News & Items of Interest
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The Battle of the Somme
On the 1st July 2016 we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and remember those who fought and died during the battle. The Somme was one of the deadliest battles of the First World War. During five months of combat, the total number of men killed, wounded and missing reached over one million.
A century later the battle scars still remain. It’s still difficult to make sense of what happened and see God’s place in the conflict. It challenges any image of a safe, problem-solving God who protects at all costs from pain and suffering. As Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane demonstrates, God is to be found alongside in the pain: ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42).
Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy, the chaplain popularly known as ‘Woodbine Willie’, served at the Somme said: ‘We have taught our people to use prayer too much as a means of comfort: the comfort of the cushion, not the comfort of the Cross.’
He is saying that prayer in itself won’t save us from suffering, as it didn’t save Christ from the cross. But it is does enable us to fight evil in a way that will transform the situation, like Jesus going to the cross.
On Sunday 26th June we came together at St Peter’s Church with the British Legion and the RWF Veterans Association for a Service of Remembrance to mark the centenary of this dark time in our history.
St. Mary Magdalene – the woman with a past.
Later this month Christians all over the world will commemorate probably the most unlikely saint in the Bible, Mary Magdalene. There was something in her background that has always fascinated people. All we are told about her ‘past’ is that Jesus had cast ‘seven devils’ out of her, but on that slender if intriguing evidence she has become the patron saint of ‘fallen women’.
Some see her as the woman ‘who was a sinner’ who washed Christ’s feet with her tears at a respectable dinner party. Of that person Jesus remarked that ‘she had been forgiven much’ and consequently ‘loved much’. Whether she was that woman or not, the description perfectly fits her. No one who has heard or read it could surely fail to be moved by her tearful encounter with the risen Jesus in the garden on Easter morning, the man she had taken to be the gardener revealing Himself in one word, Mary, as her beloved Teacher.
The problem with a good story – and hers is as good as it gets – is that people can’t leave it alone. Down the centuries she has been John the Apostle’s fiancée until he left her to follow Christ. She has gone with Jesus’ mother and the same John to live in Ephesus and died there. In art and literature she has become an alluring, sexual figure, disapproved of by the mother of Jesus. There is no historical evidence whatsoever for any of this. In fact, the Gospels suggest the two Marys were close in their shared devotion to Jesus.
Her popularity is shown in the fact that 187 ancient churches in Britain are dedicated to her, and a college at both Oxford and Cambridge. Whatever the details of her story, we cherish it because it shows that having a ‘past’ is no reason not to have a future.
Ministry Area Vestry Meeting
The annual vestry meeting for the Ministry Area took place at the White Lion Hotel in Machynlleth on Wednesday 20th April. Attendance was not as we had hoped but the required business took place nevertheless.
The Rev Peter Ward chaired the meeting. Rev Roland and Canon Kath thanked everyone for their continued support and hard work over the past 12 months through many changes and challenges. There is proof of success in many areas of our Ministry Area with the growth of the Pastoral Team under the leadership of Mrs. Jen Evans and the work with children and young people through Open the Book Teams and growing relationships with the schools and nurseries. There is still a great deal to be done, as always but with the grace of God, our continual prayer and solidarity the seeds of the kingdom will be sown throughout Dyffryn Dyfi.
Mrs Joanne Gower, as Ministry Area Treasurer, presented the accounts which were accepted by those present.
Mrs. Jen Evans gave a report on the work of the Pastoral Team and the new initiative of “Cawl a Chlonc” (Soup and a Chat), which has proved very successful. She outlined future plans to work with young mothers. Jen also gave a report on the work of the newly formed Diocesan Council of which she is Lay Vice Chair and her role within the Representative Body of the Church in Wales.
Representatives of each church gave a brief report on the situation in their church.
Ministry Area Council Members:
Mrs. Denise Perkins MAC Warden/Minute Secretary
Mr. Alan Murphy MAC Warden
Mrs. Joanne Gower MAC Treasurer
Mr. Ken Searson
Mrs. Maureen Hughes
Mrs. Nora Wigley
Mrs. Linda Davies
Mr. Matt Swan
Mrs. Llinos Davies
Ministry Area Team Members:
Rev Roland Barnes Team Leader
Rev Canon Kathleen Rogers Team Leader
Rev Peter Ward Chairperson
Rev Dominic McClean
Mrs. Jen Evans Worship Leader
Mrs. Denise Perkins
Mr. Alan Murphy
On that long ago first morning of Pentecost, Jerusalem was crowded with thousands of visitors, for it was one of the most popular feast-days in the Jewish calendar – the Feast of Firstfruits, looking forward to the wheat harvest.
In one small room of that great city, a small group of people who had followed Jesus were praying. There was nothing else for them to do: Jesus had died, he had risen, and he had ascended, promising to send them ‘a Comforter’. They were left alone, to wait at Jerusalem. And so they waited – on him, and for him. They were not disappointed: for that morning the Holy Spirit fell upon that small room, and transformed those believers into the Church, Christ’s body here on earth. Pentecost was not the first time that the Holy Spirit came to the world – throughout the Old Testament there are stories telling of how God had guided people and given them strength. But now his Spirit would use a new instrument: not just isolated prophets, but the Church, his body on earth.
Acts opens with the preaching of the gospel in Jerusalem, the centre of the Jewish nation. Within 30 years the gospel had spread throughout the northern Mediterranean: Syria, Turkey, Greece, Malta... to the very heart of the Roman Empire: Rome. The Church was on the move – God was on the move! He was calling people from every nation to repent, turn to Jesus for forgiveness of their sins, and to follow him.
His call continues today in this great nation of ours; in this beautiful valley of ours.
Life is such a complex journey, with its ups and downs. We can easily go off course, or even feel lost. But you gave us Jesus to be our Way and our guide, and you promised never to leave us or forsake us. And when Jesus came back to you Lord, after His life on this earth, you promised even more wonderfully to send the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts, exchanging our fears and anxieties for your power and peace – a peace which we can’t explain, but can experience when we trust you.
Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit that you keep your promises, and that in your strength we can move forward, confident in your reality and sovereignty, one step at a time. In Jesus name. Amen.
By Daphne Kitching
5th May: Ascension Day
Surely the most tender, moving ‘farewell’ in history took place on Ascension Day. Luke records the story with great poignancy: “When Jesus had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands - and blessed them.”
As Christmas began the story of Jesus’ life on earth, so Ascension Day completes it, with his return to his Father in heaven. Jesus’ last act on earth was to bless his disciples. He and they had a bond as close as could be: they had just lived through three tumultuous years of public ministry and miracles – persecution and death – and resurrection! Just as we part from our nearest and dearest by still looking at them with love and memories in our eyes, so exactly did Jesus: “While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-1) He was not forsaking them, but merely going on ahead to a kingdom which would also be theirs one day: “I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God...” (John 20:17)
The disciples were surely the most favoured folk in history. Imagine being one of the last few people on earth to be face to face with Jesus, and have Him look on you with love. No wonder then that Luke goes on: “they worshipped Him - and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:52,53)
No wonder they praised God! They knew they would see Jesus again one day! “I am going to prepare a place for you... I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2,3) In the meantime, Jesus had work for them to do: to take the Gospel to every nation on earth.