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Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

November has now arrived, and everything is suddenly moving on: the season has turned and it’s colder and the leaves have turned golden brown and many are now falling; as a nation and as the Church we are in the Kingdom season of Remembrance, All Saints’ day, All Souls’ Day, Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday, and finally at the end of the month the Feast of Christ the King, as the church’s year comes to a triumphant end acknowledging that Jesus Christ rules over all things in heaven and on earth.

We had a lovely harvest festival here when all who came shared God’s Goodness to us. We are grateful to every one for their generosity for the work of the Archbishops’ Mustard seed appeal, and food for the local foodbank and for the time of fellowship and hospitality with the potluck bring and share lunch.

This month Churchwardens, our Church centre manager and myself attended the launch of ‘At the heart. On the edge’ Which is a vision developed by the congregation at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. Revd Dr Sam Wells writes about the seven convictions that led the congregation to form HeartEdge.

It’s possible to be a church without being defensive and closed-minded.
God wants us to live before death as well as after. The Holy Spirit works as much beyond the church as within it.

• It’s possible to care for those ostracised or in trouble in a way that enhances, rather than diminishes, your community. And that’s because care comes not out of some self-important altruism but out of recognition of our own need, and desire to be transformed by the strangers God sends us.

• It’s possible to be highly aspirational, financially sustainable, and rewardingly participatory all at the same time. So many creative initiatives come to grief because they focus on one of these and overlook the others. Beauty and brilliance are great; fun and friendship are great too; and having enough money to do it again next year is just as important.

• It’s possible to have commercial activities and administrative practices that deepen and embody our understanding of the kingdom, rather than conflict with or confuse it. By serving people and creating a staff team, we learn what love and justice and flourishing mean when translated into economic decisions and regular habits of trade and employment.

• It’s possible to grow without becoming impersonal, two-dimensional, or an ogre. St Martin’s uses the word ‘partnership’ to name the ways we share our practice and extend our influence while respecting and affirming our differences from other organisations and without building an empire.

• You can do unbelievable things together if you start with one another’s assets not their deficits. In a community of fear we begin with our hurts and our stereotypes, and find a hundred reasons why we can’t do things or certain kinds of people don’t belong. But if you take off labels like disabled or wealthy or migrant or evangelical or single and instead see qualities like passionate or committed or generous or enthusiastic or humble then there’s no limit to what a community of hope can do.

• In Christ, the future is bigger than the past. We don’t know, but we’re learning. We haven’t arrived, but the journey’s great. We’re not sure exactly where we’re going, but it’s getting better all the time. We’ve had some wonderful experiences, but the best is yet to come.

 Their vision is very close to what we are trying to develop here at St. James Mere Green with our ‘Intergenerational Faith Social Enterprise model’ (IFSEM), as we extend our community outreach through ‘Hope Café’ based in St James church centre welcoming community with open arms and especially people living with disability, dementia, mental health, poverty and social exclusion. In the coming months, we explore joining this network of HeartEdge national churches and explore ways forward to become an inclusive church.

In the parish, our September Messy Church is a time in which it is becoming a tradition to make bread with the children. We saw about 50 people, children, mums, dad, and grandparents coming together to celebrate the harvest with lots of activities and acts of worship. Children were introduced to a simple form of communion after which they took refreshments, which they have prepared themselves. Thank you to all who help in bringing these events together. It is hard work in organizing and delivering every session and we are very grateful to all. 

Our Thanksgiving service, when we remember our loved ones took place on 29th October, 6.30

 pm at St James Church. Thank you for all who attended the service. We shall pray for you all as Christmas approaches. You are welcome to join our ‘Blue Christmas Service’ on 3rd December at 4pm.

The Remembrance all age parade service this year will be taking place on the 12th November at

10am, all are welcome, as we remember the fallen within our parish.

In our national and personal remembrance and thanksgiving powerful and emotional thoughts come to the fore as we honour the sacrifices made by others for our country and for those whose loving presence is greatly missed.

The Messy Church Bright Party, as an alternative to Halloween, went very well on 28th

October. Thank you to our amazing team of volunteers for their unwavering support to the

 Children and Young families work within the parish. Our annual Messy Church Advent Calendar workshop will be taking place on 25th November (3pm – 5pm). All are welcome and for

 more details please feel free to contact our Children and Family Missioner, Emili, through email on cfm.st.jameshill@gmail.com

As part of Christmas festivities, we have our annual Christmas Fair, which will be taking place in St. James Church Centre on Saturday 18th November 2016. The stalls open from 10am and the 

Fair will finish at 1.30pm

Finally, our Christmas programme is busy with all our annual Carol services, Christingle and Midnight Mass.

This year, we are having our second Dementia friendly Carol Service on Saturday 3rd December

 at 3pm where we will be welcoming those who are living with dementia and their carers as we sing traditional carols and listen to traditional readings.

We are also hosting the ‘best Christmas show 2017’ endorsed by David Bintley of Birmingham Royal Ballet performed by Spring Dance Company – The Journey of the Magi on Saturday 9th

December, 2017 – with Children’s workshops in the Scout Hut from 4pm till 5pm; Two Course Supper in the Church Centre from 6pm till 7pm & the final performance from 7.30pm in the Church Centre. The tickets are already on sale from the Church Wardens and the Church Office in the Church Centre. They are £5 (for the children’s Workshop); £6 (for two course dinner) and £10 (for the Adult Concert which includes refreshments). This year we only have advance tickets and no tickets available on the doors.

Therefore, as we seek God’s support in our lives and for our world and in the life with God to come, may this Book of Common Prayer prayer help us to focus our everyday lives:

“O Lord support us, all the day long until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.” AMEN.

 

With Love and Blessings,

Revds. Daniel & Judith

 

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

Come, ye thankful people, come, 
raise the song of harvest home; 
all is safely gathered in, 
ere the winter storms begin. 
God our Maker doth provide 
for our wants to be supplied; 
come to God's own temple, come, 
raise the song of harvest home.

So wrote Henry Alford in 1844.

 Henry was writing at a time where in the British Isles a successful harvest was a matter of life and death for the populace. Indeed, we had people starving on our streets.

Sadly, that is still a true fact for some in the 21st Century.

 

Today in our global market economy the success of the harvest is critical worldwide. It is an indicator of how the world’s people will fare in the year to come.

 

America celebrates the wheat crop on the 4th of November as the Pilgrim Fathers did. In Bali the rice harvest is celebrated with a festival and dollies made from rice stalks. The Jewish Sukkoh is celebrated by Jews around the world in thanksgiving for the crop, whilst remembering how the Israelites wandered the desert trying to reach home and how God provided their daily bread.  In Italy the olive crop is celebrated while Chinese people exchange moon buns with families and friends as a gesture of reunion and good fortune. These are all acts which celebrate food security.

 

The British harvest festival of “Lammas” (Mass Bread) is where people baked bread from the first fruits of the crop to offer on the altar in thanksgiving before they enjoy the feast of the harvest.

 

The failure of crops worldwide threatens both food security and increases the risk of conflict. Already in 2016 world cereal crops will fall short of demand. Most changes come from climate change or conflict which undermines agriculture. If subsistence farmers have no crop they cannot feed their families or local people.

Indeed, as we read this at least 37 countries in the world need external help to avoid malnutrition and starvation. This is especially true across Africa. In India since 1995 it is estimated that some 300,000 people have committed suicide due to crop failure. They now have crop failure insurance but without the food how will they survive? Surprisingly, Papua New Guinea is in need of aid also due to drought and crop failure.

Recently, Hurricane Irma has caused devastation across the Caribbean Islands and threatened $1.2bn fresh produce across Florida. We all need to do our ‘bit’ to help and to share the harvest in our offerings and acts of ‘love thy neighbour’. Also in our efforts to limit the effects of climate change, and in our sharing we proclaim the Gospel and help to sustain life.

 So, this year’s “Harvest All Age Parade Service” will take place on Sunday, 8th October, 10am

with food produce and tins being donated to the Trussell Trust Food Bank, and money raised to the Archbishop’s Mustard Seed Appeal to help millions of people in England who are struggling with debt and money problems. This will be followed by a Potluck Bring n Share Lunch in the 11th St. James Scout Hut from 11.30am till 2pm. We very much look forward to welcoming

you and your families, please confirm your attendance by calling the Church Office number: 0121 308 0869.

Henry Alford wrote in his bible at the age of 16. “I do this day, as in the presence of God and my own soul, renew my covenant with God, and solemnly determine henceforth to become His and to do His works as far as in me lies.”

He kept his covenant with God until the end of his days.

In the parish, on Saturday 23rd September we had Messy Church celebrating the harvest with

bread making. Thank you to all the volunteers who made it a fun day for the children.

Everyone who attended was very happy and the children enjoyed doughnut on a string, bread painting and making food faces!

On Saturday 28th October, 3pm – 5pm we shall be having a Bright Party as an alternative to Halloween. Wear your brightest clothes as we celebrate the light in the world. Come and join us for arts and crafts fun. Please let your friends and family and their children know.

As we prepare to celebrate the harvest we wish you all God’s blessings and abundant peace,

            “In living for each other, love will ever run”- Keith Fisher

With Love Daniel & Judith

 

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

As schools close we wish families and friends a good summer, safe journeys, rest, good weather, fun and that God go with them.

As some of you will be aware, we recently had our Parish Vision Day. This was a successful day with presentations and many meaningful and positive conversations.

If anyone would like to receive a summary, do let us know and this can be arranged. It will also be available on our church website. There are great ‘ideas for our vision in the short, medium and long term.’ Some of which are already implemented or are being implemented, some are to follow on as part of a vision in action.

Whether you agree or disagree with some or all of the subjects discussed there are some very clear ideas which will benefit the church and some which will require further consideration, others a good deal of money. Therefore, the vision is split up into three sections extending over a number of years.

However, we cannot deny people’s enthusiasm for making St. James a beacon of hope for all – welcoming all, loving all and nurturing all in the heart of the Mere Green community.

In our recent Sutton Minister’s Quiet day, Bishop Anne shared this prayer of Oscar Romero, former Archbishop of Al Salvador – titled: A step along the way.

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. 
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

 

As Archbishop Romero encourages, whether things we attempt appear to be successful or not we must try, and keep on trying new things, at the same time cherishing the past and its traditions but celebrating the future and new horizons.  Our reimagining ministry and outward pastoral care needs to be relevant to people of every generation, who we as disciples of Christ are called to minister to through thoughts, words and actions. The welcome on the mat is the one that invites people in with a smile and a friendly word of welcome. We encourage people by having conversations with them and extending the welcome that makes them feel comfortable, feel that sense of belonging and stewardship shared by all of us.

If you want to be involved, maybe you could consider joining an extended welcome team on a Sunday morning or joining our busy and very committed teams of volunteers of all ages and diverse experiences. Other ideas are to think about asking someone to come along to church, or inviting them to church activities like Messy Church, summer fairs, children’s movie club, quilt making, Mothers’ Union, adult cinema club etc. Do speak to either of us or with the Church Wardens, if you would like to be more involved.

In the parish in the month of August, Emili our Children’s and Families Missioner, with the help of various volunteers will be running a children’s and family’s movie club at the Church Centre.

On Saturday, 19th August, Tina Ambrose and various members of the Mothers’ Union will be organising a Craft and Gift fair in our Church Centre. You all are very welcome to come and support this event, and enjoy the craft, gift and food stalls. All proceeds from this event will be donated to Birmingham Mothers’ Union.

On Sunday 27th August 6.30pm, we will be having our Summer Songs of Praise service at St. James. Please let us or Ade, know your choice of hymn or song which speaks of God’s Hope and mission of St. James.

So, as I quoted before:
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.”

So, enjoy the rest of the summer, which we hope will be a time of refreshment and soul quenching renewal for you all…Go with God, and let him surprise you on your way!

 

With much Love,

 

Daniel, Judith & St. James’ Church Family

Message from the Vicarage

Dear friends,

As Judith and I were starting to reflect in preparation for our parish vision day, we were drawn to this simple statement of what the parish of St James is called to be, it reads, “… the parish is called to be driven by its outward mission to the world, rather than an internal focus on maintenance.  It must form and equip the laity for their role of witnessing and sharing their faith in the world, and be particularly attentive to welcoming seekers.”  However, questions we might ask ourselves are: “Why does the world need the parish of St. James, Mere Green” or “How would the world be worse off if this parish didn’t exist?” The cynic in us may say “… well, people would have to drive further down the road to the next parish to go to regular services…” but the honest answer would be something to do with what we as a parish do uniquely for the people who live in Mere Green, Harvest Fields and part of Four Oaks. In other words, how would our parish and the community that we serve, be different if we were able to do all the things we dream about doing?

Our thoughts take us back to a favourite quotation from Rowan Williams: where “… he longed to see Christianity once again capture the imagination of our culture.” Of course, it also needs to capture the imagination of the Church.

For a long time, we think, lack of imagination probably has failed the church. However, it is never too late to re-ignite flames of renewal, that rekindle our imaginations. Imagining and reimagining the Church is nothing new and certainly nothing that should threaten us, but rather it should be a thing which excites us, as we explore what we might be or do or offer to others, within our communities, whilst being true to who we are. But first of all, we need to be allowed that quiet space to dream dreams, to glimpse shadows of ideas, to listen and explore.

We would urge all of you who are part of the parish of St. James, living and worshipping in Mere Green to come to our Vision Day on Saturday 1st July, to be held in the Parish Rooms of Little Aston Church.

Some years ago now, we know that very detailed discussions took place, out of which not just the mission statement of the parish came out but, so much good emerged. We will have been here three years as you read this, and I am so delighted with all that has been achieved in those three years, in many areas. In other areas, we are perhaps a little adrift and in need of some direction. We need to gather together again, to allow fresh vision to emerge both as a parish, and within the Mere Green community.

 Judith and I want us to consider all that has delighted us, all that has disappointed us; all that we have achieved and all that we still hope for. As we begin, prayerfully, to consider these aspects, we want to encourage us also to allow imagination to capture us. Let's dream dreams: we can be practical later - and we will need to be practical later! But vision is born out of taking away the limitations and throwing the doors wide open. And Judith and I think we are ready to engage with fresh ideas about our worshipping community and our role within our wider community.

We know the talk of ‘Mission Action Plans' sounds too embedded in strategies and targets to feel exciting! Please take heart! This will not be about our setting impossible demands to achieve which make us feel heavy. It will, we hope, result in something which gives us simply a 'map' - some clues to the areas we might wish to enjoy exploring and developing, and some possible pathways through. We never want us to lose the sense of adventure that a church's journey with God - indeed our own lives - should be. Balancing both possible strategies for mission and worship along with a keen sense of being alert to the organic - by which we mean what God is growing already in our midst - helps us to both plan for growth but also may keep us wonderfully flexible, alert and excited by possibilities we see opening up!

The day will begin with morning prayers at 9.30am and finish with creative communion at 4.30pm with various sessions with presentation, discussions and feedbacks. It will be an all-day event, with lunch provided at 12.30 pm (and if you can only make it for half a day, that is OK too!).

I expect some sort of gathering together at the start, as we explain and set out the day, and think about what mission and ministry might mean for our context here in Mere Green.

Please do put this date in your diary. What you have to say and contribute is so important, and we want to give all of us time to dream dreams, and to have our dreams heard.

As prophet Joel says: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men and women will dream dreams, your young men and women will see visions.” May this be our prayer.

In parish, we have been very busy all through the month of June, “Thy Kingdom come – Prayer stations”, created a buzz and we welcomed many new faces from our Mere Green community, who came and joined us to pray for the world and our local community. Next year we are planning to link this prayer week with our schools and invite children from various schools.

Also, the Parish Celebrations went very well, although too many people enjoyed Christening the vicar. We welcomed nearly a thousand adults and children through our doors for the two days of parish celebrations culminating in the confirmation service led by Bishop David Urquhart. We are very grateful to God for the good weather and to all the volunteers and groups who took part (too many to name individually!) for their generous gift of time, energy and talents. A huge amount of work went into the event. Thank you all so very much. You might like to check out our Facebook page and enjoy the lovely fun-filled pictures posted there.

Our next Messy Church will be held on Saturday the 15th July, 2017  - 3pm till 5pm and follows the theme “Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in Heaven. ”Do come along with your children and grandchildren and enjoy together the fun that is planned and some hospitality.

Whether you are a new or a regular attendee you are most welcome. If you plan to be there do let Emili (our Children’s and Families Missioner) know on 0121 – 3080869 or email: cfm.st.jameshill@gmail.com, so that we can arrange for tea and refreshments.

A recap of dates for your diary:

Parish Vision Day on 1st July (9.30am till 4.30pm) at Little Aston Church.

And Messy Church on 15th July (3pm till 5pm) at St. James Church.

Please let us know, if you are attending for catering numbers.

With love, Daniel and Judith 

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

Auguste Rodin is a famous sculptor with museums dedicated to him in Copenhagen, Paris and Philadelphia USA. If you have seen “The Thinker” or “The Burghers of Calais”, you have seen Rodin’s work.

We might think Rodin worked in a tidy and planned way. An exhibition a few years ago in Tate, London showed something very different. Often, he formed an idea and began to work on it but then found he could not take it any further. Many times, he did not know how to finish what he had begun. His studio was strewn with works just begun, half completed or set aside because he thought he would never see how to finish them.


But then someone would ask him about a new work that they wished to commission from him.  With what they needed in his mind, he could see new ways to adapt or develop some of his unfinished pieces that he had set aside.

New energy and imagination returned to him. He worked with what was near to hand. Even then, many of his famous works are not ‘finished’, because he deliberately leaves some of the stone uncut so that the figure ‘emerges’ as a creation from the uncut stone.

God works well with what is not finished. In many of our efforts and in much of our faith and life, we are unfinished. Rarely do we have the sense of having completed anything and rarely do we feel that we are the perfect finished person. The world around us also looks less and less finished with more and more places of uncertainty and injustice.

So, as we prepare our lives for the fresh outpouring of Holy Spirit, in the feast of Pentecost let us open the way for God to be able to work through what we are and what we try to do. God can shape and be present as we continue to develop from what we are now. God works with what is possible and near to hand and seeks to help us to take it further.

In the parish, the week leading up to Pentecost, between 10.30am – 12.30pm and 4.30 - 6.30pm, Tuesday to Friday. Between 30th May – 2nd June, we are having a ‘Wave of Prayer’ week inviting people into our beautiful church. At the heart of our prayers will be the Lord’s Prayer. In the words of Jesus, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.” We will be having prayer stations across the church which people can access and there will be short prayers offered at 10.30am and 6.00pm. We hope you will be able to join us in an exciting week of prayer, in answer to God’s call for us.

This month we are also celebrating the 180+ years of the mission and witness of parish of St. James. We have a fun filled weekend planned for you. On Saturday 17th June, we will be having a Family Fun Day between 12 noon and 3pm - a jam-packed day for young families and children of fun, food and games! You can even Christen me and the archdeacon with wet sponges. All are welcome. We are expecting about 200 families so just sign up for the day by calling our church office on 0121 308 0869, to avoid disappointment. Also, please let us know your dietary requirements, we will try our level best to accommodate them. There is a free afternoon tea for everyone present.

On Sunday 18th June, we have our Community Games from 11am organized by our Scout leaders. This will be followed by a community celebration Hog Roast in the Church Centre & Marquee. At 3pm we will have our celebration service with confirmations and baptisms. Please reserve your place at the Church office in the Church Centre or call on 0121 308 0869. We do hope that our local community will join us for a day of fun and celebration.

I have recently been writing and talking a lot about vision, mission and ministry - what these are and how we are seeking a fresh vision for our parish church and community, as we consider where we want to go from here. I hope by now you have the date, Saturday 1st July, well and truly in your diary, for our Vision Day, to be held at Little Aston Parish Church Rooms, with coffee and tea available from 9.30am, and the day's first session beginning at 10am.

So, it seems right to also flag up the conversations that Bishops David and Anne are having about Diocesan Vision and the next steps for transforming Church, the Diocesan programme which helps us all to think together about all our churches in Birmingham Diocese, not just our own local church life.

Based on those conversations Judith and I would like to engage in three questions within our parish and our communities. These are:

 

What is the Holy Spirit saying to us in this parish?

What is your dream or vision for the St. James parish in five years time?

What could we do to realise this vision?

 

Our Vision Day will help us engage with these questions as well as our role within this community. But we realise, we can only answer these questions honestly, by listening to our local context about what we would wish to see here or do differently and how can we work together as a parish to support our Diocese.

Please give these questions some thought, and be part of that wider conversation.

 So, as I said before, “God works with what is not finished” Please let God see  if there  are  ways  God  can  work  with  us  to  bring  us towards the new transforming Pentecost life that God promises and wishes us to have. So, that we may become a little more finished!

 

“To God be the Glory, great things he has done.”

 

With love and prayers,

 

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

I hope that Eastertide has been a time of refreshment and renewal for you all. I still remember the children who joined us for our Easter service, part of St. James Gospel Choir and for all the hard work of parents, Ade and Emili, for which we are very grateful.

As the church calendar moves into the time of Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity. So, it is time to reflect on the Glory of the Risen Christ. These dates in the Church Calendar are there to remind us of the power and greatness of a God who leaves his spirit among us as counsellor and guide.

The power of the spirit in the world calls the community of faith to witness to the truth from the mountaintops, so that all the world may understand the love of God, which surrounds us. Salvation from the cross sets us free to this task.

Our Archbishop’s of Canterbury and York have written to every serving priest expressing their “longing” to see a great wave of prayer across our land, throughout the Church of England and many other churches. They would like us to pray for the evangelisation of the nation during the week before Pentecost Sunday.

 In answer to this call, St. James Church will be open between 10.30 – 12.30am and 4.30 - 6.30pm Monday to Friday between 29th May – 2nd June.

We hope you will each be able to join us in an exciting week of prayer, in answer to God’s call for us all to bear witness, as true disciples of the risen Lord. At the heart of our prayers will be the Lord’s Prayer in the words of Jesus, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.” We will be having prayer stations across the church which people can access and there will be short prayer offered at 10.30am and 6.00pm

Later this year we will shall be celebrating the 180+ year’s celebrations of St. James. We have a fun filled weekend planned for you.

On Saturday 17th June, we will be having a family Fun day between 12 noon and 3pm - a jam-packed day for young families and children of fun, food and games! You can even Christen me and the archdeacon with wet sponges. All are welcome, we are expecting about 100 – 200 families, just sign up for the day by calling our church office on 0121 308 0869, to avoid disappointment. Also, please let us know your dietary requirements; we will try our level best to accommodate them.

On Sunday 18th June, we have our Community Games from 11am organised by our Scout leaders. Followed by a community celebration Hog Roast, in the church centre & Marquee, then our celebration service at 3pm with confirmations and baptisms. Please reserve your place at the Church office in the Church Centre or call on 0121 308 0869. We do hope that our local community will join us for a day of fun and celebration.

On 14h May, Emili & Scouts will be leading us in our parade service on the theme of ‘How we can be living stones for Christ in this generation’.

On the 21st May we will be welcoming a Christian Aid speaker Kate Ormerod, Reginal co-ordinator, as we conclude our Christian Aid week. We are very grateful to all the regular and new volunteers.

On 20th May 3pm till 5pm we will be having our Messy Church, with the theme of Pentecost lead by various members of the Mother’s Union, along with our present messy church team.

And later in the Summer, we will plan our first Parish Vision Day on Saturday, 1st July 2017, at Little Aston Parish Church from 10.30am till 4.30pm. On this day, we will be discerning God’s will for the shape of our ministry at St. James in next few years. Please put this date in your diary and continue to pray for those who will be contributing on that day.

Finally, as we approach the day of local elections, may I urge you to prayerfully consider all of the options (putting aside bickering amongst politicians) and consider what is best for the country and the future of our next generation…

 

“To God be the Glory, great things he has done.”

 

With love and prayers,

 

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

 

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

As this article is written, Easter and the holy week leading up to it is to come. As Messy Church gets established, we expect a great turn out for our Messy Easter card workshop & Egg hunt for local children on 1st April.

We are always encouraged by an amazing team of volunteers to facilitate it, and helping children to understand the Easter message and the hope it brings for all people. Easter is not, as is often portrayed, a time for Christianity to tell people how sinful they are or to make any kind of Judgement. Easter is not a guilt trip for anyone. It is true that in our churches up and down the country we will have lived and reminded ourselves of the events leading up to Easter, but, we do this to better understand the reasons for the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel message of Easter is very much relevant for all of us today. The message is there to liberate us and confirm, that we may live our lives to the fullest degree, because Jesus died to set us on that path of liberation and freedom in Christ. The message of Easter is relevant 365 days of the year and it will only get told to other people if believers tell the Gospel to others. We need to tell people that they are each a unique creation of God, a child of God who is chosen and loved by God.

A research carried out by the Church of England which has been titled, “Talking Jesus” finds that words most often used to describe Jesus were: Spiritual, loving and peaceful. The report ponders the conundrum that although many people believe in the resurrection of Jesus that, still, they do not understand its impact for their lives. It’s a challenge that we can all take up from the shadow of the ‘empty cross’, Jesus died to save us from ourselves. During the Lent Season, we have carried this Easter Hope by offering Wednesday Lent lunches. With the help of another amazing team of volunteers under the leadership of Margaret Nicholls and Anita Betts and generous donations and contributions of many, all proceeds will go towards Sutton Coldfield Cancer Support Centre.

Our Annual General Meeting of the church of St. James will be taking place on Sunday 2nd April, immediately after the 10 AM service. Please continue to pray for all who will be discerning God’s will and prayerfully taking special responsibilities in the running of the parish.

“St James Has Talent” had auditions in all schools and with Uniform organisations. It all went very well and has produced more than 60 children who were invited to attend the first St. James Gospel Choir Rehearsals. Both Emili (our Children’s and Families Missioner) and Ade (our Director of Music) have worked very hard to make this a success and we hope the children will be able to sing on Easter Sunday alongside our present adult choir. Please remember these children and their parents in your prayers.

Our next Messy Church which is on 20th May, 2017 (3-5pm), is with the theme of Pentecost. All children and their moms and dads and grandparents are welcome.

This year we are celebrating 180+ Years of God’s faithfulness at St. James on 17th and 18th June during our family fun days. The culmination of the celebration will be a Hog Roast on Sunday, with community games and a confirmation service with Bishop David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham at 3pm. You are all very warmly invited for all these celebrations and please put these dates in your diary. Please continue to pray for all the people who will be confirmed on that day and the children who will be receiving their first communion.

And finally, may I request your prayers for all the church members, who are planning our first Parish Vision Day on Saturday, 1st July, 2017 at Little Aston Parish Church from 10.30am till 4.30pm. On this day, we will be discerning God’s will for the shape of our ministry at St. James in next few years. Please put this date in your diary.

This Eastertide may the spiritual, loving and peaceful Jesus inspire confidence in all of us into a personal relationship with him.

With Love and Prayers,

Revd. Daniel & Judith Ramble

 

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

Last week, I travelled to Oxford; I was in a dirty hazy fog of rain and no visibility. It was a dangerous place to be for a while. Our perception of our own faith can be a bit like that sometimes. We have doubts about our own ability to follow Jesus, live flourishing lives and be the faithful people God calls us to be.

Judith and I believe this to be a natural process. Testing times are good for us and bring us into clearer places. We are experiencing the “Foehn effect”, in the Midlands this week, as the temperature raises to 18° C. So enjoy this short summer snap.

In the knowledge that the light of Jesus is very much with us it is time to think about the Lenten journey, which lies ahead of us. Traditionally we tend to give something up to help us to focus on the greater goal of going deeper with God. So, there is a purpose to giving up. Perhaps another way of giving up is to do something more for others (this might have suited the character of Sister Monica in the BBC series – ‘Call to Midwife’ as she succumbed to the temptation of Chocolate Eclairs). Unless what we do for lent has a specific purpose, there is simply no point to it.

Lent is not meant to be a miserable time, but rather a time for refreshment, by putting aside those things which distract us from God. It especially deals with renewal of faith vows and faith practice. It’s a bit like tidying the house and putting all the clutter away ready for a new season. This year Lent Lunches starts from 1st March and will be held on Wednesdays in St. James Church Centre.
For more details please have a look at the website and Facebook pages.

During the spring months, we hope to run Confirmation preparation days – ‘Faith Confirmed sessions’ for the benefit of those planning to get confirmed in summer on the 18th June as Bishop David Urquhart, visits us as part of St. James’ 180+ years celebration.  This is also open to those who would like to know and learn about what we believe and how to live life and be assured of God’s love. Please let Judith or myself know if you would like to join us on one Saturday in March, April and May.

In parish life, Emili Lowery our new Children’s and Family Missioner is settling in well. She will host a Pancake Party on Shrove Tuesday, 28th February which we hope will be a great success. This month we will be auditioning children in various school and uniform organizations for “St. James’ has Talent” – to start a children’s Gospel Choir. We need your prayers for the children who come forward to be part of this choir and also for judges including Emili, Mr. Adewale Bamodu, our parish Music co-coordinator, Mr.  Chris Watts, Music teacher in Mere Green Primary and Moor Hall School, Judith, and myself.

These are exciting times and we pray for the young families in our area, who may be experiencing difficulties that they may come and share together the love that is to be found in Jesus. This is the only basis on which children’s work is founded.

Our next Messy Church is on Saturday 11th March, 3pm till 5pm as we share activities and fun about loving motherhood.

Our next Parade service – with the theme – ‘Gift of parenting’ will be taking place on 12th March at 10am when we give thanks for those who care for us. We have speakers from a local young carers charity joining us as we reflect on what it means to be a parent to your own parents and siblings. There will be cake sale to support the young carers, after the service in Church Centre.

Our Mothering Sunday service this year will be taking place on 26th March at 10am, as we give thanks for those who took care of us when we were young and also for the gift of motherhood in our lives.

On the subject of volunteers, if any of you want to volunteer in the Parish as a server during Communion services or if you would like to help with Home Communion by assisting people to receive communion when they are frail and ill or if you would like to help occasionally with serving the Chalice, then fresh training will be given in Church this month, before this ministry is acknowledged and individuals receive certificates in the Easter service on 16th April, 2017. For more details please contact us.

We would love to hear from you about your Lenten Journey and experience of Lent 2017.

Wishing you all every blessing!

Daniel & Judith

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

If we have not seen you to say it in person, we wish you all a happy new year, filled with God’s blessings. It hardly seems a moment since we were writing about the carpet of snowdrops appearing but in the time honoured way, they have multiplied and promise to be a glorious sight.

This week, when Judith and I were out on our day off, we stood and smiled as a Dad pushed a small baby past us. She was gazing up at him and smiling, as he explained that mummy has gone to buy us some beef and she will be back soon. It was just them captured in a moment of time and indeed it seemed that God and angels were in the moment too. Imagine that moment when the wise men visited Jesus and how that moment has been captured for us.

Jon McGregor in his book entitled “If nobody speaks of remarkable things.” It portrays a day in the life of a suburban British Street. In the book a child asks the Dad about Angels. Dad says – “Always look with your eyes and listen carefully. Otherwise you may miss something important.” The sacred and the remarkable are in everyday life – those small things. Just imagine if the authors of the scriptures had not written. How then would we know, about all those remarkable things, which came about. But hidden in the message of the book is that we should all share and build up on the good and positive things in life.

We are called to build people up in God’s Love and bless others in God’s grace, wherever we go; whatever we do; to think before we speak lest our words destroy rather than build up.

In January, we had our first disability friendly service in church. Our Brownies took part and we had a visit from Nicola Moody from Whizz Kidz, who as an organization, enable young people, who need wheelchairs to have an independent, fulfilled and constructive life. The facts we heard, such as our levels of understanding, tolerance and interaction with people with disabilities were truly shocking.

A poster in Erdington, on the side of a bus shelter reflects the view of a boy with Downs’s syndrome, it shouts out, I am not disabled, I am a person with needs and I have my dreams and aspirations too. We will explore ways in which we can support vulnerable members of our communities.

As part of the mission of our church, we are currently working with a group of people and carers, who suffer from and cope with the effects of Dementia.
We shall be participating in the first Sutton Coldfield Dementia Conference on 17th
February in Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, helping to address the needs of our community and identifying ways in which, we could help further. Sutton Coldfield has one of the highest levels of people living with some form of Dementia and so social and supportive interaction is vital.

Our new Children’s and Family Missioner, Emili Lowery is settling in to her new role. So if, you see her around do say hi and have a conversation and offer her St. James’ warmest welcome.

Our Messy Church will be taking place this month on Saturday 11th February, 3pm till 5pm, with the theme love, families, belonging to God’s family. Please pray for the team as they make plans for the activities and remember to tell your friends and family to come along.

We have lots of volunteers doing many things in our church family and your prayers for all that they do would be much appreciated.

A future date for your diaries is 17th and 18th June, when on the Saturday, we hope to have a summer community fair, in our Church Centre, to mark God’s Faithfulness at St. James for than 180 years for the community of Mere Green. This fun filled Saturday will be followed by Sunday community lunch, followed by confirmations with Bishop David Urquhart. So, if you would like to get confirmed later in the year, please have a word with Judith and myself. The Confirmation preparations will take place at the End of February and in March. There will more information to follow when details are finalized.

Also, this year’s Lent lunches will be starting in March, and more information will follow in next month’s edition.

We hope you are all able to keep well and warm until we meet again!

 

With Love and Blessings,

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

Introducing Emili Lowery - The Children's & Families Missioner at St James, Hll

Children’s and Families Missioner

 

Emili is the new Children’s and Families Missioner for St James’ Hill.  She emigrated from the United States to England in 2000 to pursue further education and has since acquired and BA Honours Degree in Model Making and Design as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Performance Practice. Emili is ‘unashamedly’ Christian and at the age of 12, her ministry began; praying for people in school, putting dance and drama teams together to perform around various churches, youth events, and going with her parents and grandparents (who are all ministers) to revival conferences. All of which were imperative to the development of her personal relationship with God. 

By age 14, Emili had her first international evangelistic experience on a mission trip with World Horizons to France; she was the youngest member of the group of twenty. Together they did street ministry, helped restore a chateau in Bourg, and assisted with the physical build of a church in Marseille. It was incredible; yet, challenging as she did not speak French fluently. Nevertheless, it was unbelievable to see how the power of Christ was transforming lives despite the language and cultural barriers. 

Emili has been involved in church work all her life, serving and supporting evangelistic ministry in the Church of England and other Christian denominations (Church of God in Christ-Pentecostal, Baptist, and Christian International) in the United States, England and Europe. In 2006, she served as a Youth Programme Manager, overseeing a three-year Big Lottery funded programme working individually to develop a strategy to develop community projects for youth and children between the ages of 8 and 18 in an area of deprivation. Whilst in this role, Emili served on the Archbishop’s Council Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns in regards to youth matters and gained the experience of being able to contribute as well as represent the Church of England at a senior level. This lead on to working in collaboration and support of a few London youth mission events. These events gave Emili a different perspective on leading active mission initiatives and broadened her understanding of the various traditions of the Church of England.

In 2008, Emili ventured to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, she gained a heightened appreciation for Christians in persecution and was even more driven to work with young people as they are often “persecuted and or misunderstood.” In 2014, Emili took on one of her most challenging roles to date, working in a secondary pupil referral unit via Blackpool Council on a primarily 1:1 basis with youth excluded from mainstream education due to their behaviour and or medical needs.  In this post, Emili worked pastorally to support young people to modify their behaviour in order to set goals and work towards achieving qualifications. She served some of the most challenging students in the service and supported them to move into college, employment and or the military.

Holding roles in the corporate, voluntary, and educational sectors has given Emili the adaptability to work both independently and flexibly with others. Through her travels and experience she has gained a host of skills to work and serve in any church.  Emili is always an active and faithful member, taking part in leading morning worship, singing in the worship team and the various evangelistic outreach events that take place.  She has had training in regards to serving communion, conflict resolution, the Pilgrim Course and other leadership development courses.

 

Message from the Vicarage

From the Vicarage

 

Dear Friends and Family of St. James,

Greetings and a very happy New Year to you all!

This letter has been prepared in mid-December, so that our delivery team can have a break after Christmas.

So, not all our Christmas events have yet happened. However, our Advent Messy Church was great with a lot of Children and their families. Our children made themed advent calendars with lots of Snowmen and Angels.


Daniel talked to the children about the Advent Wreath and the hope, love, joy and peace of Jesus Christ that they have come to represent. This was followed by a jacket Potato supper for everyone. We had a lot of lovely volunteers to help serve the children. Our grateful thanks are required for all the volunteering which happens year-round as well as the extra things which happen at Christmas.

Our earlier carol services were lovely. The new Dementia friendly Carol Service led by local schoolchildren was well attended as was the community service, with the Arthur Terry Choir and then Christingle with Uniform groups.

There is a lovely Video of Christingle when people were asked to pause and freeze in our Mannequin challenge. The challenge involves pausing to “Hear” in our hearts God’s voice in the Advent Season of hustle and bustle. We also had advent services at Mills Court and Pegasus Court too.

There is a buzz one can feel out of this engagement with our local community and that is to feel the vibrant presence of the Power of God at work amongst us. Advent is known as the season of Goodwill yet stories of Jesus in the Bible tell us that Goodwill is Twenty-four hours; seven days a week and three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. Long may that be the main objective of all that we do here from St. James’ Church and Centre.

We will all have made some new year resolutions which involve usually an element of renewal and reform for us personally.

For Church in general the words renewal and reform can in their translation from original scriptures mean both a return to original state or a reform to something new. There is always therefore a creative tension between the two especially as a move to something new involves, uncertainty. We cannot predict the future, in terms of church and what we plan to do and that is not easy. The  helps us to understand. Resurrection being a restoring of life from death (because it is a reversal of a process) giving a state of being so much different from the old.

As a church, we die, if we do nothing – a process of renewal brings new life to an ailing body and with it restores and renews energy and vigour so that Christ – is the Centre and the reason for all that we do.

As the body of Christ, we must seek to keep our Christian theological roots whilst grafting in new and more vigorous root stock to keep our church alive and active in the mission of Christ. It is only in the resurrection of Christ that things may be made new and all of this is only  possible because of the Grace of God. Church life is and should be challenging.

In our mannequin challenge, some of the little children were protesting – “It is dark”. As Christians, we don’t like darkness, but God’s Christingles were shining and visible in the darkness as throughout the video. We pray that people in Mere Green may all find that light in Christ that gives them strength to face the New Year whatever it may bring.

Happy New Year full of love and hope,

Daniel & Judith Ramble

Jesus, The Light of the World - Karen Griffiths

Jesus, The Light of the World

At the end of August in our ‘Celtic Style’ service as we were about to begin our new season in the lead up to Harvest and Christmas, it seemed appropriate to take a few moments to think about the coming of Christ and how this should affect our thoughts and daily living.

There is so much that could be said regarding ‘Jesus, The Light of the World’ – the coming of a Saviour prophesied in the Old Testament.  Isaiah prophesied that, a light would dawn on the people walking in darkness.  After Jesus was born Simeon gave thanks to God that he had lived to see God’s salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to his people Israel.

In my brief talk I decided to share what I had learned from reading a little book about St Chad which I found both interesting and inspiring.  How did Chad and the early Christian missionaries live as they sought to ‘be’ light as followers of Christ – bringing the Good News to those living in darkness?

I was interested to learn that it is largely due to the pioneering work of Chad and the example he set, that Christianity became established in the Anglo-Saxon region of Mercia (where we now live).  Robert Mountford, the writer of the book, The Mantle of Chad, shows how the way of living which was embraced by Chad has a lot to teach us fourteen centuries later. It may come as a surprise to realise some of the challenges faced by ourselves today in this increasingly secular ‘post Christian’ era are similar to those which the first Christian people and then the monks of Chad’s time faced. Dr Paul Giles also brought this to our attention during a sermon in one of our morning services.

The Middle East and Mediterranean area in New Testament times had many people groups living there, or travelling through for trade.  There were Judeans, Samaritans, Galileans, Arabs, and Greeks – not forgetting the occupying Roman Army.  In Chad’s time the organisation of society was on tribal grounds.  After the Romans left Briton, invaders from Denmark, Germany and Scandinavia came and settled.  It was a multi ethnic, pagan, land into which the missionaries from Ireland came! There was no common language.  They lived in violent, dangerous and uncertain times.  We know that life was physically hard and that the people were living in an ever-changing world.

What challenges do we face today?  We live in a country where many languages are spoken and there are people from a huge variety of ethnic backgrounds. The recent Brexit vote has brought a lot of uncertainty regarding what the future might look like.  The movement of hundreds of thousands of people out of the war torn lands of the Middle East and African nations towards Europe is also causing anxiety.  Though we do have a Christian heritage, as a society we are becoming increasingly ‘people of no faith’.  Apparently the change in religion recorded between the 2001 and 2011 censuses was not that people were primarily moving to other religions but that they would consider themselves to have no religion. There was a 12.4% reduction in those calling themselves Christian and a 10.3 % increase in those describing themselves as having ‘no faith’. (71.7% to 59.3% and 14.8% to 25.1% respectively).

Also, we do seem to be in a period of constant change.  Some things have changed subtly but steadily over a number of decades, such as attitudes to sexuality and morality but changes in technology and communication are happening exceptionally fast.  All these things do provide a challenge to us.  How do we keep our focus on God!  What can we learn from reading about the life of Chad and the Christian community of his day?

I quote from this book

The overarching and all-embracing purpose behind the programme of spiritual discipline, of what was removed from the routine of life and what was put there in its place was to know the living God of heaven through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Life’s number one purpose, priority and preoccupation was to seek and find God.

And another quote

Though Christian people and Christian leaders could fill every moment with work for God and support for people, God’s will and God’s call is first and foremost that God’s people seek him, know him , love him and honour him.  In the Old Testament, the very first of the Ten Commandments was ‘You shall have no other gods before me’.  The New Testament echoes the Old with regard to the most important commandment and adds, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’.

 

Could we live more simply, personally, and make more time to read the scriptures and pray?  The transforming work of the Holy Spirit is facilitated through meditating on scripture – and giving time to this.  We might remind ourselves that by ‘waiting on the Lord we will renew our strength’.  Also, in the letter to the Romans chapter 12 vs 1, 2 are urged not to conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We will then be able to ‘test and approve’ what God’s will is – his good pleasing and perfect will.  Good works of many kinds will be at the direction of God AFTER our minds have been transformed!  I recently read a short biography of Amy Carmichael who worked tirelessly amongst the people of … in India.  At the end of her life when she was disabled following a fall and unable to be physically active, she wrote a lot of poetry and personal reflections.  She wondered whether more would have been achieved by being less busy and spending more time listening to God and praying!  It is quite a thought.

A lot of effort also went in to making disciples, as Jesus taught and to building a sense of community.  Robert Mountford wonders whether we could re-imagine a return to the simplicity of relationships based around the format of teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. 

The most notable characteristics of Chad were that he was described as ‘holy’ – he appears to have been especially recognised for this.  He was also very humble. Knowing the scriptures did influence his behaviours, attitudes and decision making.  He preached far and wide – going everywhere on foot – he was following the example of Aidan from his time on Lindisfarne. Aidan considered that travelling by horse was a sign of pride and riches and it was to be rejected at any cost!  He would have walked thousands of miles in his life time to fulfil his responsibilities as Bishop of Lichfield.  St Chad died of the plague in his early forties but the legacy of his short life remains today.

One comment summarising his life is quoted by Bede, the ancient historian, he noted that Chad lived his life ‘hugely filled with the fear of the Lord’.  So, as we approach the time of Advent let us be encouraged and remember that, as the psalms remind us - The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom.

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

November seems to bring with it a time of preparation. We have had a little robin nesting in a bush in the vicarage garden, who seems to be keeping eye on us. He pops in through the bedroom window and church centre office window and sits on the sill looking in to see what we are up to. We know really he has a good larder in the vicarage and church centre garden and it’s nice to share with him. We had a lovely harvest festival here when all who came shared God’s Goodness to us. Sister Margaret Walsh came from the St Chad’s Sanctuary for Refugees and Asylum seekers, Birmingham and they are so very much grateful for the gifts of food and money. When Judith and I took food down to them, there were many classes going on. Volunteers were teaching English to quite a few groups in a warm and safe environment. We could feel the love and care in the air. Our September Messy Church is a time in which it is becoming a tradition to make bread with the children. We saw about 50 people, children, mums, dad, and grandparents coming together to celebrate the harvest with lots of activities and acts of worship. Children were introduced to a simple form of communion after which they took refreshments, which they have prepared themselves. Thank you to all who help in bringing these events together. It is hard work in organizing and delivering every session and we are very grateful to all. 

On 23rd October we celebrated 50 years of partnership of Malawi Birmingham Partnership.

In the Video a young girl Matilda first told us of the joy she has living in Malawi and some of the dangers she faces. The daily living can be difficult in terms of food, care in the family and for education which was very moving. Diocese of Birmingham is partnering a project with them to raise money for a Girl’s hostel and better toilet facilities etc. near to a school. Young girls will not have to walk 15 miles to school and be exhausted before they start lessons. They will receive food and education. These are basic rights which tend to be taken for granted in western society.  Our service was great and raised a good sum of money to send to Malawi. Hopefully it raised our understanding of why foreign aid is necessary especially in terms of education. Matilda’s message was that we are their hope, for which she was so grateful; it caused us to shed a few tears. It is part of our Christian responsibility.

The Thanksgiving service, when we remember our loved ones will be taking place on 6th

November, 6.30 pm at St James Church. If you are attending, do let us know and give us the names of those you wish to remember. We shall pray for you all as the time approaches.

The Remembrance all age parade service this year will be taking place on the 13th November,

10am, All are welcome, as we remember the fallen within our parish.

In our national and personal remembrance and thanksgiving powerful and emotional thoughts come to the fore as we honour the sacrifices made by others for our country and for those whose loving presence is greatly missed.

This year for the first time, we are introducing Godparent’s Sunday on the 27th November, 2016

 at 10am. We are inviting all Godparents from the last three years of Baptisms in our church to come with their God Children. The purpose is that as God parents they have undertaken to support children in their faith journey. This is an opportunity for them to pray together and to celebrate this very special relationship. Our support is about encouragement in this very special position of responsibility.

Coming up in the parish, there is a busy time. The bright party as an alternative to Halloween will be on 5th November between 3-5pm in the church. All are welcome to come in bright clothes

 and let the team know you are coming by calling on 0121 – 3080869.

As part of Christmas festivities, we have our annual Christmas Fair will be taking place in St. James Church Centre on Saturday 19th November 2016, The stalls open from 10am and the Fair

will finish at 1.30pm

Finally, our Christmas programme is busy with all our annual Carol services, Christingle and Midnight Mass.

We are having our annual Christmas concert with the Vaughan Singers supporting Church Tower Restoration Works on Saturday 10th December, 2016 at 7.00pm at St. James Church. The

 tickets are already on sale with Church Wardens and Church Office in Church Centre and they are £8 which includes refreshments. Please pre-book your tickets to avoid disappointment.

This year additionally, we are having our first Dementia friendly Carol Service on Saturday 3rd

 December, 3pm where will be welcoming those who are living with dementia and their careers as we sing traditional carol and listen to traditional readings.

And Sunday 4th December, 6.30pm Hazel Twig Theatre Company will be performing “Chosen”

 – A modern reflection on the life of Mary. This is Free Entry event with refreshments and retiring collection for the artist. To confirm your place phone 0121- 308 0869. We hope you are able to join us and please invite friends and family for a very poignant and contextualised play.

Therefore, as we seek God’s support in our lives and for our world and in the life with God to come, may this Book of Common Prayer help us to focus our everyday lives:

“O Lord support us, all the day long until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.” AMEN.

 

With Love and Blessings,

Revds. Daniel & Judith

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

Come, ye thankful people, come, 
raise the song of harvest home; 
all is safely gathered in, 
ere the winter storms begin. 
God our Maker doth provide 
for our wants to be supplied; 
come to God's own temple, come, 
raise the song of harvest home.

So wrote Henry Alford in 1844.

 

  Henry was writing at a time where in the British Isles a successful harvest was a matter of life and death for the populace. Indeed, we had people starving on our streets. Sadly, that is still a true fact for some in the 21st Century. Today in our global market economy the success of the harvest is critical worldwide. It is an indicator of how the world’s people will fare in the year to come.

 

America celebrates the wheat crop on the 4th of November as the Pilgrim Fathers did. In Bali the rice harvest is celebrated with a festival and dollies made from rice stalks. The Jewish Sukkoh is celebrated by Jews around the world in thanksgiving for the crop, whilst remembering how the Israelites wandered the desert trying to reach home and how God provided their daily bread.  In Italy the olive crop is celebrated while Chinese people exchange moon buns with families and friends as a gesture of reunion and good fortune. These are all acts which celebrate food security.

 

The British harvest festival of “Lammas” (Mass Bread) is where people baked bread from the first fruits of the crop to offer on the altar in thanksgiving before they enjoy the feast of the harvest.

 

The failure of crops worldwide threatens both food security and increases the risk of conflict. Already in 2016 world cereal crops will fall short of demand. Most changes come from climate change or conflict which undermines agriculture. If subsistence farmers have no crop they cannot feed their families or local people.

Indeed, as we read this at least 37 countries in the world need external help to avoid malnutrition and starvation. This is especially true across Africa. In India since 1995 it is estimated that some 300,000 people have committed suicide due to crop failure. They now have crop failure insurance but without the food how will they survive? Surprisingly, Papua New Guinea is in need of aid also due to drought and crop failure.

In Syria livelihoods have been wiped out by conflict and drought. Pepper farmers have been forced to abandon land farmed for 8000 years. Their traditions die with this failure. We all need to do our ‘bit’ to help and to share the harvest in our offerings and acts of ‘love thy neighbour’. Also in our efforts to limit the effects of climate change, and in our sharing we proclaim the Gospel and help to sustain life.

We hope you will come to our harvest service on 2nd October to hear Sister Margaret Walsh, a nun working in Birmingham and particularly for St Chad’s sanctuary in pastoral care and practical support for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Refugees seeking shelter and sustenance in the City of Birmingham find warmth and welcome in a world hostile towards them.

Henry Alford wrote in his bible at the age of 16.

“I do this day, as in the presence of God and my own soul, renew my covenant with God, and solemnly determine henceforth to become His and to do His works as far as in me lies.”

He kept his covenant with God until the end of his days.

In the parish, we have got new church and messy church Facebook pages up and running.  We are still receiving many parish listening exercise questionnaire, once all the questionnaires are in we will start compiling the data, we are very grateful to Lizzie Sale our Parish Administrator, in compiling the data. On Saturday 24th September we had Messy Church celebrating the harvest with bread making. Thank you to all the volunteers who made it a fun day for the children. Everyone who attended was very happy and the children enjoyed doughnut on a string, bread painting and making food faces!

On Saturday 5th November  3pm – 5pm we shall be having a Bright Party as an alternative to Halloween. Wear your brightest clothes as we celebrate the light in the world. Come and join us for arts and crafts fun. Please let your friends and family and their children know.

As we prepare to celebrate the harvest we wish you all God’s blessings and abundant peace,

            “In living for each other, love will ever run”- Keith Fisher

With Love,

Daniel & Judith

Message from the Vicarage

From the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

A warm welcome back after the summer break.

We were fortunate to be able to spend some time with Daniel’s family in India. And Daniel’s Dad sends his greetings.

It was Monsoon (so hot and sticky) and Judith reckons about 55 billion mosquitoes were there too, all trying to bite, and many were successful. The family will be missed but certainly not the mozzi’s.

Like many of your family will be doing, Daniel’s niece has just started University in Delhi. Two weeks in and she was finding it tough to be away from home and in an environment that is going to be challenging. We are holding all those people who are facing new challenges in our prayers and especially the children going to new schools, universities; people in new jobs, the newly retired, that they settle in and adjust well to new situations.

One of the highlights of our time in India was a self-guided tour of the Haveli’s (grand houses) of Shekhawati area in Rajasthan. These ornate fresco painted houses or palaces which shared the story of British Trade and commerce were breath taking, which brought riches from the ports of Calcutta and Bombay to the heartlands.  It is where all the rich merchants used their homes to tell the story of their experiences and achievements. Interestingly, though many of the buildings are now crumbling and are in disrepair, the frescoes tell a story and a history of the region. The British Military prowess, the coming of the railways all alongside life as it was. A life of conflict, hunting, romance and religion. In the old pastoral and feudal system, that style of life is to a greater extent gradually being swallowed up with the process of time and change in the name of development and post modernity. In another place we visited, Udaipur, the present Maharajah, who lives in a kingdom which was never invaded see’s the point and necessity for change. Although as a family of now hoteliers who have created the brand ‘Eternal Mewar: Custodianship unbroken since 734 AD’, Mewar being the area and also the name of the royal family.

HRH Shriji Arvind Singh Ji was recently asked how he coped with change. He wisely said, ‘I look at the clock and realise I cannot stop time, so I move with it. The things that are good and positive will remain, the rest we need to deal with’.

 As Christians we too recognise where our treasure is. While moving with the times we do not forget our core values. Our moving with the times leads us towards the eternal life for which we all yearn. My Holiday book titled Simplify: written by Bill Hybels suggests: “Simplified living is about more than doing less. It’s being who God called us to be, with a wholehearted, single-minded focus.”

So, pray hard, believe in Christ with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. Look past the faults of others just like you hope they will do for you. Make time for the things that matter, don't leave yourself regretting things you didn't do. Tell a friend how God's love has changed your life, be a person who talks about Jesus. More than anything, celebrate the love of God through our lives.

We hope that you have a blessed September.

With love and prayers,

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

Message from the Vicarage

From the Vicarage

 

Dear Friends,

 

There has been so much traumatic news to consider and digest recently. Not least the terror attacks on the continent - Nice and Munich. If like us you feel like a helpless onlooker I think the only answer here is to turn to Christ in prayer. Those who act in terror do not do the will of God.

On the subject of prayer, we were touched by photographs and articles in the news of double hand transplant patient Chris King and his surgeon Professor Simon Kay. I am minded of the praying hands portrayed by Albrecht Dürer. Albrecht was part of a touching story where his brother worked in a mine to pay for his training. Albrecht was to do the same for his brother Albert.

However, when the time came to ‘swop over’ Albert said his hands were now ruined by mining, he could no longer carve with delicacy, his hands were smashed and arthritic. Those hands were drawn by Albrecht in homage to his brother, a tribute of love.

The donation of this gift from one tragedy has been given in great love to help another to live life to the full.

The nation’s need our praying hands more than ever as we all petition a loving God to help us to unravel all of the madness and hostility.

In the parish the Gospel Concert from Lichfield Gospel Choir went well and raised a good amount of money for church repairs. We shall be having another concert later in the year so watch the boards for the announcements.

The listening exercise has so far produced about sixty responses. If you are willing we would appreciate the rest of your responses by the end of August.  During August many of your hymn choices from the listening exercise will be used in Sunday services. There will be a celebration of choir ministry too with an augmented choir on the 24th September.

 

It was a great delight to host the 50 children and families from Brownies 60th Birthday Celebration party at the vicarage. Despite a bit of a chill and the  

threat of rain, they ran around and had a great time, playing their own games, eating, chatting and being part of the community. We were joined by a few others from Rainbows after their end of term disco and were pleased that some of the Mums and Dads could join in.  Kids delight in doing ordinary things and maybe we adults need to find the time and space to delight in ordinary things too.

To quote the ‘Little Prince’   - “All grown-ups were children once…...but only a few of them remember it.” The book written for children by Antoinne de saint-exupéry in 1943, is an allegory for human nature in all its spheres. All the Little Prince wants to do is get home to his own planet and his beloved Rose.

Delighting in the simple and ordinary perhaps through the lens of a child is a good way to regroup our thoughts after tragic events.

Jesus himself took themes and kept them simple. In Matthew 16:28 Jesus says – “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Appreciating and taking delight in simple things better enables us to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary things.

The ‘Little Prince’ is definitely worth reading.

The author was a French aristocrat exiled to America, it is thought to be his own poignant story, tales of the ordinary and extraordinary.

 

We hope that you have a blessed, restful and peaceful August.

 

With love and prayers,

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends, 

Welcome to St James’ news. Our news this month is not to talk about Brexit, the referendum being just a few days away. But in praying for voters, we hope that they have listened to all the arguments and formed a balanced view of what is best for the country and its residents now and for the future generations of Brits. 

We like the challenge in this reflection from the great theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he wrote:  “Many people are looking for an ear that will listen, they do not find it among Christians because Christians are talking when they should be listening.  He who no longer listens to his brother will soon no longer be listening to God either.”  

Listening is vital to growing a functional and thriving church. That is why the leadership team here at St. James have launched our parish listening exercise. We wish to gain your views on all aspects of church life.  

Your views are valuable and we hope that you will participate by completing a simple questionnaire available from Church office based in Church Centre. This Listening Process will conclude on the 2nd of October at our Harvest Festival service when we bring the gifts of creation along with our discernment and views to God. So please may we urge you to engage with this process. 

We have been worrying about some things recently. Perhaps, if you share our fatalist inclinations, when faced with a serious situation the cry of Dad’s Army’s Private James Frazer, “We’re doomed!”, will roll off your lips, or at least around your head all too readily.   

That is the kind of reaction that is evoked by bleak situations viewed without faith as we reach seemingly logical but pessimistic conclusions from the factors we observe. It might be based on logic or common sense, but is it consistent with living faith in God?  

What should a living faith in Jesus say to those kinds of circumstances? … Perhaps things like “God has a plan.”, “There is an opportunity for us to share hope here”, “With God’s help we can turn this around!” There might even be a miracle about to happen. 

In listening and creating the new vision we are really not trying to, nor do we need to, try and predict the future. That is always in God’s hands.  

The brilliant 19th century military strategist Helmuth von Moltke Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army said: “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  

Planning is not a waste of time. Some of our goals may not meet the target, and some may fall sideways. However so long as we are seeking the “Kingdom of God” in what we do, then we shall see God’s will be being done; as the spirit of God enrich us individually and as a community. 

Good listening involves a hospitable approach along the lines of God’s hospitality. Can we listen without criticism, without offering opinions even if we don’t agree? And this the question which Judith and I have been grappling with, in our spiritual journey. 

Good listening enables us to appreciate the needs of those around us. Perhaps to put that hospitality into action. To enable others to have the space to speak in confidence and avoid hearing things on the grapevine. In listening we “love God and love every human being as ourselves.”  

We would love to grow disciples for Jesus here at St. James – wider, younger, older and deeper, and not because church growth is a numbers game, but rather because we are known as a listening church shining the light of Christ to others in the community. 

We would love people to come because we love them and we offer a safe, hospitable and loving environment in which they can find peace and joy in the brokenness of Christ and the messiness of our faith journeys.   

When Judith and I were doing our training for ordination we were often put into situations where we felt completely out of our depth (and certainly out of our comfort zone); or having to deal with new situations that really tested us. Afterward, we inevitably had to write a report – or a three-thousand-word essay on the situation we’d faced. (I don’t miss having to do those!) And we invariably had to apply what was called “the pastoral cycle” to the situation. The cycle comprised: 

Experience (i.e. what happened) 
Analysis (thinking about why and how it happened) 
Theological Reflection (how did you engage with the situation, especially in light of your faith) 
& Action (what to do about it; what to do next time) 
 
How different that is to an often natural characteristic of: “Experience —– Action”! 
 
Perhaps that is what listening is about … Not jumping from “experience” straight to “action”, but going through “analysis” and the “reflection” before getting to “what to do”? It taught both of us to Reflect & Respond; not to React. That, we both think, is what the virtue of listening is all about; what do you think? (You’ve got to reflect before you can answer that question, though!) 

Thank you for listening. Please join us in this prayer: 

Listening and loving God, who alone brings growth to your Church, send your Holy Spirit to bring the vision to our planning, wisdom to our actions, faith to our lives, hope to our communities and love to our hearts. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 

Have a wonderful Summer! 

With Love and Blessings, 

Daniel & Judith 

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

 

In the team here at St. James, we are always looking at ways to encourage people to consider coming to Church and becoming part of our worshipping community. It often means inviting people into the conversation. In the Church Times, this month a relative of a survivor of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition was speaking about the great adventure. It is often headlined as somewhat of a disastrous affair, whereas the relative preferred to see it in more positive terms as the great polar survival. The relative being Reverend Jackie Taylor, a great niece of Lionel Greenstreet, the first officer on the ship Endurance. Greenstreet himself was interviewed and admitted crying like a baby at things they needed to endure, but, alongside all the men he was not willing to give up hope of rescue. Greenstreet’s grandson thought that his grandfather’s physical exertions and mental torment may have brought him into a greater understanding of the nature of God. The faith and trust in God of the expedition members were put to the test. They had no modern means of communication. Explorers of their time and indeed, missionaries of that time set out in this knowledge. They put everything and themselves into the hands of God. Archbishop Desmond Tutu observes in his book ‘In God’s Hands’ that many people (especially us Brits) want to think that they can “do it alone.” We bring our children up in the ethos, that worth is something that we can earn. Judith recalls how when she was about to start her theological studies that a couple wanted to give her a sum of money for a book allowance, which she politely refused. Some months later the same couple invited her to dinner and presented her with a card and a cheque saying, “… they simply wanted to share in her adventure and to encourage and nurture.” It was a sign of God’s Grace to invite them into the conversation. The sharing of human experience and a good giving nature is nothing to do with money.

In the Parish we had a lovely visit from Bishop Anne, to celebrate 179th

Anniversary of St. James’ Church. She is indeed a breath of fresh air and helped us to understand the importance of inviting people into conversation with Christ’s Love. It did make me ask myself, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “Why did we deny ourselves for so long all this enrichment we are now enjoying from the ministry of women?” In the week leading up to Pentecost, we had a wonderful Wave of prayer week inviting people in our beautiful church and we are very grateful for those meaningful and precious conversations. We are thrilled and exhilarated for the baptism and confirmation of four lovely young adults and their families who have joined our Christian community. We are very grateful to All Saints’ Four Oaks for the hospitality and welcome offered. If God is calling you to learn more about what we believe and why do we believe, please have a conversation with me and Judith and join us for our next year’s confirmation conversation.  Andy and Lizzie are settling in well to the Church Centre in Parish administrative positions. Every day gives them and us, a great opportunity to have fresh and new conversations with some of the 1,000 people who visit our church centre every week. Later this month we shall be celebrating the Queen’s 90th

Birthday, with an All – Age family friendly parade service at 10 am, followed by community games at 11 am and a community lunch between 12 noon and 3pm. We hope that many people will be invited in to share with us on an informal basis. We pray that we would be willing to invite and share our adventures through conversations with those around us who may be searching for the truth of God in their lives. June will be a historic moment for the country as each considers the option to remain or exit from Europe. I pray that the country makes a prayerfully driven choice and ask each of you with the right to vote, to use it prayerfully and wisely.

 

As Sir Francis Drake prayed, may this be our prayer:

“Disturb us Lord! To dare more boldly to venture on wilder seas where storms will show your mastery, where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. AMEN.”

May these words inspire and help us to challenge our lives to invite people into God conversations. We look forward to seeing you for the Queen’s birthday celebrations on 12th June!

With Love and Prayers,

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

 

 I hope that Eastertide has been a time of refreshment and renewal for you all.

As the church calendar moves into the time of Ascension, Pentecost and Trinity so it is time to reflect on the Glory of the Risen Christ. These dates in the Church Calendar are there to remind us of the power and greatness of a God who leaves his spirit among us as counsellor and guide.

The power of the spirit in the world calls the community of faith to witness to the truth from the mountaintops, so that all the world may understand the love of God, which surrounds us. Salvation from the cross sets us free to this task.

Our Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to every serving priest expressing their “longing” to see a great wave of prayer across our land, throughout the Church of England and many other churches. They would like us to pray for the evangelisation of the nation during the week before Pentecost Sunday.In answer to this call, St. James’ Church will be open between 10.30 – 12.30am and 4.30-6.30pm Monday to Thursday between 9th – 12th May.

We hope you will each be able to join us in an exciting week of prayer, in answer to God’s call for us all to bear witness, as true disciples of the risen Lord. At the heart of our prayers will be the Lord’s Prayer in the words of Jesus, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.” We will be having prayer stations across the church which people can access and there will be short prayer offered at 10.30am and 6.00pm

Later this year we will shall be celebrating the Queen's 90th Birthday. We shall be hosting a Street Party in our churchyard on 12th June. We do hope that our local community will join us for a day of fun and celebration.

Also to remind you that Bishop Anne Hollinghurst will be joining us on 1st May, 10.00 am to mark St. James 181st birthday followed by cakes and drinks.

On 8th May, the Scouts will be leading us in our parade service on the theme of “Millions Hands…raise Dementia Awareness.” We will be launching our pledge to be a Dementia Friendly congregation by 2020. More details to follow.

On the 15th May we will be welcoming a Christian Aid speaker and launching our Christian Aid week.
We are very grateful to all the
 volunteers.

On 21th May 3pm till 5pm we will be having our Messy Church, with the theme of Pentecost lead by various member of the Mother’s Union along with our present messy church team.

And later in the month, we will be celebrating 150 years of Readers’ ministry. We will also be celebrating Mr. Bruce Wilkins, who is retiring and who will be awarded Reader Emeritus status on 29th May at the 10am service.

Finally, as we approach the day of local elections and referendum on membership of the EU, may I urge you to prayerfully consider all of the options (putting aside bickering amongst politicians) and consider what is best for the country and the future of our young people.

“To God be the Glory, great things he has done.”

With love and prayers,

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

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Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

As this article is written, Easter and the holy week leading up to it is to come.
The Messy Easter card workshop & Egg hunt for local children was a great success with an amazing team of volunteers to facilitate it, and helping children to understand the Easter message and the hope it brings for all people. Easter is not, as is often portrayed, a time for Christianity to tell people how sinful they are or to make any kind of Judgement. Easter is not a guilt trip for anyone. It is true that in our churches up and down the country we will have lived and reminded ourselves of the events leading up to Easter, but, we do this to better understand the reasons for the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel message of Easter is very much relevant for all of us today. The message is there to liberate us and confirm that we may live our lives to the fullest degree, because Jesus died to set us on that path of liberation and freedom in Christ. The message of Easter is relevant 365 days of the year and it will only get told to other people if believers tell the Gospel to others. We need to tell people that they are each a unique creation of God, a child of God who is chosen and loved by God. A research carried out by the Church of England which has been titled, “Talking Jesus” finds that words most often used to describe Jesus were: Spiritual, loving and peaceful. The report ponders the conundrum that although many people believe in the resurrection of Jesus that, still, they do not understand it’s impact for their lives. It’s a challenge that we can all take up from the shadow of the ‘empty cross’, Jesus died to save us from ourselves. During the Lent Season, we have carried this Easter Hope by offering Thursday Lent lunches. With the help of another amazing team of volunteers under the leadership of Margaret Nicholls and Anita Betts and generous donations and contributions of many, we have raised £1,820.00 which will be divided between two chosen charities, Parkinson’s UK and The Norman Laud Centre at Wylde Green. Just on the end of Lent lunches a young pigeon who has been named “Jimmy” seems to have adopted the Church Centre Garden. He also uses the vicarage garden a lot. He has white feathers and a black speckled neckband. So if you see Jimmy hopping around say hello…
(in Pigeon).
Our next Messy Church which is on 21st May, 2016 (3-5pm), is with
the theme of Pentecost. All children and their moms and dads and grandparents are welcome just give us a call 0121 308 0074 to confirm numbers.

Our Annual General Meeting of the church of St. James will be taking place on Sunday 17th April, immediately after the 10 AM service. Please continue to pray for all who will be discerning God’s will and prayerfully taking special responsibilities in the running of the parish.

This year we are celebrating the feast of St. James on 1st May, and Bishop Anne Hollinghurst, Bishop of Aston, will be preaching and presiding at our 10 AM service. You are all very warmly invited for the service, followed by refreshments with Bishop Anne  in St. James Church Centre.

And finally may I request your prayers for all the church representatives who are planning to attend the three-day residential with the focus of “Leading your Church into Growth”. We will be reviewing our final community mapping report and would come back with some recommendations for the Standing Committee, PCC and for the entire parish.
This Eastertide may the spiritual, loving and peaceful Jesus inspire confidence in all of us into a personal relationship with him.

With Love and Prayers, Revd. Daniel & Judith Ramble

From the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

As Judith and I were driving down the M5 the other day to see her cousin who is very ill, we were in a dirty hazy fog of rain and no visibility. It was a dangerous place to be for a while. Our perception of our own faith can be a bit like that sometimes. We have doubts about our own ability to follow Jesus and be the faithful people God calls us to be.

Judith and I believe this to be a natural process. Testing times are good for us and bring us into clearer places. We have much enjoyed the recent sunshine (albeit through a cold snap); the garden is growing, the colour is coming and we can see for miles.

During the Summer months, we hope to run for the benefit of everyone, who would like to explore a course called – ‘Build on the rock – faith, doubt and Jesus.’ This study explores the questions of faith and doubt and draws on the experience of famous Christian figures like Mother Theresa and C.S. Lewis, as they questioned and grappled with the aspects of faith, during periods of trauma.  Their difficult times led them to their own conclusion, that the strength we draw from Jesus is what enables us to carry on. So, if you think you will be interested; the details of times and venue will be announced in next month’s magazine.

By the time you are reading this our Lent Messy Church will have taken place.  Volunteers are working hard to welcome children in to informal times of play, making food, sharing story, eating together and learning about Jesus’ Last Supper, with his friends. Our Next Messy Easter Card Workshop will be taking place on 19th March, 3pm until 5pm, in the church building.

 These are exciting times and we pray for the young families in our area, who may be experiencing difficulties that they may come and share together the love that is to be found in Jesus. This is the only basis on which children’s work is founded.

Our next Mothering Sunday Parade service will be taking place on 6th March, 10am when we give thanks for those who care for us.

Our Lent Lunches have commenced with a lot of hard work being put in by our volunteers. This again is a safe haven for people to come and share their lives over food lovingly prepared by others.

As we seek to share the love of Jesus with others please continue to hold all of our hardworking volunteers and all who may be drawn into these fellowships in your prayers.

On the subject of volunteers. If any of you want to volunteer in the Parish as a server during communion services; or if you help with Home communion by  assisting people to receive communion when they are frail and ill or if you help occasionally with serving the Chalice, then fresh training will be given on               12th March, 12 noon till 4 pm in the church. There is a sign up list at the back of Church, which will greatly assist us in arranging hospitality and preparation of the certificates.

We would love to hear from you about your Lenten Journey and experience of Lent 2016.

Wishing you all every blessing!

Daniel & Judith

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Message from the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

We love this point in winter, the primroses have rallied into life quite early this year but they are a joy. It always makes us think that the earth, and we too, are delivered from the darkness, with the birth of Christ.

Christmas was as usual quite busy and January had not been an exception as we have had a week of Christian Unity with Prayers and participation from Four Oaks Churches Together each morning here at St. James.

Many of us have suffered the effects of colds and flu in the past couple of months and I sincerely hope that you are recovered or recovering and will feel well soon.

The 2nd February marks Candlemas in the church’s calendar. Candles were and are blessed
for use in the Church. They remind us of the light of Christ in Jesus which has come into the world.

In the knowledge that the light of Jesus is very much with us it is time to think about the Lenten journey, which lies ahead of us. Traditionally we tend to give something up to help us to focus on the greater goal of going deeper with God. So, there is a purpose to giving up. Perhaps another way of giving up is to do something more for others (this might have suited the character of sister Monica in the BBC series – ‘Call to Midwife’ as she succumbed to the temptation of Chocolate Eclairs). Because, unless what we do for lent has specific purpose, there is simply no point to it.

The practice of sacred reading is a way of going deeper with God which some of you may like to participate in over Lent. You can do it on your own or in a group. It is known as Lectio Divina. It is the practice of reading a small part of Scripture in a very focussed and reflective way and letting words speak to you from the page. It is a way of allowing God by his Holy Spirit to Shape our thoughts and understanding of the Divine words of God as revealed to us in Scripture.

You just find a quiet place; choose scripture from the Lent theme which this year is from the Gospel of Luke looks at Jesus’ Identity and mission. You then read and reflect and read again several times during the day (if you can).
And finally at the end of the day sit and reflect and pray about the things which the scripture brings to mind. The theology of Lent, is to make us more aware of God’s calling to us and understanding God’s Purpose for us.

Lent is not meant to be a miserable time, but rather a time for refreshment, by putting aside those things which distract us from God. It deals with especially renewal of faith vows and faith practice. It’s a bit like tidying the house and putting all the clutter away ready for a new season.

Meanwhile, in the parish, community mapping has concluded and the outcomes and discussion as to various possibilities for St. James with you all will happen a little later in the year.

This month saw the first meeting of a New Uniform Support Network group. All the uniform leaders were invited to a discussion with us and Church Wardens (with sandwiches) to share, support and pray for the plans for this term and discuss how church members could support these groups in their projects and initiatives.

It was an honest and fruitful discussion. It is exciting, that so many young people are nurtured in these groups. Some of the groups will be working towards a “Faith Badge” this year which involves supported sessions in the church setting and even confirmation. It is anticipated that groups will share their planned programmes with you at some point in our parade services and in other ways. We plan to meet once in a term.

Finally, if you know of young families who would like to come to Messy Church and Sunday Club sessions, please encourage them and bring them along. Our All age parade service in February will be taking place on 14th February and will be led by Rainbows, Brownies and Guides groups.

The next Messy Church session is taking place on Saturday 20th February, 2016 at 3pm till 5pm and will be around the theme of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples… with lots of fun, food and activities. Our Mothering Sunday Parade service will be taking place on Sunday 6th March and will be attended by various Cubs, Beavers and Scouts troops.

 

Try and stay warm and well!

 

With Much Love,

 

Daniel & Judith

January message from the Vicarage

Dear friends,

 

The Turkey or a Salmon eaten, the festive trimmings gone, except for the pine needles, if you had a real tree, which will accompany you into this new year.

 

January, a time for new beginnings. New eating regimes, spending plans, all resolutions freshly made; new beginnings can be exciting and full of possibility or they can be full of apprehension.

 

After nearly a year and a half in St. James, people have stopped asking us whether we've settled in.


We are starting to settle into the house, but still finding things to sort out.

 

Perhaps, we should always be just a little unsettled because that is the nature of the journey, when we answer Jesus call to follow him.

 

If we are to be ready at any moment to respond to Jesus’ call, then it is the nature of our responsive readiness which determines how willing we are to do God’s work.

 

The Holy Spirit, which guides and helps us to deal with our problems and emotions is also the same Holy Spirit, which prods at us and challenges us into action.

 

As we start this New Year together why not join in the action. Sit and reflect with the Holy Spirit and listen to God’s Voice.

 

Ask what God may be calling you to do for him this year.

 

The end of one year and start of the new has often been referred to as “out with the old, on with the new.” Maybe it’s a time for you to change direction, take up a new challenge.

 

This all comes with a warning! … Be ready…. for the unexpected!

 

January is the season of Epiphany, when we remember wonderful stories such as the wise men visiting the baby Jesus, Jesus’ baptism at the start of his ministry, and Jesus turning water into wine.

 

All these stories of ‘hope’ always bring challenges and disturb us into action.

 

So, why not spend some time with God and pray that this whole year will bring times of Epiphany to our community here in Mere Green and through our actions, show people who Jesus is, and how he can make such a difference in this world.

 

Please join us in this prayer.

 

Come, Holy Spirit,

Spirit of the Risen Christ, be with us today and always.

Be our Light, our Guide, and our Comforter.

Be our Strength, our Courage, and our Sanctifier.

May this new year be a time of deep spiritual growth for us,

A time of welcoming your graces and gifts,

A time for forgiving freely and unconditionally,

A time for growing in virtue and goodness.

Come, Holy Spirit,

Be with us today and always. Amen.

 

We wish you all a happy and blessed New Year!

With Love,

Daniel & Judith

From the Vicarage

From the Vicarage

Dear Friends,

 

We are writing this article just a few days after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Reflecting on the unfolding information, our own problems pale into insignificance when compared to the Trauma that the nation of France is now facing. We were moved to tears by the resoluteness of the French that in the midst of their crisis they stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity as they mourned.  Yet they reinforced their national identity in a spontaneous outpouring of ‘La Marseillaise’. Yet the question on the lips of everyone was "In the name of what?” (nu nom de quoi?).

Our hearts go out to the families of all those who died. Our prayers are with the heads of state, who must make some difficult decisions. We pray for God’s strength and wisdom.

As you read this, the season of Advent has arrived. The way we prepare for the season in practical terms is different for each of us. Some will have finished their shopping and prepared things for the freezer. For us lesser mortals there is a last minute dash to the shops with a list filled with hope. For instance, the hope that there is still a Turkey joint left on the shelves on Christmas Eve. But then we think about the millions of people who will go to sleep hungry, cold, homeless, lonely and not knowing the love of God and ask ourselves what really matters. It’s lovely to give small gifts to people as the three sages gave to Jesus, but even nicer to give of yourself. The Christmas season is surely one of great celebration.

In the original nativity the gifts came but so did the people who had  nothing,  those  who  just  gave  of  themselves, in that way all were invited to participate  in  the  celebration and become part of the gift of God in his Son Jesus for the love of mankind. Very often the nativity scene is displayed in our town centres, but it is as if the manger is empty. The strangers pass by not knowing what joy they are missing in not recognizing the Saviour. Being spiritually prepared   for   Christmas is   more important than practical preparation. Let’s face it, Jesus would have loved the Christmas Party, but not at the cost of ignorance of the father.

The big question, both Advent & Christmas season poses to us is: Are we all prepared? Both to receive this king into our hearts and to point others towards the shining light of Christ.

 

We wish you all a great big surprise package of the Joy and Blessings of Christ this Christmastide – in a box big enough to  share with others.

 

With Love,                                                                                                                                                                     Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

 

November Message from Daniel

November Message from Daniel

Dear Friends,

As I write this article, I hope you are all enjoying the half term break!

The year seems to have flown by. Now it’s time to tidy up the gardens for winter and Advent season is knocking at our doorsteps.

November has become the month of Remembrance, in particular because we have the celebration of

All Saints’ and commemoration of All Souls’, when as Christians we champion those other champions of our faith, many of whom were horribly persecuted for their own faith.

Remembrance of them has helped to shine the light of Jesus into this world. It reminds us to remain faithful to Christ even in our difficulties and encourage us in our own faith journey.

November is also the month of National and International remembrance of those who fell primarily in World War I, but we also remember all fallen of World War II and all subsequent conflicts.

It is poignant time and for many, a time of immense grief. It is right that we pause to remember.
In remembering we continue to value all that the unselfish sacrifice of their lives has given us.

In addition to our Remembrance Parade Service on Sunday 8th November, we have on
Sunday 1
st November our annual Thanksgiving service at 18.30 for the families and friends whose dear ones have passed away recently.

We ask your prayers for the people who will attend this service. The death of a relative or friend is a traumatic experience and some who come to us may still be in the midst of grief, needing help and support. None of us can escape life’s difficulties.

 

The psalmist of Psalm 62:2 wrote, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Remembrance is at the heart of our Christian Faith. Your prayers like the prayer of the psalmist are powerful balm for the souls of those who mourn.

In the midst of every changing times and situations, the words of psalmist point to the Lord who hears us and will help us to bear our pain, that solid ground in which we can rest our weary selves.

In November there are also other things happening in the life of St. James’.

Messy Church Bright Party as an alternative to Halloween went very well on 31st October.
Thank you to our amazing team of volunteers for their unwavering support to the Children and Young families work within the parish. We are still prayerfully waiting to receive the Children’s and Family Missioner from the Diocese. In the meantime, we are steaming ahead with a Messy Church session on 11
th November, and our annual Advent Calendar workshops on 28th November. All are welcome and for more details please have a look on our website.

To keep you  all up to date with our community mapping, we are currently analysing data and  preparing a report of suggested short, medium and long vision for St. James’,  which will be  shared in PCC and  subsequently with church members early in the New Year. It has been a very interesting and worthwhile exercise which will be of great value to us as a church in our Christian witness and service to our community.

As part of Christmas festivities, we have our annual Christmas Fair. It will be taking place in St. James’ Church Centre on Saturday 21st November 2015.The stalls open from 10.00 and it will finish at 13.30.

We are having our annual Christmas concert with Doorknobs Swing Band, supporting the Church Tower Restoration Works on Saturday 12th December, 2015 at 19.30 in the St. James’ Church Centre. The tickets are already on sale with the Church wardens and they are £10 which includes a Finger Buffet. Please pre-book your tickets to avoid disappointment.

We extend the warmest welcome to all who wish to share their acts of remembrance and those who share the joy of Christ child with us at St. James.

In remembering we do not look backwards but rather look forward to a time of peace on earth and God’s kingdom reign.

With Love and Prayers,

Revds. Daniel & Judith Ramble

A NEW VICAR FOR ST JAMES - Rev'd Daniel Ramble

26th January 2014 - There is very good news to report today, as we are authorised by the Archdeacon to make the following statement:-

As your Parish Representatives we are delighted to announce the appointment of the Revd Daniel Ramble  as the new Vicar at St James.

For the past 4 years Daniel has served in a dual role as Assistant Curate at St Chad's, Erdington within the Erdington Team Ministry and  as Chaplain to Aston University. He has also been a member of several important planning groups within the Diocese.

Daniel has asked us to read this message on his behalf:-

“…. I am currently ministering in the Diocese as the Anglican Chaplain to the Aston University and as a Parish Priest in a Local Ecumenical Partnership in the Erdington Team Ministry – two communities richly diverse in culture. Together with my wife Judith, I am very much looking forward to moving to St James’. 

Your previous incumbent leaves a rich legacy. My passionate hope is that together we may continue to build on the firm rock of faith and to expand this work further into the surrounding community.

I look forward to sharing your stories and experiences and working with you and for you as we walk together in our journey of faith, witness and service…”

 

You will all know that during the past few months a great deal of hard work has gone into consulting the congregation, preparation of the Parish Statement, and going through the interview process, whilst the  life of the parish continues as normally as possible.

So the question you will all be asking is "How long before  our new Vicar will be in post.?"

Daniel tells us that his last day at St Chad's will be Easter Day, 20th April, after which time he will be looking to move into the vicarage.  We do not yet have a date for his installation, as that is down to the Bishop, but we are hopeful that this can take place during the early part of May.

As Churchwardens as well as your Parish Representatives, we are looking forward to welcoming Daniel to St James, and to working closely with him as  we develop the role of our church in this area.

Roy Wetton & Martin Addinell - Churchwardens & Parish Representatives

Sunday 19th January 12 noon Church Centre - Join Jamie Brocklebank for a 1 hour workshop on Dementia Awareness and 'Becoming a Dementia Friend'

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