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Advent 2018

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

Advent is the name given to the four-week period before 25th December when people prepare to celebrate Christmas. It is often a time of frantic rushing around as we all get caught up in writing cards, buying presents, putting up the Christmas tree, and buying and cooking all the festive food.

However for Christians, Advent can also be a time of a different kind of preparation, a different kind of getting ready. It can also be about an inner preparation – a preparation of the heart and mind – a time for quiet, space, reflection, prayer and waiting – a spiritual preparation as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus – for many of us, the true meaning of their Christmas celebrations.

In order to help us enter more fully into this different time of preparation, we are holding a Parish Advent Study Course which will be focusing on the themes of time and of waiting entitled So What Are You Waiting For. The Course will begin on Tuesday 20th November and will be held in the Worship Centre. Everyone is very welcome to come along. Further details can be found below:

If being in a study group is not your cup of tea, then the Church of England has once more published 14 daily reflections to help people engage with the Christmas story. The theme this year is #FollowTheStar and the aim to encourage each one of us to follow Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men to undertake a life-changing journey to Bethlehem. Each reflection includes a picture, a short Bible passage, a simple prayer and a challenge to reflect or act differently. You can find out more details and download the reflections by going to www.churchofengland.org/Christmas

We will also, of course, be holding our own Advent and Christmas celebrations at Furzebank – do come and celebrate with us!:

Sunday 2nd December, 6.30 pm – Advent United Praise at Holy Trinity Church

Sunday 9th December, 11.00 am – Christingle Service

Sunday 16th December, 6.00 pm – Carols By Candlelight with Short Heath Junior School Choir

Monday 24th December, 11.30 pm – Midnight Mass

Tuesday 25th December, 11.00 am – Christmas Day All-Age Holy Communion Service

So as you prepare for Christmas, may I wish you and your loved ones a happy and holy season; and may the peace, joy and hope of the Christ-child be with you.

St Giles Bereavement Help Point

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

If you are familiar with our church logo, you will know that we have as our tag-line: “Serving Our Community… the Church at Rosedale School.” One of the most important aspects of being a church is, I believe, a commitment to helping others; and this month, Furzebank Worship Centre will be embarking upon an important project – working with St. Giles’ Hospice and the Short Heath Federation to set up a Bereavement Help Point.

Bereavement Help Points are the creation of St. Giles’ Hospice. They are to be found all over the Lichfield, Walsall and the surrounding areas and their aim is to provide a listening ear and practical information and support to anyone who has been bereaved. Our Bereavement Help Point will be starting on Friday 19th October and will take place every Friday morning from 10.00 am to 12.00 noon. It will be staffed by volunteers from the church, school, and St. Giles; and it is open to anyone whose loved one has passed away whether recently or many years ago – they don’t need to have been connected to St. Giles for you to come along.

If you would like further information, please do phone (07972 523162) or email (revhelen.duckett@gmail.com) me; and if you know of someone whom you think would benefit from such a group, then please do let them know.

Revd. Helen Duckett.

King David

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

During the Summer Holidays, we will be running a series of Messy Church activities focusing upon that great Old Testament character – the shepherd boy, David, who became king and ruler of God’s people.

King David is a figure who appeals to children – especially in the tales of his early life where we hear about him wrestling with the lions and bears who are attacking his flocks of sheep; and, of course, fighting and defeating the huge giant, Goliath. But David is also a figure who can appeal to adults too. He had a strong faith in God, an intimate and spiritual relationship with his Creator – he was the composer of many of the Psalms, especially Psalm 23 – “The Lord’s My Shepherd” – one of the most well-loved and well-known Psalms, even today. David also had a strong emotional bond and friendship with Jonathan, the son of Saul, Israel’s previous king; and he grieved and mourned deeply when Jonathan was killed on the battle-field. And as King, he won many famous victories, he established a kingdom, and he restored and rebuilt the city of Jerusalem –making it his capital and moving to Jerusalem, the Ark of the Covenant – that sacred symbol of God’s presence with Israel.

However, as well as being a great King, a great spiritual and national leader, David was also a man who could be deeply flawed at times; a man who made significant mistakes that were far-reaching in their consequences and brought tragedy to many people. Perhaps the most well-known of these was his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba who became pregnant with David’s child. To prevent news of their relationship reaching Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, David deliberately ordered Uriah to be sent into a ferocious battle, knowing Uriah would be slaughtered in the fighting. Then, when Uriah was killed, David married Bathsheba – undeterred by the fact that he was responsible for Uriah’s death – a responsibility tantamount to murder…

David later repented of his actions, but his initial decisions and choices reveal a man who was an extremely complex character – a man capable of tremendous faith and spiritual insight; but a man who could also leave destruction and misery in his wake.

I suspect, it is this very fact that David is presented as being such a complicated character that makes him someone who appeals to adults, as well as to children. Because in David’s story we see God at work in a real, three-dimensional human being – not a picture-perfect human being, but a human being who is more like us; a human being who is capable of making wise and foolish decisions; a human being who can rise to great heights but also plummet to great lows; a human being who one minute can feel incredibly close to God and who can desire nothing more than to do God’s will and who the next minute, can make disastrous and tragic choices and who can want nothing more than his/hers own selfish desires. And because God could be present with, and work through, someone like David; then we too can have hope that God can be present with, and work through, someone like us. The story of David shows us that none of us is beyond the transforming power of God, none of us is beyond the mercy of God, none of us is beyond the love of God.

So if you are a parent / carer of young children, can I invite you to bring them to learn more about David at our Messy Church activities (we will be omitting the story of Bathsheba!) which will be taking place from Monday 6th August to Thursday 9th. More details can be found on our Facebook page. And if you are an adult, and you wish to read more about David’s life, you can find his story beginning in 1 Samuel 17, continuing throughout 2 Samuel, and ending in 1 Kings 2.

An Easter message

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

During the past couple of months, a small bunch of snow-drops have been flowering in my front garden. Despite the dreadful winter weather which we have had recently, these snow-drops have stood steadfast and resolute – their tiny white petals peeping out above the snow and ice as a small sign of the approaching Spring – a sign of hope, of new life that the darkness and cold will eventually past and the days will become brighter and warmer.

 

In this part of the world, when Christians speak about Holy Week and Easter they often use images from nature, and particularly of Spring, as a way of speaking about Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Winter, when the ground all around is hard, life-less and frost-bitten, it is hard to believe that anything will ever grow. But of course, under the soil, there is life – seeds and bulbs are changing and growing and eventually, as Spring approaches a tiny stem, a tiny flower emerges – small and vulnerable perhaps, but new life nonetheless – just like the snowdrops in my garden.

 

Similarly, as Christians reflect on Jesus’ pain, suffering and death on the cross they also, alongside the anguish of the crucifixion, hold onto the hope and the joy of Jesus’ resurrection; hold onto the belief that no matter how horrible and painful and tragic life can be at times, pain, and sickness, and suffering and even death are not the end – they will never, ever, have the final say. In the cross and resurrection of Jesus, Christians believe that we see a God who is right there with us – right there in the suffering and the pain; but also a God who can raise us up out of that suffering; raise us up out of the pain; and can bring us new life, new hope, a new future…

 

For me, nowhere is the imagery of Spring and of Jesus’ resurrection depicted so beautifully as in the hymn Now The Green Blade Riseth, written by John Macleod Crumb (1972-1958):

 

Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

 

In the grave they laid Him, Love who had been slain,
Thinking that He never would awake again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

 

Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain,
Jesus who for three days in the grave had lain;
Quick from the dead the risen One is seen:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

 

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.

 

So as we enter into the holidays, may I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Easter; and may you catch some glimpses of the hope, the promise and the joy of Spring.

 

Revd. Helen Duckett.

 

Lent

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

During the Church of England’s service for Ash Wednesday, there is a moment in the liturgy where people are encouraged to receive ‘the imposition of ashes’ – the sign of the cross in ash on their foreheads – and as they do so, the following words are said to them: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.’

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent – a season of penitence and of self-discipline – a time of preparation for Holy Week and for Easter. For many people, this time of year is associated with ‘giving things up’ – a chance, perhaps, to take up again those resolutions that we made at the start of the year in January and which have already fallen by the wayside!

However as the words from the Ash Wednesday service, make clear, Lent is, I believe, about more than ‘giving things up’. For me, it is actually about reflecting upon our lives and upon what gives them meaning and value; it is an opportunity to think about our priorities, about what matters most to us; and to try to find a way to make the most of the life which has been gifted to us. The words, ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return’, are words which remind us of our mortality; that none of us will live forever; and so our time on earth should be a time when we seek to live life in all its fullness – a fullness which, Christians believe, can only be found in God and in Jesus Christ.

If all of this seems rather sombre and daunting, let me recommend to you a campaign which will be launched this Lent by the Church of England. It follows on from a similar campaign from Advent which was entitled #GodWithUs. This new campaign for Lent is called #LiveLent – Let Your Light Shine. It offers a short Bible reading and reflection for each day of Lent and its aim is to help people address two questions: (1) ‘How can I receive God’s life more fully?’          (2) How can I live God’s life more generously, imaginatively and joyfully, in such a way that others can see it, hear it and take hold of it themselves?’

You can buy the book or receive the daily reflections by mobile phone, email or through the #LiveLent app. For further details, visit the Church of England’s web-site: www.churchofengland.org/lent

If daily reflections are not your preferred way of marking Lent, we are also running a five week Lent course – Exploring The Void. This is based upon the film, ‘Touching The Void’ – a true-life story of two mountain climbers’ fight for survival when disaster strikes during an expedition in the Andes. Everyone is very welcome to come to this course which begins on Tuesday 27th February. For further details, see our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/furzebankworship

We will also, of course, be holding our own Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday 14th February at 7.30 pm.

However you choose to mark it, may I wish you a holy and meaningful Lent.

 

Revd. Helen Duckett.

Mission Action Plan

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

The beginning of a new year is a time for looking forward and at Furzebank Worship Centre we will be spending January, February and March thinking about the future ministry and mission of our church and our vision and priorities for the next three years.

All churches in the Diocese of Lichfield are encouraged to formulate a Mission Action Plan (M.A.P.) – an outline of the direction in which they feel their congregation is being led by God and a summary of the actions and plans they feel God is calling them to develop and to put in place. The idea is that congregations focus on their worship, spiritual growth and pastoral care of one another and also on their outreach and mission to the wider community. The emphasis is on everyone from the church coming together to think and to pray about their M.A.P. and to work together to create a vision for the future – not just the vicar and members of the church council. Everyone is part of the church and therefore everyone should be involved in its’ future…

At Furzebank Worship Centre, this coming together and consulting with one another has been our practice for many years; and so as we begin the process of discernment and guidance yet again, I would encourage us all to think deeply and prayerfully about where God may be calling us and about God’s priorities for us and for the area we are called to serve.

To help us in this process, we have a number of important discussions and meetings taking place:

Firstly, from 9th January to 13th February, we will be holding an extended Prayer Group every Tuesday in the Worship Centre – beginning at our usual time of 7.00 pm but continuing until 7.45 pm.

During the Sunday morning services on 14th January, 28th January and 11th February, we will use the ‘sermon slot’ as a time for discussion and a sharing of ideas.

On Sunday 21st January, Libby Leech from the Diocese’s ‘Reaching New Generations’ Team will be coming to preach and to help us think about how we can build on our existing work with children and their families.

On Thursday 8th February and Thursday 15th February, there will be open meetings of the District Church Council to which everyone is welcome as take the ideas gathered from the Sunday morning discussions and begin to put out M.A.P. together.

A draft M.A.P. will be presented to the congregation on Sunday 4th March for comment.

On Thursday 8th March, a completed and finalised M.A.P. will be agreed at the District Church Council Meeting before being formally presented at the Annual General Meeting on 22nd March.

 

As you can see from this time-table, there is a lot of work to be done; but at the Church Council, we have agreed that we need to be as thorough and as wide-ranging in our discussions as possible so that as many people as possible can take part and their voices can be heard.

And, of course, underlying everything must be prayer. For it is God’s plans and priorities for Furzebank that we need to try and understand – not ours.

So as we enter into this new year and into this time of discernment for our church, can I encourage you to come along to the different meetings and discussions and be a part of what is going on; and can I ask you all for your prayers for us all as we seek God’s will and God’s purposes for Furzebank Worship Centre.

 

A Mission Action Planning Prayer

God of Mission
who alone brings growth to your Church
send your Holy Spirit to give
vision to our planning
wisdom to our actions
and power to our witness.
Help your church to grow
in numbers
in spiritual commitment to you
and in service to your world
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Published by the Diocese of Sheffield and adapted from a Leading Your Church into Growth Collect for From Evidence to Action Conference.

 

Revd. Helen Duckett.

Getting Ready for Christmas

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

When does Christmas begin for you? For many people, it has traditionally been the moment they put up their Christmas tree or write their first card or buy and wrap the first Christmas present.  However, in the last few years, the beginning of Christmas has, in the eyes of many people in this country, been linked to advertising and the media and especially to the launch of the John Lewis Christmas advert! This year’s is no exception and features Moz the monster who lives under a little boy’s bed – although, according to some people, it has been given a run for its money by the M & S advert starring Paddington Bear!

 

Advent is the name given to the four-week period before 25th December when Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas; and despite all the frantic rushing around that we all get caught up in, Advent, as a season, points to a different kind of preparation, a different kind of getting ready. It is about an inner preparation – a preparation of the heart and mind – a time for quiet, space, reflection, prayer and waiting – a spiritual preparation for Christians, as they prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus – the true meaning of their Christmas celebrations. That is why, Furzebank Worship Centre and Holy Trinity Church are organising a Quiet Morning as a way of helping us enter into this aspect of Advent. It will be taking place on Saturday 2nd December, 10.00 am – 12.00 noon, at Holy Trinity Church. Everyone is very welcome and further details can be found on our Facebook page.

 

If quiet mornings are not your thing, then you might find the new campaign by the Church of England useful. Entitled, #GodWithUs, it features regular texts and emails which you can receive throughout Advent as a way of helping you to pray and reflect. More information can be found on the website: https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/godwithus-christmas-2017/godwithus-resources

The Church of England’s campaign reflects the fact that the constant refrain of Christmas in all the carols and Bible readings that we sing and hear at this time of year, is that ‘God Is With Us’. In Jesus, Christians believe, God becomes human and enters into our world, and takes on all the joy and the pain, the happiness and the sorrow, the laughter and the tears that life can bring; and therefore, in Jesus, we see a God who is not removed from us or from our lives but a God who gets stuck in; a God who is right in the middle of all that is going on; a God offering us peace, strength, courage, forgiveness, love – wherever we are and whatever situations we may find ourselves in.

 

So however you prepare to celebrate Christmas, may I wish you and your loved ones a happy and holy season and may the joy and peace of God be with you.

Harvest

Friday, October 6th, 2017

These past few weeks have seen the news headlines dominated by stories of people’s lives being completely devastated and overwhelmed by the different natural disasters which have occurred throughout our world: The flooding in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Texas; Hurricanes Irma and Maria which have swept across the Caribbean; and the earthquakes in Mexico. At least 1,200 people have lost their lives in Asia alone and millions have been left homeless.
When we see the pictures of these natural disasters on our T.V. screens, or read about them in the newspapers, our hearts go out to all those ordinary women, men and children, people like you and me, who have been caught up in events which are completely out of their control; who have lost so much and who are struggling to see any hope for their future. We are also reminded once more, of our common human frailty and vulnerability in the face of such huge forces of nature; and of the difficult and shameful fact that when faced with such forces, it is often the weakest, the poorest, the most marginalised in our world, who suffer the most.
Such an awareness provides us perhaps with a perspective from which to approach our Harvest celebrations for this year. In common with many churches and schools throughout the country, this time of year, as we enter into Autumn, marks the season for Harvest; and at Furzebank we will be holding our Harvest Festival Service on Sunday 8th October at 11.00 am.
Harvest is a festival in which we celebrate the beauty and wonder of creation; in which we give thanks to God for all the blessings and gifts we receive from our world; and in which we commit ourselves, once more, to being good stewards of our planet Earth – treasuring our environment and working for a just and fair distribution of all the world’s resources amongst all its peoples. It is also a festival in which we acknowledge that even in our 21st century technologically advanced society, we are not as in control as we like to think we are; that we are creatures who inhabit our planet alongside all the other wondrous and diverse creatures and species which God has made; that we owe our existence to each other and to our Creator; and that our lives are completely inter-dependent and reliant upon our relationships with the rest of the natural world.
That is why in our Harvest Festival at Furzebank, we will worship God and celebrate alongside one another; and we will also come bringing our own gifts of food to share with those people in our community who need it at this time – all donations given at our service will go to the Black Country Foodbank based at the Bridging the Gap Shop in Willenhall. Our ‘Black Country’ Harvest Supper Evening on Saturday 14th October will likewise be an evening of fun – singing and a fish and chip supper – but will also be an occasion for raising funds for the Bridging the Gap Shop itself – a reflection that Harvest is always about celebration AND sharing; about receiving AND giving.
For further details about our Harvest Service and Harvest Supper, please go onto our Facebook page – everyone is welcome as we give thanks to God for all God’s blessings and goodness; and as we seek to share those blessings with others. In the words of one of the Church of England’s prayers of blessing for Harvest:
May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is the source of all goodness and growth,
pour his blessing upon all things created,
and upon you his children,
that you may use his gifts to the glory and the welfare of all peoples…

Summer Holidays

Monday, July 10th, 2017

As I write this it is the morning of the Fourth Round of Wimbledon and at the moment we still have two Brits in the running for the title – Andy Murray and Jo Konta – I thought I would write this now, not later on in the tournament – there’s no point in tempting fate!

Tennis is one of the few sports which I enjoy watching; and Wimbledon, is, for me, one of those events which marks the official arrival of the summer season. We’ve been blessed this year with particularly lovely weather and it has been wonderful to be outside and to enjoy the sun; and, in common, with many people who work and study at school and college, I am also on the countdown to the six week school holiday – only nine more ‘get-ups’ to go!

I remember when I was a child that the school summer holidays seemed incredibly endless – amazingly, the days seemed to stretch out and to go on and on – a time of lazing around and enjoying not having particularly much to do. Now I’m a grown-up and have to do lots of other things to fill my time – not least, my work at Furzebank – the six week stretch seems to fly by and to be almost over as soon as it’s begun! However, I am fortunate in that I will be having some time off with my family and the chance to go on holiday and to get away from it all. These opportunities are really important – to be able to spend quality moments with Keith, Charlotte and Louis; for us all to be able to relax away from all the pressures of work and of school; and to be able to enjoy one another’s company without the demands of work and study hanging over all the time.

 

Whether we go away on holiday or simply enjoy time relaxing at home, it is important for our mental and physical health to have times of rest and relaxation. It is also, I believe, important for our spiritual health as well. In the recent Soul Spark Course that some of us have been undertaking at Furzebank, we have talked a lot about the important of making time to be still and to reflect, and of making space for God and listening for God’s voice. In the busyness of our daily lives, the still, small voice of God can often be drowned out; and it is often when we are on holiday and enjoying a break, that God is finally able to get a word in edgeways and we can benefit from more time to pray and read the Bible and to focus on God’s love and desire for us to experience life in all its fullness.

 

During his earthly ministry, Jesus made it a priority to escape the demands of the crowds – even the demands of his own disciples – and sought out places of quiet where he could pray and be alone with God. The Gospels are full of verses describing Jesus doing this; and if he, the Son of God, needed opportunities for prayer and rest, how much more do we!

 

So whatever you are doing this Summer – whether you are going away or enjoying time at home; let us pray that each one of us will be able to find moments to be still, to be peaceful and to listen to God’s voice of love speaking to us and surrounding us with kindness, mercy and grace.

 

Wishing you all ‘A Very Happy Summer Holiday!’

 

Revd. Helen Duckett.

A message for Pentecost

Friday, May 19th, 2017

On Sunday 4th June, Christians all over the world will be celebrating the festival of Pentecost. It occurs fifty days after Easter Day and is a time when we recall the story in the Acts of the Apostles of the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples following the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus; the birth of the early church; and the beginning of the good news of the gospel being proclaimed to the world.

 

Following on from last year’s initiative, the Archbishop of Canterbury has once more called on congregations across England and throughout the Anglican Communion to mark Pentecost by committing to focus particularly on prayer – an initiative entitled, “Thy Kingdom Come”. Christians are being asked to particularly pray for any individuals they may know whom they would like to come to faith; and in our Benefice, we are responding to the call by leading a six week short course written by Nick Helm on spirituality and different ways of praying – “Soul Spark”. Many Christians, including me, would say that they often struggle with prayer – especially personal prayer. The aim of “Soul Spark” is to introduce people to different styles and forms of prayer in the hope that they might find something helpful which they can take back with them into their daily lives.

 

The outline of the course is as follows:

Session One – Approaching Spirituality – an introduction to the course and to its experiential approach.

Session Two – Getting To Know God Better – exploring the journey of faith and our developing relationship with God.

Session Three – Who Am I? – focusing on our identity in God.

Session Four – Who Is God To Me? – paying attention to the reality of God’s grace at work in our lives.

Session Five – Called To Become – thinking about discernment and how we make right choices.

Session Six – Where Am I Going? – spiritual resources for continuing along the road of the journey of life.

 

“Soul Spark” will start in the week beginning 5th June and will be held at Holy Trinity on Tuesday afternoons; at Furzebank Worship Centre on Tuesday evening; and at Emmanuel, Bentley on Thursday afternoons.

 

Everyone is welcome, and don’t worry if you haven’t done this sort of our course before – when it comes to prayer, we are all ‘amateurs’ and can all learn from each other!

 

A Prayer For Pentecost – taken from Common Worship:

 

O Holy Spirit, sent by the Father,

ignite in us your holy fire;

revive your Church with the breath of love,

and renew the face of the earth,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Revd. Helen Duckett