beyond numbers…

numbers again,

statistics read,

those who have died,

intensive care beds,

vaccines available,

centers,

deniers,

compliers,

fines handed out,

wedding parties and wakes,

funerals,

votes/ voters…

redundancies,

the lost,

the lost hopers…

+

those who hope against all the odds…

+

may we remember that each one has a face,

a story,

a grief,

a family,

or no family any longer,

each has a struggle,

the need perhaps for a long missed cuddle,

each has a prayer,

or no prayer,

some rage and some despair,

while others get on quietly,

silently even,

sharing their tears and fears

with their pillows alone…

+

let’s not be swift to judge,

but reach out in love,

to the ones who drive us mad,

to the ones who make us sad,

the ones who make us glad,

and all those in-between,

who on our in-between days

find ways to cheer us…

or simply to be near us, through post or phone…

when we open our hearts we are not alone…

+

we are always more than numbers….

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What do I want…?

Sitting here in lockdown,

gazing over the rooftops before me, a question echoes in my mind…

What do you want, he asked me,

the question was loaded,

searching my deeper self my dreams and longings…

but my dreams, my longings have been readjusted in recent years,

I am no longer who I thought I was,

and I truly don’t know what I want…

Oh on the surface I do;

I want to meet a friend for coffee, or lunch, or both,

I want to hug people, and be hugged…

I want to get into my car and drive to the beach,

to take that holiday

to….

the list goes on..

but this is 2021, and like 202 brings lockdown and uncertainty…

new words have entered my vocabulary, lockdown, social distancing… Covid-19 (20/21)..

Zoom, Zoom in, you’re on mute…Zoomed out,

+

But what do I want, what do I truly want…

I am not sure I dare go there,

I wonder what mysteries might open within if I did…

would I expose myself, or experience some unexpected epiphany,

the unveiling of my soul,

coming to myself at last,

and finding myself home…

+

what do you want?

I’ll let the question echo just a little longer…

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Pastoral letter: the call to change

Dear Friends,

As always I wonder how you are, and hope that this letter finds you both well and safe.

It is a  very blustery day I am watching the clouds race across the sky, catching glimpses of the sun from time to time, along with flurries of sleet, sometimes rain, sometimes definitely snow! As  I sit I am reflecting on the news from yesterday and how it is that as so often the world is full of light and shadow.

I am reading the news headlines as the world celebrates the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States, and Kamal Harris as Vice President. The speeches were inspirational, as was the news of a swift implementation of executive orders including reengaging with the World Health Organisation and signing up to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Kamala Harris, the first woman Vice President expressed her hope like this:

My abiding hope—my abiding prayer—is that we emerge from this ordeal with a new wisdom.

To cherish simple moments.

To imagine new possibilities.

And to open our hearts just a little more to one another.

To open our hearts to one another just a little more, perhaps this is our deepest need, for I am aware that while I rejoice in this change of leadership in the USA, others don’t, and the nation, much like our own, and let’s face it the whole world, is in need of deep healing and grace. We need perhaps to walk a mile in another’s shoes, or simply to stand in them for a moment to acknowledge that we all see things differently. This may have been best expressed yesterday by the young poet Amanda Gorman as she captivated so many of us with hope, as she expressed a longing:

To compose a country (world) committed to all cultures, colours, characters, and conditions of man (humanity)
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

To put differences aside is to turn from what has been, not to deny it, but to choose to change, and of course we need to do this as individuals and together. Perhaps this is what Jesus was referring to when he called the first disciples to change their lives and follow:

After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”

Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed.

A dozen yards or so down the beach, he saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee’s sons. They were in the boat, mending their fishnets. Right off, he made the same offer. Immediately, they left their father Zebedee, the boat, and the hired hands, and followed. (Mark 1: 14-20)

Take time to note the opening words: “After John was arrested”, John was arrested for speaking truth to power, for being a prophetic voice that called out Herod’s corruption and collusion with the Roman authorities.

 It was into this political climate that Jesus went to Galilee, to the sea shore calling the disciples to follow him! Jesus calls us into engagement with the world as it is, calling us first to change and then to be agents of change within it, faith meets politics when we seek to follow Jesus in this world, and that can be tricky, would I dare to say that the “prophets” who declared that Donald Trump would triumph had no faith, well no I wouldn’t, and I wonder what it would be like to be in their shoes today. Somehow prayerfully and carefully we need to find our way to following Jesus in this world, to find the place of grace and unity that is so needed.

For me, that means being woke! According to the Oxford English Dictionary “woke” is defined as: “Originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.” I need to be aware of the news, of what is going on around me, but I can also apply that to prayer and what is going on within me, seeking out where God is at work in me and in the world and choosing to join in. The danger is that I have my own bias and must therefore continually look to the life of Jesus who calls me beyond my small self to work and walk with him, to see the kin(g)dom of God coming about. I share again some words from Amanda Gorman’s poem:

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:
A country (world) that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birth-right.

As the world begins to emerge from the horrors of the Covid-19 pandemic, and let’s face it with the UK recording the largest number of deaths yesterday this struggle is far from over, we need to find new ways to walk and work together, seeking mercy not sacrifice, nor scapegoat then maybe we are on the Jesus road to a better world. Remember, Jesus lived in a world in turmoil, just as we do. With that in mind I leave you with the words of a hymn.

1. Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild restless sea;
day by day his voice still calls us
saying, ‘Christian, follow me.’

2. As of old Saint Andrew heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and work and kindred,
leaving all for Jesus’ sake.

3. Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, ‘Christian, love me more.’

4. In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
Jesus calls, in cares and pleasures,
‘Christian, love me more than these.’

5. Jesus calls us: by your mercies,
Saviour, may we hear your call,
give our hearts in glad obedience,
serve and love you best of all.

So, I wish you well, and you remain in my prayers. I will repeat if a conversation would help please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Peace and blessings       Reverend Sally Coleman

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Seeking compassion: Pastoral letter 16-01-2021

Dear Friends,

As I sit and write today I am looking across a very snowy city,  the sun is shining and everything is sparkling, I don’t know about you, but I love snow, it brings out the child in me. I remember the first time I saw snow quite vividly, that may seem like a strange thing to say, but I was born in Singapore and brought up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, so snow wasn’t something I experienced until I was 9, and visiting my grandparents in Peterborough on a rare trip to England. It was a day very much like today, I remember it well, because for me sunshine meant warmth, and I was captivated by the white stuff and ran outside in bare feet! Needless to say I was inside again pretty quickly.

I was too quick for my grandparents to stop me, but I wonder if I would have believed them if they had told me it was cold, especially as cold did not play a big part in my experience at that point.

As we move through this second phase of lockdown, getting used to the restrictions upon our lives again I have become aware of may rumours circulating about the Covid-19 vaccinations, and even about the virus itself. Some are saying the vaccinations are unsafe or ineffective, there was even a rumour that the vaccine contained meat products with some communities being advised not to receive it if offered. Others say that the virus is a hoax, and protestors have picketed hospitals and put staff and patients, not to mention themselves at risk. While I understand the weariness and the frustration that some are feeling I struggle to see why anyone would construct a global hoax on this scale, especially with the report of 100,000 Covid-19 related deaths in this country. Such sobering statistics!

With the sobering statistics, the dark nights, and the cold of winter I suppose that it is not surprising that many are struggling, so I wonder how we might seek to show the love of God in these days, as we continue to move through the Christmas season ( it ends on 2nd February), how we might use that story to inspire and spur us to acts of grace and kindness? In Philippians 2 Paul reminds us of how Christ came among us:

2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2: 1-12)

He emptied himself and humbled himself, and as John’s gospel reminds us, he was full of grace and truth. What a beautiful picture of the God who does not hold back. I wonder how we might extend that grace towards one another and perhaps even towards ourselves on a down day. Of course all of the things we have talked about many times before still count, supporting foodbanks, looking out for our vulnerable neighbours, an being mindful of parts of the world where healthcare is not available as it is here, but maybe we need to go one step further, examining our attitudes and motivations.

Philippians 2: 7 in the Message version says;

When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.

In a culture where our rights are often spoken of Jesus shows us another way, choosing love over power, and calling us to do the same. Our world is in need of love at this time, love that reaches out beyond itself to touch the weary, lift the wounded, and heal the broken-hearted. We need to hear Jesus words, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened” and to reach out as those who have taken upon ourselves the yoke of Christ. I leave you with the words of a hymn:

Jesus Christ is waiting,
Waiting in the streets;
No one is his neighbour,
All alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger,
Fit to wait on you

Jesus Christ is raging,
Raging in the streets,
Where injustice spirals
And real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am angry too.
In the Kingdom’s causes
Let me rage with you.

Jesus Christ is healing,
Healing in the streets;
Curing those who suffer,
Touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I have pity too.
Let my care be active,
Healing just like you.

Jesus Christ is dancing,
Dancing in the streets,
Where each sign of hatred
He, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I should triumph too.
On suspicion’s graveyard
Let me dance with you.

Jesus Christ is calling,
Calling in the streets,
”Who will join my journey?
I will guide their feet.”
Listen, Lord Jesus,
Let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me;
I will follow you.

As always you remain in my prayers this week, if you would like to talk just give me a call.

 Reverend Sally Coleman

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Holding out hope: Pastoral letter 8th January 2021

Dear Friends,

I am back at my desk writing letters after taking a break over the Christmas and New Year period. So first may I take the opportunity to wish you many blessings for the year ahead, although I guess we cannot escape from the sobering truth of lockdown 3 and a new strain of Covid-19 making an appearance. That said I hope that we can hold onto hope through all of this. There is hope as a vaccine is being rolled out, and the strange liminal threshold kind of hope that a new year always brings, with a chance to both look back and to look forward and to reflect.

So, taking a look back at the last year we may want to note that somehow we have come through many difficulties and frustrations, as we enter into a third lockdown due to the virus, we must reflect that we have already come through two periods of lockdown and survived. We have found ourselves to be resilient in all sorts of ways, some of us reaching out to friends regularly by phone, caring for neighbours, applauding carers and other key workers,  some people have taken up new hobbies, while others have offered time collecting for foodbanks and helping their communities in other ways.

This does not of course mean that the last year has not been very difficult, the NHS came under enormous pressure, many people fell ill and many died due to a virus that shocked and surprised us in many ways. Poverty and unemployment both rose, and businesses struggled to survive, with even some big high street names floundering and failing. Uncertainty has also reigned, with pubs, restaurants, gyms and other services like hairdressers closing then opening, then closing again, it has been the same with our churches, and while we are technically allowed to open the Sheffield Circuit have strongly advised the local trustees to close the buildings for public worship at this time.

Looking forward, as we move through the depths of winter and the dark days that it brings, can we reach out for hope, praying that the roll out of the vaccine will be unhindered, praying that everyone will follow the government guidelines for the sake of one another. We can be hope in the way that we act and behave, and while that is all still very strange to us in the long run it will be worth it.

But what does hope look like? I wonder if we turn to this weeks Gospel account to find it? In a time of oppression and occupation by Rome bringing with it harsh punishments and heavy taxation, the people of Israel longed for a Messiah, it was into this climate that John the Baptist came, the voice crying out in the wilderness, calling people to new ways of living and pointing forward to the coming of the Messiah:

John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

7-8 As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

9-11 At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God’s Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.” (Mark 1: 4-11)

His baptism will change you from the inside out, the work of the Holy Spirit will be with you and in you. This hope is available to us today every time we choose to turn to God, admit our need and receive not only the gift of grace in forgiveness, abut also the gift of the Holy Spirit to be that living hope within us.

How we need that in these days, days when we are dealing with so much change, news that can be difficult to absorb, and for many of us prolonged separation from our loved ones. We can seek hope within, the work of the divine comforter, equipper and empowerer. When we don’t know where to turn we can turn to prayer, if it is as simple as saying help.

There is a wonderful prayer in the Wee Worship book from the Iona Community that simply says this:

In you gracious God, the widowed find a carer, the orphaned find a parent, the fearful find a friend.

In you, the wounded find a healer, the penitent find a pardoner, the burdened find a counsellor.

In you the miserly find a beggar, the despondent find a laughter maker, the legalists fond a rule breaker.

In you Jesus Christ, we meet our maker, and out match.

And if some need to say “Help me”, and if some need to say “Save me”, and if some need to say “Hold me” and if some need to say “Forgive me”, then let these be said now in confidence by us.

Amen

I encourage you to take a moment to think about what it is that you need, what it is that you need in order that you might live out living hope and bless others, and to pray for that now, in confidence that your prayer will be answered.

I leave you with the words of a hymn:

Holy Spirit, we welcome you
Holy Spirit, we welcome you

Move amongst us with holy fire
as we lay aside all earthly desire
hands reach out and hearts aspire
holy spirit, holy spirit, holy spirit, we welcome you

Holy Spirit, we welcome you
Holy Spirit, we welcome you

Let the breeze of your presence blow,
that your children here might truly know
how to move in the spirit’s flow.
holy spirit, holy spirit, holy spirit, we welcome you

Please accomplish in me today
some new work of loving grace i pray
unreservedly have your way
Holy Spirit Holy Spirit Holy Spirit we welcome you

May you know the deep blessing of hope in Christ. As always if anyone would like to talk please don’t hesitate to call. You remain in my prayers.

Reverend Sally Coleman

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Longest Night Liturgy

Prayers for the longest night:

Tonight we gather, as we have before,

To worship, to pray, to support one another, this time has become a time of refuge.

We gather

EVEN WHEN WE FEEL LOST, LONELY AND AFRAID.

We gather and we dare to wonder

If God indeed has come in Jesus, discerning the rejection we have known, intimate with our faults and failings,

Our failed relationships, our failed endeavors, our feelings of hurt and shame…

Holding our heartaches in hands of tenderness.

Tonight we gather, though apart, with new friends, neighbours, and with strangers…

COMING WITH OUR HEARTS FULL OF HOPE

AND OUR HEADS FILLED WITH DOUBTS

Tonight we gather just as we are for we can come no other way.

GOD HAS PROMISED TO MEET US HERE

AND TO WELCOME US FOR WHO WE ARE.

*********************************

Carol: O Come O Come Immanuel

***********************************

Holy God of Advent, you became weak so we would find strength in moments of heartbreak.

You left the safety of heaven to wander the wilderness of this world, holding our hands when we feel hopeless;

You set aside your glory, to hold our pain so we might be healed.

Even where there seems to be no hope; you became one if us, so we could never be alone, in any moment, in any circumstance.

YOU ARE ONE WITH US

So come now, Child of Bethlehem to strengthen us in these days. May we feel your presence in a way we have never known, not just as one born in a stable, long ago and far away, but as One born in our hearts, even this long night.

YOU ARE ONE WITH US

You have promised to go before us, into our brokenness, into hospital rooms, into empty houses, into graveyards, into our future held by God, and you are here, even now waiting for each of us, to serve us, to hold us, to comfort us, to heal us, to live in us now and forever.

YOU ARE ONE WITH US

AMEN

***********************************

Carol : In the Bleak Midwinter

************************************

Reflection

Intercessions:

Response;

Come to them Lord Jesus

COME TO THEM LORD JESUS

**********************************

Closing Responses:

And now;

Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, as we release the strands of others guilt.

FORGIVE OUR HIDDEN PAST, THE SECRET SHAMES AS WE SEEK TO CONSISTENTLY FORGIVE WHAT OTHERS HIDE

Lighten our load of secret debts as we relieve others of their need to repay.

ERASE THE INNER MARKS OUR FAILURES MAKE JUST AS WE SCRUB OUR HEARTS OF OTHERS FAULTS

Absorb our frustrated hopes and dreams, as we embrace those of others with emptiness.

UNTANGLE THE KNOTS WITHIN SO THAT WE CAN MEND OUR HEARTS SIMPLE TIES TO OTHERS.

Compost our inner stolen fruit as we forgive others the spoils of their trespassing

LOOSE THE CORDS OF MISTAKES BINDING US, AS WE RELEASE THE STRANDS WE HOLD OF OTHERS GUILT.

**********************************

Carol : Come thou long expected Jesus

*****************************************

Blessing

Sources:

Candles and Conifers- Ruth Burgess- Wild Goose Publications

Prayer Rhythms- Ray Simpson- Kevin Mayhew

Prayers of the Cosmos Neil Douglas Klotz- Harper One

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Signs of the kingdom to come- Advent 3- Pastoral letter

11th December 2020

Dear Friends,

Here we are at the 3rd Sunday of advent, by some miracle I have done all of my Christmas shopping and simply need to get a few things posted out, maybe because we haven’t had the usual rush of Christmas activities, my diary states that there should be an afternoon tea with a silver band playing, obviously that is not going to happen this year! Many things won’t, and I feel like I am beginning to sound like a broken record ( and yes that dates me), as I say that yet again.

So, as always I wonder how you are, I wonder what is going on in life for you? I received a gift today, an unusual one admittedly as that gift was a shot in the arm, a flu jab, it is the first time I have received one, but it felt right to do so especially as it was offered, and it was free, what an amazing gift the NHS is! Of course, free gifts are part of our story as the people of God aren’t they, that that creator of all that is should choose to become enveloped in human flesh and be contained in it remains an eternal mystery, one that we rightly look forward to celebrating over and over again.

I am still following the Celtic Advent journey that began on the 15th November, and I am really appreciating the gift of this season. It began with a focus on Jesus, God made flesh, Immanuel, God with us, and moved on to focusing on the Christ who makes a home in and among us 10 days later, yesterday brought a new focus, on the Christ who is to come, the one who having made the way will come to make all things new!

There will be a time when tears are wiped away, when there will be no more sickness, pain or dying, such a startling hope in these days of global pandemic! As the people of God we are called not merely to hang onto that hope, but to begin to live into it, how do we do that? The answer is that there are so many ways, one of them of course is to fight for/ campaign for justice. Towards the beginning of my letter I spoke of the gift of receiving a flu jab, and I hope very much to be invited at some point to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and that is looking likely for me, but for many others in different parts of the world that will not be the case because the richer nations have bought up the available stock. Global justice now state that ; ….without pressure on the pharmaceutical companies, there simply won’t be enough supplies for all countries and the poorest countries could have to wait until 2024 before they get any vaccines! Surely that is not right.

Maybe you could write to your MP, and call on the UK government to ensure that any vaccine developed with public money is made affordable and available to all. And urge them to work globally so that any vaccine reaches the most vulnerable everywhere! Surely we need to tune our voices to the one calling out in the desert, and become those who testify to the coming light who was, is and will be a light for all nations!

Our Gospel reading this week points forward again, challenging us to be signs of hope for the day that will come:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said,
‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord” ’,
as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

John 1: 6-8 and 19-28

Of course once again I have only shared one way in which you might hold the light for others and work for justice, and there are so many more, many of them very creative and innovative, and maybe it is all about how we respond to the move of the Spirit and the heart beat of the divine at work in and through us. I leave you with a prayer/ poem:

In the chaos,

the confusion,

the darkness

of despair,

we cling to hope,

crying out,

make a way,

make a way,

but let it be your way,

your way of peace

of joy,

of order

and light,

we need your way

your way

in our ways,

woven through our days,

your love to cast out fear,

your streams flowing

in the desert,

your breath blowing

through the dullness

of our hearts,

your music to invite us to dance

in the unforced rhythms

of your heart beat…

make a way,

draw us, make a way

for us…

where we see no way

come make a way..

(Sally Coleman December 2020)

We cry out, make a way, but let it be your way loving God. So this week as we continue our advent journey I pray that you will find blessings in the darkness, blessings for the journey, and peace within and without. As always if you would like to talk to me please call.

        Reverend Sally Coleman

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Pastoral letter- advent 2: Hope on the horizon

4th December 2020

Dear Friends,

Once again how are you, I hope that you are doing well as we move through this very different advent time, as I sit and write this morning it is snowing outside, and the usual view of the city from my office window is obscured. I must admit I am one of those people who loves snow and enjoys seeing the world turn white, it always seems magical somehow. Last night the people in my street took part in the Sheffield Carols initiative to get us all out on our doorsteps singing, we began with The First Noel, and it began to snow then, several people had come out with candle lit lanterns and there was a sense of fellowship and hope amongst us, in many ways we have been more connected as neighbours this year, one of the strange blessings that Covid-19 has brought to us.

I wonder what blessings you have seen in this pandemic year, or how you might have been blessed by it? I realise that amidst all of the difficulties that may seem like a strange question to ask, and I know for many this has been a struggle, but I hope that there are also things that we have learned and will want to hold onto. I have noticed people’s openness and generosity, I talked about the foodbank last week and how people have been generous there, both local businesses and individuals. For me, a sign of hope was being able to go to my youngest son’s wedding, it was strange but beautiful, with 15 socially distanced people wearing masks, but we were able to celebrate with Jon and Ellie, and were reminded that love overcomes!

As we move through advent we are reminded that we are not only preparing for Christmas, but also continuing to prepare for that day when God will make all things new, and that we are called to live into that even now, The Gospel reading set for this Sunday focuses on John the Baptist who comes to prepare the way for Jesus;

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight” ’,
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’ (Mark 1:1-8)

There is one who is coming! Imagine if you can the anticipation, imagine not knowing the story of Jesus and the longing that was present in the hearts of those who had been waiting for so long. Now imagine John, this wild strange character calling people to prepare, to turn towards the light, and to look forward to the one who was about to come among them and baptise them with the Holy Spirit!

What a promise, hope was just over the horizon, hope was coming, hope was almost but not quite realised, and people were hungry for hope, and crowds came out to be baptised by John so that they would be prepared for the coming Messiah.

Of course we know how the story plays out, we know that the Messiah did not fit many peoples expectations, and that there was confusion and disappointment, and yet, we still tell the story today because it is so full of hope, so full of promise, so fill of possibilities!

We still tell the story today and it has power that brings it to life over and over again, and can somehow work its divine magic in our lives as we are invited into it, and to play our part in it, for the miracle that God chooses to work in, with and through those who are willing to walk and work with Them (Creator, Son, Spirit) has not changed!

We are called to be those who are preparing, to be those who bring the kin(g)dom to earth bit by bit by living out the Gospel values, by imitating the ways of Christ, by welcoming the outcast and stranger, by helping the lame to walk and the blind to see. Just ponder for a moment how a loving act or a kind word might open someone’s eyes to the possibility that God is among us. That the divine is living and active even through a global pandemic, and that holy possibilities can be brought to life in you and in me! So, in this season of advent I encourage you to turn some time every day over to focusing on the impossible made possible, that God took on human flesh and made his dwelling among us, and even more amazing that because of this the divine life can come to life in our lives, but of course it is up to us to choose to receive it and to live it! I leave you to ponder how, and with the words of a hymn:

Hear the call of the kingdom
Lift your eyes to the King
Let His song rise within you
As a fragrant offering
Of how God rich in mercy
Came in Christ to redeem
All who trust in His unfailing grace

Hear the call of the Kingdom
To be children of light
With the mercy of heaven
The humility of Christ
Walking justly before Him
Loving all that is right
That the life of Christ may shine through us

King of Heaven we will answer the call
We will follow bringing hope to the world
Filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim
Salvation in Jesus’ name

Hear the call of the Kingdom
To reach out to the lost
With the Father’s compassion
In the wonder of the cross
Bringing peace and forgiveness
And a hope yet to come
Let the nations put their trust in Him

The call of the kingdom echoed through John the Baptists cry just as it had through the prophets before him, the call of the kingdom has continued to echo down through the ages, through ordinary and extraordinary people. The call will continue until all things are made new and Christ comes again. There is hope, and hope will prevail.

So, look for hope, be bringers of hope, celebrate hope when you find it, and hold to the faith, for ALL WILL BE WELL! Of course, one great hope at this time is that the Covid-19 vaccine will be effective and will be readily available, we pray for all of those involved in this including the scientists, the medics and those responsible for distribution. We pray to that this will be available for all nations, and all people.

I wish you many blessings as we continue through this advent time, may you be blessed even on difficult days, may you bless others as you allow the kingdom to shine in your life.

Take care, and if you want to talk to be just give me a call or drop me an email,

Peace and blessing

Reverend Sally Coleman

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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Pastoral letter – Advent 1

Dear Friends,

Well here we are at the beginning of traditional Advent time, there will be just 4 Sundays between now and Christmas Day. I wonder how you are feeling about that, especially as it feels like we have spent the whole year waiting, and are likely to continue to wait through advent, into Christmas and beyond. We wait for a vaccine for Covid-19, we wait for something like normal life to resume, wait to be able to join with family and friends… we wait.

Waiting is of course one of the themes of advent, as we not only prepare for the celebration of Jesus birth at Christmas, but also as we respond to the invitation to look forward to the day when all will be made well, and all will be made new, which is the ultimate promise to us all:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

‘See, the home[a] of God is among mortals.
He will dwell[b] with them;
they will be his peoples,[c]
and God himself will be with them;[d]
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ (Revelation 21:1-5)

See I am making all things new, how we long for that I am sure, and yet maybe advent also calls us to ponder what new might need to look like. The Gospel reading set for this week calls us to be awake to what is going on within us and around us, to be aware of the signs of the times.

Jesus so often called the disciples to pay attention- to be woke. Watch for deception. Watch out for yourselves. Watch during the difficult days ahead. In the face of environmental, political, social, and cosmic calamity—stay woke. It is as if there is the possibility that the disciples will miss that which should be seen and known. The disciples’ tendency towards ignorance in the midst of divine activity is a dominant theme in Mark’s Gospel. I suspect that we are not so different in these days!

The reading is here, but I suggest you read it in context with the whole Chapter, noting that this all takes place as Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem just days before the crucifixion:

‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ (Mark 13: 24-37)

Stay alert, be awake, pay attention, watch, pray, I don’t know about you but those demands feel quite heavy, especially when I simply want to stick my head under my pillow and hide some mornings , as some days every day feels like groundhog day , here we go again! Maybe now is the time that we need to remind ourselves that as long as this year might feel, and as hard as it has been, that this will pass, and all will be made new, suffering and sighing will pass away. Maybe not quickly, but they will, but for now we watch and wait with Christ, and to what he calls us to.

Stay awake, be woke to love and compassion, allow yourself to become a channel through which that love, and compassion can flow.

Stay awake, be woke to divine possibilities to unexpected opportunities to share and to show care.

Stay awake, be woke to the still small voice within reminding you that you are loved and valued and that you have a part to play in bringing the kin(g)dom into being.

Stay awake, be woke, for Christ is with you and in you and calls you to walk and work in harmony with the unforced rhythms of grace that flow through all creation.

Even in a pandemic there is hope, and we can live into that hope as we walk through this long waiting time, so what are the signs of hope that you see? I was talking today to Jane Wall, one of the Circuit Pioneers, and she was telling me about the amazing generosity of the community towards the Foodbank based at Stanwood Church, how one family have provided gifts of toiletries, not one or two things but enough for a lovely gift to be given to 35 people. Other gifts like fruit, and Christmas hampers have been offered too.

Even in a pandemic there is hope, a phone call to check how people are, and email to say thank you can set off a chain reaction of thanks as they draw us out of ourselves to focus on another. A letter or a card can make a huge difference to somebody in these dark days of waiting.

Even in a pandemic there is hope…. Where might you have encountered it, how might you offer it? My soon to be daughter-in-law told me how she has done all of her Christmas shopping supporting charities that are close to the gift recipients heart, it has taken time and dedication and shows deep interest in those she is giving to, she has certainly challenged me!

Even in a pandemic there is hope, there is light in the darkness, all WILL be made new!

I leave you with a hymn:

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

Longing for food, many are hungry
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us Your bread, broken for others
Shared until all are fed.

Christ, be our light…..

Longing for shelter, many are homeless
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us Your building, sheltering others
Walls made of living stone.

Christ, be our light…..

Many the gift, many the people
Many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another
Making Your kingdom come.

Christ, be our light…..

Still Jesus calls us to watch, wait and pray, to be woke to signs of the kin(g)dom, to be aware of the divine energy at work even now.

So, I pray that this advent time might be a deep blessing to you, as we practice waiting in this long waiting time, As always of you would like to talk to me please call, if I am not in leave a message, I will get back to you.

Peace and blessings

Reverend Sally Coleman

Sunset at Redmires Reservoir

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A different kind of king- a different kind of kingdom- Pastoral letter 20-11-2020

20th November 2020

Dear Friends,

First, as I always do I ask you how you are, this is not an idle question, I am genuinely interested, and that causes me to reflect that when I am asked that question, that my default response if quite often “I am fine”, which is sometimes not the truth! Along with that of course is the reality of what we are living through, the stresses and pressures of life in a pandemic, and that as someone said to me today it feels like being on a roller-coaster, sometimes I feel up and at others down, and that can change very quickly. So, I encourage you to take a moment and allow yourself to answer the question; how am I today?

Second, I want to ask how on earth it is that we are almost in December, I have shocked my children because I have managed to do some Christmas shopping, mostly because I am not running around putting together Carol Services and Nativity Plays! I am following a Celtic Advent this year, which is a 40 day lead in to the Christmas season, looking at the Universal Christ, the word that was with God and is God from the beginning, the incarnate Christ, the babe who took on flesh, and the Christ of Revelation, the Alpha and the Omega who makes all things new, or Christ the King.

This coming Sunday is celebrated as Christ the King Sunday, this is the reading:

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ (Matthew 25: 31-46)

I must confess that it is a reading that has made me uncomfortable over the years, with its theme of judgement, and the almost military might of the coming of Christ. A closer reading however leads me to a deeper place, because it challenges how I serve and treat others, it tells us that everyone should be treated with love and respect, the sick, the imprisoned, the outsider, all served, the stranger welcomed, the naked clothed. It reminds us that we all bear the image of God, the fingerprint of Christ.

Christ the King looks for his followers to take on the nature of a servant, Christ the King is the one who knelt before his disciples and washed their feet and then charged them and us to do the same. How do we do that in a time of lockdown, as I write this I am listening to Reverend Jongi Zihle on All We Can’s 1:17 broadcast, he has talked about the need for us to develop the attitude of loving, of loving, and being open to being loved, and to love with a deep integrity, to respect the other, and is sharing stories of people bringing the little they have to a food-hub in London halving their meal so that those who have nothing get something. Love we are told is costly.

So, ask yourself what are the ways that you could put on the mind of Christ and reach out to those in need? Can you give to a Foodbank? Could you support the work of All We Can or another charity to support those who have so little? Ask yourself are there lonely people you could reach out to, maybe you could write a letter, send a card, make a phone call? You can probably come up with many more ideas than me, and I would be happy to hear of them!

As I finish I find myself less uncomfortable with Christ the King, who calls us to be his kin, to take his had and to walk and work with him, to treat others with respect, but I have to accept that the passage ends with judgement, that there is a consequence for choosing not to be Christlike, for disregarding those in need, and for serving only ourselves. I wonder how you respond to that. In my heart of hearts, I find myself wanting to rescue the goats!

I will leave you then with a hymn to reflect on while you ponder the questions this passage raises:

Jesus Christ is waiting,
Waiting in the streets;
No one is his neighbour,
All alone he eats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am lonely too.
Make me, friend or stranger,
Fit to wait on you

Jesus Christ is raging,
Raging in the streets,
Where injustice spirals
And real hope retreats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I am angry too.
In the Kingdom’s causes
Let me rage with you.

Jesus Christ is healing,
Healing in the streets;
Curing those who suffer,
Touching those he greets.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I have pity too.
Let my care be active,
Healing just like you.

Jesus Christ is dancing,
Dancing in the streets,
Where each sign of hatred
He, with love, defeats.
Listen, Lord Jesus,
I should triumph too.
On suspicion’s graveyard
Let me dance with you.

Jesus Christ is calling,
Calling in the streets,
”Who will join my journey?
I will guide their feet.”
Listen, Lord Jesus,
Let my fears be few.
Walk one step before me;
I will follow you.

© WGRG, Iona Community, 1988.

May we be those who see Christ in the friend and in the stranger, in rich and poor alike, may we act with love and with integrity, and may we know that we are loved, and be open to love. God bless and keep you, if you want to talk please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Peace and blessings

 Reverend Sally Coleman   

Quiet Streets- Sheffield City Centre
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