Greetings from St Mary’s and St Andrew’s
We know that Wine, Vine, and Vineyards are symbols and analogies Jesus used to explain the Gospel message. When we come to the Lord’s Table and partake in Bread and Wine, we are one with Jesus as His Body in the world. This week God spoke to me from Matthew 9.17 (also Mark 2:22 and Luke 5:37-38):
“Men do not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will spill, and the wineskins will be ruined. Instead, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
This Sunday, both our churches present our annual reports. We look back on many blessings amidst the challenges of 2021. But God compels us also to look ahead. In January representatives from both parishes participated in a Vision Day. All we do is in vain unless we do them with God’s leading. God has given us signs and resources: We are to set up and nurture a new church plant; to extend our ministry with schools, young people, and families; and to provide opportunities for more people to discover God and to explore their faith intentionally. Reflecting on God’s signs and blessings, I heard and understood Jesus’ words:
Value our old wineskins – love our stalwarts; bless familiar ways of worshipping God and of caring for one another.
But we will have new wine – new people. And they are to be ministered to differently, in new ways: poured into new wineskins. Old and new should not be lost or wasted but preserved. Each should be treated in ways that bless them.
In St Andrew’s, Winston, we are seeking a new churchwarden to love our church in practical leadership with Chrissie Barnett. We are inviting contributors to share stories on our website, social media, and the Parish News magazine. We need young people and the young at heart for our new communications ministry.
At St Mary’s, Gainford, families are thrilled to be part of Messy Church – a new type of service and fellowship for all the family. Our new Audio-Visual system is ready to be installed this summer and we invite people with technology skills to be part of our AV team. Meanwhile, Peter Dransfield is calling musicians (pianists/keyboard players, instrumentalists) to join St Mary’s Band, who have supported worship for more than 10 years. Choral Evensong is a traditional form of worship that we introduced in 2021: I invite your views about its future.
Both our parishes will share a new programme of pilgrimages, outdoor, and ‘Care4Creation’ events – together we reach out to people not presently involved with church to enjoy together and perhaps to explore their faith. Bishop Paul is keen to provide more support for our efforts in schools. And let us resume with creative vigour our social events, so appreciated by our communities. We plan more study of the Bible!
ASCENSION DAY Thursday 26th May: Come along to our outdoors 8am Sunrise Service Gainford Riverside (on the Millennium Clock), accompanied by a violinist, glorious birdsong, and the rush of the River Tees. Let us rejoice together in the Ascension of our Resurrected Lord.
God is with us and has given us a place with the saints in light. With the risen life of Christ within you, go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia!
Rev’d Canon Eileen Harrop
Christian Aid Week
Commences this Sunday and is a reminder that the family of God includes those in need elsewhere in the world whom we may never meet but whom we are called to help. We are answers to their prayers because there is nothing they can do to change their situations. In Zimbabwe, the climate crisis is causing aching hunger for families. 7,000 miles away, the war in Ukraine is driving up food prices in Zimbabwe and globally. We thank God for teams on the ground whose work is made possible by the generosity of donors from churches everywhere this week. In St Andrew’s Church and St Mary’s Church, envelopes for donations are available in church or donate online https://envelope.christianaid.org.uk/envelope/teesdale if you prefer.
St Andrew'sServices this weekend
- + Sunday Holy Communion at 9:30am
St Mary'sServices this weekend
- + Sunday Holy Communion service at 10:45am
The Notice Board
- Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM): Both annual meetings will be held after services at St Andrew’s, Winston and St Mary’s, Gainford on Sunday 22nd May 2022. We encourage everyone to support these meetings, which are important in the formal life of our churches, but will be succinct and brief.
- Ahead of the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in early June, Brian and I are pleased to make available the commemorative book ‘Our Faithful Queen’ published to honour Her Majesty The Queen’s 70 years of Faith and Service. Copies will be placed in St Andrew’s Church, Winston, and St Mary’s Church, Gainford – a gift from Brian and me with love and blessing.
- Ukraine Refugee Accommodation Sponsors: A small number of sponsors in Gainford and Winston are preparing to accommodate Ukrainians seeking temporary accommodation. We have formed a Support Group, who will have and share the latest information. If you would like to know more, please email Jill Starr: email@example.com
- Platinum Jubilee! St Andrew’s Church with Winston Parish have launched a programme of celebratory events to honour Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11.
- Decorate your home, farm, or garden: If you live in the parish, have fun decorating and your decorations will be judged on the weekend of the 28th May 2022.
- 70 Acts of Service: Our Queen has kept her promise of service to her subjects with grace and commitment. An appropriate response is the suggestion of 70 acts of service. Visit HOPEtogether.org.uk for some suggestions for you to consider throughout this Platinum Jubilee year. Why not do these as family or a group of friends and share out the ideas? We’d love to hear how you get on
- Platinum Jubilee! On Sunday 5th June 2022 St Mary’s Church with Gainford and Langton Parish will celebrate the 70 years of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11’s reign
Opening and blessing a new Community Herb Garden on St Mary’s Churchyard
- A Service of Praise and Blessing at 12 noon on the Green
- Garden Party on the Green with music provided by a local band
Gainford FUN DAY Saturday 25th June 2022: We are pleased to be putting up our tea tent serving tea and cake for this annual event. We hope many from both St Andrew’s and St Mary’s would offer to help. This is both our community offering and a helpful fundraiser for St Mary’s, Ganford. Please contact Geoff or Sue if you can make cakes, help to serve in the tent, or help set up and clear up: Geoffandsue379@gmail.com Tel: 01325 730379
The Collect for the 6th Sunday of Easter
God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us
to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Post Communion Prayer
God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns,
now and for ever.
The First Reading
9 During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshipper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.’ And she prevailed upon us.
23 Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
5th Sunday of Easter: Rev’d Canon Eileen Harrop, 15th May 2022, St Andrew’s, Winston (Acts 11.1-18; John 13.31-35)
This morning I would like to speak firstly from our first reading, the Acts of the Apostles. This New Testament book details the early Christians and the early Church. Today we are increasingly respectful of the early Christians, the first of whom were Jesus’ disciples and those who saw Jesus after he was raised from the dead. This may be because the Church has elevated them to saints, celebrating them in services, dedicated churches in their names, and created feast days to honour them. So, it may be a bit of a surprise to read:
“Now the apostles and the believers… heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God…” they criticized Peter “saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’”
Let us put into perspective that those apostles and early followers of Jesus were human beings just like us 2000 years after. Their reactions were based on social precedent, rules and practices that they believed qualify people for membership into Church. The prevailing Jewish practice had been circumcision. The apostles and early Christians believed that it was forbidden to fellowship at a meal with non-Jews.
In every place and generation, taboos are institutionalised, and cultural norms are formed that do not relate to God’s attitude and welcome to people.
John, the disciple and Gospel writer, wrote in his letter to the early Church about Christ’s qualifying criteria:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
In our time, if we are honest, there are many people we regard to be unsuitable to be members of our church. We find it more difficult to look with the same compassion and love, with the attentive listening and interest in them, that our Lord would give them. I have often had to ask myself: “What would Jesus do?” and considering what would inform Jesus’ action: “What would Jesus think?” and “How does Jesus look at him/her/them?”
Yesterday, an item on the Diocesan Synod (the diocese governing body) was our welcome to the Gypsy, Traveller, and Roma community. Here is a community, whose cultural characteristics and lifestyle features are not shared by the prevailing culture of host countries, including the UK. Somewhere along the line, dialogue, and genuine interest to understand one another seems to have been abandoned. With that, increasing judgement and attitudes were set that exclude and ostracise the people of that community. When I was a new curate, I admit it shocked me that the funerals and weddings of parishioners from these groups were always passed to me because there was no intention to welcome them into the church family. I was the curate, ‘a transient’ who would be moving on. They were treated as transient outsiders even though I knew from getting to know the families that they had permanent homes and families had settled in the parish.
But I am not taking the high horse here; even Peter on whom Jesus anointed to be the founder of the church, had to receive heavenly wisdom to change his perspective. God spoke to Peter in dreams and visions, and it directly led Peter to see the non-Jews who came to follow Jesus with different eyes. He heard God tell him: “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” God’s timing was also a sign to Peter. Three men came to Peter from Caesarea and Peter realised ‘the Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.’
Last Sunday I spoke about hearing God’s voice. In my experience it makes a difference when we are intentional in seeking to hear God’s voice. Peter, John, the Gospel writers, and the Prophets, received God’s word and understanding of what God was saying because they were intentional in their desire to hear God. It was important to them that they really understood, and they did not ‘cherry pick’.
Jesus’ words in the Gospel according to John are very familiar to us: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In our own strength, by our own moral judgement, and according to the norms of our peer social sets, it will be difficult to live as Jesus invites us to live. Jesus says to love “Just as I have loved you…” That is the way we are called to look at everyone, including those whose lives we may not approve. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples”. If we seek our Lord’s help, we will find our hearts and minds, changed, to love in word and by our actions as Jesus loved and loves us.