Greetings from Eileen
We hope that you have all found some peace and joy during the Christmas celebrations. We are aware that many have had their plans disrupted and have had a worrying time during the past two weeks. Some indeed have been ill. We hold all of you in our prayers and hope for better times in 2022.
Our Christmas celebrations at Saint Mary’s with carols, prayers, and retelling of Christ’s birth went well despite the current difficulties, from the community turning up to enjoy the Churches Together outdoor Carol Service with Blessing of the Crib, the Journey to the Crib in St Mary’s on Christmas Eve, the Midnight Christmas Communion and Christmas Day Service. Many thanks to all who helped.
Vicar Eileen was also invited to read a lesson at the Carol Service in Durham Cathedral before Christmas.
Saint Andrew’s Church at Winston is one of ten ‘small pilgrim churches’ recommended for a visit in a feature to be published in The Guardian on New Year’s Day.
Looking back to Advent – a message from Neil
Thank you to all those who came along to explore the Messiah during Advent. It was encouraging to see so many of you there. Particularly moving was the final evening when after considerable research, Peter Dransfield discovered a recording by The Academy of Ancient Music, filmed in the Chapel of Trinity College Cambridge. The college Is patron of S Mary’s. The quality of sound and picture were excellent and I hope that there will be occasions in the future when we might hold a church film night. A special thanks to Peter Dransfield
We attach Christmas messages from Bishop Paul and Archbishop Justin.
We thank God for Archbishop Tutu, may he rest in peace.
Happy New Year
On behalf of the Vicar and Churchwardens
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.
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
Archbishop’s Christmas letter to ecumenical leaders and churches around the world.
Read the Archbishop’s Christmas letter to ecumenical leaders and churches around the world.
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours! (Luke 2:14)
At Christmas we lift our voices to join with the angels in heaven’s song of praise. The account told by St Luke fills us with the hope and joy of God’s promise, now fulfilled in the incarnate Christ.
However, for many Christian brothers and sisters around the world, particularly those who face persecution and oppression, much is against them finding peace amidst the encircling darkness. Many of us in good places sometimes may find it difficult to experience the presence of God in the course of our ordinary lives.
But at Christmas, God breaks into the ordinary. He does not come as an Emperor or King – not as people would recognise, anyway – he comes born to ordinary parents, to live a ‘normal’ life. He doesn’t come as one with the trappings of power; he comes as one who saves and serves. He does not come as a warrior in this place of occupation in the Middle East; but as helpless child, wrapped in cloth by his mother.
Yet, in the midst of this conflict and oppression, Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And in the middle of a humble stable, amongst shepherds – lowest of the low – who arrive empty handed, whilst the world continued its rotation through the night, this child’s face is the true glory and power of God. It is the foolishness of God to answer the power of darkness with a vulnerable baby in a war-torn country born to poor parents. Yet that answer is the true wisdom of God, for here God – invisible, incomprehensible, indescribable – is translated into a sign and a substantial reality that the simplest human being can grasp and before whom the wisest scholars find themselves falling in worship (1 Corinthians 1:20).
The angels who proclaim this glory in Luke’s Gospel overflow out of the Heavens. The triumph of what God has done for us cannot be contained. Let us too, no matter our trials and our challenges, continue to proclaim joyously as we remember the birth of our saviour: ‘Glory to God in heaven!’ Let us too, in the face of trouble and conflict, declare peace upon all who he favours! Every tear brings the Messiah closer!
God’s favour is offered to all, not forced upon some. There is nothing we can do to earn this boundless grace of God. We can merely open ourselves humbly to receive it.
Christ breaks into this suffering, complicated, divided world, and unites all of heaven and earth in wonder at his birth. I pray we too might share the same wonder this year: for through him we have been given salvation, we who could not save ourselves. And through him we have hope, who once felt hopeless and lost. Through him we are renewed in love for one another and may ourselves be living translations of the mystery of the Trinitarian God.
Through the Christ-child we see God’s faithfulness. Through his Son, God has fulfilled his promise to us: we can trust in him and him alone.
The early church father, St Augustine, writes:
‘…let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth.
Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory.’
The glory is indeed God’s, not ours, so we have no boast but Christ. But may we be illuminated by his glory this Christmas, so we can shine as lights for him, witnessing with joy to him who has brought justice and hope, glory and peace.
This Christmas, my prayer is that the joy of the extraordinary God may transform our ordinary lives. In his birth and life, suffering and death, resurrection and glorious ascension he calls us out of darkness together, and into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).
In his peace and glory,
The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Our churches continue to be open for private prayer.
Please read the separate page outlining the modified approach for each church for the details.
Click for St Mary’s Coronavirus Information
Click for St Andrew’s Coronavirus Information
The Collect for the 2nd of Christmas
in the birth of your Son you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word,
and shown us the fullness of your love:
help us to walk in his light and dwell in his love that we may know the fullness of his joy;
who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
The First Reading
7. For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labour, together; a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,] full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,] who is close to the Father’s heart,] who has made him known.
Bishop Paul’s Christmas morning Reflection on BBC Radio Tees – 2021
Waking up on Christmas morning this year will be even more mixed for people than usual.
There are always those who wake sad because of the loss of loved ones through the past year; those who wake lonely because they might not be going to see anyone today. I know programmes like this one mean a great deal to you. I hope this Christmas reflection helps you find some comfort.
There are also those who wake excited at what family, friends, community and church, will bring this day. Whether we look ahead to a small or larger gathering we delight in the company we will enjoy; the food we will share; the games we might play; the presents we may exchange; the TV we may enjoy together.
Yet after last year’s complete lockdown the uncertainty of this year means plans have been changing for many over the past week. The uncertainty and changing almost feels harder to handle than the lockdown we all shared together. So we all look for that single thin red line on the lateral flow test, desperately hoping that a second will not emerge. Relief when we know it will be safe to meet and gather.
As human beings we are made to be social beings. Some of us are more sociable than others but every one of us is made to be connected. Family is the key, and core, relationship for us. Friendship is also crucial. Family and friendships do go wrong sometimes. It is painful when they do because they are meant to be for our good.
At the heart of Christmas is a family. A new family with the birth of their first child. The Christmas story is a complicated one when we reflect on the dynamics of Joseph and Mary’s unexpected early parenthood. All kinds of questions no doubt being asked, and perhaps quietly talked about behind their backs, by the wider family in Nazareth and the relatives in Bethlehem. Yet for them both by this stage the quiet certainty that God is at work and that their child, Jesus, is God’s promised Saviour. The appearance of local shepherds with their story of angels and their message and song only gives Mary and Joseph further confirmation of God’s promise to them. This child is God with us, and God for us.
So whether today is going to be joyful and full of family and friends; a simpler quieter small affair planned, or created by Covid interfering; or a day of being alone perhaps with sadness, or contentment may we all reflect that At the Heart of Christmas is the one born to be with us and for us, Jesus, the Saviour of the World and one who always longs to welcome us into his family and be our closest friend.
May you have a joy filled Christmas.
Lord Jesus Christ, your birth at Bethlehem, draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth: accept our heartfelt praise as we worship you, our Saviour and our eternal God. Amen.