Dear Fellow Members and Friends, I suppose everyone today is familiar with the telephone, which in many ways is a boon, although when, as often happens, ours rings while we are having a meal, we are inclined to regard it as something else.
There was a period in our house when conversation centred very largely around telephone apparatus and exchange systems, and although I make no claim to technical knowledge, I did learn what happens when one ‘lifts the receiver and listens‘ and how it is that when one ‘twiddles the dial’ the subscriber the other end receives the call – unless of course the number is engaged. We rightly regard our telecommunications system as one of the achievements of this scientific age, but whereas this is costly and commercial, the ‘telecommunication system’ which God set up for the benefit of His children is available to all, without fee or rental, requires no expensive apparatus, and is not subject to breakdown or interference. Nor does the caller ever get a ‘number engaged’ response – I am referring of course to prayer.
The wonderful thing about prayer is that one may pray at any time and in any place; not only in the Church building, or at a devotional meeting, or in the privacy of one’s room, but anywhere. There is, however, a special value and Power in the prayer of Believers gathered together
One of the shortest prayers on record is Peter’s despairing cry as he was sinking in the sea. ‘Lord, save me’ he called and Jesus did just that. He will do it for you, but you must, of course, admit that you need saving, and call for help. You will receive it right enough, but will you acknowledge Him as your Saviour and love Him as such, or will you wait till the next crisis in your life before you speak to Him again? Prayer is thanksgiving (for blessings received) Confession (for failures and sins) and Petition, (for guidance and help). How do you pray? Or don’t you.
Prayer is also a two-way communication.
Suppose we ‘lift the receiver and listen’ – we are on a direct line, nothing between us, no priest or earthly mediator is necessary. Jesus is speaking:
“Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” “Your Heavenly Father knows what things you need, so seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added”.
A word of warning. Prayer is costly – not in coin of the realm but in the breakdown of pride, self-righteousness, indifference and personal ease, but you will find it brings a satisfaction and tranquillity that nothing else in all the world can supply.”
This whole letter was published in the newsletter of New Southgate Baptist Church in February 1957, by Leonard C. Gray. We discovered it during the clear-out for the pre-blessed sale and laughed how accurate it was! It seems that very little has changed, in current times there is a lot of concern about the ‘telephone’ but ours are ‘smart’ (albeit only as smart as the owner!) we bemoan the heads down culture, and certainly distractions during meal times and family time are as much of a concern today as then.
However, the wonderful thing is that God does not change, and that what was said about prayer in 1957 is as relevant now as then. I would add a few verses from Ephesians 3 v14-21 (NIV)
For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
This is my prayer for you and for the Church, that through His power we would be able to do immeasurably more in our church and community, leaning on His strength.
Pastoral Letter - June 2019
Dear Friends, Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16 v3.) It seems to me that everybody I am close to is having a massive sort out of things from the past! Our Church has had days of clearing out at Christ Church and the Hall behind of old hymn books, all manner of clutter and interesting finds found in the depths of cupboards, the balcony and the Club Room. As I write this, many are now hard at work this weekend. People are clearing out Grove Road in preparation for a “Pre-Blessed Sale of items. It’s a mammoth task! As many of you know I finally sold my parents’ house in Birmingham in April. It would have been sold earlier, a) if I had been well enough and, b) before Brexit problems and speculations many eager buyers were unsure of the future – so we lost out! However, this year I could see we had a chance to move out. The house had to be emptied completely! As I had lived there from the age of just two years old till I left to get married - I had clung on to the house and its belongings. For the past 15 years since my mother moved into a Care Home up there, I felt I had to keep it so I could go and stay for a week or certainly each weekend in order to see my mother. After my mother passed away in 2009, it was good to take frequent breaks up there, even holidays, visiting friends, the Cotswolds and finding comfort in the calmness the house seemed to induce. It was such a happy home. I loved it and so did my children and Chris too. However, it became obvious that it was time to call a halt! Tanya, Paul, Mark and Gary gave massive practical help to clear and sort furniture and beautiful contents. Tanya in particular was with me for the final 8 days when we packed and sorted from early morning till night.
We had some fun too but Tanya worked like a Trojan and no way could we have completed by the 18th April without her! I feel well blessed! The result is a massive feeling of relief! I have got rid of my suite I could no longer rise out of and having my mother’s suite and other furniture too so I have the memories and the peace of knowing much has gone to charity or shared amongst the family and neighbours. So, I am learning to “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43 18-19.) Or in my case emptying out the boxes and clearing a way, in the spare room! The future lies ahead! We can learn from the past and should do but the past was only yesterday and we press on. Soon we shall have a new lovely hall attached to our Church. There is REAL development there. How exciting! In our lives I pray to God that a bright future full of hope and peace transcends our lives. Naomi and Chris will be marrying at Kings College Cambridge on the 11th July in the Chapel. That’s a very exciting thing and other blessings are well in the pipeline for this coming year with God’s grace. Let’s all be positive, greeting each other and building up our community in ever true closeness and support. Remember: - “Without God, it is utterly impossible, But with God everything is possible.” (Mark 10 v27.) - Trust in Him. Yours in Christ, Anthea Denham
Pastoral Letter - May 2019
Summer is almost upon us again when we will be thinking of holidays. Like many of you, I like holidays. I like visiting interesting new places. Trying out the local delicacies and visiting places of interest at my holiday destination. I believe holidays are for gaining new experiences and learning new things like the culture of the people. This probably explained why I hardly go on beach holidays where I could sit on sun loungers and watch the world go by. It was always amusing reading all the tricks people used to get a sun lounger in a vantage position on such holidays.
Apostle Peter was a great traveller, considering the numerous journeys he took to spread the gospel. Most of his journeys were far from comfortable. He even got ship-wrecked in Malta. The reception he got at many of the places where he visited could hardly be described as an ‘all-inclusive leisure holiday.’ He was beaten, stoned and got imprisoned at some of them. None of these stopped him. He persevered with his mission. He tried to finish the race. He knew whom he believed in and was convinced that He is able to guard what he had entrusted to him until the end - 2 Timothy 1:12.
The task God had given to each and every one of us can hardly be described as an ‘All-inclusive holiday’ at times. There are days we will feel tired, despondent and even sorry for ourselves because we think the load is becoming too heavy. Jesus says, ‘His yoke is easy and the load He will put on us is light.’ Mathew 11:30. Our load only becomes heavy when we stop looking at the divine power of Jesus and focus on our physical strength. What more, He has left us with a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to guide and guard us. Do not grow weary running the race. Call on Him daily to grant you the strength and wisdom to keep up His good work. ‘He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 1:8.
God bless you and grant you all you need to keep up with His good work. Amen. Ola Lawal
Pastoral letter - April 2019
Have you given up anything for Lent? Perhaps you have decided to follow a new diet, turned off social media, or even given up beer? Guardian columnist Zoe Williams recently said: Lent is all showy, wholesome abstinence. In part Williams explains how Lent can be misunderstood.
Lent is a reminder of the time that Jesus spent in the desert being tempted before entering into ministry. By giving up something that tempts us, the time or money or both that is saved is a help to ourselves and others. By giving up certain foods for example, we start to understand what it might have been like for Jesus to be tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread. Fasting in this way, denying ourselves helps us to start to understand how Jesus felt tempted to act in power.
The practice of Lent is to encourage us to echo the life of our Saviour who suffered for us, who gave up all riches and power that we might be free.
‘Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. 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. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honoured him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honour of God the Father.’ Philippians 2.5-11
However you choose to prepare for Easter this year, whether you choose to fast from something, take something up, may each of us set aside time to walk closer to Jesus, that we might be changed and so transform those who we know and love with his beautiful grace.
Pastoral letter - March 2019
As we approach the start of Lent are you not astonished as I am how early Easter Eggs appear each year. We hardly seem to have finished celebrating Christmas.
Many people will be thinking of making an effort to abstain from alcohol, chocolate or cakes during Lent but these denials were probably needed directly after Christmas following all the festive food and drink.
To seek to pray and study the Holy Bible during Lent seems a more appropriate and gainful way of using our efforts. Over the past few weeks in our church service we have been looking at the book of Nehemiah.
Many Christians have suffered ridicule and sarcasm, felt intimidation and exhaustion but with faith and constant prayer we can recover our courage to continue the work set for us by Christ to spread His love and generosity.
In the service led by Mrs Diana Bensted a quote of John Bunyan was read: “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed. Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.”
So, as a church with projects such as the hall to be rebuilt and work to carry God’s message out into the community; let us remember Nehemiah, his faith in God and his determination to complete the task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem to honour God and bring His people home. Sue Rogers
Pastoral letter - February 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Christ Church,
As we step into a new month of the new year, I hope January treated you well be it spiritually through a personal relationship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, financially with a new job or apprenticeship or physically through a new gym or outdoor regime to keep yourself fit and healthy. We are still feeling the hangover from 2018 as it was an interesting year for many reasons but I pray and hope that 2019 will be the year for many individuals within our congregation and the wider community. I am blessed and fortunate to be a deacon at Christ Church Friern Barnet, and when I hear about goals and aspirations from you all, I only hope and pray for bigger and better things to work out for everyone.
Scripture is the fuel for the soul and the wood that keeps the fire burning within us. As you know, the book of Proverbs is my favourite book in the Bible. The Bible in general is a fantastic instructional, motivational and spiritually uplifting guide to have at all times but the book of Proverbs covers a wide spectrum of everyday concerns from humility to loyalty, respect for the unfortunate to etiquette in relationships. The Bible commands us not to quit, even when we experience that defeated feeling. Scripture uses the word ‘endure’ when describing how to deal with that feeling meaning to stand up courageously under suffering. As we gallop forward into 2019, I want to finish off my pastoral letter with a few words of encouragement to keep the fire burning within us if we feel like quitting or accepting defeat even if it is only February.
All proverbs are from the Good News Bible.
Worry can rob you of happiness, but kind words will cheer you up. Proverbs 12: 25
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do and he will show you the right way. Proverbs 3: 5-6
Get all the advice you can and you will succeed, without it you will fail. Proverbs 15: 22
If you refuse to learn, you are hurting yourself. If you accept correction, you will become wiser. Proverbs 15: 32
Ask the Lord to bless your plans and you will be successful in carrying them out. Proverbs 16:3
You may make your plans but God directs your actions. Proverbs 16: 9
Intelligent people are always eager and ready to learn. Proverbs 18: 15
Do yourself a favour and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper. Proverbs 19: 8
Many blessings to you all and I pray that 2019 is a year of change and exciting experiences!
Pastoral letter - January 2019
Welcome to The Bible
The Bible is the most powerful book that has ever been written. Countless lives have been changed by it, numerous authorities have tried to ban it, Godless persons have burned it and many Christians have died to preserve it. Why has this book had such a huge impact on so many people? Because this book, The Bible, is the very word of God as He was the author. Over hundreds of years he chose certain individuals to write down exactly what He wanted to tell mankind and although these people wrote in Hebrew and Greek their words have been carefully translated into many languages so today the whole world can read God’s message if they choose to.
Although the Bible was written over a thousand years ago its message is timeless, personal and powerful because it comes from God. Millions of people have discovered that the Bible speaks to their deepest needs and people from all over the world turn to God’s word daily for words of hope, comfort, guidance, encouragement and inspiration and the answers to their problems. However, the Bible is more than just an answer book for the world’s problems, it is also made up of exciting adventures, inspiring stories, beautiful poetry, compelling messages and the wonderful life story of Jesus Christ.
The Bible may look like one book, but it is actually sixty-six books rolled into one, thirty-nine make up the Old Testament and twenty-six in the New Testament. God used many authors, as many as forty, over a time period of many centuries and each one contributes to God’s life changing message. What is that message? God makes it clear that He loves us and has a plan to save us from sin’s destructive power.
God wants each of us to experience a life that has meaning, direction, love and peace, and this can be possible through a personal relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. When people decide to follow God’s plan for their lives the most important thing is to recognise Jesus as their Lord and Saviour so they can find meaning and purpose in all that they do, for without God’s direction they may not know what to do with their lives. When they follow Jesus as their Lord and Saviour they will be at peace with God and filled with His love so that when troubles rear their ugly heads God will be with them. So, remember we can live to please God by obeying the commands He has given everyone in the Bible and if we obey God, we can be sure that we are Christians and will one day have eternal life in Heaven.
Pastoral letter - December
'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it' John 1.5
As we prepare to dust off the Christmas lights from boxes and bags hidden in garages, lofts and cupboards that are too small, we are reminded that lights and Christmas are the perfect match. We delight in fairy lights transforming dull rooms into enchanting places, we make a special trip to see the lights of Oxford St, and we light candles at carol services saying 'Jesus is the light of the world, the light that shines in the darkness'. For a long time, the church has understood herself to be a light guiding others to find Jesus.
'But what kind of light are we?' asked Rev'd Paul Martin from Trinity Church in Finchley to a full church at the recent London Baptist Association district celebration. It's an excellent question and one that has stayed with me for weeks now. For some Christians, to be light is to be neon-bright and loud, seen from far away and boldly active in the community. For others it is to be a flickering flame in the darkest corner of a soul. How will we be light this Christmas in our community? And here is a question for each of us to discern with the Holy Spirit's guidance. I suspect that among our friends, neighbours and family our faith needs to be a steady light, one that doesn't go out. But also, one that understands what darkness is, knows that Jesus' light changes every darkness imaginable. Knowing Jesus in our hearts, as our friend and Saviour brings light and hope to every situation. May we be courageous in sharing his light, our experiences of the darkness of this world and enable others to see his light by pointing to Jesus, whether we are flashing neon lights or a simple candle, may we bring God's light into this world at Christmas time.
Pastoral letter - November
Where had the time gone? The last time I wrote a pastoral letter was in April. I told you about how hard but enjoyable my TLS Gateway into Worship was. We were also about to celebrate Easter. It’s November and we’re beginning to think of Christmas celebrations if not planning for it already. Thank you all for your prayers. God answered them. I have successfully completed the TLS GiW training and have started my third and last year which is on Mentor Reflective Practice. The good thing about this year is I only need to be away from church one Sunday a month. This is because I need to preach monthly in three to four different churches during the year. Please continue to keep me in your prayers for this final year.
The URC had replaced TLS (Training for Learning and Service) with ‘Stepwise’. To celebrate the end of TLS, the URC had a thanksgiving event in June at Birmingham called ‘Transforming Faith, Transforming Life’. A number of old and current students were invited to play different parts in the service. I was one of the four people invited to give a brief testimony on ‘how the Lord has worked in your life through TLS.’ I was the third person on the testimony list. The first person did TLS over twenty years ago and has just been appointed a minister to a Church which was well beyond his expectations. The second person completed TLS about twelve years ago and had a lot of story to tell about how God had helped her ministry over the years. As the only student, I had no major story to tell. I thanked God for helping me so far and confirmed I have learnt a lot from the numerous recommended books, the tutorials and workshops. However, I mentioned what God had really helped me to see was its application on a daily basis through the actions and deeds of every member of staff I came across. One could say they lived their Christianity. They were selfless, kind, patient, generous, calm, helpful, joyful and encouraging. I could see God’s love in action through them.
We ask God to grant us the fruits of the Holy Spirit but do we really put them into action and bless others with them? Let us try to bless everyone with these fruits by our Christian living. Call that person whom you know needs encouragement. Offer practical help to that person who is not coping for one reason or the other. Talk to that lonely person. Be kind to that person others perceive as difficult. Include everyone interested, not just those you feel comfortable with in Church activities. Try not to be judgmental but be tolerant and compassionate. Be forgiving and merciful to others. Ephesians 5: 1-2 says, ‘Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’. Living our Christianity can only make us a stronger community of God and promote the building of the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Shalom. Ola Lawal
Pastoral letter - October
As I write this letter we are approaching the Harvest celebration; this year we are to celebrate the event 6th and 7th of October. I consider the conference I recently attended called Action on Climate Change. The gathering was at St John’s URC, New Barnet and I was heartened by the presence of speakers from the Green Christian Group, Operation Noah and Christian Aid among others; by their determination to educate the world to the damage being done to our climate by fossil fuel.
It is our duty as guardians of God’s beautiful creation to show our gratitude by giving back to God the best of His fruitful earth. In the UK this year, summer was long and hot causing hard times for farmers and fearful time for some home owners with the shortage of seasonal rain resulting in parched earth and fires ruining the land. Droughts effect many countries, an experience happily we do not usually have to suffer. How wasteful are we who have so much? Now, in September hurricanes and typhoons are causing immense damage to China and the Philippines.
Sunday, 16th September, Rev. Ruth Moriarty read from Deuteronomy 14:22-29 on the setting aside of tythes at the time of harvest. This passage is also useful for us to remember those who do not have properties of their own and remember the foreigners, orphans and widows who live in the town. The world is a fearful place with countries driving out its inhabitants with conflict and persecution. How safe we feel as an island distancing ourselves from the distressed and needy.
Always remember 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one should give, then, as he had decided, not with regret or out of sense of duty: for God loves the one who gives gladly. And 2 Corinthians 9:9 “He gives generously to the needy; his kindness lasts forever.”
This year the Mission Group have decided donations collected at the Harvest service will be going to HAB (Homeless Action in Barnet).
Pastoral letter - September
Brothers and sisters of Christ Church, Friern Barnet,
I start off my letter with words of encouragement, to provide inspiration and strength as you cope with life’s challenges. “And so, encourage one another and help one another, just as you are now doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (GNB) “But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not grow weak.” Isaiah 40:31 (GNB) “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I, the Lord your God am with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1: 9 (GNB) “Do not be afraid, I am with you! I am your God, let nothing terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you.” Isaiah 41: 10 (GNB)
Nowadays it has become more prominent in our daily lives to be comfortable living in our ‘comfort zones.’ Gone are the days where we challenged ourselves physically, spiritually and mentally, at tasks that put us in an uncomfortable position from our comfort zones. The widely known quote with many variants “the unknown makes people uncomfortable” seems to be intertwined into our daily lives and we live by it. If a new challenge comes our way, we aren’t trying it! Peter McWilliams (poet, writer, dramatist and activist 1949-2000) perfectly said “Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.” Whenever we get involved in a new challenge or have no experience to go by, we get that sickening feeling of anxiety in the pit of our stomach. We try hard to back away from the challenge by making up excuses or having negative thoughts racing through our mind about what might happen if we do not succeed or embarrass ourselves.
Throughout the Bible, you can find inspirational quotes or stories of individuals who with their unflinching faith and trust in God conquered challenges that were set before them.
We can find stories of individuals who were not scared of going into the unknown, placing their trust and faith in God, knowing that whatever challenge or journey was set for them, their pathway would not be an easy ride but with God marking their every step, everything would be alright.
One story that comes to mind displaying faith and courage with the Almighty power of God by their side is the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). It is a story we can all relate to and use as an example of how to deal with obstacles that come our way.
Goliath was a tank of a man. At nearly 3-metres tall, protected by bronze armour weighing roughly 57-kilograms and a bronze javelin slung over his shoulder, he led the Philistines to battle the Israelites in the Valley of Elah. For 40-days, Goliath and the Philistines taunted the army of Israel, shouting out, “What are you doing there, lined up for battle? I am a Philistine, you slaves of Saul! Choose one of your men to fight me. If he wins and kills me, we will be your slaves; but if I win and kill him, you will be our slaves. Here and now I challenge the Israelite army. I dare you to pick someone to fight me!” When the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and retreated back to their camp. How the Israelites felt then is what the majority of us are doing today. Whenever a new challenge presents itself in front of us, we reverse back into our comfort zones and shy away. We place it at the back of our mind and forget about it. Common phrases such as “I’ll do it later” or “it’s no big deal, I’ll do it another time” run circles in our head reassuring our mind, body and soul that we will not attempt the new challenge and we are perfectly fine in our comfort zone.
For one young boy, he accepted every challenge that came to him and trusted in God. The youngest of eight boys in a family, David was a shepherd boy. His three eldest brothers had gone with King Saul to war with Goliath’s army. One day he took food to his brothers in camp to find out how they were getting on and report back to his father. Just as David arrived, both camps were preparing for battle. As David was with his brothers, Goliath came forward and challenged the Israelites as he had done before and David heard him. When the Israelites saw Goliath, they ran away in terror.
David was outraged and marched into the tent of King Saul and volunteered for duty. King Saul gave David his own armour to wear but David refused. He told King Saul, “I take care of my father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear carries off a lamb, I go after it, attack it, and rescue the lamb. I have killed lions and bears and I will do the same to this man who has defied the army of the living God. The Lord has saved me from lions and bears; He will save me from this Philistine.” He took his shepherd’s stick, picked up five stones from the stream and placed them in his bag. With his sling ready, he went out to meet Goliath. David’s faith in God was unshakable. The size of his obstacle did not faze him because he knew the size of his God and the almighty strength his God had to see him through his challenge.
We should all embrace the David mindset and take on challenges that present themselves to us. If David had no faith in God, he could have easily run out of the camp when seeing Goliath and returned to his comfort zone with his sheep and dad but he did not. He was unfazed by the size of Goliath and the army.
As a young boy, I was always told at Sunday school that the five stones David randomly picked up spelt out ‘Jesus’. David could have picked up two, three, seven or even ten stones but specifically went for five stones. Five stones, five letters which equals ‘Jesus’. “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 (NIV).
Upon seeing David, Goliath mocked him. “What’s that stick for? Do you think I am a dog? Come on and I will give your body to the birds and animals to eat.” Unnerved by the giant, David replied, “You come against me with sword, spear and javelin but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the Israelite armies whom you have defied. Everyone here will see that the Lord does not need swords or spears to save his people. He is victorious in battle and He will put all of you in our power.”
David ran towards Goliath with his sling ready. He placed a stone in his sling and let a single stone fly towards the giant. The rest, as they say, is history! At a young age, David took on a challenge that scared the bravest soldiers within the Israelite army. He may have been the youngest soldier on the field but his faith in God made him the strongest on the battlefield.
We can learn from David’s actions and his steadfast faith in God. There was not a single grain of doubt in his young mind that he would be defeated by Goliath. He placed his trust in God and delivered. We should place our trust and faith in God and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Spiritual growth does not come from being comfortable. We have to trust in the Lord when venturing into the unknown and keep our eyes fixed to the Lord as He is the light bearer of our path.
As the new term of school starts very soon for the youth of today, I pray that they embrace the David mindset. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Trust in the Lord and everything will be okay. For everyone else wanting to see positive change in their life, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable. “Whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity for growth” Bryant McGill. I end my letter with Isaiah 43:2 (GNB) “When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burnt; the hard trials that come will not hurt you.
Pastoral letter - July/August
Dear Family and Friends of Christ Church,
We have been truly blessed with a lovely Spring and now we are into the Summer Season. Many of you may be going away on holiday or just going out for days at a time or staying at home and enjoying the Summer sunshine. This is a time of rest, relaxation and restoration. Revision and exams are over for our young people and much needed free time for all those working hard all year in need of a break will be welcome.
Long ago holidays were for Holy Days. You may recall the story of Jesus travelling as a 12 year old child to Jerusalem with his parents for the Passover Festival. We can all recall the panic when your child was missing even for a minute. Jesus (Luke Chapter 2 verse 41) was missing for 3 days when he was found not to be with the large party of people returning home. Imagine the relief and amazement to find him in the Temple listening and asking intelligent questions to the Temple Leaders. When asked why he had caused such anxiety he replied. "Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's House" From that day he grew in wisdom, finding favour with God and men.
Now holidays may be taken thousands of miles from home. In June 2 of my family were in Sicily, 2 in Indonesia and Vietnam and my eldest grandson in Boston, Tanya in Portugal leaving 2 at home in Turkey!!
The highlight of our Summer is the return to the UK of my family who have been living and working in Turkey. They have had a wonderful experience for four years there! Please pray for them as they return and make the transition back to their own home. It will take some adjusting!
Many people take a good book to read on holiday. reading is one of my passions. I have just read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". The book is a series of letters which tell the story of the island of Guernsey when it was occupied by the German army during the 2nd World War.
The people had a very hard time of it and had to send their children away to the countryside in England for safety for 4 years and were extremely short of food. However, though this part of the story is true, the rest is fiction where the people in one area start a book group and share books. Their love and compassion and support for one another keeps their spirits up with humour and courage.
Did you see the moving service for the families and friends of the Grenfell Tower fire, drawn together from all faiths and races in a Christian Church? You too then will have witnessed the strength of their support and compassion for one another forming a wonderful community. As Jesus said in the Beatitudes "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted". God feels great concern for his people.
The Bible is a good and vital source of knowledge. There are of course many books making our Bible, full of wonderful stories of all sorts of people; stories full of faith, praise and hope. There is nothing better than reading or telling your children about the Bible stories. As a child I always treasured a Bible story book given to me and read and read them.
Please pray for our Church's aim to be welcoming to our new members of the congregation and pray we will become an even stronger community showing support, love and compassion for all we meet.
I hope you have an excellent Summer and remember Jesus' words "Come unto me, all you who are tired from carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest".
Pastoral letter - June
In the New Testament Jesus would often tell stories that showed how closely resurrection is related to the reality of daily life. Let us take His parable of the prodigal son as an example. The younger of two sons took his share of his father’s legacy and fled to a distant land. Here he squandered his fortune, falling into humiliation, poverty and finally servitude feeding pigs. For all intents and purposes it was as though he was dead, as we all know the young man eventually returned home and was greeted joyfully by his father.“Bring the fatted calf and kill it we are going to have a feast because this son of mine who was lost now is found. He was dead and has come back to life.” so the young man was restored to his home, his family, his native country, and to God, ending with a homecoming celebration. So the return of the prodigal son is a parable of the resurrection.
In the story of Easter on the third day Jesus rose again and just like the prodigal son He returned to his home, to His native land, to His family and friends and they celebrated by sharing a meal. So the parable of the prodigal son and his resurrection reflects the patterns of our own existence, in this life of ours there are all those mysterious twists and turns that lead from life through the valley of death towards a new creation, but always the joyous homecoming, for from under the shadow of death and in the midst of life’s greatest tragedies there comes the resurrection of life.
In giving His life for us Jesus revealed that we too can move forward from moments of trial towards the joy that His disciples shared, We too can make it through periods of boredom and lassitude and find that sense of purpose which is God’s will for us. We too can confront sickness and physical suffering and come through the valley of the shadow of death to believe that we are held in God’s right hand.
We don’t have to spend our days struggling to grasp and grab all the material things in life when all we ever need or desire is God’s free gift of grace. PASTORAL LETTER cont’d
We can if we so wish, follow in Christ’s footsteps until at last we are part of that great homecoming at the end of every resurrection story. Then we too can look forward to the day when we are embraced in the warm and welcoming arms of our creator and hear those words of praise “Well done good and faithful servant, now enter into the joy of your maker”
Praise be to God. Tony Fensome
Pastoral Letter - May
A NEW WAY OF PRAYING
When I was a boy, I grew up in a Christian home so I knew that prayer was important. Our home routine was to pray first thing before breakfast as this was the key that unlocked the door to the rest of the day. We prayed before mealtimes, before bedtime and of course at church, so it was very clear to me that talking to God was important and something I should do as often as possible. I also realised that there were two types of Christians, those who prayed and the others who I later discovered were prayer warriors. However, like many of us, life intervened, I fell in love, got married, started a family, followed a career, and it was not until that life changing car crash in 2005 that I reconnected with God. As I slowly found my religious feet again I realised I wanted more and I wanted to be a Christian who actually believed that God would listen to and answer my prayers no matter how ridiculous. When I prayed I did not feel I was praying with all the power that the bible talked about prayer having. I knew that I wanted to be a prayer warrior; I wanted to take God at his word, believing in the power of prayer, having faith that would move mountains.
The first thing I discovered through reading relevant articles was how consulting the bible could help with my prayers. Let us say that you are praying for wisdom to help you make a decision, look through your bible to find verses concerning making decisions and having God’s wisdom, and you will find (James 1 5-6) which says” If any of you lack wisdom let him ask God”, you can then utilise this into your prayers. We should be faithful about praying for people and situations as God does not want us to be shy about bringing our requests before Him either for ourselves or for the benefit of others.
Most important of all is to believe that God will answer your prayers, now I know that God will not answer yes to all of my prayers but I have faith and I know that He will answer every single time. Sometimes He will say yes, sometimes wait, and other times the answer will be no, but He will answer. The question now is do you believe that God is really listening and that He cares and will answer? As a prayer warrior I ask God with faith without doubting that God will hear and answer in His good time and in a good and positive way.
I am finding it difficult to memorise relevant verses from the bible so I have started to write down my prayers in a notebook and also how God has answered them so that I have a reference when I need inspiration and although I am aware that this approach will not work for everyone, it has done so for me and I feel much closer to God.
Pastoral letter - April
The winter had been long and cold, not to talk of the snow in December that caused a bit of a havoc. At the start of my six months attachment at the United Reformed and Moravian Church, Harlesden, I prayed it would not be like a long winter. As I would be away from friends in the Church for so long.
I am glad to say the church had been most welcoming and supportive. Jesus was waiting for me in the Church and I could sense His love and help in everything. I praise and thank God immensely for His help, care, love and mercy. I have since preached on a number of occasions, leading worship and a full All-age worship. Many in the church treat me like a member. This is probably because I had to attend their weekly activities to aid my writing of ‘The whole life of Church’ project.
There had been so many books to read as well as fortnightly evening tutorials’ assignments. I more or less seem to eat and breathe ‘Gateway into Worship’ (GiW) which is what this second year of training is called. The two weekends away to Manchester and Ely had been hard work but fun. I even managed to see the lovely Ely Cathedral and its beautiful Octagon tower. The last weekend away is in June.
The compulsory two thousand words essays had been challenging. Not to mention the rules! ‘Use footnotes not endnotes’. ‘Titles in bibliography are in italics’ and so it goes on. I also thought a Reflective journal will only be a few paragraphs of my experiences but ‘No’, two thousand words long it had to be! There are still three, one thousand words projects and another two thousand words review of the church to go. Who says becoming an accredited URC National Lay Preacher is a walk over? In spite of all the hard work, I am encouraged by the outcome of the parts I had completed. The year finishes with GiW assessment in May. Another year to go after this but hopefully not away from my church. Thank you all for your prayers. Please continue to keep me in your prayers.
Any time I doubted or felt weary, Proverbs 3:5-6 has been a great help. It says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Easter means new beginnings, renewal and restoration. My friends, Jesus has called each one of us to help build up God’s Kingdom on earth. To build up our church community and the community around us. What has God put on your heart to help with doing this task? Trust in the Lord. He will help you. Don’t procrastinate any longer. It might even be becoming a full member of the church. Your attitude and passion for the Church might change. Giving you the kick-start needed. Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!! Halleluiah!!! Happy, Blessed Easter!!! Ola Lawal
Pastoral letter - March
It is always difficult to know what direction to go with a pastoral letter. This time I would like to report on my attendance at Bible study and prayer group.
Since becoming a member of Christ Church in 1994 I have had a desire to understand the Bible better and by attending a Bible group it has given me the opportunity to look more closely at the meaning of God’s word.
Over the years I have attended other Bible studies, some held at my home. I am grateful Allister and Julie are now leading a group called Connect. The group is looking at six individuals who met Jesus.
We started by visiting the gospel of John 4 vv 4-26, “The Woman at the Well”. The beauty of looking at scripture in a group is being able to discuss with others the national situation at the time; the customs and cultures influencing the lives of the people in the text and the changes to their lives when learning of/or meeting with the Lord.
January, we were fortunate to receive a sermon from Pennie Bongomin. Pennie’s theme was anxiety; in her sermon she described her real yearning to serve the Lord more. Pennie has been a Christian all her life but admitted, when studying with others, she has been able to look afresh at what she has always understood.
Please see opposite a poem taken from a helpful book called Unlocking the Bible. In Lent we feel the added importance of studying our Bible leading up to Holy week. This small group is gradually growing, do try and join us in the church parlour, 2nd and 4th Thursday each month. The next time we meet will be to look at Luke 19vv 1-10.
Brothers and sisters of Christ Church, Happy New Year and I wish you all the best for 2018 to achieve all goals and plans whatever they may be for the New Year! It may only be the 2nd month of 2018 and I bet that many of us have quit, put-on-hold or totally rejected our “New year resolutions and plans for 2018”. I will put my hand up and admit that it is hard to maintain patience and wait for something. We do not have a copious supply of patience to wait and go through the small steps that lead to the final outcome; everything has to come at the snap of a finger.
In today’s world, time has become somewhat of a finite component of existence. There is so much to do in our personal lives that we become impatient and rush through life, missing out on the finer details of life. Many biblical characters in Scripture made poor personal choices because of their lack of patience in God. A familiar story is Moses and the impatient Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 12 onwards). Reading from Exodus 12 through to the book of Numbers, it paints a picture of how impatient and bitter the Israelites were towards Moses and to God, even testing God! By using Moses, God led His people out of horrible conditions, they lived as slaves in Egypt, He saved them from Pharaoh’s army (the parting of the Red Sea) and made great promises to the Israelites…but throughout the difficult journey, they were still impatient and complained A LOT! (Exodus 17:2-7, Numbers 21: 4-6). They wanted everything that God had promised right away.
We should learn from our ancestors, the Israelites, that God knows when to do everything. His timing is perfect and everything happens for a reason. The Israelites’ lack of faith was manifested in their impatience. With their own actions, they made things difficult for themselves in the wilderness.
Patience is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. We had an interesting sermon led by our Minister Rev. Ruth Moriarty on the fruits of the Spirit and patience is one of the nine fruits needed to live a fruitful and peaceful life. Galatians 5: 22 – 23 (GNB) says “But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. There is no law against such things as these.” Patience is the ability to wait for something without getting annoyed or restless. Not too long ago, we went through a phase of finding a new minister for Christ Church Friern Barnet. Our patience was tested and what a test it was! There is an old saying that says, “Good things come to those who wait” and are we glad we waited! Applicant after applicant, we waited patiently as we read many applications, some of which were very good! We did not rush and pursue the applicant we thought was “good for Christ Church” but rather we waited on an answer from the Lord. Proverbs 3: 5-6 (GNB) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way.”
Many people place blame on God by saying that “He is taking too long with my plans” and they prematurely rush into a decision without thinking of the consequences. When their decision backfires, shouts of desperation towards the sky such as “God, why didn’t you help me?”, “Why didn’t you stop me God!?” or “I trusted in you Almighty God to see me through this journey” ensues. Proverbs 19:3 (GNB), “Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame the Lord.” Our Heavenly Father never takes too long for a plan to come together. God knows what you don’t know and He sees what you don’t see. We have all been down that road where we have prayed for things we need in our lives and we see things that seem similar to what we prayed for. There are so many distractions in this world that detract us from what God wants for us. The evil schemes of man put what we have been praying for in front of us, giving us the illusion that it is from God. We must not rush into every decision which can lead to a downward spiral. We must not pray and say “God did not say no to this so I’m guessing this is His will.” We must all be still and wait on the Lord. Psalms 37:7 (GNB), “Be patient and wait for the Lord to act; don’t be worried about those who prosper or those who succeed in their evil plans.”
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, there were biblical characters that made poor choices because of their lack of patience in God. On a positive note, there were biblical characters who had patience and trust in God. A few names are Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 12 onwards), Joseph (Genesis 37), Noah (Genesis 6), Job (Job 1) and Moses (Exodus 3). What is extraordinary about the names mentioned above are that all of them went through situations that required astonishing amount of patience and total trust in the Lord. We are not talking about a 5-day waiting period for the Lord to act. Some had to endure years of waiting to see the plan of the Lord manifest. Moses and the people of God had to endure the harsh conditions of the desert as they wandered the desert for 40-years for the Promised Land. Moses passed away within sight of the Promised Land. It took an incredible amount of patience for Moses, his family and the people of God to wait that long to finally reach the Promised Land that God had prepared for them.
As Christians, our lives will be a long journey with many ups and many downs. We are going to need a lot of patience to endure what life throws at us. We need to keep our focus on the Lord and not on the things of the flesh which will hinder our patience. In the coming years, the next step for Christ Church should be: 1) Building the foundation of the church with the Holy Spirit and not by what we think is right for church. 2) Growing the congregation and reaching out to the neighbouring communities. 3) Patiently waiting and preparing for the church-build to come to plan. If it took Moses 40-years to wait patiently for the plan of God to manifest, why can’t we wait for at least 5-10yrs for the church to grow and prosper? Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Moses and Job waited patiently for the Lord to act upon them, placing their every ounce of trust in God, we should use them as examples of patience for us as we wait upon the Lord.
I WILL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER This is a well known phrase which can be found in Psalms 23 and no-one really knows what awaits us beyond the barriers of time and space, but this image beckons to us like a bright star. An image of a place filled with warmth and light and a beautiful way to enter into the very presence of God. This is the same promise and imagery that Jesus used “in my Fathers house there are many rooms”. At the very close of life we are close to God, just as is a new born baby when held in it’s mothers’ arms, and we have come full circle on the journey which has taken us all the way from the beginning to the end.
In moments of inspiration we feel the presence of God all around us, more comforting than the light of the summer sun. When the moment of inspiration fades and the clouds gather once more, the foundations of our faith are shaken. Now we are put to the test, and being tested we find a presence and a power greater than we can imagine. We are armed with God’s sure staff and in the wild places of our daily lives we can find our way with a sense of courage and confidence that comes even in the eye of a storm.
Now is the time between the times and we learn the value of the support that comes from our fellow Christians, and when breaking bread at Holy Communion we can revisit Psalm 23, “You prepare a table before me even in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows”.
Finally, we look ahead beyond the barriers of time and space and we are filled with a deep conviction and confidence, and we can safely say “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. So, in the time between times, between life and death, between creation and consummation, between peace and war, with God as our guide the way shall be made plain and the passage sure throughout the journey we call our lives. Tony Fensome
Dear Christ Church,
Every Christmas my Great-Aunt Rose used to make the best sausage rolls in the world. While a Greggs sausage roll is a marvellous treat, the image from Greggs Advent calendar has certainly been ruffling feathers. Here the marketing department of the famed bakery has swapped baby Jesus for a sausage roll in the manger. Around the manger are two kings and a shepherd, who came to visit and worship Jesus (albeit not at the same time in the biblical story). In a way, the image does illuminate our obsession with food at Christmas. Having just read 'Woman and Home's guide to Christmas food I can confirm that festive food preparation and definitely not getting stressed about cooking that huge turkey is something that takes over too many minds.
Throughout Advent at church this year we will be looking at the season of preparation that Mary and Elizabeth experienced as both came to be pregnant when they least expected it. We will be considering our own preparations for Christmas and how Jesus as God with us can transform lives in his fragility as a baby, suffering as crucified Lord and his power as Risen Saviour. We will gather to worship the Son of God who came to be with us, one of us as his family today. So, while a sausage roll is a rather silly swap for Jesus, in it we remember that God came to be with us, just like food is part of our everyday lives. And too that just as Great-Aunt Rose used to bring out her sausage rolls at special occasions, Jesus is also at the heart of every special day we share as his family.
We're so excited to share our first Christmas with you here at Christ Church and are looking forward to singing carols, making Christingles and sharing God's joy and love with you all.