A word from the vicar

A picture of a seed sprouting into new life“See I am doing a new thing!”

As a former teacher, I always think about new beginnings in September rather than in January or when the Church year begins at Advent. And this September especially feels like the start of a new season for our Churches. In the parish of St Francis and St Hilda we are beginning Christianity Explored on Tuesday mornings. In the parish of St Thomas we are beginning both Discipleship Explored and a “next steps” small group on Thursday evenings, and also launching a weekly toddler group on Tuesdays and a weekly café on a Monday. Many of you will know of children and young people who are starting at a new school, college, or university. Perhaps some of you are beginning new jobs or a new phase of your life.

God famously spoke these words to the prophet Isaiah: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Is. 43.9). Now whilst I recognise He wasn’t particularly referring to Huddersfield in 2018, I do think we can hold on to God’s Word from this verse in our parishes and in our time.  God is forever doing new things. His Word is forever reaching new ears and His Holy Spirit is forever breaking through in new - and often unexpected – places. We live in a spiritual wilderness and our nation is a spiritual wasteland, just as Israel was in Isaiah’s day. But God’s promise is that it won’t always be that way; and he has called us, His Church, to point the way to the Living Water that Jesus promised in John chapter 4 (10-14).

We can only do this by joining in with the new things that God is doing. He wants to do new things in each of our lives. Perhaps he will do this through courses like Christianity and Discipleship Explored. And He also wants to do new things in our communities, perhaps through new ministries like Little Toms and the Grace Café as well as through our more well-established ministries in both parishes.

Churches should be like oases in a spiritual wilderness, sourced by the Living Water and offering this same Living Water to those who are thirsty. But we need to remember that oases can also dry up if they are cut off from the Source; let’s remain close to Christ so that we can lead others to Him too. And can I urge you to pray that God blesses all those new things beginning, or resuming this September? 

Ian (Sept 2018)

Discipleship pictureSummer Sermon Series

You may recall back in January’s together that I mentioned we’d be thinking about discipleship in 2018. Beginning on 29th July and through to 2nd September we’ll be hearing sermons addressing just this theme.  For the most part we’ll be looking at Mark chapter 10 and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapters 4-6.  Then on Thursday evenings at St Thomas’ Bradley, beginning on 13th September, we’ll be running an 8 week course called “Discipleship Explored” during which we’ll be looking at what the book of Philippians has to teach us about following Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus is a whole life commitment. It’s not just what we do on a Sunday or when we’re intentionally “being Christian”. It affects the way we live, how we relate to others, how we use our abilities and possessions, and even our attitudes to other people and to the world around us. It’s about placing Jesus and the life he calls us to lead above everything else.

Our summer sermon series begins with an exploration about discipleship and marriage which should be of interest to all Christians at a time when marriage is being redefined in our society. This is followed by a sermon on discipleship and children. The Bible contains much wisdom on these opening two topics and this wisdom is important not only for those who are married, for those who have children and for those who are a child. As we’ll discover, being married and having children is not the only (and perhaps not even the best) way of being a disciple of Jesus.

On 12th August we’ll be looking at discipleship and possessions which gets to the heart of how counter-cultural being a disciple really is. This is followed by two sermons entitled “how to be a disciple” and “how not to be a disciple” which will provide practical teaching on following Jesus. Finally, there’ll be a sermon on counting the cost of discipleship. Jesus never said that following him would be easy and this sermon will pick up on this theme.

I know that holidays will get in the way of most people being at all six of these services but remember that each theme will be preached on at 9am, 10.45am, and 5pm, at St Francis’, St Thomas’, and St. Hilda’s respectively, and we also hope that the talks at Bradley will be accessible through the webpage, www.bradfixcow.org.uk.

I hope that God will speak to you through these talks but don’t expect them to be easy to listen to! Being a disciple of Jesus demands much of us but the rewards are infinitely greater than the illusory ones offered by the world. If you are going away at all this summer, do have a lovely time and return home safely. Ian (August 2018)

...And rest 

Winnie the Pooh and Piglet having a rest

As we enter the holiday season I think it’s a good time to reflect on what the Bible tells us about finding time to rest and looking after ourselves. Busyness has become a modern virtue but even if we’re busy for God we’ll soon burn out unless we honour Him by obeying His command to rest.

Right at the beginning of the Bible God sets us an example doesn’t he? I think the creation of night and day provides a natural daily pattern of sleeping and waking which almost all animals and plants observe – and so should we by not burning the candle at both ends. And, of course, after six “days” of creation were’re told that God Himself rested and blessed that seventh day and made it holy.

Then, when Moses receives the Ten Commandments we are given the instruction to keep the Sabbath day holy. Not only does this instruction stand side by side with what we might consider more important ‘rules’ such as ‘do not commit murder’ but actually the commandment about the Sabbath is the longest and most detailed of the Ten! We’re told to do no work, but importantly we’re also told that we shouldn’t require others to work for us on that day either. God’s plan is that all creation should collectively rest on the Sabbath.

By Jesus’ day the Pharisees were insisting that the Jews observed this law

If this sounds like a contradiction, it might be explained like this: of course we’re not all able to rest on a Sunday. We need nurses, carers, and others every day of the week. At times we might need to work on a Sunday ourselves. That’s fine, but we mustn’t forget to find a different Sabbath that week. God gave us the Sabbath because he knows we need that rest, just as he gave us the nighttime to sleep. slavishly and were outraged when they saw the hungry disciples picking corn on the Sabbath and when they heard that Jesus had healed on it. Jesus told them that “the Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath.” We shouldn’t be slaves to the Sabbath, being afraid do anything that might be ‘work’, but at the same time we must honour the fact God has commanded us to rest.

And observing the Sabbath doesn’t have to mean we sit quietly with a book wondering whether turning the page is an act of labour! We can find rest by doing something different than we do the rest of the week; gardening, baking, cycling, building a barbeque – these might be hard work – but they’re still a rest from our usual routine.

But remember that the Fourth Commandment also requires us to ensure that others don’t work on the Sabbath on our behalf. This doesn’t include those who might care for us, or indeed our vicar, but it’s worth reflecting upon whether we are breaking the spirit of this command by shopping or eating out on a Sunday. I know I don’t always get this right. I think it’s one of those issue that we each need to search our own consciences about. Anyway, have a lovely summer and get some rest!  Ian (July 2018)

Jesse from the Fast Show

Let’s make ‘Ordinary Time’ an extraordinary time…

Do you remember the Fast Show? For those that don’t, it was a comedy sketch show on the BBC in the 1990s. One of my favourite characters was a scruffily dressed man called Jesse who emerged from a farm shed to announce something like “this season I will be mostly wearing Dolce and Gabbana!” or “today I have been mostly eating taramasalata!”  Well it was funny at the time – or at least I thought so!

At this time of year I always feel like announcing that “this season I will be mostly wearing a green stole!” The way the Church year is laid out we have Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday all following hot on each others’ heels, and then we get months and months of what the Church imaginatively entitles “Ordinary Time”. After half a year of varying between stoles of purple, white, gold, and red, I will now have to wear only green (more or less) until Advent returns. What a bore!

I dislike the title “Ordinary Time”. It’s as if we’re being told that it’s time stop celebrating Easter, or as if we’re being advised that nothing amazing is going to happen from now until at least next Advent: “Folks, prepare for the ordinary! Clergy, get out the green stoles!”

But our own Church calendar’s say something different. A Christianity Explored Course begins this month. An inaugral lay conference in Harrogate takes place on 9th. Our ordinand Carol Hawkins is ordained on 30th. Garden parties, harvest festivals, and patronal festivals are planned or in planning. PCC away-days to seek God’s vision for our Churches are also in the pipeline. And that’s just a sample of the thing’s that we’ve planned – what about the things that God has planned? I’m sure he doesn’t think in terms of “Ordinary Time”!

Maybe it’s significant that “Ordinary Time” follows Pentecost when we remember how the early Church was empowered with the Holy Spirit. Now is the time for us to join in with whatever God’s doing, empowered by that same Holy Spirit. Let’s go out and make disciples. Let’s share what God has done in our lives. Let’s love one another as Christ first loved us so that the world will know that we are His disciples. Let’s worship the Lord like it’s still Easter! Let’s pray and study God’s Word like we’ve never done before. With God’s help, Let’s make “Ordinary Time” an extraordinary time both in our parishes’ lives, and in our own. Ian (June 2018)


The power of Christian Unity

This month marks the first anniversary of my licencing as priest in charge of our two parishes and three churches. My family and I would like to th

ank you all for helping us settle in so quickly and for the love and care and prayer we’ve been afforded. It’s been a positive first twelve months, capped by what many people have said was a wonderful Holy Week and Easter. As I mentioned at our rece

The reading at my licensing last year was from Ephesians 4 which, in my Bible, is entitled ‘Unity in the body of Christ’. In it Paul urges the church to “lead a life worthy of the calling you have received” (v1), “bear with one another in love” (v2), and “make every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (v3). When we do this amazing stuff happens as Easter proved.power of Christian unity.nt annual parish meetings, I put the “success” of our Easter programme down to two things; firstly  and most importantly, the Holy Spirit showed up big time; and secondly, many of the services and events were supported by people from each of our Churches. It was a visual reminder of the 

But these three instructions need to be revisited by all of of us again and again. We need to regularly ask ourselves “Is my life worthy of being a disciple of Christ?”, “I am always patient and loving?”, “Am I doing everything I can to promote unity and peace?” If your answer is “yes, yes, and yes” I hope you don’t mind me saying “you little fibber!”

Our lives fall short of the calling we have received on a daily basis. But if we recognise this, repent, and pray for God’s help to do better in the future; we can be certain both of God’s forgiveness and his help in our discipleship.     

We often lose patience with others and fail to love them as we should. Recognise that this is true, repent, and pray for God’s help to be more patient and loving.

As for unity: it’s so easy to stay in our comfort zones, to feel that we are better off alone, or even that we’re simply better. Recognise that we do this, repent, and pray for God’s help to be more humble and more open to the power of his unifying Spirit.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 4.4: “There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God who is the Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.” Ian (May 2018)