Rob

Lyn's Sermon from Sunday 4th March

If you were with us in the Church Hall on Sunday 4th you'll remember that our curate Lyn preached a brillliant sermon from 1 Corinthians 2, speaking of the way that Jesus and the crucifixion are good news for us, encouraging us to share, and telling us some of her experience of hearing Billy Graham speak at Carrow Road in the light of his recent death. It is so worth reading again, or catching up with if the snow kept you away: just click on Resources at the top of this page and scroll down...

 

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Rob

Annual Report for 2017

With our 2018 APCMs in full swing, we have uploaded our annual report to the website (click here) so you can read lots of great news about everything that has been happening in our churches this year. There are copies available in the churches, but we thought it might help you to be able to see it online. Happy reading!

 

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Rob

SUNDAY SERVICES 4TH MARCH UPDATE

In view of the continuing snowy and icy conditions, and the relative inaccessibility of Caistor and Stoke churches, we have decided that we will hold one service only tomorrow, Sunday 4th March, at 10.30 am in the Church Hall. Both the 9am and Taize services at Caistor, and the evening Gathering at Mulbarton, will not be happening tomorrow. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the Church Hall as we gather to worship together. Please do not attempt to travel if it is not safe to do so. Please continue to pray and care for one another and those around you.

 

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Rob

Weather Update including Lent breakfast CANCELLED

In view of the difficult road conditions and the threat of more snow tonight, we have made some changes to our plans for this weekend:

The Lent breakfast on Saturday morning WILL NOT be taking place. Please do not attempt to come to the Church Hall.

As it stands, we are planning to go ahead with our Sunday morning services as normal at Caistor at 9, and Stoke at 10.30. In the event that we decide tomorrow that conditions at the churches are too difficult, we will rearrange both those services, meeting together to worship in the Church Hall at 10.30am, where access is level, and the building, drinks and welcome will be warm! We will email out, and post messages on Facebook and the website. I will leave a recorded message on my phone as well.

We are hoping that the conditions might have improved sufficiently by Sunday evening to enable the 5pm Taize service at Caistor and the 7pm evening Gathering at Mulbarton to go ahead, so those ones are still happening at the moment.

Please do pray and look out for one another, keep safe, and keep looking at emails, Facebook and the website to get an update tomorrow. And PLEASE pass this message on!

 

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Rob

Our first Allstars Club!

Our first Allstars Club!

We had a great time yesterday at our first ever allstars CLub! About 20 children from Stoke primary school came along and had a great time thinking about the Parable of the Lost Sheep, with songs and games and crafts and the compulsory drinks and snacks... We are very grateful to our super team of helpers who made everything possible, and are so excited to see how this grows and develops in the months to come! Please do keep praying for us!

 

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Rob

New Allstars Children's Club!

New Allstars Children's Club!

All Foundation-Year 6 children are welcome to join us at our brand new after-school club, as well as any older helpers who would like to join in! If you’d like to come along, or find out more, contact us on admin@venta-group.org, or 01508 492305. 

Games, Crafts & Snacks, Bible Stories, Videos & Songs

We really need to know in advance if you are coming to help us plan ahead, but please do just come along if you don’t manage to get in touch for any reason. All children must be signed in and out by a responsible adult.

 

 

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Rob

John McGinley weekend update

John McGinley weekend update

We had a fantastic weekend with John at the beginning of November, and I know lots of you from around the churches will be wanting to go over some of his material from the weekend as we pray and plan ahead, asking God how he will lead us forward from here. The good news is that audio of John's teaching from Saturday and Sunday morning is now on the Resources section of this website in its own category, together with the Powerpoint slides from Saturday. I am sorry that the sound is a little patchy in places, but almost all of it is clear enough to make out well. We will see if we can get the Sunday evening recording on here soon too. Loads to feed on, and pray through - do listen again with a home group, or talk and pray it over with a friend. The PCCs are already thinking it all over too!

 

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Rob

An exciting week!

An exciting week!

It is an exciting week for us here in the churches, and it got off to a great start yesterday, as we celebrated sending off 97 shoeboxes around the world with Operation Christmas Child, and then welcomed 42 children and their families to the Light Party in the Church Hall. Please do join me in thanking God for this wonderful day.

There is much more to look forward to, though! On Wednesday 1st at 7.30pm, we are meeting together to pray for our churches and communities, and for the world, at 60 Caistor Lane from 7.30pm. It would be great to see a whole selection of folks from across the group with us there.

Then this weekend, 4th-5th November, we are really pleased to have John McGinley with us. John is the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Leicester, and a regional director for the New Wine movement, but most importantly a Norfolk boy. He will be sharing some ideas about being disciples of Jesus from his fantastic recent book Mission-Shaped Grace, which helps us to understand how following Jesus and sharing our faith with others fit together in clear and practical ways. We are having a day at St George’s Hall from 10am-4pm on Saturday – come along for as much as you can… we will be providing hot drinks and water, but we would love you to bring some lunch for yourself, and some cake/biscuits to share. Please do let me know you are coming by email to admin@venta-group.org. John will be staying with us for Sunday too, and will be speaking on a different theme at our morning services at 9am at Caistor and 10.30am at Stoke, and then again at a celebration service at Mulbarton church at 7pm.

See you somewhere this week!

 

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Rob

Talking about sharing faith... this Wednesday 11th October

Talking about sharing faith... this Wednesday 11th October

Some of us got together last week, to think together about how we feel about sharing our faith - why we find it awkward or difficult, and reasons why it is important. We watched a couple of the videos from the Thy Kingdom Come website, which really helped us to talk. If you didn't see them, you can catch up with them all here: https://www.thykingdomcome.global/faith. Whether or not you manage to watch them, we'd love to see you this week. We'll do a little recap to get us started. Wednesday 11th October, 7.30pm in the Church Hall.

 

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Rob

Church Administrator

Church Administrator

The Venta Group of churches is seeking to appoint a new administrator for 8 hours a week to help manage the work of the church office. Are you interested in engaging with people?  Are you sympathetic to a Group of Church of England churches seeking to bear witness to Jesus Christ?   If so, this vacancy could be for you.  Further details of how to apply and a job description can be obtained by emailing the vicar Rob Baker at  rob@venta-group.org or telephoning 01508 492305.  Application closing date: 31st October 2017.

 

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Rob

Praying around the villages - an exciting update!

Praying around the villages - an exciting update!

It is an amazing privilege to be able to spend time with God, and to know that he hears our prayers—more than the best of human fathers. Across our group of churches we are meeting more regularly now, to pray that God’s kingdom will come in the world, and in our communities here, and that people will come to know Jesus. Please come and join us to pray anywhere, any time. Our prayers will cross parish boundaries as we hold the different villages before God wherever we are; please do cross them yourselves and join us as much as you can.

 All the dates are in the diary/ events section of this website, and we have put a flyer in the Resources section of this website too.

 

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Rob

Bishop's Move

Bishop's Move

Bishop Alan has moved from Stoke Holy Cross to Wymondham (staying in the same job!) and we asked him to reflect on his time in the village for the next Free For All...

We have really enjoyed our time living in Stoke Holy Cross. Highlights would be the quietness and night skies with no street lights, giving us a view of the splendour of the stars. Walking to the bottom of the garden and watching the barn owls hunting along the Tas Valley. We had a few cold winters when we first came, and the frozen flooded meadows were beautiful.

One member of the family will really miss the garden and the view, and the excitement of a passing muntjac or pheasant. And the sunsets.

It has also been a treat to live near to Caistor Roman Town, and to be able to enjoy the wonderful walks there, along with so many friendly local walkers and dog-walkers.

It has been strange living in a village that we¹ve not been able to get to know well as my role has taken me to 275 churches all over south and east Norfolk. We are grateful, however, for the welcome we¹ve always received from those of you we have met, and will miss Stoke Holy Cross.

The move to Wymondham will bring some practical advantages: a rather better laid-out house for the work of a Bishop, and it will be a more accessible place for those who have to visit me, particularly for users of public transport.

We leave with many happy memories, and wish you all in this lovely community God¹s richest blessing. + Alan and Pippa, Tasha and Belle

 

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Rob

Rob writes

Rob writes

By the time you read this magazine, we will have celebrated our harvest services on 24th September; the allotment association had their show a few weeks before us, and you will probably have seen some of the tremendous entrants in the pictures on the cover. They confirm for me a long-held suspicion that I am not a natural gardener!

Harvest is a great time of year, because it gives us an opportunity to be thankful. Life can be so full of things to do, people to catch up with, or plans to make, that we can lose track a little of all the good stuff that is going on in the midst of it all. Sometimes, of course, it is the opposite problem: if we are lonely or bereaved, or life is a struggle for different reasons, we can find it hard to see the things to be thankful for amongst the difficulties too.

One of the big ideas of the Christian faith is that gratitude produces generosity. I have always felt that one of the signs of how grateful I am to God for all that he has done for me, is how much my instinct is to respond to the need I see in the world, including in people close to me, with generosity. (I’m not suggesting at all, by the way, that only Christians are generous, but I am suggesting that all Christians should be.)

As well as our Harvest services, which often offer an opportunity to give to those in need around us,

later on this autumn we will be having our shoebox service at Arminghall, which is happening this

year as a joint event for our whole group of churches on Sunday 29th October at 10.30am. It is a

great opportunity to show gratitude for all that we have, by offering generosity to those who have

very little. All it takes is an old shoebox, a few little bits from the shops (which you can start to

collect now), and a little donation to send it on its way. You can pick up a leaflet from one of the

churches, or google ‘Operation Christmas Child’. If you would rather just drop off a few items to be

packed into a box, then you can get them to the Vicarage or to Annie at Bluebell Lodge, Arminghall

Lane by the middle of October. Finished boxes can be brought along to the service, or dropped in

with Annie or at the Vicarage.

One of my favourite verses in the Bible says, ‘Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved

children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

God’s generosity gives us so much to be thankful for, and makes us generous in our turn.

 

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Rob

Rob writes

Rob writes

It’s your move

Our Free For All magazine this month (download in the resources section) contains some great contributions from some important leavers from Stoke Holy Cross Primary School: the Y6 pupils, and retiring headteacher Sue Simmonds. There are also words and pictures from the ordination of our new curate, Lyn Marsh, on Saturday 1st July, as she begins an exciting new phase of ministry with us in our churches and wider community.

For all of them now, and for all of us in different times, life is full of movement and change. You might be one of those people who has lived in the same place for a long time, or always had the same job, or always been surrounded by your family, but things still change, and things still move.

Often when things change there are great things to remember to take with us. The articles by Mrs Simmonds and the Year 6 leavers are full of happy memories of their time at the school, and Lyn’s ordination was a day to celebrate what has gone before, just as much as what is going to come in the future.

Every year, just before the end of term, one of us from the churches goes in to visit the Year 6 pupils before they get ready to leave and join their various high schools. We give them a book called It’s Your Move, which helps them to think about the challenges and opportunities ahead.

This year, we focused on the fact that the future will hold lots of choices for them. They may know which school they are going to, but which subjects will they choose when they get there? Who will they make friends with? What will they have for lunch?! We had good fun choosing between different snacks for different reasons. Sorry to the person who had to choose between a carrot and a stick of celery.

We had a look at the bible story of Joseph, which we have been thinking about in our Friday assemblies as well. It is not so much a technicolour dreamcoat of a story as a patchwork quilt of choices – some good, some bad, some Joseph’s, some other people’s. Sometimes Joseph gets in trouble for doing the wrong thing, and sometimes he gets in trouble for doing the right thing. Things haven’t changed that much in 4000 years or so! The other way things haven’t changed is that in the same way God was with Joseph through thick and thin, Jesus promises his followers that he will always be with them too. All of us who are going through changes at the moment, whether they are big or small, can know that Jesus will always be with us too, as long as we follow him. It’s a choice we can all make, and it’s our move.

 

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Rob

Rob writes

Rob writes

Once when I visited my grandparents when I was growing up, my Grandad told me the story of a local eccentric, ‘Mad’ Jack Fuller. He was famous for building follies – buildings with no real purpose. One of these was a replica of the local church spire (pictured) which he put in the middle of one of his fields. The story goes that Jack had had a bet with a friend that they could see the (real) spire from his house, and it turned out that they couldn’t, and he lost. He was determined never to lose a bet like that again, so he just built one that he could see.

In the churches this month we have been thinking about what it means to ‘be church’. We use this expression because church is, above all other things, people, not a building. I often remind people that the building where we meet is named after us, and not the other way round. In one of few passages in the New Testament where the church is described as a building, Peter writes that the people are like living stones, being built together into a dwelling place for God.

This building, unlike Mad Jack’s folly, is a building with a purpose: to be a holy priesthood. This building – this group of people, Peter says, is to become more like God, and be a sign of God for people.

One of the brilliant things about the church is that it isn’t designed to reserve particular jobs for particular people, unlike the kings or the priests in the Old Testament. All of God’s people are called to be holy, becoming more and more like Jesus in the things they think and say and do. All of God’s people are called to be priests, sharing Jesus with people through the things that they think and say and do. And as they do this, Peter writes, they are declaring God’s praise – the praise of the One who has called them out of darkness, and into light. All of us can be these living stones, being built into a place for God to dwell; all of us can be part of his chosen people, his royal priesthood, his holy nation. We just have to want to belong.

 

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Rob

Thank you!

Thank you!

A big thank you to Angela Bell, who is leaving her post as Church Administrator having worked so hard for us over the past four years and more, including putting together the Free For All for more than 2 years. We wish her and her family all God’s blessing for the future.

 

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Rob

Rob writes

Rob writes

Once when I visited my grandparents when I was growing up, my Grandad told me the story of a local eccentric, ‘Mad’ Jack Fuller. He was famous for building follies – buildings with no real purpose. One of these was a replica of the local church spire (pictured) which he put in the middle of one of his fields. The story goes that Jack had had a bet with a friend that they could see the (real) spire from his house, and it turned out that they couldn’t, and he lost. He was determined never to lose a bet like that again, so he just built one that he could see.

In the churches this month we have been thinking about what it means to ‘be church’. We use this expression because church is, above all other things, people, not a building. I often remind people that the building where we meet is named after us, and not the other way round. In one of few passages in the New Testament where the church is described as a building, Peter writes that the people are like living stones, being built together into a dwelling place for God.

This building, unlike Mad Jack’s folly, is a building with a purpose: to be a holy priesthood. This building – this group of people, Peter says, is to become more like God, and be a sign of God for people.

One of the brilliant things about the church is that it isn’t designed to reserve particular jobs for particular people, unlike the kings or the priests in the Old Testament. All of God’s people are called to be holy, becoming more and more like Jesus in the things they think and say and do. All of God’s people are called to be priests, sharing Jesus with people through the things that they think and say and do. And as they do this, Peter writes, they are declaring God’s praise – the praise of the One who has called them out of darkness, and into light. All of us can be these living stones, being built into a place for God to dwell; all of us can be part of his chosen people, his royal priesthood, his holy nation. We just have to want to belong.

 

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Rob

Rob writes

Rob writes

I wonder what the Resurrection means to you. For me, it is the single most important event in the whole history of the cosmos. Because what it means is that God has overcome death. Jesus who died for our sins is raised for our new life. He’s raised to new life. And that doesn’t just change our perceptions of the world around us, it changes the reality of the world around us, the very substance of the world around us. It is the victory of God in a way that is dramatic, extraordinary and transformational for the whole of human life, and for every single human life, for every society, for every country, for every future. And it’s something that we just have to reach out and take hold of, by prayer, to make it true for ourselves.

 If you are wondering what happened over Easter this year to make me so much better at writing, then I will let you into a little secret: the whole of the previous paragraph was written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, or at least it is what he says in a lovely little video clip that has recently been uploaded to his Facebook page. And it is absolutely and utterly the centre of everything that Christians believe. It is, in fact, the one thing on which Christianity stands or falls: amongst various extraordinary words that St Paul uses when he writes about the centrality of the resurrection is that without it our faith is useless.

 Useless is a strong word, especially when you consider the way we often talk about faith. We might say that it helps someone else but isn’t important to us; we might even say that as long as it helps that someone, it really doesn’t matter if it is true or not. But Paul is saying something quite different; like the Archbishop of Canterbury, he is convinced that no event in history comes close to its importance. He left behind a life of status among the Jews, gained in part from persecuting the first Christians, to be at constant risk of imprisonment or death, because he had found just what you read above: that Jesus had died for him, was raised to new life, and that it changes everything. It is for all of us, and it is for each of us. And it’s something that we just have to reach out and take hold of, by prayer, to make it true for ourselves.

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

Since last summer we have been working together as churches on a few priorities that we have established as important for us. One of them is Community. We want to be a community of churches where we build real and deep relationships with each other, but we also want to build relationships with our wider community—by serving you in any way we can.

The bible is full of servant language, much of it either written directly about Jesus, pointing towards him in some way, or encouraging his people to serve others like he did. One of the most famous phrases in the New Testament describes how Jesus ‘came not to be served but to serve’, which still strikes me as almost the most remarkable thing that anyone could possibly write about God.

And this has to be the model for the church, because if we say that we follow Jesus, and put him before anything and anyone, then we cannot possibly put ourselves above him by not choosing to do what he does.

Because of this, we are including a questionnaire with this Free for All which we would love you to fill in and return to us, either to the Church Hall, the Vicarage, or to one of the other locations listed on the separate sheet: if you are reading this online, you can fill the survey in by clicking on the link at the very top of our homepage, or via Facebook - search Venta group of churches.

We would love you to join in with us in working out how best the church can serve the villages: we want to hear from you, not just decide for ourselves, so please help us as we try to find ways to serve our wonderful community together.

You might have heard that we will be creating a brand new magazine from next month—one of the things we would like to do is include more articles about things that other organisations in the villages are up to, so please be in touch with us with your news and pictures so we can begin to build a real community resource. We hope it can be another way that we can continue to serve the villages in a deeper and more meaningful way.

With love from Rob

 

 

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Rob

Bishop Graham's visit

Bishop Graham's visit

I have been mentioning for the last week or so that I was hoping to upload Bishop Graham's sermon from a fortnight ago to the website - it is now there in the resources section, or at the bottom of the homepage.

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

It has been an interesting few months, hasn't it? It started with Brexit last June, when Britain voted to leave the European Union: our government now has the challenge of taking a country (which voted pretty much 50-50) in a new direction with lots of uncertainty. In the meantime, the people of the United States have elected and inaugurated Donald Trump as their 45th President, again dividing the country between those who voted for him, and for Hillary Clinton.

In all of this (and especially with the US election result) there has been more and more fear and concern expressed by all sorts of people. I have heard Christians saying, ‘Only God can save us from this situation now,’ amongst other things.

As I have been thinking about this over the last few days, a thought has occurred to me. I have begun to wonder whether the truth is that all of a sudden circumstances have got so bad that only God can save us, or if in fact things have been like that the whole time, and that it is only now that the news has become worrying enough that we are starting to realise it.

Jesus came into a community which was suffering under Roman oppression, and he told the people he met that he had come ‘to seek and to save the lost.’ Throughout his ministry, Jesus demonstrated and explained what this meant, most of all in his death on the cross. He did it because he thought it was the only thing that could save people from the situation they were in. His resurrection two days later proves something else—that this rescue was not just for the people who were there at the time, but for everyone, always and everywhere.

The Bible doesn't have a lot of easy answers about who you should vote for, or why, or what to do about the decisions that governments and presidents make, but it does tell us that in the best or worst of worlds, or circumstances, only God can save us who are lost.

 

 

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Rob

Change a Nation update, coffee morning and more...

Change a Nation update, coffee morning and more...

A big thank you to all who came along and supported our coffee morning in aid of our partner church in Okunguro, Uganda. We are so excited that we raised over £450 thanks to the generosity of all those who provided so many gifts and refreshments at their own cost, and many more who came and bought them! 

At the same time, we received a fantastic new update from Change a Nation about the work in Okunguro, which you can pick up in church, or download here.

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

Do you know what you are getting for Christmas?

One of us in our family thinks he knows what he is getting, which is everything that he thinks of. Father Christmas will bring me one of those. He’ll bring me one of those, too. And one of them. Maybe two. It’s led to some interesting conversations in the toyshop. (Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, he quite likes the toyshop.)

It is very sweet, really—my only concern is that it might lead to a little disappointment somewhere down the line, when Father Christmas doesn't quite deliver the goods. It can be tricky not getting what you are expecting.

The interesting thing about this disappointment, of course, is that it is rooted in the things which don’t happen. The presents that don’t come. The bible uses a neat little phrase to describe this experience, and its effect on us: ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick.’ I think it is fair to say that the writer was not thinking about how no-one brought along yet another toy camper van, but about the longing we all have at some level for a better life, a better future, a better world, that sometimes feels fruitless. Some of you will be experiencing this very strongly as I read.

Do you know what you are getting for Christmas?

My little friend in the toyshop doesn't. There is something waiting for him which is better than he can imagine, better than everything he has even asked for. And I would like to suggest to you, that we don’t always realise what we are getting for Christmas—that we don’t notice, as a more modern version of the bible puts it, ‘who has moved into the neighbourhood.’

Many of us who follow Jesus found something that was not what we were expecting. I don’t know what I thought I would find when I decided to make the first step in following him, but what I have found is indescribably good, and a source of constant, eternal hope. He is better than anything any of us can ever want.

Do you know what you are getting for Christmas?

With love this Christmas and New Year from Rob

 

 

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Rob

Archbishop's Evangelism Tips!

I have been talking about our vision to Create Community, Deepen Discipleship, and Encourage Evangelism in recent weeks, and along the way I have mentioned a few good tips that the Archbishop of Canterbury has for all us in evangelism, especially for those of us for whom this is a difficult or uncomfortable word. If you didn't pick up a printout at the services, you can read it here: https://greatcommission.co.uk/the-archbishop-of-canterburys-top-ten-tips-for-evangelism

 

 

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Rob

Stoke & Dunston Gift Day, 20th November 2016

If you would like to read Rob's talk from the Stoke & Dunston gift day, which contains stuff from our vision as well as some of the thinking behind the way gift days work and how we can respond to God's generosity with ours, you can find it in the resources section.

Thank you

For many years, all of us at Stoke Holy Cross and Dunston churches have contributed enormously generously to the cost of the ministry of our churches, without raising funds from any other sources. It is something really worth celebrating.

 

Background

This year, the diocese asked us to pay almost £30,000 towards the cost of ministry in these parishes. Contrary to a lot of misunderstanding, giving of this kind from across Norfolk is the source of the vast majority of the diocese’s funding. Of course, we also have about £8,500 of other expense.

 

Current situation

At the moment, we are expecting that your giving will produce a total income of over £31,000 this year. As you can see, this is only a little more than the total parish share we have been asked for this year. Given our current financial situation, we anticipate that we will only have about £1500 in reserve at the end of the year if we pay our full parish share, which is something the PCC would be very keen to do. We can only do this by giving just £1250 out of the £3000 we had set aside for charitable giving: we would love to give this amount in full as well.

 

What are we asking?

Our balance looks like being £1500

but we would like it to be £4000,

which is a difference of £2500

We have given to charity £1250

But we would like to give £3000

which is a difference of £1750

So we would need to raise a total of about £4250

to get our budget to that point at the end of this year.

 

Can you help us?

Between 20th November and the end of the month, we ask that you would send a gift either through our offering plate on a Sunday morning, using one of the special Gift Day envelopes, or direct to the treasurer, Henry Caswell. If you are a UK tax payer we can reclaim tax on your gift, as long as Henry has a signed declaration from you. And please pray with us, that in this and every way, God would do more amongst us than all we can ask or imagine.

 

 

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Rob

Fasting and Praying, November-December 2016

Pray with us!

 

As Christmas draws near, we have the opportunity to welcome lots of people to our churches who might not yet know Jesus. This year, we want to challenge you to join us in praying and fasting to see them come to know God over this time, through our Alpha course in the new year, and beyond.

Jesus asks us to “pray without ceasing”, and he also asks us to fast, setting out how to behave “when you fast” in Matthew 6. When we miss a meal to focus on praying, we show God that we are putting him and his kingdom first, concentrating above all on his will for our villages. We see that Jesus is the “bread of life” (John 6:35) and can sustain us, as we give him our full attention.

Between now and Christmas, we will be gathering at the vicarage every Friday from 12.30 – 1.30 to pray together. If you are elsewhere, please join in fasting and praying wherever you are at that time!

We would like to ask you to pray for the following things every day in the lead-up to Christmas:

For people to see God’s love through our Christmas events, and to come closer to him

For many to join our Alpha course in January, and to become Christians

For our churches to grow and be known for our love, generosity and welcome.

 

While most people can miss a meal safely, we know that some are medically unable to do so and we would not want you to make yourselves ill! If this is the case for you, why not think about what else you could “fast” (television or treats perhaps?) in order to focus on praying with us?

 

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

When I was growing up in—well let’s say an adjoining county—I used to go to the village church. I say I went, because for me then church was the building and the service, not so much the people or the faith stuff. I managed to keep thinking about it that way for a long time, even through being confirmed, which was quite an achievement on my part, given that the vicar talked about God a lot, and I went to services at school and all that business.

The reason I am telling you all this is that when I was at university there came a point where I began to think very differently about things, and a big part of that was going on an Alpha Course. What I learnt (among other things) is that following Jesus is not something we only do in church, or because we go to church, but that being part of the church is what we do because we follow Jesus. More than that, following Jesus affects all of our lives, and everything that we will do not just now, but forever—because Jesus’ amazing promise of life for us who follow him is forever, not just for now.

Some of you might say it is not surprising that I had to leave Suffolk to discover the meaning of life, but I don’t think that the wonderful opportunity of getting to know Jesus belongs to any particular place or time –it’s for anyone, anywhere. And that is why following on from this Christmas, we are excited to be running an Alpha course again in the villages here. We plan at the moment to be meeting on Monday evenings from  mid-January up to just before Easter. If you have a lovely new 2017 calendar with a bit less on it at the moment, why don’t you put the first few in now, and let us know you want to come. More details on our Alpha page.

 

 

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Rob

Venta group vision update 2016

Venta group vision update 2016

Back in July, we held an away day for all of our PCCs which to work on a new vision which would inspire, sustain and grow our group of churches in the years to come. We worked as groups looking at each of the Diocese’s mission priorities, and have focused those into 3 key areas for us here: creating Community, discovering Discipleship, and encouraging Evangelism. To help concentrate on these 3 things, we have created three groups made up of members of the different PCCs, which met this week.

Each group looked at the vision sheet (in the image below) and discussed how the churches look now in relation to their column. We then settled on some big hopes and dreams for the coming years—we said 5 years, but maybe they will happen sooner—and worked out what the all-important first steps will be. I am really grateful to the person who suggested that with all this, Venta should probably stand for Very Exciting New Things Ahead.

So…

C (Community) group had a vision for putting the life of the church back in the heart of our village communities. The next thing we would like to do is organise a village-wide questionnaire in the new year to see how members of the community would like the church to be involved in what is going on in the villages. We will be exchanging ideas over email, and meeting once the results come in at the end of February.

D (Discipleship) group would like us to grow to the point where almost all regular members of the church are in some form of small group, where we are all playing our part as the Body of Christ, where we are all excited about the bible and prayer as individuals, and about worshipping together around the group. We are going to begin with a short survey of church members to gauge how people feel about their own discipleship so that we can provide some resources to go with our teaching on prayer in January.

E (Evangelism) group would like to see 100 people across the churches who are more confident in welcoming new people, inviting people to church activities, and sharing their faith. Our first step will be to encourage people to go on some outside training about faith sharing, plan some sessions on it within the group, and talk about it on Sunday mornings in February.

I hope that you can see that we have been busy! Do pray for us, and do talk to any of the PCC members if you would like to find out more.

All of this is available as a PDF in the Resources section as well.

 

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

This summer has been another wonderful season of sport, with first the Olympics and the Paralympics capturing our imaginations along with our airtime. I wonder which of the events or medal winners captured your imagination the most?

The Olympics had much to appreciate again, from Mo Farah defending both his titles from London, to Nick Skelton ‘finally’ winning the show-jumping at the age of 58. Many of us will have been even more captivated by the Paralympics, as a collection of extraordinary athletes brought home an even more extraordinary collection of medals, all of them winning the race despite the many obstacles and difficulties put in their way.

In the few days since the Paralympics, yet another sporting event has caught my eye. In the final event of the World Triathlon Championships in Mexico, British athlete Jonny Brownlee, who had been leading, began to struggle badly towards the end, weaving badly from one side of the road to the other as he suffered the effects of extreme dehydration. As the second-placed athlete passes him, Jonny’s brother Alistair appears in third. Rather than carrying on past him in the hope of catching the leader, he picks up his brother, drapes him over his shoulder, and pretty much carries him to the end, dropping him across the line to make sure that he finishes first.

The internet, unsurprisingly, is full of this heart-warming story. The idea that someone would put a fellow competitor—even his brother—first is an unusual one. But for those of us familiar with what the Bible says about Jesus, the image of being helped to finish the race is a familiar one. Paul reflects on the way we can’t find our way to God on our own—our own tendency to stagger in all different directions, even within sight of the finish line—but rejoices that ‘God has given us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.’ The truth that Jesus has won for us all the things we cannot, like forgiveness, relationship, and eternal life with God, is at the heart of what we believe, and invites us once again to run the race with him.

 

 

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Rob

Caistor Cream Teas 2016

Caistor Cream Teas 2016

The last scones have been served, aprons and washing-up brushes have been laid down, and this summer's season of Cream Teas at Caistor St Edmund church has come to an end. There have been loads of visitors, both local and from further afield, dropping into the church on Saturdays and Sundays, and have experienced a lively rural church community serving them and making them welcome. So a big thank you to everyone who made this possible, and helped us to a tremendous total of nearly £2000.

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

This summer we have had a lovely holiday in Northumberland. If you haven’t been before, you would love it—miles of sandy beaches., lovely castles and lots more. But it is probably worth noting that it is a long, long, long, how much longer Mummy and Daddy, long way.

One of the most exciting things in these parts is  the story of Grace Darling. Most people know about this extraordinary young woman, who set out one stormy evening in 1838 with her lighthouse-keeper father to rescue the 9 survivors of the wrecked SS Forfarshire. In terrible weather they rowed from their lighthouse to the wreck and back; her father made a second trip to collect those they couldn't fit in the first time.

After the event, Grace very rapidly became a national celebrity—people used to come up to the north-east to take boat trips out to the Farne Islands, pretty much just to look at her, as far as I can tell. She became so well-known in such a short time that the Grace Darling museum in Bamburgh has a vast collection of her possessions– letters, books, and most remarkably of all, the 200-year-old rowing ‘coble’ that Grace and her father used to rescue the sailors, still almost intact. You’re not allowed to touch it, but you really, really want to!

Stories of rescue against all the odds are stirring ones, which is why the story of Jesus is so compelling. Here is someone who set out on the most perilous of journeys, with no guarantee of success. But his death and life have rescued us, from death and worse. And so we come to look at him and wonder at what he has done, we reach out towards God who has come so close to us.

 

 

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Rob

New things this summer!

New things this summer!

Last Sunday 24th July we started a summer series on stories from the Old Testament which feature change and growth and new things happening. We are doing this because we have recently had a brilliant PCCs away day where we began to talk together about ways we expect that we will change and grow under God in the years to come. I started off by talking about the call of Abram (who becomes Abraham) at the beginning of Genesis 12, and I suggested a few reasons we can change and grow...

1. Because God doesn't change - the God who revealed himself to Abraham is the God who has revealed himself to us through Jesus, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever...

2. Because God expects us to change - he revealed himself to Abraham, and he told him to 'Go'!

3. Because when God changes us we grow - he made Abraham a great nation, and blessed him, but not just for himself. He did it so that Abraham would be a blessing, even that all nations of the earth would be blessed through him!

Stay with us through August and into September as we continue to explore these exciting themes!

 

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Rob

Cream Teas

Cream Teas

Caistor St Edmund Cream Teas will be served every weekend from the 6th August until the 4th September from 3.00pm till 5.00pm

 

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Rob

Ordinations this weekend!

A quick note to remind you that this weekend sees the ordination of men and women to minister in positions of leadership in the churches across the Diocese of Norwich. These are happening on Saturday in the Cathedral, and Sunday in different locations across the county. Please pray for all involved, especially Jill Haylock from the Chet Valley group of churches, who is being ordained on Sunday morning by Bishop Alan at Holy Trinity Church in Loddon. We have uploaded a sheet to the resources section in case that would help you to pray.

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

It is always a tricky business writing this article before the end of the month, when you don’t know what will have happened by the time it rolls off the printer. Today, for example, there are 2 areas of big uncertainty where Europe is concerned. One of them will have major implications for the future of this country, and the other one is the referendum. Or is it the football? I can’t quite be sure…

I have been struck by what a friend of mine wrote recently. He is not like me—he says what he thinks always and immediately, and does quite well with it, because, as he puts it, he tries to play the ball, not the man. This is a good lesson both in football and life, I think, and I suspect he and I both regret that the referendum campaign has become characterised by a lot of arguments which aren't telling the truth about what the opposing party think, or even what the statistics say, and much more about how dreadful or daft the other side are for thinking and feeling the things they do. (And in case you were wondering, the two of us are almost certain to vote in opposite directions, like the people in the photo above!)

I find it all the more difficult to write this month, because I happen to be sitting at my computer the morning after the horrific murder of Jo Cox MP. It would not remotely be playing the ball to suggest that either campaign, Remain or Leave, has to answer for a crime which is as yet far from explained, but much of the early commentary around this terrible event has been about the worrying climate that has been created by the strength of feeling on either side of the referendum. Paying tribute to his wife, Brendan Cox spoke of the need to ‘fight against the hatred that killed her.’

By the time you read this, the result of the referendum should be clear, and, leave or remain, we will be looking towards a different future together. It would be lovely to think, and pray, that it would be one where we can read over the previous sentence again, and agree that the most important word in it is the last.

 

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Rob

Caistor Cream Teas

Caistor Cream Teas

We are really grateful to everyone who worked hard to make this event such a success. Lots of people came through the doors (especially on Sunday when it was a bit less of a downpour!). There were some amazing floral displays, and lots and lots of scones and tea and cakes and all good things, in celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday. All in all it looks like over £800 has been raised for church funds, but the connection with people we made across the wider community was more important still. Here you can see a couple of photos of the fantastic flags and bunting made by the primary school and pre-school, and some paper plates with some prayers that we wrote at the family service in the morning. We also featured on Radio Norfolk's Treasure Quest - for the time being you can listen to it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03x4d6r. They start talking about the clue about 2h10, and they get to Caistor at about 2h36. Thanks again to everyone who made it such a great weekend!

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

We are Premier League! We are Premier League!

I am writing this on 25th May, so I don’t know what happened on 28th, but there is a good chance that by the time you read this, Sheffield Wednesday will be in the Premier League. (Many thanks to Norwich City for kindly making the necessary room for us, by the way.)

I have supported Sheffield Wednesday for more than 25 years, so I have seen my fair share of ups and downs. Mostly I remember the downs—when we lost to Arsenal in both cup finals in 1993 (the only time this has ever happened in English football, Wikipedia tells me), the succession of relegations... There have been highs as well—eight years in the Premier League from 1992-2000, or back before my time when we beat Sheffield United 4-0 in 1979, a match we still refer to as The Boxing Day Massacre, and commemorate in a very entertaining song to the tune of Mary’s Boy Child.

Having got that out of my system, I should return to the real point of this article, which is to say that whether we support Norwich or Sheffield Wednesday (or even Sheffield United or Ipswich) most of us will be getting behind England once again, as we try to put an end to 2016-1966=50 years of hurt. And in the spirit of getting together, all the England matches will be showing on the big screen in the Church Hall: we would love to see you there! There will be plenty of snacks if you would like to bring your own drinks of any variety.

When we talk about football, we tend to say we. Speaking for myself, I haven’t ever played football for England, or even Sheffield Wednesday, but I say we. We won. Speaking of Jesus and what he has done for us, the bible uses the language of we. This is most evident when Paul talks about how we died and live—it is not that we died ourselves when Jesus did, but that as we put our trust in Jesus that his death and his life become our death and our life. He died, he lived, we died, we live. We won. Even better than the Premier League!

 

 

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Rob

Rob writes...

Rob writes...

I have given up my place looking out from the corner of this article to someone else. I think you might recognise her, unlike the American tourist who came across her out walking (somewhat dressed down) with one of her bodyguards, and got into conversation with her about whether she had ever met the Queen. “No,” she replied, nodding at her police escort, “but he has.”

Starting around 21st April on her ‘actual’ birthday, a series of events across the country (and in these villages) will celebrate not just her reaching 90—a few of you have managed that too! - but a lifetime lived in service to this country.

It is not just us whom she serves, though. In many of her Christmas broadcasts the Queen refers to the importance and strength of her faith in Jesus. Last year, she wrote of the hope we can find even at the hardest of times: “It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’.” Going all the way back to 1952,  the Queen-to-be asked all the people she was to serve to pray for her, that God would give her wisdom and strength for the task he had for her. Sixty years and more later, that prayer is still being answered.

Your life and mine, your job and mine, your family and mine, are very different from the Queen’s in lots of ways, but I am still conscious of the need I have for hope, wisdom, and strength.  These are things which ultimately can only be found in Christ, and that’s why this summer I will be celebrating not only the Servant Queen, but also the King she serves.

 

 

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Rob

Rob's letter for June 2015

Rob's letter for June 2015

My son got fascinated by the idea of welcoming at a very young age. He can’t have been much more than 2 when he started saying ’Welcome’ to everyone who came to the house. He even said it to me when I came home. I’m not sure that there was much more going on in his head than that he had learnt a new word and he was going to try it out on everyone he could.

I don’t know what goes on in your head when you hear the word welcome. To me it is important that we welcome people as a family, but I also want people to feel welcome when they visit the church, or go into any of our homes. A couple of years ago when we had a weekend away, we identified it as one of our most important values.

This is mainly because I think the bible teaches us that God is welcoming. Now that may very well not be the first word you would use to describe him, but one of Jesus’ most famous stories compares God with a father welcoming home his lost son. The interesting thing is the son has done absolutely nothing to deserve a warm welcome—anything but—and he has even rehearsed his apology speech, but he gets an extravagant embrace. That’s what makes me want to welcome people unconditionally.

The reason welcome is in my head now is that we will be seeing a large number of different faces in our group of villages soon, as the new houses in Stoke Holy Cross begin to be completed. That is alongside all the people who are moving into existing houses near you, week in, week out.

I have begun to ask myself how as churches, and indeed as whole communities, we can make sure that people feel welcome in these new places which they are moving into. It is not just something for the church, of course: I am sure each of you, in your own ways, will be making people feel welcome, just as God offers to make us all welcome with him through Jesus, whether we feel we have done anything to deserve it or not.

 

 

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