From our Clergy

Last edited by webmaster on 23 October 2017 - 11:51am

     


From our Vicar, the Revd Paul Mason:


Letter for November 2017

Dear friends

This month is when we and the rest of the country hold Remembrance Day Services. As time goes by there are less and less who were living during the Second World War and even less who remember the days of the First World War. However it is good just to stop and remember. Great sacrifices were made by so many and the freedoms that we enjoy today have come at great cost. The sufferings of war are incomprehensible. War is a shame on our humanity but is sometimes a necessary evil. The youth of today often get a bad press but in my experience today’s youth DO appreciate what Remembrance Sunday is all about and enter into the spirit of the day. It is good to see children and young people at our cenotaph for the two minutes silence. They may have no personal memories but they do appreciate the significance of the moment. Long may that be for it is all too easy to get so involved with the here and now with little thought of our history.

I sometimes wonder what we have done with the freedom that was won for us. There is no doubt that materially we are better off now than we’ve ever been. The great strides in technology over the last 60 years have been almost unbelievable but the spiritual life of our nation has never been poorer. In some ways that is shown by the significant drop in church attendance that is seen today but that I’m sure is just a symptom of the underlying poverty of the nation’s spiritual health.

God has been pushed to the margins of society. Technology rules but technology only meets the physical and mental needs that we have. Only God can meet the deep spiritual needs that we all have as human beings.

It was St. Augustine, one of the great early Christian theologians, who in the 4th Century wrote these famous words ‘You have made us for yourself O Lord and our heart is restless until it rests in You’. It is what marks us out from the animal world. Our faith as Christians is how in Christ we can have a relationship with God, a relationship that meets those deep spiritual needs. Like the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom, so Christ made the ultimate sacrifice that we might have the freedom to know and love God. I hope you will be able to join us on Remembrance Sunday 12th November at 10.00 am for our Service when we will be joined as usual by members of the Royal British Legion.

This is also the month when we have our Annual Memorial Service. I send letters of invite to all the families for whom I or Gail and Anne have conducted funerals over the past twelve months. However this is a service open to all. It may be that this year is a special anniversary for one of your loved ones. If you wish to remember them this year at a special service then do come along on Saturday 4th November at 11.00am. We will remember our servicemen on Remembrance Sunday. We remember our loved ones at the Memorial Service. You will receive a warm but sensitive welcome.

Your friend and vicar

Paul


Letter for October 2017

Dear friends

I don’t often use my mobile phone because I don’t use it for church business. Very few people know my mobile number and long may that continue. However if I do ever take out my phone it often causes some mild amusement. Why? - you may ask. Well my mobile is so old and old fashioned it could have come out of the ark compared to modern iPhones. It is a Nokia that I have had for many years. I love it. It does what it says on the tin – it is a mobile telephone. It sends calls and receives calls. It can send texts and receive texts and that’s about it. It isn’t a camera. It can’t connect to the internet. It is a good old fashioned mobile phone. I was even able to speak to my mum when I was sailing down one of the Norwegian Fjords recently. I still find that mind blowing but compared to today’s modern hi tech phones it is very old fashioned. It doesn’t mean though that I am old fashioned with all modern technology. I do have an iPad that I must confess I’m a bit addicted to. I use it as a computer, to do my emailing, to watch TV- especially sport, to go on Facebook and one of my favourites – YouTube.

If you are not familiar with You Tube it enables you to watch videos on countless subjects at anytime at just the press of a couple of buttons. I use it a lot for watching sermons, talks and presentations from a whole host of different speakers/preachers from very conservative Christians through to very liberal Christians through to atheists and Christians who have lost their faith. I love being challenged by other points of view and I was watching recently a presentation by a man who was a Roman Catholic priest, who had moved a long way from the traditional view of God and Christian doctrine and was expressing a view of God that was influenced mainly by science rather than the Bible and Tradition. Despite this very different idea of God (which I haven’t space to go into here) there was still a huge sense of awe and wonder at our world and indeed the whole universe whose vastness is totally beyond our comprehension. Some of the facts he shared blew me away and I thought was very relevant this month as we have our Harvest and call to mind the wonders of creation.

Let these figures blow you away:

There are 60,000,000,000,000 cells in the human body. Each cell is made up of approximately one thousand million million million million atoms. Each cell makes about 2,000 proteins per second, and each protein is made up of several hundred amino acids. Each of the 60 trillion cells is selecting between 100,000 and 500,000 amino acids per second, organising them, joining them, checking them and sending them out to work! Wow!

Our bodies are a community of 60 trillion individuals who work together to create the community of our bodies and not one of them think about it! The speed with which activating processes spread through the body is beyond explanation by biophysics and chemistry. It is beyond anything the human mind can comprehend. Wow! Wow! Wow!

What can I say? What can you say?

Your friend and vicar
 
Paul

Letter for September 2017

Dear friends

It is an unwritten rule that the two topics you don’t discuss in the pub are religion and politics. Why? I guess it is because they can be very controversial and can create a lot of passion and strong feelings. People can take opposite views on either subject but both subjects are of major important in human existence. They both affect people and impinge on life in a very major way. Politics and religion together affect all parts of our lives- physical, mental and spiritual. The controversy of course is how best to achieve the goals that politics and religion set? To achieve the goal politically do you go for a capitalist model, or a socialist model or even a communist model? That is where you get political divides. In the world of religion/faith do you go for a high church or a low church or a liberal or a catholic or an evangelical? Does faith depend on the Bible or the Church or reason or a mixture in different proportions? Again you can see how there are so many differences and for most the choice is an accident of birth. We are Church of England because we were brought up Church of England. We are Methodist because... We are Catholic because... and so on. How much do you think about faith? Why do you believe what you believe? Why are you a Christian? Why do you follow Jesus? Why not Mohammed or the Buddha? Why are you not an Atheist even? Are you able to give a reason for the hope that is within you?

I would want to encourage you to think seriously about your faith – to ask questions that may be uncomfortable to ask but need to be asked for the sake of honesty. The internet has opened up the world of faith like never before. Use it – challenge yourself – in doing so I trust that you will find God in a new way, in an exciting way, in a challenging way.

They also say that you should never mix religion and politics. As a clergyman should I speak from the world of faith to the world of politics? Both are about people – their lives, their hopes, their dreams and so of course the world of faith does have things to say about the world of politics. Of course they mix - faith affects you, politics affects you- how can they not mix? One major roll of the politician is to maintain peace in an increasingly troubled world. In my lifetime there have been two occasions when there has been a real fear of what might happen. One was during the time of the cold war with the nuclear threat from the then USSR. That passed as communism fell but the next occasion is right now. There is the permanent fear of terrorism (I write the day after the Barcelona massacre) but also there is the very real fear that Mr Trump will press the nuclear button. I haven’t come across anyone in England who supports President Trump. Everything I hear this side of the pond about Trump is negative and yet half the people in America wanted him as their President. The mind boggles! The vast majority of the ‘Bible believing’, evangelical Christians in America voted for Trump. I believe Donald Trump is a very cold, callous, egocentric man who is doing untold harm for the poor of America, for the climate and possibly for the future stability of the planet. You may of course disagree but on this occasion, I felt strongly that faith and politics have got to mix.

Your friend and vicar

Paul


Letter for August 2017

Dear friends

When you look at the diary page this month you realise we’re in the middle of summer. Most things other than our regular services have a break during August and with good reason – holidays which, whether at home or away, are good. They give you a break from the pressures of modern life and help to bring healing to body, mind and spirit. Let’s be honest, life today is more pressurised and faster than it has ever been. Employers are demanding more and more from their employees both in terms of effort and time. Is it any wonder that anxiety and depression are at almost epidemic proportions? We are told by the older generation that hard work never killed anyone. That may be true with physical work but pressure and anxiety cause numerous mental and physical problems. That is why holidays are good. They enable you to stand aside from the pressure of every day and take time out for leisure and relaxation. That is not being selfish – it’s being very sensible and looking after yourself. Remember Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself.

You might remember that Jesus himself did that. He looked after himself. He was constantly under pressure with crowds following him wherever he went, people were demanding healings and miracles and more teaching. Jesus knew his human limits and we find that often he went up a mountain or wherever to get away from the pressure - the crowds - to be on his own - to chill out as we might say today - time to be quiet, time to recharge, time to be with his Father, time to be quiet and reflect and pray. It was a holy time - a holy day which is of course where we derived our word holiday. Initially holidays (holydays) were a spiritual time. These days our holidays are not just days – they are often a week or a fortnight or more and there may be several a year. Surely for Christians part of our holidays we can use for spiritual refreshment. Take time to be alone with God, read a good Christian book, reflect on where we are and what our priorities are, look into the future and think what you might want to achieve spiritually in the next year.

But have fun and leisure as well. God has made us body, mind and spirit. Whether you go away or not this summer may it be for you a time of physical, mental and spiritual refreshment.

God bless

Your friend and vicar,

Paul


Letter for July 2017

Dear friends

Since I wrote my June letter much has happened that has shocked, surprised and horrified. The shock was the General Election result when the Conservatives were expected to increase their majority but didn’t. It seems that elections these days – in this country and others – are becoming more and more unpredictable. People are taking seriously their democratic right and that is surely a good thing. However, the three pieces of news that have shocked and horrified and greatly saddened the nation have been the two terrorist atrocities in Manchester and London and the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London.

The Manchester bomb has had a huge impact here in Holmes Chapel because of the very serious injuries sustained by Freya Lewis and the untimely and tragic death of Nell Jones – both local and both students at the Comprehensive School. The thoughts and prayers of St. Luke’s church family are very much with both families but nothing can relieve the pain and heartache of those affected. These tragic incidents face us, particularly those of us who are Christians, with the problem of suffering. We ask the question – Why? We ask – but we don’t get a satisfactory answer. The question gets harder when we are faced with the classical conundrum – if God is all powerful and God is all loving why on earth is there so much suffering in the world?

To be honest I have never found a satisfactory answer. The Bible poses two possible answers. One is that in the Old Testament many of the writers assumed that much of the suffering in the world was God punishing people for some sin or other. I find that answer abhorrent. The other answer which comes mainly from the New Testament is that in the end – all will be well. There are the pictures of a new heaven and a new earth where there is no more death, no more suffering, no more tears. That may or may not be true but that gives little comfort for those who are suffering now. All we know for sure is that we live in a world where there is suffering, there is pain, there is death, there is hatred, there are unanswered questions and my only credible response is to try and overcome hatred with love and bring comfort with love.

In the end, love must and will conquer.

With love

Paul


Letter for June 2017

Dear friends

A few weeks ago at our Wednesday morning Communion service, there was a reading from Acts where the prophets and teachers in the Christian church in Antioch (in modern day Turkey) set apart two guys called Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for a particular ministry. No big deal you might rightly think but the reason I raise it is because of how they sent Barnabas and Paul off on their journey. They prayed for them – fair enough – but then they laid their hands on them. It got me thinking about the laying on of hands because it is something we do in church that isn’t part of everyday life. I can think of three examples.

First - at a Confirmation service many of you will remember how when you went and knelt in front of the Bishop for your confirmation the Bishop placed his or her hands on your head. Why?

Second – during the Communion service the President when saying the Eucharistic prayer lays his/her hands on the bread and wine. Why?

Thirdly – and this is very relevant this month – during the Ordination service, the Bishop lays his/her hands on the head of the person being ordained. Why?

The answer is that when hands are laid-on the person in the case of confirmation and ordination, and the things i.e. bread and wine, in the case of communion, symbolically they are being set apart. What for? Well in the case of bread and wine they are set apart for use in the communion service for remembering the self giving of Christ. There are all kinds of ideas as to what happens to the bread and wine at Communion but whatever view you take the laying on of hands says this bread isn’t for making a sandwich, this wine isn’t for having a glass with your sandwich – this bread and this wine is for Communion- it is set apart for that specific purpose.

For Confirmation candidates the laying on of hands is a symbol that the life of the confirmee is now set apart to be a follower of Christ. In the service the Confirmation candidates answer a number of questions but perhaps the most important is – ‘Do you submit to Christ as Lord?’ to which the reply is- ‘I submit to Christ’. In other words a Christian is someone who hands over their life to Christ and Confirmation symbolically sets a person apart so that they no longer live for themselves but Christ.

For Ordination hands are laid on the candidate by the Bishop to signify that the person is being set apart by the Church and indeed God himself for a particular ministry within the Church, either as a deacon or a priest.

This month Gail, our curate, will be going on retreat before being ordained priest by Bishop Peter at Chester Cathedral on Saturday 17th June at 5.00pm. In the Church of England, a deacon is ordained priest a year after they are ordained deacon (don’t ask me why!!). From a practical point of view, Gail will now be able to do the things she was not permitted to do as a deacon i.e. preside at Holy Communion and Bless the people in God’s name. Her first two Communion services will be on Sunday 18th June at the 8.30am and the 10.00am services. That is also our Thanksgiving Sunday when we all review our Christian giving. I do hope you will be able to join us for one those services as Gail takes this important step in her ministry.

Your friend and vicar,

Paul


Letter for May 2017

Dear friends

In my letter last month I was telling you about the funds my family and I were hoping to raise in memory of my wife, Sue, for research into treatments for Lymphoma at the Christie. We haven’t got a final total yet but it looks likely that the total raised will be nearly £5,000. This has far exceeded our expectations and I want to express a huge thank you to all who contributed in any way. The generosity of so many people, including many from here Holmes Chapel, has been very humbling and inspiring. My hope and prayer is that it will help future Lymphoma patients to find healing.

This month we are holding our Music Festival. This has been inspired by our musical director, Wendy Macdonald, and is the second such weekend. You might wonder what a music weekend has got to do with church and faith. I could turn that round and ask what has church and faith got to do with music? I would contend that church and faith are to do with life – all of life, not just an hour’s service on a Sunday morning. Music is a huge part of most people’s lives. It is the most accessible of all the art forms. Not everybody is into art, or sculpture, or the theatre, or literature, or poetry, or dance, or architecture but virtually everybody appreciates music. The arts are unique to humans in the created world. They are a reflection of God in the sense that God is a creative God. The first sentence in the Bible says ‘in the beginning God created’.

The dictionary definition of art says: Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

No one can argue that music has both beauty and emotional power. That is true of classical music but also true of pop music. Why is pop music so popular with young people? There is no doubt that it a part of youth culture but it impacts on their developing emotions and they seem to listen to it almost nonstop. Music is powerful. It has the power to make us laugh, to dance, to clap, to march, to conduct, to cry, to make is feel alive. It is a sublime gift that is so easy to take for granted. Our weekend celebrates that gift of music. That gift is something we as Christians use to give to God in our worship. For centuries music has been at the heart of worship. Sometimes our services can be too wordy. Sometimes it is good to have silence. Sometimes we need music to express ourselves. At St. Luke’s we are able to offer that worship in another work of art – our church building. What a thing of beauty. How fortunate are we to worship in such a beautiful environment.

Lots of music will be heard and played over the weekend climaxing in a service of music – Songs of Praise - on the Sunday morning at 10.00am. I do hope you are able to join us some time over the weekend as we celebrate the wonder of music and the wonder of God.

Your friend and Vicar

Paul


Address to Annual Church Meetings on Sunday 23rd April, 2017 


Review of Services - March 2017

You may remember a few weeks ago that the PCC decided to have a review of the regular church services to see if there was need for any changes in our pattern. To that end we did a survey of the worshippers both at the 8.30am service and the 10.00am service. We had over a hundred responses and the information gleaned from that survey was analysed. And the results.....?

It is a well known cliché that you can’t please all the people all the time but the survey quite overwhelmingly suggested that at St. Luke’s we please most of the people most of the time- at least as far as the service pattern is concerned! The result means that the PCC decided to keep the status quo and there will be no changes to our existing pattern. There may be tweaks here and there done by the ministry team but the pattern will remain as follows.

At 8.30 am there will always be a service of Holy Communion alternating between Order 1 and Order 2. At 10.00 am there will be at least two services of Holy Communion on the 2nd and 4th Sundays, a more traditional Morning service on the 1st Sunday and a more informal service on the 3rd Sunday. We will continue to use a variety of music at the 10.00 am services using the choir, the organ and the music group.

Thank you to all who filled in the questionnaire and I hope the results meet the needs of most people as we gather together to worship our great God.
 
Paul