Ask any historian what they think about English history and they will tell you there's this blank period we know hardly anything about, that covers the Celts, or Britons, in England. Actually we know a great deal about them, but it's not accepted. There are 58 separate manuscripts, held in the Bodlian Library, Oxford, among other public places, written by the Britons themselves. They came to England in 1104 BC from the ancient Greek city of Troy. When the city was destroyed, a group of Trojans, including some from their royal family, escaped to Italy and settled there. Eventually a prince was born, Brutus, who went back to Greece and became leader of the surviving Trojans.
They decided to leave Greece and find a new homeland. They sailed to what is now south-west France, where they met another group of Trojans led by Cornelius, cousin of Brutus. They joined forces and sailed to England, landing at what is now Totness in Devon (where there is still an ancient 'Brutus Stone', supposedly of unknown origin!). Cornelius and his group went west and established a kingdom called Cornwall. Brutus went east to the Thames valley and built 'New Troy' - eventually called London.
So why do historians ignore all of this well-documented history? Well, not only are 84 generations recorded from Brutus up to 664 AD (when the Saxons came to England), but they also recorded their genealogy in detail, back 28 generations to Javan, one of the seven sons of Japheth son of Noah!
This proves such a stumbling-block to British historians, that they feel they have no choice but to dis-count ALL the historic records of the ancient Britons, for, in their flawed thinking, if there never was a global flood and Noah never existed, then nothing the Britons wrote can be taken as fact, and so they summarily dismiss 1700 years of recorded English history! Yet there are five other independent manuscripts that also follow British genealogy back to Noah, and also record that from Creation to the Flood was 2,242 years.
Apart from their own history, the Britons also had records of mainland Europe, and the genealogies of all seven sons of Japheth, from whom all the main people-groups of Europe are descended. But are the Britons unique in recording all this? Not at all - the Saxons also trace their ancestry back to Noah, all seven Saxon royal families being descended from Japheth. In fact, their records even show that one of Japheth's sons, named 'Benlich', was born on the Ark! They also corroborate 2,242 years exactly from Creation to the Flood, completely independently from the Britons' records!
Not only the Saxons, but also the Danish and Norse (Norwegian) Vikings, and ancient Icelanders all trace their lineage back to Noah! And every Celtic Irish family claimed to be descended from Gadalus who was the great, great, great grandson of Japheth, and were originally from the ancient Greek city of Miletus.
Finally, the ancient eastern Chinese people, the 'Mowutsoo', who look European, also from Japheth's line, trace their ancestry all the way back to Adam! They reference the Tower of Babel as being the catalyst for global migration: they also name Noah's wife (omitted from Genesis) as Gorbolewen, which matches exactly with ancient Jewish records (the Jews, of course, being descended from Shem, one of Noah's other sons).
So, if anyone tells you there is no evidence to back up the history found in Genesis, they are in fact profoundly wrong - there is a great deal, but it is ignored and denied, because it is a fundamental inconvenience to those who wish to peddle Evolutionary ideas (for that is all they are!), and keep the truth of our real heritage obscurely hidden away from us!
(For more on this subject, go to www.smec.org.uk, Sermon Recordings, 25/2/18 PM)
Many people have asked me about our future plans and this is something I would ask you to continue to pray about as I seek the Lord's will. It was really helpful to be able to meet with Leoni Bouwer when she passed through the UK at the beginning of June. Leoni is a South African missionary, based in the south of Madagascar, who effectively oversees the current Bible translation projects into several of the Malagasy languages. She is very encouraging about the prospect of me being involved in one of the projects and made some suggestions of ways I might be able to help out even whilst based in the UK.
Please pray for wisdom and discernment as I seek the Lord's will in all this. I will be attending a translation workshop in Madagascar from 18th - 29th September, which will give me an opportunity to meet some of the teams and to see first-hand how the projects are progressing. It should also help to clarify possible ways forward for my future involvement.
I am also hoping to take an online Hebrew course starting in October, as well as using the time here to revise my New Testament Greek, since a thorough understanding of the original scripture texts is clearly vital to accurate Bible translation and this is one way I hope to be able to assist the local Malagasy translators who have not had the opportunity to study Hebrew and Greek.
As I mentioned in the last prayer letter I am committed to staying in the UK for at least another year, while Anna takes her GCSE's. Her school does not have a sixth form, so she will need to move schools next year. I am also considering other schooling options for Jonathan from 2019, so please pray for wisdom in this issue. Much will depend on whether I return to Madagascar in Autumn 2019 or stay in the UK until the children are further through their schooling.
We enjoyed a lovely afternoon at London Seminary at the end of June to witness Toky's graduation and that of his fellow students. Toky has now returned to Madagascar where he will be pastoring the Baptist church in his home town, 200 miles west of the capital. Pray for him as he takes up this role; he will not only be pastoring, but training up others to help him in leading and teaching, as well as involved in regular training of pastors from smaller village churches.
Post-script:- Most recent update from Toky is the distressing news that a fellow pastor from a nearby church was shot & killed. Pray for Toky & others in ministry with him as they seek to offer comfort to the bereaved, and cover the extra work-load. Pray also for their safety in such a rural part of Madagascar.
A very busy summer of travel and holidays began with Esther & Naomi making brief trips home to see us before heading off on the first of many UBM commitments the young Havells now regularly take on every year. Two weeks of mission to international students in Bournemouth marked the start of Naomi's UBM 'season', while Esther & brother Luke soon caught up with the UBM action, travelling together to Looe in Cornwall for a week on the beach.
Then Naomi was off to St. Ives for a week, followed by a stint at Lyme Regis. Esther was then due to take over from Naomi in Lyme Regis, while Naomi was off to Benllech in Anglesey for a further week. Both girls managed to 'touch base' with us very briefly at the end of the summer, before heading back to Bristol Uni. (Naomi) & Durham (Esther, to begin her Ministry Training Course).
Before many others disappeared off on holiday, we held a Messy Church & barbecue in mid-July, while the following weekend we were all invited 'over the road' to St. Mary's Family Fun Day, including another barbecue & even a bouncy castle!
At the end of July we bade a temporary farewell to Peter & Thelma, as Peter took a well-earned sabbatical until early September, recognising his now 14 years of ministry with us. We look forward to his return!
In August, our combined service with St. Mary's gave a chance to hear Ed Veale from St. Nick's C. of E. in Tooting bringing the Word in place of James Fletcher, who was on holiday, & we also enjoyed ministry from Chris Commander (an apprentice at TRC), Ray Werner-Parker & Geoff Coyne, in Peter's absence.
Special thanks to deacons Dave Connor & Lee Sanders who got & kept everything organised, & took on a lot of extra duties to ensure everything ran smoothly over the summer.
And just when we thought our numbers might be a bit low for our Sunday services (with so many on holiday), God blessed us with good numbers, & an encouraging number of first-time visitors, throughout the summer.
Congratulations to Luke Havell for three respectable passes at 'A'-level: Luke will now be attending The Crafters College in Stratford ( E. London), specialising in woodwork/joinery.
Given the troubling state of the world around us, many
people today find it difficult to believe in God; their personal experience of
death, sickness, and family break ups, and then the global disasters of the
last few years, all lead to the doubting of His existence.
When things go wrong, more often than not, it is God who is blamed! There seem to be many unanswered questions, such as:
Where was God in all this?
Why did God allow this to happen?
Why didn't He stay the hand of the terrorists?
Why didn't He heal the person of their illness?
What sort of loving God would allow innocent people to be destroyed?
Where is God when things go wrong?
These are very difficult questions, yet all Christians
should be prepared to answer them.
When tragedy strikes, it is impossible to know how any of us would react and although this is such a difficult subject, it would be wrong to sidestep it. As believers, we need to be able, and prepared, to give people a proper Godly and Biblical response.
To do so, we need to be clear in our own minds about certain important principles, then apply sensible reasoning. So let's do just that..
If we take a look back at the last century, we could ask why God has allowed tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse Tung (to name but a few) to wipe out millions of innocent people purely because their beliefs did not concur with the ideology of these despots.
We could also ask why, during the past 40 years, God has he allowed the world to destroy millions upon millions of innocent babies in the womb through the act of abortion (and the majority of these are carried out purely to satisfy lifestyle choices!).
Let's now move down a level and ask why God allows people to commit murder, rape, paedophilia; drunk drivers to mow down innocent pedestrians, knife-wielding muggers to stab victims to death for their designer watches, moped riders to carry out smash and grab robberies, (seriously injuring anyone who gets in their way) and burglars to burgle.
Following the logical course of this reasoning, the next layer ought to be US! - our own thoughts, words and actions. Surely God ought to do something about it. Yet if He did we would no more than puppets, robots, or zombies manipulated by Him.
To say, as the atheists, agnostics and others do, that God is loveless, impotent and does not exist just because He does not intervene or prevent difficult situations flies in the face of simple reason, history, and His Word - the Bible.
Many thousands of people, like myself, have no doubt about God's love, authority and presence; and above all His power to intervene in any situation should He so desire. But we are also aware that he has an overall plan for us which His intervention would spoil. He knows the plans He has for us; we do not.
What kind of God would He be if He intervened at the beck & call, the whim and fantasy, of an ordinary person like me, whose thoughts, words, and deeds are so very flawed? If not on my opinion, on whose opinion should He intervene? You see, it is absurd to expect God to intervene in response to protestations by any individual, yet that is exactly what many people expect. (You may be one of them!)
I do not know what leads anyone to believe that blowing themselves up and all those around them (e.g. Manchester); driving trucks and vans through innocent bystanders (e.g. Nice and Westminster Bridge); indiscriminately shooting and knifing anyone who happens to be nearby (e.g. Paris and Borough Market) gains rewards in the next life.
Neither do I know why some people's bodies are so wracked with pain and illness that they suffer throughout their lives whilst others enjoy good health. But just because I don't know, does not mean that God does not exist or is impotent. On the contrary, it shows just how limited man's knowledge is compared to the King of Kings. (See 1 Corinthians 1 v. 25.)
What I can say is that my own personal experiences in life have shown me that He very much does exist. I could tell you that the God I know, love and serve, and the God who loves me personally, wants only the best for me. He wants me to be the person He created me to be and wants me to achieve the things He has laid before me. And God wants the same for you.
So, to answer the question 'Where is God when things go wrong?',
I suggest our response should start at the beginning with Genesis 1 & 2, which
tells us that when God created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, He
blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply. He gave them authority
and dominion over everything on the earth and made but one condition:-
'The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die"'. (Genesis 2 v. 15-17)
Sadly, they both ate of that tree and broke their special relationship with God. They were cast out of that perfect sinless place, as they were sinners, eventually to die. That is the fate of all of us, whether rich or poor, young or old, for we are all descended from Adam and Eve and have inherited their original sin of disobedience to God.
Yet because God loves those He has created, He immediately put into place a plan of redemption - a means of reconciling (re-uniting) us to Himself. Jesus Christ, the only perfect man ever to have walked the earth, died to save us from our sins. How? In that one sacrificial act, He died a sinner's death to pay the penalty for our sins - our disobedience to God. (See John 3 v 16.) Even though we don't deserve it, Jesus' death made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and receive eternal life - our broken relationship restored and for our part all we have to do is believe and repent; the perfect plan fulfilled.
Jesus was God's son. Those of you here today who have families know how dear your children are to you and that you would do anything to save them from suffering. But on that terrible day, God did not intervene, even though He could have. But God does not work like that, because He already has everything under His control and He is already aware of every event in this world. The manner of His death and resurrection was foretold by Jesus Himself and by various biblical prophets of old. Many thousands of people, like myself, can testify to His living presence today - we have no doubt about God's love, power, presence and authority.
Fantastic, unbelievable, far-fetched? Yes, all these things, but also true!
Let me reassure you that God has all the answers and, if we trust in Him, in time we will have a greater acceptance of why He allows certain things to happen, even if we won't ever know the exact reason. He is sovereign! Amen!
9 of us from Summerstown joined with over a hundred others for the third 'Messy Cathedral' at St. Paul's on Saturday 2nd June. This time the theme was 'Blessed are the Peacemakers', with many different crafts illustrating this in a variety of inventive ways (though with a limited amount of 'mess' - we have to leave the cathedral as we find it!), before we all joined together with the regular congregation and other visitors for a time of worship and communion. After enjoying lunch in the cathedral gardens (the weather was lovely) all 'Messy Churchers' were invited to re-enter St. Paul's, free of charge, to explore more of this amazing part of our Christian heritage. A great day - and plans are already underway for next year (see the Messy Church website).
Over 100 guests gathered at Stella Fifield's place of residence to celebrate her 90th birthday, at the end of May. Fortunately the communal lounge opens onto a conservatory, which opens onto the beautiful shared gardens, so there was plenty of room for all of us, and plenty of food, too, with the generous buffet lunch laid on by Stella's family. It was all a surprise for Stella herself, who looked a little overwhelmed, though she quickly rallied and obviously enjoyed the celebrations.
(Please pray for Stella in the coming weeks and months, as her health situation remains grave.)
Congratulations to Esther, who graduated at the end of June with a 2:1 in Biology, & is now planning to stay on in Durham to do an apprenticeship with the church she has been attending while at university.
Congratulations also to our friend from Madagascar, Toky Andrianarivo, who graduated from London Theological Seminary after a two-year course of study, and returns to Madagascar to take over the pastorate of his home church, and also teach at the Seminary in Antsirabe.
Apologies to Esther & Naomi Havell, whose names were accidentally transposed in their adjacent articles in the last issue:- Esther is of course at Durham, and Naomi at Bristol Uni. - sorry for any confusion!
Coming to the end of my time at Durham University means that
I must now look to the future. I have loved my time in Durham, especially
serving at Christchurch, a large, evangelical Anglican church in the centre of
the city. Excitingly, I will be staying on at Christchurch (God-willing) on
their Ministry Training Scheme, starting in September. This will enable me to
serve full-time at church (in a voluntary capacity), while pursuing whether
full-time ministry is some way God can use me in the future.
Over the next year I will be involved in the practical running of the church including administrative tasks, as well as various areas of ministry, predominantly Student ministry (which I have benefitted from greatly over the last four years), through leading a small Bible-study group & one-to-one Bible reading, but also including children's & youth ministry. One day a week will be spent on a training course covering exposition, teaching classes, practical ministry & Bible overview.
As this role is voluntary, I need to raise funds for the next academic year, so please pray that God will provide all I need. I would also really value prayer support to make the most of the opportunities for growth & training I will have. Thank you!
God has promised that people of all nations will come to recognise Him as Lord & Saviour, and it's really exciting to be part of the work that contributes to fulfilling this promise! I have taken on the role of International Chair as part of the C.U. Committee this year at Bristol University. From September I will lead a team of six, though this term we are only four. We liaise with Bristol International Students' Centre (BISC), a Christian charity who seek to welcome & support international students. We provide volunteers for BISC events, such as student lunch every Friday, which gives us a chance to befriend these students. We are also able to put on our own events at BISC; Bible studies (with tea & cake!), 'Meal with a Message' (gospel talk), & other one-off activities. Please pray for the impact of these events, & guidance for the future.
A big part of what we do is to welcome new international students when they arrive in Bristol in September. We will meet them at train & coach stations and arrange lifts to their accommodation. BISC will lay on welcome meals each evening for two weeks, so the students can get to know us and each other. Our biggest challenge is recruiting enough volunteers to do all this, as it is the last two weeks of the summer holiday. I am told this can be the most stressful part of my role, so prayer for 'International Welcome' would be much appreciated! And please pray that in all we do, we would seek to honour and glorify God: 'Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain.' Psalm 127 v.1a.
Meet Ezekiel Ifeoluwadayo Obamakin, born on Good Friday (30th March), weighing a hefty 9lb 4oz. Mother & baby are doing well, older brother Zach is delighted, and father Tolu & grandfather David are very proud!
Please remember Stella Fifield in your prayers, as she has received an incurable cancer diagnosis, and had a nasty fall recently on a shop escalator. However, Stella remains undaunted, & plans are well under way to celebrate her 90th birthday in May.
When I was around 20 years old, and not attending church, or living as a Christian, I remember being fundamentally impressed by the events at Summerstown (1985/6), where my parents (Dennis & Lily Gower) & my aunt (Emily Bacon) were still fully involved.
Having enjoyed the highs of the extensive refurbishment & Centenary celebrations, & endured the lows of losing their long-time Pastor & friend Philip Rose, it was obviously a relief & a blessing to the fellowship to be joined by Andy & Kath Paterson and Colin & Eunice Paris from TRC, back in 1980. When Andy & Kath moved on, early in 1985, again the church was very grateful to Colin for taking on the leadership (as secretary/elder) while still working full-time. Things seemed settled, yet also poised for growth, as the church sought God for a new pastor.
But again this small fellowship was to be rocked to its very foundations - this time quite literally! Worrying cracks began to appear in the internal walls of the church (mostly around the newer building work, completed in 1980) - cracks which continued to grow! Professional advice was sought, and the fellowship's worst fears confirmed: the building's foundations had become unstable, due to a tributary of the Wandle River, very close by (since diverted), saturating the ground until it was little more than mud. The verdict: underpin the foundations as soon as possible. So quotes were obtained, and a figure of around £30,000 was settled on - money that the fellowship did not possess, having drained their reserves for the modernisation work a few years earlier.
Many churches in this situation might make their dilemma widely known, and probably stage large fund-raising events, hoping to reach their total. The folk at Summerstown, however, took a different approach. They alerted only a small circle of local churches & other supporters. Then they 'got down on their knees' and prayed. And prayed and prayed. And the money came in, from other local fellowships or individuals who felt prompted to give. The total was reached, and in time to pay the builders. In fact, the builders opted for a cheaper solution than underpinning, and so there were sufficient funds to include building a new vestry and replacing the main hall windows, and, while a concrete floor was planned, it seemed an ideal time to install a baptistery; all taken up as a very positive result of this necessary remedial work, completed in 1986.
So when God brought me back to himself that same year, I came back to Summerstown just as the inaugural baptismal service was being planned. I was baptised as a returning believer, alongside my sister-member Lydia Forbes, Dot James (member, since deceased) and ex-member and current trustee Bryan Harris, in front of a large crowd of church-family, other family and friends - a truly joyful occasion, made all the more poignant by knowing the 'back-story', and the fund-raising prayer effort that had impressed me so much at the time.
I have since come to truly experience for myself the words God spoke through Malachi, 'Prove me now!' (ch.3 v.10), but never seen it more clearly demonstrated than by the membership of our church at a time when the very foundations of the building were under threat of collapse! And if God has preserved our church, and 'brought it back from the brink' on more than one occasion, surely he has great plans for our future!
'Casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you' - 1 Peter 5 v.7
In 2002 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and that was to become a year of difficulty and change for not only me but for my family, especially Dave my husband. We got through that year with our Lord lovingly guiding us through, holding us up when things were hard to cope with. I had been free of cancer for nearly 15 years but had a number of other health issues to deal with in the meantime.
After a Boxing Day walk on Wimbledon Common during Christmas 2016, I experienced searing pain in the groin when walking and also a sharp pain in my rib cage. This was the beginning of months of X-rays, MRI scans but no clear diagnosis, whilst all the time I was becoming less mobile and experiencing more pain. My very caring GP was very concerned and did all she could to help me. Finally, after a cancelled back operation in St George's Hospital, on that same day I was sent down to the A&E department, due to Dave's insistence that he would not be taking me home as I could not walk unaided. I had a further X-ray which revealed a spontaneous pubis fracture. My dear Lord put me in the way of a very caring and experienced A&E doctor who knew what my problem was - secondary breast cancer - a recent discovery for patients with my history. This meant that I could fracture at any time and in any part of my body without me doing anything untoward. At least now I had a specific diagnosis and I was discharged with various appliances (zimmer frame etc.) to help me.
However, things got more difficult in April, Easter week. I couldn't breathe very well and walking was very difficult. Dave had to call the emergency service in the early hours as my breathing was bad. Assistance came quickly and I ended up in A&E again. This time my condition was more serious and I was admitted onto the Oncology ward for observation and more tests. The outlook was not good. My dear Lord was walking with me and caring for me and reassuring me that He was with me and wouldn't leave me. His presence I felt very near to me all the time.
I had more extensive tests including an ultra-sound and breast screening which showed I had three lumps in the same breast as before and also a lump in the arm. It appeared my body was in a bit of a state, no wonder I had pain and declining health. I was told my condition could be managed with various drugs and infusions to strengthen my bones to help prevent more fractures. I was in hospital for four days and came out in the evening of Good Friday. My disappointment at not being with the church fellowship on that first Easter with them (we had joined SMEC the previous August) was eased on Easter Sunday evening when members of the fellowship all came round to our home to sing, pray, and share Communion together. I will always be grateful to them for their love and concern for us both. My Lord, on that special Easter Day, had shown His love and care for both Dave and myself yet again.
Since April, due to wonderful care and treatment from St George's Oncology doctors and nurses and our GP, I have nearly got back to doing most things normally again. More fractures occurred during the year but through ongoing infusions and appropriate drugs these have all healed according to the latest bone and CT scans in November. The breast cancer is hormone-receptive and the tablets I have been taking seem to be having a positive effect.
The path to recovery has been a very long uphill climb but with my Lord walking with me and on many occasions carrying me, I am getting better all the time. I have to say I couldn't have come this far without the loving care, patience and support of Dave, who had to do everything for me in the first half of the year and still makes sure I don't overdo things now. I am also grateful to my family, especially our son Andrew who lives in New Zealand. He is running in the London Marathon this year for MacMillan Cancer Support. He wanted to support me and also show his appreciation for the wonderful work they do, and especially the way they cared for his Nan (Dave's Mum) 3 years ago before she died. You can see what he is doing and support him on uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Andy Connor. You can see what he does and his training on www.rockgod.co.nz. He has already run a number of marathons including New York and Las Vegas in November for this charity.
Dave and I are very appreciative of the love, support and prayers of our church family at Summerstown, our friends at TRC and many other friends and family around the world.
I have just read the account of the Lord calming the storm and was touched by the commentary Matthew Henry gave. I could see comparisons in my situation. When we are tossed about in 'the storms of life', and our Lord seems to be 'asleep' to all our cries for help, He is always aware and willing to save us from the peril we are going through. He waits to see the strength of our faith, like the disciples, and if we hold fast to Him, He comes at the perfect time to reassure us and deliver us. His timing is always perfect . . . 'He cares for us.'
As you can see through this account of my difficult year, our Lord is always true to His Word and as the text says when we 'Cast all our cares on Jesus', He is always there to care for us if we put our trust in Him.
As a church, it was an absolute delight to gather together
with friends and family of Randy Scott & Joanna Woloszyn to celebrate their
marriage, on Saturday 3rd February at Trinity Road Chapel. On a day
of 'challenging' weather, it was wonderful to feel the warmth of love and
affection that emanated through our venue, for and around the couple on their
special day. Our pastor Peter led the service & took the ceremony,
emphasising Randy & Jo's bond of love in the Lord, and the unique
characteristics of true Christian marriage.
During the lunch reception that followed, several non-believers expressed a new-found appreciation of godly marriage through the wedding service. This was further emphasised as the after-lunch programme unfolded; not only a joyous celebration of the loving relationship that Randy & Jo already have, but a witness as well to their obvious shared love of the Lord.
Controversially, they are going to Beirut for their honeymoon - we trust they'll return home safely!
After 34 years in Smallwood Road, & nearly as long at Summerstown, Lydia Forbes bade a fond farewell to Tooting and 'upped sticks' for pastures new - Milton Keynes, recommended by her younger daughter who settled there a while back. She will be greatly missed, as one of our longest-standing members, and also as it's only a few months since she returned to regular attendance with us, after years of ill-health. Our thoughts & prayers go with her as she gets to know a new area and church, and seeks to build new friendships (while promising to keep in touch with old friends!).
The afternoon of Monday 11th saw the start of a very busy period at SMEC, commencing with the Com Club (for over 55's) Christmas special. Despite a number of absentees due to ill health and particularly poor, icy weather, a good time was had by the folk who were able to be there.
Graham and Rosie had set up a lovely Christmas table for the afternoon and we enjoyed sausage rolls, home-made mince pies and various other goodies.
One of the Com Club members had prepared a Christmas quiz and the variety of questions taxed our brains for much of the afternoon. Alongside this there was plenty of friendly banter and good conversation. During proceedings, Graham took the opportunity to remind us all of the real meaning of Christmas.
On the morning of Wednesday 13th some 50 people (including 28 children) crammed into the church for the Minis and Minders Christmas special - the final session before the Christmas break. The children, as usual, enjoyed playing with the multitude of toys at their disposal before participating in the Christmas nativity which Jo narrated in an up to date format making good use of cuddly toys and dolls. This was followed by a buffet, most of which was provided by Parents and Carers, and a great time was had by all.
4pm on Friday afternoon 15th saw our Messy Church Christmas special with over 50 folk thoroughly enjoying the craft activities around the Christmas theme, with some even taking part in an ad hoc nativity play.
This was followed at 6pm by a Christmas meal in the form of a carvery and included the singing of carols between courses.
The evening finished around 8pm and it was joy to see so many happy faces of people who had clearly enjoyed the whole event.
On Sunday morning 17th we enjoyed our Christmas Family Service which was well attended and our young people acted out a modern version of the nativity in the form of a TV News bulletin which went down really well. The service concluded with this challenge from our Pastor - 'Don't look at the manger; but look for the one laying there'.
On Sunday evening, as last year, we joined our friends across the road at St Mary's Summerstown for a joint Carols by Candlelight Service and it was very well attended.
St Mary's is a traditional C of E church and the building has fantastic acoustics which greatly enhanced the singing of our 17-strong 'Summerstown Singers' (all from SMEC) who sang two lovely pieces acapella - 'O Holy Night' and 'Mary did you know?'.
This was interwoven with congregational carols and a beautiful duet by Esther and Naomi Havell (who had both just got back from University) -'Who would have dreamed?'.
The service was led by St Mary's acting minister Jonathan Fletcher; and the message given by our Pastor Peter Bines about the personal challenges Mary and Joseph faced - as ever he closed with a challenge to the congregation 'Trust the Saviour who is Christ the Lord'.)
There was a sense of sadness, but also celebration, as we joined our friends at St. Mary's (across the road) on Sunday 19th November, for Rev. Roger Ryan's final Sunday service before retirement - which also happened to be his 70th birthday! He and wife Pauline were suitably honoured / embarrassed by the gratitude and praise lavished on them after 29 years of service in Summerstown, as well as the many gifts and warm wishes for the future.
There was a much more profound sense of sadness only a few days later, when we heard of the premature passing of Geoff Coyne's much younger sister, after years of health problems, finally losing a short battle with cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are with Geoff, Eilleen and their family especially at this time.
With significant modernisation work nearing completion, and Centenary celebrations planned for early 1980, our church looked to be in a strong position for moving forward into a new chapter - but no-one could have foreseen what changes were waiting for this small fellowship early in that new year . . .
The Pastor's Letter, from the 1980 Annual Report:-
What an eventful year! Twelve months ago I was fully involved in the work at Trinity Road Chapel and busily decorating our new house in Kenlor Road, never thinking that I would be writing this report as Pastor of Summerstown Mission. Soon after came the shattering news of the death of Philip Rose, who I had come to know and love at many BB camps, but this sadness was also filled with wonder at God's marvellous grace in His glorious timing. As a deacon at the Chapel I as one of those who met with the committee and offered our assistance, later to be set apart by the diaconate and Church with Colin Paris for the work at the Mission. Meetings with the committee once more were soon followed by the service of induction at the end of September.
The induction was a thrilling occasion for all of us and filled with a sense of great expectancy which I believe has not been misplaced. On Sunday evenings we have been considering the attributes of God, and once a month, Colin Paris, the new Mission secretary, is taking us through the epistle to the Philippians. Our Bible studies on Wednesday evenings have been moved from the Mission to the homes of some members, and having gone through a study of the doctrine of the Church we are now going through the Bible a book at a time. It has been encouraging to see greater sharing and more fervent praying for the lost.
Another vital event in our Mission life has been the appointment of a district visitor, George Wright. This has come about through the generosity of the fellowship at the Chapel who have given sufficient funds to set George aside for one day every week visiting the area. We trust that in the coming year folk from the Mission will be going round the district with George, sharing in this important work.
Finally it has been good to see increased numbers and note increased giving, but we are still waiting for the Lord to bless in salvation, and see more local families attending. Our motto is 'Prove me now' (Malachi 3:10, A.V.) and indeed we are looking to the Lord to bless, but we must also be faithful to Him and His Word. This means, I believe, that we must seek to conform our church life, organisation and government to the Word of God - 'Prove me now'!
Yours in His service
So, as our church stepped into a new decade, with a new Pastor building on the foundations laid by Rev. Philip Rose, there was indeed a sense of expectation - what did God have in store for our small fellowship at the beginning of a new era? (More next time . . .)