01 February 2016

The Bible: Explore, Refresh, Discover, Enjoy

Have you dreamed of reading the Bible with enjoyment every day? Some people have difficulty knowing how to getting started.  Many people start well then get overwhelmed when they read and re-read a passage that is hard to understand.

Lent is a wonderful opportunity to embark on a new spiritual practice, so we invite you to start reading the bible regularly, but this is something you don’t have to do alone.  We will be running a 4 week course during Lent to help you develop a ‘rhythm’ of reading the bible.  You will gain support by sharing with others your personal reflections, and insights. We will meet in Crypt Room 2 from 24 February 2016 at 7.30pm for an opportunity to explore, refresh, discover and enjoy reading the bible.

The Revd Gloria Naylor

Services on Sunday 7 February 2016

Sunday 7 February 2016

9.00am BCP Holy Communion Gloria Naylor preaching. Bible reading: 1 Cor 13.1-13; Luke 18.31-43

11am Holy Communion
Will Elphick preaching. Visiting speaker from SIM. Bible reading: TBD

6pm Evening Worship
Mike Bartholomew-Biggs preaching.- Bible reading: Exodus 34. 29-35; 2 Corinthians 3. 12 - 4.2

17 January 2016

Statement following the meeting of Anglican Primates last week

Simon Harvey made this statement at our eleven o'clock service today,

You may have read or heard reports in the last few days about the meeting of archbishops from across the Anglican church. They met to consider what to do in response to the American Episcopal Church’s decision to allow same-sex marriage.

The statement that the archbishops agreed on Thursday was quite a technical one. What I and many other people found difficult was what it didn’t say. It didn’t acknowledge the pain that gay and lesbian people have experienced through the way that they have been treated in the churches. It didn’t say anything about the welcome and love that the church has failed to show all people.

I’m pleased that on Friday a much better statement was issued. In the press conference that followed (reported here), our archbishop Justin Welby apologised in these words, “It’s a constant source of deep sadness that people are persecuted for their sexuality. I want to take this opportunity personally to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, that the church has caused and the love that we at times completely failed to show, and still do, in many parts of the world including in this country.”

I want to be clear that St Mary’s has for decades been blessed by the membership of gay and lesbian people, often in significant leadership roles. There are of course differences among us on these issues, but I want to repeat something that I’ve said from this microphone before. Gay and lesbian people are welcome here. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

If anyone would like to talk further with me about this or share their thoughts with me, do please pick up the phone or send me an email.

31 December 2015

Days of promise

Fewer of us use paper diaries these days. The annual ritual of transferring birthdays and special dates into a fresh new diary has gone for those of us whose calendars are curated by Google, Apple or Outlook.

I remember treasuring each new diary not so much for what it contained (handy conversion tables, a map of the London Underground, mileage charts between key towns) but for what it seemed to promise. Faintly-ruled divisions of days and weeks suggested that the future was just waiting to be inked-in. A new diary was truly a thing of wonder.

And yet for all our sophistications, the New Year still seems to possess at least some of the same promise. The rolling over of the year is a natural occasion to look forward and many of us wish that this year could be... well, different.

The New Year is marked nationally with an honours list, the release of government archives and, in an otherwise quiet media world, with celebrations: the best of 2015's music/films/books/politicians/gadgets and so on.

But on a more personal level, we share an annual national festival of self-reflection and hopeful resolve. In the office on Monday, people will be keen to know if you've made any commitments for 2016. For many of us, it's about losing some weight, getting more exercise, saving more money - all wonderfully vague aspirations, of course.

The real keen types will set goals that are specific, measurable and realistic. They might run a habit-monitoring app on their phone. But will things be really different by the time that this winter's awful floods give way to spring?

We're running a special one-off Stillness Prayer event on Wednesday 6 January, looking at the whole resolutions business. We'll be exploring together the pitfalls of self-improvement and how it is actually possible to make lasting changes. And then, oddly perhaps, we'll do nothing for a good half-hour.

Stillness Prayer means resting, confident that beyond our willpower and self-discipline, there is a God who seeks our flourishing, not our failure.

Perhaps that's the greatest possibility for a new year. That instead of a year of achievement or the attainment of personal goals through determination and planning we find that God is somehow already ahead of us. What if those dates in the calendar aren't just empty 24-hour containers for stuff we will do but days of real moment?

At the turning of the year, may we be filled with thankfulness for the good things of 2015 and with hopeful trust for 2016. May your New Year be happy and peaceful.

30 December 2015

Stillness Prayer - Resolutions

Our popular Stillness Prayer returns on Wednesday 6 January in Crypt Room 1 at 7:30pm. After a workshop session we'll move into the silence and darkness of the church itself to find peace and stillness in God's presence, ending at 9:00pm.

New Year's resolutions invite us to imagine a better self. We'll be exploring why resolutions often fail, how we can adopt positive new habits and let go of the ways that frustrate our attempt to improve our lives.

This event is free. No need to book a place but please arrive on time.

More New Year's reflections from Simon Harvey.

28 December 2015

Problem with Alcohol?

Many people come to realise that they have a problem with alcohol. We're glad that eight different AA Meetings take place at St Mary's through the week, offering support and encouragement.

The following information is taken from the excellent Alcoholics Anonymous website, which is really helpful to anyone concerned about their drinking.

We decided to try to face up to what alcohol had done to us. Here are some of the questions we tried to answer honestly. See how you do. Remember, there is no disgrace in facing up to the fact that you have a problem.

Answer YES or NO to the following questions

Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but only lasted for a couple of days? 

Most of us in AA made all kinds of promises to ourselves and to our families. We could not keep them. Then we came to AA and AA said: "Just try not to drink today." (If you do not drink today, you cannot get drunk today.)

Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking-- stop telling you what to do? 

In AA we do not tell anyone to do anything. We just talk about our own drinking, the trouble we got into, and how we stopped. We will be glad to help you, if you want us to.

Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk? 

We tried all kinds of ways. We made our drinks weak. Or just drank beer. Or we did not drink spirits. Or only drank on weekends. You name it, we tried it. But if we drank anything with alcohol in it, we usually got drunk eventually.

Have you had to have a drink in the morning during the past year? 

Do you need a drink to get started, or to stop shaking? This is a pretty sure sign that you are not drinking socially.

Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble? 

At one time or another, most of us have wondered why we were not like most people, who really can take it or leave it.

Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year? 

Be honest! Doctors say that if you have a problem with alcohol and keep on drinking, it will get worse - never better. Eventually, you will die, or end up in an institution for the rest of your life. The only hope is to stop drinking.

Has your drinking caused trouble at home? 

Before we came into AA, most of us said that it was the people or problems at home that made us drink. We could not see that our drinking just made everything worse. It never solved problems anywhere.

Do you ever try to get 'extra' drinks at a party because you do not get enough? 

Most of us used to have a 'few' before we started out if we thought it was going to be that kind of party. If drinks were not served fast enough, we would go some place else to get more.

Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don't mean to? 

Many of us kidded ourselves into thinking that we drank because we wanted to. After we came to AA, we found out that once we started to drink, we couldn't stop.

Have you missed days off work because of drinking? 

Many of us admit now that we called in sick lots of times when the truth was that we were hung over or on a drunk.

Do you have blackouts? 

A blackout is when there are drinking hours or days we cannot remember. When we came into AA, we found out that this is a pretty sure sign of alcoholic drinking.

Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink? 

Many of us started to drink because drinking made life seem better, at least for a while. By the time we got into AA, we felt trapped. We were drinking to live and living to drink. We were sick and tired of being sick and tired.

What's your score?

Did you answer YES four times or more? If so, you are probably in trouble with alcohol. Why do we say this? Because thousands of people in AA have said so for many years. They found out the truth about themselves - the hard way.
Again, only you can decide whether you think AA is for you. Try to keep an open mind on the subject. If the answer is YES, we will be glad to show you how we stopped drinking ourselves. Just call us.
AA does not promise to solve your problems. But we can show you how we are learning to live without booze one day at a time. We stay away from that first drink. If there is no first one, there cannot be a tenth one. When we got rid of booze, we found that life became much more manageable.

Do you want help with a drinking problem?

If alcohol is costing you more than money, then call us today in complete confidence on 0845 769 7555
or email us at help@alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

24 December 2015

Holy Communion for Christmas day

Make church part of the perfect Christmas Day.

In a shorter service of Holy Communion for all the family, we welcome everyone to sing favourite carols.

The service begins at 10:30am and concludes at 11:30am, so there's plenty of time to get back to peel the sprouts.

A Christmas message

Simon Harvey writes,

Living and working at St Mary's on Upper Street means that there's always lots going on right outside the door.

Ours is apparently one of London's 'destination streets'. During the month of Advent, we've seen the shops busy and the restaurants and bars teeming. A thousand buses a day ply the A1 outside the church. Many thousand more people walk the pavements. The sound of laughter, shouts and conversation rarely disappears.

But all of that strangely peaks in the days before Christmas. Younger Londoners leave the capital to go home to families around the country or abroad. There's a dispersion of travellers, laden with gifts, trying to beat the holiday travel disruption by jumping on trains, planes and cars.

The streets never truly empty, of course. Even on Christmas Eve, after the midnight service, the worshippers leaving the church find they don't quite have the pavements to themselves. But there's the sense of a city drawing breath, pausing for a short while.

It's no secret that I love our parish. I love its highways and back streets, its bright lights and dark corners.

I love all cities, in fact. When my wife Jennifer and I travelled India for a month this autumn we were fascinated by its great cities.

London, like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, is a 24-hour place. At times, its pace feels relentless. But listen carefully and you'll find rhythms here. The ebb and flow as the city gathers a workforce each day. The seasonal drifts of newcomers and tourists.

The Christmas story has its own journeys and destinations. Mary and Joseph make a laborious trek to Bethlehem which, to their disappointment, they find packed with so many people that there's no room left. Jesus is delivered among the straw and animals because so many travellers have filled the town. Angels descend on a journey from heaven to earth and the shepherds make their way down farther still, from hills to manger. Wise men travel from eastern kingdoms to find and worship the anointed. And in all this, God moves too. He moves among us.

Many regular worshippers at St Mary's won't be in church over the Christmas period. They're travelling too. But I don't see them as missing from the celebration.

One woman has recently relocated her family to Sierra Leone, to do vital work in delivering an education programme for girls. Another is visiting projects in Liberia, working in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis. Another has set off for Delhi, to work with children who are in desperate poverty for a month.

These church members aren't 'missing' at Christmas. They're in the world, making a difference by putting their faith into action. Their work is to make the Good News that the angels shared at Christmas a reality in the lives of others.

Whether your Christmas brings travel or the opportunity to rest at home, may it be joyous and peaceful.