This evening (14th January 2019) Hub in the Pub adopted the form of a humorous interview between Rev John Stopford and Rev Antony Dutton. Antony summarised his journey into ministry. He credits Whitegate Primary School for his basic religious literacy and explained how during a school trip to Rome he was amazed by the amount of religious devotion which he witnessed, but was unable to make it his own experience. He said he went up to university as an angry agnostic searching for answers in both the pub and cathedral.
Still seeking answers, he then returned to Chester to study theology and whilst there he was influenced by one of the Melanesian Brothers. He was also strongly encouraged by Rev Lesley Eden, with whom he often shared the Evening Office. Around that time a chance remark by Bishop Peter encouraged him to take the plunge and train for ordination. This he did at Cuddesdon College, Oxford, where he ‘met people as weird as himself’. During his ordination at Chester Cathedral he had a profound experience when the Bishops laid their hands upon him: he felt ‘he went from terror to bliss’.
Following his Curacy at Malpas and the inspiring lead by his training incumbent, Ian, he moved on to St John the Evangelist, Great Sutton, as Vicar. Asked about the highs and lows of his ministry there, he said that he had a very rewarding funeral ministry, but had mixed views about baptisms, particularly with difficult two-year olds. He thinks sermons are very important, but likes to keep them very focused.
Antony named two challenges he faces: one being the lack of general religious literacy and the other trying to encourage young people into church. He is in the process of writing his PhD in church history whilst enjoying his Parish Ministry. Antony chose the Ankawa Foundation as his chosen charity, which supports Christian Communities in northern Iraq (www.ankawafoundation.org).
Thanks go to David Hughes and his staff for the excellent food.
On Tuesday 4th December 30 people arrived at The Mews for their Advent Lunch. The Mews looked very festive with the tables laid and decorated.
Linda, Chris, Alan and Colin had worked hard all morning preparing a Turkey lunch with all the trimmings. This was followed by Christmas pudding and custard. Coffee and tea with a mince pie was served whilst everyone enjoyed Christmas Carols which were led by Andrew Millinchip.
A gift was also given to everyone who attended.
We had a wonderful day with a super atmosphere and in the process raised £173.84 for church funds. It was good to see so many people enjoying the fellowship and friendship of parish life together.
Linda & Chris would like to thank everyone who attended and helped serve and tidy up after the meal. Special thanks also to Alan and Colin Newton and Andrew Millinchip.
Christmas Hamper Raffle
Tickets for our Christmas Hamper Raffle are now on sale and are available from Carole Sweet for £1 each.
The raffle will be held on the 19th December at the carol singing. So the winner will get the hamper of goodies in time for Christmas.
First prize a Hamper full of Christmas Goodies
Second Prize a Hamper full of pamering goods
Third Prize a Panettone
On Saturday 15 September twelve of us visited Rodington Vineyard, in the beautiful Shropshire countryside where the fabulous Blue Tractor Wines are grown. The wine tasting was organised by the Social & Fundraising Committee as a social event.
Manjit, the owners daughter, welcomed us to the vineyard and in between rain showers explained that the vineyard came into being after her parents bought 10 acres of agricultural land and found the soil was more suited to vines than orchard. On this small farm they grow nine different vine varieties, including Ortega, Solaris, Bacchus, Seyval, Rondo and Pinot Noir. The vines were only planted in 2009 and their first small production run was 2012 (family only) but by 2014 their Solaris white wine was winning a silver International Award.
We were able to taste 8 wines which comprised 3 white, 1 red, 2 rose and 2 sparkling wines. The 'nibbles' turned out to be a full picnic lunch, with their own grapes and apples & pears from the token orchard area - a nod to the original plan. The measures of wine were generous and enabled everyone to get a good taste of the quality of the wine.
The event was fantastic. Manjit didn't hurry the tasting and had plenty of time to chat with us and tell us lots of stories. All in all it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday.
Summer Lunch 2018
On Tuesday 14th August, 29 friends of St Mary’s gathered in The Mews for a Summer Lunch.
The tables were beautifully dressed, and there was a wonderful atmosphere with everyone joining in and chatting together.
John started the proceedings with a ‘Grace’ which was followed by a cold meat salad and dessert.
This was a wonderful example of St Mary’s friendship and fellowship.
Linda & Chris would like to thank everyone who came and special thanks to Alan for helping prepare the meal. Thank you also to everyone who helped serve, clear the tables and stack the chairs and tables at the end of the lunch. Together we made £150.73 for church funds.
Canon Chris' Retirement Pary
Parishioners from both St Mary’s and St Peter’s came out in force to celebrate Chris and Barbara’s 4 ½ years with us and to say goodbye as they head for the east coast. Guests from Chris’s ministry in Scargill, Filey and Chester Cathedral added to our number.
The “bring and share” aspect of the Afternoon Tea was almost too successful as, knowing Chris’s fondness for baked goods, every possible combination of butter, sugar, flour and other mouth-watering ingredients arrived and was placed on the table, together with a variety of sandwiches and savouries. The free bar did a roaring trade with French wines and Elderflower Cordial.
Chris and Barbara are pictured here being helped by their grandson Isaac to cut the special Retirement Cake, baked and decorated by Nancy Carter. It was delicious, as was to be expected, for Nancy has a long-held reputation to uphold.
They were presented with a cheque and gifts from each parish: a canvas log-carrier (with logs from Church Wood and from Little Budworth) and two carved stone birds; these gifts being tokens, pointers to the future as we’ve suggested they might like to purchase a log store and a bird bath & sundial when at last their garden in Flamborough is ready.
There were short speeches and a few tears, there was singing by the Little Budworth Community Choir who had prepared a fabulous, “Little Budworth Calypso”; Canon Chris had brought his guitar and sang, accompanied on stage by his whole family.
Most of all there was lively chatter, convivial company and a great atmosphere as we wished Chris and Barbara the very happiest of retirements.
Canon Chris' Final Sermon
Sermon CWH Bread and Fishes 29.7.18
John 6. 1-21
Lord, take my lips and speak through them...etc.
Today I am Vicar of Whitegate and Little Budworth.
In 3 days time I won’t be. Parting is such sweet sorrow. But of course things have to move on,
And we’ll still be friends, fellow-believers, all called to do God’s work and to make Jesus known.
Yes, retiring from being a full-time priest is the end of an era for me, but also the start of a new adventure. Learning to spend time in different ways, enjoying time with Barbara and our ever-increasing family, but basically still a Christian – looking to God to see what he’s got in store...
To me, it’s a real miracle that I’m here, preaching in a pulpit, because as a teenage boy I stuttered when asked to say anything in public. I believe that God guided me to fluency of speech through being a junior school teacher and working with children, by the local Vicar in Essex asking me to lead a chorus time in Family Services, and mainly through singing, because you can’t stutter when you sing. Even so, I couldn’t have imagined back then that God would call me to a ministry that involved so much public speaking, even sometimes the pressure of speaking live on radio.
So I can testify God has been at work in my life, despite my failings and frailties, he has brought me through, called me to follow him, and given me the strength and confidence that I have needed.
What helps also is being sure of the message you have to share. And I am convinced, to the extent of being passionate, that the Gospel message needs to be heard and lived out so that we can grow in faith and understanding, and so that people out there can come to know Jesus for themselves.
SING: We have bread and fishes, and a jug of red wine, to share on our journey with all of mankind.”
In our gospel reading today we learn some key things about Jesus, and some interesting things about ourselves. The feeding of the 5,000, plus Jesus walking on the surface of stormy Lake Galilee.
Just imagine if you’d been there in those days. He was doing amazing things. We read “Large crowds kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick”. His motive was not showmanship, but compassion. And when it was apparent that the large crowd was going to go hungry, Jesus took action. First he asks Philip where they can buy bread, but Philip’s answer is realistic, and not very hopeful: “Six months wages wouldn’t buy enough for each of them to get a little”. Then Andrew speaks up: “There’s a boy here who has 5 barley loaves and 2 fish”
You know the rest of the story: Jesus gave thanks to God, blessed the bread and fish, they shared it out, the 5,000 people ate their fill, and then the disciples gathered up 12 baskets full of the left-overs. Startling. Amazing.
And the people said: “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”
Who is this man? The question is the same for us all 2,000 years later, and just as urgent and pressing. Consider again the healings, the miracles and extra-ordinary happenings. Imagine the atmosphere that was created when ordinary people were with Jesus. They felt accepted, welcomed and loved. He had charisma, but much more than that, he was the living evidence of a God who is smiling, forgiving and full of blessing and affirmation, a God whose nature is not severe and judgemental, but a God who is on our side, because he loves you, and he loves me.
SING: “What the world needs now is love sweet love, it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of,
What the world needs now is love sweet love, no not just for some but for everyone...”
What the world is actually facing now is political tension, politicians with over-inflated egos and the love of power. What we’re facing are the dangers of violent conflict, of climate change and extremes of weather; the reality of a burgeoning population and working out how we can share the resources of the world fairly.
Sing: What the world needs now...
It’s a laid-back, gentle melody but it’s expressing a life or death question.
How is unselfish love going to happen?
Brothers and sisters, dear friends, Jesus is the key, alive and at work among us. Where there is deceit and double-dealing he embodies trust and faith. Where you get things wrong he brings full-forgiveness. When you are at your wit’s end...his grace and peace will see you through.
He can do this because he is who he says he is. He does not lie.
He is the good shepherd. The light of the world. The resurrection and the life.
And finally. What shall I say for a final point, an enduring thought??
Back to the gospel story...think of the young boy offering his loaves and fishes. (Cockney accent) “Here you are Jesus, you can have these” It was ridiculous, such a tiny amount to address such a massive problem. But the little lad got it absolutely right in his instinct to give what he had, and trust that Jesus would do the rest. That’s a powerful guiding principle for each of us personally and together:
Simply offer to God what you have and who you are.
Offer yourself sincerely and wholeheartedly.
The result of that risk of taking God seriously is that he will bless you, surprisingly, amazingly, more than you expect.
That’s why I am not worried about leaving Whitegate /Lit Bud.
Sad of course, but not worried.
God has plans when the new Vicar eventually comes. Be open to changes, a new clergy personality, and new ways of doing things.
But God also has plans for the time in between. Vacancy sounds like emptiness, but God can fill it with lots of surprises and blessings. It certainly needs to be a time of willingness and faith, of looking to Jesus and offering like the little lad, for then the bread and fishes represented here will be multiplied and will be sufficient, and abundantly more, for all your needs.
Sing: With the wind in the willows and the birds in the sky,
There’s a bright sun to warm us wherever we lie,
For we have bread and fishes, and a jug of red wine
To share on our journey with all of mankind.
Yes, we have bread and fishes and a jug of red wine,
To share on our journey with all of mankind.”
Vicar's Stewardship Sermon 29 April
Stewardship Renewal Sermons: April 2018
Canon Chris Humphries
St Mary’s, Whitegate and St Peter’s, Little Budworth 29th April
3. Time to spare and share
Bible readings: 1 Corinthians 12. 12-27; Luke5: 27-38
Today is the last of our series of Stewardship sermons.
Two weeks ago we thought about “Our generous God” and reflected on the abundance of God’s good gifts to us. Last week we considered our response, and focussed on Zaccheus and the huge change that took place in his life when he took Jesus seriously, with his money and possessions being part and parcel of his offering to God.
This week it’s about our time and our involvement in the church.
But what is the church?
Someone said that “The church is the world’s most extraordinary club. The entrance fee is nothing, the annual subscription is everything, and the society has been formed for the benefit of non-members.” So this worldwide body of people exists to reach out to non-members and love and serve them for the sake of Christ.
Last Tuesday some of us met at St Peter’s and thought about different pictures and models of the church. Peter Hayward was keeping count – I think we came up with about 12. Some are mentioned in the Bible, while some come from other sources. Each highlights in its own way how we belong together, and how we need each other. Let’s think about some of them:
For instance consider a hive of bees. They are led by a Queen, and so is the Church of England! The effort each bee puts in is phenomenal. They fly 55, 000 miles (2.2 times around the world) just to make one pound of honey. It is interesting that on its own a bee would be pretty useless, but as a hive they are incredibly powerful; and the output of honey is a real gift and blessing. Likewise, the honey of the word of God, and our Gospel message is the sweet message of life for a world that, too often, is fed with lies and falsehood.
Or consider a grape-vine. This picture of the people of God goes back to the Old Testament and was a symbol of the nation of Israel, with God seen as the gardener or vine-dresser. Jesus referred to this and said that he is the vine, and we are the branches. We must be grafted into him if we are to bear good fruit.
Then there is a nautical picture, that of the fleet or flotilla. Atlantic convoys in the second world war were stronger and safer from the threat of German u-boats if they were well organised, sailed together, and had the protection of the more powerful ships.
Back to the bible, we can say that the church is like a flock. Jesus is the good shepherd and we are the sheep. He promises to protect us, and to guide us to safe pasture. The extent of his commitment and love is clear when he says that he will lay down his life for the sheep.
The Iona Community also uses the picture of a flock, but this time a flock of wild geese. The wild goose is the Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit, and is the logo of the Iona Community.
It’s a fact that Geese in flock have 70% greater range than a single goose on its own; geese in formation fly 75% faster than single geese. In the church we need to keep learning the strength of sharing; sharing tasks, sharing challenges, sharing worship, sharing our lives. These are the hallmarks of a community of faith.
All these pictures tell us something useful about what the church is, and our place within it.
In today’s first reading, we heard St Paul talk about the church as a body, with Jesus Christ as the head. You might be a toe or an ear, an elbow or a finger. What is clear is that everyone is needed, whether they think they are important or not. The contribution of every part of the body is vital for its life, health and well-being. If the body suffers then every bit of it is affected. If things are going well, then the whole body appreciates that and is encouraged.
This is an important concept for us as we consider our own involvement in the church here, and the offering of our time. These days most folk are busy with all kinds of things, so we must think something worthwhile before we make it a real priority. My hope is that you will see the mission of our church here at St Mary’s/ St Peter’s as vitally important for us personally, and for the people around us. Our church needs to be a beacon of light and hope in a world and society that is increasingly confusing and worrying for many. On our own we could not hope to influence our local community for good, but as a church, as a body, we can really make a difference. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Be part of it. Consider carefully how you could be involved, what you could do to help God’s work to go forward right here in Whitegate/ Little Budworth.
All offers of help or participation will be gladly received and appreciated. Just have a look at the various tasks and jobs listed in the Stewardship leaflet. From serving on the PCC to flower-arranging, bell ringing, coffee rota, there are a multitude of things large and small that keep our church body ticking over in the work of the Lord. Take a moment. Is the Lord calling you? Be sure that if he gives you a heavenly nudge, then he will also provide the energy , time and wherewithal to do whatever it might be.
Finally, our Gospel reading highlighted one of the lesser-known pictures of the church. Jesus is the bridegroom and we, the church, are his bride. I’m taking several weddings over these coming weeks and I love seeing the devotion and love that couples have for each other. They reach a point where they want to declare their love publicly, and be joined as husband and wife.
The love of Jesus for each of us, and all of us, is just as profound. When we undertake anything in his name, he will uphold and protect us, inspire and enable us, because quite simply he loves us.
In the gospel reading it was the unlikely figure of Levi, Matthew, the tax-collector who Jesus was calling “Follow me”. We still remember Matthew because of his positive response. “And he got up, left everything, and followed him.”
So focus on the picture of the church that inspires you, whether that’s to do with bees, boats, vines, sheep or geese! Know yourself to be included in the love given by Jesus the bridegroom to his bride. You are important to God, and have been blessed with gifts and talents that are needed as part of the body of the church right here, right now.
Do look at the list on the Stewardship leaflet, and fill in the pledge of support form. We are strong together, and the church has always been able to fulfil its mission when its members recognise that God’s call is not confined to the clergy, but that his voice speaks to each individual, with unique gifts to be used and valued. As Paul told the Corinthians:
“Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.”
Vicar's Stewardship Sermon 22 April
Stewardship Renewal Sermons: April 2018
Canon Chris Humphries
St Mary’s, Whitegate and St Peter’s, Little Budworth 22nd April
2. Open hearts and glad response - Christian giving
Bible readings: Luke 19. 1-10 and 2 Corinthians 9. 6-10
“Now, Zaccheus was a very little man, and a very little man was he.
He climbed up into the sycamore tree, for the Saviour he wanted to see.
And as that Saviour passed that way, he looked into the tree,
And said “now Zaccheus, you come down, for i’m coming to your house for tea!”
Ever since I was a child I’ve loved that Sunday School chorus;
Perhaps I knew instinctively that I’d grow up to be vertically challenged!
I’m only 5 foot 4 inches, and of course I don’t agree with the T.V. programme that dared to suggest that shorter people have a lower I.Q. (Intelligence quotient)
This programme also touched on the issue of whether all blondes are really dumb, and whether your I.Q. is higher if you can curl your tongue!
Zaccheus may have been able to curl his tongue; however, as a Jewish man he is very unlikely to have been blonde. The only thing we know for sure is that he was short.
I guess that he had a pretty good I.Q. – he was good with figures, could swing the percentages in his favour, and he was cunning and astute.
Perhaps just the sort of chap to have on board for our Stewardship Renewal. Really ?
Well, as it turns out, yes!
Because, more important than whatever his I.Q. happened to be, he recognised the importance and impact of Jesus in his life.
It all started with the visit Jesus made to Jericho, Zaccheus’ home town. Zaccheus had status in that community – a status grudgingly given. He was the chief tax-collector, and as such was in league with the hated Roman occupying forces; and yet there was something about Jesus that fascinated him, enough to make him act out of character, join the throng, and climb a tree to get a better view.
Jesus noticed the unlikely figure among the branches. He spotted the potential, he understood that within Zaccheus there was a yearning, a discontentment with his life as it was, even a glimmer of faith that could be fanned into flame.
“Zaccheus, hurry down, I must stay at your house today!”
Let’s look now at today’s theme of Christian Giving, and come back to Zaccheus later on...
It’s good for any parish to have a Stewardship Renewal as a regular prompt to review our giving to the church and to this parish of Whitegate/Little Budworth.
As we do this, we remind ourselves of the facts of financial life – our parish share of 45 thousand pounds/ 25 thousand pounds to the Diocese of Chester being the biggest single amount that we have to find each year, in order to pay for full-time ministry in these two parishes. In recent years we have managed to pay this amount in full, through monthly instalments. But, as with so many commitments, it is a real challenge every year, and we are so grateful to our treasurers who keep us grounded, with the facts and figures before us.
The total amount we need to find each year to keep our churches going is just over £80 thousand pounds (St Mary’s), and around £50 thousand pounds (St Peter’s).
Regular planned generous weekly giving is the proven way forward, using Gift Aid and Standing Orders to full effect.
It’s true that fundraising can be great fun, and a great help, but our bread and butter income comes via regular giving from that core of people who attend St Mary’s and St Peter’s, see the need, realise the implications, and give their generous financial gifts to enable our ministry and mission to flourish.
Of course, we always need to emphasize the difference in circumstances that people are in. £5 for one person will be like £50 for another. The only thing I ask, or actually that the Bible asks, is that we see Christian Giving as a key part of our own spiritual commitment; that we work out how much we can give carefully, prayerfully, and above all that we give cheerfully!
How did St Paul put it? “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9.7)
And he goes on to say “God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves, and more than enough for every good cause.”
St Paul puts his finger on how we should give, our attitude and our motive, and then encourages us to look to God, trusting him that our daily needs will be looked after:
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Yes, that’s a good and right prayer. God is concerned that we are properly fed and clothed, valued and loved.
And that is the new way of looking at life that Zaccheus suddenly realised made sense. Wow, what a change, what a turnabout it led to.
We could consider a lot more facts and figures, and we certainly need to sit down and look realistically at our own resources and circumstances. But what we need to do above all in a Stewardship Renewal is to recapture that joy with which Zaccheus responded to Jesus. How he welcomed him into his house, the spirit of openness and generosity that enabled him to get his finances on a proper footing; in his case giving half his goods to the poor, and paying back those he had cheated four times over.
For Zaccheus the key point was that Jesus cared. The local community in Jericho didn’t like him, they despised him. But Jesus sought him out. He spotted him up in the tree. He didn’t condemn him or write him off, but he wanted to come to his home and spend time with him. It was like a miracle.
Jesus spots the potential in you and me.
He spots the goodness in each one of us, just as he did in Zaccheus, and he loves each one of us just as much as the next. In return, he simply longs for us to respond; to be open-handed and joyful in giving of all that we have, of all that we are, so that God’s kingdom of love may go forward.
O God, the source of our being, sustaining us by the breath of your Spirit, we thank you for every blessing we receive from you.
Help us to reflect your generosity, and to respond joyfully by giving of ourselves, of our money, our resources and our time, that the work and mission of St Mary’s Whitegate and St Peter’s, Little Budworth may be strengthened and your kingdom of love increase.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who gave himself that all may find fullness of life.
Read the story of Zaccheus to your children in “The Magpie’s Tale” by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen , published by Candle Books.