Easter Message 2012
Like all those priests and ministers who have guided their people through Holy Week, I have traveled through a rollercoaster of emotions and spiritual highs and lows. It starts with the joy of Palm Sunday, the arrival of our Lord into Jerusalem, being hailed as King, with shouts of Hosannas ringing out from an excited crowd. What was going through the crowds mind as they laid clothes and palm leaves in front of the man arriving on a donkey? What was going through the mind of the apostles as they shared in the man’s glory and acclamation? What was going through the mind of the man who knew that he was riding through this excited crowd to His death?
We traveled on to think of Mary as she poured nard over Jesus, and knowing that she was being criticised by Judas. That ointment could have been given to the poor, Judas insists; this pronouncement coming from the man who has stolen from his friends, and who was about to betray his leader. The love of Mary and the treachery of Judas going hand in hand, as our story unfolds.
The washing of his friends' feet, the Last Supper, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the betrayal, the arrest in a garden, the passion of the Christ. The whipping, the crown of thorns, the mocking, the release of Barabbas, the death on a cross. All this continues to batter our emotions as we go on through the week, into Maundy Thursday and Good Friday: following Jesus and praying together with other Christians; washing each others feet; sharing bread and wine together; stripping an altar, being together in the garden; which is flowers beautifully placed on an altar in the back of the Church; and being blessed by the sacrament.
Being with Christians from other traditions on Good Friday: Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists and Anglicans; being together for the Stations of the Cross; the procession with ministers carrying the cross from the Anglican Church through the town centre to an open air service outside the Methodist Church; singing hymns and songs of praise from music provided by the Baptist band; to listen to Bible readings from our Roman Catholic priest; a message from our Methodist minister; and prayers and blessings from The Baptist and Anglican leaders. And enjoying tea and Hot Cross Buns.
The liturgy being said at 2pm in our local churches when we reflect what Jesus actually did for us.
Then Saturday, a time for reflection and peace, letting our church members take over the work, cleaning. polishing, and preparing our Church for Easter Sunday morning. Flowers being arranged, Easter eggs at the ready so as not to disappoint eager children on Easter morn.
Then it’s Sunday, its a 5 o clock wake up as we prepare for our sunrise service; lighting the Easter fire in the darkness of the night; taking the light into the blackness of the church; watching as glimpses of daylight break through the darkness of night; singing songs of resurrection; then onto the 8am Communion service; then the 10am service of singing praises, sharing communion, munching Easter eggs, having fun.
Easter Monday lying on a sofa in a state of collapse, tired, emotionally drained, but knowing you have tried your best to lead your flock, the Holy Week and beyond. Realising that Jesus was with you every step of the way, that you had been empowered by the Holy Spirit, and believing that you have brought God pleasure.
Happy Easter everyone and may God Bless you.
THE CURATE WRITES……
We are at that time of year again when we are asked to consider carefully our faith and spirituality. Lent can be a very difficult time as we really do have to search our souls and be prepared to examine ourselves inside and out! It is about clearing out all the cobwebs – just like a spring clean in the home – in order to renew and start afresh. In the background is a distant sound – can you hear it? Can you make out what it is?
To help ourselves through this time of Lent we often choose to give up something that we really enjoy – like chocolate! Doing without something like this reminds us of sacrifice and in particular the sacrifice of Christ who gave his life for us – to save us, to forgive our sins and transgressions, this before He rose again and eventually ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of His Father. So we must remember that without the Cross there can be no Crown. But what of our own sacrifice? When we think of it in terms of what Christ sacrificed for us it seems so meaningless doesn’t it? We give up something so small – chocolate – is it worth it? The answer is – of course it is! Can you hear that sound yet and make out what it is?
Whatever we’ve given up / sacrificed, is it helping us to reflect on our relationship with God? Is it making us feel just a little bit uncomfortable? I sincerely hope that we can answer yes to both questions, the reason being that God loves each and every one of us for who we are and where we are. We do feel uncomfortable when we fail to live our lives as God would want us to, but that is the whole purpose of the Cross. He gave Himself so that we are forgiven. This does not mean that we can go on in the same way regardless but remember His sacrifice.
In our journey through Lent we come to that wonderful rejoicing sound of Palm Sunday but still there is another sound in the background – it is getting louder. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem masks the horror which is to come. It has brought us out of a dark and difficult time where we have been searching our souls into the sunshine of celebration. But again we must remember that without the Cross there can be no Crown. The darkness will come again before we can be brought into the fullness of the light. We begin to recognise the sound now – it is nails being hammered into wood – through the flesh of our Lord.
It comes all too soon, the horror and the darkness. If we think we have it tough, just remember what Jesus went through – for us. Our lives are easy in comparison, whatever difficulties we face. And still God is always there for us – think of it this way:-
“You yourselves are a case study of what He does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of Him, giving Him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving Himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in His presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other message – just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same message.” (Colossians 1: 21-23 The Message Bible)
As we look towards the joy of Easter and the coming of our risen Lord I pray that we can reconcile ourselves to His suffering on our behalf and live in the light of Christ. It is fitting that Easter in this country falls in springtime, a season of new growth and new life. If only we will trust in God and allow our lives to be changed by Him today, we can enjoy our own spiritual rebirth, our new life in the new light. But never forget - without the Cross there can be no Crown.
May the blessings of a refreshing God be with you this Easter and always.
Rector’s New years message 2011
That was indeed the year that was. A year that left most of us breathless.
The year of the Arab spring, the revolution in Arab countries that led to the over throw of governments and of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.
The Arab Spring or awakening really started on the 18th December 2010, which led to revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, the civil war in Libya and demonstrations and civil unrest in most of the other Arab countries.
In Britain, out of the blue, we witnessed the scandal at News International, the dramatic end of the biggest selling newspaper The News of the World, famous for its reporting of sex scandals and exposure of celebrities, whether famous or not. The end of this newspaper came through a phone hacking scandal, whose victims seem to have been an all star cast.
Before we could have time for a sharp intake of breath we saw Greece on the verge of bankruptcy, a dramatic change in its leader, then followed a change in the Italian leadership, and growing unrest in Europe over the financial anxieties especially with regard to the Euro. I myself witnessed demonstrations during my pilgrimage to Italy.
There were riots in London and Manchester with buildings being destroyed, and a village of tents being erected by protestors outside Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London.
There was of course some good news, for example the Queen made an historic visit to The Irish Republic.
My head is dizzy thinking of these events without trying to reflect on the many others.
But where was God in 2011. Did God get a look in?
God of course was ever present this past year as He always is. It is sometimes difficult to see God as events unfold in such a rapid way, but God was there.
Was God teaching us lessons? Is God ending corruption in the Arab nations? Does God want us to read sex scandals? Does God want us to be less interested in the lives of so called celebrities?
Have we depended to much on financial greed and not on the benevolence of God?
Have we ignored the spiritual needs of our young people? Have we allowed our youth to be consumers rather than being part of God’s Kingdom?
Is God showing us that deep divisions like those of Ireland and Britain can be healed?
Perhaps God has been teaching us lessons, perhaps we should start listening to God.
What will happen in 2012? Truthfully only God knows, and it is in God that we place our trust.
May you have a happy and blessed New Year.
Christmas Message from the Rector
Have yourselves a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light, from now on our troubles will be out of sight.
I am sure we all recognise the lyrics from that famous Christmas song. As I sing those lyrics to myself, I wonder if all our hearts will be light this Christmas and will every all troubles be out of sight.
For many people Christmas is not a time for joyful hearts and the disappearance of troubles. For many people Christmas brings sorrow and heavy hearts especially those who are suffering from bereavement. For the homeless Christmas is not a time for party jollities. For those who at this time worry about their financial situation, possibly losing jobs and homes, for the sick, Christmas may not be a lot of fun.
So far my Christmas message seems to put a damper on Christmas and the Rector seems to be putting a damp squid on the festive season, but that is not my intention.
My desire is to bring to mind the true meaning of Christmas.
The Christmas story is of a young pregnant woman named Mary who along with her betrothed Joseph undertakes a journey to Bethlehem. It is the story of a birth of a child who would be our Saviour. It is about the Christ who would come to change the world, to bring eternal life to all who follow Him.
It is about the Jesus who will be along side us in all of the ups and downs of life.
This year I too have my share of the ups and downs of life, from the death of both parents, and also many friends, to a pilgrimage that would take me on a European journey.
Through all the sadness and joys of the year I felt God with me. Sometimes carrying me, sometimes calling me, sometimes giving me rest, sometimes beckoning me.
The Christmas message is really the beginning of the story of Easter, the resurrection of Our Lord. It is about angels bringing messages from God to human beings, it is about the divine movement of the Holy Spirit. Christmas is God’s amazing action in the world.
My message this Christmas is Have yourselves a blessed Holy Christmas, open your hearts to God.
God Bless Fr. Lyndon
NOVEMBER THOUGHTS 2011
I have just returned this week from my three month sabbatical, which began with a holiday in the South of France with my wife Cynthia. Upon my return from France. I was supposed to begin a silent retreat in North Wales, but sadly my father Les was taken ill and later died, and I spent much of that month being with my dad in hospital, and was able to bring him comfort until his death. I then officiated at dad's funeral. I was not sure what to do after dad's funeral, but all of my family and friends believed I should go on the pilgrimage which I had booked. I began in Iona, one of the Western Isles of Scotland, then I travelled by boat, to Santander in Spain then by train to Santiago de Compastella, I then flew to Barcelona to see Gaudi's unfinished Cathedral, then by boat to Genoa in Italy, from there by train to Florence, then for my spiritual course in the Anglican Centre in Rome, then to Venice to pray in ST. Marks, then to Verona, on to Innsbruck Austria, then Munich Germany, finally praying in Notre Dame Cathedral Paris.
I will be writing more about my pilgrimage soon, and the feeling I had travelling around Europe with God as my companion. However, I am now preparing for Remembrance Sunday. Please remember all those who have died for our freedom, and remember in your prayers all those who still suffer through the effects of war.
FEAR NOT LITTLE FLOCK for it is the Father‘s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
The above words of comfort were spoken by Jesus to help us prepare in body mind and spirit to enter God’s kingdom. There can be no denying that we as a benefice have gone through a very sad period, especially for those who worship in ST. Mary’s Caldicot. We have seen close friends, members of our church, commended to God’s tender care. I have found the last few months very stressful and very sad at the loss of such close fiends, and just last week I conducted the funeral service of my mother.
However, when death comes, we know that a great sadness falls upon us, but we have the assurance that those whom we love are at peace with the Lord. They are taken to a place where pain and sickness are no more. Jesus said that those who follow Him will have eternal life, that is the promise of Christ’s resurrection. (John 11:25).
Jesus tells us that we must not have troubled hearts; for He prepares a place for us with Him and that there is a dwelling place for us in God’s house. (John 14:1-3) We are told that we are God’s flock, and that He is our shepherd and that He will take us to a place of comfort, He will help us in the dark valley of grief. (Ps 23).
So little flock in our benefice fear not for we are under God’s care. He loves us deeply and we must remember that after the pain of death of Good Friday comes the joy of resurrection on Easter morn.
May all those whom we have loved and no longer see rest in peace and rise in Glory.
Easter Message from Fr. Lyndon
As I write my Easter message the sun is shining in Caldicot and spring is upon us, the winter snow is but a memory, and my thoughts are drifting to my summer sabbatical. I have been working in the garden mowing my lawn (not my favourite activity) birds are singing, and trees are in bud. There is a mess of moss and twigs on the floor of ST. Bride’s chapel of our church, a bird is making a nest somewhere high in the rafters. New life is everywhere, Easter is on the way.
However, before I give praise to the joy of Easter, I must admit that ST. Mary’s in Caldicot has not had an easy passage this year. We have seen eight regulars of our congregation go to glory in the past few months. A joyful time for them to be with Our Lord, but a sad time for family and friends, who miss them dearly.
Personally it has been a difficult time, besides the loss of eight friends I have spent much time in prayer because my wife Cynthia was diagnosed with cancer in the kidney, Cynth is now recovering from her operation and we have been told all is now well with Cynth. I do thank God for His care and for the expertise of Cynth’s surgeon. We who are in the healing ministry must never forget God works through the skill of doctors and nurses, as well as through anointing and laying on of hands.
Sometimes the Christian road is a difficult one to tread, and we all have our wilderness experiences, and that is something we think of through Lent. But we must focus our eyes on Jesus and on the miracle of that Easter Sunday morning. Women crying as they journey to the body of a young Galilean, who had recently been crucified. They approached the tomb. No Roman soldiers to stop their progress, no stone to stop them entering the tomb. No body in the tomb. Jesus was alive and is alive.
Christians are an Easter people, and our message is simple, those who follow Jesus have eternal life.
Have a wonderful Easter
Lyndon and family
The Bishop’s Lent Appeal
On Wednesday (9th March), we begin the great season of Lent when the Church prepares to celebrate the great Easter festival. The Church invites us to observe the four traditional disciplines of prayer, bible study, fasting and almsgiving. This year, for five weeks in Lent at five different venues, I shall be giving talks each evening about St Luke’s Gospel and I invite you to come along. When I did it two years ago I was overwhelmed at the response and the hundreds of people who attended. Each evening lasts about 45 minutes and you are welcome to bring a friend - and a bible. Please choose a venue that is most convenient to you and if you cannot manage the same evening each week you can always go to another venue.
As usual, I am asking you to fast by going without a meal on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays in Lent and to give the money that you would have spent on food to my Lent Appeal. Fasting is a prayer in action. It reminds us that we ‘do not live by bread alone’. It heightens our spiritual awareness and is an act of solidarity with the millions of God’s people who do not have enough food. You might also wish to give up something you enjoy like chocolate, alcohol, meat or cheese.
As in the last two years, I shall divide the money raised from the Lent Appeal between projects at home and overseas.
The overseas project is to train 150 catechists for the Diocese of Niassa in Mozambique. The Bishop of Niassa is Mark van Koevering, who with his wife Helen served in this diocese. Mozambique is the seventh poorest country in the world. The Diocese of Niassa is experiencing phenomenal growth and in the last seven years since Bishop Mark and Helen have been there, there has been a 97% growth in congregations with tens of thousands of people waiting and wanting to become Anglican Christians. This will only be possible if they can train catechists to go out and teach the people and plant churches. The catechists need to be trained and later many of them become priests. A residential training course costs £2,000 to train 30 people, so I hope we can send them £10,000 to train 150 catechists who in turn will each prepare hundreds of people for baptism and confirmation and enable them to plant new churches. As we struggle to grow our churches in this Diocese we can rejoice at being able to help to grow many churches in the Diocese of Niassa.
This year, I have chosen three home projects. The first is to support the Monmouthshire branch of a Christian charity called ‘Farm Crisis Network’ to help provide expenses for the volunteers who minister to farmers facing hardship. The farming industry is facing many difficulties and farmers by the very nature of their job, can feel very isolated. Sadly, the suicide rate among farmers is alarmingly high so it is good to have a Christian network that can provide support and friendship. The other two projects are projects that we have supported over the past two years – the Street Pastor scheme and the Newport Night Shelter. Both projects have continued to grow and more volunteers are being trained. I hear wonderful stories of Street Pastors being able to have significant conversations with the young people they meet on the streets at night and I know that some of the people using the Nigh Shelter have found faith through the love in action shown by church volunteers. These are three worthwhile local projects run by Christian volunteers to reach out to those in need.
I sometimes feel that we have been placed on God's rollercoaster. Take the case of Pastor Jim. Jim wrote recently about new beginnings, and he described his new minisry with us in the Anglican Church and about his forthcoming marriage to Jo. Their wedding blessing was a blessing for all the church, a wonderful happy event, but just as we thought Jim and Jo would settle down in the benefice, we have seen Jim being appointed as the associste vicar of Chepstow working with Fr. Chris. This should be right up their street. Chepstow Churches work very well together, they are very much involved with Alpha and Jim has been asked to set up a new course. Jim will also continue to run Living Faith in the Benefice assisted by Judith. We wish Jim and Jo well in their new ministry.
As well as the excitment we experience with Jim and Jo, this has also been a period of trust for my family, trusting in God. For my wife Cynthia has undergone major surgery and has had a kidney removed. So many people have benn praying for us and I am so pleased to say that Cynth's operation was a complete success. I thank God for the skill of wonderful surgeons. It is times like this when we need to be carried by Our Lord, just like the Footsteps poem.
I am pleased that our new Monday prayer group is successful and we now using the prayer group for healing. If anyone wants to come for the laying-on of hands and anointing please come along.
I feel that our three churches are on the verge of recieving a mighty blessing from God. Please keep praying
God Bless Fr. Lyndon
Christmas at the Rectory
Christmas is very special for my family in all sorts of ways. Christmas is one of those occasions when the family is reunited, my daughter Sarah will have finished her autumn term in her comprehensive school in Oxford where she teaches religious education, and so she and possibly her boyfriend William will be heading down the M4 back to Wales, for our family Christmas. On ST. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) we will visit my brother Paul in Bargoed where my parents and the rest of the family will have a special get-together.
We love the sharing of gifts, having Christmas dinner together and tucking into turkey and Christmas pudding. It’s great to sit around the television and watch some Hollywood blockbuster, and for me to fall asleep for a few hours of well deserved rest. However, at the centre of our family Christmas is another family: a family who lived a long time ago, and whose influence affects the world today. The Holy Family is at the very centre of the Harrison family.
The Christmas story is the beginning of the greatest story ever told. The story of the Nativity of our Lord is the story of the birth of a child, a boy, who is the Son of God, a child who is the Saviour of the world, whose name is Jesus who is called the Christ.
I hope you will all have a wonderful Christmas, and a blessed one. Please make your Christmas special: please invite Jesus to be the centre of your family, and to be the centre of your lives.
I believe that we are on the threshold of exciting times in Caldicot, a time when Christ’s presence will be felt by many. I believe that we are on the verge of seeing the Lord doing great things. I believe revival and renewal is in the air.
We have many thousands of visitors to our web site from many nations in the world, from the USA, Canada, Japan, Africa, Myanmar, Australia, France, Latvia and Italy and many more countries. To all our visitors both home and away, please pray for us as we pray for you, and why not send us a message for Christmas?
God Bless to you all.
Lyndon, Cynthia, Sarah and Stephen
Paul writing to the Church in Corinth told them that” Anybody in Christ is has become a new creation”
I love the fact that the Church starts its New Year in the dark, lighting a candle of hope expectancy and anticipation. Paul continues “The old has gone, all things are of God.”
The Bible starts with the words in the beginning God, note in the beginning not at the beginning.
“God has commanded the light to shine out of darkness that we might have His treasure in earthen vessels”. No wonder he urges us to thank God for His “indescribable gift”. For all of us new beginnings are available. Why not receive His gift for yourself.
Thinking about this time the thought came to urge my fellow travellers through this season to “Follow the donkey and meet the King”. God has a wonderful way of turning our journeys through the dark, across the difficulties over pain filled mountains out of sorrow filled valleys into highways of splendour. Simply by birthing Hope: Yes we are going to see the King.
Wise men followed a star, discover the way of turning your scars into stars, by letting Jesus take your sorrow hurt fear and grief upon Himself, let Him shine through your scar and see the twinkling of a star, let that star guide you straight to Him.
Shepherds heard a song in the night, yes it gave them a fright, for it was one of God’s “suddenlys” entering their world of darkness and routine. But they went anyway to see if what they had been told was true. Yes it was what a difference a visit to see Jesus made. They returned filled with joy.
Yes a new beginning. I am so excited as Joanna and I journey through this new season, the pain of the past the darkness of disappointment doesn’t hurt any more for we have traded our sorrows allowed Him to embrace us and give us a new beginning. We urge you to find time this season to start again for His mercies are new every morning.
Pastor Jim and Joanna.
The Coming of Advent
My last letter reminded us of the busyness of our three churches, and it seems that the busyness does not stop. In Caldicot we have just said farewell to our services in the Church Hall, and a thanks to everyone who made these services so special, with a special thanks to Ann, our Sacristan, and to Dorothy and Jo our joyful minstrels.
So we are back in St. Mary’s with a newly restored church, and a £40, 000 bill to pay. [See photographs on our Roof Appeal page]. Please help if you can, God truly loves a generous giver. Our second service was for Remembrance Sunday and in all three churches these services were held in front of full congregations. The Remembrance Sunset Service at the Memorial Cross in Caldicot also witnessed about 100 people and was a great success.
Then the following week we welcome the Bishop for our Confirmation Service with over twenty people asking to be blessed by the Holy Spirit.
Then we begin Advent.
The word Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus which means “coming” i.e. the coming of Christ. The Advent season takes us up to Christmas. Advent is a penitential season preparing us not only for Christmas but also for Christ’s coming again. I personally love this season. The dark evenings, our candlelight Advent services, and a chance to reflect, on the infant Christ and also to ponder on what exciting things the Risen Lord will have in store for us. I believe that with our restoration in Caldicot we have seen God’s hand mightily at work, restoring our 900 year old church for a wonderful future.
Throughout the benefice, in all three churches we shall be inviting school children into our three churches, to pray and sing praises to Our Lord this Advent. What wonderful opportunities to tell of God’s love. Every year I say the same thing; this Advent may we be on an Adventure with Jesus. Let us use this season for deepening our faith in God, and deepen our commitment to His Church.
Finally, in the beginning of my letter I mentioned Ann our Sacristan. Ann is retiring form her position after 21 years of loyal and dedicated service. Thank you Ann, your work has been much appreciated.
God Bless Fr. Lyndon
Lillian’s response to the reflections on her visit
Wow........I never realised that I have made such an impact on my beloved friends up there.......young and old, honestly speaking if an opportunity can present itself again, I will not hesitate to grab it with both hands.
You made me feel so special, you opened your hearts and home to me.....the highlight of my visit was the harvest service at Caldicot, when the church bell was ringing and playing that welcoming music, I wanted to pinch myself as that was like a dream that may pass at any given moment, yet it was reality, the warm welcoming smiles that I got from my friends expressed the true selfless Agape love as mentioned in 1Corinthian Chapter 13, that was so conspicuous.
I have indeed learned so much from you guys, it reminded me of the late Canon Sindile who will always say proper planning produces good results...........that was evident with the harvest auction sale that ran right through the week, the message about harvesting was loud and crystal clear hence people were so generously giving.....guys you have outdone yourselves.
Every day was made to be so hospitable and meaningful, even Bonnie and Phoebe made my stay very worthwhile, let alone the lady of the house (PAM) who went an extra mile in ensuring that I enjoy the hospitality at the Vicarage.
I will always remember the Fish & Chips that we ate scrabbled in the car on the rainy afternoon with Pauline and Lyndon reminding me every minute that Wales is the only place where you’ll find the best enjoyable fish and chips wrapped in a white paper.
Pauline it will be a big mistake not to mention the quality time that I have spent with you at the Castles, the history and the information that you shared with me and the manner in which you manage your time in serving God......
Thanks for all the gifts that I received from you ESPECIALLY the Link service manual that will become handy as we are about commemorate the Link Day. What was more touching was to hear the name of BP. David and Fr. Elijah mentioned during Eucharist service when the prayer of the church was said, I really had a better understanding of the Link’s aims and objectives (praying for one another, sharing our joys and sorrows) it was so practical. Long live the Link....I so miss the green trees and flowers at the Vicarage’s garden with fresh cold air that forced me to have double layers of clothing as Den would always say.
I will always remember the children at the Kindergarten and the visit at the Bishop Rowan Williams schools not forgetting the Welsh School with a very vibrant Head teacher.
The farewell function on the eve before returning back home was the cherry on top of the cake...well organized and the commitment and sacrifices made to ensure the evening was well and meaningfully spent.
Love you all and be blessed and enjoy the winter season......sorry
Yours in prayers
Lillian @ St. Peter’s Chains
Pastor Jim Writes:
The season is changing, the leaves are falling, nights are drawing in, the heat is required and so are the lights. For me this is a special precious time because I love to be warm, cosy and secure and I love the effects of lighting so effective in creating and changing moods, emotions and feelings.
These past months have seen me move through the changing seasons as God has taken a hold on my life in a new way taking me to a new place with fresh responsibilities and expectations. These are so very different to my yesterdays and probably even different than my tomorrows.
Through it all I have learnt to look for the God of all comfort; to know His security, His love, His warmth and His light. These past months as we have headed towards my Priesting here in Caldicot, His comfort has been my constant, as I have been stretched challenged and confronted at all times and within all I have known His presence.
As the team (Joanna, Dorothy and Mark) and I minister around the Diocese especially in our Benefice our constant desire is to bring a manifestation of His presence, His comfort and peace that we might walk in His marvellous light. Join us; pray for us as we step out for Him.
That’s why we have wanted to start a monthly Evensong service for the Benefice, currently held on the First Sunday of each month at St Mary’s Portskewett. The Service in November will be held at 6 p.m. and the following two services in December and January will be at 4pm. Dorothy will be leading a monthly prayer meeting at the High Altar, St Mary’s Caldicot – the first meeting will be on 1st November, at 7.30 p.m. Do join us at these services and experience the God of all comfort.
Let me close with a sincere thank you from Joanna and myself because you have embraced us and encouraged us during these past days. Living Faith continues a precious opportunity to give your faith, life, liberty and purpose; so sign up for the next module starting soon.
Street Pastors, Street Warmers, Shop mobility, and Churches Together projects all have vacancies: join us we need your help.
Be blessed and encouraged
Pastor Jim and Joanna
Reflections on Lillian’s visit by Father Den
Almost all songs have love as their theme. This central theme might be masked inside layers of other emotions and feelings – but the bottom line is love.
You might read poems or prose with vivid descriptions of love.
You could naively believe that, having heard all the songs over and over again, and having lingered over the lyrics of the songs, or poems or prose, you know what love feels like.
But no matter how many songs you listen to, how many poems you recite, how many words you ponder over, nothing comes close to the feeling you get, when you actually fall in love for yourself.
I have been writing to parishes in South Africa since 2000 – even before the link was formally brought into being. I thought I knew how passionate I was about supporting and being supported by our friends in the Highveld. Then we experienced an outpouring of just how much we are loved with the arrival in September of twelve ‘old friends’.
For my part, Lillian has been a wonderful link person for the past four years. Her emails are always regular, often emotional and nearly always inspirational – except the funny ones.
To be able to have Lillian stay with Pam and I as a friend was a real privilege. She is such a warm and loving individual, and everyone who met her warmed to her – especially the youngsters in church and the schools that we visited. She came into her own on our visit to Ysgol y Ffyn, where a whole hour just vanished as she shared with the youngsters her love of Jesus and her country. She sat entranced as the school sang for her in Welsh, and presented her with several gifts, including a Welsh flag and a rugby ball.
After she’d spoken to the whole school at Archbishop Rowan William’s, the following week, one of the year 6 students gave thanks to God for Nelson Mandela and all that he’d done for equality in the world.
On the Wednesday evening we were treated to a wonderful evening of Welsh and African culture – and it was difficult to see where the one ended and the other began – we merged together just as God intended us to. Especially moving was the arrival of Mondli, a young Zulu man who now works in Blaenavon and who Lillian met in Aldi supermarket the previous day. They chatted and she invited him to come along on Wednesday evening – he did – he was made welcome – and he ended up on stage with our friends and joined in with the singing of the SA anthem.
On the evening before they left for home, around 60 of Lillian’s new friends from across the Benefice of Caldicot gathered in Portskewett Hall to wish her farewell. The evening could well have drawn to a close with the singing of ‘We’ll meet again’. It didn’t, but I’m sure that we will meet again and that our friendship, love and prayerful support will grow from strength to strength.
Thoughts from Father Lyndon
We have been very busy in the Benefice. We all enjoyed the visit of Lillian from the Highveld in South Africa. She brought a ray of sunshine to the benefice, and we enjoyed our harvest service together. I am sure the Highveld committee will give a comprehensive report on her visit, so I'll just mention some of my favourite moments with Lillian. The first was sitting in my car with Lillian and Pauline in a rain soaked Brynmawr. We ate fish and chips in paper with a bottle of Coke. Lillian was instantly a fan of Britain's most popular meal. Revd. Annie and I took Lillian for a boat ride on Cardiff Bay, which we enjoyed, however, wandering around Cardiff's shopping centre did not fill me with the deepest of joy, I cannot stand shopping, ask my wife Cynth. Above all it was praying with Lillian that brought the deepest pleasure, praying with a lady who has a wonderful relationship with Our Lord.
Lillian left, then it was Pastor Jim's priesting in ST. Mary's. Like Lillian Jim has been on a long journey with God, and has undergone the transition from Elim Pentecostal minister to Anglican priest. Bishop Dominic officiated at the service and all those who attended were witness to for us, a historic event. I won't go into details because I am sure Jim himself will have much to report. It was a great privilege and a pleasure to be one of those clergy who laid hands on Jim.
The week after our long serving organist Dorothy and our verger Archie her husband celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, with their friends from church. Archie was fortunate to survive being a prisoner of war on the Burma railways where he underwent great suffering at the hands of Japanese prison guards, when he arrived back home he was only six stone in weight. However, through those dark times it was their faith in Jesus then kept Dorothy and Archie going. A big congratulations to you both.
Lillian's visit and Jim's ordination, Archie and Dorothy's celebrations were a great blessing to us, however, we also had a visit from not so welcome visitors, woodworm. In the past eighteen months these invaders, attacked all parts of the church including the bell tower, the roof, and anything they could munch their way through, We are now in the process of stopping these aliens in their tracks but sadly Caldicot Church will be closed for October. This was all unexpected and the final bill for this work and treating and painting etc. will be about £40,000. If there is anyone out there who would like to help us with a donation please feel free to do so. The Lord will help, but he may choose to do it through us.
Have a good month
Most people like new beginnings, something new and exciting coming into our lives, new job, new school, moving to a new home, going away for holidays, a celebration in the family, a wedding, a baptism. For me, September is a time of new beginnings, the holidays over and the church changes gear, from vacation mode to back to business mode, preparing for lessons in schools, preparations for harvest, the arrival of the season of Advent, preparations for Christmas. I am one of those people who like new beginnings, but even now I'm still dreaming of my past holiday in the sunshine. This year Cynthia and I celebrated our Ruby Anniversary, with a holiday cruise around the Mediterranean. We sailed on the P&O cruise ship Ventura, and had lots of fun, much needed rest and the pleasure of meeting new friends (please keep in touch). Yes, sailing around the Med, is definitely my cup of tea, but the holiday was for then and this is now, so it is back to work (stop day dreaming Lyndon).
On Sunday we celebrate harvest with a special guest from our link parish in the Highveld South Africa. We are looking forward to meeting Lillian, learning about her culture, her church, and her life. For Lillian this will be an exciting new beginning seeing Wales, worshipping in a traditional Norman Church, singing harvest songs with a Welsh flavour. We have a variety of exciting things for Lillian to share with us, visiting our Church school, worshipping together, and also sharing in fun activities. I’m looking forward to taking Lillian to Cardiff Bay, perhaps having a boat ride around the bay (back to cruising memories again).
However, the most exiting thing is waiting to see what God has in store for us next. What exciting things has He in for us in our church life, and our personal life? God always surprises us, I’m sure that again as we prepare to go back to work mode we will not be disappointed.
God Bless Fr. Lyndon
July Thoughts 2010
It has been a very busy time in the benefice regarding ministry. Judith has been licenced as a Reader, the service took place in ST. Mark's Newport with Bishop Dominic in attendance.
We then attended the ordination service in ST. Woolos cathedral to witness Rev Annie being ordained a priest and Rev Jim being ordained a deacon.
For Annie, Jim and Judith these are new steps along their journey with God, for all three a new and exciting beginning, also for Annie a big well done on being awarded her degree, which she will be presented in ST. David's Hall Cardiff. The ministry team is indeed expanding. All the above show evidence of growth in our benefice, and that God is truly working his purpose out.
After all this excitement I am looking forward to my summer holiday. Though I must mention my recent pilgimage to Turin and Assisi. [Photos can be found on the Benefice Pilgrimages page]. I travelled with my friend and former college tutor, Fr. Jeffrey my wife Cynthia and daughter Sarah. We were too late to see the Shroud on display in Turin though we saw an exact copy in the Shroud museum but this was still very moving. We travelled to Assisi and found the town of ST. Francis an extremely spiritual place. We hope to have another pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2011, and if anyone would like to join us contact Pauline. Thinking of Pauline, she and Joyce will be travelling with friends to the Passion play at Oberammergau, and she will also be visiting Assisi. Also visiting Assisi soon will be Pauline's daughter Katie, who will be attending a friend's wedding. Francis and Nick are at present in Oberammergau. It seems the whole benefice is on the move. I hope they will all have plenty of photos for our web site.
Prayers for all of you who will be away this summer have a good and restful time.
July Thoughts from Father Den
With the year a little more than half over and holidays just around the corner for many of us, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the year so far. I think it’s fair to say that thus far it has been quite a year for the Benefice of Caldicot. We have seen our ministry team grow – not only in number but in spiritual maturity too.
Annie, the Benefice Curate continues to grow into her role and has become a very popular member of the clergy. Annie is wonderful pastorally and offers a listening ear along with words of wisdom when needed. In spite of health concerns earlier in the year, as I sit to write these words, Annie is attending her graduation ceremony at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, after gaining her degree in theology. As if all this wasn’t enough, she was ordained into the priesthood at Petertide in Newport Cathedral. We are very lucky to have her here in our Benefice. Thanks to Paul for sharing her with us.
At the same Petertide service PJ; AKA Jim Davies was ordained into the diaconate and is now a fully-fledged Anglican minister. Jim brings with him countless years of experience of the ordained ministry in the Pentecostal Church and his insights and knowledge of the scriptures are a real boon to the benefice. It has taken a long time for him to get this good and we thank God as we celebrate his presence with us. Jim will be ordained into the priesthood at a benefice service to be held in Caldicot Church on September 26th at 10:00 am. Watch this space for more exciting news in the life of Jim!!
Our ministry numbers have also increased with the licensing of Judith Anderson as a Reader. Judith has already undertaken her first preaching duty and ‘passed with flying colours.’ Judith brings many years teaching experience with her and her ability to see through the fripperies and ‘cut to the chase’ have made reading the Office together as a team a great way to start the working day.
We have been blessed also with the increased presence of David Flint who is also licensed as a Reader. David has already arranged and led a quiet day at Ty Mawr and is now busy planning and arranging a retreat to Caldey Island for next year, as well as a further quiet day for this autumn. David’s organisational skills are only matched by those of Ross, who continues to ensure that we are each of us where we should be at the correct time. We are further blessed with the very much appreciated ministry of Fr. David, Fr. Don, Pam, Cynthia and Paul.
You could be forgiven for wondering what on earth there is left for Fr. Lyndon and me to do with all this man/woman power. I can assure you that there is always something to do and more often than not it is urgent – even critical. It’s a privilege to serve God in Caldicot Benefice and we thank Him for his love and support of each and everyone who lives, works and worships here.
As a PS – at Portskewett Church we have a small but dedicated team who keep the grass cut during the growing season – which is NOW! We desperately need more volunteers to be able to maintain the high standards expected (we have won ‘Best Kept Churchyard in Monmouthshire several times over the past few years). If you feel that you might be able to help even in a small way please get in touch. Thanks in anticipation. Fr. Den. 01291 423378.
[Photographs of the Church yard will soon be appearing on the website].
Thoughts from Reverend Annie
The last few weeks have certainly been exciting here in the Benefice. Firstly there was the wonderful service in which Judith was licensed as a Reader, which was swiftly followed by the ordination service at which Jim was made a deacon and I was ordained as priest. I must, at this point, sincerely thank ‘the greatest training incumbent in the galaxy’, Father Lyndon, for all his love, support and guidance as we all approached our services. Also a big thank you must go to all who have supported, encouraged and loved each of us on our journey – and continue to do so. The Rectorial Benefice of Caldicot is a wonderful place in which to begin ministry, we have such supportive congregations and a ministry team that works so well together, who are friends as well as colleagues, and it is a privilege to be able to serve here.
As I now prepare for my graduation ceremony on Thursday (15th) – yet more excitement!! – I would like to reflect on the pre ordination retreat which all the candidates undertook together. We spent the best part of three days together at Llantarnam Abbey, being thoroughly spoilt by the Sisters there. The Abbey and its grounds are so tranquil and, as most of the retreat was held in silence, it gave us all time to unwind, to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of daily life and to concentrate on God’s Word and the direction in which He was leading us. There were three services each day and a talk (given by Father Patrick Coleman – our retreat leader) and time in between to be still and quiet, either just thinking, in prayer or reading a book, relaxing our minds and bodies in preparation for the seriousness and excitement of what was to come.
As we approach the summer and the season of holidays, my prayer is for everyone to find a time of quiet and stillness in order to refresh themselves for the rest of the year and whatever it may bring. Even if you don’t manage a holiday away this year, take some ‘me’ time – we all need it, just as Jesus did in His life. He would often take Himself off to a quiet place to find some peace and to talk with His Father – our God. Whatever you do this summer – enjoy yourself!! Remember that you are important and loved very much by God. God Bless.
Thoughts from Pastor Jim
What an amazing month June was: culminating in the licensing of Judith, the Priesting of Annie, and my second ordination, this time as a Deacon in the Church in Wales. Of course for all of us that was no flash in the pan, no sudden wake-up, and there we were - it was, of course, another major point in our amazingly different journeys through life, which have happened in the sovereign purposes of God to meet at this particular juncture
Praise God for the rich fellowship and joy that comes through the shared experience of being part of the family of God, which is the supreme joy this side of heaven
We are, however, journeying separately in our togetherness: the decisions made, the choices made, the turnings taken have had such a great impact in the course of life.
Let me share one of my key life verses with you as we enter this new season together. It is from Psalm 32 and verse 8:
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way in which you are to go I will guide you with my eye”.
In short never stop looking; never stop learning; let Him be your guide and teacher
Module 2 of Living Faith starts September 9th. The Module is: “The New Testament”. Register now. There will also be a re-run of module 1: “Prayer and Spirituality”. Living Faith is a great course so make sure you catch up with what is happening in the Churches across our land
For all your good wishes and congratulations blessings
PJ and Joanna
MAY THOUGHTS 2010
This is an exciting time for our benefice in more ways than one. There are very special times ahead for some of our ministry team. Reverend Annie is preparing for her ordination as a priest, and Judith, a retired RE teacher is about to be licensed as a Reader, and has already measured for her cassock. Pastor Jim who not that long ago retired as a Pentecostal minister, has become heavily involved in the Anglican Church, as an Ecumenical minister, and along with Revd Annie will be ordained as a deacon this Petertide. There is something very wonderful about answering the call of God, and to be recognised by the church and to be blessed by the Bishop. Pastor Jim has also recently been confirmed and on top of that become engaged to Jo. I feel that our church is becoming more and more spiritually alive. The Living Faith course is bringing a new dimension to the benefice, and Fr. Den's spiritual direction is taking route. God is on the move and we can scarcely keep up. The ministry to our schools is bearing fruit and all of our ministry team are active in special ways. Ross, our Eucharist assistant is not only active in Caldicot but also in a neighbouring parish. Cynthia our Reader is becoming excited as the FOG Club for children grows, and of course she is member of our worship band Led Balloon, who just had a gig in the Elim Pentecostal Church. Pam another Reader and Diocesan Youth Advisor has been very active with her youth services, David, yet another Reader is preparing a quiet day for us in Tymawr Convent, Father David our NSM priest is active with services and with the CAB, and Judith has begun Friday Compline services. Revd Annie is gaining spiritual ground with her greatly admired pastoral ministry, Paul, another of our Reader is busy with his preaching ministry. As for me I'm trying to keep up with them all. God is working His purpose out in our churches, we feel His blessings, and we rejoice. We feel we are on a path that God has given us and we are not sure the direction that He is taking us. But all we can do is enjoy the journey.
God Bless Fr. Lyndon
Just wanted to say a big thank you to you all from myself and Joanna for the wonderful way you have received our news in recent weeks, you have shared our joy sensed the wonder and anticipation of the strength of love, in many ways we have been taken by surprise and yet when we sit together and walk and talk so many incidents have drawn us together during these past years. We both have separate and yet collectively special reasons to be grateful to our Heavenly Father who has brought us through much stuff to arrive at this special place together.
Our journey into the Church in Wales has taken us both very much by surprise, since our release with Pastor Kelvin’s understanding and blessing from Elim Caldicot, we have been on an accelerated kingdom Programme. Again for all your interest and prayers we thank you.
Thursday was very special for us. Ascension Day, the Bishop of Monmouth came to Caldicot and confirmed me into the communion of the Church in Wales that day. The day ended with the ringing of the Peel of Bells for us so special. The next major step is my Ordination to the Diaconate; this will be at Newport Cathedral on Saturday 26th June 2010 at 2-30pm. This is an all ticket event (several candidates are being presented during 2 ceremonies including our own Mother church- Annie)
This ordination will annul my Elim Credentials and will authorise my authority in the Church in Wales. (There are 3 levels of ministry in the Anglican Communion, Bishop, Priest and Deacon). I will be serving in the Rectoral Benefice of Caldicot here as a NSM. Just a note on tickets: there are only a few. If we can accommodate you with one, we will try of course.
The next stage is to be at St Mary’s, Caldicot 10am Sunday September 26th 2010. When there will be no tickets required because I will be the only one presented for ‘Priesting’. If I were to chose one service that I would like you to attend this would be it.
Living Faith our first module is coming to an end a very good course looking at Spirituality and Prayer, we have been so blessed that Judith and I are offering the module again later in the year for those that missed out this time. Our next Module, the New Testament, commences 2nd September this year, for those that have completed our first module
EASTER THOUGHTS 2010
Please follow this link for an Easter Message from the Bishop.
Father Lyndon writes:
As I write my 2010 Easter message I realised how fast time seems to fly these days, surely it was only the other day when I was thinking about Christingle services for Christmas, surely it was only the other day when I was preaching for harvest. It cannot be Holy Week already. Have we really journeyed through most of Lent, where does time go? I wonder how our Lord felt as He approached Holy Week. Did He feel cheated by time? Was His earthly ministry really coming to an end, so soon after it had started? Was this really the time for Him to die? Many people think about God and fool themselves into believing that there is plenty of time to turn to Him. "When I get older, yes then I will commit myself to God; yes when I am older I will read the Bible, I got plenty of time to think about Jesus, I got all the time in the world to decide" But the future creeps upon us so fast, time does indeed fly and sometimes we leave things until its too late. The time to decide if we want to follow Jesus is now. The time to ask God into our lives is now. We must ask ourselves this question. Do we believe in God our Creator, that His Son died on the cross for our sins, and that on that first Easter Sunday morning Jesus was resurrected? If we believe in all this then all we must do is invite Jesus into our lives. All we need to do is to say these words” Jesus, Son of God please come into my life." Christians are indeed the Easter people the ones who are the children of the resurrection. Christianity is not a private club it is for everyone, it’s for you. Have a good and blessed Easter.
Message from Father Den
This is great, take a moment to read it, it will make your day!
The ending will surprise you.
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art.. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael . They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.
When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.
He said, 'Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.' The young man held out this package. 'I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.'
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.. 'Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift.'
The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. 'We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?
There was silence...
Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, 'We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.'
But the auctioneer persisted.. 'Will somebody bid fo r this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?'
Another voice angrily. 'We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Gogh 's, the Rembrandts. Get on with the Real bids!'
But still the auctioneer continued: 'The son! The son! Who'll take the son?'
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the long-time gardener of the man and his son. 'I'll give $10 for the painting...' Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
'We have $10, who will bid $20?'
'Give it to him for $10.. Let's see the masters.'
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son.
They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.
The auctioneer pounded the gavel. 'Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!'
A man sitting on the second row shouted, 'Now let's get on with the collection!'
The auctioneer laid down his gavel. 'I'm sorry, the auction is over.'
'What about the paintings?'
'I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time.. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings.
The man who took the son gets everything!'
God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: 'The son, the son, who'll take the son?'
Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.
If I don't get this back, I will know you really didn't read it. I got this from someone and thought the last part was really a good thought.
Too bad that the person who sent it to me did
not know 10 people who would admit to knowing the Lord.
Message from Reverend Annie
As we continue our journey through Lent, I wonder if we all remember what we started out to achieve way back on Ash Wednesday. Many of us decided to give up something, maybe chocolate or smoking for instance. Perhaps some of us decided to take something up like walking instead of taking the car or reading our bible on a daily basis. Whatever it was that you set out to do, have you managed to keep it up? Some of these things will benefit our physical health but what is most important during Lent is our spiritual health – we need to consider how far we have walked with Christ on our journey to a deeper understanding of God, to deepen our spiritual awareness.
This is not meant to be a comfortable journey, it is one which sees us searching into the depths of our soul, clearing out the cobwebs of the past and reflecting on our relationship with God. Can we keep this up for six weeks – and then what? It’s a big ask, but one we need to answer if we are to grow spiritually, both closer to God and within ourselves. We need to die to ourselves (clear out the cobwebs) in order to be reborn into Christ. Remember that God gave His only Son for us and for our salvation, for the forgiveness of our sins. Three days later He raised Jesus from the dead – He was reborn. It is this which gives us hope, hope that the joy and peace of Easter will be a living experience for us.
It is fitting that Easter falls in springtime, a season of new growth and new life. If only we will trust in God and allow our lives to be changed by Him today, we can enjoy our own spiritual rebirth, our new life.
May the blessings of a refreshing God be with you the Easter and always.
Message from Pastor Jim Davies, Ecumenical Minister
With Holy week (Anglican term!!!) starting next week we shall soon be caught up in the busyness of Easter, hence the timing of my Easter Message.
Yesterday we handed in for transmission a copy of the Bishop of Monmouth's Easter message for mon-tv.com He emphasized the resurrection of Jesus. In school yesterday asking the children about Easter I had comments ranging from Rabbits and chocolates to the Cross, great but the big
cheer went up when we declared that He is alive. Hallelujah.
The great message we have of course is that THE SAME SPIRIT that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. The Spirit of faith that hears, believes and performs His purposes.
My prayer for the family is that we will move in all of His power through all of our days that we should be to the praise of His glory.
My life continues to be filled tonight I address the Methodist Church Council by invitation to explain my ecumenical role in the Church of Caldicot. Opportunities continue in the Church in Wales I am leading the first
Diocesan Living Faith Course in the Country, being challenged as we explore Spirituality and prayer. Schools work continues to expand I have just been invited onto the
Governing Body of Castle Park Primary School as an LEA governor, my interest currently is exploring the opportunities' given in Collective Worship, currently a legal requirement in all community schools.
At this special time it's my joy to bring you the Gospel message: He is risen
We begin our season of Lent on Ash Wednesday when the priest places the mark of the cross from ashes on our head, for me it is a sign that Jesus gave His life for me some two thousand years ago, and through Lent I feel that I want to give something of me in return. Lent reminds us of when the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, a time when He fasted, and a time where He was tempted by Satan. In life we all go through temptation, doing, saying things which might bring displeasure to our Lord, but of course we know that we have been saved by the blood of Christ crucified when our sins were forgiven by His saving death. Through Lent we make our personal pilgrimage towards Palm Sunday, the day of triumph, the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king; then through Holy Week, as Jesus prepared Himself for His passion; through the fellowship of the Last Supper, to the sadness of Good Friday. Of course, our journey has the great and victorious conclusion: the joy of Easter with the joy of resurrection. This year please think of what Jesus has done for you in your own life, and ask Him what you can give to Jesus in return. Fr. Lyndon
CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS 2009
(These articles were originally on the website for Christmas 2009 but due to technical difficulties they disappeared so they are now being resubmitted).
Rector Lyndon Harrison
In a recent survey in Leicester 840 people out of 1000, believed that Christmas should remain Christmas and not given some politcally correct name like Winter Holiday or Wintertime etc. Christmas is not about having a mid winter break from work, it is about the birth of a child some 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. A child who is the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. Christmas without the Christ is no celebration at all. Throughout the world Christians will meet to praise God for His Holy Child. Christmas is a time of great joy, but we must remember people who are waway from their families, the lonely, the homeless, the soldier on the front line in Afghanistan. Please remember them all in your prayers. Have a joyful and happy Christmas and may God Bless you all.
As I write this on the 1st December, I’ve just got back from my
first school Nativity Play and Concert of the season, at West End Infant school.
As always, the children were wonderful; very excited and enthusiastic. The nativity part of the afternoon was outstanding, simply because there was no script to follow. The teachers had told them the Christmas story and the children then shared their interpretation of the events of the first Christmas with us. It was faultless. There was Mary and Joseph, and the baby Jesus, the innkeeper, the shepherds, the angels, several stars and the wise men. Those who didn’t make it onto the stage became the massed choir. They all did brilliantly.
I came away thinking; ‘that is it now. There’s no going back. Christmas is coming.’ And there’s the problem. Christmas is coming. It isn’t here yet!
The season of Advent has only just begun and already our children are thinking ‘Christmas’. It’s not their fault. Neither is it the fault of our schools, who do a fantastic job. For weeks now the shops have been full of Christmas trappings and music. Every other advert on our TVs is to do with Christmas – ‘Order now to guarantee delivery before Christmas.’ We are left believing that we simply can’t manage this Christmas without this, or that, or the other. And all the time, this season of Advent is going unnoticed.
The hype of Christmas is retail based and I think it’s robbing our children, and us, of the full potential, not just of Advent, but of Christmas too. Advent is ignored and as a consequence there’s no opportunity to think about what is going to happen at the end of it. Nor is there the chance to consider what will happen when Jesus comes again at the Second Coming, at the Parousia, in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead.
And if we were allowed to wait properly for Christmas, I believe it would have more impact on everyone. As it is though, it gets diluted by going on for much too long, before and throughout Advent. By the time it does come around, most people are totally fed up with it. It’s exactly like celebrating the birth of a baby throughout the pregnancy, and as soon as the baby is born, totally ignoring it.
I really enjoyed the concert at West End today. The excitement of the children was contagious. I just wish that they could be exposed to the magic of anticipating the best Christmas present that any of them can ever receive.
I pray that you all have a lovely Christmas (when it comes) and a happy and healthy New Year.
This has been my first Christmas as an ordained, full-time minister and it has been a wonderful and very busy experience! I have thoroughly enjoyed the many school carol concerts and nativity plays which I have had the privilege to attend and I defy anyone not to have a tear in their eye as they watch the littlest of children tell the stroy of the birth of Jesus. Their enthusiasm and joy are quite something to behold and I found it to be infectious too!!! It seems to me such a shame that this wonder and joy seems to disappear almost as soon as Christmas is over. The children do believe in Jesus Christ but how do we keep their enthusiasm for Him throughout the whole year? Now there's a challenge!!!!
I have also had the great privilege of conducting 'Carol Services' in Cherry Tree Care Home and in the Day Hospital in Caldicot. These too were joyous occasions which are immensely appreciated by all the residents, patients and staff.
But, it is the Christian message of hope that is most tangible in the presence of all those who came to the wide variety of services in our churches over Christmas that inspires me most. My prayer is that they continue that hope and the feeling and knowledge that God is walking beside them every day of their lives, remembering that 'Jesus is for life - not just for Christmas'.
With love - God Bless
Articles that our Clergy have written for our Parish Magazine 'The Beacon'.
Your Rector Writes
Our web co-ordinator Beryl has gone for a much needed leave of absence, so I apologise that our site has not been updated recently, hurry back Beryl.
It has been a busy time in the benefice for all of us who have returned from our summer holidays. The clergy of the diocese have been on a week's conference in Lille France. This was a time for spiritual renewal, and reflection. We prayed for our diocese and for the world wide church. We also visited the war graves of Flanders. Ypres the battle ground where tens of thousands lost their lives in the horror of trench warfare in the first world war was an especially moving place. Photos soon.
The Children's committee, led by Fr. Den and our youth officer Pam, recently lay seige to our historical castle in Caldicot. Over 250 children filled the castle with laughter and songs of praise. Again photos will follow soon.
Our benefice harvest services were succesful and tins of food stuffs were collected for the homeless of Newport.
Our curate Annie is settling into her new ministry.
My daughter Sarah has been filmed for a faith programme on MONTV (see links)
she explains her feelings regarding her recent trip to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Sarah went on a day journey and for Sarah this was a real test of faith. Sarah's interview will be on MONTV in the next week or so.
School children have been using our site recently for their RE classes, and this brings us great pleasure.
Pray for us as we pray for you.
Recently ST. Mary's Church Caldicot was host to a special Churches Together event where the guest preacher was Terry Law. Terry is founder and president of World Compassion an international organisation which takes the Christian Gospel into some of the world's most difficult and dangerous places. World Compassion has taken the Gospel to the former Soviet Union and recently to countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. World Compassion has touched millions of people with the love of Christ offering both compassionate programs and ministries around the world. Terry with the aid of DVD illustrated his work and told us how he received God's call for this special work. Terry spoke of the increase in number of Christians in countries such as China and Africa and the dangers his ministry team face in area such as Baghdad. Terry's message for us in Caldicot was to build up our faith and the best way to do that is to reflect on all the things that God has already done for us and to give God thanks. It is always better to go before God in prayer giving thanks and praise than go straight in with a "shopping list" of things that we desire of God. The service ended with a time of prayer for healing. A TV programme was made of this service and will soon be on our link to MONTV.
Thinking of healing some of our congregation along with myself and Bishop Dominic recently travelled to Lourdes (see pilgrimage page). It is amazing to join thousands Christians from around the world coming to the holy shrine for healing and personal renewal. While there we prayed for the church back home and we give thanks to God for things He has already done. Bishop Dominic celebrated the Eucharist every day and we joined the crowd of thousands in the daily candle light procession. You can read Bishop Dominic's thoughts on Lourdes in the diocesan newsletter or on the Church in Wales web site. We travelled from Wales to France to be at the place where great healing miracles have taken place, Terry travelled from the USA to bring his healing ministry to us. The Christian Church is indeed a moving church a church that should always be refreshed by streams of living waters, a church that should never be stagnant. A church that must be alive with fhe prayers and praise of those who follow Christ.
For all those who are preparing for their summer holidays, enjoy yourselves and have a well earned rest.
Being a parish priest and doing ones best to ‘be there’ when needed, I dread the phone ringing anytime after about 10:00pm. Human nature is such that we assume the worst, and image that someone has been taken ill and rushed into hospital. This is also the case, being a father and grandfather, or for anyone with aged, and increasingly infirm parents. So when the phone rang at 10:20pm one Monday evening in mid April, I left ‘News at Ten’ and approached the phone with trepidation. On the other end was our World Mission Officer, Irene Doull. Irene and Iain were hosting a visitor from our link Diocese in South Africa. Daphne was in Wales for a family wedding, and specifically requested to come out to visit us because of our strong relationship with the Diocese of the Highveld and more specifically, with our link parish of St. Peter’s Chain’s in Katlehong. We arranged for them both to come out to Portskewett on the following morning for the 10:15am parish Eucharist, to which also come years five and six from Archbishop Rowan William’s School. This was my inside of a week off after Easter, and Pam had agreed to lead the service on Tuesday, which suited everyone very well. Pam loves to take the service, and the staff and pupils love to see her. Irene and Daphne were made welcome by everyone in church that morning, whilst I stayed home and tidied around a bit, waiting for them to come back after the service for coffee. When they came back, accompanied by Moira and Frances the churchwardens, we spent a very pleasant hour chatting about our link, and of how important it is to us. Daphne was able to reassure us that our love and prayers for St. Peter’s Chain’s and the Highveld are very much appreciated down there in South Africa. Irene and Daphne then left to go to Archbishop Rowan William’s School to give a gift that Daphne had brought from home. It was humbling to learn that Daphne had specifically asked to visit us during her short (and private) visit to Wales. Her commitment to the link should inspire all of us to do whatever we can to strengthen our link with our friends in South Africa. We are currently seeking to determine how we can show our concern for them in a more tangible way, which is not to say that our prayers are not important and very much valued. It would be fantastic if we could one day invite someone from St. Peter’s Chain’s to come and spend more than just a couple of hours in the Benefice of Caldicot. So if you ring the vicarage after 10:00pm, be prepared for me to pick the phone up expecting only bad news, and then listen for the relief in my voice, especially if you are the bearer of good tidings as happened that evening back in the middle of April.
We are all excited by the prospect of welcoming our new curate Annie Church who will be ordained as a deacon by Bishop Dominic in ST. Woolos' Cathedral at Petertide. Annie is of course no stranger to the Benefice, during her first year of study in ST. Michael's College Llandaff Cardiff, Annie was sent to us on a year placement. Everyone enjoyed Annie's warmth and her enthusiasm was contagious. A coach will be arranged for clergy and parishioners to travel to Newport for the ordination. Also being ordained as a priest is another student from ST. Mike's who had a placement with us. Since leaving us Revd. Victoria Ashley is enjoying her deacon year in the parish of ST. George Tredegar. Victoria, like Annie gave us great blessings during her time with us. Victoria is a huge fan of Cliff Richard, and she has already booked her tickets to see Cliff in concert in Cardiff later this year. So thinking of Cliff's big hit, we say Congratulations to both Annie and Victoria, and may God Bless them, and all those others being ordained into God's service.
Fr Lyndon - March
"What shall we call the band?" Lots of muttering between band members. "We should have a name... so what's it going to be" Band members look at one another with blank faces. "All bands have a name, so what shall we call ourselves?" "Well one thing we can say the way this practice is going we'll never be as good as Led Zeppelin" The band members nod their frustrated heads at one another. The vicar forwards some useless information "Keith Moon of the Who, once told Jimmy Page the guitarist, who was starting a new band, that his new band would go down like lead balloon, his new band liked the sound of it and called themselves Led Zeppelin" The band look at their priest with signs of frustration. "We will never be as good as Led Zeppelin we are more like a lead balloon" The band stare at one another. "Yes that's it we are Led Balloon"
Led Balloon are not a heavy metal band, but more a Praise & Worship band, and as Sgt. Pepper once said: may I introduce to you its members. On guitar, lead vocals and compare is Steve (he still thinks that one day they will find a better name), on key board is Dorothy, Joanne plays guitar, Nick's on violin, Emily our youngest member is on clarinet and sax, vocals come from Bob, Heini and Cynthia being a Lay Reader gives the homilies, and interacts with the congregation with talks and prayers. Ernie (Dorothy's husband) and Mark (Joanne’s husband) are the soundmen and chief cooks etc. We also have guest appearances of young musicians, Jack on sax and Lucy and Emily on recorders. The band came about when Cynth felt a family service was needed in the afternoon, a service with a difference, a band lead service. She looked around our church and realised the musical talent was already there, a church member donated a keyboard, and rehearsals began. The family services which are held once a month are well attended and are greatly enjoyed by all, Led Balloon included. Recently they also gave an alternative worship service for Lent, a most enjoyable gig.
There is need in our church for a variety of services, the traditional organ music which we find in our Communion services, and also services which are more free expression. Led Balloon may not be as famous as Zeppelin but their hope is that you will be inspired and find a new and refreshing way to worship God.
The Bells of St Mary's
by Fr Lyndon - February
Recently, we opened Caldicot's St Mary's Church and bell tower to visitors. The open day was organised by our team of bell ringers, who enthusiastically allowed visitors to try their hand at both the large tower bells and also the hand bells. This event will soon be aired on Faith in Monmouthshire on MONTV. Campanology (bell ringing) is a traditional part of the music heritage of our country, and it is the sound of God's church to communities up and down our land. The oldest bell in our tower is the tenor bell, she is called Mary, and Mary is quite an old girl. She was cast in 1450, and she is famous for her decorative inscription. Mary has got seven younger sisters, and they all came into being in the 1850's. Our bells are said to be the best peel in the county. All the visitors had a good time, and all future visitors will be made most welcome. If there's anyone who like to try their hand at ringing why not get in touch with us. You need not be musical, you don't need to be able to read music, you just need to enjoy the company of new friends, and have a sense of fun. Next time you pass a church and hear a peel remember that you are hearing music that has been part of our heritage for hundreds of years. At weddings the bells are ringing for ‘me and my girl’, on Sundays they tell us that God's Church is ready for worship Their sound tells us that the Church is alive, it is active and the Church of God is proclaiming a message of Good News.
Written by Fr Dennis - January2008 was to have been the year when the 5-year diocesan link with the Highveld came to an end. It was to prove to be a very significant year for many involved with our friends in South Africa. On a personal level, we in the Benefice of Caldicot will be eternally grateful for our link person, Lillian Chimpini at St. Peter’s Chains in Katlehong, our link parish. Lillian keeps us up to date with events in Katlehong and in the Highveld generally. We regularly receive from Lillian news on events, and wonderfully crafted PowerPoint presentations, which we then post on our web page, and sometimes, run on a laptop during our services in the benefice. With Lillian, Irene Doull, our Diocesan World Mission Officer, and the other Link Committee members, we continue to feel truly involved in the life and ministry of the wider Christian Church. 2008 started quietly enough – the usual good wishes – and assurance of prayers from our brothers and sisters in St. Peter’s Chain’s, then in February the news that Fr. Sindile Sithole, the Rector of St. Peter’s Chain’s had suddenly and tragically died, leaving a young widow Princess, and two young children, a daughter Thando which translates as ‘love’ and a son Luvuyo – ‘rejoice’. Fr. Sindile died on the 2nd February, but had already written a Lenten message for the people of St. Peter’s Chain’s and I was able to share his words with the congregation at the Requiem Mass that was held for him at Portskewett Church on 22nd February. Archdeacon Glyndwr celebrated and all our benefice team took part in the service. We are assured by Lillian that our prayers prior to and during the service were a great comfort to our friends in St. Peter’s Chain’s, and though it was a truly awful time, it proved that our prayers, support and love for one another is very worthwhile. As Christ’s love sustains us, so our love for one another can hold us up when life gets tough. The year held another sting when Bp. David also died soon after attending the Lambeth Conference, and we as a diocese will continue to be grateful for all that Bp. David achieved in his life and ministry.was fitting that, at the Diocesan Conference in October, conference voted unanimously to renew our link with the Highveld for a further 5 years. So much has been achieved in the past 5 years, and there is much more that can, and will be done. Here’s to the next five years. Thank God for our friends.
Fr Dennis, Vicar, Rectorial Benefice of Caldicot
This is a very busy time of year for most people a time to think about buying gifts, thinking of family and friends, all that is preparing for Christmas. This too is a busy time for the Church, because we are entering the season of Advent, a time of penitence, a time of preparation, as we begin a spiritual journey that takes us to Bethlehem and the nativity of Our Lord. Two years ago I journeyed on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem and felt the power of God in a very special way in the Church of the Nativity, an experience I shall never forget. This year my Bethlehem experience will be the services in Church, the Midnight Mass, celebrating Communion on Christmas Day. It will also be the journey through Advent, the Carols in the Castle and the Candlelight procession that proceeds it. We have produced a special Calender for 2009 with illustrations of our Church, we hope you will receive one, so that throughout the year you will remember us, as we pray for you. This year, I invite you all to our Advent and Christmas services and I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Fr Lyndon Harrison, Rector of the Rectorial Benefice of Caldicot