Church in action at Village Store Cupboard

This week, we were delighted to hear that Ann Sibley (pictured far right) and Julie Cawood (far left), whom many of you will know from church, were honoured for their outstanding efforts in running the Stoke Poges Store Cupboard at St Andrew’s for the duration of lockdown. They were presented with their awards, along with Sue Lynch who runs the Good Neighbour Scheme (right) by Joy Morrissey MP (left).

Ann is our caretaker and lettings manager and I asked her how she felt about receiving the award:

“I feel very humbled to receive the award.  It was totally unexpected and I feel there were more deserving people than me who should have received one.  I would do it all over again.” This was echoed by Julie, who didn’t think she had done anything special (!) and was glad to have felt purposeful during a very uncertain time.

Ann’s favourite thing about running the Store Cupboard was knowing how much it meant to the recipients and how grateful they all were.  Also working with Julie was amazing every day. The trickiest part was making sure they had the food for our villagers ready for their care parcels which were sent out Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  They not only sent out the essentials such as bread, milk, tea, coffee but asked exactly what they needed and shopped for it and delivered it to them.

I wondered whether at the start of lockdown, when everything seemed so uncertain and we had seen such horrendous footage on the news from other countries, Ann felt nervous?

“I was not nervous at all.  My family were anxious for me as they said I was putting myself at risk.  Both Julie and I were very careful and strict by always wearing gloves, washing our hands regularly, wiping the food down and boxes and bags as we received it with antibacterial spray or wipes. We wore a mask when we went to the shops, opened windows and doors to have the air circulating and most importantly of all, kept our 2 metre distance.”

Julie and Ann would like to acknowledge all the people who helped make the Store Cupboard run smoothly:

“We could not have run the store cupboard without Natasha, Saera Carter, Sue Lynch and Bal Bahra the Pharmacist setting it up and agreeing for it to be run at St Andrews Church Centre.  Also all the very kind ladies and gents who regularly delivered the parcels to our villagers, especially Adele and Andrea who never missed a week; the very kind generous villagers who either donated food or cash on a regular basis, many being furloughed or not working and gave so generously.  

A special thank you to Mike and his wife who brought at least 3 bags of shopping every week of essentials and treats; the charities who donated money that paid our big shopping bills at Costco and Bookers and Phillipa who stepped in at short notice when I had to self isolate and was ill for 3 days.  A huge thank you to everyone as it was a team effort.”

From the occasional visit to the store cupboard, I know how organised it all was, thanks to Ann and Julie skills and though they are far too modest to mention it, Ann’s idea and their collective dedication offered the village a lifeline which many others did not have in their neighbourhood. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Donations were all sanitised and sorted, ready to be parceled up
Messages from grateful villagers

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.

Matthew 25:35

Easter in the Garden

How long ago it seems that Lent was just beginning, we made pancakes, attended Ash Wednesday service and heard the first couple of our sermon series on Acts about the early church.

And suddenly we lurched into a global crisis, our world shrunk to the limits of our four walls and, if we are lucky, our gardens. This Easter has been spent apart physically but together spiritually, via our Good Friday podcast and Easter Sunday online service. Some people kept themselves busy making Easter gardens and other creations. Look at these beauties!

Some people seem permanently purposeful. No matter what the boundaries, they switch apparently seamlessly from one endeavour to another. Office work becomes cooking for a neighbour, swimming becomes an electronics project, visiting becomes phoning, school runs become home school, working at the hospital becomes working even harder at the hospital.

And others struggle – to stay positive without their usual support network, to cope with issues that were already difficult, to adapt to unwelcome change, to stay on course without the rudder of routine.

But as Christians and as a church family we have an advantage. We are greater than the sum of our parts because we have our Saviour and our community to lean on. Let us never take those gifts for granted.

Editor’s Note: we are experimenting with a new way of sharing the blog – via our Friday newsletter mailing list, so apologies if you get it twice. Your feedback to office@stokepogeschurch.org on any aspect of our communications is always welcome.

Lent: Facing the Cross

Our installation (with a nod to Antony Gormley’s “Field”)

But first, let’s catch up with Lent 2020 in Stoke Poges so far…

Last Monday week, our Tots’ Praise families decorated pancakes to acknowledge our preparation for Lent.

Then on Ash Wednesday, we joined our neighbours at the newly refurbished St Paul’s in Slough for an evening service. Natasha led the service with the St Paul’s team, Helen Broadbent and Nadeem Azam, who shared his testimony as part of his address.

It was heartening to see that our neighbours are thriving both in number and in their faith in their community. I think it is a brave move to mobilise hearts and wallets to rejuvenate a large building so boldly and with such diverse tastes across the congregation, but they have stepped out in faith to make the building fit the needs of the people (who really are the church).

It was this faith and enthusiasm that we heard about in the first of our sermon series on the early church last Sunday. No buildings (or sound system 🙂 ), just people, galvanised by what they saw and heard and filled with the Holy Spirit so that they became a community united by Jesus and acted in His name.

A little entertainment whilst we listened – making playdough figures to stand/sit/lie at the foot of the cross as a symbol of our community and where we are in relation to the cross.

Where are you?

Are you in the thick of it or standing on the fringes;

clinging on at the foot of the cross or lying prostrate in awe;

or absent? Come home – you will be welcomed with joy.

Consider the Lilies: A blog for Lent

Revd Clare Hayns, Chaplain at our patron church of Christ Church, Oxford, introduces her Lent blog and we repost her first post: Hagar – The Woman Who Is Seen (with apologies to Clare for losing some of her formatting!). Do visit Clare’s blog to follow throughout Lent https://clarehayns.wordpress.com/ Clare writes:

Each day of Lent I’m going to post about a different woman from the Old Testament and on Saturdays we have some wonderful guest posts written by some fabulous women…

They should take about 5 mins to read, and each will end with a short prayer. I’ll send them at 6.30am each day. You might find it helpful to find a regular time of day that suits you to read them, perhaps in the mornings and some people like to have a particular place, such as a favourite chair.

We’ll begin [on Ash Wednesday] but I thought I’d start with a little introduction.

I began this blog last summer as a challenge for myself to a) form a writing habit, b) find out for myself more about the women of the bible, and c) learn how to use WordPress (which took a while!).

A bit about me. I’m ordained as a C of E Priest and currently work as College Chaplain and Welfare Coordinator at Christ Church, an Oxford College. I came to faith in my early 20’s having grown up in rural Bucks and my childhood was more ‘pony club’ than ‘church youth club’. I’ve often felt that my knowledge of the Old Testament was a bit scrappy, and so when I began this blog most of the women were a mystery to me.

There is an assumption that women are largely ignored in the biblical narrative, and that when they are written about they are marginal characters to the main story, or are only allowed to be either mother, whore or seductress. This is certainly the case for some of the women we’ll look at over Lent, and there are some tragic stories that we won’t gloss over and ignore. But there are also many, many women who are central to the narrative, complex in character, and who use the power they have for good, and sometimes for evil.

When I began the blog I intended to use New Testament women as well, but I found there were so many fantastic women in the Hebrew scriptures and so I decided to stay there, with two exceptions from the Apocrypha.

I hope you enjoy reading about these wonderful women as much as I have enjoyed writing these blogs. Also, if you enjoy them, please do pass the link on to your friends!

Every blessing,

Clare

A prayer for our journey

Let us make our way together, Lord; wherever you go I must go: and through whatever you pass, there too I will pass.
Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582

Hagar: The Woman Who Is Seen

Genesis 16 and 21

Hagar by ©Micah Hayns

Welcome to the first post of my Lent 2020 blog. Each day I will post about a different woman from the Hebrew Scriptures, and each post will end with a guide for personal prayer. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them!

We begin with Hagar.

Hagar was the very first person to dare to give God a name. She wasn’t a person of any authority or particular merit, she wasn’t a prophet or a priestess: she was an Egyptian slave girl owned by Abram’s wife, Sarai.

Sarai hadn’t been able to have children and so had hatched the kind of plan that we might recognise from the Handmaid’s Tale: she would have a child with Abram via the means of her slave, Hagar. Abram willingly went along with the plan and Hagar, clearly having no choice in the matter, became pregnant. The two women began to hate each other but Sarai of course, had the upper hand and Abram gave his wife authority to do as she pleased. Sarai’s anger deepened as time went on and she became violent and eventually the pregnant Hagar, fearful for the safety of her unborn child, fled to into the wilderness.  

It was as she was hiding near a well that Hagar heard the voice of an angel:

Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’

Genesis 16.7

She was promised her son would be a ‘wild donkey of a man’, and told to return.

Hagar was so overwhelmed by having been seen and heard, perhaps for the first time in her life, that she gave the Lord a name,

You are El-roi”; (God who Sees), for she said, “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?”

Genesis 16.13
The Dismissal of Hagar by Giuseppe Nicola Nasini, between 1657 and 1736, (image from Wikimedia Commons)

She bravely returns to Sarai, gives birth to Ishmael, and brings him up in Sarai’s household until Sarah (given a new name) had herself produced a child of her own, Isaac. Now with a son of her own Sarah didn’t want them around anymore and they were once again banished.

Ishmael was an adult by this time (around 15 years old). The banished pair wandered in the desert until their food and water had dried up and all hope of survival had gone. In the first description of a death ritual in scripture, Hagar put her child under a bush, sat at a distance and waited for him to die.

Their tears were heard by the angel of God who, like the angel that appeared to Mary centuries later, said to them: ‘do not be afraid’, a well of water appeared and they survived.

Hagar became a Grandmother to many, and Ishmael’s descendants, the Ishmaelites, populated the land and grew powerful.

Hagar, enslaved, abused and mistreated, was seen and heard by God.

THE SITUATION TODAY

Sadly slavery isn’t in the past and although it’s hard to find accurate statistics it is estimated that over 40 million people are held against their will and that 71% of overall victims of modern day slavery are believed to be women – this is nearly 30million people! https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/modern-slavery/

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, 
there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3.17

PRAYER

Loving God, who sees and hears all those who cry out in need, bring comfort and freedom to all your children, to those who are kept against their will, those who live in fear of violence, and those who are forced to run away to protect their family, in the name of El-Roi, The God Who Sees.
Amen

Rounding up Christmas

Welcome to our round up of part 2 of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany… in pictures!

Leaf Raking 14th December

What do you do when you are preparing for a birthday party? You tidy up! A few (very welcome) extra hands joined our regular Reapers to rake up the leaves at St Giles’ ready for our Christmas services. Followed by doughnuts of course!

Wassailing 22nd December

Making our Lanterns
Singing on the Repton Bridge – could they hear us at Stoke Park?
A convivial atmosphere – mince pies, mulled cider and a few more carols

Christmas Eve: Family Carols by Candlelight

Epiphany All Age Service 5th January

Our greatest gift to Jesus is to let his light shine through our actions

Love God. Love People.