E-Newsletter – 13th December 2020, Third Sunday of Advent
As I write, a small but dedicated team is decorating the Christmas tree in the sanctuary. The tree has been designated by Michael Dempsey, our caretaker, “the biggest ever!” The logistics of arranging lights, stars and sparkles are considerable. But when complete, it will provide a lovely glow of beauty and welcome for the third Sunday in Advent (13th December.)
Following on from a safe and happy return of worshippers into the building last Sunday, this week sees the planned return of the choir for the first time since March. And we also welcome families to a Sunday School gathering*. The children will join us at the start of the 11am service, before leaving for their activities. It will be a very happy opportunity to see some church friends after a long break, and just having our young people in the building will be a good sign of life for all of us.
E-Newsletter – 6th December 2020, Second Sunday of Advent
Another first for St Columba’s & St Andrew’s, Newcastle in this year of accumulating firsts – the virtual Moderator. In the second of Lucy Llewellyn-inspired, and inspiring, Zoom Coffee Mornings, we were joined by the Rt Revd Dr Martin Fair. He would have been in London all week, in normal times, but this year is the year of Zoom & Teams. He spoke very interestingly about how he has had to reinvent the way of being a Moderator, in a year when he cannot visit anywhere or anybody, in person. He appears to have made the very best of the situation and has combined reaching out to a wide audience, via the internet, as well as offering a pastoral ministry to fellow ministers. Whoever the speaker is, the Virtual Coffee Mornings are proving a lovely way of seeing familiar faces and keeping in touch. Thank you to everyone who has been able to take part. Look out for details about the next occasion (see below.)
E-Newsletter – 29th November 2020, First Sunday of Advent
Monday 30th November is St Andrew’s Day, so this week the main message is a big “shout out” to all the congregation and friends of St Andrew’s, Newcastle. You would undoubtedly have been celebrating Scotland’s patron saint this weekend, if circumstances had permitted. However, while that is not possible, you are very much in our collective thoughts and prayers this weekend.
Sunday also marks the start of Advent – the season of four Sundays running up to the celebration of Christmas. Contrary to the often frantic high street preparations for Christmas, Advent aims to clear a space for anticipation, waiting and expectancy. The readings this Sunday will direct us towards a vigil of waiting – wakefulness, watchfulness and worship. To help us in these weeks, there are resources from the Congregational Prayer Group. They suggest a fifteen minute time of quiet reading, prayer and meditation. I hope the words of scripture and poetry will enhance your thoughts. (See end of e-newsletter)
E-Newsletter – 22nd November 2020
Christ the King Sunday
In the Christian calendar, this Sunday is the final fixture of the season; the last Sunday of the Church/liturgical year. Next week the new cycle begins with Advent Sunday. From Advent, through Christmas, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and its fifty days, Ascension and Pentecost – this weekend we complete the circle begun in late November 2019. A great deal has happened, and not happened, since embarking on the now-concluding, Church year. As a judge sums up at the end of trial, once all the evidence is in, we are asked to return a verdict. The verdict of our faith is this: Christ is King. But Christ’s “kingship” is a strange one, very different to many of the images we have of regular kings and queens. Sunday’s gospel reading from Matthew 25 will spell out how the King is most easily discovered in the pauper’s guise. Declaring Christ as King, at the end of the Church’s year, invites us to look back over the last twelve months and assess, where and how, Christ has been present in our own lives, and in the life of the world. And declaring Christ as King, at the beginning of a new Church year, encourages us to find Christ in those we serve (and in ourselves), while also bestowing strength and courage to face all that is yet unknown.
E-Newsletter – 15th November 2020
When I was an Army chaplain one of the regiments I served with had its own Kirk Session. One of its young elders was an absolutely fanatical Glasgow Rangers supporter. In a year when Rangers came second best to city rivals, Celtic, I introduced the hymn, At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, by saying that verse three was especially for one of our elders. Verse three begins – “Humbled for a season….”
I’m not sure I was forgiven until the following season!