From your vicar ...
At the beginning of March, all the churches in our country set aside a day to pray for another country and particularly women. The theme this year is ‘Let Justice Prevail’ and the country is Malaysia. In our area, there will be a special service at the Abbey Church on Friday March 2nd at 10.30am to remember the people of Malaysia.
It is good to learn about life in other parts of the world and it soon makes us realise just how fortunate we are, living in Britain. However, life isn’t always very just for people in our own country. How do we make sense of the headlines about benefit capping and bankers' bonuses? What would Jesus have to say about how we live in the 21st century?
If these and other questions are things that you would like to discuss further in a Christian context then ‘Coffee and Chat’ could be for you. The first one will be on Friday March 23rd at 10am at 15 Deer Park Way. The intention is to hold such sessions on a monthly basis and also to offer ‘Beer and Chat’ at a pub in the evening on a similar basis.
After Easter, we shall also be running a Confirmation course which covers the essentials of the Christian faith. This will also prepare people young and old for confirmation, if they so wish, by Bishop David on September 30th at High Beach Church. Do let me know if you are interested in joining this group.
We seem to be encouraged by the retail world to rush from one festival to the next without pausing to enjoy the current one. Easter eggs are already to be found in some stores, and as I write, we’ve only just removed the Christmas decorations! It would be good to take time to observe the season of Lent that falls before Easter.
Lent begins, this year, in the last week of February. There is a danger that it could be lost as the shops feel the pressure to change from Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Easter in very quick succession. It might be that this is no problem to you, as Lent can be a very bleak season in the church and calendar year as it is usually associated with giving something up during the grey days before spring finally bursts.
Lent actually comes from the word ‘lengthen’ and is the season that links the end of winter through to Easter as the days lengthen. It is linked to the time that Jesus went for forty days without food in the desert. It is a reminder that Jesus went through suffering to make him stronger and more trusting in God, his Father. Traditionally many people ‘fast’ during Lent which means giving up food or certain items for a day, or over a period of time, in the forty days of this season. The aim is to help use the time and energy to be more focused on one’s relationship with God.
If fasting doesn’t appeal to you, how about trying to show God’s love to our world by taking part in ‘LOVE LiFE LiVE LENT’? It is an opportunity during the season of Lent to be generous to yourself, your neighbours and the world. The website at www.livelent.net has more information about this and there is a booklet which gives fifty actions, one for each day between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day. These will help you to play your part in transforming our world. For example, you might be encouraged to buy a Fairtrade product or hug someone who needs it. We can show God’s love when we do these things and we don’t have to stop at the end of Lent. We can continue to live distinctively and be a transforming presence in our communities.
I’d also like to recommend that you join some of the Lent activities run by our churches. It can be very helpful to meet to discuss the joys and issues that arise for us as we journey with God in the 21st century.
News at the end of 2011 has been somewhat gloomy: continued strife in other parts of the world, the economic crisis and resulting cuts, leading to redundancies, unemployment and families facing the prospect of increasing debt. These events can make us feel weary and frustrated and left with a sense of helplessness. What is happening to our world? How can we enjoy our life with all this going on? Where is the good news?
Maybe we have our values orientated in the wrong direction. Is this world ours or God’s? Who created it? Christians believe that God is the creating force in the world and that he made us in his image. God loves us and wants us to enjoy his creation. When things go wrong and humans make poor choices about how to resolve conflict and cope with disasters, God is still there but it is our choice to recognise that.
It’s at such times that people often turn to prayer. Our church provides a peaceful place to pray and we are trying to open it as much as possible so that people can come and be still, reflect, pray and perhaps light a candle. People often find it very hard to pray. God knows our needs, and waits patiently for us. There are guidelines for how to pray in our church.
If you would like to pray for our local community of High Beach there is a prayer diary that suggests a different group for whom we can pray each day of the month.
Prayer changes things! Many who have entered our church and prayed in despair will tell you how they know that their prayers have made a difference; not always in the way they might have expected! The dialogue with God enables his love and peace to flow into situations. Why not try it and see for yourself, as Christians have done through the centuries. Prayer - communication with God - can help you to stop worrying and enjoy your life!December, 2011
The Scouting movement has a motto: ‘Be prepared!’ Advent is a time set aside in the church calendar to prepare for the celebration of God’s incarnation; the birth of Jesus Christ at what we now call Christmas. In our daily lives we’re being told how to do this through advertisements, telling us what food we need and what presents we should be buying for our loved ones. Many of us feel that this has all started too early but we’re pressurised by the media and we’re probably being sucked in. So, what is the best way to be prepared for Christmas?
Jesus told a story about being prepared. It involved some wise and foolish girls who were preparing to greet a bridegroom for a torchlight procession. The foolish girls discovered that they didn’t have enough oil for their lamps and by the time they’d been to buy some they had missed the party. The wise girls had come prepared and were able to join in all the celebrations. We too can choose to prepare in a wise or foolish way; for the long term or the short term.
There is a tendency to get too wrapped up in ourselves and our traditions and not to prepare for the long term. Advent is not just about preparing for one day in the year – Christmas Day. Wise people will work at keeping the Christmas message of love and peace going throughout the year. The oil in their lamps will continue to burn and show the light of God every day of the year. One way that you can prepare for this is by taking part in a course that we’ll be running in the New Year called ‘Your SHAPE for God’s service’.
Make one of your 2012 New Year Resolutions to -
Discover your SHAPE for God’s
Who? Anyone wanting to discover the gifts God has given them and how He might want to use them
Why? To understand the unique SHAPE God has made them
How? Sign up for a free six week course
When? Thursday evenings at 7.30pm
January 5th, 19th, February 2nd, 16th, March 1st, 15th
Where? at The Vicarage
15 Deer Park Way, Waltham Abbey, EN9 3YN
To book a place please contact Revd Gill Hopkins,
15 Deer Park Way, Waltham Abbey EN9 3YN
Tel 01992 760492
What does SHAPE stand for?
Your Spirtual gifts: God’s unique gifts to you
Your Heart’s desire: what motivates and excites you; what you love to do
Your Abilities: your talents, knowledge and skills
Your Personality: your character, personal qualities and strengths
Your Experience: your life experiences and what you have gained from them
for God’s service.
This is so that God’s Kingdom may be built up as each person finds the ministry to which God is calling them, in the Church and in the world. This will enable participants to live and serve with more joy, satisfaction and fruitfulness. This should build a healthy growing church, and will affect the way each person engages with family and friends, at work, in the local community, and during voluntary and leisure activities.
I am writing this after one of the sunniest October weekends on record. You may well be reading this on a gloomy November day. From May to September it has been such a joy to welcome so many people to High Beach Church to enjoy its tranquil setting and hospitality. Epping Forest and our little corner in it, is a place where we can take time out from the busy-ness of life for re-creation. There are many ways to achieve this but most focus on our physical well-being. Our spiritual well-being is important too and we can focus on this when attending church.
At harvest-time we celebrated God’s love for us in creation. Our beautiful forest setting and a church full of flowers and gifts of food for the Harlow Food Bank helped us to reflect on all that we have and our own human potential. We are all different and special, made in the image of God and we all have special gifts and talents to discover and use on our life journey. By paying attention to our spiritual welfare we can better understand ourselves and how we can serve our community.
As a church we are exploring new ways to be at the heart of our community. The Photographic Exhibition (see information about this elsewhere on this website) celebrated the gifts of people who are able to capture aspects of creation and life. For 2012 we are planning Quiet Days and Tranquillity Trails as well as a High Beach Festival. Visit the website highbeachchurch.org for updates.
A new shopping centre has opened at Stratford recently and one of its flagship stores is John Lewis. Mark Hope-Urwin who worked for the John Lewis Partnership has stated that the Church can learn a lot about serving its customers from the way the stores in the John Lewis Partnership approach their customers. He speaks about ‘The Gospel according to John Lewis’.
Just as the John Lewis partners pride themselves on the quality of customer service that they give, so should the church. A sobering statistic about church visitors is that ninety percent of them do not return because they don’t feel welcome.
One of the strengths of our church is that we’re told that people do feel welcome. However, that should not make us complacent. Retailers such as John Lewis are continually updating and training their staff in customer care and the packaging of their products. They look at everything from the layout of their building, ensuring that there is a clean, bright and tidy environment, to insisting on clarity of information with a style that is readily identifiable and allowing everyone to know who’s who, all underpinned by an aim to always treat every customer as special.
In a church context, Mark Hope-Urwin suggests that this could mean clear signs about how toilets can be accessed, getting rid of leaflets, books and posters that are tatty and out of date and making sure that corners are not dumping grounds for plastic bags containing unidentifiable objects. He urges us to consider whether people can see what is going on and whether the church is bright enough and arm enough. Are the objects around the church today relevant? If not, what does this signal about the church to a visitor? Do we talk to visitors after the service or do we prefer our own cliques?
So many questions, but we should be willing to give an honest answer and adjust accordingly to ensure that we are serving those who visit our church at any time of the week. When someone visits church they should be able to leave knowing that God loves them and they are part of his family. They will have the opportunity to discover this if they experience a high quality welcome from other family members.
Jesus invites us to pray and work so that ‘His Kingdom will come’. His purpose is to transform our lives and attitudes so that God’s love can be experienced fully – right here in High Beach. The PCC (a list of who’s who can be found on this website) is currently exploring how we can be at the heart of our community so if you have ideas as to how we can make this happen do please contact myself or one of the Church Wardens .September 2011
High Beach Church is a very special place, not just for people who worship there regularly on Sundays. It is also a very special place for those who live and work in the Forest and enjoy the tranquillity of its setting and the peace and stillness inside the building. Many people claim, quite rightly, that High Beach Church is their church because they were baptized or married there, or maybe they attended the church school and remember services held in the church during their school days. May be you would like it to be your church too.
If you are wondering what goes on inside the church on a Sunday morning or have not been for some time, then Sunday 25th September is for you. This Sunday is kept nationally as ‘Back to Church Sunday’ and at High Beach we’d like to welcome you. Details of the services can be found in this magazine and I do encourage you to come and try us out!
Many people have already done that and discovered the special High Beach welcome. We are keen to extend this to all who are looking for a church that they can belong to. High Beach Church is about sharing and celebrating God’s love with everyone and serving our communities.
During the last year many families have come to us for baptism and couples have joined us as they prepare to marry in our church. We’ve also held funerals in church for those at the end of their life. At the end of the church history section - see the button at the left - I’ve listed all who have been entered in our registers for these special services since I’ve been at High Beach.
Having just completed my first year of ministry at High Beach I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone for making us feel so welcome and for being such a very special community.
I have now had a good opportunity to familiarise myself with the worship and life of our church. I have carried out a survey with those who attend on Sundays about what church is for them and also where they feel close to God. These responses will help to shape the development of our worship so that everyone, young and old, can progress on their Christian journey. You can read the responses in this edition of Parish News.
It is very clear that our church is an important place in which to find peace and tranquility in our busy world and to find connection with God. At the moment this is only possible when the church is open. It is my vision to have the church open in day light hours throughout the year. We have taken a step towards this with a small group of volunteers who open the church on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. If you would like to join this important group so that we can extend our opening times, then please do contact me.
I believe that our church has an important role to play at the heart of our community. With the Parochial Church Council I am setting up a Steering Group. This group will draw up a plan for our future development in order that we can serve the wide range of people that could benefit from the use of our building, whether they are involved with business, the arts or social activities. Watch this space!
As many of you who read this live or work in the Forest, or both, you are reminded daily of the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. Those who visit our church are always uplifted by the peaceful forest setting. For many people a visit to the Forest is a way to engage with the awe and wonder of creation. This could be, for example, experiencing the dappled sunlight playing on the trees and forest floor, the bird song distracting us from the urban sounds or gazing at the tranquil ponds.
Somehow, we have to ensure that this will be enjoyed by future generations too. I belong to the Diocese Environment Group and an organisation called ‘A Rocha’ which believes that God loves this world and has given each one of us the responsibility and privilege to look after it. For this to happen, we all have to play our part and try to live more lightly on the planet. To do so involves every aspect of our lives. We can make choices about how we live and what we buy. Our decisions can make a difference.
An article in the Economist in May about humans having to change the way they think about the planet said ‘that piecemeal actions can quickly add up to planetary change’. In other words, we don’t have to wait for someone else to organise us; we can start playing our part now. It might be to decide to buy Fair Trade products or turn off lights in rooms we’re not using. For other ideas there is a helpful website which gives some challenging ideas about how to start ‘Living Lightly’: www.arocha.org.uk/livinglightly.
I am very privileged in my work as I meet a great variety of people from so many walks of life. I’m frequently inspired by their courage, dedication and ability to quietly get on with living a good life. Human achievement is something to be celebrated as it is God given; it is part of the ongoing nature of creation.
This is clearly evident at the moment with all the preparations for the 2012 Olympics. During June, those of us who have applied for tickets will be waiting to see whether our applications have been successful. On our own doorstep we can now visit the Lee Valley White Water Centre. Even if you have no interest in the sport, the venue is well worth a visit. Entry is free and there is an excellent viewing platform with a café where you can watch the more intrepid doing battle with the rapids. A little further afield, at Stratford, you can view the amazing transformation that has taken place on the formerly industrial land that is now the Olympic Park. There is also a viewing area and café and tours can be booked.
We must ask ourselves how we can use the Olympic Games as part of our ministry, mission and evangelism. This is something our PCC will be exploring in the coming months. As Bishop David has recommended, we must use our ‘Olympic lens’ to focus on ways to maximize God’s great mission of love to the world. To be effective we must start planning now for the opportunities we have when the world comes to our door. Watch this space.
I am still experiencing the joy of discovering the colours of the forest at the start of each new season. I thought the golds and yellows of autumn were awesome, particularly in the light of the afternoon sunshine. Then there was the glistening white snow in winter and now the vibrant shades of greens for spring. This range of colour at different times of the year is just a small reminder of all the wonders of God’s creation.
As part of my Chaplaincy work in the forest I am leading a Tranquillity Trail for each season. This provides an opportunity to walk with others in the Forest and pause for thought at certain locations with a short meditation. The benefits of taking time out to pause and reflect in our busy lives have long been recognized by retreat and pilgrimage centres. The forest and our church offers a place of retreat and pilgrimage on our doorstep.
From this month on Sunday afternoons the church will be open for teas. In the side chapel there will be a place set aside for private prayer and there will also be some ‘stations’ where you can pause for thought and reflection. Do take advantage of this opportunity to come into church and be still. As the Psalmist says ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…..be still and know that I am God!’ (Psalm 46 in the Bible).