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It may feel as if the New Year is far behind us. But we are still in the era of “new things”.

During this month we expect to see the start of official theological education here.  This is part of the outworking of the original vision for the St Cyprian Centre.  The building itself is still delayed by some legal issues.  But it has been decided to go ahead and develop the activities that are expected to be based in the centre once it is ready, using what facilities we have.

The theological education aspect of the Project will be overseen by the Alexandria School of Theology in Egypt.  St George's will simply be acting as host.  Nevertheless, it is an exciting moment, and marks a new phase in the life of the Church here.  A number of students have registered from far and near, and they will be on site for brief intensive courses of about 5 days at a time.

There are other events coming up that may sound more routine by comparison, but they present opportunities for us to renew our engagement in our spiritual lives and in the life of this church:

- Ash Wednesday on 14th February marks the beginning of Lent.  There will be a service of Holy Communion at 19:00

- The Lent course on Thursday evenings will look at studies in St John’s Gospel

- The Annual Church Meeting on 11th March is an opportunity to offer oneself anew to support the life and ministry of this church.

May you know a true renewal from within, this Lenten season

How will you start the New Year?  Full of hope and optimism?  Carrying on in the same old way that you have done for the last several years?  Or perhaps looking back with nostalgia on a time past that is gone forever.

One well-regarded newspaper described this years’ transition as “2017-2018 The age of confusion”.  And looking round the world today one can well understand the sentiment, with old certainties passing away, and the rise of new unpredictable world leaders.

As we move from the joyful celebration of Christmas to the season of Epiphany, we think about about how Emmanuel (“God with us”) is made manifest in the world around us.  A poem by Howard Thurman called “The Work of Christmas”, put it this way:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

That sound like it is down to us to put in a lot of hard work.  But remember, prayer itself is a form of work and that, with guidance by the Holy Spirit, is where all the rest stems from.

May you have a blessed New Year, and peace in your hearts throughout 2018

The start of Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s year. This year it falls on 3rd December, and Bishop Samy, bishop of the North Africa Episcopal Area, will be with us.

In Advent, we look forward with eagerness and great anticipation to the coming of our Lord.  For many people around the world, that means preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, which we remember at Christmas.  And indeed, this is part of the focus of the Advent season.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas we are reminded how the Old Testament as a whole points to the coming of the Saviour. We recall the lives of the Patriarchs, and listen to the voices of the prophets, before moving on to hear the message of John the Baptist, announcing the coming of the long-expected Messiah.  We see the response of Mary, called to be the mother of our Lord, and finally celebrate with the shepherds and angels the birth of the Christ-child, Jesus the Saviour.

But that is only part of the focus of Advent.  The other part is looking ahead to when Jesus will return again, as King, and in power and with great glory.  This is the time for which we all need to prepare our hearts and minds, and we are urged to take this part of the message seriously, because it is of eternal significance to us.  Nobody knows when that return will be, so Jesus calls us to be alert for that day – to watch and pray.  In the words of one Advent prayer:   May the Lord, when He comes, find us watching and waiting.

May you have a watchful and blessed Advent leading to a joyful and peaceful Christmas.

 

Later in the month, many people across the world pause to remember those who have, and still do, suffer through the trauma of war.

In the Northern Hemisphere, as autumn ushers in the end of the year, many people, especially those bereaved in recent times, take the opportunity to remember, before God, loved ones who have died.

Individually we all have a unique set of experiences and memories which help to make us who we are.  But some memories are unhelpful to us, if we choose to brood on them.  One of my medical bosses used to say that we all need a good “forget-ery” as well as a good memory.  Sometimes distressing memories of the past need healing through specialist attention, prayer and the administration of God’s grace

One of the things that can burden us, is the remembrance of our own past sins – even if we know that we have been forgiven in Jesus name.  But the bible assures us that God is not in the habit of recalling those sins that have been forgiven: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34),

 

May all your memories bring you joy, peace, healing and wholeness.

Rev Peter

Our children are not only the church of the future – they are also part of the church of today.  How can we truly be a church family?

Churches often find it difficult to get a right balance in meeting the needs of all their members: young and old, conservative and modern, and from a variety of different church traditions.

Young people are sometimes sent out to their own classes, and never experience what goes on in church.  At other times they are forced to stay through a long service, which they don’t understand and does not meet their spiritual needs.  On other occasions they just play outside during a service and probably distract their parents in so doing.

We have been considering these issues and the right way forward for St George's.  So we are going to try a new system.  1st and 4th Sundays of each month will be much as before: younger members staying in church for the beginning and then going to their classes.  Once a month (usually the 2nd Sunday) there will be an all-age service.  On the other Sunday, children will be invited to stay in for a full service of either Holy Communion or a Service of the Word.

A good all-age service which provides for all members of the church family is a challenge.  So we will be relying on those with experience in this ministry to guide us.

May you know God’s richest blessing as we learn to worship Him together.

Rev Peter

This month we welcome back Balqis to her work in the church office. Balqis has been away on sabbatical for eleven months, living in a Christian community in England. It has been a rich experience for her in many different ways. We pray for her, as she settles back into life and work here once again, and as she brings to our church life something of what she has learnt over the past year.

The month of July sees the anniversary of my ordination. It fell on St Thomas’ day. As the apostle is often referred to as “doubting Thomas”, it struck me as interesting day on which to mark the occasion when one’s decision to respond to the call to follow a particular vocation within Christian ministry effectively comes to fruition.

I wonder which theological terms or ideas you find most difficult to understand. For many people, “The Trinity” probably comes somewhere high on the list - although I once talked to an old man who had been brought up in the church from his childhood, and who claimed to have no problems with the idea of the Trinity at all.

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Verse of the Day

  • Psalm 119:105

    “נ Nun Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”