Blog from the Vicarage – 26 February 2021

A weekly message during Lockdown from St Peter’s Vicar, Rev John Rainer

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Last Monday the Prime Minister outlined his ‘road map’ for the coming few months. The measures he set out give us reason to believe that we might see an end to various restrictions over the coming months, including those which have led us to pausing worship in church in the recent past. And we have been told that it is the government’s intention that the present lockdown should be the last. 

Whilst there is certainly reason for optimism after many months of uncertainty, I must nevertheless join those who continue to emphasise the need for caution. Whilst the vaccines we are now receiving will offer a strong level of protection, serious risks remain, and therefore the church must move cautiously. Whilst some may be disappointed by this, we must remember that the message to ‘Stay at home’ will not be lifted until nearly the end of March, and it therefore seems appropriate to delay any return to corporate worship until then. The PCC met to discuss this last Tuesday, and there seemed to be substantial agreement around this point. So we have agreed to look carefully at the possibility of reopening the church around the time of Holy Week, provided that all the indicators remain good. For the time being our worship and fellowship will remain online. 

Now it is important to remember that there is another side to this. The phrase “light at the end of the tunnel” has been used a great deal by politicians and churchmen to describe the place we have arrived at. But we need to question the use of this phrase in a church context. We do not believe that our faith simply provides us with a distant hope of something better. Rather, we believe that Jesus Christ is “the light shining in the darkness” (John 1 v5) bringing future hope into the present. We are not about waiting and hoping for a better future. Our relationship with Jesus Christ means that there is something to be encountered in the present which does not depend on the church being there for us. God’s resources are not far away. 

Shipley Debt Centre 

I reported at the last Annual Parochial Meeting that St Peter’s had given its support to a Shipley Christians Together initiative to establish a CAP Debt Centre in Shipley. The Centre started work at the end of last year and now has a manager, Thomas Knight, who worships at City Valley Church. You may have seen an article in the T & A recently in which Thomas was interviewed – you can click here to read it online. Having settled into the post, Thomas is now looking for volunteers to assist in various areas, particularly with befriending clients. Presently much of the work takes place online, although this is likely to change over the course of 2021, with an office being developed at Northcliffe church. St Peter’s has committed £3,000 per annum to the support of this work over the next three years. Thomas has agreed to meet our PCC at its next meeting on 18th March, and we will be arranging for regular communication to come to us so that we can all both pray and act. In the meantime you can find out more on the Shipley Christians Together website here.

As Lent continues I would be very pleased to hear about your positive experiences of Lent Courses or Lent activities which you have found helpful. Let us all continue to heed Hazel’s encouragement from last week to be ‘radiators’ and not ‘drains’ in these hard times. 

With love and prayers, 

John Rainer 

A prayer for the coming week

Dear God, 

In this season of Lent, we’re reminded of our own difficulties and struggles. Sometimes the way has seemed too dark. Sometimes we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, we don’t see how our circumstances can ever change. But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you would be strong on our behalf. Lord, rise up within us, let your Spirit shine out of every broken place we’ve walked through. Allow your power to be manifest through our own weakness, so that others will recognize it is You who is at work on our behalf. 

We ask that you would trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. We choose to give you thanks today and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. Thank you that you are with us in whatever we face and that you are greater than this trial. We know and recognize that you are Sovereign, we thank you for the victory that is ours because of Christ Jesus, and we are confident that you have good still in store for our future. We thank you that you are at work right now, trading our ashes for greater beauty. We praise you, for you make all things new. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

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The week ahead

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