Our next Memorial Service is right at the start of May (Sunday 1st May), so it’s worth making a note (mentally and in your diaries!) at this point. This is a service held twice a year, at 6.30 in the evening, and one which is always found to be helpful and to meet a need – whether for visitors or regular church attenders. Those who have recently had the funeral of a loved one at Norbury are invited to come along and share this time of remembrance, prayer and worship, with the opportunity to light a candle in their memory too. All are very welcome to attend of course, and you may like to be thinking already if you have a friend, neighbour, family member or work colleague who might find encouragement and comfort in this service, if you could bring them along.
Every organisation has its Annual Meeting, and the Church is no different! Except it is, because essentially we’re meeting under the chairmanship of God (well, you know what I mean!) Our annual meeting (APCM) is not just a meeting to enact necessary bits of procedure for the coming year – people holding various offices and so on. It’s also a time to reflect thankfully on what God has been doing among us over the past year, and to look forwards, as well, to the year ahead.
All sorts of wonderful and encouraging things have happened at Norbury over the last 12 months, including the two modules of the Pilgrim Course, our new AV system, and various other events and activities which have enhanced our fellowship and spiritual growth. And we trust there will be plenty more to come. The Annual Meeting is certainly something which we trust will be well supported, so that we can move forward together with confidence.
This year’s Annual Church Meeting will be held on Sunday 24 April, at around 11.15, after the main (but slightly shorter than usual) service of Morning Prayer. As mentioned, our Churchwardens, PCC members and stewards will be elected, and we’ll be remembering the very many roles carried out by so many people. We are blessed indeed to have such a committed and collaborative church membership. Do come and support this important gathering.
We are holding a Coffee Morning at Edwards Court, Macclesfield Road on Thursday, 28th April from 10am – Noon. Tickets are 50p and there will be a Bring & Buy Stall and Raffle. Proceeds for MU charities. Everyone welcome.
Our Electoral Roll (the official list of church members) is revised each year before our Annual Meeting. All who are baptised, 16 or older, and live in the parish or have attended regularly for 6 months, are eligible. If you’re not already on the ER, please fill out a form (from the table in the narthex), or, if you are on the ER, check your details in the existing list (on the table), before 3rd April.
Mothering Sunday this year falls on the first Sunday of the month (6th March), so our service pattern for the month is a little different. We will celebrate Mothering Sunday, as we always do, with an All-Age Service, at which Oliver Fisher will also be baptised (Oliver and family are already part of the church community here at Norbury), and during which our puppet team will also be in operation.
We look forward very much to welcoming visitors and wider families at this service as well, as we give thanks for motherhood. “We may not all be mothers, but we have all had them!” For some, there are sad associations on this day, but there is also much to celebrate, not least the mother-like love of God for each of us, whatever our personal experiences. Do come along, and invite a friend or neighbour too.
If you thought that Lent came early last year, it’s come even earlier this time! Because Easter Day is on 27th March (which is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox!), Ash Wednesday – the beginning of Lent – falls on 10th February. So theoretically we may still be in the depths of winter when Lent begins.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the 40 day period leading up to Holy Week and Easter. It’s an important day and an important season, focusing on our mortality and our need of God, as well as his generous grace and the forgiveness and new life he offers us.
As usual, we will mark Ash Wednesday with two services in church: one at 10.30am (the normal midweek service time), and another at 7.30pm. They will both be Communion services, including, for any who wish, the “imposition of ashes”, as it’s traditionally called (receiving the sign of the cross on the forehead in ash, accompanied by prayer).
We hope you’ll find these services to be meaningful and helpful, as we start the journey towards the cross and on to Easter. All are encouraged to come to one of these if you’re able, and all are very welcome.
We plan to provide a number of resources during the period of Lent to help us to think about our lives and lifestyle, and how our faith impacts on these.
In the Sunday evening services, we’ll be running a sermon series on the theme of “Water” – looking at its importance and some of its various uses and references in the Bible, while also challenging ourselves to think about our use of it today, our stewardship of it, and the suffering caused by a lack of it in many places. Do come and join us for any of these evening services.
Sermon series on water: John’s Gospel
As part of our focus on water during Lent, the sermons are our evening services (at 6.30pm) will explore the significant part played by water in the ministry of Jesus as recounted in John’s Gospel.
Sunday 14th Feb: “In the river”: The Baptism of Jesus (John 1 v 29-34).
Sunday 21st February: “At the well”: Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4 v 7-15).
Sunday 28th Feb: “By the pool”: The healing at Bethesda (John 5 v 1-9).
Sunday 6th March: “On the water”: Walking on the water (John 6 v 16-24).
Sunday 13th March (Passion Sunday): “Washing clean”: foot washing (John 13 v 1-17).
Sunday 20th March (Palm Sunday): “Athirst for God”: Jesus enters the city (John 12 v 12-16).
Sunday 27th March (Easter Day): “By the lake”: Jesus and the disciples by Galilee (John 21 v 1-14).
Jesus said, ‘…those who drink the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4 v 14).
We also intend to provide a series of weekly issues for reflection in this area for all of us in church, and some practical things to think about during the week, as we go about our daily lives.
As we regularly do, we are also holding a number of Lent study sessions with our sister churches in Hazel Grove. These will be on Wednesday evenings starting at 7.30, with different sessions in the various churches week by week – please see elsewhere for details.
We will also be encouraging people to read the Lent study book. Our Lent book this year is “Dust & Glory”, by David Runcorn, which once again looks extremely interesting. Copies will be available for sale via Wendy and the bookstall. A short Bible reading, reflection and prayer is provided for each day – an excellent way to deepen your Lent experience.
We’re looking forward to starting another module in the Pilgrim Course, which will be running from mid-January. There will be six sessions starting on Tuesday afternoon, 12th January from 2pm-3.30pm or on Wednesday evening, 13th January from 8pm-9.30pm, in the Legh Room at church. This module (“Turning to Christ”) should be helpful for both new enquirers and established Christians. Why not bring along a friend? Do ask Richard or Rob for more details, or sign up on the narthex list. All welcome!
We’ve just had a few days off in Northumberland, and what beauty we found there!
Two of the highlights for us – as for most people who find their way there, I’m sure – were Holy Island and the nearby Farne Islands.
Holy Island (or Lindisfarne) is the island which can be reached by a long causeway when the tide is out. The monastic community there began in 635 AD, when King Oswald asked Aidan to go and found a monastery there. Cuthbert, who is a key figure in the history of the place, came in 670. The place was thriving until the first Viking raids in 793. But it’s perhaps most famous for the “Lindisfarne Gospels”, beautiful manuscripts of the four gospels, “illuminated” with fabulous painted designs, which are thought to be the work of just one monk called Eadfrith. The originals now live in the British Library, though there are copies of some parts in the exhibition on the island. They use beautiful motifs of animals and abstract shapes, and weave together themes of creation and Christ. The complexity and intricacy of them are staggering, and it’s a miracle that they have survived so well.
On the Farne Islands, signs of human habitation are few. But not so when it comes to bird-life! They are home to thousands of birds – puffins, guillemots, razorbills, terns, etc, not to mention a large number of seals. I was amazed to find how close to the birds you can get on the one island where you are allowed to land (Inner Farne). To be able to see these marvels of creation up close, and in such numbers, was phenomenal.
I came away with a re-invigorated sense of the beauty of life and the gifts of God – both in the natural world, and in the imagination and skill of humankind. Whether it’s the colour of the puffin’s beak or the colours of Eadfrith’s designs; whether the determination of the brooding guillemots or the diligence of the Eadfrith’s life-work; whether the glory of the world today or the glory of faith from year’s gone by, this is an amazing world that God has created! Let’s never stop wondering and enjoying the beauty around us!
Monday 26th January was a red-letter day for the Church! Libby Lane was consecrated bishop – in fact the first female bishop in the Church of England – in a memorable service in York Minster. It was a wonderfully uplifting, inspiring and moving service, enhanced by some superb music and of course the breath-taking beauty of the building itself. There was inevitably a big media presence, given the ground-breaking nature of the occasion, and Libby coped with the pressure and the spotlight – and even, unfortunately a short interruption from a protester – with calmness and quiet dignity. It’s the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the history of the church, and in the journey all of us in the Church of England are on. Let’s pray that God will do marvellous things through Libby, and that the interest generated by this significant change will encourage many more people to investigate this faith that Libby and all of us who follow Christ have found, that is so life-transforming and such a source of hope and surprises.
There was much celebration in the air on 17th December, when it was announced that the Church of England had appointed its first female bishop. And that joy was particularly felt around Stockport, where this milestone was announced! Our first woman bishop is to serve right here, as Bishop of Stockport, as one of two Suffragan (Assistant) Bishops to the Bishop of Chester. Rev Libby Lane is currently vicar of St Peter’s, Hale, having served earlier in Stockport itself, so she is well known in these parts. She is to be consecrated on 26 January 2015 in York Minster. I’m confident that Libby will carry out her responsibilities and ministry with great care, wisdom and skill.
There is relief for many of us that the Church has finally taken this step, and so demonstrated a fundamental tenet of our faith, that we are all equal under God, and all with gifts to be used in his service, irrespective of race, class, gender etc. We recognise that this is also a difficult step for some to adjust to, and we trust that the Church will continue to support that minority who are still finding it difficult to accept women’s ministry.
But three cheers for Libby, and for the Church of England!