First Monday Prayer Meeting

At our AGM this past April I focussed on what I feel God is calling us to give attention to in the life of St Giles. I outlined 4 priorities and one of these was prayer. Sue Ferraro has taken on the mantle of ‘prayer champion’ for St Giles, and whilst we are still figuring out all that entails, there is no doubt that a core component is to call people to gather together to pray. Our first prayer evening was fantastic, and we’ve decided to begin a monthly prayer meeting at St Giles. Obviously all are welcome to join us. We’re calling it ‘First Monday’. We’ll meet at church at 8pm on the first Monday of every month and spend time praying and in worship together. My prayer for this meeting is that in time it will become the spiritual engine of St Giles, place where we seek God and hear from him.

Our first Meeting is Monday 3rd August 8pm.

Bishop John Guernsey of the Church of Uganda in America is someone whose sermons I’ve recently discovered on this Interweb thingy and they’ve been a real blessing to me. Here he is on the ‘Prayer Driven Church’. I hope it inspires you as it did me.

News from Lesotho

The Dunfords are members of St Giles who are currently living and working in Lesotho in the field of education. Elizabeth is a teacher and has been working hard to help a new school get government registration, and David has been putting his skills to good use helping the local Anglican church. They recently achieved one of their major goals of seeing their school achieve it’s necessary registration and also the blessing of the bishop and local priests. You can read their story on their blog. St Giles prays for them and supports them, and we see their work as part of our ministry. Here is the Bishop arriving by horseback accompanied by the schools UK founder.

Christian Convert killed in Somalia

This situation in Somalia, and particulalry Mogadishu is rarely far from the headlines, yet the struggles of the small church in that country are rarely reported. In 2008 at least 10 Christians were killed for their faith and several others kidnapped and raped. Islam is the offical religion and there is no legal provision for religious freedom, or anything which faintly resembles a functionning police force or judiciary.

Compass Direct has the news of the latest killing.

Muslim extremists early this morning killed a Christian convert in Mahadday Weyne, Somalia, 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Mogadishu. Al Shabaab Islamist militia shot Mohammed Sheikh Abdiraman to death at 7 a.m., eyewitnesses told Compass. They said the Islamic extremists appeared to have been hunting the convert from Islam, and when they found him they did not hesitate to shoot him. The sources told Compass that Abdiraman was the leader of an underground “cell group” of Christians in Somalia. “We are very sad about this incident, and we also are not safe,” one eyewitness said by telephone. “Pray for us.”

Swine Flu hits home

Most of those who know us will know that the children have been ill this last week with what is now regulalry described as ‘flu like symptoms’. This seems to be medical code for – it looks like swine flu but we can’t really be sure because so many people have the same symptoms – cough, sore throat, temperature, runny nose – that we can’t test all of them. Therefore GP’s are assuming it’s swine flu and prescribing Tamiflu to those in high risk groups (in our case the children 5 and under – the 7 year old soldiered on).

So have our kids had it? Probably, almost certainly…

Have we? I’m not sure, to be honest, I feel ok, but I can’t see how I could have avoided being infected if in fact the kids have been…

What should we do? Well we don’t need to be quaranteened. The kids have made full recoveries bar the odd sniffle. My experience, and the advice given mirrors very closely that of another Blogger I follow – Adrian Warnock. He writes this:

We were asked to isolate our daughter for about a week. But, we were told that other members of the family could go about their daily business, even if they also developed a sore throat, as long as they did not get a fever. We were told we should ring the GP for more Tamiflu if anyone else developed a temperature.

So far, no other members of our family have developed a fever, though several are complaining of sore throats and feeling excessively tired. Since one of our daughters can’t go out, and the summer holidays have just started, we have this evening decided to try and make the best of it and have a lazy weekend in the house.

I did pop out today to Kentucky Fried Chicken to feed us all. I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty, however. It is very likely that my current mild sore throat is caused by the swine flu virus. Knowing that you might be risking infecting people with an illness that although very mild for the vast majority could at least potentially be fatal for a tiny minority feels odd. What is strange, however, is that I have never spared much thought about passing on "ordinary" flu which is just as much a potential killer, especially for the elderly.

Reflecting on the last week, it has been interesting to note the reactions of others. The medics we know – and St Giles has loads (we have a consultant in infectious diseases in the congregations as well as a GP and loads of consultants) – are pretty relaxed about the whole thing. They know the facts, the death rates, what kind of complicating factors to look out for, and what the contingencies are. Their advice – universally is – carry on with life as normally as you can, keep an eye on the temperatures, get the little ones on Tamiflu, this seems to be a mild flu, we will all get it at some stage, lucky you getting it early.

For those with kids,  understandably anxiety levels are much higher. There is a concern – have we been swabbed? What’s the diagnosis? Where did we get it from? And when will the kids be ‘released’ back into the wild. No doubt the media will continue relaying for weeks the ‘daily toll’ the virus takes, and this will add to the alarm. Though as one medic told me, all those figures really tell us is how widely the virus has spread, not how dangerous it is. Swine Flu is the first pandemic of the global media age and every new development soon hits the front pages unfortunately before we have time for reflection.

So how dangerous is it?

From the NHS Swine Flu Website:

Worldwide, just over 0.4% of the laboratory-confirmed cases reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) have died, which would be a rate consistent with that normally observed with seasonal influenza. However, the true number of swine flu cases is likely to be significantly higher than that reported to WHO and therefore the figure of 0.4% is likely to be an overestimate of the death rate.

Where complications do occur, they tend to be caused by the virus affecting the lungs. Infections such as pneumonia can develop.

Emphasis mine

We need not be complacent, but at the moment, swine flu appears to be less dangerous than normal ‘seasonal flu’ which in particulalry bad years kills tens of thousands. For my part I’m glad we’ve had it, with relatively minor symptoms, and life goes on. If we’ve had it that is…

Introducing the new Bishop

The Right Rev Paul Butler current Bishop of Southampton is to be our new Bishop of Nottingham and Southwell. I haven’t met him, but I hear good things about him. Here he is talking about why he’s taken up the post.

He used to be a student here, and felt the call to ministry at Christ church Chilwell. We’ll be praying for him and his family.

July 7th Memorial Unveiled – a reminder we are all connected

7/7/07 – I followed the story on CNN from the Philippines. I used to travel on the tube daily into work like millions of others. I thought of the what if’s, and the people I knew who would be making that same journey. Statisticians tell us that everyone is connected to everyone else by a chain of at most 7 people. Did I know anyone connected directly to the bombing?

Turns out I did. A class mate from seminary was the mother of one of the victims. In her final year, and me in my first, we met weekly together in a fellowship group for prayer and Bible study. We would each share and prayer for one another and our families. My friend was a priest at the time of the bombing. She subsequently came out of the ministry as a direct result of the impact of the July 7th bombing – another innnocent victim. As the memorial to the victims of 7/7 was unveiled I prayed for those directly affected, and remembered that we are all connected one to another.

Pray for Peace in the Philippines

Before coming to West Bridgford I was working as a vicar in the Philippines. Based in Cebu in the Visaya’s region I had a number of responsibilities. One of these was pastoring a small congregation of Episcopalians who had resettled in Cebu from Cotabato city in the south. Cotabato is one of the largest cities in Mindanao a large landmass that is home to most of the Philippines 15% Muslims. For many years an armed conflict has simmered between those seeking a Muslim independent state in the south, and the predominantly Christian Filipino armed forces. Similar conflicts can be found across SE Asia – Thailand, East Timor and Sri Lanka spring to mind. As you travel deeper into rural areas in Mindanao, you travel further from the rule of law and order and into an increasingly divided land. Christian and Muslim villages nestle side by side. One with a mosque the other a church. One farms pigs the other does not, otherwise there will be little difference between them to the outsider, yet those who are intent of violence will exploit local tensions for their own ends. My Episcopal friends spoke of leaving Cotabato in order to find new lives for themselves and their children. They would speak of sectarian murders, land grabs corruption and persecution at many levels of society.

During my time in Cebu I was part of the Episcopal Diocese of the Southern Philippines and travelled several times to see my bishop who was based at the Cathedral in Cebu. Always hospitable I stayed in his home and had the run of the cathedral compound. But we had to be careful though. Exploring Cotabato alone was discouraged, Western missionaries and Catholic priests have been kidnapped for ransom in Mindanao. Flying into the city you discover the airport is located in the centre of an army base to discourage terrorist attacks. Roadblock security checks are frequent. I thought of ‘my’ bishop Bustamente and is son whose room I used to stay in this last week when I heard of a bomb attack at Cotabato’s catholic cathedral this weekend.

The archbishop was delivering a sermon about peacemakers when a powerful explosion ripped through a nearby store selling roasted pigs, rocking the packed cathedral.

Churchgoers screamed and rushed to the altar. Others fell, wounded or dying, including a woman lechon vendor whose arm was torn off.

In the bloodiest of a spate of bomb attacks that have rocked parts of Mindanao in recent weeks, five people were killed and about 45 wounded Sunday when a homemade bomb tore through the lechon store outside the Cotabato Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

A fuller report can be found here. Time will tell whether this was a ‘rogue’ attack by a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation front, or whether this marks a new phase in the conflict. I’m praying for peace in the Philippines, in the fullest meaning of the word – a cessation of hostilities and an experience of harmony and well being.

Keeping a prayer journal – Something to consider?

In our communion service today we read from Deuteronomy 17, where God instructs his people about the disciplines that any King of Israel should adhere to. Among these is the injunction to make a copy of the Law:

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.

What what struck us was the injunction that the king is ‘to write for himself’ a copy of the law. No mean task in those days. Why not simply have a scribe copy it for him? Why not just have a copy in the royal library for successive kings to use? The answer it would seem, is that the king is not just to know the law, or refer to it, but rather he is to internalise it. To be familiar with it in as full a manner as possible to. To ‘own’ it, by virtue of writing it in his own hand.

The practice of keeping a journal comes to mind when thinking about this passage. Keeping a journal – writing ones prayers, thoughts and meditations as one reads, and interacts with Scripture has 4 benefits I can think of.

  1. It causes us to stop; writing takes time, and spiritual growth requires time
  2. It causes us to reflect; to ask questions of ourselves and God’s Word.
  3. It gives us encouragement – as we read back over previous entries we see God’s hand in our lives.
  4. It gives us a sense of perspective as we read back over troubles times and answered prayer.

Not sure how to start?

  • Buy a notebook – doesn’t have to be expensive but you’ll want to write in it
  • Plan a time to pray and write – 10 mins a day? Half an hour a week.
  • Plan a place to write, it’s easier if you write in a regular place at a regular time
  • Keep going. We all struggle with this, not everyone clicks straight away, but one of our older members has been keeping a journal for many, many years.
  • Read the Scriptures, stop, pray, write – about your insights, your questions, your hopes, fears, anything really…
  • Reflect, take time to read back over previous entries.