St Francis of Assisi Parish Newsletter
Editor: Mark Napier. Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org Typing: Christine Lawrie. Production: Anne Allison. Collation: Amy
Winter Tidings is so late that a hint of early Spring has crept into the
air! But that does not mean
that we are not due a few more bracing cold fronts.
My apologies for the lateness and I trust that the next edition
will manage to catch the next feast (that of St Francis at the beginning
Submissions of material for
publication in Tidings have been a little slow of late.
May I encourage you to think about what you can contribute?
If you read something that you find challenging, edifying, humorous
or even controversial, do send it to us (see contact details below).
This newsletter represents a good opportunity to share from your
experiences of what God is doing in your life, and those of the people
around you. There are so many
ministries being exercised by parishioners within and beyond St Francis,
as we often say. We would
like to hear more about these ministries, even if they are personal ones.
As you consider this, do enjoy
the current edition. My
sincere thanks to all the contributors, and to the regular team that
Dear Fellow Parishioners
Dear Friends of St Francis Parish
This season is what is called by some, the "green season", due to the liturgical colour used in our services. It is a time for us all to grow spiritually. If we lived in the Northern hemisphere it would be summer and green would seem a more appropriate colour. This is the time to get serious with our Bible Study and prayer life. God is great even when there are no great feast days to celebrate on the Church Calendar.
Here are some questions I would like you to think about: What does it mean to be a member of St Francis? What is expected of me as a parishioner? What are my responsibilities and privileges? What does God expect of me?
I sometimes wish that we could all feel about Church the way I felt about being part of the sport of running when I was at school. The comradeship between runners was enormous. We were a team. We all had team mates and you could not let the team down by simply not showing up on the day. To do this would have been to rob someone else of the privilege of being part of the team. The training was tough and only a few made it to become part of the team. Practices were a great challenge, as we all set, from time to time, our own personal best times for events. We loved it and would not miss it for anything. What's more, we had our own identity of T-shirts and tracksuits and the sense of belonging. The infrastructure of care and support was incredible. Each person was a vital part of the team. You felt you were part of the structure of the team. We pushed ourselves to the limit to achieve more than what we thought possible for ourselves, all for the sake of the team.
It was really great to be part of it all: the achievements, the recognition and the feeling of belonging to the team. You know, it was great, but as Paul tells us, training has some value to achieve an earthly wreath that will only remain for a short while. All that I have said about my running experiences has passed away, but now we are part of a much better team. It is called being a Christian. I now, as I did then, run in the Lord's team.
My big concern is why it is that we don't get as excited about being in the Lord's team as I did about being in the running team. The experiences I have had of God are far greater than any of the running experiences I ever had. Paul in Corinthians gives us the idea of the Church being like a body with different limbs and internal organs. Some never get seen but are a vital part of the body.
Sometimes we see service to the Lord in terms of leadership and concentrate on the structure of the Church rather than on the other and more important ministries of all the people. What kind of Church do we want to be? The kind that will accept anyone and even welcome strangers into the family, where everyone uses their God given gift to serve the Lord? Do we really have the team spirit of people all serving the Lord and each person being as important as the next? I would like to add to Paul's analogy of the Church as a body with the addition of the Church being like a tower built out of cards. If we pull out just one the whole tower will fall.
In my understanding at the moment, our spiritual growth occurs in four ways: firstly, through theological studies and Bible Study; secondly, through genuine spiritual experiences of prayer, meditation and contemplation, etc.; thirdly, through charismatic experiences, which could be pictures, speaking in tongues, prophesy, etc.; and fourthly, through service to the Lord.
It is this fourth one that I wish to talk about. Since coming to St Francis nearly four years ago, it has been the trend that people wait until they are asked to do something and very seldom offer their gifts. I believe that being a Christian is not an academic process of right belief, but of right living and service to others, within and outside of the Church. Wherever we go, we take our Christianity with us and so can be of service to God in serving others.
It really is wonderful to get to know the people of St Francis and to hear of the many great things that people are doing for the Lord. Like business people that lead Bible Studies at work, and others that start each day with prayer. There is so much great work being done at St Francis but we are desperately in need of people to serve the Lord in many different ways. I think that sometimes people think that some things are purely the responsibility of the clergy, like hospital visiting and taking services at retirement centres. This is not so. Before I was ordained I did hospital visiting and it is so wonderful to be used by God to touch peoples' lives, even to have God work his healing power through you to heal others. This is all part of being one of God's workers and we grow spiritually by our service to others.
I recently preached about the feeding of the five thousand and the aspect I want to mention was the little child's availability to Jesus, not the quantity or the quality, but his availability. I do believe if we need to spend time in prayer and seek where God is calling us to serve him, God will call us into his service in ways that will be meaningful and fulfilling. I find that there is nothing more fulfilling than serving the Lord. The needs of the people in the world and the Church are enormous. We do need welcoming teams, hospital visitors, sacristans, adult youth leaders, Children's Church teachers and someone to run the crèche, and a whole lot more. A large part of our service on Sundays is about going out into the world to love and serve the Lord. To be a Christian is to be a minister and as we are all ministers we are not called out of the world but into it.
During the Synod, one of the Bible studies that can be found in the Bishop's Charge is the concept of Churches crossing over to the other side, from "maintenance to mission". I do believe that is a great challenge for us all at St Francis.
Get involved in serving the Lord in some way, if you are not already. The ministry is waiting and the harvest time is now. Help to make St Francis and every member part of the team. Church is all about teamwork. We have good examples of how caring and loving House Groups do wonderful ministry of caring for each other.
I have got some excellent sheets to help identify your gifts. If anyone wants them, speak to me. Find out where your passion in serving the Lord lies and what gifts you have. Then serving the Lord can be a joy, and you can bring glory to God without it being a burden.
God has already prepared the good deeds he wants us to do for him. Let us make ourselves available to the Lord to use, and let us minister in his power. Let us not neglect our responsibility of loving each other as Christ commanded us to do in humble service to each other and to all those we meet.
May the Lord bless us as we seek new ways of being full members of St Francis and of his great Kingdom.
Give peace in our time, O Lord
Written for a Black Sheep House Group project after a transformation video inspired the group to become more 'prayer-conscious'.
Empower us to change and grow, that we may be worthy of this, the ultimate sacrifice:
may your kingdom come in each one of us!
We know, Lord, that only if we act with faith, and through the power of prayer, can we bring about the changes that we earnestly desire in our society, our city and our country:
may your kingdom come to our nation!
Lord - strengthen our will to be your servants and instruments in the world, that we and others may be inspired to bring about a great revival throughout all nations:
may your kingdom come on earth!
In Jesus name we pray.
Gossip is a mopping cloth,
Gossip is but sodden driftwood,
The tongue a tiny member is,
Joy is love smiling;
The Lord is my pace setter, I shall not rush.
"God has empowered us to become 'Little Christs'." C S Lewis
"When God appoints, God believes."
"Make your life a mission - not an intermission."
"God sometimes call the equipped; but God always equips the
One summer evening during a violent thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small boy into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, "Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?" The mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. "I can't dear," she said. "I have to sleep in Daddy's room." A long silence was broken at last by his shaky little voice: "The big sissy."
A mother took her three-year-old daughter to Church for the first time. The Church lights were lowered, and then the choir came down the aisle, carrying lighted candles. All was quiet until the little on started to sing in a loud voice, "Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you....."
Finding one of her students making faces at others on the playground, Ms Smith stopped to gently reprove the child. Smiling sweetly, the Sunday School teacher said, "Bobby, when I was a child, I was told if I made ugly faces, it would freeze and I would stay like that." Bobby looked up and replied, "Well, Ms Smith, you can't say you weren't warned."
The preacher was wired for sound with a lapel mike, and as he preached, he moved briskly about the platform, jerking the mike cord as he went. Then he moved to one side, getting wound up in the cord and nearly tripping before jerking it again. After several circles and jerks, a little girl in the third pew leaned toward her mother and whispered, "If he gets loose, will he hurt us?"
A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned to salt. His son asked, "What happened to the flea?"
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin,5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. "If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake. I can wait'". Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, "Ryan, you be Jesus."
A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their 6-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?" "I wouldn't know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, "Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?"
Statement Issued by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane on the Current Transport Crisis
Sunday, July 30, 2000
Although the situation changes daily, we thought we would include this statement for your information, interest and prayer.
I am deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in the transport conflict in the Western Cape. The closing of bus and taxi ranks in Khayelitsha, as announced this weekend, is not an effective way of stopping the shootings. It may in fact be counter-productive. Furthermore, it will inconvenience thousands of law abiding citizens who are dependent on public transportation to and from work, children going to and from school, nurses and other people who perform emergency services: the innocent are being punished.
The impounding of taxis has not, and will not, stop the shooting. We therefore urge the government to adopt a more flexible attitude so as to create a climate that is conducive to the resumption of talks. We also urge the Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw charges against bus drivers for protesting against being shot at.
The more effective security strategy is to have a security force presence in every single bus. As there are 200 Golden Arrow buses involved, this will require 800 personnel, which is easily manageable in this Province. A month ago the national government undertook to do just that and the question is why this has not happened?
Violence is a symptom of problems that exist in the transport industry. These problems can only be addressed satisfactorily through a process of negotiation, leading to sound policy and regulations - mediation, therefore, must continue. It cannot be abandoned at this critical moment. The violence is not a reason to abandon the talks. It makes the talks all the more urgent and important. We learned this lesson during the Kempton Park negotiations in the 1990s that took place in the midst of great violence but nevertheless gave birth to our much treasured democracy.
We urge the government to review its security strategy and urge all the parties who undertook to participate in the mediation process to honour that undertaking. The religious community prays to the Almighty for the cessation of violence and a lasting peace and stability in our Province.
You know he almost didn't see the old lady, stranded on the side of the road. But even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still spluttering when he approached her.
Even with a smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn't look safe, he looked poor and hungry. He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was that chill which only fear can put in you. He said, "I'm here to help you ma'am. Why don't you wait in the car where it's warm? By the way, my name is Bryan."
Well, all she had was a flat tyre, but for an old lady that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tyre. But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt. As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn't thank him enough for coming to her aid. Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk.
She asked him how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She had already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about the money. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty who had given him a hand in the past ... He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.
He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance that they needed, and Bryan added "... and think of me." He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.
A few miles down the road from the lady was a small café. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy-looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The cash register was like the telephone of an out-of-work actor - it didn't ring much. Her waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn't erase. The lady noticed that the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.
After the lady finished her meal, and the waitress went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, the lady slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. She wondered where the old lady could be, then she noticed something written on the napkin under which was four $100 bills. There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady had written. It said: "You don't owe me anything, I have been there, too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I'm helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you."
Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard. She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, "Everything's gonna be all right; I love you Bryan."
Today, I sent you this story, now I am asking you to pass it on ... Let this light shine. Don't put it under a basket. Please pass this on to a friend.
Sent in by Don MacRobert
by Anthony Nichols, August
Australians who were outraged by the militia rampage in East Timor nearly a year ago have been relatively silent about the greater violence that is being perpetrated against Christian communities in the Maluku islands (the Moluccas) of Eastern Indonesia.
In the last few months it has been estimated that up to 10,000 people have been killed and 500,000 displaced, as thousands of Islamic "jihad" (holy war) warriors have invaded the islands of Ambon, Halmahera and Ternate inciting local Muslims to kill or expel their Christian neighbours. This is despite the fact that Christians and Muslims have co-existed in these islands for almost 500 years - long before the gospel came to Australia.
For the first time in Indonesia's history there are no Christians in the upper echelons of the armed forces. In Ambon, units of the Indonesian army have openly supported the jihad warriors not only by providing sophisticated weaponry but by attacking Christians seeking to defend themselves.
The situation is critical because there is no prospect of an end to the violence and the militant Muslim offensive could well spread to Sulawesi, West Papua, and other parts of Indonesia where there are strong Christian communities. A further complication is the drive for independence by the largely Christian peoples of West Papua (formerly called Irian Jaya). A Jakarta sponsored Papuan Conference last month actually resulted in a unanimous declaration of independence from the Republic of Indonesia!
Last month in my Letter from Jakarta, I explained why the ideals of the student led reformation movement of 1998 have not been realized, despite the toppling of President Suharto and his protégé Dr Habbibie on the one hand, and on the other the election of the popular Muslim cleric Abdurrahman Wahid as President and the populist Megawati Sukarnoputri as Vice President: the patrimonial system that underpinned Suharto's rule is still strong, being deeply rooted in Javanese culture. And Javanese values are very different from those we have inherited from the faith of our Christian forbears.
President Wahid's genuine efforts to halt
the Maluku massacres have been totally ineffective. Two groups have a
vested interest in frustrating his leadership - Suharto loyalists who are
probably financing the jihad warriors and fundamentalist Muslims who seek
to establish an Islamic state. In the Maluku offensive the interests of
What can we do as Christians?
We can express our concern to [the Australian] Prime Minister and parliamentary representatives as well as to the Indonesian ambassador. In particular we should call for:
* the immediate withdrawal of all Muslim
Let us pray for Indonesia and especially for Christian brothers and sisters.
Anthony H Nichols
By Miles Kington
The Independent (London) columnist Miles Kington writes a silly but entertaining column about the marketing of Canterbury Cathedral to pilgrims in the middle ages. We suspect that if you are English you will think this column is funny, but we offer no warranty. From Anglicans Online.
It looks now as if Canterbury Cathedral is going to be one of the great all-time flops of the Middle Ages, writes our Medieval Showbizze Correspondent. Although built to last 1,000 years, it may need much longer than that to make back its building costs unless it attracts a lot more visitors, and very soon.
"My family and I had heard a lot about how wonderful the cathedral was," says a typical visitor, Mitch the Miller, "so we saved up all our money for four years and then made the long trip from Dover to have a day out. Well, I think it was a rip-off. The structure itself is very impressive, but there is nothing inside worth seeing at all. What there is is very preachy and New Middle Agey. It's all very well going into the Preaching Zone and being told that if we are sinful we will go to Hell, but we don't have to leave Dover to be told that. They tell us that every Sunday in the local church."
"It's very poorly furnished," says another typical visitor, Len the Leper. "Millions of people milling about; you'd think there be a chair or two, but oh, no, it's just a big empty space, with a few pillars to lean against. All right, it's a wonderful space, but then so is the sky, and we can get that at home. When you're a leper, like me, and short of a limb or two, you need all the seating you can get. Consideration for the disabled? I didn't notice it. Give us a groat, mate..."
One of the common criticisms of the Cathedral is that the zones do not live up to what they promise. The Life and Death Zone sounds like a pretty central experience, but that's not what Thom the Thatcher found.
"Life and Death Zone? Do us a favour! It's just a lot of effigies of stone knights lying on their backs! You can't even tell who half of them are! OK, they've got full descriptions written round their tombs, but I can't read, and I certainly can't read Latin. It really isn't customer-oriented at all."
A certain amount of grudging praise comes from most people for the Stained Glass Experience, which tells Jesus' story in coloured pictures, but even that has its critics, notably Pete the Peasant.
"I'd be a fool to criticise the way they've focused on Jesus, because obviously he's the sponsor, and what he says goes, but I am absolutely amazed that nothing has been made of modern British achievements. We lead the world in the use of the longbow. Our chain mail is state of the art, and our jousting implements are cutting edge, so to speak. But where is that mentioned in the Cathedral? Nowhere. The organisers missed a trick there, I think. Come on - let's be proud of England!"
Twice a day there is a show lasting about an hour, which has singing and praying, and people think that is all right, if a bit over-extended, but they do not have much time for the new Thomas Becket Experience, especially as the queues are so long.
"It's just a little side-chapel with a pool of dried blood on the floor," says one visitor, Colin the Crusader. "It's pathetic. All right, there's a priest there, moaning and weeping and telling how it all happened, but I could do better myself. In fact, I have done better myself. When I was on the Crusades, I eliminated a good few infidels in ways that would make your hair curl. Four knights and an archbishop? Don't make me laugh."
Recently, as if in acknowledgement of the criticisms, the Cathedral has appointed a new archbishop, the Frenchman Pierre-Yves Gerbeau, of the Paris branch of the church, to turn the attendance figures round, and he is blissfully hopeful.
"Oh, yes, I think we have a winner here," says Archbishop Gerbeau. "You know the Cathedral is already in the top five pilgrim destinations in Europe, if not the world? That's success for me. People who leave the Cathedral are very happy. We say to them, 'Ecoutez, if you are not happy with the Cathedral, you will go to Hell.' Then they are happy. We are running one mean, lean Cathedral here. Zank you very much. The interview is over. Please place 10 gold sovereigns in the box, and do not believe what the scribes say in the media."