Minister’s letter June 2021: “They will soar on wings like eagles”

My Dear Friends,

As we try to get back to “normal” church life after lockdown, one particular Bible verse keeps coming into my mind – it’s this famous verse from Isaiah 40: 31*.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

This famous verse encapsulates our new-found energies and our utter exhilaration at even the simplest things in life that we would have normally taken for granted. Other versions of the Bible say ‘those who wait on the Lord’ will renew their strength. Christians like ourselves who seek to walk the Jesus way probably know and understand from experience what it means to ‘Wait on the Lord’ and what it means to ‘Hope in the Lord’. Waiting on the Lord implies prayer and patience, whereas Hoping in the Lord implies prayer and eager anticipation – two sides of the same coin, perhaps? Though different, these two versions accurately reflect aspects of our faith-filled trust as we have longed for new strength.

The imagery of soaring on wings like eagles is one that I hope will inspire us all for many months to come. May we soar to new heights in all we attempt in Christ’s name. As we emerge from lockdown, I imagine some of us will be feeling exhausted, others are stir-crazy, others again may be anxious about venturing forth. Isaiah calls us to remember who God is! God is never weak or tired, his love is everlasting. As the bible says in Isaiah 41: 31*:

For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

My prayer is that, henceforth, we may never tire of doing good, and that we may live as thankful people who resolve never again to take so much for granted. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, ‘When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude’. May God bless us all, and may we remember always to count our blessings one by one, and to pray for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Reverend Anthea Wickens

*  Copyright notice: The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV ® Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc TM Used by permission, All rights reserved worldwide.

Being OK with who you are: Thought for the Month, May 2021 by Naomi Baldwin

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting – virtually of course – with a group of young people from churches all over Wessex Synod for a series of Lent discussions based around the film ‘Rocketman’, the biopic of Elton John’s life. I’d never seen the film before, and if you haven’t, then I thoroughly recommend you do; if only so you can dance round your living room/bedroom/study to Crocodile Rock pretending you’re there at the Troubadour where it all took off for him. Near the climax of the story, Elton is looking back on his life, and in a flashback Bernie Taupin, John’s long-term lyricist says to him, “You just need to remember who you are, and be okay with it”.

Being okay with who you are can be hard work. Accepting our own limitations can be difficult. And moving forward in spite of them, even because of them is a tough thing to do. We can see it over and over again in the Bible too – Moses who repeatedly told God he couldn’t go back to the Egyptian leaders to ask for the Israelites’ freedom, until God sent Aaron as well, and he managed exactly what he feared he was unable to achieve. Jonah, who had to be swallowed by a big fish/whale/insert large underwater animal of your choice here. David, about to fight Goliath and Mary about to have God’s child – both very young and no doubt very nervous for what God had in store for them. Even Jesus, who knew all along the plan for his life, cried out on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”.

I often have trouble with the idea of God ‘forgiving’ me each Sunday when I remember to pray and read my Bible, knowing full well that we will not converse again for another seven days despite my best intentions. The previously noted scene from the film made me consider one possible reason – must I first learn to forgive myself before I can be forgiven by God? Is the most important part of living in God’s truth that you allow yourself to live as you are, rather than who you may feel circumstance has forced you to be?

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Chinese pots mended with gold dust (Kintsugi) so that as they are broken they become more beautiful and more unique. In the same way, as Taupin says, we should learn to be okay with exactly who we are; our flaws and our strengths and everything in between. As Will Shakespeare puts it in Henry VIII – “We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.”

I’d like to end this thought by suggesting that, before you rush off to watch ‘Rocketman’, open up YouTube or Spotify (other music playing applications are available!) and listen to ‘Come Now Is The Time To Worship’ with my favourite line from any worship song: “come, just as you are before your God”.

Thought for the Month on Spring – April 2021 by Keith Whyte

“Oh, to be in England now that April’s there”  – Home Thoughts from Abroad by Robert Browning

“April is the cruellest month” –  The Waste Land by T S Eliot

I’ve never thought much about the significance of these famous quotations about April, but both these poets, Browning and Eliot, express in their different ways how precious our springtime is, and so remind us of last year’s glorious Spring which lifted our spirits during those weeks of the first lockdown.  Both express the sadness in missing out on the experience of all the new life bursting forth, whether one is abroad, as Browning was, or imagining, as Eliot did, a land wasted and devastated.

Eliot’s strange and complex poem apparently alludes in part to the legend of the Holy Grail quest, where the land of the Fisher King is barren and sterile until the Grail is found.  An April without Spring would be cruel indeed, and although Eliot would not have meant it as such, his words can be seen as a warning to us of ecological disaster.  In our latitudes the Easter message of the renewed hope we need has always been linked to the Spring.

“Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green”

From the hymn ‘Now the green blade rises’ – J M C Crum

Help for struggling families at Harmans Water School

Would you like to help struggling families at our local primary school?

During this time of hardship, we are collecting non-perishable food and other essentials to help families at Harmans Water Primary school.

The items which have been requested are:

  • Long life fruit juice
  • Pasta sauces in jars/ packets
  • Tinned meat
  • Tinned meals
  • Squash
  • Crisps
  • Flour
  • Cooking oil
  • Gravy granules
  • Toilet rolls
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Washing up liquid
  • Baby wipes

To reduce visits to the school, please do not deliver donations direct.  If you would like to help, please leave donations in the storage box in the front garden of 16 Vincent Rise, Bracknell RG12  9EH.  These will then be delivered to the school each week.

Join our Sponsored Activity Fortnight: 13 – 27 March 2021

We are raising money to build an extension to our church in Harmans Water Square. We call the project St Paul’s Community Hub. It will improve our facilities so that they are better suited to our community: for people who find stairs difficult, those attending our children’s activities, our community Drop-In, or our Coffee Mornings with outside stalls.  This all costs a lot of money so we’re busy fund-raising.

We would like to invite people to help by joining our sponsored activity fortnight to get us all motivated for the end of lockdown.  You can do whatever you want, whether it is a Sir Tom, run 5K, chair based exercises, or anything else, no matter how whacky.

Fill in the registration form here, and you will receive a sponsor form. To find out more about the project, click here.

Thanks in anticipation.