It is here, the New Year, with the beginning of Advent. A new church year of the Lord, beginning with what used to be a time of waiting, of soul-searching and fasting up to the feast of Jesus’ birth – and what is now (at least in this part of the world) a party season in itself. Our feelings about the pre-Christmas noise none withstanding, we are called to listen out for God’s voice, using John the Baptist as our guide: “Make straight the way for the Lord.” (John 1,23) – in our own personal lives (in prayer and in getting priorities right), and in our churches.
Looking back, it was a bit of a mixed year for the Forest Group. From what I’ve heard many of us enjoyed the Faith Pictures Course and the conversations that it opened us up to. We got to know each other on a more personal level and were encouraged to talk about aspects of our faith in a fun and imaginative way. Some of us now feel better equipped and enabled to talk about what they believe to people outside the church, and to spot an opportunity for doing so when it arises.
Our Forest Group Day on Oct 8 marked the start of a joint journey, on which we try to discern our mission, how we want to work for the growth of God’s kingdom, and how we need to set ourselves up to best achieve this. We looked at our positives, what we’re good at and what “assets” we have, looked for opportunities and the aspirations we’d have with them. Questions have been taken back from this into our church meetings, and it will be a while of going back and forth in this way until we have found an answer that sparks our energy, feeds our courage and attracts others to become curious about walking the way with Jesus. Please pray for our group, for God’s blessing and inspiration on this journey.
For one of our churches it was a year of working towards making a big decision. Our sisters and brothers in Highams Park saw that realistically, due to lack of people who can take on responsibility, they cannot continue. So they decided to ask for amalgamation with Woodford Green. Let us have them in our prayers in this time of bereavement, because this is what it is. Lots of memories of happy times in Malvern Avenue will be treasured, and the many hopes that have been over the past years for a revival of the church will now need to be put to a final rest in Christ. Please come and support them in their final act of worship on Sunday April 23 in the afternoon.
And finally: Since October 31, Reformation Day, we are in the middle of the 500th anniversary celebrations of the Reformation. The young monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses against the practices of what in 1517 was “The church” (= the Roman Catholic Church) onto the doors of the
church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was the beginning of nothing less than a revolution, changing the world as it was and giving birth to the “priesthood of all baptised”, their right and ability to read the Bible for themselves in their own language and interpret it with the help of the Holy Spirit. Germany’s churches these days are full of special events honouring and reflecting upon this occasion, and the bi- annual church convention “Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag” (www.kirchentag.de/english.html) from 24-28 May 2017 is going to be in Berlin and Wittenberg, all around this anniversary. A fantastic church experience (also) outside of church walls, with loads of talks/events in English as well. Who wants to come with me/us??
Watch out for local events around this remarkable commemoration.
With blessings, and wishing you all a happy New Year of the Lord. May our Lord guard and guide us on our way, and inspire us with His new life.
Yours in Christ,