Welcome to the Messenger Archive for Winter 2008
Letter from the Manse
How will you spend Christmas morning this year? Will it be the usual round of cups of tea and pieces of shortbread interspersed with present opening and tidying away all the glitter and wrappings trying to get the house back into some semblance of order…or…will you quietly remember what Christmas is all about and give thanks that you have lived to celebrate another year? Christmas really asks us to take the focus off ourselves and focus our attention where it belongs.
We don’t do that very well, especially when it comes to the time and placed realities of our Faith. We have the idea, that what matters is the condition of our hearts. Church attendance is a matter of indifference to us for precisely that reason: we feel that we can worship God anywhere and so don’t feel like we’re missing something important if we don’t make church on a particular Sunday.
Recently, a lot of ink has been spilled over the controversial decision of several churches to cancel their worship service on Christmas day to allow members to spend time with their families. One church said that having services on Christmas day “would not be the most effective use of volunteer resources.” A spokesman from that church went on to say, “if our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don’t go to church, how likely is it that they’ll be going to church on Christmas morning?”
The world we live in will tell us that church attendance is a waste of time. It is always inefficient. It is time that could be spent doing good deeds or catching up on “to-do” lists or exercising our bodies or spending important moments with family. Even among those who believe in Jesus Christ, the prevalent opinion seems to be that meeting together within the church is somewhat less important than other pursuits of the mind, body, soul and spirit.
But I want to protest. In the end, it is the inconvenience and inefficiency of church attendance that is the point here. Sometimes that Sunday morning appointment is not always easy to keep. The more our society devalues it and schedules other activities around it, the more difficult it will be. And that inconvenience and inefficiency reminds us of the One to whom we answer and the One who gives our lives purpose. If we can’t find room for Sunday worship in our crowded schedules, then perhaps it’s because we’ve forgotten that our schedules aren’t God driven but people driven. If we don’t feel we have a moment to “waste in worship”, then perhaps we’d better rethink our definition of wasting time.
Which brings me back to Christmas. Increasingly, even believers have bought the cheap Hallmark sentimentality and profit-driven cynicism of the PC secular “holiday”. Our world celebrates the Holidays as a time of peace and goodwill while denying that the peace and goodwill to which they aspire has anything to do with Christ “born of a woman, born under law”.
I know that those churches who chose not to gather for worship on Christmas morning aren’t trying to exclude Jesus from Christmas, just as surely as I know that not every Christian who gathers for worship that morning is doing it out of a desire to include Him. I don’t wish to try removing specks from the eyes of other churches when my own Church has logs of its own to deal with. But, I also know that “small” decisions like how we spend our time on Christmas morning out of 365 matters.
Christmas calls believers to celebrate Christ becoming human and living among us whilst waiting in expectation is to join together on the Lord’s Day to worship God and encourage one another “and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. To choose to spend our time in this inconvenient, inefficient way of saying to one another and to the world that we are waiting for “The Day”. And it is a good way to remind ourselves that nothing in our lives is more important.
I hope that your time with your family and friends will be a happy one and that after all the furore is past you will like me be looking forward to the dawning of 2009.
Your Manse Family
Circle of Care
As always we have lost some of our old folks in the congregation but the numbers remain constant as others reach 80 and become eligible for the Circle of Care. Among the present members however, there is one lady, Susie Murray, who is 103 years old and another member will be 100 years old next March. Whatever your age we wish you all a very Happy Christmas.
CrossReach provides a range of supportive services to those who become involved in the criminal justice system. This includes initiatives such as accommodation for such as those on probation and rehabilitative services so that these people can turn their lives around. It also provides family support services for the families of offenders giving advice on all kinds of issues including how to integrate released offenders back into the family when they return.
In the last magazine I wrote that our deficit at the end of the half year was £8,000 but I hoped that I could bring better news in this quarter’s “Messenger”. I am sorry to say that I can’t.
At the Congregational Board meeting in October I reported that the quarter ending September produced a further deficit of almost £6,000 making a total of close on £14,000 for the first nine months of the year. Nevertheless I am still hopeful that we might get close to break even by the year end, mainly due to the outstanding tax rebate from Gift Aided offerings and donations.
If you don’t give your offering through Gift Aid please consider doing so. There is a simple form to complete and thereafter our Gift Aid Convener, Sheila Main will be able to reclaim income tax on all recorded offerings you make in the future and also on offerings you have made in the past! You only need to be a taxpayer to fill in the form.
Speaking of simple forms there is another one you might want to fill in as well. By giving your offering by Standing Order, St Mark’s is guaranteed to receive your weekly or monthly promise, even if you are not in Church. A good number of members already give in this way but there is always room for more. Both of these forms are available in Church and soon will be capable of being downloaded here.
If you are already giving by Standing Order why not re-consider the amount of your regular giving for 2009? A supply of forms is available in the vestibule. This will instruct your bank to increase the amount you already give and if you drop it into your branch next time you are there it won’t even cost you a stamp! Please think about it. (This form will also be on the website)
And finally. As in previous years this edition of the “Messenger” will have been delivered along with a Christmas Gift envelope. When you are writing your Christmas cards and wrapping your presents why not think about your Church as well as your family and friends and pop something into the envelope as your Christmas Gift to St Mark’s. It will be very much appreciated.
Thank you and every blessing to you and yours – Alex McConochie
My 17 Days in Malawi
As Convenor of the Malawi Partnership Group I led a party of 23 to Malawi in September of this year for a 17 day visit of our partner churches. After a long journey and three flights from Aberdeen we arrived early morning in Lilongwe to be met by an eager television crew who wanted to interview me. I know I looked a sight: I was dressed in the same clothes I had left in from Aberdeen the day before. I needed a shave, my hair was tousled from trying to sleep on the aircraft. However, I managed to give a good interview which was aired on Malawi television for about 10 days.
After a further five hours cramped up in a bus we arrived in Blantyre to be met by about thirty or forty members of the Mpachika Women’s Guild who had come to greet us all and help us make our way to our hosts’ homes where we were to spend our stay. That was the beginning of a rapturous welcome that was to continue throughout the whole time we were there. To say that both Kath and I were treated like Royalty is an understatement and we were aware of that welcome and the love everywhere we went.
To those of you who think I was away on holiday I would ask you to think again. I was in a country that has become special to me among a people who are also special and I wanted to give as much of myself as I possibly could. A lot was crammed into my time there but Sunday 14th September may highlight for you how I spent my time.
I was awakened at 6am and told my bath was ready. Bath meant a large basin filled with hot water, which you stepped into and proceeded to wash yourself all over. No shower facilities, but it was fun. I had breakfast, then was picked up and taken down to Mpachika church to start the Service. When Kath and I arrived there several of the 8 choirs were already practicing. The service started at 6.30am and people started to arrive many having set out several hours earlier. We ended the first service about 8am, had some tea and bread and butter before starting the 8.30am service. During this service I was preaching and conducting the Sacrament of Holy Communion. During that same service I baptized 31 babies and conducted 11 marriages. At the close of the service I conducted a Healing Service to which something like 240 people came for healing.
At the close of that service (1.30pm) Kath and I were taken to one of the Cottages where lunch was provided for about 120 people, including us. After lunch we were taken to a home where I was asked to share in a funeral of a young lady that had died of aids the day before. I felt intrusive, but could never have expected the way I was welcomed by the family of the deceased and family friends. That I had taken the time to do what I did, gone to the bother of finding out something about the lady and speaking about it and going to the graveside meant more to that family than anything you care to mention. Incidentally, her death meant another 4 aids orphans added to the long list in Mpachika. They are more fortunate than some of the other children as they would be farmed out to other relatives. Some of the other orphans are not so lucky.
After conducting the funeral it was back to my host’s house to change and be picked up again for a dinner back at Grace Bandawe Centre at 6.30pm. Who said ministers only work 1 day a week! It was tiring, exhausting and demanding, but it was wonderful and I would do it all again tomorrow, if I could.
Mpachika is a wonderful partnership and over the next few months I will be trying to raise some more funds for the project that I started. I know that you will help me.
Thank You, all of you.
An Interview With God
(This is an excerpt from a service requested by a St Mark’s member.)
I dreamed that I had an interview with God.
“So would you like to interview me?” God asked.
“If you have the time,” I said.
God smiled, “My time is eternity. What questions do you have in mind for me?”
“What surprises you most about humankind?”
“That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up then long to be children again.” “That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health.” “That by thinking anxiously about the future they forget the present, such that they live in neither the present nor the future.” “That they live as if they will never die, then die as though they had never lived.”
God’s hand took mine and we were silent for a while. And then I asked,
“As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?”
“To learn they cannot make anyone love them. All they can do is let themselves be loved. To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others. To learn to forgive, by practicing forgiveness. To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in those they love and it can take many years to heal them. To learn that a rich person is not the one who has the most but is one who needs the least. To learn that there are people who love them dearly but simply do not yet know how to express or show their feelings. To learn that two people can see the same thing yet see it differently. To learn that it is not enough that they forgive one another, but that they must also forgive themselves.”
“Thank you for your time”, I said humbly. “Is there anything else you would want your children to know?”
God smiled and said,
“Just know that I am here.” “Always.”
Can You Help?
Each year at this time, the Treasurer and the Finance Committee in our Congregation worry that there will not be enough money in the bank at the end of the year, for us to pay our way. To not to be able to pay our way is a sad reflection of Christian Commitment. To avoid getting to that point can I ask all of you to respect the Gift Envelope you will receive and make that gift to God and your Church which you are asked to do once a year.
Last year I put out 300 such envelopes and only 51 were returned. So there is a lot to do and I know that you won’t let me down.
Revd John M Watson
Summary of Life
Great Truths Children Have Learned
- No matter how hard you try, you cannot baptise cats.
- When your Mum is mad at your Dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
- Never ask your 3 year old brother to hold a tomato.
- You can’t trust dogs to watch your food.
- Don’t sneeze when someone is cutting your hair.
- You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
- Don’t wear polka dot underwear under white shorts.
Dolls for Malawi
I would like to thank everyone who has been involved with knitting dolls for Malawi. We took some over to the Orphan Feeding programme in April and the look on the children’s faces when they received the dolls was priceless.
I am hoping I will soon be sending more dolls and the ones I have already received are very individual and unique. PLEASE, PLEASE don’t feel that you have to stop knitting, the need is there for more.
Dolls can be handed to Rosalyn at Church or call 01224 620346 to arrange to leave them at 17 Northfield Place.
Many thanks for all your work, I hope it has been an enjoyable experience; it certainly is going to be appreciated in Malawi.
If anyone would like to join in and knit dolls, patterns are still available – contact Rosalyn on the above number.
Christ In Woolworths
I did not think to find you there –
Crucifixes, large and small,
Sixpence and threepence, on a tray,
Among the artificial pearls
Paste rings, tin watches, bead of glass.
It seemed so strange to find you there
Fingered by people coarse and crass,
Who had no reverence at all,
Yet – What is it you would say?
For these I hang upon my cross,
For these the agony and loss
Through heedlessly they let me pass by,
Dear Lord forgive such fools as I
Who thought it strange to find you there.
When you are with us everywhere.
(from a St Mark’s member)
Did you know the first British Woolworth’s opened in Liverpool in 1909 and until the 2nd World War the shops were known as the Threepenny and Sixpenny Stores. Not a single thing was more than sixpence or 2½p in today’s money. By the end of the War inflation had taken hold and a broader range of goods were on sale for up to 5 shillings or 25p. So the poem above must have been written a long time ago. (Footnote: And now after 99 years in business “Woolies” is no more, thanks to the Credit Crunch.)
|1. It’s one day after Christmas
I’m crabby and I’m broke.
I’m so full of ham and fruitcake
I think I’m gonna croak.
2. It’s nice to see the relatives
3. They’re eating everything in sight
4. The relatives have all gone out
5. It’s Christmas time at my house,
|6. I love the decorations,
And the sleigh bells in the snow
But I wish those pesky relatives
Would take their kids and go.
7. Those cookie crunchers fed the dog
8. Now they’re in a free-for-all,
9. My mother-in-law is snoring
10. I oughta wake her up