Loving the planet

The weather this summer has not been as we had hoped. Damp days make for grumpy folk that’s for sure as we try to manage our expectations and those of our families when we’re stuck indoors looking out at grey skies and constant drizzle.

But cancelled day trips and bored children aren’t the end of it – the inclement weather has a massive knock-on effect on local businesses too: anyone working outside this year has been severely compromised as rainy days mean much work can’t be done; anyone selling summer stuff notes a downturn in sales and our shops and cafes suffer as the footfall just isn’t there.

I noted a conversation the other day where a couple were saying just how quiet it is on the Lynn streets this year. I wonder, then, if our local tourism numbers are down too.

The adverse weather affects all of us in one way or another. While we are complaining of soggy weekends elsewhere in the world (beyond King’s Lynn!) other countries are suffering heat waves and years of droughts. On drier Continents crops are failing and people and animals are going without food. In other places, the sea levels are rising and whole islands are being lost to the sea and their peoples forced to flee.

But it’s just the weather, right? We don’t have any control over that. “Acts of God” they call it. It’s not about climate change…

No, it’s not, it’s about climate crisis and we do have to acknowledge our part in that. We are called to take care of our planet, to be good stewards, not to be greedy or wasteful, but careful and considered about how we live – in love for the planet we live on and for those whom we live alongside now and who will inherit our laziness in future generations.

How can we say we love our neighbour, if we don’t care enough to stand up for the world we live in? What is the point of having the right pronouns if we don’t love the person in front of us enough to ensure that the world we are leaving them is safe?

Revd Kyla Sørensen 

A change is as good as a rest

A change is as good as a rest they say. At this time of year, many of us enjoy and look forward to change. Most of us appreciate some sunshine and perhaps some sort of summer break. Maybe we are looking forward to getting away on holiday or enjoying the excellent free activities on offer in our town. Doing things differently, having barbecues with family or friends, listening to music, enjoying the rare sunshine, eating ice cream, and enjoying nature. These out-of-the-ordinary things are good for our souls.

And yet change can often be difficult. When our life circumstances change due to illness, retirement or unemployment. When valued colleagues leave work. When we move house or others we love move away. When someone we care about dies. When workplaces introduce changes which sometimes seem to be simply for the sake of change. We may well look back wistfully, perhaps through rose-tinted glasses, and remember when times seemed better and we were happier. I wonder what changes you have had to face recently? Change is hard.

Some of us like change more than others. We get bored easily and find change to be exciting and stimulating. And yet change comes to all of us, like it or not, there is no escaping it. Inevitably children grow up and although it can be hard to admit it, we get older ourselves, and our abilities change. In the recent General Election, we have had a change of government. Maybe you are excited about this change and hopeful for the future, perhaps you are not.

My life has changed a lot over the past few years. I used to be a doctor, but I felt that God was calling me to church leadership. After a fairly rigorous process of discernment and training, I was ordained last year as a deacon and recently was ordained as a priest. I moved to King’s Lynn last year to take up my post as a curate at the Minster. The expectations and responsibilities of my new role are taking a bit of getting used to.

And yet through all these changes I have realised that the God who calls us is consistently faithful and unchanging. This holy God of love is revealed to us in the Bible. It says in the book of Malachi 3:6 ‘I the Lord do no change’. God’s character is revealed particularly through the life and death of Jesus Christ. We can be reassured that God’s love for us is constant. Things will constantly change in our lives for better or worse, but God will never change. God’s love for us is never-ending.

Fiona Munn

Peace and Justice Forum 2024

Churches Together in King’s Lynn Peace and Justice Forum 2024: A Positive Step Forward

Over 45 people gathered at Cornerstone King’s Lynn Baptist Church on Saturday 13th January for a day conference on Peace and Justice, the first of its kind for some years in West Norfolk. Joint Moderators Revd June Love (Cornerstone KL Baptist Church) and Revd Kyla Sørensen (St. Faith’s Church Gaywood) were delighted to see so many gathered:

“Ahead of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, this forum was an opportunity for church leaders, local groups and charities to explore issues that really matter, issues that we are witnessing in our local communities on a daily basis.” Said Revd Kyla.

The free event was open to anyone interested in issues of social justice from a Christian perspective. During a packed programme, leaders from 8 different church traditions and delegates from a number of local charities and groups had the opportunity to engage with challenging questions and to reflect on how together we can affect action to make a real difference in King’s Lynn and surrounds. Lively and engaging discussions were had as well as a fantastic opportunity to network with other churches and groups in the pop-up resource centre.

The forum’s presenter was Revd Steve Tinning, the Baptist Union’s Public Issues Enabler. Steve divides his working week between the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) and the Baptist Union of Great Britain. At heart, Steve is an activist, with practical theology and community-organising theory working as the foundations of a ministry of justice and compassion.

Revd June told us: “As churches and charities we are passionate about social action in our area, however Steve inspired us to think about how we can work together to bring about social justice – changing King’s Lynn from a town where we serve the poor to a place where poverty is alleviated altogether.”

The day rounded off with a conversation between Revd Steve and Andy Frere-Smith, a frontline worker in King’s Lynn for Norfolk Together: a joint venture between the Church Urban Fund and the Diocese of Norwich supporting the work of local Christians in their community as they develop and deliver social action initiatives.

Helen Gilbert, from King’s Lynn Foodbank said: “It was an informative and very thought-provoking forum, covering several different aspects of peace and justice at a local level as well as nationally and internationally. So many of these issues are looked at in isolation, when in reality they all overlap and impact on each other. As we head into an election year, it is so vital that we as individuals are all as informed as possible about these issues, so that we can make an informed choice about which representative we want to speak for us in political arenas on these matters.”

Date and venue for next year’s forum: 18th January 2025 10-3pm at Gaywood Church Rooms.

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail

Having time to spare, (well, I am retired!), I was scrolling through YouTtube when a lovely piece about soaring condors in the Andes came on, accompanied by a Simon and Garfunkel track. I was struck by the phrase, “I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail”.
It took be back many years to a time when I was teaching RE. There had been a class discussion of bullying looking at both the bully and the victim. I had put up several ‘thoughts’ on the display board which included one – ‘Sometimes you’re the pigeon and sometimes you’re the statue’. A school inspector (loud boos), not asking about the context of this, criticised me for its inappropriateness. Had he but asked I could have explained how it related to our topic.
As a teacher (and parent) the cry of ‘it isn’t fair’ is often the usual response to some perceived injustice being done to the poor little dear. In the political arena it can be our response to ‘them’ doing things to ‘us’.
Government and councils can seem remote, uncaring and unresponsive. Price rises and the increasing cost of living weigh down on those with limited incomes. Things we want are out of reach but we see others with wealth buying whatever they like. Is that fair?
How we respond to the ‘pigeon’ does not mean we have to feel like the ‘statue’.
Where there is injustice and genuine unfairness then, yes, we do need to challenge it. Even so, the individual, somehow, has to deal with these situations. Feeling you are the victim is not healthy. It can lead to depression or anger. Anger that can be vented on totally innocent folk – either those we meet or those out there who we don’t like, for whatever reason.
We may not be as wealthy, good-looking, healthy or intelligent as others. So what?
Looking at what we do have is a good starting point for feeling at peace with the world. Where it is possible, we can make changes, if we want to, at a pace we control. Where it is not possible, then shrug your shoulders and move on. Who knows, someone else may be looking at you with envy because their situation is even worse than yours. Perhaps supporting others in need may be one way to appreciate what you do have!
Whatever your situation, this is the time of year to be a bit more generous with your time and goodwill. It is a universal opportunity to be grateful for the gifts we receive and to consider sharing something we have with those even more unfortunate than us!
Christmas Season Blessings to all.

John Belfield

The power of words

The Power of Words

Words are powerful. I’ve been thinking about that a lot, recently. Let me explain.

Firstly, my beloved 81-year-old Nan had a stroke last month, suddenly changing everything for her. She’s not a white-haired, diminishing-old-lady kind of Nan either – she is 5ft 10, plays golf twice a week, makes incredible jam, flies around Tesco like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep and can talk the hind legs off fields of donkeys. Could. Because that has been one of the most heart-breaking effects of the stroke – her words are all gone. Almost entirely. She can communicate a little, but without a wealth of words, she is horribly frustrated and reduced. She can’t keep the nurses on the stroke ward listening for hours, regaling proud tales of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She can’t explain to them the pain of the loss of my Granddad, so recently, and the lifetime of love they had. Even those of us who know her best can only partly guess from charades and a few stray syllables, some of the myriad things she is trying to communicate to us, each day. We pray for words to return.

The other thing that got me thinking about words was a phrase I heard at the annual Christian camp, One Event, which our church attends every year. It is always a full and exhausting weekend, with so many meetings and talks, that taking it all in is impossible. But one of the phrases that stuck with me, was “I see in you…” The speaker was promoting the importance of these four small words, encouraging us to imagine the things we might unlock in others, the paths on which we might set them, by naming the potential we see in them. Don’t we all long for that – someone to notice our gifting, encourage us in it, champion us, believe in us? While we wait for it to happen to us, let’s get on with sowing that which we long for ourselves, into the lives of others. Four small words. Enough to make a difference.

Finally, the Bible describes Jesus as ‘the Word of God’ – spoken from heaven to earth, to bring life and hope to any who would hear him. Let’s use our words well today, in all their stuttering incompleteness, to bring life, hope and peace to those we meet. In doing so, we echo, in small quiet ways, the gentle voice of the only Word fully capable of speaking life and hope, with no stuttering or incompleteness at all.

Georgie Tennant
Kings Lynn Christian Fellowship

How we react

A few Sundays back I was driving home with my daughters in the car. All of a sudden there was a terrible screeching sound coming from my front tyre. The sound very much resembled fingernails being scrapped against a blackboard. It was terrible. Me, being the only adult in the car was trying to remain calm, thinking ‘I just need to get home safely’. Whereas my daughters had more of a reaction of fear, worry, and panic. Luckily the next day we found that it was just a little stone caught in my wheel and the solution was quite simple.

My daughters expressed a very natural reaction about how they were feeling in the situation. I didn’t show them the panic I was actually feeling inside. What if there is something seriously wrong with the car? How much money will this cost me? What if I can’t use my car for work? No matter what distress I was feeling, I was choosing to display a different response in this situation in order to create a calm that my daughters needed to regain a feeling of safety. If I had chosen to display my actual emotional reaction it would have completely changed the situation and made the atmosphere a lot worse.

Often in life things can happen that create different responses and reactions from us. People can say things to upset us or make us angry. We have a choice whether we react emotionally or respond thoughtfully. Sometimes our reactions are not thought through and our initial feelings about a situation rise up and actually have the potential to make things worse. Sometimes we need to just take a step back and think about how to respond in the situation.

That Sunday even though I wanted to react negatively to the car screeching, I chose to think calmly and positively. Each of us has the same choice to make when we are faced with a situation that can evoke either a negative reaction or a positive response. Whatever you face this week I implore you to try and take a step back, a deep breath and choose a positive approach. In Proverbs 13:16 it says “Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness.”No matter what we may face let’s choose to be wise in our responses by thinking before we act from here on out.

Emily Hart
Kings Lynn Christian Fellowship

What’s your memory like?

What’s your memory like? Apparently, the storage capacity of the human brain is virtually limitless. I guess that means I don’t have an excuse for forgetting what I came upstairs for, or forgetting to take my lunch to work the other day, or worse still – forgetting my wedding anniversary! Incidentally, you might be relieved to know that there is a scientific explanation for forgetting what we went into a room for. Apparently, going through doorways may act as a trigger for the brain to store memories away so that we then can’t remember once we get to the next room.
My mum tells the story of when my sister (her first child) was born and she went to a shop. As was common in those days, she left the pram outside and went in to do her shopping. She finished the shopping, left the shop and started to walk home, completely forgetting to take my sister with her! She didn’t get too far before realising! I am so glad that God promises never to forget me. There is a verse in the Bible that compares God to a mother and says, “how can a mother forget her baby? And yet even if she does, I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15) God can’t forget us because we are his precious children and he is our perfect parent.
But what is equally amazing is what he chooses to forget. The Bible tells us that when we ask God to forgive us, he doesn’t just forgive, he forgets, (Isaiah 43:25). When we forgive people, we don’t automatically forget what they have done – we can’t erase the memory just by choosing to do so, although the memory can become less painful. It is very easy to bring those things back up again in our relationships, even when we think we have forgiven someone. But God CHOOSES to forget. He decides not to remember the mistakes we have made. That means that we can be absolutely sure that he will never hold it against us. When God says he forgives, he means it because he wipes it from his own memory. So, if I try and ask for forgiveness for the same mistake again, he says, “What mistake?” Jesus came not just to forgive us, but to wipe the slate clean so we can start again with him.

Wendy Hill

Overcoming Fear

As part of our summer holiday, my wife, my two daughters and I walked up the beautiful Peak District hill, Mam Tor. It’s no Everest, and when we reached the peak there were young children happily marauding around the triangulation point.

As for me: my palms were sweating, I felt dizzy; my heart leapt every time my daughters strayed too far from the path. I gripped my wife’s hand, flinching a little as people brushed past me. I felt myself relax only when we had safely completed our descent a couple of miles later at the end of the ridge path.

There’s nothing particularly rational about my fear of heights. Unless I was to take some deliberate and reckless course of action, I’m perfectly safe walking up and down a hill. But sometimes fear grips us even when we know it has no place in our minds. Sometimes fear overwhelms us when we face difficult circumstances. Will my mum survive her cancer treatment? Will I have a job in a year’s time? Will my daughter ever be able to live an independent life?

Fear has a lot to do with lies. They’re the sort of lies that are laced with a little truth, the sort of lies that take the worst case scenario and magnify it until all other options seem unlikely. Fear can literally be paralysing.

In the Bible, we learn that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). What is perfect love? It’s the love that came from God; the love that made itself human, experienced every emotion that we feel, “was tempted in every way, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). It’s the love that wept in his favourite garden, that cried out for another way to restore relationship with us, but that stared fear and death in the face, and “for the joy set before him, endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). It’s the love that was ultimately victorious over all the wrong things we’ve ever done, and ever will do. It’s the love that has robbed death of its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).

I do still struggle with feelings of fear. There aren’t too many opportunities to test my fear of heights in an area as low-lying as West Norfolk, but there are plenty of situations in life that rattle me. Nevertheless, I’m learning to take these to God, to kill fear with His love, to trust Him in all circumstances and to be strengthened by him. No matter what fear is gripping you, God is there, and there are churches across the town full of people, who may have their own fears, but who are learning to trust God in everything.

Andy King
The Gateway Church

Truth isn’t truth

“Truth isn’t truth!” is the most ridiculous statement President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudi Gulliani has said so far in a news interview. It is like saying one is not equal to one. What he was trying to say was that Trump’s truth was different from Cohen’s truth, but even that sounds ridiculous!

For decades, many have argued for relativism – the idea that there is no absolute truth in the areas of belief and morality. Trump’s legal team are trying to leverage moral relativism into matters of law. Specifically over whether hush payments to a porno actress during the presidential campaign are legal or not.

The idea that there can be no absolute truth is self defeating. To say there are no absolutes is itself an absolute. It is trying to bring preferences into matters of right and wrong or whether any idea is true or not. What is considered right and wrong in society changes as culture changes. That though is inherently selfish – if there is no such thing as right and wrong, then stealing is right, until someone steals from me, when it becomes wrong again. What you end up with is a mess!

Some of my friends have said of my Christian faith that if it is true for you then good for you, but it is not true for me. C.S. Lewis argued “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. “

The claim of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ died on our behalf for our wrongdoing. On the third day he rose again thereby defeating the power of sin and death. If Jesus is still dead, the Apostle Paul wrote, we are to be pitied more than all men – we are wasting our lives on a delusion.

So the issue of whether Christianity is true or not comes down to whether he really died and if he rose again. The spear in his side effusing blood and water we now know is fluid from the pleural cavity followed by blood from the heart, proving death.

The body was never produced by the Romans or Jewish authorities to disprove the troublesome new faith. Grave robbers would have stolen the spices and grave-clothes rather than the body. The disciples who had fled in fear then lived in boldness and never wavering to produce the body when they were persecuted. He was seen by 550 people for a period of 40 days and then no more. Of course there are far more detailed arguments that can be made than in those few words. It adds up to the resurrection being the only credible explanation for Jesus no longer in the tomb.

If the resurrection is objectively true and many lawyers who have investigated for themselves have come to that conclusion then Christianity is true. Truth is truth! Why not investigate and decide for yourself?

Andy Moyle, The Gateway Church

How to relieve suffering

How to relieve suffering.

I wonder how many of you recall Roy Scheider, who played Brodie in the film Jaws, the big summer hit film of 1975. He said, when he saw the size of the man-eating shark of the film’s title, ‘you’re gonna need a bigger boat’. It occurs to me that a similar expression might help us when confronted with the size and endurance of human suffering. ‘You’re gonna need a bigger brain’.
There are said to be about 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) in the human brain and each makes about 7000 chemically mediated connections (synapses) with other neurones so that the number of synapses in a human brain is estimated to be a staggering one quadrillion (1015). Our Christian culture is also centred on making good connections, but between people, not neurones. This suggests to me that, if every human acted as a mobile neurone and made functional connections, mankind could come together to produce a form of higher order brain.
An early example of this can be found at http://www.parkinsonnet.info/. Through this network people with an interest in Parkinson’s disease can interact, learn and share research, knowledge and hope.
In his book ‘Fractal Brain Theory’ Wai H. Tsang, who studied Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at Imperial College, London, finds that there is a hierarchy of nerve connections in the human brain with emotions at the top, powerfully driving us to satisfy our needs. The power of emotions can feel as though it grabs our sense of life or death. Could we form a higher order brain governed by creative and life giving motivation? For me that means the dominion of Jesus Christ.
Carl Jung (1875-1961), who was a practising psychiatrist and a polymath, wrote extensively on psychology. Jung thought that humans need to develop through life to reach their full potential, otherwise mental illness occurs. Could a higher order brain allow the whole of mankind to reach their full potential and consign mental illness to history?
Individually we are not fully conscious. In her book ‘Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction’ Susan Blackmore, who is a visiting psychology professor at Plymouth University, concludes that: ‘Consciousness, then, is a grand delusion.’
In conclusion, could mankind develop into a higher order brain which, beyond meritocracy, gives its members equality through full consciousness? Would sin then be impossible and could you say to anyone; ‘you exist, therefore I love you’, and mean it?

Peter Coates,
Kings Lynn Catholics