Letters from the Rector

The Rectory

7th July 2020

 

Dear Family,

It is a great relief to know that the government has assessed the national situation and where we have got to in dealing with the Covid-19 virus. It is good to now be able to meet with some others in our families and also that shops, restaurants and pubs are open subject to safety restrictions. We are still awaiting more information from the Church of England to enable us to make wise and safe decisions about when we can have services in our Church and the form of how things will need to be. When we know more the PCC will decide what is right for us at this time and we will let everyone know. Until then the Church is open on Sundays and Wednesdays from 12.00pm until 15.00pm for private prayer and we have our virtual services on Sunday (with the Diocese) and Wednesday mornings (Morning Prayer) and we have our prayer time (‘Together in Prayer’) on Saturday mornings at 10.30am.

At this time I want to recognize and say a huge thank you to David Philipson, Susan Bailey and Haydn Langley. David chairs the Standing Committee and PCC and has steered us all through the legalities and regulations relating to all that the Church can and must do during these difficult times, Susan has organized the excellent weekly newsletter that goes out to everyone by email and by post to those without computer access and Haydn has looked after the Church webpage for us all. Together they have been the driving force that keeps us safe, up to date, informed and connected.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

 

A prayer for the world

God of love and hope,
you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strange right now.
The news is full of stories about Coronavirus.
Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.
Be with them and help them to find peace.
We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists,
and all who are working to discover the right medicines
to help those who are ill.
Thank you that even in these anxious times,
you are with us.
Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe.
Amen.

The Rectory

30th June 2020

 

Dear Family,

On Sunday 28th and Monday 29th different places remembered Saints Peter and Paul our Patron Saints; two such different men with such varied backgrounds, gifts and ministries. They are a reminder to us all that God loves everyone wherever they come from and whatever their cultural heritage.

Then, for those who follow the Common Worship lectionary Friday the 3rd July was the day to honour St Thomas the apostle. He was a Jew and one of Jesus’ closest disciples. Thomas was a devoted but impetuous follower of Christ. When Jesus said He was returning to Judea to visit His sick friend Lazarus, Thomas immediately exhorted the other apostles to accompany Him on the trip which involved certain danger and possible death. At the Last Supper, when Christ told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them to which they also might come after their deaths Thomas pleaded that they did not understand and consequently he received the beautiful assurance from Jesus “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and that through Jesus anyone could come to the Father, (become a child of God). Perhaps Thomas is best known for his role in verifying the Resurrection of Jesus. He was unwilling to believe that the other Apostles had seen their risen Lord on the first Easter Sunday until a week later he saw Jesus for Himself. He saw in Christ’s hands the marks of the nails and the spear wound in Jesus’ side and exclaimed, “My Lord and My God,” thus making a public Profession of Faith in the Divinity of Jesus. Thomas is a reminder to us all that we do not have to take the word of others, but that Jesus will make Himself known to all who really want to know that He is truly God and alive today.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

 

The Collect for St Thomas

Almighty and eternal God,
who, for the firmer foundation of our faith,
allowed your holy apostle Thomas to doubt the resurrection of your Son
till word and sight convinced him:
grant to us, who have not seen, that we also may believe
and so confess Christ as our Lord and our God;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Amen

 

The Rectory

23rd June 2020

 

Dear Family,

Wednesday the 24th June is the day we remembered the birth of John the Baptist. He was and is one of the most influential men of all time. He lived in the desert, ate locusts and wild honey, and wore rough scratchy camel’s hair clothes with a leather belt. His one aim and purpose in life was to direct others to Jesus Christ. The prophets told of John’s and Jesus’ coming, and then after 400 years of silence John came to speak for God and to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus’ ministry on earth. God’s timing is always perfect. John came into the world at just the right time, lived how God had chosen for him, spoke for God, humbled himself before Jesus and declared that Jesus was greater than he was. John pointed those who came to him away from himself and towards Jesus.

I had until a few years ago a wise spiritual director and dear friend who I admired tremendously. On one occasion I told him that I wished I could be more like him and see things in the same way that he did. Fr Tom replied to me very sternly, “No! God called me to be me and you to be you.” Of course he was right; he always was. By the same account, all of us are called to live where God calls us to be, have the lifestyles that are just right for each one of us and to seek to help others to find out who the Lord Jesus is and to experience Jesus’ love and care for themselves.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

 

The Rectory

16th June 2020

 

Dear Family,

On the 15th June I had the honour to accompany Andrew Geary our new Mayor of Milton Keynes at the civic service to commemorate “Albert French – The Boy Soldier”. We maintained social distance as we met at ‘The Rose’, we had a two minute silence and Andrew laid a wreath. My part was to read the letter sent by the army chaplain to Albert’s father informing him of Albert’s death. In that letter the chaplain wrote,

“He lies buried amid brave comrades in a wood, and his grave is carefully tended by his friends in his battalion. I offer you my deepest sympathy and pray that Almighty God in his mercy will give you comfort and strength to bear up under this great blow. May I remind you of that text which occurs in the 15th Chapter of St. John’s Gospel and the 14th verse? “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.”

As well as remembering the “Boy Soldier” I could not help thinking of and giving thanks for those in the NHS and Emergency Services who have done and continue to bravely and unselfishly put their lives on the line for all of us. I also was reminded of all those who have lost loved ones recently.

Personally, on Thursdays at 8pm I miss the corporate opportunity to say thank you to those who continue to care for the sick and dying. However, I stop, thank God for them and ask God to bless them at that time. As we say of Albert and all heroes of the military, “We will remember them.”

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

 

The Rectory

9th June 2020

 

Dear Family,

The 12th June is the day we remember St Barnabas. What do we know about him? Barnabas sold some land to help provide for his fellow Christian believers who were in great need, he was a Levite from the island of Cyprus, he was either a cousin or an uncle to Mark the evangelist and Gospel writer and he was also a mentor to Mark. His original name was Joses, or Joseph, but the apostles gave him the nickname Barnabas, (Son of Encouragement or Son of Exhortation) and the nickname stuck. It was Barnabas who stood by and encouraged Paul when he converted to Christianity from persecuting the followers of Jesus, and it was Barnabas who mentored Paul and John Mark (Mark the Gospel author).

Barnabas was an encourager, mentor, gave people the benefit of the doubt and gave people a second chance.

In these difficult and demanding days when there is much around to discourage us it is good to remember and learn from Barnabas. There are many who need our support and kindness, (like the early Christians in Jerusalem), there are those who need to know more of God’s love, (like Saul who became Paul) and at times we all need to be given and give others the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. Barnabas took his example from the Lord Jesus. Let’s take our example from Jesus and Barnabas and support, be kind, tell others God loves them, believe in the best about others and be encouragers.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

 

The Rectory

2nd June 2020

 

Dear Family,

We have celebrated Easter, The Ascension, Pentecost and this week The Trinity; Jesus died in our place to forgive and redeem us, He beat death and sin by the cross and His Resurrection, He is now back in the heavenly presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and so this week we celebrate the unity and diversity of our God who is One and is also Three.

When I had a season working with Muslim men we use to have some very interesting conversations about who God is and that He is One but also Three.

“How can God be One and God be Three?”

“Well how can a man be one and three?”

“He cannot!”

“But what if you go home and greet your father, and then your uncle comes in and greets his brother, and then later on your grandfather arrives and greets his son. There is only one man but he is father, brother and son”. Your father can be one and also be three!”

In the Bible we see God as the Trinity at the baptism of Jesus:

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as He came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3v16,17)

God (beyond our understanding) truly is our Father, Big Brother and Helper!

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

 

The Rectory
26th May 2020

Dear Family,

This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, literally the ‘fiftieth day’ as it comes fifty days after the feast of Passover. For the Jews it is the feast day when traditionally the first-fruits of the corn harvest were presented in the Temple. Later in time it also became a day to celebrate the giving of the Law through Moses.

On this day after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers and followers of Jesus enabling them to tell out the truths of the Christian faith – the Good News of all that Jesus had done and of the love of God for all the peoples of the earth.

Our faith is rooted in the Jewish faith and so for us Pentecost can be a time when we celebrate the gift of the Bible, God’s laws and teachings, the gifts of food and all that God gives us and the wonderful gift for every believer; the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that when we become Christians we do not receive a spirit of slavery leading to fear, but we receive the Spirit of adoption. By the goodness of Jesus and the Holy Spirit we can then call God our Father. That means that we become God’s children and also heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We are God’s children on earth and we will inherit our place with God in heaven when it is our time to do so.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

 

The Rectory

19th May 2020

 

Dear Family,

Congratulations to Andrew and Lisa Geary on becoming Mayor and Mayoress of Milton Keynes on the 20th. It will be a very special year for them and a quite unusual Mayoral year too. Do join with me in praying for them with all the extra demands that their new rôles will place upon them. Let’s pray for them and their family throughout the year. Speaking of prayer, it has been wonderful to get together to pray with others from the Church (via computers) on Saturday mornings. Do come and give praying with others a try if you haven’t already done so. The Wednesday Morning Prayer is also going very well and all are welcome to be part of that group too.

(Saturday 10.30am and Wednesday 9.30am, both by computer / phone. All the details are on the Church webpage and on this sheet.)

On Wednesday our Psalm for the day was Psalm 148. It answers the question of who is loved by God and who can praise Him now on earth. The answer is kings, queens, princes, princesses, all the rulers of the earth, young men and women, old and young and all peoples. On Thursday our Gospel reminded us that Jesus rose from the dead, forgiveness of sins is God’s will for everyone and that God sends His Holy Spirit to enable believers to tell these truths to others who do not yet know them. May God help us to praise Him this week and help others to know they are loved and dear to God too.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

The Rectory

12th May 2020

 

Dear Family,

This Sunday will be Rogation Sunday. Then Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are three more Rogation Days. After them on Thursday 21st we celebrate Ascension Day.

Historically these days are a time to pray that the crops will come in safely. Today in the Western Church they are often days of prayer for the needs of humankind, the fruits of the earth and the works of our hands. Perhaps you would like to join with me in praying for food for the hungry on Sunday, a vaccine to cure Covid-19 on Monday, for our farmers and this year’s harvest on Tuesday and for God’s blessing on the NHS, the Emergency Services and all care workers on Wednesday?

On Thursday we remember the Risen Christ ascending into heaven. (At Christmas we celebrate that Christ’s divinity came to earth. At the Ascension we celebrate that Jesus’ humanity ascended to heaven). Looking back in history we can see that in many places both Rogation Sunday and Ascension Day have been celebrated with processions. On the Sunday, people have processed and prayed for God’s blessing to come down onto the earth; on the Thursday people have processed to remember Jesus walking to the place from where He went up into the heaven. This week as we remember the divinity and humanity of Christ, let us pray for God’s supernatural help and the human help of all those working on our behalf to defeat the terrible disease we are faced with at present.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

The Rectory

29th April 2020

Dear Family,

It is so hard to not see people ‘face to face and in person’. However it is good to see people on my computer screen and to hear others on the phone. So, when do I get to make these ‘technical contacts’? On Sundays at 10.00 am I join with people from all around the Oxford Diocese and partake of Holy Communion, on Tuesday I meet with the Standing Committee and on Saturday at 10.30 am I pray with any who sign in or phone in to our ‘Together in Prayer’. It is great to see faces and hear voices. I warmly invite you to join in with the Holy Communion and the prayer time. Starting next Wednesday I plan to lead any who would like to join me in a virtual Morning Prayer at 9.30am. Details of all these opportunities to meet, worship and pray will be available on our webpage and on our weekly sheet.

The verse in the Bible that captured my attention this morning was,

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

In these days many of us are facing such difficult and heartbreaking circumstances. It is a comfort to know that God knows us and cares about every challenge that comes our way. He is our help and He will not let us down!

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

The Rectory
22nd April 2020

Dear Family,

So we have now moved into a second phase of,
stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’.

It is by far one of the most difficult times I have ever lived through.

As I take my almost daily walk around Olney, it is very moving to see the rainbows and artwork (done by so many) displayed in the windows of lots of houses. It is so encouraging to see that people in our community are thinking about others and not only about themselves. Today’s reading from the Gospel of John (Chapter 3 verse 16) led me to think of how every day, especially every Thursday at 8pm, and at all sorts of other times I am moved to think of those who work in the health professions, the emergency services, those who enable us to have food on our plates, water, light and heat in our homes, those who keep our neighbourhoods free from clutter and rubbish, and all those who are daily giving of themselves to care for and provide for us. I truly can see goodness, love and the face of God in their unselfish deeds. I thank God for all those who are generously serving us and I also look forward to when we all will all be once again able to see each other face to face.

Stay safe and God bless!

Andrew+

The Rectory
8th April

Dear Family,

At the moment I aim to have a walk around Olney between 2pm and 3pm every afternoon. It is my allowed exercise and the timing of it reminds me of Jesus’ final hour on the cross and that what Jesus said on the cross was for me and everyone in our town.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

It helps me to thank Jesus for what He did for me and for everybody else too.

The proof that we can all be forgiven is seen in the incredible truth of what happened on the first Easter Day:

“…Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus had been raised from the dead with a new resurrection body. He had defeated the power of sin, sickness and death. The most amazing victory in history had been won. In this present age we sometimes see proof of His once and for all triumph over evil. One day in heaven we will see His conquest in all of its completeness. Then we will also see Jesus the magnificent victorious King in all of His Glory. It will be a time to be with God forever and a time to be reunited with our loved ones who have also been forgiven and raised to new life. All of this is a truth that we cannot understand completely now, but as Saint Paul wrote,

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Here on earth we are fully known and loved by God. One day in heaven we will meet God who loves us totally and forever. Easter eggs remind us of new life. The empty tomb declares to us that we can have eternal life. They say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

The proof of God’s love for you is in the resurrection!

Stay safe and God Bless,

Andrew+

 

The Rectory

1st April 2020

Dear Family,

In such difficult times, it is good to know that even if we cannot be with each other, we can think of each other and pray for each other. We are about to remember some of the most amazing events in the history of the world. Of course there is Christmas when we remember the human birth of Jesus, and then there is this coming week that leads us up to Easter Day. Do read the sermons and thoughts posted each day as an aid to remembering the sad events and the wonderful events of Easter. In addition here is an outline with some Bible verses and a thought for each day that you might find useful.

Palm Sunday 5th Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people laid palm branches in His path.
Read Luke 19:28-42 and Zechariah 9:9.
Praise God today for His coming into your life.

Monday 6th Jesus in the Temple.
Read Luke 19:45-20:8.
Think about your body as a temple where God dwells.

Tuesday 7th Jesus taught in the Temple.
Read Luke 20:1-40.
Thank God for Jesus’ teaching and the Bible.

Wednesday 8th Read about who Jesus said He was and the reactions of the people
in Luke 20:41-47 & Luke 22:1-6.
Decide afresh to listen to Jesus’ teaching, to honour Him and follow Him.

Maundy Thursday 9th The Day of the Last Supper – Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.
Read Luke 22:7-46. Jesus celebrated the Passover, recalling when God, through Moses, delivered the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. The night before, the Hebrews put the blood of a lamb on the door mantle so the angel of death would pass them by.
Jesus told us to remember Him (God’s sacrificial lamb) when we break bread and drink wine.

Good Friday 10th Remember Jesus on the cross for our sakes between 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm.
Read Luke 22:47-23:48 and John 19:1-37.
Give thanks for God’s forgiveness for you, paid for by Jesus on the cross.

Holy Saturday 12th The women left Jesus’ body in the tomb for the Sabbath.
Read Luke 23:50-56 and John 19:38-42.
We cannot always see Jesus but He is always thinking of you and always there for you.

Sunday 13th       Easter Day!       Praise God!       The Lord Is Risen Indeed!
Read Luke 24 and John 20.
Thank God that Jesus is alive and present to bless you and be with you.

Stay safe and God bless you,                                                                          

Andrew+

For more Easter resources / services please see:
https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/common-worship/churchs-year/times-and-seasons/easter-liturgy#mmm175

(My thanks to Julie for her original material on Holy Week)

 

The Rectory

24th March 2020

Dear Family,

Are you, like me, still processing the incredible changes that have taken place over these last days?  A week ago I was free to meet with you, to shop, have a meal in a public place, go for a swim, and now I can only leave the house under limited circumstances. 

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 23rd March we received confirmation from the Bishop of Oxford that all churches must now close. So it is with a heavy heart that we have to lock the doors of our wonderful church building. Now the church family is not able to be together physically we have to trust God that there is an opportunity in all of this for us to be creative, prayerful and grow in intimacy with both God and each other.

One thing that we can do together is to adopt the practice of pausing at 11 am each day (if your schedule and work permits) to say Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. In doing so, we will be joining in prayer with the Pope, countless Catholics, our Archbishops, Anglicans and Christians from many other Churches all around the world. If 11 am doesn’t work for you, then perhaps another daily time will? Let us remember and be sure, that whatever the time is and wherever we are, “The Lord is my Shepherd” and “Our Father” is God Almighty. As I say to those I meet when I take my daily exercise walk, “Stay safe and God bless.”

With love and prayers for all,

Andrew

Dear Family,

We are experiencing unprecedented times of great confusion, and possibly fear and isolation.  As the church family we want you to know that we are seeking ways to offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to you and your neighbours.

We are, of course, following all the advice of Public Health England and the Church of England in relation to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and are taking steps to ensure we keep our congregations, volunteers, event attendees and staff as safe as is possible.

During the very difficult weeks that we have ahead of us, let us not become discouraged but place our trust in our mighty God.  The Lord offers us hope in times of trouble and a peace which is beyond understanding. That hope and peace is given to us to share with others in our community.

Services and Gatherings

On the advice of the Church of England, our gathered worship over the coming weeks is now suspended.  This includes all the services and activities that St Peter and St Paul Church is involved in running.  From 17th March the following have been postponed until further notice:

Sunday services (including Fun@Four), Wednesday Communion, Church Mice, Soul Time Café, Alpha, Memory Club, YAGs, Choir, Bell ringing, Soul Time Breakfast, and Knitty Stitchers.

Pastoral and prayer care for the isolated

We are committed to maintaining meaningful contact with our wider church family, particularly those who are choosing to self-isolate or who become unwell.

This means:

  • Keeping a list of those who are unwell or choosing to self-isolate – please let us know via the church office if you want to be included
  • Providing an online daily ‘thought for the day’ based on scriptures
  • Providing service outlines so that we can worship individually knowing that we are doing so at the same time as the rest of the church family
  • Providing online or prepackaged craft/activity packs for children; see Church Mice on Facebook
  • Seeking to support and communicate with those who do not have internet access and providing appropriate paper resources
  • Putting together a phone call system so that each person who is isolated has regular contact with someone, and knows who to call for help or just a friendly chat – please let us know via the church office if you want to be included
  • Offering a confidential listening phone service for anyone feeling troubled. Half-hour sessions to be available by appointment on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 10am and noon. To book a time slot, please contact Caroline Eglinton on 0333 210 0121.  She will return your call if necessary.
  • Offering confidential prayer support – initial contact with the Church office
  • Helping with practical needs where possible e.g. food and medication

If you are isolated or in need yourself, while we may not be able to visit you at home, please let us know by contacting the church office, office@olney.church or on 01234 241721.

If you would like to assist by offering any of the above provisions or have other helpful ideas please contact us via the church office and you will be referred to the relevant person.

The Bishop of Oxford has written:

“The most important message we want to send to everyone in the Diocese and the wider community at this time of necessary distancing is that you are not alone. God is with us…

Our churches remain open; our faith in God is undiminished; public worship may be suspended, but the life of God’s kingdom is inextinguishable.” 

With love and prayers for all,

Andrew

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear” (Psalm 46:1-2)