Gracious God, you walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death.
We pray that those who suffer and are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 virus, by hunger or poverty, by fear or
grief, be surrounded by the incarnate presence of the crucified and risen, ascended one.
May every human being be reminded of the precious gift of life you entered to share with us.
May our hearts be pierced with compassion for those who suffer, for those who live daily on the frontlines of
the pandemic, for your love is the only healing balm we know.
May the dying and the dead be received into your enfolding arms, and may your friends show the grieving
who must walk alone, that they are not alone as they walk this vale of tears.
All this we pray in the name of the one who walked the road to Calvary. Amen.
(Adapted from a prayer by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori extracted from the World Methodist Council First Friday Letter for July 2020)
Steve Baker is a headteacher and lives in Kingsley with his wife and their two young daughters.
Steve previously worked for the International Criminal Court investigating war crimes, including the genocide in Srebrenica where more than 8,000 mainly Muslim men and boys were murdered. This had a profound effect on him and changed his life.
He became a teacher to help young people and is also a board member of the charity Remembering Srebrenica. The charity focuses on tackling hatred, discrimination and prejudice, working with different faith and community groups on projects to bring people together. As part of the charity’s Never Again programme Steve speaks in schools and prisons about the consequences of hatred and intolerance and the importance of community cohesion.
11th July is the 25th anniversary of this massacre and Steve should have been taking a delegation to Bosnia to mark this. Obviously this was not possible so instead Steve is running 1007 miles – equivalent to the distance from London to Sarajevo to raise funds for and awareness of the charity.
Recent events have I believe shown how important this work is and how we can create a safer and stronger society by working together and discovering that we have “more in common”. You can sponsor Steve here and you can find out more about work of the charity here.
Proverbs 10:12 says: Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.
We pray to You,
Almighty God, may grievance become hope,
May revenge become justice
May mothers’ tears become prayers
That Srebrenica never happens again
To no one and nowhere. - The Srebrenica Prayer
Members of Frodsham Methodist Church were asked about their favourite readings and prayers.
Caryn wrote ...
My favourite Bible reading is 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.
My father- in- law read this at our wedding. We have recently celebrated (at thw time of writing) our 25th Silver Anniversary and this definition of Love, I believe, is the foundation of a strong relationship.
I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains — but if I have no love, I am nothing.
I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burnt— but if I have no love, this does me no good.
Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass. For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial; but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.
When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I have grown up, I have no more use for childish ways. What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete — as complete as God's knowledge of me.
Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.
I have so many favourites hymns but have cheekily picked two!
Shine Jesus Shine for times of Celebration:
and Be still for the Presence of the Lord in quiet times of prayer:
Members of Frodsham Methodist Church were asked about their favourite readings and prayer.
Alan wrote ...
My favourite Bible reading is Psalm 21. As a keen rambler and one-time fell walker, it was verses 1 and 2 that first drew me to this reading. It offers words of comfort in times of loneliness, trial and difficulty.
The king is glad, O LORD, because you gave him strength; he rejoices because you made him victorious.
You have given him his heart's desire;
you have answered his request.
You came to him with great blessings
and set a crown of gold on his head.
He asked for life, and you gave it,
a long and lasting life.
His glory is great because of your help;
you have given him fame and majesty.
Your blessings are with him for ever
and your presence fills him with joy.
The king trusts in the LORD Almighty;
and because of the LORD's constant love
he will always be secure.
The king will capture all his enemies;
he will capture everyone who hates him.
He will destroy them like a blazing fire
when he appears.
The LORD will devour them in his anger,
and fire will consume them.
None of their descendants will survive;
the king will kill them all.
They make their plans, and plot against him,
but they will not succeed.
He will shoot his arrows at them
and make them turn and run.
We praise you, LORD, for your great strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
And my favourite hymn is ‘Guide me, o Thou great Redeemer’ to the tune Cwm Rhondda and sung by a Welsh Male Voice Choir……..Wonderful!
The poet Michael Rosen wrote this poem in celebration of the NHS back in April before he was taken seriously ill with COVID-19 himself. One of our members has suggested this poem for sharing here.
Michael Rosen has also written the forward to a collection of poems entitled These Are The Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS, the profits from the sale of which are being given to NHS Charities. Leading UK poets have donated poems to this anthology including Michael Rosen, Roger McGough, Lemn Sissay, Sabrina Mahfouz, Kate Clanchy, Sam Guglani, Charly Cox, Molly Case, Wendy Cope and the estates of UA Fanthorpe, Dannie Abse and Julia Darling
Fountains Abbey, situated just outside Ripon in North Yorkshire is a marvellous monastic ruin. Now a recognised World Heritage Site, here rose a great abbey from a small valley to the glory of God and a religious community grew, which regarded itself as the centre of community life.
Within the abbey there were two types of monks, the ordinary lay brothers and the choir monks. The choir monks are the ones who would have the tonsure, the shaved head, and their job would be to remain in the abbey and to pray almost twenty four hours a day. From early morning to late night as one followed the other, perhaps a bit like lockdown!
As a choir monk the more you worshipped and the more you prayed the more chance you were believed to have of reaching heaven. As a lay person, the more you were prayed for by the choir monks, then the more chance you had of reaching heaven. Even if you didn’t have time to pray yourself you could pay the choir monks to pray for you and there was always hope, because even if you were dead already and were in purgatory, the choir monks would still pray for your eventual ascent to heaven.
The choir monks were the Holy Men. The whole purpose of their life was to be religious, to pray, to worship and to find a way to heaven.
Today many people you speak to will see Jesus as a Holy Man. One who knew God, one who did good, one whose life was about devotion and prayer, one who would intercede for others and speed their way to God.
Whilst all of this is right, it still doesn’t adequately describe who Jesus is or what he did for us. You see religion and all that it represents can be empty in itself, it only comes alive when we realise that at the centre is Jesus himself.
In his Gospel, St John writes:
“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. You know where I go, and you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on, you know him, and have seen him.”
(John 14 verses 1-7, WEB)
This song asks Jesus to be at the centre of all we do:
English artist, illustrator and author Kit Williams was born in 1946. He acquired almost unwanted fame in 1979, when he launched his book Masquerade, a picture book that sparked a national treasure hunt by concealing clues to the location of a jewelled golden hare, created and hidden somewhere in Britain by Williams. In fact it became almost a national scandal.
Even in those pre-internet and pre-geo-cache days, people became so obsessed with finding the treasure that they went around the countryside digging up lawns and flower beds hoping to just find something!
The hare was buried in Ampthill in Bedfordshire and the only witness was Bamber Gascoigne, the former host of University Challenge who went with Williams at night to bury the jewel. Bamber Gascoigne described how he took with him a cow pat in a Tupperware box to pour over the site to disguise it!
The original winner of the competition, who called himself Ken Thomas, turned out to be a fake, as he had found out the location from Kit Williams former girlfriend. Two physics teachers were later acknowledged as the real solvers of the puzzle.
The solution is complex, in each painting lines have to be drawn on the page through the eyes of each animal in the picture and then through their longest digits, leading to a letter in the border of the page. The letters lead to a final acrostic which says, “close by Ampthill”. The precise location was the spot at the edge of the shadow of the cross-shaped monument of Catherine of Aragon in Ampthill Park, at noon on the date of either the vernal or autumnal equinox.
Those who looked for the treasure had studied the book. They had watched the times and the seasons and even the stars. Those who looked had understood the riddles. They believed that if they followed what they had been told they would find a treasure hidden in a field.
St Matthew records the words of Jesus:
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field,
Which a man found and hid. In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a merchant
seeking fine pearls, who having found one pearl of great price, he
went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13, verses 44-46, WEB)
The man “found” and the merchant “was seeking”. Beyond the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” each of the parables that Jesus tells details the work of individual human beings. God calls his people to join in the work of advancing the kingdom in the here and now, not in big, loud ways, but through small and seemingly insignificant acts.
Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is like the conversation you had with your neighbour when you rang to check if they needed anything, or the socially distanced conversation you have now been able to have with your grandchild? Maybe it’s shown in the support for members of your family who are keyworkers, or those who gave a word of comfort when someone close to you fell ill.
The kingdom of heaven is like …
How would you answer this today?
A song from the Taize community:
**Churches Together in England (CTE), of which the Methodist Church is part, publish a monthly newsletter and monthly reflection. The below reflection is their reflection of the month for June.**
Beyond lamenting Covid-19's impact, CTE's Principal Officer for Pentecostal and Charismatic Relations, Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, shares his Reflection of the Month for June 2020...
The past three months, March to June 2020, has been the most intense and sustained trauma I have ever experienced. An unprecedented number of my friends have fallen ill or have died during this time; a situation made worse by social distancing measures introduced by the UK government in an attempt to bring the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 under control. These measures meant I, like everyone else, could not visit my sick or dying friends, or the bereaved. All but essential services have been closed down, including churches leading to a mass movement to online activities.
Early on I was invited by the Woolf Institute to take part in its Covid-19 Chronicles series and found myself reflecting upon what it means to ‘lament’. I was reminded that a major theme in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, including over a third of the Psalms, is lament; i.e. to cry out to God in times of deepest distress and despair for intervention. My own lament has been less a crying out to God and much more a deep sense of loss and sorrow, and an inner searching in the spirit of Jesus when he prayed, ‘My Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22 & Matt 26).
As this Covid-19 pandemic has tightened its grip upon every aspect of our lives it has become clear that my own grief is better served as motor for reaching beyond myself and deep into the concerns of those around me. My Pentecostal tradition offers a mainly activist and interventionist approach to challenges punctuated by crisis moments leading to radical change – sometimes tending towards theory than practice. But how do I do activism and interventionism in lockdown? Professor Robert Beckford helpfully initiated an audio documentary: Better Must Come! Black Pentecostals, the Pandemic and the Future of Christianity, to which I was pleased to contribute and which has much to say to the wider church beyond Black Pentecostalism.
Lockdown has presented challenges and opportunities for us all irrespective ethnicity, faith or denomination. I am reminded of a visit I made to China in the early 1990s, when the country was emerging from its Cultural Revolution during which all faiths saw their places of worship closed. As they began to re-emerge from enforced lockdown collaboration across faiths and Christian denominations became essential. Covid-19 has in some ways levelled the faith and denominational playing field, with everybody locked out of their places of worship and all having to discover new ways of being. An interesting form of unity has emerged, with unprecedented sharing of information across faiths and denominations via multiple online platforms.
From this place of mutual inconvenience, grief, and a searching for new ways to be together, we have additionally to face up to some of the lessons of Covid-19. For example according to a recent report into factors impacting health outcomes from Covid-19 by Prof Kevin Fenton, the over 80’s are seventy times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the under 40’s; those living in deprived areas, those most recently come into the country, and BAME people are all over-represented in infections and deaths linked to Covid-19.
And so, as together we search for meaning and how to be good neighbours to fellow sufferers in the wake of coronavirus, just maybe this cup of suffering can teach us something about our oneness as a humanity and as the church of Jesus Christ.
There is an intriguing verse in scripture which speaks of a young man who nearly got arrested as he was following Jesus and his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was dressed only in a linen cloth, and when the Temple Police tried to grab him, he wriggled out of the cloth and ran away naked (Mark 14:51) leaving the cloth behind.
It was in the house of Mary the Mother of John Mark that the early Christians met (Acts 12:12), and it is generally accepted that the young man in the linen cloth was this John Mark. It is also generally accepted that John Mark became a close friend of Simon Peter, and in the early days of the Church, St. Mark’s Gospel was often referred to as the Memoirs of Peter or Peter’s Gospel.
So here we have a very early account of the ministry of Jesus, by a brash young man called Simon Peter, fiercely loyal and yet afraid to admit his own weakness and thus gaining love and respect from Christian disciples ever since.
He is a man of impatience: when Jesus says “follow me”, Peter jumps up and follows without question (Mark 1:18). Yet he is a family man and he does not turn his back on his family obligations. He loves his mother-in-law and when she is ill, brings her to Jesus for healing (Mark 1:30).
Peter likes to know what’s what and whose who, and when Jesus withdraws to a quiet place to pray, Peter goes looking for him, and having found him, says quite querulously “everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:36).
When the gospels list the disciples, Simon Peter is always the first to be named (Mark 8:29), is this because he was a natural leader or because he made the most noise?!
Nevertheless, it is Peter who first has the inkling of who Jesus really is, “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29). This is confirmed with James and John at the Transfiguration when Peter quite overwhelmed blurts out ‘“Let us make three tabernacles for you, Moses and Elijah…”…they were so frightened they did not know what to say’ (Mark 9:6).
When Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship, Peter says boldly "we have left everything to follow you" (Mark 10:28).
When Jesus is in Gethsemane he warns them that difficult times lay ahead, Peter immediately responds “I will never leave you even if all the rest do" (Mark 14:29).
Peter, James and John did their best to face the coming difficulties by sticking close to Jesus, but they were tired and overwhelmed, and they actually went to sleep while Jesus agonised.
When the Temple Police came, they all fled, except Peter who followed at a distance to see what would happen. To his horror, people in the Temple Courtyard recognised him (Mark 14:67)--“he is one of His men” they said. “I don’t know him” Peter replied. Then the cock crowed and Peter broke down and cried (Mark 14:72).
And so St. Mark’s Gospel comes to an end with Peter in distress—but no, there is still hope and consolation when the faithful woman comes to anoint the body of Jesus.
They found the tombs empty and a young man dressed in white, who said “don’t be alarmed, He has been raised—go and give the message to His disciples including Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see Him just as He told you”.
F. Bernard Dodd
**Each week, the Methodist Church Vocations and Ministries Team are putting together worship sheets for use at home. These worship sheets include songs, prayers, readings and a reflection.
The theme this week is about rewards and the reflection below is about God's generous love.**
Reading: Matthew 10:40-42
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’
Have you ever been sent out to knock on a stranger’s door with a message or a request? If so, did you wonder what sort of a welcome you might, or might not, receive? The disciples were about to take the good news of Jesus’ love into the wider world. In these verses Jesus reminded the disciples that as his followers, they were representing him and the one who sent him, his Father, God. For those who received and accepted them, it would be as if they were welcoming Jesus himself into their homes.
The concept of welcome and hospitality in the Middle East is of high importance. Visitors are treated as honoured guests and food and drink is generously shared. That generosity can be a humbling experience. On a fact finding visit to Jordan in 2015, I was welcomed into a damp and shabby basement by Nahla, a young Syrian refugee mother of six. There was very little in the way of furniture or equipment and nothing of comfort in this makeshift home. The older children were out in the streets scavenging for whatever scraps they might make use of or sell. Yet Nahla insisted I have some tea with her. Not wanting to take from her meagre supplies, I refused politely, but Nahla was offended by this. It was deeply embedded in her culture and tradition to offer hospitality to guests. Poor though she was, she wanted to share what little she had with her guest.
Generosity and welcome may come from the most unexpected sources, often from the poorest who understand what it is to have nothing.
I did not find knocking on doors for a house collection for Action for Children easy. It was even more challenging to find that those who lived in larger houses gave far less, or even nothing, than those who lived in more crowded or less affluent conditions.
Jesus gave an example of how people should show unselfish generosity to others through the giving of a cup of cold water to “little ones”, arguably not just children but the adult poor or marginalised too. (see Matthew 18.6).
Not everyone welcomes Jesus’ offer of love and salvation. Some may reject us and our gospel message. For those who choose to welcome Jesus into their lives, there is an amazing reward in heaven, eternal life and peace with Jesus Christ.
Like the disciples, our lives should reflect God’s generous love to others. How will you receive the one who knocks on your door?
We pray for your guidance and wisdom as your church finds new ways of reaching out into the world with the good news of your generous love and forgiveness. Gift leaders with the innovation and inspiration that comes from your Holy Spirit so that your church may be more effective witnesses of your saving grace.
Lord Jesus, as the world continues to suffer the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, we pray for compassion and fairness in sharing practical resources and medical expertise so that there might be healing and wholeness for all.
We pray that all those who have influence over the lives of others, might make decisions based on kindness and for the common good. We pray Holy Spirit that you infuse with love the hearts of those who use war as a weapon of power. Hear our prayers for an end to all conflict, and for recognition and support to be given to refugees and displaced people around the world.
Compassionate Christ, we pray for comfort and strength for those who are still isolated, for parents and children, for the elderly and those suffering long term illness. Lord, lift anxiety from those who are worried about the future, their jobs, businesses and their financial situation. May they know that they are not alone, that Jesus is always with them.
Holy Spirit we pray for ourselves, for our plans that have been changed, for the people we have lost and miss still, for our hopes and dreams for the future. Strengthen our faith, deepen our commitment to your ways and help us to better serve God and to see Jesus in everyone we meet.
Thank you Lord that you that your love never fails. Amen.
Check out our Calendar for a listing of all events.
Frodsham Methodist Church Sunday 10am Worship on YouTube.
North Cheshire Circuit Thursday 7pm Worship on YouTube.
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.