Greetings from Eileen
This is my final newsletter before I travel to Singapore. During the next 5 weeks, PCCs’ vice-chairs Lynne and Geoff, who share the writing and distribution of our newsletters – will be unavailable for some of the time. Other lay leaders are taking care of in-church services and pastoral communication, youth ministry, and following up on our recent Vision Day. During this period, we hope to send 3 instead of 5 newsletters. But you shall receive succour and ministry from senior diocesan clergy: Rev’d Dr Alastair Prince, Rev’d Canon Dr Alan Bartlett, and Bishop Paul’s newly appointed Chaplain Rev’d Dr Chris Knights.
Psalm 65:11 declares God’s favour:
‘You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance’.
For 2 years, we have been tried and toiled more than we could have anticipated. But we have received God’s favour. Many of us have been drawn closer to God and to one another. Last Saturday’s Vision Day brought together 17 representatives from our churches and communities. We thanked and praised God; prayed; reflected on who we are as churches and parishes, what we have done, and what God may be asking us to be and do over the next 5 years. With help from the diocese (Ali Bianchi, Church Planting Project Manager, and Catherine Simpson, Schools Chaplaincy and Growing Faith Champion), 3 groups have arrived at a Vision identifying Cohesion; Power; and Growth. We have made a start and hope to involve as many as we can in the months ahead. It is encouraging that our Vision and development of priorities are aligned to Durham Diocese’s strategic priorities.
(Every participant had pre-tested within 24 hours of the event to enable mask-free engagement).
Renewal in our ministry is not all geared towards children and young families. Choral Evensong, an ancient tradition of worship, is a new part of our pattern and provision. The Epiphany Choral Evensong was only our 3rd festive choral service (the 2 previous ones celebrated Michael and All Angels and commemorated All Souls). Already a good congregation has found these services enriching. Join us at The Passion Choral Evensong Sunday 3rd April 6pm. Here is the The Epiphany recording.
Our Services this Sunday 23rd January: 9.30am and 10.45am Holy Communion at St Andrew’s, Winston and St Mary’s, Gainford; and 4pm Churches Together in Gainford’s Service of the Prayer for Christian Unity at St Mary’s, Gainford.
God is with us. May Christ, who by his incarnation, gathered into one, all things earthly and heavenly, fill you with joy and peace.
Rev’d Eileen Harrop
Throughout the world, churches are coming together in prayer this week with and for one another. We rejoice in evidence of Christian unity across the world and in our own communities. We give thanks for Christian Unity in a service at St Mary’s, Gainford on Sunday 23rd January, 4pm with Fr Thomas Mason (of the Roman Catholic Church) and Rev Graham Cutler (of the Methodist Church), who is our preacher at that service, joining us.
• Thanksgiving for John Heslop: Hilary, Sarah, and Mark, and their family thanks everyone for their support and prayers, for coming to the service on Thursday 20th January 2022, and for generous donations to Cancer Research (Teesdale Branch) and St Mary’s Church, Gainford.
• Funeral of Mollie Orton (who had lived in Winston): We are saddened by Mollie’s death on the 6th of January 2022 and our prayers are with David, John, and Philip and their families. Mollie’s service will be held on Thursday 3rd February 2022 at 1.30pm in Wear Valley Crematorium and, in Eileen absence, will be taken by the Revd Sarah Cliff, Curate of St Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle.
• Gainford Star: The star, which is intended to shine until 1st February, stopped lighting up earlier this week. Steve White who made it, together with Peter Graham who installed it with him, have attempted to resolve the issues. Unfortunately, we shall need a new star. Thank you for your understanding.
• Footprints Christian Shop: The shop has relocated to 59-61 Skinnergate, Darlington, DL3 7LH, but the telephone number remains unchanged: 01325 487366 and email@example.com.
On Thursdays our youth group YOUTH SAINTS monthly meeting. Please spread the message to friends and neighbours with young people.
Youth Bible Time is also resuming from 5.45pm in St Mary’s Church, Gainford on the same Thursday. Young people from both our parishes and others from nearby places are all welcome!
Our Growth Fellowship, formerly the Young Leaders Fellowship, is now open to anyone to join from both parishes as well as those within the surrounding area – young adults interested in developing themselves, understanding more about the Bible or those interested in joining in with a regular programme of activities (both indoor and outdoor) are all welcome. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in taking part!
Our churches are open daily for private prayer.
We welcome everyone to join us at services in church every Sunday:
• 9.30am at St Andrew’s Church, Winston
• 10.45am at St Mary’s Church, Gainford
Our congregations now sing together in church! Provision for singing without face coverings is also available in both churches.
Rev’d Eileen Harrop
Our churches continue to be open daily for private prayer.
Please read the separate Covid page outlining the modified approach for each church for details.
Click for St Mary’s Coronavirus Information
Click for St Andrew’s Coronavirus Information
The Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany
The Collect for the 3rd Sunday of Epiphany
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
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.
God of glory,
you nourish us with your Word
who is the bread of life:
fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The First Reading
1 Corinthians 12: 12-31
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
1 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
For the 2nd Sunday of Epiphany
1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and John 2:1-11
God’s timing is extraordinary. Does this sound like a blindingly obvious remark? So, what has brought about my comment? Let’s hear again today’s Collect – the special prayer set for the 2nd Sunday of Epiphany:
in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory…
Yesterday, some of us gathered as representatives of our parishes in the belief that by the Spirit and in Christ, God renews us and, for our benefit, reveals his glory. We gathered specifically to seek God’s vision to make known his desires and his heavenly glory in our midst. You see, friends, I had not considered the words of our pre-set Collect when we decided on the timing of our Vision Day.
Not only this, but our first reading from 1 Corinthians 12 speaks into how we live God’s vision:
‘…no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.’
Everyone who had come to discern God’s vision declares “Jesus is Lord” acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s power that fills us with understanding and joy. St Paul explains how we are empowered, enabled, and encouraged to fulfil God’s Vision:
‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Do you recognise the Spirit’s gifts among us? When we look at our church, at our community, and all the groups and events that reflect how we flourish in this place, variety is obvious. But we are lovingly challenged to ask:
“Do we realise and acknowledge that it is God’s Spirit who enables us to serve our varied communities by our variety of gifts, services, and activities?” When in our prayers we ask God to equip us, do we recognise that God has provided in answer to our prayers?
St Paul also says that we minister and serve by the gifts of the Spirit. We do not rely on our human understanding and not on our experience, expertise, and abilities alone. To those who know God and say, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’, this is how we are equipped:
8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.’
God brings together people with such spiritual gifts according to his Vision in each place.
Sometimes we take for granted the legacy of variety and distinctiveness where we are. God calls us to check in with Him, to see with God’s eyes so that we share in embracing everyone in our midst with his glory and eternal spirit.
We have flourished in many ways with ‘the utterance of wisdom’; ‘the utterance of knowledge’; ‘faith’; ‘healing’; ‘prophecy’; and ‘discernment’ among us. But perhaps we have been too culturally modest about these gifts and we have them played down. Friends, boastful arrogance, and joyful acknowledgement are worlds apart. The former puts off everyone except the one boasting, while joyful acknowledgement honours God’s Spirit. When we see with God’s eyes, we recognise the full benefits God has intended for us.
Jesus at the wedding in Cana is a familiar story. Everyone attending the Church of England wedding service hears this story. Even those who don’t attend church know that Jesus turned water into wine. But what does Jesus’ first miracle mean to us personally? What does Jesus’ mother’s bold unrestrained request that resulted in this miracle mean for us today?
Has it occurred to you that before this moment even Jesus’ mother had not seen Jesus performing a miracle? But Mary expected miracles from Jesus. The Holy Spirit had stirred her faith and prompted her response to be the bearer of God’s Son. Mary had an expectant faith.
Is our faith in God an expectant faith? Do we expect God to empower, enable, equip, and encourage us to do great things as a church serving and blessing our communities? Great things are not all like moving mountains; they can resemble the widow’s mite. What does your expectant faith look like?
Jesus told his mother that this was not the right time for his first miracle. But Mary asked, and so a miracle was performed. This most uttered miracle happened only to help what was a very worldly need (‘the wine ran out’) on a very common occasion (‘a wedding’). How eager are we to involve Jesus, to involve God, in our everyday life (a domestic need) and our ordinary church matters (a fund-raising event)?
Now listen to the effect of that small miracle on the person through whom the miracle occurred:
“When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’”
The steward wasn’t aware that he was so greatly favoured as the one through whom Jesus’ first miracle was conducted. He was unsuspecting, and I wonder if the bridegroom ever knew what had happened. Wouldn’t you wish to be aware when God favours you with a miracle no matter how ordinary? I have asked in faith and seen and received signs of God’s favour, of God’s glory, and it has amazed me every time!
Today, I hope you, and more of us as a church, give God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the honour of seeking God’s vision, of believing in the Spirit’s gifts and invite God to reveal His glory in Jesus’ name. Amen