A selection of articles from our current parish magazine
Issue No 101 Spring 2020
- A message from the Vicarage
Decisions of the Decade: Could a Robot get to Heaven? (Part 2)
Making a Mosaic at St Edmund’s
The Girl who refused to be evacuated
Reflections on the War in Europe
My War to VE Day
Relief, Not Celebration
Henry V verses Laurel and Hardy
A Visit to Higham Hill Local Ecumencial Partnership
Can We Be The First Ever Eco MMU?
What does Scripture mean to me?
A message from the Vicarage Spring 2020
Spring seems to have come very early this year, in truth we have had no real winter and the grass has not stopped growing in my garden all winter.
Blossoms started in early February, and the joy of snowdrops and crocuses has given way to daffodils and beautiful small blue irises and hyacinths. The birds are building nests – all is as it should be.
Or is it? Our seasons are changing, warm winters, earlier signs of spring and hotter summers are no longer an occasional change, this is becoming the norm. Climate change is real and having an impact.
For us we may give thanks for warmer winters (and lower energy bills) but for those where life is an everyday struggle for water and food, such change are having a massive negative impact.
In the Bible we are reminded that we have a responsibility for all that God has provided and entrusted to us (Genesis 1.28) It seems we are not taking that responsibility seriously.
As an individual can we make a real difference? Yes we can. Every small change has an impact, and importantly businesses respond to customers, because they need us. Supermarkets have significantly reduced plastic waste because of customer demand. There is of course a long way to go, but change it is.
At St Edmund’s, together with our partners at St Anne’s and St Andrew’s Higham Hill, we are investigating how we can make a difference through a project called Eco Church. We are looking at how we individually and collectively affect the environment and what we can do to improve.
We won’t change the world overnight, but change we must.
Easter is a time when we celebrate our new life with God. Jesus, God’s Son gave His life for us so that we might have a new opportunity, a new chance in our relationship with God, and that includes God’s creation.
Our planet, our whole eco system is fragile, so let us look again at how we can all live our lives in a way that means it will be here for the generations to come.
Decisions of the Decade
Could a Robot get to Heaven? Part 2
Last edition, I posed a question to you regarding artificial intelligence. I asked you to imagine that, in a few years’ time, something like Amazon’s Alexa (or her great granddaughter) had evolved to become so advanced that, as a robot, it was indistinguishable from a human. Until recently, such a thought was the work of science fiction, but now that robotics is becoming ever-more advanced, the possibility seems somehow less remote. If such a thing happens, I asked, would it be possible for that robot to be loved by God in the way that we believe God loves humanity? Could that robot have a soul? Could that robot get to heaven?
This edition, I want to come at the problem from a slightly different angle. I want to look at what we mean when we say that humans have a ‘soul’. What is a soul? Is there an agreed definition? Is belief in the everlasting soul a necessary part of Christian faith?
Most major religions believe that there exists within humanity something that is spiritual and ‘other’ to the physical bodies that we inhabit. Some religious groups, like animists and Shintoists, take this far further and believe that animals and even inanimate objects like rocks and rivers also possess a similar spiritual being. In fact, in some factories in the Far East, robots have had Shinto rituals performed to them, in recognition of the fact that they are believed to possess a soul. In certain world religions, such as Hinduism, this soul or spirit can be reborn or reincarnated into another being once the first has died. Mainstream Christianity teaches the immortal nature of what we understand as being the soul, and that the soul is in heaven after mortal death (or, if you are a Lutheran, the soul is dormant after death, awaiting the second coming). Because of this, Christianity does not agree with Hinduism, for example, that souls could be reincarnated in other bodies.
If I were to ask a neuroscientist to locate the soul in a person’s body, they would no doubt laugh me out of their office. There have been many scientific experiments carried out through the years to locate such an entity (including one rather eccentric scientist in 1901 who claimed he could prove that the weight of the soul was 21 grams!). However, no scientific proof exists for the soul. As so often in our world, religious faith and science deal with different questions. Spiritual matters seem to very much still matter to humanity, despite living in a world where we understand far more about the science of our creation than we did even fifty years ago. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, some three hundred years ago: “We cannot prove a priori the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be recognized from materiality”. In other words, we can’t prove that the soul exists, but there are lots of things that we think and do that suggest it might.
Perhaps we need to go back to the ancient world to understand what the soul is. The Jewish faith uses the word רוח (ruach – wind) and נשמה (neshamah – breath) to describe what the soul is, whilst the Catholic catechism defines the soul as “the innermost aspect of humans, that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are in God’s image.” The English word ‘soul’ probably comes from an old Anglo Saxon word meaning ‘from the water’, echoing the Saxons’ belief that everything spiritual came first from lakes and seas. So there is, linking, all these descriptions together, something that is God given and yet also uniquely ours about our soul. It’s what makes us ‘us’, but it’s also what makes us God’s.
So, this takes us back to the original question: can a robot get into heaven? Taking the orthodox Christian belief regarding the soul, one might have to conclude that there was no way for a robot to enter heaven because it doesn’t have a soul. Yet, if – like a Shintoist – you take a wider view of what in this world might have a soul (and, let’s face it, Christians down the ages have felt that certain inanimate objects and places have certainly been very holy in unexplained ways), then why not? If robots are able to develop a theory of mind – a capacity for self-consciousness – then maybe, just maybe, we’ll find Alexa #12.0 at the pearly gates!
Making a Mosaic at St Edmund’s
Mosaics are an ancient artform. Although we most often associate them with the Romans, in actual fact there is evidence of ancient tribes having collected and arranged pebbles to create the first mosaics more than five thousand years ago. Once civilisations had discovered how to fire clay and create glaze in many colours, mosaics became popular as large-scale artworks on walls, floors and even ceilings. Mosaics have been widely used in Jewish, Muslim and Christian art and they continue to be created today. Some of the best regarded mosaics of the 20th Century can be found only a few miles away, in St Paul’s Church in Harlow. They were commissioned when the church was built in 1948 and designed by the renowned artist, John Piper. Depicting the meeting of Christ on the Emmaus Road, the huge figures take the place of an east window. Such modern art as John Piper’s often divides opinion. However, the mosaics at Harlow are certainly hugely imposing and even awe-inspiring.
At St Edmund’s we are creating our own mosaic. It certainly won’t be as large or as original as John Piper’s creations, but we are hoping that it is a piece of art work that will genuinely be made by our community, because it’s something where anyone and everyone can get involved – whether you are 9 or 90 years old. A group of us have started meeting in Church on Saturday mornings from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. We are using as our inspiration a stained-glass window of the Angel visiting Mary, the original of which is from the Taizé Community in France. We drew the metre square picture on a board and have started selecting colours for each part, before sticking them on. It’s quite a long process, but it’s fun too and we enjoy having a natter whilst we do it. We’re aiming to complete our mosaic by a little after Easter this year, and some people have got so enthusiastic, that there is already talk of creating another one once we finish!
The girl who refused to be evacuated
I was eleven when the war broke out. My parents and I lived in Normanshire Drive. It was our next door neighbour who first heard the news, and the first we heard of it was when he bashed on our windows and told us that we were at war. We still lived in Normanshire Drive when the German bombing campaign began. There were Anderson shelters located in the side-ways between the blocks of terraced houses. These were shared by households but were only large enough for a certain number. At the raid in late September 1940, my parents and I were in our shelter. After the land mine dropped, our neighbours Mr and Mrs Capell and their dog joined us. Other neighbours, Mr and Mrs Haines and their two sons (both older than me) came trying to enter to find space. But there just wasn’t enough room for the extra people, and so they just had to go and sleep under the table. One of the shelters close by was empty, and so Mrs Capell and her dog went over to that one. We weren’t that frightened when we were inside the shelter. We heard the land mine go off while we were in the Anderson shelter; it was very loud.
Mr Myhill – the father of my friend Hilda, who lived opposite us – and his son Frank, were inside their shelter as the bombs dropped. Their shelter collapsed but fortunately they were pulled out and saved. Charles, my father, went looking for Hilda and eventually found her in the shelter of Margaret Gillam’s family – another one of my friends who lived next door to the Capells. The force of the blast blew out the windows of our house, tiles came off the roof, the kitchen door was blown off, and the front door somehow ended up in the kitchen. The bomb destroyed the six houses in the terrace opposite us to the right. Mrs Jenkins and her daughter Olive were killed, as was their neighbour Mr Moore, and a few doors up Mr Price also died though his wife and daughter survived as they were away. Not everyone used the shelters, Mr and Mrs Barry who lived a couple of doors up slept in a car in Epping Forest as they felt unsafe in the house at night. When they returned, they found their house destroyed.
The children all around us were evacuated. My friend Edna Gillett was one who went: she went to stay where her father worked during the week. And Margaret Gillam from next door went as well; she was one of many children who left on a couple of buses off to Buckingham. The children of Mr and Mrs Barry – Iris and her younger sister June – were also evacuated. Others included my teacher Mrs Dawe, she was an old-fashioned teacher, rather strict but quite a small woman. She never returned but stayed on in Buckingham. (She was the Mrs Dawe who donated the altar rails in the Lady Chapel.)
I, however, was not prepared to be evacuated and chose to remain. Hilda Myhill, hearing that I wasn’t going, decided that she won’t be going either then. But not everyone took to being evacuated, and Iris and June got fed up in their new area and came back, as did Margaret as well. After the land mine, we couldn’t live in our house, as in was in such a state. The furniture was taken out and put into storage in North Chingford. Well not all – my father caught an ARP Warden wandering the house helping himself to items: he made off with at least one chair. My grandmother had already moved to Buckingham, owing to ill health, and so despite my intention not to be evacuated, my mother and I also eventually went as well. Mr King, a taxi driver who lived up the road, took us from Chingford to Buckingham. My father stayed in London, continuing to work, and stayed at my grandfather’s in Harold Road.
An elderly woman Mrs Foster said we could stay in her house at Buckingham. She, her husband and their daughter lived at the rear of the house, while we had one room downstairs with an old-fashioned stove, and another upstairs where we slept. Courting couples often stood below the bedroom window, chattering away; on one occasion, having had enough of it, my grandmother opened the window and threw water out over them. We didn’t escape the war in Buckingham. When sirens sounded, we got underneath the large table in the kitchen and pushed it back towards the stone wall. While sheltered under there, we could hear the German planes overhead on their way to bomb Coventry. However, the house was damp and I became very ill while there. The doctor who saw me felt that I stood a better chance in London with all its bombs than remaining in that house. My grandmother stayed, but my mother and I returned home by train. The bombed houses were gone, and ours was still not repaired, and so we went and lived in Harold Road as well. In time, my father got our house partly repaired, and also got the Anderson Shelter dug out from the side way and put into our dining room. With this, we returned home. Eventually, the Anderson Shelter gave way to a (Morrison) Table Shelter in the front room. The three of us (mum, dad and me) could lie much better in there, and stayed in it each night – our bodies and heads under the table with feet protruding until a siren sounded when we pulled them inside.
With all the evacuations, my school in New Road had closed and so instead I went to the Dominican Convent in North Chingford, the only school in the area that remained open. The school had been used for German Prisoners of War, but a hut was built on Chingford Plain for them. (There was also a POW camp at Lippets Hill, where Italian prisoners were mainly kept.) Once they moved, the Germans helped the children bring the books back into the school; I remember one Sister commenting on their assistance and pointing out to us, “Now, that’s a perfect gentleman.” (It was these POWs that worked on making up the roads around Inks Green.) During raids, the school would go down to the cellar for protection. On one occasion, I remember going up Normanshire Drive to the playing fields, from there seeing London on fire – all red, quite a sight – and stayed watching until the air raid warning sent me running back down to our shelter. Locally, some protection was afforded by a barrage balloon tethered in the children’s playground in the War Memorial Gardens, which from time to time was raised aloft to deter the enemy planes.
I remained at the convent from the age of 12 to 14. By then, I decided I wanted to go to work. My parents were against this feeling that I was too young, but when seeing I was intent on doing so said that they would find me work locally. But that’s not what I wanted; I wanted to go up to work in the West End, even though it had only had just recently been bombed. And so, I ended up working in the department store Bourne & Hollingsworth, remaining there for 10 years until I married. During the first three years there while I was still an apprentice at the store, I also wanted to go to the local technical college to learn dressmaking and the art of designing clothes. My age again was a problem. Looking at my application, and noting my age, the college explained that I could only attend from the age of 16, whereas I was 14. “Got another form?” I asked, and filled it out again but this time entering the age they needed to see. I got in and remained there also until I was 18, bringing me into contact with the likes of the artist Douglas Swainson and the model Quentin Crisp (who I mistook as a woman until another student corrected me from her fuller information from the life drawing classes that she attended).
Of course, working in central London also exposed me to the danger and horrors of war. Now, there was a large clock outside the window where I worked, and once a month a man came round to put the clock back on time. However, one day a friend and I went off to a shop – a bit of a way from the store – with an open counter where she wanted to buy a magazine, passing a camera shop along the way. We ended up late, and had only got to the camera shop when we heard a (V1) rocket above our heads. He heard the bang and knew that it had gone off. This doodlebug hit just opposite the newsagent’s. If we had been on time, we would have been there and dead. On another occasion, a bomb had hit in Berwick Street and I remember passing by a car in which a woman sat inside dead. There were even dangers below the surface: underground trains would often stop in tunnels and remain stationary for extended periods during raids for fear of a hit and the river flooding the tunnels.
St Edmund’s was also affected by the bombings. Though not directly hit, the blasts in Normanshire Drive had shaken the building and blown out several windows, and for a short while the Church was itself closed. I used to work with a Mr Brookes who lived in New Road. Shortly before the blast in Normanshire Drive, he and his wife were at home sat in their dining room with their son who had come home with a friend (both of them being in the Navy), when there was an air raid warning. The parents went to the shelter and asked the two lads if they were coming, however they declined as they were comfortable where they were. The bomb dropped on the house, and the two friends were killed. When the father emerged from the shelter, he searched
for his son’s body, and eventually was informed to go to the large hall at St Edmund’s which was being used as a morgue. He arrived to find the Vicar Mr Ryan stood over a coffin in the passage outside the hall – with umbrella up (for it was raining) – saying prayers for his dead son. This hall would continue to serve in this capacity, filled with coffins, and the adjoining small hall would be used as a British Restaurant, where all who were willing to pay could eat.
But not all was death – many survived. Iris and June had three brothers (Jimmy, Charlie and Eric), all of whom were called up and all survived. Peter Gillam went into the army and also survived. Hilda’s brother was an RAF pilot and lived, and the son of Mr and Mrs Smith – four houses down from us – who was a sailor went to live in the United States once the war was over.
Reflections on the War in Europe
As we approach the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day, Gerald Goddard – a member of St Edmund’s 8 a.m. Sunday congregation – has been talking to the Vicar about his recollections of World War 2.
Gerald lived in Kings Head Hill at the time, and well remembers watching the fires in the docks following the Blitz. We of course can now see Canary Wharf and the tall offices from the same vantage points.
Standing outside the families’ Anderson air raid shelter, he recalls the German planes going over in tight formation of fighters, bombers and fighters. His father was an ARP warden and has a photo of him gathered with other wardens in Kings Head Hill.
Their own Anderson shelter was delivered in sections to be put together. (Was this the original flat pack furniture?) The shelter was duly erected, but in the autumn flooded, so by December 1940 the family decided to stay in the house under the stairs during any air raids.
As young boys, he and his friends collected the shrapnel from the anti-aircraft shells; a nose cone was especially prized.
Gerald remembers a 50-pound bomb landing on a house nearby, which took out all the windows, and getting repairs completed by the Council not surprisingly took some time, with all the other calls on their time. Sadly, a young school boy died in one of the raids, and Gerald still has a bookcase, made by his father, which has some slight black marks on it from the effects of the bomb blasts. His father was a cabinet maker and his mother worked in the Food Office as part of her war effort.
Gerald was 16 when VE Day came, and his main recollection is one of relief after the years of war, tinged with concern for those still fighting in Japan.
My War to VE Day
My entire childhood was spent, from 7 years of age to nearly 13 years of age, with my mother, father and my twin sister, Pauline, lived along the Great Cambridge Road near the Cambridge roundabout, in Edmonton. My father owned a newsagent shop at the junction of White Hart Lane. Nearby was a gun emplacement and Waltham Small Arms factory and a barrage balloon site.
The Germans regularly bombed the area around which we lived. We had Ration Books, National Identity Cards and gas masks in cardboard boxes which we toted everywhere.
We had an Anderson Shelter built at the bottom of the garden and, every night when the Blitz on London started, we galloped down the garden to the shelter with a tin bowl or an old tin hat on our heads, to avoid the shrapnel and bits and pieces flying around us.
Our father made our little shelter quite palatial with the cement walls painted white and an electric fire on one wall and nice warm blankets on our bunks. When the air raid siren sounded it always made my tummy turn over.
During the day we seemed to walk everywhere! This kept us fit.
The buses also heroically ran with the windows on them covered with material which had a strange waffle design and all the windows of houses had strips of some sort of paper on them glued on.
At school, St Angela’s in Palmers Green, if the siren went during school hours, we were shepherded down in to the cellars, and Father Bradley used to play his cello to us. It was a French order of nuns, so the cellar walls were festooned with strings of onions and garlic!
Regularly, my sister and I would stand in a queue for four hours to get four oranges or bananas we put in a handmade string bag. Because we were identical we were dressed alike and changed places in the long line to have a rest from standing there! Very naughty.
We got very used to the Anderson Shelter but, one night because we went down there early, as we were very young, an Air Raid Warden walking down the back alley on duty heard Pauline and I screaming. He asked us what was wrong. We said there was an enormous spider in there with us. We were more frightened of a spider than the sound of enemy aeroplanes’ gun fire or bombs dropping.
As the years passed, we still survived, but one night, our father said, we would stay indoors under the dining room table, and thought it was going to be a quiet night. That was the night we had a V1 (Doodlebug) drop on us. We woke up covered with debris and our father said, just stay still, which we did in case of injuries. Daylight was just coming up and we gazed through what was left of the roof.
The WVS van arrived. They were brilliant, providing us with hot food and a standpipe was fitted in the road to get hold of some water to wash in. Our mother said, perhaps we could store some stuff in the garage, but when our father went to look, the garage had gone!
Looking back, as the war was coming to an end, we could say we were living through history. Our Air Raid Warden lost an arm when our V1 bomb dropped and a baby’s body was blown into chimneyside bricks.
I remember the Battle of Britain when Pauline and I with our mother, went into a neighbour, Mrs Barrett, next door and got in her Anderson Shelter for a cup of tea together. Neighbours were so kind to one another. The sun was shining, a beautiful afternoon, and we heard aeroplanes overhead and looked out to see Spitfires and enemy aircraft fighting for our country overhead.
When the war was over, we celebrated with a street party on VE Day. People in our terrace hung Union Flags and all coloured bunting, so bright and cheerful. How they acquired those long tables and paper cloths on them, I don’t know, but it looked so beautiful. They managed although we were still on Ration Books to make marvellous sandwiches, cakes, jellies and of course as much tea as you could drink, and also Ginger Beer and Tizer. It was wonderful. They fixed up a little stage with an old upright piano and a bit of space in front, also a microphone. Our father played the piano and our mother sang. She had a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. Pauline and I did a tap dance to a song called ‘Down Forget-Me-Not Lane’. I remember it to this day. I sometimes sing it at home. Pauline performed a recitation and I sang ‘J’attendrai’ a French song meaning ‘I’ll wait for you’.
The audience liked it, as it reminded people of those who would be returning, also of the wounded and, sadly, of those who would not return. The sun shone brightly which was so welcome, on such a joyous VE Day.
Relief, not Celebration
VE Day was just six days after my 14th birthday. The ‘celebrations’ in the road where I lived, at that time, bore no resemblance to the scenes of jubilation seen on newsreels or photos of all that was happening in the centres of London, New York or any other major centre around the world.
Britannia Road, Ilford (off Ilford Lane), was a short road of some 50 very early Edwardian houses. Our odd side went from No 1 to 51 in one long single terrace.
During the Blitz, the Methodist Church, at the top of the road our side, was destroyed. In the same stick, the next bomb landed on, and destroyed, four houses lower down on the other side of the road.
Every house in the road suffered some damage, some much more than others. Ours, being no 7, was badly damaged. I found half a paving stone on my pillow!
During the next few years most houses suffered some degree of ‘collateral damage’ from the bomb blasts, doodlebugs and rockets landing in other roads. I can recall some five incidents when we suffered broken windows.
In late February 1945, a rocket exploded at the bottom of the next road, demolishing a number of houses in that road and causing severe damage to many in our road. Many houses still had scaffolding at the time of VE Day.
Most of the men between age 18 and 40+ were away in the armed forces. Many of the young single women were, likewise, away. Most of us still living there were children, all under 18; mums and the ‘old folk’ who had already survived the ‘war to end all wars’!
My recollection was that our general reaction to VE Day was one great sigh of relief – certainly not of celebration. Relief that the daily fear of arriving at work or school, or returning home, to find they had been bombed, had been removed.
We did have a street party, but pretty low key compared to some we read about.
The highlight for me, after VE Day, came with the building of a huge bonfire. Just past the bottom of our road was a recreation ground which shelved down to the river Roding. It was our ‘second home’ for most of the youngsters of the area.
At the start of the war, a huge air raid shelter had been dug for those who did not have Anderson shelters in their gardens. After VE Day, the older boys with us youngsters ‘helping’, broke in and ‘liberated’ hundreds of wooden bunk beds.
Now, that was a bonfire to beat all others! Still as vivid today as when I ‘helped’ build it 75 years ago.
Henry V verses Laurel & Hardy
We also spoke to Colin Adams, who was only twelve when the war ended. Colin was Churchwarden at St Edmund’s from 1966 to 1973. Although Colin cannot remember much about VE Day, he is aware of a special service at Ridgeway Park in May 1945 to mark the occasion. The only real celebration he remembers, however, is being taken to the Odeon in Cherrydown Avenue to see Laurence Olivier in ‘Henry V’ – a film which had been made the previous year. His feeling at the time was that he would have rather had seen Laurel and Hardy, but the victory of Agincourt was probably more appropriate to the momentous events that had brought peace to the world.
A Visit to Higham Hill Local Ecumenical Partnership
Of the 841 Local Ecumenical Partnerships in England, 298 involve Anglicans and Baptists, and of these only 16 are just partnerships of these two denominations alone, one of which is our MMU partner St Andrew’s Church at Higham Hill. Members of St Anne’s and St Edmund’s visited the Church on 26 January, when we were informed that LEPs comprising only two Churches are often seen as the most difficult to sustain, and of these Anglican and Baptist partnerships can be the most challenging. However, Higham Hill has proved the exception – established in 1989 the partnership is still strong, where separate Baptist and Anglican identity and expression fluidly mesh as fellow Christians living, working and witnessing together.
As well as a tour of the Church and its complex, the Rev. Stella Olukanmi and George Papworth with dog Poppy, took us out into the local area and visited some of the new builds on Papermill Place (named after the former St Andrew’s Mill where Andrex toilet tissue was first made). In a Parish seeing significant regeneration schemes, transforming the former industrial area along Blackhorse Lane into much trumped new homes and creative businesses, we were confronted by the flipside of homes where communal doors allow little contact with those outside, while inside homes were little more than small boxes where people often lived isolated lives. Here people were often transient, no sooner moved in than moved out, not by choice and with no one else knowing to where. The effects of such social exclusion is felt on the streets in the area – even closely around the Church – in drug dealing and offending.
Yet St Andrew’s stands as a centre for the local community to meet. Kate Shoard gave us an overview of how two separate Churches had the courage to leave behind their own buildings and come together, and how that grew from services in a hall to that being extended by building a new Church and further extensions for office space. With refreshments served by Samantha Papworth, there was time to chat and explore, to hear what St Andrew’s is about and what they do, and what makes its heart beat.
Can We Be The First Ever Eco MMU?
On Saturday 15 February, a significant number of the congregation of all three of the Churches in our Mission and Ministry Unit (St Edmund’s; St Andrews Higham Hill; St Anne’s Chingford Hatch) met at the St Anne’s Church to discuss our response to the climate crisis that has come into the spotlight so starkly this year, with the flooding in Indonesia and to a lesser extent in our own nation, and of course the terrible wildfires in Australia which have claimed the lives of half a billion wild animals, and permanently devastated huge swaths of ancient forest.
As Christians, we believe that although humanity is given the earth by God, such a gift isn’t just ours to wreck. Indeed, quite the opposite – if you’re given a gift, it is always considered the height of rudeness to abuse it before the eyes of the gift giver. This Lent, the Bishop of Chelmsford and his deputies, including our area Bishop, Peter, have been encouraging everyone to live greener lifestyles and to make meaningful changes to their lives in order to live more sustainably. This isn’t just about not using a paper cup each time we go to the coffee shop, it was stressed. Rather, it is about realistically assessing what needs to be done and then living our lives accordingly.
On the 15 February, we were privileged to hear from the Rev. Canon Imogen Nay, from the staff of Chelmsford Cathedral. Canon Nay talked to us about her time as Team Rector of the town centre Church in Rugby, Warwickshire. During her time there, Imogen’s Church became an ‘Eco Church’ by changing lots of the ways that they operated, both in order to lessen their environmental footprint as a Church and to be a community resource to enable others to do the same. Rugby Parish Church accomplished so much that they were judged worthy of a gold award by A Rocha International, the Christian charity which runs the Eco Church scheme. Even now, fewer than ten Churches in the UK have achieved this prestigious status.
We discussed how we, as an MMU, might work together to achieve Eco Church status for ourselves. Lots of ideas were raised and in small groups we discussed how each Church might lessen our carbon footprint, and encourage others to do the same. We also talked about the land around our Churches, and how it might be better used, by planting wildflower meadow for example. Some changes put forward were relatively simple (changing energy company to a green supplier) whilst others might be far more difficult to implement, either due to cost or to the problem of changing people’s ‘hearts and minds’. But all three Churches came away resolved to do all we can to take meaningful steps to be far more environmentally friendly.
Now the hard work begins – deciding what to do and how to do it. We hope that a small group from each Church will meet again to share progress, and to help each other set and attain goals, with the aim of becoming the first MMU in the whole diocese to gain Eco Church status. Maybe you have been concerned about the terrible environmental devastation that has been on the news and would like to do something about it. If that is you, we would love to hear from you. If you have any ideas of things we could do to be more environmentally friendly, or if you have some ideas of how we could help the community to do so, please get in touch.
What does Scripture mean to me?
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3.16)
Christian holy scripture is contained in the Bible, a series of 66 books in total, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. We share some of the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures with those of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, and the Bible, in its current form came together in the 4th Century. It contains writings from many centuries before the birth of Jesus; letters written by Paul to the early Church, which were completed within living memory of Jesus’ life and teaching; and the four gospels written some 50 years plus after the life of Jesus.
So let us unpack that sentence from the letter of Timothy to the early Christian Church. To me it is absolutely key that scripture is used in a way that encourages discussion and engagement. Some scripture will certainly challenge us and our modern context, and other passages will be as fresh today as they were centuries ago when first written down.
Teaching was very much part of the early Church as it came to understand Jesus’ teaching, and today we use scripture for teaching through sermons; as we prepare people for baptism and confirmation; and scripture as teaching is part of our faith journey, as we learn about Jesus’ teaching on love and welcome and forgiveness.
For reproof or correction conjures up pictures of the “thou shalt not” but the 10 commandments were then, and are now, very good rules to live by. We can’t just do what we want to when we are living in communities. Teaching about love and forgiveness throughout scripture offer valuable lessons for us all to share.
And righteousness is about our right relationship with God, in the Promise or Covenant made to us of a relationship with God as well as our relationship with others. In Genesis, right at the very beginning of our scriptures, we are given the responsibility by God to take care of all God‘s creation. Very topical given climate change and our use of our planet, and that responsibility means taking note of Jesus teaching on love, welcome and forgiveness.
Do you sense a theme here, in that scripture to me is about God’s love, welcome and forgiveness for us, God’s last creation?
So how can we use scripture in our daily lives?
In the daily offices of Morning, Evening and Night Prayer, we have daily scripture to encourage, challenge, calm and comfort. Within that are the psalms, songs and prayers of joy and despair, which can be helpful wherever we are in our lives.
Some scripture, especially in the Old Testament, varies from poetry: some quite surprising in its tone and content (try the Song of Solomon), to good stories (with meaning) such as Ruth and Jonah. And look at Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, and see how much daily wisdom we still use from those books.
The gospels are not biographies of Jesus’ life, but contain his teaching. Only two of the four gospels actually have the birth narrative and, within that, there are different aspects of the narrative as the writers were addressing different groups of people with the scripture. Again just as scripture speaks to us in different places and contexts in our modern world.
Today we also use scripture at important times in our lives, such as baptism, marriage and death, again to speak of what is happening at those important and redefining points in our lives.
Our Christian scripture, whether challenging or comforting, underpins our Christian life and still has very powerful messages for us about how to live our lives with one another, and especially with God our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.
So go and look at it again, or may be for the first time, and be challenged, surprised, comforted, and don’t hesitate to come and ask questions, after all that is how we learn.
The Bishop of Barking (Peter Hill) stood in front of Waltham Forest Deanery Synod on 14 January, as he neared the end of his Deanery Tour – Waltham Forest being the 13th out of 14. St John’s Church Walthamstow was filled, not only by synod members, but Church officers from across the borough, who had come together in this ‘Deanery Congress’ to hear from the Bishop, the Archdeacon, and Canon Jeremy Fraser (the Bishop’s Mission and Development Adviser) about the current financial position of the Diocese. The meeting was told that the first task of leadership is to face reality, and the reality wasn’t particularly comfortable.
The national resourcing of the Church is changing, population is rapidly increasing, and financial need is outstripping financial capacity. Within the Bishop’s area, the majority of Parishes receive subsidy from the diocese, and 65% of Parishes are not financially supporting the ministry that they are receiving, costing the diocese around £2.3m per year.
In 2020, the direct cost of a stipendiary minister is £40,351 (67.6% of which is the stipend itself, and the remainder being National Insurance, Pension and other mandatory costs). The cost of clergy housing, council tax, water rates and insurance is an additional £10,746, and if central services to Parishes from the Diocese and future ministry and others costs are added in the total comes out as £80,184. (By comparison, in 2019, St Edmund’s struggled to pay its subsidised £29.2K parish shares towards its ministry costs.)
Quoting Albert Einstein, the meeting was informed that to get different results requires people to try different approaches, and this was framed very much as a mission challenge. But there was also a practical aspect: the average weekly giving in Waltham Forest is £7.16, whereas if every person on each Church’s electoral roll gave £10 a week (assuming 20% not attending) the average across the area increases to £12.
The meeting split into smaller groups to consider what questions, worries or thoughts this raised. Back in plenary session, some of these were raised: Was the Diocese’s response radical or ‘foolish’ enough? Would any reduction in clergy numbers result in a proportionate reduction in senior clergy posts? Should clergy should be appointed to an initial fixed period rather than it being open ended? Additionally, questions were posed on how the legal entity of Parishes and the ‘danse macabre’ that Churches face when their clergy leave impacted on these issues, and whether the costs of curate training should be footed by the Parishes with curates or equally by all as these are the future of the Church.
The Bishop responded to the points, but the next step is for Parishes themselves to consider the issues, before the Diocesan Synod meets in March to consider a new ministry deployment policy in the light of the issues being faced.
17 November, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Sincerity is often absent from public life today, but sincerity is what we should be striving for: if we show care, compassion and honesty in our relationship with others, we show something of God whose attributes they are.
17 November, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Real religion is based on sacrifice – Christ came not to bring peace but radical change; the Gospel warns about the great disruption when God will act to change and restore his creation, transforming us into people sacrificing their own wants, and living out a radical and challenging love.
24 November, 8 a.m. (James Gilder): The Feeding of the Five Thousand looks forward to Jesus’ death in the breaking of bread, but the passage as read misses out the last verse in John’s account, where the crowd tries to make him an earthly king before he runs away – which would be particularly appropriate for the feast of Christ the King: Jesus is a king, but not in the traditional sense, good but hidden among the poor and weak – an example to our earthly leaders.
24 November, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Jesus always re-imagined concepts: he is a humble, vulnerable, serving King, who anoints others to give them worth and value to follow him, to stand up to tyranny as we realise that ultimately we are citizens of heaven, and our king is Christ our Friend.
1 December, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): The readings for Advent Sunday are all about prioritising and focus; Jesus summarises the law into love for God and love for neighbour, everything else follows on from that; love for neighbour is very important in today’s broken and divided world, looking out for others and helping: this should be our focus at the beginning of a new Christian year.
1 December, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): We can be embarrassed by talk of the Second Coming, but both Jesus and Paul urges us to live life in urgency; we should live life right here and right now, not assuming we have all the time in the world, but live today as if it is the last day, with compassion, lovingly, generously – else we are simply preparing to fail as disciples.
8 December, 8 a.m. (James Gilder): Despite the Gospel being written sometime after Jesus’ death, Luke does not redact Jesus’ comments about the end of the world, possibly in recognition that there needs to be concern about the end time; this world is flawed and will not last for ever: but we do need to prepare to meet God, simply because we meet him everywhere we go.
8 December, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): The prophets, as they hoped and dreamed for their people in times of uncertainty, show us what it means to wait for the future; we are challenged to compose a ‘hope list’ of what we would wish post-Election, opening ourselves to unexpected new beginnings, to be hope-filled, and to decide on at least one thing we aim to change.
15 December, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Paul calls us to faithful living; Jesus points to the signs of the coming kingdom: are we prepared?
15 December, 10 a.m. (Colin Setchfield): Advent sees hope in a Messiah routed in the failure of prophetic promises that the kingdom would be restored; where those who have been the victims of this age, and its dreadful powers, are restored by the one whose goal it is to reclaim the whole of creation: let us be open to find in all the disappointments, dark times and challenges, that God is incarnate simply in humanity, where our hopes and fears meet.
22 December, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): We should try to turn impatience into patience, as we wait for God and the peace of God that passeth all understanding.
22 December, 10 a.m. (James Gilder): In this dark time of year, it is important to remember the darkness we all have in our own lives; Mary and Joseph faced great dangers and in the dark of night it must have felt like those dangers had overcome them, yet they remained faithful and indeed, brave: being Christian is not about denying the existence of the darkness, but rather – conquering our fear of darkness, both in ourselves and in the world around us.
24 December, 11.45 p.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): At the first Christmas there was no space for God; do we make space for God in our lives amongst all our other concerns? God is the light shining always, welcoming and waiting for us, to make that space and invite God into our lives.
25 December, 10 a.m. (James Gilder): Love changes us for the better; it’s not just the person we love who receives this either, but it is often echoed in how we treat many around us; the love of God is all encompassing, but imagine how the Father must have felt when his own Son was born: the truth inherent in the love of God is just as true in the cold light of day as it was in the magical darkness of the stable at night, so let’s share it every day, not just at Christmas.
29 December, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Christ was born into a world of misery and horrendous violence with a price on his head, who would live not in comfort and protection but who would sacrifice himself; God is neither indifferent or immune to our suffering, but he is a God who will ultimately bury his unwelcomed son, who is God-with-us-in-everything, and in a world still seeking justice, peace and reconciliation, offers a contradictory kingdom of unconditional love.
5 January, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Light pollution in major cities prevents us from seeing many stars, but in other parts of the world the sky is alight with them so, for the Wise Men to have pin-pointed a new star was no mean feat; we are like those millions of stars that light up the night sky, but God looks out for us, revealing to us something uniquely
special for each one of us – something of God’s love, and something for us to put our hands to.
5 January, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): The Magi had a star and brought exotic gifts, but how will we find Christ today and what will we bring? Prayer, scripture, and the lives of others will point us to Christ, we need an attentiveness that gives space to ponder and to question as we look around and find there the promised Christ-child.
12 January, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Like the concerned parents looking for the boy Jesus lost in the City for three days, God is always there, it is us who have slipped away, and we just need to know where to look and to be open to God’s answer not being what we expect.
12 January, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): To a people waiting for another deliverer, Jesus comes and surprises them, breaking the cycle of blessing-complacency-suffering-deliverance; he shares their penitence, by associating with their lives and dying their death, and in identifying with us he invites us to rethink our lives.
19 January, 8 a.m. (Mick Scotchmer): The public ministry of Jesus begins with no fanfare but away from the spotlight of publicity, with a miracle that is implicit and not overt with few realising it has occurred; but it signals his care for all and limitless generosity – giving in quantity and quality in excess of requirements, going beyond necessity, and giving an example of how we should also live our faith.
19 January, 10 a.m. (Stella Olukanmi): In a world of rapid communication, we are called to be Christ’s eye-witness news team, telling others what Christ has done for us, and how that has transformed our lives; in the recent words of the Church leaders of Ireland, “The story of the Christian faith is one of new beginnings, where failure is never final, second chances abound, and all things can be renewed”.
26 January, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Following the feast of the Conversion of St Paul and preceding Holocaust Memorial Day, readings focusing on tenderness and forgiveness seem particularly appropriate, but there is still great inhumanity in the world; we all fall short of what God expects of us, but we should concentrate on those things which move our faith forward rather than those which stifle it: God loves us and accepts us for who we are.
26 January, 10.30 a.m. (James Gilder): Our covenant with God is literally written in blood: a promise which rests on a relationship, for he wants to be intimately close to us; all we need to do is to let the Holy Spirit work in our lives, and to let God love and lead us, for with God our sins do not make us what we are.
2 February, 8 a.m. (Colin Setchfield): The Temple was not cathedral-like (as depicted in religious artworks) but rather more like a barbaric abattoir, sacrificing live animals as substitutes for first-born children and cleansing ‘unclean’ women; temple ritual was not universally accepted then, just as today we can lament a Church that can be seen as a toxic brand – dark and primitive, unjust and repressive: Anna and Simeon were visionaries who saw how the Church could be, remaining within – waiting for God’s moment to come – an example we must follow.
2 February, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): The small lights we use in worship, that remind us of prayer offered, that light our way, all come from the one initial great light of God’s love for us; this light illuminates us, and we are called to hold this Christ-light in us both in times of speaking out and in the times of silence and quiet.
9 February, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): No one really knows what the Kingdom is like, but Jesus tells us it will be different because God does not do what you expect: God’s love is offered freely through grace, it is generous and overflowing.
9 February, 10 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): We are called to be the healing, cleansing grit, and thirst-causing salt, often working quietly in the background, bringing an extra dimension not only to our lives but those around us, showing God’s love and welcome in a world where sometimes little of both are seen.
16 February, 8 a.m. (Lesley Goldsmith): Climate change is an issue which is finally beginning to be taken seriously, as we see real changes happening, faster than ever before; at a recent MMU event there was a positive approach among the Churches to do what we can, sharing ideas and listening to each other: we can all make a difference.
16 February, 10 a.m. (Colin Setchfield): The creation stories tell us that God isn’t remote, but rather active and immersed within it all, creating out of sheer joy and delight; humans are merely creatures of the 6th day, yet often we see ourselves as creation’s pinnacle; creation is God’s dwelling place – the world where he meets us in the wild and the beautiful, the great, the fearful and the threatened – and all of creation is his beloved: we are part of that creation, not the rulers of it.