Vicar's Letter

Dear Friends,

It seems that October ends in much the same way it started, with continuing uncertainty over Brexit. We now await a decision from the European Union on an extension to  the Brexit deadline - 31st October. Meanwhile we don’t know what may happen in the coming months – a General Election, a second Referendum, leaving with or without a deal. Whether Leavers or Remainers, these are anxious times. Within all this, as Christians we are called to trust in God, to pray, and to find our anchor in God’s love and our faith.

Amidst all the uncertainty church life goes on. November is another busy month with special services and events – our All Saints celebration on 3rd November at 10 o’clock, our annual Memorial Service at 4pm that day, and our service for Remembrance Sunday on 10th November, this year marking eighty years since the beginning of WW2. Please also remember the Christmas Bazaar at the Community Centre on Saturday 16th November. Do come and support this event, especially our church stalls!

We have two students from Cox Green School joining us in November. Caitlin and Holly are both working for their Duke of Edinburgh award, and as part of that are required to do six months voluntary work. I am delighted that they are keen to volunteer here at the Good Shepherd. Please look out for them on Sunday mornings, and make them and their families welcome amongst us.

Looking ahead to 2020, we are continuing to work on special mission projects shared with St Luke’s and All Saints, Boyne Hill. We still have money left from the generous contribution made by Bishop Andrew, our former Area Bishop. On Saturday 11th July, we hope to hold another day led by Steve Rouse from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC). Some of you will remember the enjoyable and thought-provoking day he led for us in 2018 on ‘Living Faith 24/7’.

In October 2020, we will be offering to members of all three churches, what is known as ‘A Week of Accompanied Prayer’. I have never taken part in one of these before, although I have been away on numerous retreats over the years. As clergy this is an expectation of us, and essential to our ministry – just having time away from the parish to spend with God. Many people do not have the resources of time or money to go away on retreat.

The Week of Accompanied Prayer gives people a retreat experience, where they live, enabling them to be guided in prayer, whilst in the routine of everyday life. This should mean that whether you are working full-time or part-time, caring for young children or for a spouse, partner or family member, or are restricted due to ill-health or incapacity - you may still be able to take part and benefit from this experience.

I do hope that you will take the opportunity to sign up for The Week of Accompanied Prayer. Church leaders also will be taking part. This means we too, will need to make time for all that is required.

Those who take part will be encouraged to spend half an hour in prayer each day for five days of the week. They will also meet up with someone for half an hour each day who will act as their Prayer Companion. Those who come in to act as Prayer Companions will not be from any of our churches. The conversations you have one-to-one with them will be kept confidential. Your Prayer Companion will guide you through the five days – giving suggestions for prayer and Bible reading tailored to your needs – and will be praying for you.

You may feel your prayer needs refreshing, and want to have a go at a new way of praying; you may need some help just to get yourself into a regular rhythm of prayer; perhaps you really struggle with prayer, and just don’t know where to start – your Prayer Companion can help you. I am really looking forward to this opportunity, and I hope you will too. We will be telling you more over the months to come.

Here are some comments from people who have experienced a Week of Accompanied Prayer….

‘I was apprehensive about joining the Week, but it turned out to be very helpful –
I’ve never been listened to in this way before and felt so encouraged in my relationship with God’.

‘Life is very busy and I wasn’t sure of committing so much time to the Week. It’s the best thing I have done in a long time – listening to God, to myself, and slowing down… I intend to make some changes’.

‘I wasn’t sure what to expect of the chat with the prayer companion….
but I felt at ease during the week and able to share some of the difficult parts of my life’.

‘Brilliant week – not judged, not too churchy – just felt I could be me.’ (17-year-old)

Please do take up this opportunity if you can. I am sure it will prove to be a great blessing to us all.

With love,
Joan

This prayer from the Brexit section of the Diocesan website offers food for reflection and prayer.
You may like to use it in the weeks ahead:

A Prayer for our Times
by Alison Webster (Diocese of Oxford)

God of redemption, your challenge is peace.
Given not as the world gives it – with limits, conditions and reversibility,
but unconditionally – with infinite love.

We pray today for those of us who find ourselves  in places we do not want to inhabit –
a home or community where we no longer feel welcome;
an identity that feels cut off at its roots.

We pray for those of us with feelings we do not know what to do with –
loss and grief, fear and anxiety, aggression and vengeance,
exclusion and banishment, uncertainty about our future.

Bless us now, whatever we feel and whoever we are.
Dwell in our souls deeply.
Give us the courage to tell our stories honestly and openly;
the compassion to hear the stories of others with an open heart;
the discipline to share what we have;
the discernment to advocate for those more vulnerable than we are,
and the means to be agents of care and connection, justice and hope,
to seek out and celebrate the life and joy in our communities,
setting a tone in harmony with you.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus and those who came after him,
who lived in times of bitter conflict,
who were perplexed but not driven to despair,
afflicted in every way, but not crushed, persecuted, but not forsaken.

All the time, proclaiming you.  Amen.