Be still and know that I am God

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10ff)

The Sunday before last, our church worshipped slightly differently from usual. I arrived at church a few minutes before the start of the service and noticed: there was no guitar, no percussion and no keyboard. Not even a ukulele! Just a solitary microphone on its stand. I lead worship from time to time but had declined the request to play guitar as it was my daughter’s birthday. I’ll level with you: I felt uncomfortable. I scurried around the building looking for something I could strum as an accompaniment, but I found nothing.

I still felt uncomfortable during the first song, but by the second song I’d found my voice and I was singing freely, as were the others in the congregation. People started songs spontaneously from where they were sat; others read scriptures or prayed aloud. It felt like, as a church, we were worshipping as a community. And in the pauses, in the gaps between songs, we could dwell and contemplate. We could listen to God.

I’m terrible with silence and with pause. I have music playing, I have my phone to hand, I am buried in a newspaper, but when do I ever just stop? And even in church – do we leave enough silence? What’s worse: to risk a little awkwardness from time to time, or to program God out of our meetings?

In the Psalms (songs and poems written by King David amongst others), the word “selah” appears on many occasions. We don’t know for definite what selah means – it could simply be a musical direction, but the Amplified Bible translates it as “pause and calmly think about that”. We had plenty of selah moments the Sunday before last. Amongst the quiet babble of toddlers, between the singing: we had a chance to pause and think.

Silence is a commodity to be nurtured, cherished and protected. These selah moments are not purely reserved for church services. I can, and should, pause more often. I can choose to put my phone away, to leave my headphones on the shelf, to stare out of the window of the train rather than tackle the newspaper puzzle page. Because when I do, I digest and I listen. And in doing so, I feel better equipped to deal with the stresses of the everyday, and more aware of God’s presence.

Andy King
The Gateway Church

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Refugees

Organized actions to save Jewish children facing extermination in Nazi Germany and Austria began before World War II. In Great Britain, the Movement for the Care of Children group organized the travel and shelter of over 10,000 central European Jewish refugee children between December 1938 and September 1939. The operation became known as the Kindertransport, because these children traveled without their parents. Britain, in fact, was rightly proud of the part it played in this movement.
Now the home affairs select committee is calling on the government to halt plans to limit the number of child refugees coming to the UK to 350, and to conduct a thorough investigation into the capacity of councils to take in unaccompanied children.
About 3,000 children were originally expected to come to the UK under the scheme but the home secretary, Amber Rudd claims that the number was lowered because councils did not have enough capacity. However, evidence given to the select committee challenges the government on how far it consulted councils, and suggests that at least 4,000 children could be found homes if central funding was forthcoming.
It is not only a question of receiving child refugees. How we treat the poor is how we treat God. Jesus’s words about the Last Judgement, as we find them in St Matthews Gospel, chapter 25, tell us how we will be judged. We will be judged not only on our treatment of the poor, but also (quoting Jesus’s words) ’I was a stranger and you made me welcome’. This statement is most topical when we are faced with refugees and asylum seekers today. Not only is starvation in Sudan and other parts of Africa the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, but equally millions of people are being driven from their homes and countries with no place willing to receive them.

The issue of refugees and asylum seekers is very sensitive and complex. Countries need to defend their borders and protect their citizens. There are real political, socio-economic and security issues involved. But we are, in religious terms, told to welcome the stranger in spite of inconvenience and even possible dangers.

We can find all sorts of reasons, political, social, economic, and security for not welcoming the stranger. But how far are these excuses for rejection and exclusion and how far a denial of our obligations? Will the words addressed to us at the Last Judgement be: ‘I was a refugee and you did not welcome me’.

John Cairns, King’s Lynn Catholic Church

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Mental Health – what can I do?

Thought for the Week 21.03.17
Mental health: What can I do?

Recently Hannah Cooper and Jackie Wrout, from the charity One to One Project, gave a talk to Churches Together about the One to One Project (www.onetooneproject.com 01553 770770) which has been running for 34 years helping adults with mental health problems.
1 in 4 people from all backgrounds experience a mental health problem in any given year, and 3 in 4 of them fear the reactions of family and friends. Almost 9 in 10 people with a mental health problem have faced stigma and three quarters have lost friendships. 1 in 10 young people will suffer from mental health problems. It is a myth that people with mental health problems are violent; they are more likely to be victims.
According to a ‘Vital Signs’ report, published in 2016 by Norfolk Community Foundation, 70,477 women and 44,434 men in Norfolk are affected by common mental health disorders. The prevalence of depression in Norfolk is 12.3% and this is above the national average of 11.2%.
What can I do?
1. Offer emotional support, patience and encouragement.
2. Remind them that you care.
3. Invite them to talk about their feelings.
4. Keep in touch.
5. Encourage them to take part in activities that give them pleasure.
6. Find out about self-help / support groups and mental health services.
Try not to:
1. Get drawn in to ‘cheering them up’ but instead validate their true feelings.
2. Show fear and avoidance.
3. Pressure them to talk.
4. Assume you know how they feel.
5. Assume that you know what is best.
What can we do for ourselves? Five ways of Wellbeing:
1. Connect with the people around you, with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
2. Be active: Do what you enjoy, go for a walk or a run outside, cycle, dance or play a game. Exercise makes you feel good.
3. Take notice: Be curious, catch sight of the beautiful and savour the moment. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
4. Keep learning: Try something new. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things is fun and will make you more confident.
5. Give: Volunteer or do something nice for a friend or a stranger. Seeing your happiness, linked to the wider community, can be incredibly rewarding.

Peter Coates, secretary of Churches Together in King’s Lynn.
Linden, Bircham Rd, Stanhoe, Norfolk, PE318PT.
01485 518191.
peter@stanhoe.plus.com.

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Trump

Donald Trump, eh? Good grief! He’s now the President of the United States and spent his first day in office telling the world that there were record numbers at his Inauguration on Friday when we have photographs showing a low turnout. It’s going to be an interesting 4 years!
I marched on the Women’s March on London last Saturday. It was in solidarity with the march on Washington and one of 700 marches across 70 countries. We marched to stand up for and defend the rights and freedoms of all people. As Yvette Cooper said at the rally in Trafalgar Square: ‘we’re marching because the most powerful man in the world says it’s ok to sexually assault women because he is rich and powerful and we say no way!’ It was incredible to be with 100,000 people bringing London to a halt. There were quite a lot of children, older women, babies, men and even dogs! The signs were so creative, some rude, some very funny. My favourite signs were ‘we shall overcomb’ and ‘I am very upset.’
Feminism gets a bad press but it’s simply believing that women deserve the same dignity and respect as men. I’m a feminist because 1 in 4 women in this country will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and 2 women are killed a week by a current or former partner. I’m a feminist because around the world girls are married off whilst they are still children and often die giving birth. And I’m a feminist because women billions of pounds are made every year by fashion, make up and cosmetic surgery industries from constantly telling women that our bodies are not good enough.
I marched in my clerical collar because I wanted to represent the Church of England. The Church has been slow to allow women as leaders, only agreeing to consecrate women bishops in 2014, but there are many of us who are feminists because of our faith, not in spite of it. Jesus spent his ministry defending and encouraging women: he saved a woman from being stoned to death, he stood up for women who were being criticized, he taught and encouraged women in their faith and he came to live among us to release and liberate all oppressed and downtrodden people. I marched as a feminist on Saturday – and as a Christian.

Reverend Laura Baker
Curate of King’s Lynn Minster

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Collaboration and Community

Last weekend I was working with a friend on a project in the garden and it reminded me again of the importance of collaboration. We completed in two hours a task that on our own would have probably taken over eight. A simple example, but it opens a bigger concept I think we often struggle to grasp.

We read in the bible that Jesus lived a collaborative lifestyle and he taught the disciples the wisdom of collaboration. In Luke 5:4 he invited Simon Peter “Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets to catch some fish.” Jesus first invited a level of faith and then created a moment beyond their own resource and waited. In verse 7 we read “a shout for help brought their partners in the other boat and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.” The disciples were astonished with the catch of fish they had taken. The key: They first trusted and then decided to reach for help and not try to haul the catch in themselves.

Jesus, the ultimate supplier of all things, borrowed many items including homes and even a donkey. We don’t always know who these people were that loaned Jesus these things but we know that they were people with whom he had built a collaborative relationship. He worked with the rich and the poor, religious leaders and business leaders. He modeled partnership and collaboration and so the early church thrived on this.

When I first heard this teaching, around the time we started the Foodbank project in 2011, it stuck with me. But it was one phrase that perhaps had the greatest impact: People do not have to be 100% for us to not be against us. A collaborative mind understands that but in life we often major on the 20% we don’t agree on and that prevents us moving forward. A growth environment will often put you into partnership with other people you may not have expected, but maybe that’s what being part of a community is about.

I want to encourage you in 2017 to think much more collaboratively than perhaps you’ve done to date. We all have a limited amount of time and resource and the idea isn’t to keep squeezing more out of our often-busy lives. You can achieve much more with God than you can with your own limited resources, but that often involves partnering with others.

This has been the foundation that we have built on at the Kings Lynn Foodbank, that we can achieve more together. When our focus is about the goal and not ourselves then we can reach more people.

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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

January is the month of Holocaust Memorial Day and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and both of them are really about how human beings live together throughout the world. January 27th is the anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps, and therefore a day to remember the slaughter of 6 million Jewish people in an attempt to exterminate all Jews. But it is much more than that, partly because we mustn’t forget that maybe 250,000 homosexual people, 250,000 disabled people, many Roma people and other minority groups, that were also slaughtered, by the Nazis. And it doesn’t stop with the Nazis: well over a million Armenian civilians were murdered during the First World War; over two million people died in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979; over a million Tutsi people in Rwanda in 1994; 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Bosnia in July 1995; the continuing civil war in Dafur has claimed up to half a million civilian lives. And what can we say of Syria? In the UK during 2015, there were over 900 antisemitic incidents, about 2,500 hate crimes against Muslims, 5,500 attacks because of the victim’s sexuality and 2,500 because of the victim was disabled. Since June last year, the number of crimes against immigrant people has greatly increased. Why are human beings capable of doing such things?
The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day is “How can life go on?” How can those who have experienced the victimization demonstrated by these statistics, live now? How can all of us change to turn away from this hatred and violence and realize that blaming and victimizing other people for our perceived misfortunes will never benefit us.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a positive response to the scandal of division among Christian Churches. Mostly the divisions are cultural and administrative, although perhaps a few disagreements are more fundamental. But the importance of Christian unity is because Christians believe that God’s will is for the unity of all human beings. God loves us, and loves every other person as much as he loves us. Divided Churches are a bad example, but the prayer of all Christians is that all human beings may be united in love. Whether we pray or not, that’s a worthwhile ambition for us all, and it is the only hope for overcoming all the hatred and violence that destroys human lives.

Canon Chris Ivory
Kings Lynn Minster

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Faith looks up

psalm46v10Regret looks back. Fear looks around. Worry looks in. Faith looks up.
These were apt words from Nicky Gumbel on the “Bible in One Year’ app on the day the US presidential election was announced. Wherever you stand politically it has been a tumultuous year politically both here and across the pond.

The 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall also occurred last week. I remember the night it happened well. Interestingly it was all triggered from a prayer meeting in East Berlin (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/0/24661333) . The turn of that decade was a time of hope and destiny politically. A pop song of the time expressed it well “Right here, right now, there is no other place I’d rather be. Right here, right now watching the world wake up from history.” To me, the political upheaval of 1989 seems far more positive in tone and nature than what we are currently experiencing in 2016.

So those words of Nicky Gumbel are key to know how to think and speak about what is going with Trump and Brexit. Don’t let regret, fear or worry take your eyes from looking up. The Psalmist wrote “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed… He who sits in heaven laughs, the Lord holds them in derision.”

Another Psalm (46) reminds us of three truths that will help to keep us looking up.

Firstly, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way. In that Psalm every mention of disaster, political or natural, is accompanied by a declaration that nevertheless God is still large and in charge.

Secondly, the Psalmist talks of “a river whose streams make the glad the city of God, the holy of habitation of the Most High” – that speaks of the church, whose mission of redemption and reconciliation of people to God and to each other will make people “glad.” The good news of Jesus Christ sorts out racism, hate, bigotry, despair and the politics of fear.

The third is the exhortation to “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Despite rumours to the contrary, God is sovereign and in control. His purpose is to have a people for himself who know Him, love Him and experience forgiveness, healing and freedom. As that happens more and more, He will be exalted among the nations and the whole earth. Regret looks back. Fear looks around. Worry looks in. Faith looks up. Put your trust in the Lord!

Andy Moyle
The Gateway Church

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Halloween

It’s Halloween this weekend! Are you excited and eagerly awaiting sweets and costumes or groaning into your copy of the Lynn News? It’s a holiday which divides opinion – some enjoy the fun and others look forward to it being over for another year. I’m not a big fan of Halloween, to be honest. I can see that it is an opportunity to dress up, have fun and do something different but I don’t enjoy the decorations in shops or the loud banging on the door at night. Both can be unsettling and disturbing. My least favourite decoration last year were pictures dismembered hands stuck to a shop window that looked a bit too life-like. This year I found a large plastic rat on the counter of a shop rather off-putting.
I also feel that there is enough darkness in the world already without adding a lot of our own. There is a thrill in being spooked but in a world where Donald Trump might be president of America, I don’t need anything else to make me scared!
Did you know that Halloween came from a Christian festival? It doesn’t sound very likely, does it?! But it’s true. It’s a shortening of the phrase ‘All Hallows Eve’ which is the evening before All Saints Day when we remember all those who have died. Death can seem very scary which I guess is where the spooky skeletons, graveyards and zombies come from at Halloween but in the Christian tradition, we hold onto our belief that God is stronger than the powers of darkness and death, and through Jesus nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. Death loses some of its fear when we hold onto Jesus’ promise of eternal life and we take comfort that our loved ones are held in the loving arms of God.
So, if you’re celebrating Halloween, enjoy it and have fun but try not to scare those of us who want a quiet evening watching Strictly! And over this weekend of ghouls and ghosts, be reassured that God’s love is stronger than any darkness we feel and always will be.

Rev’d Laura Baker
Kings Lynn Minster

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Cosi Fan Tutte

Mozart’s comic opera Cosi Fan Tutte was shown at the Majestic last week. It’s translated, “all women are the same” implying they’re all bad – blatant sexism that this new production addressed at the end! It is said to be a true story of two sisters, each deeply in love with their fiancé. They’re each awaiting their wedding day, certain of their beloved’s faithfulness. A cynical old bachelor tells the young men that as soon as their backs are turned, the women will be flirting with other men. So it’s agreed to put it to the test. The men are apparently suddenly called away to serve in the army, but they soon return in disguise to see what will happen. Sure enough, the women are soon flirting – with their disguised fiancés. Eventually however, one of the women goes off with the other’s boyfriend. One of the women and one of the men remain faithful, but each has lost their beloved to the other’s partner. The cynical old man tells them that’s how life is and we have to get on with it. But in the end, when everything is revealed, all is forgiven; true love is restored and all is well. The twist in this production comes in the final scene. The title Cosi Fan Tutte is written in lights to remind us of the lesson of the story, but “Tutte” gradually changes to “Tutti”. It’s not just the women, it’s everyone – the men are just as bad! “All have sinned and fall short” as St Paul put it. So we all need to keep turning back and trying again, if all is to be well.
“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,” wrote Shakespeare (Sonnet 116). The true example of faithful love is God’s love for human beings shown by Jesus. “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom” continued Shakespeare. That is the love revealed in Jesus who was crucified because that’s where his love for us led him. He was betrayed by his friends, but even death could not exterminate his love. God’s love is faithful and never alters. That’s the example we need to follow if all is to be well. That’s the love that we can rely on even though we all fall short and whether or not we love in return.

The Revd Canon Christopher Ivory

King’s Lynn Minster

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Sanded down

sanding-downLast year, I decided to sand and re-varnish the floorboards in our living room, hallway and dining room. This major refurbishment task was well overdue – delayed repeatedly due to the demands of parenthood and a pathological fear of a DIY disaster.

The floorboards had been coated in layer upon layer of thick, dark mahogany varnish. As I ran the floor sander over the boards, amongst the noise and the dust, the layers of varnish were stripped off. I was worried about what had been buried underneath – our house is nearly 200 years old and full of unwanted surprises. What horrors would be revealed?

Once I’d stripped off the last layer of varnish, once the dust had settled, what was left was an old but beautiful pine floor. Some of the boards had split or frayed; some were heavily knotted; some had old sultanas and stickers and bits of Lego stuck in the cracks. But what we were left with was clear and full of character.

As I looked at this new, bare, slightly damaged floor, I considered how my life had been in the past – how I’d carried on with a veneer of “togetherness”; how easily I’d masked my flaws and failures. In Psalm 139, one of many poems in the Bible, King David writes “Oh Lord, you have examined my heart and You know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up; You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.”

God could see what I looked like beneath my veneer; God could see the beauty and the flaws; God could see the parts of my life that needed ripping out, mending and replacing. And because God is the perfect architect and the perfect restorer, God knew that the only way I could live my life to my full potential was through Him.

It’s easier now than it’s ever been to live a life where mistakes and flaws are glossed over. As a regular user of Facebook, I know how easy it is to paint an idyllic picture of family life, to present the highlights and mask the mistakes. But God wants you just as you are. There’s no veneer that He doesn’t see through; His plan for your life is perfect.

If you are tired of life under layers of thick, dark mahogany varnish, if you want God to properly restore you, seek Him today and find others (in a local church) who are being restored by Him.

Andy King
The Gateway Church, Kings Lynn

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