Strapping on Our Armour

armourFood for thought from Andrew Parry, our Associate Minister

There are many proverbs in the Bible. One of my favourites is “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” Proverbs 19:17. What a superb reason to be a generous giver!

Some proverbs are well hidden – not all are found in the book helpfully called “Proverbs”. One of the little gems hidden deep inside the Old Testament, in a place one is unlikely to search (not quite as unlikely as the Book of Numbers, which is largely about, well, numbers) is this one:

“One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.”            1 Kings 20:11.

It is so profound in its economical use of words and images. Surely, if you are going to boast, do it after you have returned from battle? When you take off your armour and see the dust, the dents, perhaps the gore. If ever one is to boast, it is after the deed has been accomplished. When you have something to boast about.

Why would someone boast before having proven anything? Out of swagger, bravado, fear? Perhaps all three. The closest I have come to battle was my time in the emergency services. When there was a callout to a fire or other incident, we could not be sure how big it was. And I remember me and others suddenly yawning our heads off; a way of the body releasing tension. When on the way to an emergency as a paramedic, the challenge was, if anything, more personal: would I know how to deal with whatever faced me? Would my knowledge and experience, our protocols and support, be sufficient for the task? No time to boast.

I think people boast while “strapping on armour”, because when one has put on the armour, or the uniform, or assumed the role, one appears to be the real thing. But it is when we have to do what’s required of the uniform, that the differences show. Can the soldier fight bravely; can the paramedic tend to the injured; can the parent step up to the challenge; does the Christian behave as a follower of Christ?

In all of these, there is a daily battle to be fought. We put on our armour not once, but every day. We become more and more proficient at strapping on our armour. It starts to feel more comfortable, we feel less and less like an impostor, we look back on times when our armour took a blow, there is a dent here, some rust there. But we do not stop. In daily life, in life as a Christian, we do not stop. It is part of who we are, it is part of what we do. We do not fight to become a soldier, a paramedic, a parent. We fight because we are those things. As a Christian, we do not fight to win salvation (what atrocities have been committed in pursuit of that error?) we fight because we have been granted salvation. Then (if you must) you can boast!

Mothering Sunday

With posies prepared on Saturday morning, we gathered at St Giles’ on Sunday for a special service to celebrate all mums and others who nurture us. Traditionally, this Sunday was a day off for those who worked away from their home in domestic service to return to their “mother church”. However, in the UK, this has gradually been transformed into Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in May in some other countries.

In Stoke Poges, as in other churches across the country, we now take the opportunity to give thanks for everything our mothers, and those who stand in for them, do in our lives. We gave daffodil posies to them at the end of the service as a small token of thanks. It was lovely to have the uniformed groups with us for the service too, along with brand new mums, great-grandmas, foster and adoptive parents and all the generations in between.

img_3300.jpgIn the reading and his sermon, Andrew reminded us of the steadfast love of Jesus’ mother, Mary, who knew for many years that both awful and wonderful things would happen to her son. What a joy and a challenge it is to be a mum.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our service – and thanks Mum!

Volunteer Sunday

Our theme for this Sunday’s all age service was Volunteering. A big THANK YOU was expressed to all the people who volunteer for jobs big and small to make our church organisation more than just a collection of people who turn up on Sundays.

Lend an eye, an ear or a hand

We took a quick poll and most people were able to say that they volunteer either at the church or in the local community – that’s a lot of good neighbours!

TJ and Tina took us through a tricky Trivial Pursuit-style quiz (we earned all the cheeses!) and our action song (pictured top) was not the YMCA but “On a day like this…”

Every task is valuable: from bacon cooking to bell ringing; welcoming to weeding; chair stacking to children’s groups; mixing music to making coffee – all of these parts and many more make up the “body” of our church, as we heard in today’s reading and Andrew’s sermon (you can to it listen here). By doing a little bit within our abilities, lending a hand, an ear or an eye, we can continue to help more people take a step nearer to faith through a vibrant church community – ensuring that each person feels needed as well as cared for; appreciated when they are there and missed when they are away.

If you think you can help in any way, please speak to Andrew or TJ or call the church office. Next Saturday (10th March) we’ll be tying posies for Mothering Sunday – perhaps you can lend a hand?

Young volunteers
Illuminated manuscript by Theo 🙂
We earned our cheeses

Scouts and Guides Illuminate St Giles’

Last week, the Stoke Poges Air Scouts and Guides made (separate) visits to St Giles’ and the results were very creative!

On Wednesday night, Stoke Poges Guides visited St Giles’ to learn about stained glass windows and had a go at making their own. Outside, Andrew told them all about the story of the main East window before they made their own tissue paper “window” depicting their promise badge. Very effective with the light shining through, I’m sure you’ll agree!

Guides & Andrew at St G East Window
Andrew explains the East Window
Guides promise window makings
The makings of a window
Guides Promise window finished
The finished Promise Badge window

On Thursday night, the Scouts were joined by photographer Jason Candlin, from Silver Beard Images and, using torches, “painted” St Giles’ with light to produce these amazing long exposure photographs.

Scouts painting with light 2
West wall light painting
Scouts painting with light 1
East wall light painting

We look forward to welcoming the uniformed groups and their families back to St Giles’ for our family service on Mothering Sunday, 10.30am on 11th March. We will be thanking and celebrating all mums and others who nurture us. Everyone is welcome to join us.


What are you carrying?

red chocolate heartsAnother corker of an All Age service on 4th February saw Tina leading our thought-provoking activities, aided and abetted by Simon; a cameo role from Ruth P as “third girl with heavy backpack”; a cast of thousands presenting the Bible reading, line by line and a backpack-chocolate heart exchange, symbolising us confessing our sins to God (giving up the backpacks) and being forgiven because He loves us (receiving a heart). PLUS, Pam B took to the High Stools to give her very encouraging testimony – what a way to worship!

P1040223Pam told us about her late start in coming to faith – how a chance (God planted?) comment from her daughter prompted her to go to an Alpha course and this led to a realisation that she wanted Jesus to be part of her life. How she finds peace (more often if not always) through God and about her volunteering in prison ministry, as part of the chaplaincy to HMP The Mount, which gives her an interesting opener to talk about her faith to others. Thanks Pam for sharing your story! (More on the prison ministry and how you can support it another time – Ed.)

If you would like to “listen again” to Pam’s interview, or any of the others on the High Stools, please visit our Sermons page, here.


Men’s Group Beer & Skittles Evening

Our annual Beer & Skittles Evening in the main hall in St Andrew’s Church Centre last Saturday night proved as popular as ever.  Once again, we had almost 50 guys playing skittles (plus pool, air hockey & table football) and we were delighted to see so many Lads and Dads joining in the fun.  The Fish & Chip supper, desserts and drinks went down really well as everyone had worked up a great appetite.

Our next event is our Men’s Breakfast on Saturday 14th April at South Buckinghamshire Golf Club, Park Road, Stoke Poges, SL2 4PJ

A great way to start your weekend: coffee/tea will be available from 8:15am and tasty cooked breakfast served from 8:30am. Our speaker will be Nigel Lowe, a guy who is well known to most of you. During his talk, he has promised not to tell too many “jokes”, so there will be time to hear how he came to believe that Jesus is for real and how that has impacted his life.  We should finish by 10:15am. For more information about this event and the Men’s Group, contact Tony Shortman or Nigel Lowe via the Church Office.

Supper Club

I very much enjoyed my visit to the “legendary” Supper Club last Tuesday evening. Sidling in to any spare seat as it became available, I was able to do a tour of the tables and get a little insight into the many reasons why people love the Supper Club – a rare evening out, friends, good food, maybe a glass of wine, no complicated agenda and, for the team of chefs and waiting staff, a feeling that you are keeping something valuable going.

A little background… In 2001, Michael Smith had discussions with Harry (new in his post as Vicar) and this resulted in starting a club for members of the congregation and their friends over 55 years of age. This took the form of a Supper Club and had the first meeting in January 2002. It immediately attracted 40 members and has been fairly consistent in number ever since. Michael Smith was the leader or chairman until his illness in 2010, when Mike Hastings and Peter Wilkinson assumed the role.

The first two events were organised by Michael & Pam Smith and Peter & Joyce Wilkinson, but they were soon joined by Roger & Gail Saunders, Sybil & Mike Hastings and Richard & Rowena Exley. In the early years Michael Smith arranged coach outings in July which included a trip to Oxford amongst others. We celebrated the tenth anniversary of the club in 2012.

The Supper Club has been fortunate in having a willing band of cooks and helpers over the years. Until recently, five of the original organisers have been at the helm. On the ex-chefs’ table I found Simone Evard, Pam Smith and Sybil & Mike Hastings and Pat Milne-Smith, enjoying the experience of being served for only the second time since “retiring”! Sadly Peter and Joyce were not present due to illness (I’ll catch them with my camera one day!) and were very much missed.

The “new” team, led by Chris Southam were hard to catch for a photo op – so diligent were they in their duties! On Chris’s regular chef team: Barbara Aldridge, Maureen Tillbrook, Sue Cahill, Chris Jeffries, Maureen White and “behind the scenes” Sue’s son and son-in-law, David and Simon. Joining this all-star cast are Daphne, Roxanne Willitts, Ruth Rooley, Jeanette Hartley, Sue Bailey and lots more who put up and lay the tables and serve the food. They seemed to be having just as much fun as those being served – from waiting at tables to washing up. Truly a labour of love, which has been ably passed from one team to the next and I’m sure has many years and many more contributors ahead.

The next Supper Club is Tuesday 20th March. Please contact the Church Office if you would like to attend or to help out.

I really fancy an apple strudel now…

With thanks to Peter Wilkinson for the background info.