Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday opens the season of Lent. It is the starting point of a period of reflection, penitence, fasting and alms giving leading up to the celebration of Easter Sunday. 

During the Ash Wednesday service we are invited to kneel before the Alter and have the sign of the cross marked on our foreheads, with ash that has been made from last years palm crosses. As the Priest 'imposes' the ashes we are reminded of our mortality and sinful nature, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return". It is an opportunity to acknowledge our frailty before God, to remember our reliance on him for our very existence and to pray for his forgiveness.

Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Ash Wednesday services will be held at 10.30am and 7.30pm at St Chad's 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Book Group - Week One

What We See We Value

The Book Group meets for the first time this Wednesday, after the 10.30am Ash Wednesday Eucharist. We will be looking at the Introduction and Chapter 1, 'What We See We Value'. 

Archbishop Justin states in the introduction that this chapter:

 '...deals with our inbuilt tendency to value what we see. We look at one of Jesus' most significant miracles, the account of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11, and how it enables his sisters to see the world through God's eyes. It calls for reflection on what we look for, and how we know it when we see it. The pearl merchant was searching, and when he saw a pearl of great value he knew what it was, and what he needed to do in response. Are we able to become like him?'

We are given a number of questions in the chapter to think about and reflect on. Some of these relate to the communities that we are a part of and others to our daily lives. 

Details of the Book Group can be found here. If you can't make the group in 'reality' please join us 'virtually' by keeping an eye on the blog and sharing your thoughts below. 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Study Group - Week One

Once A Week

As we move through Lent, we shall be looking at a number of issues from a Christian point of view, questions which are difficult and therefore likely to be controversial. With such a programme ahead of us, it seems wise to begin on spiritual rather than simply moral ground, so that we can first perceive more clearly who we are and what characterises us as people of faith, before we consider choices involving attitude and behaviour where our views may well, legitimately, be somewhat diverse.

It is no secret that many practising Muslims are puzzled or even shocked by the fact that many westerners claim to be Christian, but do not seem to pray regularly; even more surprising to them is the realisation that many who go to church quite frequently are not otherwise firmly committed to prayer, whilst they themselves are praying many times each day and keeping the seasons of their religious year. These half-active Christian people seem to acknowledge their faith and address God only once a week. What should we be saying and doing about prayer?

We can discuss in our group problems we have in maintaining regular prayer or difficulties we feel with particular kinds of prayer. We can say what works well for us or is especially precious; just for now I would like to offer a short survey, so we can think about the subject more comprehensively, and, hopefully, with some balance.

The beginning of prayer is surely worship, or adoration as it often used to be called. In worship we acknowledge before God, indeed to God, our heartfelt recognition of his greatness, his otherness, his unswerving goodness and power which are never wearied or weakened by the trivial factors that so often render us ineffective. We are here bowing before the majesty of God, his holiness, his glory. The Sanctus and Benedictus in the Eucharist express this movement of the soul perfectly. It is the sentiment of the Gloria and the Te Deum and these liturgical words can often form the heart of our own private prayers of worship. Worship, in this sense, must always come first, precisely because God himself comes first.

In the classic perception of Isaiah, once we are aware of the majesty of God we become uncomfortably conscious of our own weaknesses and faults. There have been times in Christian history when religious inclination has moved too far towards self-accusation and boundless guilt; now is not that time, and we need to be honest and informed about our own habitual faults and follies as well as our particularly wilful individual acts. We need to intend to follow a better way, to follow Our Lord’s example and confess what we have done wrong. We can do this in our own hearts, as long as we do not simply let ourselves off all the time. We can bring our penitence to a focus in the General Confession of most acts of worship, or we can confess before a priest and seek counsel about our future living.

We live in times when many people are very keen on what they might acquire and what advantages they might secure for themselves, but the Christian way has always been to look rather towards the very many good things we already have in friendships, family, security and essential provisions for life. For all the good things we benefit from, we give thanks to God. It is good to do so in the moment we receive anything good, or become aware of it. We should equally give thanks for our faith, for the gift of salvation and eternal life, for the support and encouragement we receive from others in the faith.

It is traditional wisdom that only when we have prayed the previous three kinds prayer should we move to intercession. It is something of a temptation to ask just that bit too freely; when we have worshipped, confessed and given thanks, it is to be hoped that our thoughts and aspirations will have been a little refined by our previous prayers. We should then be able to ask as we ought.

In this short survey we have said little about the form of our prayer. We might use prayers written by others, our own compositions as they form in our mind, the words of liturgy, or no words at all. There is a world of silent contemplation open to us and a further world of meditation before God, perhaps based on a passage from, or an incident in, Holy Scripture, or on an aspect of our own experience; or on these two strands brought together. Some of the deepest prayers, like the celebrated Jesus Prayer, are brief, profound and made strong by repetition.

At the end of this first session you will be given the opportunity to borrow a book offering a regular pattern of prayer, an office of one tradition or another. I hope there will be enough variety for everyone to take home and use for a week something attractive to them. Each week we will exchange books. If, at the end, members of the group have found a particular tradition, Celtic, Latin, Anglican, Ecumenical, or some other, helpful, then perhaps they will buy a book of that kind and continue fruitfully in that direction.

We could say a great deal more, but that ‘more’ belongs to our discussion. Please come ready, in modesty, to tell your own story, ask questions, advance ideas and exchange experience. It is on the foundation of prayer that the Christian Church has always flourished. It is a great treasure for us to share. Floreat St Alkmund’s, St Chad’s and St Mary’s.

Fr Alan Fell

For further information on the Study Group click here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Prayer Apps

The Church Of England has recently developed a number of smartphone/tablet app's that have been designed to make it far more convenient to spend time drawing closer to God in prayer. 

Liturgy, collects, readings, reflections and even biographical information on celebrated Saints, can now all be available through your smartphone. 

Following a set pattern of prayer and devotion that runs alongside that of your Church can be extremely valuable. You get the sense that you are praying along with the whole Body of Christ, even as you travel on the train or wait in the car on the school run.

To take a look at what's available from Church House Publishing, click here.

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Opportunity of Lent

The season of Lent is the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It is a time of preparation for the feast of Easter Day, when we celebrate Christ's resurrection from death on the cross.

 During this time of preparation, we have the opportunity as individuals and as a community to grow closer to God. To become more aware of our relationship with Him and his active presence in our lives. Remembering that he is with us always but often our lives are so busy we tend to forget. The season of Lent is both an opportunity and a challenge to focus on strengthening that relationship with God. To love Him with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

St Chad's Blog - a journey through Lent 2017

The aim of 'St Chad's Blog' is to provide a hub of information and resources that hopefully everyone will find interesting and useful. Sometimes it can be difficult to fit the seasonal courses, book groups and private theological reading alongside other Church and work commitments. Hopefully this blog will help.