So we are unable to gather together in any form (see explanation in the post below.) During this time we will continue to be the church using as many different forms of communication as we can. First of all please look at our Online Worship page and to keep up to date and connect in other ways follow us on social media.
No doubt you are all aware that a lot has changed since the last e-mail. The Central Committee of the Anglican Church in Belgium, which is our link with the government here have laid down some very clear instructions for all Anglican churches in Belgium which is.
"All Anglican and Episcopal parishes in Belgium must suspend public worship and all parish activities (home groups, Lent groups, church councils, Alpha…) entirely from 14th March until 3rd April, without exception, regardless of numbers. All churches must be kept closed for this period. ."
Therefore we will not be having any public gatherings until Sunday 5th April at the earliest, this includes home groups, Messy Church, the Lent teaching, the finance meeting, everything! (Church Council will receive a separate e-mail about how we would like to move forward with some important issues before the ACM)
An important part of living out our faith is gathering together, I depend on our Sunday gatherings and midweek groups as a vital source of nourishment and encouragement, so these next weeks will be a challenge. Through Lent we have been exploring what it means to be dependent upon the Holy Spirit. It is my prayer that during this time, when we cannot support each other in ways we are use to, we will all become more dependent upon God and our own relationships with God will deepen. It is important that we nurture our own personal relationship with Jesus.
Having said that I am keen that we continue to be church, to travel together, support one another and encourage one another, so we will utilise digital technology as and where we can. If you are a Facebook user can I encourage you to follow us www.facebook.com/stpaulstervuren.be/ and perhaps for this time choose the 'see first' option. We are also on twitter and instagram. We are likely to post more things there during the week there rather than fill your inboxes but important information will still be communicated via e-mail too.
Perhaps home groups can work out how you can continue to support one another, try using technology to catch up, read scripture and pray during the week or even go old school and phone each other during the week and pray for one another that way too.
This Sunday we will post a video on our website to help you to worship, pray and listen to a sermon, drawing on resources that our 'out there'. We will also put up some suggestions of how much engage with your children this weekend. These therefore can be used at a time that suits you best
I hope to post a few more devotional things through the weeks via social media, to keep us journeying together.
Next weekend we are looking into doing something more authentically St Paul's online where we can be together there.
Please can we be aware of the needs of those around us, for those who need supplies but cannot get out easily or are at risk if they go out. Let us be willing to go the extra mile for one another. Likewise if you are in that position please speak out and let us know so we can help.
On a final note, God is good, God is faithful, let us continue to glorify his name in all that we say, do and think and be the light in the world around us.
Climate change, the church and us
You can’t escape the reality of climate change these days! From the recent gales here in Belgium to the flooding in England and Wales, and further afield, the devastating bushfires in Australia, we are reminded more and more that our climate is changing.
Climate change has become a cause of huge concern across the political and economic spectrum. Everyone is called to do something to reduce their carbon footprint –including the Church of England. At its recent meeting, the General Synod voted to support an amendment which sets a target of 2030 for net zero carbon emissions for the Church of England (replacing its earlier target of 2045).
Bishop Robert, who voted in favour of the amendment, said in a recent letter on the subject that ‘this highly demandingtarget will be a challenge to our own diocese’ (in Europe). He makes the point that ‘the Church has committed itself to taking a moral lead on this issue, but the challenge is now there, for us all!’
In parallel, the Church of England Pension Board has launched a new investment Index which will favour investment in companies which are taking positive action on climate change and exclude those which are not. The Board has announced an investment of 600 million pounds in this scheme.
The Church is taking alead but success will depend on the actions of local churches and individual members. What are we doing at St Paul’s, Tervuren? The recent initiative to phase out the use of paper coffee cups is a welcome step. But what more should we be doing –as a church and as individuals?‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it’ (Psalm 24: 1).
10 minutes to pray
In Lent people often think about what to give up, chocolate being a classic or social media.We do this to connect with the time Jesus’ fasted for 40 days in the wilderness after his Baptism. The idea is that as we abstain from something and find it a struggle,we then refocus our attention upon the goodness of God.I wonder whether this Lent, instead of giving something up we could together seek to take 10 minutes*every day to pray.(or an extra 10 minutes)Inevitably it will mean giving something up as you prioritise prayer, perhaps 10 minutes less in bedin the morning, 10 minutes less TV time, 10 minutes out of your lunch break...
For some an extra 10minutes, will just need a little prioritising and that is it but for others this will feel like a big challenge. There are some brilliant resources available to help you to it.I’d like to point us all towards some produced by LICC (who shaped the Frontlines series we have just finished).They have 8 different 40 day ‘Prayer Journals’ for you to choose from, which will help us to move forward with everything God has been saying to us through that series, so we don’t just move on and forget it.
Taking time to wait for anything, even on God, feels like a luxury –and it can be hard to pause and pray. So we need fresh ways of praying in and for our everyday situations.
They say that their,‘40-day prayer journeys will give you a quick and easy way to begin. They’ll send you daily prompts to spark your imagination, encouraging you to pray –however briefly –with renewed energy, creativity, and faith that God’s purposes will be worked out in your life’
Now that sounds good doesn’t it!! https://www.licc.org.uk/ourresources/prayer-journeys/
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”–2 Chronicles 7.14*Can be more than 10 minutes!!!
This week I listened to a podcast on loneliness and although it was a UK focused programme I know that it is a big issue here too. Just before Christmas I met with the lady responsible for social welfare in Tervuren to ask what the biggest needs in the community were and without drawing breath she said ‘loneliness’.
Loneliness is a big problem in our society, it isn’t just an issue for elderly but it is increasingly effecting younger people too. Despite being more connected than ever before loneliness is growing. I am confident that as I write this all of us at some point can relate to it and some of you will be feeling it right now.
I believe that the church has to have an answer to this. Actually church done well is the answer.. A community ready to embrace, welcome and love. Last Sunday we talked about how important it is to continue to meet together in order to encourage one another and send each other out. I absolutely see this as a priority of the church, going out. But it is also OK, to come and just be together, to be welcomed, connected and loved. Psalm 68.6 tells us that God sets the lonely in families. We are family and a refrain that crops up again and again through the pastoral letters of the New Testament is to be devoted to one another.
So let us be aware of one another and devoted to each other. Church is about ‘we’ not ‘me’. I’m an advocate of Home Groups. My heart isn’t simply for small groups that gather two or four times a month at someone’s house—as great as that step is. My hope is that from it we find true community together. A small group is a people, not a time on the calendar. Healthy groups encourage, challenge, and support one another.
If any of this has stirred something in you then I’d encourage you to pray about it, have a listen to the podcast, which isn’t from a faith perspective but as you listen ask God, what is my response? What is our response?
This Sunday we will be wrapping up our sermon series looking at our Frontlines. It has been encouraging to see how we have all engaged with series and God clearly working in our lives. I can say that because of the conversations I have had with some of you and those of you who have sent me messages saying so. What a genuine joy!
The real work starts now! What difference will it make in our day to day? Will we continue to allow God to change us, work through us and move us forward? As we continue to see that wherever we are, whatever we do & who ever we are, we are significant and what we do is significant and as we continue to realise that God is in this place and with God’s help we can make a difference we will see the atmosphere and culture around us change. When we couple this with continuing to be intentional about asking God who we can invite to something and stepping out and asking, then I believe we will see more lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.
It is not easy but thankfully we have the Holy Spirit with us at all times. So as we close the series we want to commission one another, to pray for and send each other out into our everyday lives with a different and intentional mindset. As we do this there is an opportunity to prayed for and be ‘anointed’ with oil.
Throughout scripture anointing with oil symbolizes consecration to God. (we will look at this a more next week) There is a link between oil and the Spirit of God and in the New Testament ‘anointing’ is seen as a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. There is nothing special about the oil, anointing with oil is an external act which gives a physical and tangible action to the internal desire to dedicate someone to God in a special way. Anointing with oil signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is used to consecrate someone or something to God’s service.
I am looking forward to hearing stories of how God has been at work on your frontline having given ourselves afresh to his service.