Saturday 7 July 2018
Wadham Players present ‘Will Shakespeare Save Us’ By Paul Nimmo
A funny and lively play with star-crossed lovers, duelling Danes, country bumpkins and much more – a brilliant introduction to the world of Shakespeare!
In the garden of Chingford United Reformed Church, Buxton Road E4 7DT
Tickets £8 and £6 (concessions)
BRING YOUR OWN SEATING
I was invited to attend a morning at The British Library, which is within walking distance of King’s Cross Station, arranged by The Bible Society on Friday 13th April, when three scholars from the Library talked about the sacred texts which are stored there.
Dr. Aviva Dautch spoke first about Text, Texture and Translation.
She told us that the digitising of all the Biblical texts is an ongoing process, with Hebrew texts being tackled first. The first translation of the whole Bible into Greek, the Codex Sinaiticus or Sinai Bible was hand written on vellum in the 4th century AD and was discovered in St. Catherine’s Monastery in the 19th century. It is one of the most valuable books held at the Library.
The Lindisfarne Gospels which were completed in 721 are one of the treasures of the Library.
John Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English in the 1380s is also on display. He was an Oxford scholar and professor who advocated reform of the Roman Catholic Church and there was much opposition to his translation. By 1408 translating the Bible into English was banned.
Julian Walker next talked to us about the Printing of the Bible. Before printing was invented, it took about six months to write out the Bible by hand. In Germany in the 1450s, Johann Gutenberg made 180 printed copies of the Bible in Latin using casts made of lead and tin, revolutionising the production of Bibles. Three colour printing followed with illustrations.
The printing of the Bible in England was begun by William Caxton in the 1530s. William Tyndale used Greek and Hebrew sources for his translation of part of the Bible into English in 1530. Copies were burned as there was much opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and he was executed in 1536.
Myles Coverdale’s Bible in 1535 was the first complete translation of the Bible into English and many copies were printed.
This was followed by the Matthew Bible in 1537 and The Great Bible in 1539.
Forty editions of the Bible were produced in Henry VIII’s reign and in 1568 the Bishops’ Bible was produced under the authority of the Church of England and is considered to be the base text for the King James’ Bible. The first Welsh translation of the Bible appeared in 1588.
Irene Wise then spoke to us about Bible Illumination. Decorated initial letters became common and were very elaborate with Inhabited Initials even having animals drawn inside them.
The Lindisfarne Gospels have examples of amazing illuminations and the Gospel in Arabic has pages with designs similar to Persian carpets. The Catalan Old Testament and the Sherborne Missal are two other 15th century illuminated treasures to be found in the British Library.
Then Paul Williams, one of the Bible Society’s chief officers, told us about the work of the society today in 147 countries in the world, translating the scriptures into many different languages.
In Britain the work of the society is to help churches to regain confidence and increase the impact of the Bible in society. It hopes to build a Bible Academy, to equip Christians to relate the Bible to all of life, overcoming barriers to understanding the Bible.
After all the talks had finished, we were invited to go round The Treasures of the British Library Gallery, accompanied by some of the speakers and marvel at the amazing books and manuscripts there.
It was an interesting morning and if you have never been to the British Library, it is well worth a visit.
The meeting was held at the Community Hall of Christ Church, Wanstead on Thursday 12th April at 8pm, and the topic was: Blood Transfusion and Organ Donation.
The first speaker was Revd. Santou Beurklian-Carter, a Chaplain at Whipps Cross and Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals.
She said that most Christians would be in favour of blood transfusion, apart from Jehovah’s Witnesses who object to it, as blood for them represents life and should not be passed from person to person. Bloodless surgery is however acceptable to them.
Organ donation again would be supported by most Christian denominations, with whole body donations even being considered by some people, as a means of promoting research and helping fellow human beings.
Organ donation from animals raises ethical issues and animal welfare concerns, so probably would not be acceptable to most Christians.
Khola Hasan, a member of the Islamic Sharia Council and a Sunni Muslim, agreed that blood transfusion and organ donation from living donors is acceptable to most Muslims, so long as the donor is unharmed, as saving life and intellect is very important. Agreement would be needed from the family for organ donation from a dead person, and no commercial gain should be involved.
Transplants from a foetus would be problematic, and only allowed from a dead foetus.
In India there is a place called Kidney Village where kidneys have been sold for 900 dollars and poor people are exploited, so obviously this should never happen. Organ donation is not acceptable for some Muslims who have a belief in the resurrection of the body after the Day of Judgement, so the whole body must be complete.
The third speaker was Rabbi Steven Dansky, from the Redbridge United Synagogue. He declared that for Jewish people the concept of life was paramount and if you are able to save someone, you must do it. However a person’s life should not be put in danger by donating blood or a body organ to save someone else. A heart transplant from someone who is brain dead would be problematic.
A question and answer time then followed. It was noted that ancient texts do not cover such issues, so guidance has to be given to people of faith from their religious leaders.
Whole body donation was acknowledged as being very helpful so long as the body was treated with respect and sensitivity. Transplants from animals are generally not acceptable to Muslims, but blood and organ donations from living people are regarded as acts of charity. So there was a great deal of agreement among the three faith leaders, showing how much we have in common.
The next meeting of the Forum will be held at a synagogue at 8pm on Thursday 21st June when the topic will be ‘Demons and Exorcism’.
The Revd Philip Brooks, United Reformed Church Secretary for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, visited Israel last month and took part in an Israel-Palestinian task group to learn about and educate the denomination on issues affecting Israel and Palestine ahead of a denominational tour in 2019. He reflects on his trip in the wake of the controversial news that the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem.
This week sees a small US consulate in Jerusalem become the focus of a global controversy. Situated in Arnona, a quiet neighbourhood in the south of Jerusalem, the consulate building, with fewer than 100 employees, will be transformed into the official US Embassy for Israel. Forty miles away, the former fortress-like embassy, and its 800-strong staff, will become the ‘Tel Aviv Branch Office’.
This symbolic move is the culmination of one of President Trump’s election campaign pledges and takes place today (14 May), commemorating the date on which Israel declared its independence in 1948. Tomorrow, Palestinians mark the ‘Nakba’, or the ‘catastrophe’, that befell them when they were displaced by Israel’s War of Independence.
Up until now, the international community have remained united in maintaining their embassies in Tel Aviv, given the contested status of Jerusalem. The United Nations voted 128 to nine (with 35 abstentions), in condemnation when the decision to move the US Embassy was announced. But, in contrast, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, lauded the US President as a ‘great friend’ and described the move as: ‘A great moment for the citizens of Israel and a historic moment for the state of Israel’. Clearly, the politics surrounding this issue have a long way to run as both religion and politics contribute to Jerusalem’s divisions.
My wife and I had the privilege of visiting Jerusalem for the first-time last month with two colleagues from the URC. Although we had been well briefed beforehand, we were still taken aback by the obvious separation that we witnessed. The physical layout of the Old City of Jerusalem highlights the religious divisions. The city is split into four quarters; Christian, Armenian, Muslim and Jewish, and each has their own distinct identity.
We went to the ‘Western’ or ‘Wailing Wall’ – which is the supporting wall of the huge platform upon which the Temple once stood – now the most sacred place of prayer for the Jewish people. Our small party had to separate at this point. As in many faith traditions, my wife was directed to the section of the wall set aside for women to pray and the rest of us went to the bigger area reserved for the men.
We then visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, considered to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, tomb and resurrection. The site is occupied by six separate Christian denominations drawn from historic Orthodox and Catholic traditions. As a first-time observer, it perhaps gives the appearance of churches competing for one holy space, but more accurately it represents an agreement which goes back over many generations.
Early on the Sunday morning we joined the 7.30am queue to visit the Haram-esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) within which stands the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque. Access to this area, where the Temple once stood, is limited to specific times of the week for non-Muslims.
Not far away we paid a moving visit to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. But even here, as I looked towards the Old City the view was dominated by separate burial areas, dividing Christian, Jews and Muslims even in death. Such division is not unique to Jerusalem, it just somehow felt more painfully apparent in this most holy of places.
Our pilgrimage included visits to Bethany and Bethlehem, which now involves going through the checkpoints in the huge separation barrier. We had the opportunity to talk to Palestinian Christians, who spoke of their real fears for the fragile balance of peace posed by the move of the US Embassy.
These fears echoed the words of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem who wrote to President Trump in December 2017 asking him to re-think his decision because: ‘Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm’.
We left Jerusalem with many questions unanswered and a good degree of sadness. It prompted me to turn to the final section of Luke Chapter 13, entitled ‘Lament for Jerusalem’. Verse 34 records Jesus’ words: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’
Let us hope and pray that the events of this week do not turn into yet another lament for Jerusalem. As people of God, may we continue to work for peace and justice for all in this very troubled part of the world, which draws together people from so many different traditions of faith. May we hold onto the hope of Psalm 133: ‘How good it is, how pleasant for God’s people to live in unity’.
Many of the churches in the Western world have lost confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.
Contemporary culture and ideas would seem to contradict the claims of the Bible and so the church is in retreat.
But we should be wary of thinking that the conclusions of contemporary culture are arrived at in an unbiased way.
The starting-point of many people’s thinking is that God doesn’t exist, didn’t create the universe and that miracles do not happen.
If you start with a false premise, then you are not going to be able to arrive at the correct conclusion.
Unfortunately, this error has also crept into the church’s thinking.
If God really is the all-powerful creator of the universe, should we be surprised that He can predict events hundreds of years beforehand, or that Jesus, His Son, healed people in miraculous ways?
Science cannot say that miracles do not happen, because by definition, miracles are exceptional events, and science is founded on the consistency of repeatable experiments. Just because I have not seen a miracle myself, I cannot conclude that miracles never happen.
In “The Nature, Faith and Order of the United Reformed Church”, we say “The highest authority for what we believe and do is God’s Word in the Bible”.
Let us dig into the rich treasure of the Bible with confidence, because it tells us all we need to know about our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
URC Thames North Preachers Plus presents:
AN EVENING LOOKING FOR THE BIBLE IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM
29 June 2018
6:30pm – 8:00pm
Followed by a shared meal in a local restaurant
The British Museum is a vast hoard of stuff left behind by previous generations, including many items which help to give more depth and background to our understanding of the Bible.
Share a guided wander through parts of the British Museum collection that show us something of the arrogant empires that surrounded and shaped the faith communities which gave us our Bible.
We’ll look at items relevant to both Testaments then head to a local restaurant for food and relaxed conversation.
This tour will be led by John Campbell, minister of High Cross URC, Tottenham.
Might there be a chance here to find a fresh stimulus for your grappling with the Scriptures?
COST: Just the cost of what you order in the restaurant
BOOKING: Phone John Campbell on 07429 627 156 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday 14 July from 2:30pm until 4:30pm, Becky Ford from the Red Balloon Family will be leading a workshop for anybody and everybody who is interested in the possibility of us putting together a ‘show’.
The workshop is for all ages and all abilities and all interests. You don’t have to be a singer or a dancer or an actor or a musician; you just need to come along and join in the fun.
The idea is to think about what kind of a ‘show’ we would like to do, and try out some ideas.
Each of the churches in the Forest Group has done something similar in the past (even if in the distant past!).
Come and share your stories of those times, and if you have a talent, come and share that with us too.
The idea is to have fun together.
Becky is an experienced workshop leader and has put together many different kinds of shows.
The workshop will take place at Woodford Green URC and will be followed by tea.
I have just recently returned from the URC’s first ever Ministers Gathering. About 350 Ministers of Word and Sacrament from all over the UK were there. With few exceptions, all of us had come to this inspiring event, which should introduce us to the URC’s new and exciting focus on discipleship: “Walking the Way. Living the life of Jesus today.”
Yes, we are and have been a denomination in decline, like other churches, too. A colleague told me with a sigh: “When I got ordained we were 900 ministers.” So yes, it is high time for us to focus and do what we are primarily called to do: Be disciples of Jesus. The Greek word for “disciple” is mathetes, meaning: ‘one who learns as they follow’.
It’s a huge shift for the URC: away from designated programmes and targets (Vision 2020, Radical Welcome etc), towards this focus on lifelong Christian discipleship and mission, helping us to bring about change in our own lives and, ultimately, in Church culture and society.
We were helped to grapple with what discipleship might mean in our world of church decline by the three excellent and inspiring talks given to us by Rev Dr Rowan Williams. In describing the lives of three different women and their radical ways in which they followed Jesus, Rowen reminded us of the “critical fidelity” and radical hospitality the churches have always been called to.
You can watch the talks on YouTube:
Also, the Revd Dr Peggy Kabonde, General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia, gave good and vivid insight into her experience of Discipleship and its challenges in the 21rst century. Amazing how her context in Zambia actually is not too different to ours. There was a lot to be learned from her way of going “back to the roots.”
Of course, there’s nothing new about being a disciple of Christ. What is new about Walking the Way is its practical approach, with accessible good resources alongside. And the focus on everyday living, on personal development and on community-building.
The URC offers three key resources so far:
I came away from the conference inspired and hopeful, and more trusting, too. Trusting in God to work His purpose out, with or without us. For churches may come and go, but God is not going away.
In the meantime, we are called to be good learners, faithful to the truth we live for, reliable beacons in our communities, forces for the good, God’s workers in the field, in joy and in our brokenness pilgrims on the way. Let’s see what God has in store for us, when we more consciously and more intentionally walk the way with Jesus!
Yours in Christ,
Following a successful Barn Dance last autumn, St James' URC decided to hold a May Dance on 5 May to include a Maypole and other traditional dances.
All ages came and danced together.
After the event all the dancers were given bee-friendly seeds and small sunflowers to take home and grow in their own gardens.
Margaret Minoletti organised the event with help from other members of the URC and Catholic congregation that worship at St James'.
“It was a joy to see everyone dancing and laughing together. St James' is an eco congregation and this event raised awareness of the importance of bees as well as having great fun,” she said.
The Forest Group of United Reformed Churches is a family of four churches on the edge of Epping Forest. We belong to Thames North Synod.
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