March 2014

A Letter from your Lay Reader

Dear Friends,

We are now in the month of March, and I really can’t believe how quickly the first two months of this year have flown by. It only seems yesterday when I was telling you all about the Mister Men in my Christmas Day sermon. March means Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, 5th March. We will have the usual Ash Wednesday Communion Service with the Imposition of Ashes. Eileen has very kindly agreed to be our Celebrant for that service.

Lent means Lent Study Groups, and as usual there will be two Groups running in the Parish. There will be a Wednesday afternoon group run by Trudi Oliver, a curate from the Parish of Lordshill, and a Thursday evening group run by me. Trudi’s group will be based on the 6 week Lent course commissioned by Bishop Tim, exploring new Strategic Policies for the Diocese and what it means for us to “Live the Mission of Jesus”.

I thought I would provide something different, so you have a choice. My group will be based on “The Hard Sayings of Jesus” a book by F.F. Bruce which takes a look at some of those really challenging aspects of the Gospels, which are so difficult for many of us to understand or accept. Trudi’s group will meet between 2.00 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. on Wednesdays, beginning on 5th March. My group will meet between 7.30 p.m. and 9.00 p.m. on Thursdays beginning on 13th March. Both groups will be in either the George Lee room or St. Monica’s chapel depending on numbers. Please sign up on the sheets at the back of the church. There is nothing to stop you from joining both groups if you wish!!

The organisation of Lent groups is, of course, a minor matter compared with the task which lies ahead for us during the Interregnum. The PCC and church wardens are working hard on the preparation of the Parish Profile which needs to be in place so that the search for a new priest to lead us in this Parish can begin in earnest. Interregnums are times of uncertainty for parishes, but perhaps I could share with you a couple of sections from the sermon I preached at Evensong on 26th January after Brian’s last service, a sermon based on 1 Peter 1:3-12.

We are facing a time of some uncertainty and the only thing we can be sure about is that this is a turning point in the life of the Parish of Freemantle, and turning points are generally good things. We are given the opportunity to make a new start, hopefully with someone new to lead us into the future. We must remain positive, and above all, have hope that the right man or woman can be found to replace Brian.

Hope is, of course, a very Christian virtue, and one which St. Peter knew a lot about. 1 Peter is all about hope, a new hope. Peter’s life and story must surely give hope to us all. We may remember him as Simon the fisherman, one of the first Disciples to be called by Jesus. We may see him as the stumbling Disciple who frequently got things wrong or said something stupid or inept. We really cannot forget Peter as the Disciple who denied Jesus three times then wept bitter tears of grief for what he had done. However, the many lessons Peter had learned from being a Disciple of Jesus gave him the strength to become the leader of the Apostles, a great preacher and the first true leader of the early Church.

1 Peter 1 begins with that great prayer of thanksgiving “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The Resurrection marked a great turning point in the life of Peter and the Disciples. They now had to prepare themselves to carry on without Jesus as their leader. They needed lots of hope!!

As we face the future, we must have hope in Christ, and St. Peter’s words and example can help us to find that hope. Peter knew what it was like to suffer; he knew what it feels like to be scared of standing up for what he believed in. Peter knew what it was like to fail miserably when he had acted with the best of intentions. However, Peter also had hope and faith that he could achieve almost anything because he was living a new life in the power of Jesus Christ.

As we move forward into the interregnum, let us do so in faith and hope, knowing that Christ will be with us every inch of the way to guide us and protect us, guaranteeing that out future will be secure.

Please pray for our Parish in this time of Interregnum. You might like to use the words of our Prayer for the Interregnum printed in last month’s Parish News.

With all good wishes, Malcolm Harper