Are you able to help?
The Easter Experience has become an established event in our area. Schools who have been before are already keen to come again with new groups of children, and to meet demand we would like to run more sessions than ever before. This is such a great opportunity for children to come into church and experience the Easter story in an engaging interactive way!
BUT it can only continue to happen if people from the churches in Shirley will commit to running an area covering part of the story, on one or more weekdays between 17 – 26 March 2020 at St James’ by the Park. Leaders work mostly in pairs, and the script and activities for each area are already prepared. The children are divided into groups of up to ten and visit each area for about eight minutes.
Please could you lead, or help with, one or more of these area sessions? You need to be available from 9.30 to 12 noon or 1 to 3.30 pm. We realise this may require you to take leave from work or other commitments, but previous volunteers have found it very rewarding. There is a training session planned for March 9th at 7.45 at St James’ by the Park, plus support during the event.
Please let me know by Monday 3rd February if you are interested in being involved, with some idea of when you might be available. You can do this by returning the attached form to me at St James’ by the Park Parish Office, or by sending the same information to firstname.lastname@example.org .
On behalf of the CTiS children’s workers
When was the last time that you had a really good laugh? Maybe you watched a great comedy over Christmas or perhaps, like our family, you enjoyed playing party games during the festive season providing many laughs as each member invariably competes to win.
It is said that we use far fewer facial muscles to laugh and to smile than we do to frown, so this must tell us that laughter is good for us. Indeed, King Solomon said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” and “A happy heart makes the face cheerful.” So, Biblical wisdom endorses the benefits of a good laugh!
A man was walking through a cemetery on his way home from work when he heard Beethoven’s Third Symphony being played backwards. When it had finished, the Second Symphony started playing backwards, and then also the First Symphony. The man was totally bewildered and finding the grave digger he asked, “What is going on?” “It is Beethoven,” the grave digger replied, “He is decomposing!”
At this time of the year, we are all encouraged to look forward because going back over the past year will not be useful since what is past is past. As my friend Kriss Akabusi says, “The past is for reference, not for residence.” However, as we all begin a new year, will you approach it with laughter or lament?
It is often easy to lament the past and become stuck in its mire of disappointments rather than facing the future with confidence knowing that God has our destiny in his hands. Recently I read again the description of the wife of noble character that King Lemuel speaks about in Proverbs 31. He says, “..she laughs without fear of the future.”(v25NLT) Obviously, this woman had a confident hope that whatever she might have to face in the future, today was a day to be cheerful and to approach her tomorrows with a joyful heart. How ready are you to face 2020 with joy rather than fear?
We have every reason to be cheerful simply because the future is not in our hands. We can laugh without fear of the future because “if God is for us then who can be against us?” We can laugh without fear of the future because “greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world.” We can laugh without fear of the future because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” We can laugh without fear of the future because Jesus promised “I will never leave you or abandon you.” We can laugh without fear of the future because “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” We can laugh without fear of the future because “With God all things are possible.” We can laugh without fear of the future because “By grace we have been saved.”
The future always presents us with a choice. We either allow our history to define our destiny or we consign our past to history knowing that God commands our destiny. In the light of the above, I know how Janice and I plan to embrace this new year.
May 2020 be a year of answered prayers, unexpected miracles, countless salvations, unimaginable favour and God’s rich blessing and joy upon you and your family.
Chair of Southampton ChristiChristian Network
It’s over two and a half years since I had a vision to set up a litter picking group in the Shirley community, and I am encouraged to have seen its development over this time. We have welcomed over 100 different volunteers, half of whom have no other links with the church.
We have had volunteers of all ages, including some families who make it one of their regular monthly activities. It has been fantastic to see over 20 children involved in enthusiastically caring for their environment. On one occasion, a child chose to litter pick instead of attending a friend’s birthday party! The children love using the new dinosaur grabbers funded by a donation.
We have seen that whilst out in our high-vis jackets, people have noticed us at work, and have encouraged us with words of thanks, and at times will stop to talk. Some have even started volunteering.
An important part of our litter picking sessions is building relationships with our volunteers, through talking whilst working, and also at the end spending time together chatting over refreshments, including well-deserved Danish pastries. We also reward the children with badges for their efforts, which they are keen to earn.
We are grateful to Southampton City Council for providing us with some equipment, and with whom we liaise for removal of the rubbish collected; so far that’s 375 black sacks and interesting items.
We have been really encouraged that the amount of rubbish has generally decreased.
We would value your prayers as we continue to develop this community activity and deepen relationships with our volunteers. New volunteers are always welcome, enabling us to expand the areas which we can cover, and together we can make Shirley a cleaner place to enjoy.
We recently had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to Israel with a group of people from Highfield and St Michael and All Angels churches led by Revs. Erica Roberts and Sheena Williams.
We spent six nights in Jerusalem visiting nearby places and then travelled up the Jordan valley to stay three nights in the Galilee area. At many of the sites, we paused to read the relevant Bible passage and pray. We also had a variety of worship times and services of communion, and a renewal of baptismal promises at the River Jordan. We were accompanied on our travels by an excellent local guide, from whom we learnt a lot about both Israel’s history, and its current political situation.
It was an exceptional experience to visit this special land. Being in the places where events in the Bible happened brought them to life. The Mount of Olives for example has an amazing view over Jerusalem and it was moving to consider Jesus looking over the city and weeping. Walking around Caperneum and taking a boat on the Sea of Galilee, it was easy to imagine Jesus and the disciples being there in the familiar stories of the gospels. We were also particularly impacted by our visit to the Western wall in Jerusalem where the Jews go to pray. Both of us felt a very strong sense of God’s presence there as we prayed.
On the social side, we enjoyed meeting new people, eating together and having fun floating in the Dead Sea.
It was a spiritually significant visit for both of us, which will have lasting impact as we read the Bible stories afresh with the wonderful pictures in our mind of where they occurred.
John and Jean Fleming
Is this your view of welcoming? It’s not our view either, nor is it God’s. Romans 15:7 tells us that we should ‘welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’. We have been called into God’s family and as God’s children we are called to receive others into His family too. We might be the first Christian that someone meets when they come into our church building and we can play our part to show something of God’s love to them.
We have welcoming teams at St James by the Park, but we can all be part of making others feel welcome. They might be a new person or someone who has been to church hundreds of times before. A friendly smile and asking some
one how their day is can be a great start. Maybe introducing that person to someone else in the congregation or asking if they want a drink could help them feel a part of God’s family.
We are looking for new volunteers; if you would like to serve with us on the welcoming team, we would love to hear from you.