion since the lock-down. In March, the Bible App downloads shot up globally at an unprecedented rate. The top English language Bible was installed over two million times, the highest ever recorded for March. Eden, the UK’s largest online Christian Bookstore have seen physical Bible sales increase by 55 % in April, and according to CRUX, an online media platform reflecting Catholic views, Google searches for “prayer” and “Christianity” have skyrocketed. There are reports that 25% of people in the UK have watched an online service during this lock-down season, ten times the number that normally go to church. Holy Trinity Brompton, one of the largest Churches in the U.K., has seen double the number of inquirers signing up for their online Alpha Course. I am excited because people are hungry for spiritual things and are asking questions. This crisis has triggered an historic spiritual moment and we need to be ready for the harvest. When the harvest is ripe if we do not reap it, we will lose it.
Our response should be twofold: prayer and action. Thy Kingdom Come, is a global call to prayer between Ascension and Pentecost (May 21st – 31st). What a wonderful prospect to pray: come Holy Spirit and let thy kingdom come. During these eleven (11) days let us pray that we will see the life-changing power of prayer in our families, churches, communities, country, and the world. O Come Holy Spirit! Grant us a harvest of souls. (Please note: More information will follow shortly)
I see this season of confinement not as an obstacle but an opportunity to advance the kingdom. When have we ever seen in this ‘sports mad’ nation a period where there is no football; no sports; no entertainment? This is a unique moment when people are sanctioned to their home with few distractions, in what the Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, Revd Stephen Lake, calls “an enforced period of reflection.”
The serious nature of our day has presented us with what theologians call a Kairos moment. “Kairos” writes Os Guinness, “is a time filled with opportunity, a moment pregnant with eternal significance and possibility…it is the moment when the present is at its greatest intensity and the future is uniquely open to our decision and action.” How we choose to live and act in these times will take on
new meaning and urgency. The obstacles and challenges in the present crisis are real but they have also gifted us a unique and fresh opportunity for mission.
At the heart of our Easter Faith we see weakness transformed into strength, the oppressed into over-comers, and the vanquished into victors. Indeed, the testimony of the people of God, is that, to use the words of St. Paul, “God’s power work best in our weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The setbacks in life should not be seen as obstacles to our future but by God’s grace can be transformed into life changing opportunities and become the fulcrum where we gain the will and momentum to redefine our purpose and reignite our passion to fulfil our destiny.
I find the story of Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) inspirational and instructive. She faced multiple challenges and privations that would have undermined the character and overwhelmed the affections of a lesser person. At the tender age of three her mother died in childbirth. Her father suffering from an incurable disease was unable to look after his two daughters and gave them up for adoption. Annie was drawn to spiritual truths and at the age of eight accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. She became a great champion and advocate of the idea that children could understand sufficient spiritual truths to become disciples of Jesus Christ. She rightly perceived that many of the Christian truths were more easily grasped by the simple faith of a child than adults who often made it more complicated and failed to grasp its wonderful simplicity.
Annie was a popular girl with a positive outlook who enjoyed writing poetry which reflected her caring nature and deep sensitivity towards others. After leaving High School she went on to train as a teacher and had a position offered to her. Shortly into her teaching career she developed arthritis. The disease rapidly progressed taking her mobility and independence. She was forced to give up her dream as a teacher and had to support herself and her younger sister from the limited income generated from her poems, handcrafted cards, and gift books.
The degenerative effect of her illness could not undermine her robust faith and life transforming testimony. She came to terms with her condition and opened a unique window into God’s grace in the midst of her suffering. Her verses were poignant, personal, and perceptive. She wrote movingly with great insight to encourage others to understand the hardships of their own lives as reflected in one of her well-known poems, God Hath Not Promised:
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through.
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
Annie’s experience reflected an uncommon courage and a deep trust in God’s unfailing love. In the midst of her deepest trials she saw opportunities for service and received fresh insights into God’s grace. She was forced to give up the classroom of her dreams, but she exchanged it for the courtroom of heaven where her intercessions were heard, and fresh fires were poured out on her faith. Her pen became her voice “and by faith she still speaks, even though she is dead” (See Hebrews 11:4b). Her pen was the ‘sword of the Spirit’ to banish the darkness of depression and put the devils of discouragement to flight in the lives of many needy and desperate people. Her words still provide solace to the broken, renew the faith of the saints, provide manna for our journey, and remind us that God speaks through our sufferings and comforts those who suffer (2 Corinthians 1:37).
She believed that God used her weakness for his glory and through her life distilled and dispensed much needed grace to the broken, needy, discouraged, and those suffering with incurable and irreversible conditions. To the suffering and struggling her words are a conduit of grace, and one of the means by which God’s healing balm has touched and blessed his people. She understood the depths of God’s redeeming grace in the finished work of Christ for our salvation. She also gave us a deep insight into the richness and sufficiency of God’s grace towards his children, penned so beautifully and eloquently in theses verses:
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labours increase.
To added afflictions, He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
when our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share.
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
These verses are a poignant reminder that we have an all-sufficient relationship with an all-sufficient Christ. Everything we need is already provided in Jesus Christ. Let us remember…
He gives grace for every trial and adds more when we are tested. He supplies strength to endure when our troubles grow stronger, and a light to guide us along each darkened way. He releases peace to the persecuted and protects with his presence every child that is sheltered under his care. Our Father knows best when we are perplexed, his grace is sufficient in boundless supply.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement, give you a tenacious faith to overcome obstacles and seize every opportunity to advance his kingdom. As you serve the purposes of God may you know the Father’s everlasting grace and eternal love, so graciously given and matchlessly supplied, out of his infinite riches and wisdom, in Jesus Christ. Every blessing in Christ Jesus,
From Joseph…………..May 1st
Sylvia Smith-Smile, Smile, Smile….See you…
“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction. and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality”.
(Wisdom of Solomon, 3:1-4)
Dear Friends at Hasbury,
Greetings to you all in the most loving name of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: “I am the way, the truth and the resurrection”.
I write this in light of the great loss of Sylvia, who was dearly loved by all in the church and circuit. Her life and all her work in the Circuit shall be remembered with a great appreciation and gratitude.
Following your responses to the news of Sylvia’s passing, I have not stopped thinking about the family and Hasbury in my prayers. The loss that cannot be gained back no matter what we do and the gap that is left cannot be filled with anything we have, and the sorrow cannot be compensated with any amount of celebration.
I feel the pain you have expressed, the deep sorrow you have shared, but also glad that you have exhibited great confidence and hope to know that one day we shall meet again. I commend your courageous spirit to stand firm in your faith, to offer your prayerful and caring support to the Smith family in their difficult times.
Sylvia was a woman of concern, compassion, and commitment to go the second mile to help anyone she met. She was a woman of Christian conviction who always demonstrated her faith in Jesus through her prayer, trust, love, forgiveness and smile in the midst of storm. This was very evident throughout her life till her last breath. She was conscious of God’s presence surrounding her all her life, whether at home, work or in hospital. She was ever-grateful for your prayers, and well-wishes received with gratitude and appreciation.
Sylvia’s departure from her mortal life to the immortal presence of God has no doubt caused us to reflect on sickness and health, pain and laughter, joy and sorrow, love and forgiveness and the plans we make for every tomorrow. Now as we stand together not only to say goodbye, but thank Sylvia for all that she has been to the family, Hasbury and to the Circuit. We shall cherish your memories, rest in peaceful presence of the Lord and see you in God’s time. We say to Sylvia: “no more suffering, no more pain, but your soul will rest in peace. Your memories will bring great healing, inspiration and strength for those that are left behind.”
May I just say a BIG thank you to Hasbury family for standing with the Smith family through prayer and thoughtful support all these days. My prayers and thoughts are always with John and his family now and in the days to come. Let us continue to trust what Jesus said, “ I am the resurrection and the life.. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believed in me will never die” (John 11).
Shalom my friends, Shalom,
May the Lord be your comfort, peace and hope.
With much appreciation.
Rev Dr Joseph Suray
Blackheath & Halesowen Circuit
April 22nd 2020
Psalm 4: Answer Me When I Call
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honour be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
Selah But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds and be silent.
Selah Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety, (Psalm 4 ESV).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I laid Joel down in his cot the other day, I noticed how peaceful he was. He was so at rest that I commented to Mareike that, “he knows that he is loved.” There was no worry in him, just the beautiful words from King David in Psalm 4, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Today I am writing this pastoral letter to you from the beautiful words of Psalm 4 to encourage you to hold unto God during this time. This is because when I watch the news, all I observe is more chaos and fear over the pandemic, and misinformation to what is really going on. I speak with my neighbour who comments that, “things will never be the same again,” and we see a friend, who is a Christian, and she shares with us that her and her husband wash every item of their shopping when they get home; all this portrays to me is fear.
I then hear loudly the words from Psalm 4, “Who will show us some good?” I then need to stop myself and ask these questions: “Where has the trust in Christ gone?” or “Why is it that we need to worry so much over the Corona 19? All we have to do is follow what the Government is suggesting we do.” “Is this misinformation really so bad that we need to panic so much?” My faith was never discovered when all was apparently going well. It was discovered through my darkest days. I even hear the great men and women of the Reformation professing Christ in glory against the backdrop of great difficulty, and I have to ask the question: “Have we really forgotten that Methodism was started from disruption, not easygoing theology?” I think, John and Charles Wesley would see our generation differently.
So, I decide to take my daily walk with Mareike and Joel around the streets where we live, and I see pictures of Rainbows in support of the NHS and feel sad inside. I feel sad because this is not the real message of God’s covenant with the world. It is not the real message of washing and regeneration of a world full of sin. So, I stop and remind myself to not “Be angry, and [not to] sin; [but to] ponder in [my] own heart on [my] bed and [to] be silent. “I see the good intention behind this. However, I ask God with King David that this world will “Offer [up] right sacrifices and put [their] trust in the LORD.” What we need now in this time of Corona 19 is a turning back to God, because I know that this world will never discover peace without Christ. How do I know this? Simply this: I discovered real grace and Sonship in the depth of our grief when we buried our first son Malachi. When we cried out the words of King David: “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! [Only] You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” When I read that the great men and women of faith rose up in their darkest hour after losing children, I see that they did not bury their heads in the sand with fear and uncertainty. They stood up for the truth of God’s word. We also understand the power of prayer; so, we pray for Joel every day, and we pray for you every day, too. Because in prayer and reading God’s word do, we truly find hope. Because in real darkness do we discover the light, and I know that Jesus has “put more joy in my heart than they have [with] their grain and wine [abounding].” We can look at Joel when he is at peace in his cot and profess the same words from Psalm 4, “In peace [we] will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, [you] make [us] dwell in safety.” So today let us be thankful for what we have; we are blessed in so many ways even when we don’t feel it. Let us stop, reflect, and take time with our families, because every day is precious with them. Let us take the time to pray, read God’s word, and teach our children to do the same. And most of all: Let us hear clearly the words of Jesus when he says to “Not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27 ESV). Our lives are more than this pandemic, our love for one another in Christ outshines this time of isolation, and we will be together again when this is over. Brothers and Sisters, this is the real message of our Father’s heart for you during this time of uncertainty: “That the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when [we] call to him.”
Let us call to Him always. Amen.
Troy, Joseph, and Peter.
SUNDAY APRIL 19th
BLACKHEATH & HALESOWEN CIRCUIT
CIRCUIT PASTORAL LETTER
The words of Bob Dylan’s call to action, “The times they are A- Changin” ring with fresh poignancy in these strange and embattled times. Indeed, we need fresh vision, compassion, character, and courageous leadership that is grounded in the hope of the Gospel, to counter the fallout of fear and anxiety, as lives and livelihoods are threatened and put under pressure during this extended period of confinement.
These are changing and challenging times with much for us to grasp and process in terms of the social, spiritual, economic and political upheaval and the plans that should be put in place for a post-COVID future. As we wrestle with these issues is it also pertinent for us to ask, “What is the Holy Spirit saying to the Church in these challenging times?” What is our mission now? What will the future look like in terms of our mission and ministry?
This period of confinement does not signal that we are being laid aside or being made redundant. I believe that the Holy Spirit is brooding over the Church during this Covid Crisis to resurrect a dynamic life giving church with a vital and transforming spirituality. Far from being laid aside in lock down, we should be God’s hands serving the needy; his feet taking his compassion and support where others fear to go; his heart showing mercy to the broken; his eyes looking with love and tenderness on the weak, vulnerable, dying and mourning reminding them that He is the God who cares.
Our working model of the church is that of a gathered body of believers meeting regularly for fellowship. We have been dispersed and in our confinement we need to find fresh ways of being the church (an effective network of believers connected to our community and each other) so that we by God’s grace may emerge from this period as a people whose faith has being refined and renewed and our mission reignited with fresh vision, fresh hope, and fresh purpose.
The disciples on that first Easter Sunday were confined with fear in the Upper Room when the risen Jesus stood among them, declared his peace over them, breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and unleashed their potential to start a new missional movement that would take the gospel to the whole world.
One of the key lessons from the Book of Acts is that these first disciples were a House Church Movement. They did not have the luxury of their own buildings
and when they were turned out of the Synagogues they simply used their family network that became the bedrock of a new missional movement where people were enfolded and discipled in the faith and became part of an extended family.
These households of faith, or extended families, became the catalyst and main driving force of the new missional movement that turned the world upside down. They were transformed into lifesaving stations; huts of refuge; places where people found unconditional love; unconditional acceptance; unconditional forgiveness. They discovered grace; met Jesus; shared their resources and did life together. They were embraced and enfolded in a family of friends and had relationships that were transparent, real, and vulnerable, and many discovered for the first time a place they could call home.
In this season of disruption and uncertainty I know that we are all longing for our spiritual home. I can just imagine the home coming parties when this is over! Cheer Up! However, might I encourage us all to continue to reach out and care for each other. It is so lovely and deeply moving to receive your news and stories through the various media platforms. Thank you for taking the time to show your love and care in such practical ways.
As we care for others, it is also vital that we care for our souls through prayer, Bible Study, reflection, reaching out to friends and neighbours with compassion and what I call practical Christianity. Soul care and acts of mercy towards others are key motivators and de-stressors that will protect us against slipping into moments of depression, discouragement, and temptations that come with the stress of these daunting times.
We continue to hold you in prayer that you may know Christ’s sufficiency in your insufficiency, and in your weakness know his power at work in you, and his presence resting upon you in your confinement.
Every blessing in Christ Jesus,
Peter, Joseph, Troy
Monday April 13th
It is with great sadness and heaviness of heart that we receive the news that Sylvia has gone to be with the Lord. I know that for the Church Family at Hasbury, the wider Circuit, and especially John and his family, this is a devastating loss. Sylvia's life, faith, and witness was an inspiration to many. Her energy was irrepressible; her zeal unabated; her hospitality full of grace; her compassion and industry on behalf of the vulnerable unstinting; and her love for family and friends beyond measure. She had a smile that was matchless - which shone from a heart that loved Jesus and was dedicated to serving others and his kingdom.
The church family has lost a great friend who was a confidant and care-giver to so many. In our sadness, let us remember that Sylvia had an Easter faith. Her risen Saviour welcomed her home with joy, a faithful servant and inspiration to the very end, even though this may be hard for us to bear. She will always be missed, but her legacy will inspire our faith and commitment to God and our love and encouragement for each other.
Rest in peace my dear sister as you behold and walk in the presence of our risen Saviour.
Peter & Carole
Thursday April 9th
Easter Letter from our Superintendent Minister, Joseph Suray
“The joy of belonging to the Risen Christ”
Greetings to you in the most wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the current time of difficulty and vulnerability , I need to be honest here: I miss meeting you all in different fellowship groups in our well-loved churches that we have cherished for ages. I understand the feeling of isolation, not being able to visit one another today.
Personally as a Minister, it has been a challenge for me to not be able to visit those who are in hospitals to read the Bible, pray with them and to assure them that the Lord is with them. My heart goes out for those who have lost their beloved ones and I extend my heartfelt condolences and my sincere prayers for them during their loss. Certainly I have missed the opportunity to be with them in order to share their deep sorrow, tears, pain and to listen to the lifelong stories of their relationships. Many difficult questions are raised about God, personal faith, human suffering as well as personal questions of what to expect next, and what happens after the death.
This week, the Lord came to the end of his earthly journey, reaching Jerusalem to face his destiny. He knew the cost of submission to Father’s will: betrayal, imprisonment, crucifixion and burial. Jesus faced the challenge of redeeming humanity from sin and death by offering himself on the cross. He knew this was the only and final way to conquer sin and death, in order to bring forgiveness and hope.
Today in our isolation, we are grateful to God for the gift of technology that has enabled us to encourage and pray for one another and be assured that we are together on this journey to know that God is here. In the midst of our loneliness, pain, and sorrow, it becomes clear that nothing shall separate us from love of God. We belong to the Risen Lord and that is our joy which keeps us moving on in our Christian journey today. Therefore I affirm what St Paul said, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from
the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). We try to understand the amazing love of God that compelled Him to come down and dwell amongst us. God demonstrates his love for us – through Jesus - where we are reconciled to be his children, restored back to God’s family and assured forgiveness of our sins. We are bound together in him and given the blessed assurance that “Jesus is mine, oh what a foretaste of Glory divine”
Our hope is founded on nothing but on the Lord Jesus who was the same yesterday and shall remain the same in the forthcoming days. We are bought by his great sacrifice on the cross and we are redeemed to live and enjoy the glimpse of eternal life which comes through the power of the Resurrection. Our hope is built on the Risen Lord who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26) .
When I Struggle to explain God’s comfort and assurance of eternal life beyond our present life here on the earth, I am reminded that in Christ we are not lost but found to be with him forever. As Paul writes, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his
sufferings, becoming like him in his death..” (Philippians 3:8-10) We draw our comfort and confidence from these words. We do not know where Coronavirus will take us, but I pray that while obeying the medical advice, we all continue to believe in Jesus who has gone before us, died on the cross, buried and rose again.
He is not dead, Halleluiah, He is alive. So friends, no matter what we have been going through today, may I encourage us to take heart to rejoice because Jesus is alive and be confident that he is with us even in the midst of all darkness that surrounds us today. Let us not be afraid but be bold, because Jesus is our faithful friend who knows what we go thorough. Do you remember the song which goes like this –Trust in the Lord and don’t’ despair, no matter what your troubles are, Jesus will see you through, trust when the day is bright and trust through the darkest night, every day, all the way, let us trust, trust and trust the Lord. This is my prayer for all of us during these days to know that:
Jesus is our Rock upon which we stand today.
Jesus is our refuge where nothing will touch us today,
Jesus is our comfort which encourages us to live today,
Jesus is our hope which empowers us to live beyond today,
Jesus is our peace which will not be shaken by the world today.
Jesus is our confidence which helps us to face tomorrow.
Therefore let us continue to pray for the world as we prepare to meet the Risen Lord.
Jesus may come in the morning,
Jesus may come in the noon time,
Jesus may come in the night any time,
So it is time to tune our hearts to meet him every time. Amen
May I wish you all a Joyful Easter to know that we are not finished, but are just entering into New beginning to enjoy the joy of belonging to the Risen Lord.
Shalom my friends, Shalom
Sunday March 29th
It is so lovely to see the daffodils outside the church buildings reminding us of Spring and new life. This crowning image of Spring is overshadowed by the darkness of the Corona Pandemic. This crisis has certainly left us in a profound state of shock and disorientation; having to isolate at home has left us bereft of friends, family, and a sense of community. We need to acknowledge that the social, financial, and spiritual struggle that many are facing is real and one that we must meet with courage, hope, faith, and tenacity. As this crisis continues to shake markets, economies, and financial institutions, it is forcing us to re-evaluate our priorities and what is really important and necessary to function and live a fulfilled life.
As the flaws of our trusted systems are revealed, and the frailty of our humanity is exposed by this invisible enemy, we need to anchor our lives on the unshakeable rock of Jesus Christ. The Psalmist affirms, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble" (Psalm 46:1). Let us hold on to our faith as we apply wisdom on how to live and stay safe; we may not be meeting together but we are still a family. This crisis has brought home to me just how precious and important our church family is. Let us make use of the opportunities we have to connect with each, shart stories, celebrate community, and affirm each other's needs with words of encouragement and support.
As we continue to stay safe, let us draw on the inexhaustible grace of our Heavenly Father who is our shield, shelter, and strength. Thank you for your love, prayers, support, and concern for our Church Family. The apostle John captures a powerful scenario of anxiety and fear when, "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews..." he tells us that "Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you!". What a powerful reassurance that in our homes, behind our doors, the risen Christ is among us offering us his presence of hope and peace.
We miss you profoundly but you are most deeply in our hearts and prayers.
Every blessing in Christ Jesus,
Sunday 22nd March
MOTHERING SUNDAY GREETING AND INSPIRATION
I greet you on this Mothering Sunday, entrusting you all to God’s grace and love, praying that you will be sustained by his peace, unfailing love, and mercy.
These are indeed grave and difficult times with many who are anxious and fearful. I want to remind you that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
I am inspired by the story of Martin Rinkart, the German Clergyman, who from humble beginnings, went to the University of Leipzig to study music before taking Holy Orders. At the age of thirty-one, he went as the archdeacon to his home town of Eilenburg in Saxony. He lived through the thirty years war and saw pestilence, plagues, and famines. He endured multiple privations and challenges as he served and ministered to his people; challenges which he faced with a courageous faith that was undimmed, unbowed, and unbroken.
One day he went into his study and penned these inspirational words which carry in these anxious and troubled times fresh resonance and poignancy especially with today being Mothering Sunday:
Now thank we all our God, with hearts
and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills in this world, and the next!
praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son, and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven—
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
I want to take this opportunity to honour all the women among us; those who are mothers or remembering mothers; those who are not mothers by choice, those who have chosen not to be mothers and those who have been like a mother to others. To all you dear ladies and sisters – you are indeed our brightest lights, greatest gifts, strongest support, wisest mentors, and sweetest inspiration. Just what would we do without YOU? Today we celebrate you and thank God for the wonderful blessing and gift that you all are to the church and community.
Have a blessed and wonderful Mothering Sunday.