Celebration of Publication of Biography of David Sheppard
Many will remember David Sheppard, the Bishop of Liverpool who formed a ground breaking partnership with his Roman Catholic counterpart, Archbishop Derek Worlock, a generation ago.
For the last four years Andrew Bradstock has been researching Sheppard’s biography. This has now been published by SPCK under the title Batting for the poor: the authorised biography of the celebrated cricketer and bishop.
Andrew and his wife Helen live in St Helens and worship in the benefice. They invited all who were interested to join them for tea and cake in the undercroft at St Peter’s, Seaview, on the morning of Sunday, 3rd November to celebrate the pubication of the book..
Thank you to everyone who helped decorate the upstairs hall at St Peter's ready for a wedding reception held there in October.
With a small and enormously dedicated team we got the job done (church goers, a volunteer from the community who saw it in the Parish News and some 'men from the shed').
The youngest at 22 was a nearly a quarter of the age of many of the rest of the team but age was absolutely irrelevant as everyone gave of their all and worked so hard to achieve a wonderful result.
A comment from one of the ladies... 'I painted this hall at 40, and at 60 and now again at 80, I don't think I will be doing it at 100!!!' and a comment from the youngest helper.... 'If you ask me who would be best to get a job done, working all day, 20yr olds or 80yrs olds, give me the later any day!' ..... Respect!
One of the biggest philosophical questions of our age is our cultural understanding of Time. All kinds of things have changed through human history that have changed our view of time. The building of cathedrals used to take generations to finish. Imagine starting something that you hoped your great grandchildren would see finished. The building of empires to last a lOOOyrs and the industrial revolution which was the great hope for the future. Then on a personal level we are now living longer and longer lives, young people are maturing later, picking up responsibilities and having children at a much older age.
Different religions around the world have viewed time in very different ways. Many religions have a veneration for ancestors, and a hope that in the future they themselves will be remembered as people of honour. Others see humans as intimately part of the great age of the earth and the flowing river of the endless life of the universe. In western civilisation, as it has developed in a Christian framework, somehow time has become shortened. It is truncated at both ends so that the tale is told of an earth that is no older than 10,000 years and the future is limited by the biblical idea of the End Times. Now of course most people outside America don't believe this but somehow we have still lost a sense of a long future and for planning for generations to come.
In our planning, our building, our farming and our politics everything is based on short term returns and this is having a terrible impact on the environment and also our lives. The philosophers that I mentioned are trying to grapple with why we may have lost our vision for the future and how we might regain it before we create the 'end times' through our own actions, a vision that in the past has been seen as purely the work of the gods. They ask the following questions. Do I think that the earth is just in the middle of its lifetime, with 4000 million years behind it and 4000 million years to go? Do I think that human beings have a future on this planet? Can you imagine 45,000 years in the future (that is just about as far as most Sci-Fi goes!) and what sort of lives will humans have in just 2000yrs time? These are not frivolous questions, they matter deeply because if we can't imagine a peaceful, fruitful and sustainable future for humans on this planet then how can we work towards it?
The Christian faith can be read as a time limiting narrative but it can also be read as an expansive hope for a peaceable future with human beings evolving beyond selfishness and greed. While some people look forward to a 'new heaven and a new earth', others of us look for a renewed earth and call out with the prophets for justice and peace as we learn that we are brothers and sisters; a humanity full of potential and with a long future in which to fulfil it.
It is time to look to the future, to plan for a long, long future and to live as the ancestors that our great, great grandchildren would have us be.
I wonder if some of you remember that old Henry Fonda movie 'Twelve Angry Men' (it is easy to get online!). There is a moment at the beginning when the jury room is filling up and Henry Fonda's character is standing at the window with his back to the room. It is clear from the buzz of conversation that all the other 11 men are convinced that the boy is guilty of murder and Henry feels that he is not so sure. The whole play is an analysis of human nature when it comes to the influence of others, the need to identify with the pack, the way that we are led by others. At one point one of the characters jumps up and says, 'don't change your mind because others have... what do you think?'. Towards the end there is the great line, 'Well......You're alone': but I won't give away the plot by telling you who says that!
One of the teachings of Jesus that we have been wrestling with this month is this saying from the Beatitudes or Blessings.... 'Blessed are you when people hate you, revile you and exclude you on account of the Son of Man'. (Luke 6:22)
As humans, evolved mammals, we have a very great need to be part of the pack. Being excluded, a lone wolf, is a very scary place to be. Ask our new puppy, she knows that outside the pack she is very likely to get eaten! This need has driven humans to great atrocities as people will do things in a mob or under orders that they will never do as an individual. Martin Luther King knew this in the 1960s America as the mob was lynching black people and he was adamant that his movement for civil disobedience would not become a mob. He preached that every man and woman must come to the rallies because of their own conscience.
This is the danger of reading Jesus too simply today, the earliest Christians came out of their normal lives and were welcomed into a new sect and the 'world' hated them for that. But, then they are loved in a new group, their identity had become one that is formed by being against others. When we looked at Jesus teaching we saw that he does not stop at calling people into a new safe group, especially one using his name. He is calling us all to a new evolution of humanity. One that is not afraid to be alone. One that stands up for their beliefs in all conscience, unmoved by the need to be loved by other people.
In this time when the search for identity on the internet is out of control, Jesus makes great sense. By all means we must speak out for the truth we hold dear, gather with others in campaigning and creating, but we must beware of falling into cosy gangs that define enemies. We must each of us alone stand apart, as Henry Fonda's character did and listen to our own conscience.
We have been led by our culture and our genetics to believe that we are anything but 'Blessed' when others hate, revile and exclude us but maybe we need to face ridicule if we are to live the lives that we are called to.... To follow the difficult paths of justice and peace that our understanding of God leads us into. But beware.....if you have found a cosy group of like minded people to walk that path with you, then maybe it is time to step out alone again, on the unexpected and uncharted journey of life that Jesus is describing.
You can hear a sermon about this on the pod cast here.
The Book Group
The Benefice book group will meet on Monday September 2nd at 7pm at St Catherine's chapel. There are lots of books there from Rev All's library to look at and please bring your suggestions. The group will meet to plan the next quarter's books to read, discussing them on the first Monday at 7pm in October, November and December at the Undercroft in Seaview.
The Theology Group
This group has been studying the progressive Christian course 'Living the Questions' and has really enjoyed it. For the Autumn season until Christmas it will be using material drawn from the 1980s BBC series the Sea of Faith by Don Cupitt. This fascinating exploration into the western worlds' loss of Christian faith will be updated by Ali into a new interactive course with video clips and lots of time to chat. It will give us a nice basis for understanding how the church is now where it is and we will debate together a way forward for the teaching of Jesus in the Spiritual age we now live in. Please do come along and invite friends on the Third Monday of the Month at 7pm in the Undercroft in Seaview.
Eco Church Programme for September Sunday 8th 9.30am at St Mary's Church and 10am St Helens Church followed by Eco Church 11am to 12pm. Stephen Dominy, Regional co-coordinator for Christian Aid to preach on the environment followed by a discussion about how we can be involved and connected to global environmental campaigning.
Saturday 14th Ride and Stride - a day long walk through the Haven Benefice visiting the churches, beginning at Yaverland at 10am.
Saturday 21st at St Mary's 12-5pm and Sunday 29th at St Helen's 12-3pm Community Apple Pressing Days. Bring your windfall apples and plastic bottles to squeeze and freeze your own apple juice.
Sunday 22nd 10am St Helen's Harvest Festival and 3.30pm Ecochurch with soup and apple cake! And a special visit from a local naturalist to look at what animal homes to make and habitats to improve in our churchyard as we prepare for winter.
Saturday 28th at 12pm St Helen's Harvest Lunch at the community centre. Eco church in October will be all about FOOD!
Sunday 8th 11am Barry Downer will be licenced as an Associate Priest to the Haven Benefice by the Venerable Peter Leonard at St John's Yaverland, with refreshments after.
Why not treat yourself to a new experience this Autumn and join us on a Thursday evening for Contemplative prayer, every week at 6pm in St Catherine's Chapel.
PLASTIC AWARENESS PROJECTS
Everywhere, around the country and the world, we are becoming aware that Plastic is causing huge problems for the natural environment and we want to do something about it..... BUT ..... controlling our plastic usage and turning back the tide is really not easy for any of us. The way we select food and cook, the way we buy products for our homes, and the way we like to shop - all these things have become reliant on single use disposable plastic and even if you are recycling your plastic this is just a small part of the solution.
We are working on Reduction, Reusing and then RECYCLING, and we want to have fun seeing how much change we can support each other in achieving as we move our personal lifestyles to Zero waste. The following things are planned;
1.Every church coffee morning in the Haven Benefice, look out for the REFILL STATION. This is an opportunity for you to bring your own household and hair product bottles and Refill them for a reasonable price. The intention is to begin to see how refilling works and develop patterns of consumption that high street shops can begin to offer.
2. Workshop events developing and making new reasonably priced plastic replacement products that can be sold at the coffee mornings. Waxed wraps, knitted scourers and soap bags, muslin veg bags for shopping etc.
3. Raising awareness with the supermarkets of the desires of the public to have the opportunity to make plastic free purchases. Supporting and advertising the supermarket 'Plastic attacks' where we are offered the opportunity to unwrap our plastic covered goods and leave the plastic for the store to dispose of. Remember to take your paper and fabric bags and reusable plastic containers to use at the fresh produce counters.
The Haven Benefice Churches are committed to helping us all live happier, more sustainable and much more skilled and creative lives as part of our passionate commitment to environmental justice. We take our commitment for this from the teachings of Jesus and his call for radical social justice and harmony.