Sunday 20th September
What a great weekend we have had at St John’s. We had a three day visit by our friends from Edelak. The picture shows their pastor Rainer Petrowski who spoke to us all this morning about caring for those seeking asylum across Europe. Our friends arrived on Friday and were welcomed with cream tea in church provided by the Mother’s Union. We then visited Stockton Parish church where the curate Mark Miller and two members of that church, both Iranian, spoke very movingly about what it’s like to need asylum and the many obstacles that have to be overcome to be accepted into a host country. It was enormously challenging to us and gave us many ways that we as a church can help the situation.
Our friends were taken to York on Saturday and enjoyed a visit to the minster and dinner together in the evening back in Egglescliffe. I am very glad to have me these people from Germany who were a blessing to us this weekend. We must not allow this to end as just a nice weekend together, we must act on what we have seen and heard and commit to supporting people in our own community who are seeking refuge, safety and a place to call home.
Wednesday 16th September
Wednesday is always a very busy day, usually beginning with an early stop off at the shop to buy milk and flowers for the tables at the coffee morning, then its off to church to set up the tables with cloths and flowers and get ready for our 9.30 communion. Its brilliant to see people coming to coffee and there’s usually a great buzz in the place. On the last two Wednesdays we have been visited by a different grandma and grandchild. Both came and commented on the very warm welcome they’d received. Their families have just moved into the area and are looking for a church. One family came on Sunday and it was so good to have them with us.
This all got me thinking about how important hospitality is and how God is a God of hospitality. When we think of the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 the father is always watching and waiting for his wayward son to come home. ��The first thing he does when his son returns is to throw a party in his honour. At the end of the ‘lost and found’ section of Luke 15 Jesus says ‘…I tell you there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’
I love that hospitality is important at St John’s, from the Sunday coffee, to the Mother’s union scones onto the Tuesday lunch, not forgetting the innumerable beautifully decorated cakes made by aunty Pat. I know that this provides a fantastic place to welcome new people into the family of God.
Monday 14th September��
Someone said to me a few weeks ago that this year has wings it’s going past so quickly (judging by my blogs this would appear to be true) ����It’s been something of a year so far. ��Some highlights include; the increasing popularity of our All Age service, having a Youth for Christ gap year worker Alexa Spence doing great work in our local primary school, the installation of our new sound system and more recently our new gap year interns Delaney Allen and Morgan Long joining us for a year.
One of the most sad and shocking events for us is without doubt the sudden death of our much loved friend and servant of St John’s Andy Thompson. There is a gap that will not be filled but we will always remember ��Andy with love and affection.
Last Sunday 13th of September saw the launch of our new Sunday children’s ministry ‘SPARKS’. ��Everyone had great fun in the parish hall and there was a great buzz when they came back into church. We are grateful to God for all of our children and grateful too for all our amazing leaders and helpers.
It’s been tough watching the news this year as the thousands of people seeking refuge and safety filled our TV screens and newspapers. It was utterly inspirational to see the piles of clothes and food that was donated last weekend filling the parish hall and being sent of in a huge truck to the people at the camps in Calais. ��Testament to what can happen when ordinary people work together. ��Testament too to the power of social media being used correctly. ��I thank God for Aimee and all her team and ask that you join me in praying for an acceptable solution for the people in such need.
Tuesday 30th December
Well what a few weeks that was! I’ve lost count of how many nativity productions I’ve seen.�� I have visited Egglescliffe CofE Primary School and they have visited us as St John’s, I helped Durham Lane Primary with their Christmas assembly and a particular highlight was spending a whole morning with Kathryn Belmont of All Saints’ Preston on Tees taking the Christmas assemblies at Egglescliffe Comprehensive School.�� The new head teacher Mr White wanted to provide an opportunity for every young person to stop and reflect.�� Key Stage three thought about Christmas around the world and everyone else reflected on Christmas for the marginalised. It was a most wonderful morning as the celebrated and award winning choir and brass band added tremendously to the morning. I am very grateful to Mr White for inviting us to be part of this very special occasion and I look forward to working more closely with all of the schools in our parish.
Egglescliffe Comprehensive School Christmas Assemblies – Along with members of the brass band are Revenrend Sylvia, Mr S White, Mr Howarth and Kathryn Belmont.
Sunday 7th December Advent 2
We had a great All Age – Parish Praise service today. We leaned a new song ‘from the squalor of a borrowed stable’ beautifully sung by the band and a great effort by the rest of us. Our Bright Lights Puppet team sang to us about the real meaning of advent, waiting for the greatest gift of all – Jesus. Steve Johnson’s talk and 2 minute presentation about waiting with hope and expectancy for a very special guest, encouraged us to be ready. Thank you to everyone who made this a great time of worship and meeting God.
Isaiah 9: 2
‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…..for to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
Will you please join me this Advent in praying that the people of Egglescliffe will see the great light that is Jesus and work to bring about His justice and righteousness in Stockton on Tees.
Sunday 30th November – Advent
What a great day! There were so many glitches but none of them mattered. We have a wonderful Advent service at 10am and after much ado we sang ‘Christ be our Light’ We heard a sermon on what popular magazines today would have as their headlines if Jesus came back today.
At 4pm the church was full of our uniformed organisations and their families as we had a great deal of fun discussing Christingle and the children gave some brilliant thoughts on what it means to walk in darkness and the sorts of things we can do to help people who feel that they are in the dark. They used words like Kindness, serving, providing food etc
Before we lit our Christingles we made a human Christingle to illustrate that the orange represents the world, the red ribbon represents the blood of Jesus and the love of God that reaches right around the world. We then had 4 giant tubes of sweets to represent God’s goodness and generosity, finally we lit a candle to represent the light of Jesus in the world. ��We committed ourselves to taking the light out with us.
If you are reading this my prayer is that you too will know the light of Jesus in your life as we enter Advent and look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus and being ready for the day when he comes back again.
Saturday 29th November
‘Be under obligation to no one – the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the law.’
I have been reminded of this wonderful verse today. I think it’s a very good verse for us as we enter the season of advent. Jesus taught us that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, ming and strength, and our neighbour as ourself. The apostle Paul in his letter to Corinth said that love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7) We are also called to love our neighbours as ourselves.
We see such love first and best in Jesus but as I write two of my brothers (Jim & Alan Thompson) are leading a team of people delivering shoe box gifts to those in great poverty in Romania, with the organisation ‘Link to Hope’ www.linktohope.co.uk They are delivering love in 32,000 boxes provided by generous people from all over the country. St John’s Egglescliffe and Egglescliffe C.E, Primary school have sent their love in shoe boxes to Convoy Aid Romania. This is a wonderful example to us all.
My prayer is that we will be able to experience God’s love afresh this Advent season as we wait with joyful expectancy to celebrate the Saviour’s birth and look to his coming in Glory. I pray every blessing upon you for a blessed Advent.
Friday 28th November 2014
It’s been a good day today. Was really pleased to be invited to speak at a whole house assembly at Egglescliffe Comp, We watched the Coke Christmas advert and talked about Advent and about waiting. We talked about Mary waiting for the birth of Jesus and John the Baptist heralding Jesus’ arrival. We also thought about how waiting for things like exams make time go very quickly but waiting for results drags by.
Three people came and helped me to unwrap three Advent calendars, the first were ‘where’s Wally’ and ‘Frozen’ the third was harder to open and took more time. ������This was the nativity Advent calendar and we thought about how we sometimes need to dig deeper into Christmas to find the real meaning.
As a church things a moving up a notch in business for Christmas as everyone wants a church or minister for their special service but I’d like to encourage us all to keep the main thing the main thing and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. ��My prayer is that God will give us grace to love and bear with one another and let Christmas bring out the best in each other.
I am praying God’s blessing on the parish of Egglescliffe, bless you for reading this.
Wednesday 26th November 2014
Welcome to St John’s blog – I intend to update this regularly with helpful thoughts and insights into what God is doing in the parish of Egglescliffe. We have had a great term since September. One of the highlights has been the introduction of our new partnership with Egglescliffe C.E Primary School -‘ENCOUNTER!’ is a really exciting event in church where the children come from school in their key stage groups. We have fun worship, interactive encounter ‘zones’ where children can experience God for themselves, we do crafts and have stories and finish with a drink and a biscuit. Parents and pre school brothers and sisters are also welcome. ��We are so pleased to be working alongside school staff in using the themes being used in school. This term has been focussing on ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ that the Apostle Paul talks about in Galatians 5. I have to say a huge thank you for the amazing team to delivers ‘ENCOUNTER!’ what a great dedicated team of servant hearted people you are.
Another new area of ministry at St John’s is the ‘Bright Lights’ puppet team. ��This has been so well received by people who watch and with the team. ��This is a brilliant way of preaching the gospel in a way that everyone loves. Our puppet friends generally help us at our All Age Parish Praise services and families at four.