Hope you’ve enjoyed your pancakes this evening. And so lent begins. Some people give something up for lent but I’d like to encourage you to ‘do lent generously’ with the help of the 40 Acts website. If you sign up online then they will send you a daily challenge to do something generous each day – each challenge gives you a choice of something you can do in 5 minutes, something that takes a longer, or something that encourages you to go the whole hog. It’s your choice. Go on, give it a try!
Once again, Levenshulme Churches Together is organising its Wednesday Lent Series too. It kicks off on the 17th February with refreshments and fellowship at 7.30pm followed by a reflection at 8pm (9pm finish). Venues are as follows:
17 Feb – Methodist Church, Stockport Rd
24 Feb – St Peter’s Church, Stockport Rd
2 March – Inspire Church, Stockport Rd
9 March – Baptist Church, Elmsworth Rd
16 March – St Mark’s Church, Mount Rd
23 March – St Mary’s Church, Elbow St (7.15pm)
On Sunday we’ll be having a rather different service as we think about the parable of the sower. There will be different activities for children and adults and we’ll all share together in a communion ‘brunch’. 10am as normal. Everybody welcome. Do bring your friends.
Saturday marks a big day for Inspire Church with the commissioning service for Liz Kam, our church-related community work minister. Liz and her family have been church members for a little while but it is really important for us to mark her calling to this special ministry and to pray that the next 5 years will be a real blessing to her, to our church and to our community. I know it’s an unusual time to gather but do please make a special effort to come along as it will be a very special occasion.
There will be a special service at Inspire from 3-4pm and then this will be followed by a vegetarian curry provided by our friends at the Noor Mosque (and some obligatory cake too!). There will also be activities for kids during the service.
On Sunday we will have our normal Sunday service. We’ll be continuing to explore the stories of Jesus in Mark’s gospel – and this week out theme will be ‘binding the strong man’ – sound intriguing? Better come along. The service will also include our church meeting and the election of a new elder. 10am Sunday morning.
Also on Sunday, our good friend Mustafa Abdulhussein has asked me to let you know that on Sunday there will be a special ‘open day’ at the Noor Mosque where people can drop in from 11 until 3pm. There will be tour of the mosque, Q&A sessions and refreshments. Perhaps a few of us might like to go along after the service.
I hate doing things by the book. Rules are there to be broken. No more so than in the church! I grew up in a church where everything and everyone knew their place and the service ticked like clockwork. What room for the unexpected – the God of surprises – I wondered? We learned last Sunday that many of Jesus’ miracles carried with them a challenging message about the purity rules that were used to exclude the vulnerable in society. This Sunday we will hear about how Jesus challenged another set of religious rules about the Sabbath. But Jesus didn’t break the rules for the sake of it: he was a rebel with a reason. Come along on Sunday to find out why. Everybody’s welcome here! 10am Sunday.
This Sunday, the drama of Mark’s gospel turns to a series of stories about healing. In each case, Jesus doesn’t only perform a miracle, he mysteriously commands those he heals to keep quiet about what he has done. Don’t tell anyone! This is a theme that recurs throughout the gospel and it’s the title of our whole series. But why? Surely the Son of God would want the world to know of his power and saving grace? So why the silence? Come along on Sunday to find out more. Also on Sunday we will be thinking more widely about healing – physical, spiritual, emotional – and we’ll be having a special time for healing prayers. 10am Everybody’s welcome here.
Fresh from his baptism and time in the wilderness, Jesus’ ministry starts by gathering a small band of followers. “Follow me” he says to some smelly fishermen. They needed no more invitation than that. They dropped their nets and became ‘fishers of men’. But why them? Why were they so quick to drop everything? And what did they think following Jesus would mean? Questions that we could perhaps ask of ourselves. Once again, the simplicity of Mark’s gospel reads us as we read it. Come along on Sunday to discover more. Everybody’s Welcome Here! 10am. Sunday.
On Sunday we will take the first steps into our new series: Don’t Tell Anyone! Over the next 6 months we are going to journey all the way through Mark’s gospel – from start to finish – exploring the life of Christ and his call to each one of us to “follow him”. Having been reading up over Christmas and planning ahead for the series, I’m so excited about what we might discover together. Watch this space! But do come along on Sunday for an introduction. Everybody’s welcome here! 10am.
So 2015 is nearly over. Our Sunday mornings together over the past year have reminded us of Jesus’s radical inclusion in Luke’s gospel; we charted the life of the less-than-perfect leader Moses; we considered all things being made new; we shared our favourite books; and we enjoyed a technicoloured Christmas. Life in the Inspire Centre has struggled on, lacking the finances to do and be everything we might like, but with a wonderfully dedicated team of staff and volunteers who have welcomed literally thousands of people to get involved in such a wide variety of activities – many finding friendship, self-confidence and even paid employment as a result. For many church members it has been a challenging year: illness and the death of loved ones seemed to dominate the first half of the year; job losses and stresses and strains at work have also characterised another year of austerity; but others have enjoyed happier years with new babies, new homes and new-found faith. This is the life of our very special congregation. This is what it means to be good news in Levenshulme today – participating in God’s love, even if not perfecting it.
This week Andrew looked out from the church archive (a small cardboard box he looks after) a photocopy of the Church Manual for Levenshulme Congregational Church for 1916. It provides a fascinating insight into the life of our predecessors exactly 100 years ago and includes the ‘Pastor’s Address’ which I’ve posted above. In the midst of the First World War, Reverend Threlfall talks about the “great strain and anxiety” of the previous year and that “1916 promises no relaxation … but the handicaps, difficulties, disadvantages and obstacles are merely there to be surmounted and show what we are made of … strong in the faith that through God we shall do valiantly.”
We have much to be thankful for today as we approach 2016 – not least for the faith of those that persevered to keep our church alive over the past century – so as we look forward to the new year and all the exciting opportunities that it holds let us be reminded that any obstacles we might face are small in comparison to those of years gone by, but that it will be that same faith through which “we will see our church illuminated with such unmistakeable witness for Christ … that men and women all around will know that ours is indeed a Christ-filled church.” (Do read the whole thing above – it’s marvellous!)
The big day is drawing near when the colours of Christmas will come alive and we will light our final Christmas candle. We will meet at 10am on Friday – Christmas Day – for a short service of celebration for our new born king. Do come along and take a moment to reflect on the special day. Come with your presents to show, come wearing any-coloured clothes, or even multi-coloured clothes – and do remember to bring your specially coloured-in advent pictures. 10am Friday. Everybody’s welcome – especially family and friends who might be staying with you!
And then on Sunday, Andy will lead a simple service of prayer, music and reflection, looking back across our advent series and rounding up our Christmas thinking. 10am Sunday.
On Sunday it’s Inspire’s Community Carol Service! Hooray! Our theme will be ‘Let Love find you at Christmas’. We will be joined not by one but by two local community choirs who will sing to/with us. There will be Christingle-making, readings, songs … and lots of Christmas fun, followed by festive finger food. Do come along and bring your friends too … and if you remember – wear something RED. Everybody’s Welcome Here! Sunday. 4pm. (No morning service)
On Christmas Day (Friday) we will have a short but special service at 10am. We will bring all of our colours of Christmas together in a celebration of Jesus’ birthday. We can show off any presents we might have had and generally share a bit of festive fellowship on one of the loveliest days in the Christian calendar. 10am. Friday. Christmas jumpers, musical ties, inappropriate socks and unsuspecting teenagers all very welcome.