Tuesday, 18 January 2011

How Silently

How silently, how silently,

The wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of his heaven.

No ear may hear his coming,

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him, still

The dear Christ enters in.

In our carol service tonight we will be singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’. Bethlehem must be one of the most divided towns at the moment, with Jews, Christians and Muslims staking claim to certain areas – its importance in the world cannot be denied. But quiet…? With all those people coming in for the census, there must have been much noise and movement.

It wouldn’t have been quiet in the stable either. Labour can be quite noisy, and doubtless the animals would have added to Mary’s cries. I suppose it was Joseph who encouraged her with ‘one more push!’ There were no fanfares, and the shepherds’ arrival hardly compares with the media rush and camera flashes that would herald a birth nowadays.

Doubtless you have been rushing around trying to get everything done before the ‘Christmas deadline’. Take time to be quiet and consider the impact this baby’s birth has had. Listen for the voice speaking softly to you, and open your heart and mind so that Christ may come in.

Liz Dunthorne

Eyes to See

When I was a child, I loved to hang red and white striped candy canes on our Christmas tree. I loved eating them as well, and the sweet, peppermint taste always reminds me of my lovely, childhood Christmases. I always thought they were pretty but I was delighted when I found this story.

A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White, to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the church, and firmness of the promises of God. The candy maker made the candy in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our saviour. It also represents the staff of the “Good Shepherd” with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray. Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes. He used the three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Jesus on the Cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life, if only we put our faith and trust in Him.

Unfortunately, the candy became known as a Candy cane - a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the meaning is still there for those who "have eyes to see and ears to hear".

I hope you like this story as much as I do, and that it has given you something to think about when you see a candy cane. (or eat one !)

God Bless



Today is Epiphany Sunday – epiphany means an appearance (from the Greek epiphaneia - an apparition) a moment of great revelation, and traditionally in the western Christian church is the day we celebrate the visit of the wise men bringing gifts to worship the Christ child – the revelation to the world of Jesus as Lord and King. In the Eastern church Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist – this year in the Anglican Church calendar, the two events coincide.

It is a long journey from Advent to Epiphany, which marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas. But the whole of this journey and the message of the Christmas season is meant for us – we are the “whosoever” of John 3:16 – God gave himself for us. A whole year is ahead of us as the Christmas celebrations draw to a close. If you have not done so yet, please think about giving God the best Christmas present you ever could – yourself. You are important – so important that Jesus came and gave himself on your behalf. All God has ever wanted is to give us the opportunity to be free in Him, to be His. To know him as a personal God, Friend and companion.

May God bless you all

Keith Brown


Apparently the first recorded toy in 4000BC was a Babylonian game similar to draughts. Since then children have played with a variety of toys through the ages, from simple dolls and spinning tops to the character based and electronic toys of today. The types of toys which we played with and our children and grandchildren play with may have changed but the constant is the joy and delight which toys give to all children.

It is interesting to discover the most popular toys of recent years, Transformers in 1985, Teletubbies in 1997 and last year it was Go Go hamsters. What will it be this year? As I look back on my childhood I recall my favourite toys being at different times; a teddy which I carried everywhere, a desk and chair and a scooter. What was your favourite toy?

We give gifts of toys, both inexpensive and expensive, to children today. The Magi bought expensive gifts to the baby Jesus, gold a gift for a king, incense a gift for a deity and myrrh a gift for a person who was going to die.

Today it is our Toy Service when we give gifts which are passed onto the Children’s Society for distribution to children in need. Let us hope and pray that the children who receive these toys today look back on them as adults with affection and happy memories.

The Light Has Come

A few weeks ago I went to see “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” at the cinema and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the third film to be made from the C.S. Lewis Narnia stories. Although these books are primarily aimed at children, they contain profound truths about faith for readers of all ages. With the brilliance of modern 3D technology, the film expertly contrasted the differences between good and evil, light and darkness and the choices we are free to make. I found the monsters, the temptations and the all pervading air of evil very frightening, whereas the children I’ve spoken to about it seemed to cope very well! In one scene Lucy is tempted to look into a mirror and desire to see a more beautiful vision of herself. The implication is that she has no intrinsic value. It reminded me strongly of Simon’s talk where he invited us to look at our reflections and realise God loves us just as we are with all our blemishes and faults.

The Bible notes which I was using at the time of my cinema visit were focused on Revelations, particularly chapters 15, 16 and 17. They are full of profoundly disturbing imagery and made me feel very threatened. But my huge comfort can be summed up in the prayer of Hank and Cathy Potts (authors the study notes): “Our Father, thank you for the bowl of wrath you poured out on Jesus at Calvary, allowing us to go free. Amen.” The price has been paid. We are safe in God’s loving arms where no evil can hurt or harm us.

As we begin this New Year we should hug ourselves with joy: the waiting is over; the baby has been born; the light has come to dispel the darkness. Emanuel is here.

God bless, Jackie.

Hymns of Praise

Just before Christmas Christine and I spent a few days in London. While we were there we took the opportunity to go to see Les Misérables. We’ve seen the show before but a long time ago so it was like seeing it for the first time. In his notes, Sir Cameron Macintosh says that the first night reviews, in 1985, were very negative, none of the major critics liked the show. However, the public took no notice of the critics and flocked to see it – something which continues to this day. Surprisingly the story is quite dark with the outcasts being persecuted and downtrodden but the songs and music are quite uplifting and the ending gives hope for the future.

In many respects the story of Christ is also a dark story – his persecution by the Jewish establishment and his death at the hands of the Romans. Yet this story ends in Christ rising from the dead and giving us hope for the future. This story is also accompanied by some most wonderful music – the hymns.

I love music and often wish I was a musician able to make beautiful music, I’ve sung in choirs but I’m not as good a singer as I would wish to be. However, I do like hymns and I like singing them in Church (and sometimes in other places!).

Do you ever think about the words when you sing hymns in Church, or are they just to be sung along to the tune? I know that I have a reputation when it comes to certain hymns by my favourite composers, Newton, Watts and Wesley. I hope that I’m not becoming a bore but I really like the language and poetry of the old hymns.

To me hymns have always been ways of expressing my faith in words which are far superior to my own and they are more like prayers than devotional songs.. I was really pleased when Penny chose to end one of her recent sermons by getting us all to read the words from a hymn. The words were a most fitting ending to a talk on God’s grace.

I don’t have one particular hymn as favourite but you may like to look at the words of some of the ones in my long list of special hymns –MP 37, 755, 756 and the modern version of psalm 23. Perhaps you’d like to think about your favourites and what they mean to you.

God bless, John

Monday, 22 November 2010

No Excuse Sunday

To make it possible for everyone to attend worship next Sunday we are having a ‘No Excuse Sunday’.

Beds will be placed in the aisles for people who say ‘Sunday is my only day to have a long lie in’

Eye lotion will be provided for those who watched TV too late the previous night.

We will have steel helmets for those who say ‘The roof will cave in if ever I came to church’.

Blankets will be available for those who say church is too cold - and fans for those who think it is too hot.

We will have hearing aids for those who say ‘The minister speaks too softly and cotton wool for those who feel he preaches too long, or that the organist plays too loudly.

Score cards will be available for those wishing to list all the hypocrites present.

There will also be T.V. dinners for those who can’t go to church and cook on the same day.

One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to see God in nature.

Finally, the church will be decked out with Christmas decorations and Easter flowers for those who have never seen the place without them.

So there is no excuse for staying away.

Origin Unknown

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Fallen


This Sunday we remember those who have died serving our country in both World wars, but let’s not forget those who have given their lives since. We MUST not forget. . . . . . .

Bruised and black clouds shed heavy tears on the fields of Flanders
fields become graveyards
in which were buried the flower of a generation.



Bruised and black clouds
shed heavy tears on the cities of Europe
of Japan,
cities shrouded in the dust of desolation
camps wreathed in the smoke of human cremations
people in confusion whispering - "Please God, never again".



Bruised and black clouds shroud cities
shopping streets
business centres
refugee camps
and people gaze on devastation
wrought by evil on innocence.



Bruised and black clouds
shed tears over a whole world
bowed – bloodied by battle
cowed and weary of war
her roads clogged by refugees –
with nowhere but earth to call home.



God of life
drawing life and death together in Yourself
uniting the lost and the loving
be among us as we gather.


God bless all who remember,


Monday, 1 November 2010


In mid September Christine and I were away and so missed the Pope’s visit to the UK. However, thanks to Sky and the BBC we were able to view some of the highlights.

What amazed me was the amount of time given to the Humanist society to create a “balanced” view. One of their speakers obviously could not cope with the numbers of people who turned out to see the Pope and stated that they were not Christians but tourists who just so happened to be visiting the various cities. I wish he could explain how he knew with such certainty.

Why is it that some people are so quick to denounce those who show themselves to be Christian? Why are some people quick to complain about Christians coming together? Do they find it strange that people have faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ?

I can’t answer these questions but I feel saddened when some people decry the faith held by others. I remember a simple saying - “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it.” Nowadays we seem to have many people who do not wish to extend that right to others. They have a right to say what they like but they do not wish us to profess our faith.

Everyone has a complex set of faiths, they have faith in themselves, in their Doctor and some even have faith in politicians but these are lesser faiths when compared to Biblical faith. This is faith in a person not of this world who has powers infinitely greater than any human.

The Bible, as always, addresses the question of faith - Hebrews (Chapter 11). “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see..........,By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what we see was not made out of what was visible.......................”

If you ever feel your faith faltering read Chapter 11 and remind yourself of the Biblical characters who showed great faith. Then take time to reflect on all of the blessings brought upon us by our God and rejoice in our faith.

God Bless


Friday, 15 October 2010

St Martin’s Golden Jubilee

St Martin's Church was consecrated on the 22nd October 1960 by the Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Reverend Arthur Stretton Reeve. Today fifty years on, we are delighted to welcome to St Martin's the present Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Reverend Jonathan Gledhill, who is leading us in our Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Although today we mark St Martin's Golden Jubilee, the reality is that the history of St Martin's goes back more than fifty years. Plans to build a church on the site of St Martin's go back to the 1940s, and for two years before the church was consecrated services used to be held in the Red House pub (now the Longhorn).

In the Bible the only church that is mentioned is one that is made of living stones (1 Peter 2:5). This is a reminder that St Martin's Church isn't a building, but people, and today we thank God for the faithful witness and service of all who have been part of St Martin's during the course of its history.

The Bible also describes the church as being like a family (John 1:12), a place where people can experience a real sense of love, fellowship and support in good times and bad. It fills me with great hope and joy when I see the church family coming together to support one another and the wider community. As a church I believe we have so much to be grateful for, and so much to look forward to.

Our mission statement is In Christ: Seeking, Growing, Sharing and Spreading the Kingdom. Archbishop William Temple said "Church is the only organisation that exists for the
benefit of its non-members." Our mission statement reminds us of this fact, and that Christ calls us to work in partnership with him in growing God's kingdom. Our society has changed a lot since St Martin's opened its doors in 1960, but our mission and calling remains the same, to make Jesus know, to share God's love and to make new disciples. Our Golden Jubilee is an opportunity for us to rededicate ourselves to the task of bearing witness to the love of God, as revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last." (John 15:16)

God bless


Monday, 11 October 2010

Knowing When To Let Go

One of the difficulties with church work is knowing when you should stop doing a particular job. It wasn't long after joining St Martin's that I started helping Jessica with the children's group, a task I did for quite a long time. After being involved in something for a long period it can be very difficult to let go, particularly when there doesn't seem to be anyone to take over from you. But its important to be aware of God's leading because it is possible to go from being an asset to a work to being a hindrance, so some time ago I gave up working with the Sunday Groups.

Around the same time I made it clear that I felt it was right for me to come off the Ministry team, due to circumstances this didn't happen at that time, but now Phill and Penny have joined the ministry team I feel it is right for me to resign, which I have done.

It probably appears now that I gave up these tasks to become churchwarden, but at the time I had no thought of being churchwarden in fact I was worried that if I gave up these jobs I would be doing nothing. It was only when I was prepared to trust God and let go of these jobs that I realised (rather reluctantly) what the next job God wanted me to do.

Its our human nature that tends to want things mapped out, but I think God calls us to take steps of faith one at a time trusting Him not necessarily knowing were they are leading.

A Spiritual Challenge

At the end of August this year, I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting the Anglican and Catholic cathedrals in Liverpool. In the Catholic Cathedral I picked up a pray card which I'd like to share with you:


I cannot pray OUR, if my faith has no room for others and their need.

I cannot pray FATHER, if I do not demonstrate this relationship to God in my daily living.

I cannot pray WHO ART IN HEAVEN, if I am not striving, with God's help, to be holy.

I cannot pray YOUR KINGDOM COME, if I am unwilling to accept God's rule in my life.

I cannot pray YOUR WILL BE DONE, if I am unwilling or resentful of having it in my life.

I cannot pray ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN, unless I am truly ready to give myself to God's service here and now.

I cannot pray GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, without expending honest effort for it, or if I would withhold from my neighbour the bread that I receive.

I cannot pray LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.

I cannot pray DELIVER US FROM EVIL, if I am not prepared to fight evil with my life and my prayer.

I cannot pray YOUR KINGDOM COME, if I am unwilling to obey the King.

I cannot pray YOURS IS THE POWER AND THE GLORY, if I am seeking power for myself and my own glory first.

I cannot pray FOR EVER AND EVER, if I am too anxious about each day's affairs.

I cannot pray AMEN, unless I honestly say, "Cost what it may, this is my prayer."

God bless, Jackie.

Back to Church Sunday

Today is Back to Church Sunday. Welcome to St. Martin's if you are visiting us. I hope you will find it a positive experience. Last year in the Lichfield Diocese over 300 churches took part and 3000 came " back to church" on that day.

It may be that the word " church" brings certain images to mind: somewhere cold and uncomfortable, where people whisper and children have to be quiet, where strange clothes are worn or Sunday best and you have to stand up or sit down at the right time. Church can seem to be detached from reality, a place of false solemnity and even somewhat hypocritical. I find St. Martin's a place of welcome, laughter, friendship and hope. Worship with others transforms my small faith. The home group provides an opportunity to learn and discuss within a small group of people and it is refreshing to find that we all have doubts and no-one has all the answers!

A recent survey showed that more people prayed than actually professed a faith which seems a contradiction in terms. At times of crisis it seems many challenge God ( if I get better, I'll come to church) or at least think that as there appears to be no human solution it might be worth trying a divine one! God does respond sometimes in obvious ways to these prayers but at other times " God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform".

Evidence of the Holy Spirit at work at St. Martin's is not hard to find – just think of the Café, support for the Glebe centre, our mission giving not to mention the joy, healing and support for each other. If you are returning to St.Martin's today or visiting us I hope you will take away a feeling of friendship and a taster of what the Holy Spirit can do. Maybe this is the nudge you need to find or renew your relationship with God.

Liz Dunthorne