St Martins Church Ashton Upon Mersey

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Current Message

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O Lord, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You mark out my journeys and resting place

and are acquainted with all my ways...

 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

 Psalm 139, verses 1, 2, 12, &13a

 For generations of Jewish and Christian believers, these words from Psalm 139 have been deeply moving to reflect upon. We glibly say God knows us better than we know ourselves, but in reality this is the truth. Often we don't allow ourselves to admit to the truth of our deepest fears and fantasies; we know that the people around us sometimes see different versions of us, as we behave differently in different situations and with different people. We hide elements of who we are, sometimes even from ourselves, and we are often shocked to discover the things other people have hidden from us, knowingly or not.

We are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made', surprising and disappointing ourselves in equal measure as we move through the years trying to grow into fullness of life. Of course, this ‘fullness of life' in itself will mean different things to different people: in the context of Christ's call to us, it means us trying to grow most completely into the person God has made us to be, accepting in the process our faults and weaknesses that can't be changed, and honouring God and ourselves by trying to be guileless in our perception of truth concerning ourselves.

 This month we continue to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord and begin to look again towards the promise of the gift of his Spirit as we reach Ascension-tide and Pentecost. It can be a joyful and inspiring part of the Church's year, but, inevitably, that will depend partly at least upon how we are feeling ourselves. Seven years ago I spent the weeks of Eastertide in the midst of despair and concern, having been diagnosed with stress and depression and being signed off work by my doctor (ultimately for five months). I'd known for some time that I was really struggling emotionally and mentally - and it reached a crisis point on Palm Sunday, when I set off for church and found myself in tears, not wanting to go, not wanting to do anything, or go anywhere, before I even reached the church door. It was at this point that I knew I must talk with my doctor as I knew I needed help and support. Thankfully, he was brilliant, and although it was a long road to recovery, I did make good progress in time.

 I was caused to reflect upon all this again in the past few days both by the news and by the receipt of a letter from a friend. My friend has been struggling with depression for the past four years, and wrote to me a long letter about some of what is going on for her at the moment, regarding work, faith and her own sense of self and wellness. Then I also heard Prince Harry's frank comments about how he had struggled for 20 years after the death of his mother, Princess Diana.

 Quite rightly, such openness these days about mental health issues is applauded - for a couple of decades or so there has been an increasing push for people to be able to be more open and willing to understand about the fragility of mental health. It is hard to understand and empathise with what people are feeling when they are depressed, suicidal or stressed - indeed, it's hard to understand oneself. I couldn't comprehend how I was so brittle and fragile, and had become so unlike my ‘normal' self. I didn't want to talk with people (and even hid a few times when I was out of the house and saw people I knew in the distance, so I didn't have to engage with them). I couldn't face getting in the car to drive some days, or listening to the answerphone messages or opening the post.

 I didn't find it easy to pray, but I had a real sense of God's presence holing me, and of the prayers of others holding me too. I know I was fortune - not everyone who has faith feels the same; often there's a real sense of God's absence, or a real anger and frustration as to why God has allowed this to happen. Faith is affected by mental health too, along with everything else. My friend who wrote to me is in a very different place regarding her relationship with God (and his Church) to where she was four years ago. When we recover, there are often new ‘wounds' which need to be accepted and assimilated into who and what we are now (just as Jesus bore his wounds from the cross on his Resurrected body). Sometimes the scars don't go away.

 I'm really happy that there's an increased profile about such issues in our society these days, as ignoring them, or masking them is no answer at all. For us who, as Christians, recognise that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made' by our Father, and redeemed by his Son, our mental health is part of that creation and redemption, and plays its role in our growing into fullness of life. May we all learn to be better at loving and supporting ourselves and one another through (and beyond) those times when our minds and spirits are unwell. God knows us as we are - let us pray that we may grow in the same deep knowledge of our own truth.

 With my prayers for you all,

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The Methodist Covenant Prayer

 

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

 to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

 

"BE PREPARED"  Our Lord tells us that he will come again... but he doesn't say when!  For over 2000 years people have been waiting but it could be tomorrow!

 
 

  

St Martin's Church, Church Lane,  Ashton-upon-Mersey,  Sale,  Cheshire ,    M33 5QQ  

0161 976 4086 
0161 973 4204