St Martins Church Ashton Upon Mersey

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Current Message

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Dear friends,

 

At the last Parochial Church Council meeting we considered a request which had come in to us via our Facebook page to install some bicycle brackets to the church hall. This came from someone who had taken part in a sponsored cycle ride years ago when fundraising was in full swing to build the St Martin’s Community Hall. The members of the PCC took little convincing that it is an easy practical thing to do, and not hugely expensive – we considered ways to proceed with this and hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, some brackets will appear.

 

Along with suggestion of the brackets was another suggestion: that we mount a sign which says ‘cyclists welcome’. This suggestion then formed part of a sermon I preached the following Sunday about inclusion. I have no problems with welcoming cyclists – but the Church of God is welcoming of all people. To erect a sign identifying cyclists as welcome begs the question: what other ‘welcome’ signs might we erect? And the answer would be ... a very long list! For no-one is not welcome in God’s house, for God welcomes everyone.

 

Admittedly, there are times when the churches have been very bad at conveying this message. Churches can sometimes appear to be clubs for like-minded people rather than places of worship for all; places where all God’s people might find a place for themselves and a welcome. If any welcome sign should be erected then it must be totally inclusive. Many years ago, when I first became an incumbent and was preparing to chair my first Annual Parochial Church Meeting, a saintly lady in the parish, Joyce Pink, gave me a piece of paper on which she’d written out some prayers which she thought I might find useful. I still have that paper, 18 years on, and although I don’t use them all at every APCM, I always look at them and pray them personally beforehand. One prayer reads:

 

O Lord, make the door of this house wide enough to receive

all who need human love and fellowship;

Narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife.

Make its threshold smooth enough

to be no stumbling-block to children, nor to straying feet,

but rugged and strong enough to turn back the Tempter’s power.

God, make the door of this house the gateway to thine eternal kingdom.

 

It was written in the late seventeenth century by Bishop Thomas Ken – and a quick search on the internet reveals that there are many churches up and down the country which use the prayer on their websites, in their church buildings and as part of their mission statements.

 

As members of God’s Church we need to reflect upon what it means for all to be welcome – and how our words - spoken and written - and actions (or inaction) can speak loudly of how seriously we take this inclusivity. I’ve often said I find the phrase ‘welcome to our church’ very uncomfortable and unhelpful, as it suggests an ‘us and them’ mentality. Now, we can easily slip into saying such sentences without noticing that it can sound exclusive to some ears – especially if, in our hearts, we are inclusive of all people. But newcomers or visitors can’t immediately see into our hearts. Our language says something – not just about us but also about the God we claim to worship: it’s important that we are reflective about this.

 

Last year, the Archbishops or York and Canterbury wrote about the need in our churches for ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’. They said:

 

‘People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ ... we need to work together – not just the bishops but the whole church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence. The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion’

 

The above was part of a longer letter written after a difficult debate in the Church’s General Synod Meeting about a new Bishops’ report on human sexuality. But it is a universal Christian principle that all are loved by God, and all are called to know his redemption and fullness of life. We need to reflect regularly upon whether our life together at St Martin’s, and our attitudes, written and spoken and modelled in our life together and individually, all convey this message. Like the image of God the Father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke’s Gospel, chapter 15) , we need to be a church that holds out its arms in welcome and joy to receive those who come to us, whoever they are, whatever they have or haven’t done. We need to remember that being righteous doesn’t come from our perfect living but from God’s perfect love.

 

In 1994 a new hymn appeared in church hymn books entitled All are Welcome, by Marty Haugen. Sadly, it isn’t included in our current hymn book (although we have sung it at a number of ecumenical services at All Saints’ Church). It has a vision for the radical Christian inclusion the Archbishops speak about and I’m hoping we will use it at our Dedication Festival Eucharist on 28th October.

 

Cyclists are very welcome at St Martin’s. As are non-cyclists. And everyone else.

 

May our life together, in the words of the Archbishops’ letter, be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; ... of our belonging to Christ.

 

With my prayers,

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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