February – March
Christmas is over, the trimmings away, the weather is freezing – what more can I say? That depressing time of year – dark mornings and dark nights. And yet the snowdrops are coming out and the daffodils are starting to show. Spring is indeed on the way.
In a couple of weeks we will be in the season of Lent. On Shrove Tuesday we will be tossing pancakes this is on 13th February this year. Our pastorate Ash Wednesday service led by Lena is the day after on 14th February at Trinity (St. Valentine’s Day) so there are lots of things for our uniformed groups to get involved in this year. Our February Church Parade at Revidge on 11th February should be interesting.
We will be having our Lent Bible Studies (Saturday mornings at Revidge,) then of course in the middle of Lent we have Mothering Sunday with a baptism at Trinity. The Tuesday of Holy Week sees a talk at Revidge by Lena – In and around Jerusalem. Our Maundy Thursday service led by Mal is at Westbury and our Good Friday service led by Mal and Lena is at Revidge. Then each church will celebrate Easter Day on 1st April when we remember how Jesus rose from the dead. Wow I feel like we have just had a whistle stop tour from Christmas to Easter.
Traditionally the week of prayer for Christian Unity is the third week in January and at Trinity we held a united service with St. Peter’s and Wilpshire Methodist in which all three ministers and churches took part. We began with a Fair Shares Prayer Breakfast followed by worship in a full church.
Sunday 21st January was also World Faith Day. One of the great joys of ministry is working with children and I was invited to be part of a World Faith day initiative, organized by Blackburn with Darwen Interfaith Forum at Lower Darwen Primary School. It was lovely to meet with colleagues from other faiths who I hadn’t seen since the Faith Day at Pleckgate school, i.e. Ashok Chudasama (Hindu) Baldeep Hungin (Sikh) Renee Black (Jewish) Richard Foster (Buddhist) and Sadiq Patel (Muslim). We were there for the whole day engaging with the children from reception to juniors and goodness me I learned a lot about our education system. These children were a credit to their families and teachers. We began with assembly where we introduced ourselves and they were so interested in what we were saying. The top class choir sang for us – a song of grace and this included a solo – it was just beautiful. Each one of us then spent half an hour in each class. I showed them my bible and explained how this was key to my faith. This is God’s story from beginning to end. I remembered the old Sunday school song – a favourite of mine and still in ‘Mission Praise.’
God has given us a book full of stories, that was made for His people of old,
It begins with a tale of a garden and it ends with a city of gold.
But the best is the story of Jesus – the babe lying there in a stall
and the song that was sung by the angels – the most beautiful story of all.
I explained the first part of the bible is the Old Testament with everything that happened before Jesus was born and the second part after Jesus was born which led us naturally to the birth of Jesus and Christmas. Then, looking forward to Lent when we remember Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the wilderness. We talked about Jesus’ life – the miracles He did, the stories He told, ending with the last meal He shared with His friends and His death and resurrection. Their questions were many and varied from have I read the bible and how many times a day do I pray to what was Jesus’ second name and will he come back again? You’ll have to ask me if you want to know what I said – each question led to another conversation and the children were so eager to ask, to talk, and to listen.
But for now, as we leave Christmas behind (it ends officially at Candlemas on Friday 2nd February,) all that remains for me to do, is to wish each one of you a Happy, Healthy and Holy 2018 and may God bless each and every one of you this year.
December – January
By the time you read this we will be in the season of Advent and the theme for our Advent Pastorate Bible Study this year is going to be ‘A Child is Born’. However there is another Bible Study which will be run in churches throughout the country entitled ‘What Are You Waiting For’ which is the latest York Course and to me this is a poignant question to be answered.
As Christians we know what we’re waiting for but how do we get the message across to those outside the Church in new and exciting ways amidst all the tinsel and baubles, the Christmas cards and the hustle and bustle of buying presents.
Advent is a time of waiting, waiting with great expectations for the time when we celebrate the Birth of Jesus and meet Him face to face. The problem with waiting is that we are often not very patient and therefore we miss the point and by the time the big day arrives people are so tired that it becomes just like any other day and Jesus is forgotten.
The season of Advent also brings Hope and as Christians we need to pass that Hope on to those we meet in our daily lives and whom may come into our churches maybe for the first time in a long time or perhaps for the first time in their lives in the Hope that they may come to realise the True Meaning of Christmas.
My Hope is that however and wherever you spend Christmas this year that you remember that Jesus is no longer a babe in a manger but that He is alive in the world today. That’s surely worth celebrating and the message we need to get across to everyone we meet so that they too may be filled with the Hope that the birth of Jesus brings to all His people.
Finally may I take this opportunity to thank you for all the support you have shown to Lorraine and I during the past year and wish you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas. May you receive all that you Hope for this Christmas and find ways to share that Hope with everyone you meet during the coming year – what are you waiting for?
Harvest 2017 with a difference
As usual our Harvest display was beautiful and very impressive and this year included a significant contribution from the Art and Craft group enabling us to celebrate all that God gives us and the skills and capabilities of those in our church and in the Art and Craft group. This made a really good combination which I am sure we will want to repeat in future years. The Mayor of Blackburn Cllr. Colin Rigby came to view the displays and was complementary about ‘Harvest at Westbury Gardens’. The Art and Craft and Harvest display was open each day of the following week enabling 3 local primary schools to visit and the public to come and view the displays. We give thanks for all those who put so much time and effort in creating this combined Harvest and Art and Craft exhibition.
Our Christmas Fair this year was helped by volunteers (young people) from the National Citizen Scheme coming to help with the preparations and then on the day overseeing and helping with Art and Craft work and running stalls. This worked very well with the young people’s efforts being combined with our church members to create what we believe was another very successful Westbury Gardens Christmas Fair enjoyed by people both from the church family and the locality both young and older. It gave enjoyment and at the same time raised much needed funds to help us continue with the work of our church here at Westbury Gardens. A big thank you to Susan and Margaret for all their work creating this successful occasion. We all recognise it takes a lot of planning and work to succeed in this way.
Missional Discipleship and Partnership
Recently there have been Lancashire Area Road Shows, Pastorate Elders meetings and a special Pastorate Church members meeting all considering how we will be affected by the new focus on creating Missional Partnerships and new deployment patterns for Ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament. More details in the Pastorate pages.
Work on the exterior of our Church buildings
This work has included the repointing of the wall to the left-hand side of the entrance steps, the cutting back of bushes on the right-hand side of the steps, changes to the garden inside the railings and the addition of a façade around the front entrance to the church which will have a colourful welcome sign added to it in coming weeks. In addition, the high-level windows on the front of the church facing the layby have now had clear Perspex fitted to them to allow the existing pattern to show through from the inside. The new welcome sign will make it clear that all are welcome and we are a place to meet people. In the new year we hope to run a Monday morning café serving tea, coffee and light refreshments which in time we hope will be a good place for people to drop in for a cup of tea or coffee, spend some time with friends and become a regular meeting place. There has been significant improvement to the ladies’ toilets and similar work is in prospect for the men’s toilets. Our 5year Pastoral Review and Future Action Plan highlighted us building on existing community work through the TMAD programme and in other ways. These changes to our church building are in line with us working towards these objectives. Other work is in prospect to improve the side windows of the church leading to the car park and the use of screens in the sanctuary to give us a more intimate worship space. All this work is focused on us developing our work as a church and living out our faith in obedience to Gods will for us to reach out to others helping where we can.
All the above work has and is taking considerable effort so we would like to take this opportunity of expressing our sincere thanks to Andrew Parkinson, Gordon Mellody, Stuart Allen and David Riley for all they have done.
Westbury Arts and Craft Group
The Art group continues to be very popular with up to 15 people attending and interest from others is being expressed. The group has recently been on a trip to the Lowry Art Gallery at Salford Quays. This was a very good day out learning more about LS Lowry ‘s life and his art and enjoying a meal together.