This powerful prayer was featured in our Sunday worship a few weeks back. Thanks to the Carter family for putting this together.
I have been visiting this ancient woodland regularly as part of my daily exercise. Seeing the changes as the bluebells and wild garlic emerge has been reassuring during this time of uncertainty. The excellent stewardship undertaken by the volunteer group The Friends of Hob Hey Wood wIll ensure that this ancient woodland will continue to enchant visitors for many years to come.
Psalm 145:5 says: On the glorious splendour of your majesty and on your wondrous works I will meditate. The below poem, written during lockdown by Jayne Bryson, was inspired by childhood memories of Hob Hey Wood:
One of our members has suggested this powerful music video, Glorious Day (Official Live Video/Lyrics And Chords) ft. Kristian Stanfill, for use in our own daily reflections:
During this period of lockdown we are lucky to be able to go out and walk in the countryside surrounding Frodsham, a reminder both of our local agricultural heritage and the beauty of God’s creation.
On a recent walk along a track which took us from Simon’s Lane up to the Ridgeway we were not only able to enjoy the warmth of the spring sunshine but saw the young spring lambs out in the fields, protected by their mothers just in case they should stray too far from the rest of the flock.
We often think of that same image of Jesus the Good Shepherd. The disciple John reminds us of the words of Jesus which you can find in chapter 10 and verses 1-10 of his gospel, when he says, “I am the gate for the sheep.”
Jesus the gate for the sheep, Jesus who is not like others who came to mislead, who came to offer hope and life, but who were thieves and robbers. “I am the gate”, says Jesus, “whoever comes in by me will be saved; he will come in and go out and find pasture.”
Scholars tell us that the Jews did not understand the meaning of the story of the Good Shepherd. So Jesus tells them in plain terms by applying it to himself. He began by saying “I am the gate”.
Jesus spoke of two types of sheepfold. In the villages and towns of Judea there were communal sheepfolds where all the village flock were sheltered when they returned home. The folds were protected by strong gates, to which only one guardian of the door held the key. Jesus firstly refers to that type of sheepfold, where he is the guardian, the single person who can open up the way for us. In the summer the sheep were out on the hills and they did not return to the village at all, instead they were collected into hillside sheepfolds, which were just open spaces enclosed by a wall. There was a single opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no gate. At night the shepherd would lie across the opening to the fold, so now the sheep could not get out or in without crossing over his body. The shepherd was the gate.
In this wonderful illustration we are reminded that we can only come in and go out through Christ, for he is the only way to God, he is the gate through which entrance to God becomes possible. Not the entrance to God like that of the High Priest, the only person allowed into the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Temple, but an entrance for all, at every stage of their life and experience. The Psalmist recognises this in Psalm 121, “God will keep me at my going out and coming in, henceforth and forever.”
Even in the uncertain times in which we find ourselves, we have that assurance from Jesus that he is the gate through which we come in and go out and find pasture. We have that sense of security and safety that as we bring our concerns and prayers to Him, the Good Shepherd, then not only do we have life, we have it more abundantly!
“This is the truth I tell you”, said Jesus, “I am the gate for the sheep”.
Listen to this setting of Psalm 23, which may sound familiar!
You have heard of asylum seekers getting to the UK from The Middle East, North Africa and Central and South America. They have had traumatic journeys, but do you know what happens to them after they arrive? They disappear from the newspapers and news reports. Where are they?
They are “processed” on arrival and then dispersed to hostels in cities around the country (there are several in Liverpool). They are lodged in this accommodation for about four weeks during which they must start the process of applying to the Home Office to be accepted as a refugee. They need to learn how to get their £5/day support, register for medical care, find how to shop, find foodbanks, extra clothing, contact agencies and organisations who might be able to help. Then, just as they are beginning to understand the system, they are moved again to new accommodation. They are given no choice but placed by Serco in housing provided through Local Authorities and there they must stay until a decision is made on their application for refugee status (usually more than 6 months). They have no help beyond the housing, heating, medical treatment and a daily £5 allowance. They are left to fend for themselves with no contacts other than the Serco Housing Officer. Halton Borough houses over 100 such asylum seekers. This is the story of one of them.
He only arrived in England a few weeks ago. He left Iraq early last year because as a young professional he belonged to the wrong ethnic group. First he lost his job and then it became dangerous for him to be outside his parents’ house because of attacks on people in his minority group. No longer safe or able to provide for his aging parents he left his home, negotiating his way through Italy and France to England, sometimes in official camps other times sleeping rough.
When he eventually arrived in the UK at the Immigration detention centre he had his passport, a few pounds, two gold rings his mother had given him, a phone with a cracked screen, 23 words of English and a few clothes. He was interviewed and processed and issued with an ID card (which specifically said that he had no right of abode and no right to work). He had the right to medical treatment, £5 a day for food and all other expenses, and accommodation in a hostel or other accommodation wherever the authorities chose to put him. He would have to prepare a case for him to be accepted as a refugee , this he would submit to the Home Office. He learned quickly that forms had to be correctly completed (in a foreign language – English).
He was quickly moved to a hostel in Liverpool and told he would be there for about four weeks. There were over 80 people in the hostel. Fortunately there were one or two people who could speak his language and they helped him find a local foodbank. At the foodbank they gave out food bags once a week and had a supply of second hand clothes and shoes from which he could kit himself out to deal with the English weather. He did not always recognise the food or how to prepare it.
Then things turned even worse. Everyone was talking about 'coronavirus'. The authorities, the foodbank, everyone in the hostel, were all talking about people dying, not shaking hands, washing hands, staying at home, closing foodbanks, government offices - no one knew what was happening. Then the accommodation officer from Serco said they had instructions to disperse everyone to new accommodation before the whole country was locked-down. The next day they took him and another man (not his countryman) from the hostel out of Liverpool to a place they called Halton. They were put in a house with only basic furnishings, given a key, and a number to call if there was a problem with the housing. He was left with no local information, no contacts, no food other than what they brought with them from Liverpool.
For two days he and the other man walked around the streets seeing few people (most people were “Locked down”) and these people avoided them. Then they saw some people who looked like themselves. They dared speak to these folk who turned out to be refugees. These refugees told them that almost everywhere was closed, the government had told everyone to stay at home. They also advised them to try to contact Safe Space for asylum seekers at a church in the area. At this place they provided support, advice, links with other support agencies (foodbanks, schools, Red Cross), English lessons, some clothing, and perhaps most important, friendship. Unfortunately the Safe Space had had to closed too, but there was a phone number for one of the safe space volunteers. The two new arrivals in Halton phoned him – and he could speak their language!
The TSS volunteer that they contacted explained the situation and that even the “safe space” (officially called Trinity Safe Space), was ‘locked-down’ and could not provide all of the support it had before lock-down but he would be able to get them some help from TSS. He organised to get them food from the local food bank plus some extra food and some extra clothing, underwear and shoes using emergency funds that he got from TSS. He put them in touch with other asylum seekers, local medical, voluntary, and social welfare services. He explained that the TSS had had some donations from churches, individuals and other groups to help them and the other asylum seekers in Halton during the lock-down – until the funds were all used.
And who knows when that will be. Can you make it last a little longer? If you can help, weʼre raising £2,000 to support Asylum Seekers lodged in the Halton area.
Thank you for any support you can give us, thoughts, prayers or donations.
TSS support team
The day before I turned 11 years old, my mum made me one of those 90s hedgehog birthday cakes: a round moulded cake, topped with a load of butter cream and chocolate fingers sticking out of the top. It had a little face with chocolate buttons as eyes. The cake was made and put in the fridge to be saved for my birthday tea the next day, but throughout the day a strange thing kept happening.
The Hedgehog started getting smaller, by evening I was sure that he had less spikes and by bedtime he was also missing his eyes! It turns out that my older sister had been helping herself to the topping... the telling off for this was minimal so I’ve always suspected that my mum was doing the same (I’ll show them this and see if they remember!).
I don’t actually like cake. People find this shocking. I do however like doughnuts. Now I’m going to say something really controversial, the comments section might go crazy about this: Doughnuts are far superior to cupcakes. I feel quite certain about this because with a cupcake, by the time you’ve had the first few mouthfuls, all the good bits have gone. Whereas with a doughnut the best bit is the goo waiting in the middle, making it a far worthier bakery product.
We humans spend a lot of time focusing on our outside appearances, I confess, I’m one of the worst for this. We can be like cupcakes where all the attention is on the decorative outside, as we spend time and worry on clothing, make up, hair and physique. Sometimes even our religion can be used as an adorning sprinkling; something we add on to make ourselves feel better or to make us look like good, decent people.
In contrast, during the Pentecost story we see the disciples being truly transformed from the inside out. The same people who had been arguing about who was the greatest among them, now have unity and they start radically sharing their possessions with each other. The Holy Spirit has ‘flooded their hearts with God’s love’ (Roman 5:5). This isn’t a sweet (sickly), frosting type of religion put on for show, but the genuine power of God’s loving presence working through them. The Spirit filled each of them (like doughnuts?) and began an inward transformation.
Of course the story doesn’t end with the first disciples.The Pentecost story continues throughout the ages. It continued with John Wesley’s 1738 mystical experience as he felt his heart strangely warmed, which ensured that love, rather than dogma became the basis of Methodism. And today, the Pentecost story continues with us. The same loving power comes to each of us: God with us, God in us, God for us.
You might still prefer cake to doughnuts, that’s ok, to be honest as a fitness instructor I probably shouldn’t be promoting any, but carrots and peas didn’t really work as an analogy. The Bible talks about each of us having the fruit of the spirit (jam?), this isn’t a decorative sprinkling of religion but God’s loving, transforming power, working within us. Of course, when God works within individuals, the story never ends there. The first disciples were moved to share Jesus beyond their own groups and boundaries. Wesley began to see the whole world as his parish. So it is with us, the Spirit moves within us, healing and strengthening our inner being but the Spirit also enables us to courageously share love and faith with others; like a gooey doughnut, the love of God knows no bounds, it always ends up oozing out.
Morning Worship for Sunday 31st May, will be streamed online and lead by our Minister, the Reverend Andrew Emison.
The service will start at 10am.
It can be accessed here:
The year is 1904 and teenager Florrie Evans stood up in a youth meeting in Newquay, Cardiganshire and declared publicly that she loved the Lord Jesus with all her heart. As she spoke those words, the spirit of God seemed to visibly fall on the meeting and the excitement and enthusiasm for the Christian gospel spread life fire to other young people across Cardiganshire.
In September of the same year Evan Roberts, a faithful member of Moriah Calvanistic Methodist Church became a pupil of Newcastle Emlyn Grammar School, to prepare for Trefecca Theological College. After two weeks he had an experience of faith which sent him back to his own church at Moriah to share his own experience and encourage the people there to be open to God’s spirit.
Within two weeks the Welsh Revival was national news and before long Evan and his brother Dan and their best friend Sydney Evans were travelling the country conducting Revival Meetings and they were meetings with a difference, for they broke the conventional and bi-passed the traditional. So much so that ministers sat down, unable to preach or even understand what had hit their usually sedate Welsh temples.
This was a revival with youth on fire - young men and even, in this day and age, young women. A storm had hit the churches and it was a storm of love and power which completely transformed lives and continued in the same way from 1904 to 1906.
People were changed in so many ways. The crime rate dropped, drunkards were reformed, pubs reported losses in trade and many were forced to close. Bad language disappeared and in some areas never returned, it was reported that pit ponies failed to understand their born again colliers who seemed to speak a different language - without curse and blasphemy. We’re told by one writer that “even rugby became uninteresting in the light of new joy and direction of the converts.” Colliers and tin-men, the working classes, prayed out loud and in new, refreshing and original ways.
It was estimated at the time that there were 100,000 new converts and in the dying months of 1904 the movement spread across the world - to France, Turkey, the United States and even the Khasia Hills of India. It also led to a rush of church building and it was estimated that between 1904 and 1906 there was a new chapel in Wales every 8 days.
In the late 1990’s one elderly Revival convert was asked whether she felt the revival stopped in 1906, she answered, “No, it’s still burning within my heart now - it’s never been extinguished - it has burned in the same way for over 70 years.”
At Pentecost we again wait on that same spirit of God, that came like a rushing wind to the early followers of Christ, as well as to those who prayed for revival in the Welsh valleys, because as St Luke says to us in the Acts of the Apostles, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The arrival of God’s spirit brings with it the revival of God’s people.
A recording of “Here is Love, vast as the ocean”, a hymn of the Welsh Revival, sung first in Welsh and then in English:
For those who watch Frodsham Methodist Church's online worship each Sunday, these superb prayers of adoration were part of our service a fortnight ago. We praise and thank God for his greatness that is seen in all Creation.
Video by George
This evening, Thursday 28th May, will see the North Cheshire Circuit's streamed weeknight worship service.
Please come and join us from 7pm at:
Check out our Calendar for a listing of all events.
Frodsham Methodist Church on YouTube here.
North Cheshire Circuit on YouTube here.
The reflections are written by members of our congregation.