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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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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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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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 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 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 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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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 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 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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