Author Archives: Nigel Chapman

“I cannot tell – but this I know”  

“I cannot tell – but this I know”  

  

The vicarage doorbell rang.  On answering it I found a student from our local sixth form college.  We’d not met before, but it transpired he wanted to discuss a problem that was puzzling him.  When he was sitting comfortably he put his question:  “What’s the story then?”  Being translated, he wanted to know what Christianity was all about.

 

When Nigel, our vicar, asked me to write about Advent, the same question came back to me:  what’s the story?  We know about Advent calendars, Advent candles and Advent wreaths, but what about Advent itself?  We take so much for granted and assume we know the answers.  But when pressed to explain the things we sing and talk about on Sunday mornings it’s not always that simple.

 

Yet at one level Advent is simple.  The word itself literally means “coming towards” and can be used in both a secular and religious sense.  As we are using it here, it covers the four Sundays before Christmas and it’s a story in three parts, with a beginning, middle and end.  Together they tell how Jesus came once in the past, how he comes now in the present, and how he will come again in the future.

 

The first part of the story tells how Jesus came to us as a baby in Bethlehem. There’s a hymn in which each verse begins with the words, “I cannot tell” – i.e. it’s okay to be agnostic about some things.  Then halfway through each verse the tone changes to one of certainty.  Hence the first verse, referring to that first advent, says this: “But this I know, that he was born of Mary, when Bethlehem’s manger was his only home, and that he lived at Nazareth and laboured, and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come”.

 

That only happened once and can’t be repeated.  The second part of the story tells how Jesus comes now in the present, not once but again and again.  And there are people round the world, from Filey to the farthest shores of the widest ocean, who know that’s true.  They may not always be able to explain it, but this hymn again comes to their rescue.  After confronting the unanswerable questions raised by Jesus’ suffering, it offers words of certainty:  “But this I know, he heals the broken-hearted, and stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear, and lifts the burden from the heavy-laden, for yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here”.

 

The hymn then points us to the end of the story, Jesus’ final advent in the future.  One day, it says, he will come in glory and draw the world and all its people to himself.  It’s way above my pay grade to explain when he will come, and I haven’t the faintest idea how it will happen.  For the same reasons the hymn writer turns to poetry to describe it, because poetry can often point to truth that cannot be contained within the limits of logic or scientific statements.

 

Therefore the writer says this:  “But this I know, all flesh shall see his glory, and he shall reap the harvest he has sown, and some glad day his sun shall shine in splendour, when he the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known”.

What a day it’s going to be!  Until then may this Advent be a time of blessing for us all.

Edward Roberts

To listen to the Hymn from an edition of Songs of Praise click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62wk5KvI7-w

 

Remember Remember!

 

November is the month of remembering. After ‘All Souls’ when we remember departed loved ones, we begin the month with ‘All Saints’ Day (1st Nov, Holy Communion 9 am St Oswald’s), thanking God for those people in history who have inspired our walk with Jesus Christ. Then just for fun we “Remember Remember the 5th of November” (challenging our political systems seem to be just as radical at times), before the nation also remembers with gratitude the many men, women and children whose lives were sacrificed in the pursuit of justice, peace and freedom in two world wars and many campaigns since.

 

The Royal British Legion among other organisations provide practical, emotional and financial support to all members of the British Armed Forces both past and present. Through a variety of projects, they offer a range of welfare services to veterans and their families as well as helping the nation come together in acts of remembrance that are as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago.

 

In Filey we will come together to remember with a sense of pride for all that has been achieved in the pursuit of peace and freedom on our behalf. On 10th November at 7pm there is a Remembrance Concert in the Methodist Church. On Saturday 11th at 11am, we gather at the Memorial Gardens for an act of Remembrance and then on Sunday 12th at 9:30am we come together in St Oswald’s for the Annual Service of Remembrance before making our way to Memorial Gardens for 11am.

 

There are countless stories of ordinary people who gave their lives for freedom through the armed forces, as well as civilians. I recently watched former marine Monty Hall present a TV series in which he retraced routes taken by escaping prisoners of war during World War II. He meets survivors and in some cases, reunites former soldiers with people who at great cost to their own safety, helped them escape. Many lost their lives for helping the Allies. Whole families were shot in some cases. For someone like me who has never been in a war or indeed in any of our armed forces, it is difficult to imagine such bravery and selfless action. The bigger picture was of course not for self, but freedom for all and as Hall says, we must never forget.

 

When St Paul wrote “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1) he was not writing about the abolition of slavery but a different kind of freedom. It was based on the will and not the body. ‘Freedom in Christ’ is about the transformation of our minds; to become Christ-like. It is not about ownership of a person through slavery or as the spoils of war, (as can be witnessed in recent reports about so called I.S.), but a celebration of love that is found in Christ. His love for us was to go to the cross in our place. He came that we might have life abundant, which is another way of saying a life in relationship with God the Father.

 

To love God and neighbour calls upon the followers of Christ to be the change we want to see in the world. It even calls us to stand up and I dare say, to fight against the powers of darkness wherever and however it manifests itself. For love beats hate every time, and as Jesus once said; ’If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’

 

Nigel Chapman

Vicar

October Newsletter

Here we go!

After two prayer and vision days, looking at the 2016 Parish Profile, listening to hopes and dreams, and various meetings about buildings and fund raising, it is now time to move forward with a new vision. I wrote about this in August, but now we have a Vision Statement that starts to map out precisely what we could be aiming for. This is not a finished article, it will continue to be re-evaluated frequently. In management terms, it is a continuous loop process that is linked to planning, doing and assessing where we are. You can find the full vision statement at the back of church.

 

2020Vision

There has been significant success with many existing activities having their foundations laid in years gone by. We celebrate these, but we also recognise that life always moves on and changes. We no longer have what we had. That time has been and went! Instead of trying to keep what we had, we have to nurture new and even change direction. This can be painful for some, but is also exciting as we discover new possibilities. It is not always about numbers either, but about fulfilling the direction we feel the Holy Spirit is leading.

 

If we carry on without questioning, then we could lose what should be at the heart of our mission; to love God and make Christ known. We become introverted, we pull up the drawbridge and simply withdraw in the hope that things will always stay the same, or work themselves out in the end. Yet in the Gospels, Jesus sent his disciples out into a changing world charging them to share good news, heal the sick and “make disciples of all nations”. This is not an easy task, but we need to seek ways in which we can actively share faith in both word and action.

 

In terms of people we need to build and develop new skills, new leaders, and new members. Discipleship should never be a static solitary activity, but a vibrant relationship with God who sends us out to love as God has loved us. This takes us in many directions, but I want us to focus at the moment with who we are and what we have and not think “if only we had….”

 

As part of the vision I want us to grow as the body of Christ and be particularly mission minded. This may mean (among other things)

  • Having a skills, gifts, talents and resources audit, to assess potential.
  • Developing our heart for hospitality that welcomes the stranger.
  • Building up the ministry teams, including Baptism/Marriage preparation, developing the remit of the Pastoral team, prayer and healing team, schools’ teams etc.
  • New Bible study and Discipleship groups.
  • Developing ‘Fresh Expressions’ – being creative and having more culturally relevant approaches.
  • Becoming more multi-generational.
  • Doing more outreach activities through Community Week, Harvest, Christmas, Easter.
  • NOT being afraid of making mistakes, recognising no one person can do it all and therefore forgiving one another when we get it wrong.
  • Improve financial stability – which means not just looking at how much we give but how we give, which can make a significant difference.

 

St John’s Church Centre

Part of the vision is for us to repair and redevelop St John’s. The roof, porch and windows need repairs now and we would like to improve the worship space, kitchen and community centre overall. Christine Wilson is heading up a fund raising team for this as a way of also drawing us together in fellowship too. Yet since I first introduced our developing vision in August £10,000 has been donated – plus £2,500 of Gift Aid which we can claim back next year! Wow, such a generous people. Thank you!

 

Yet there is also a bigger task and vision. That is to make St John’s Centre fit for purpose into the 2020’s and well beyond. For this we need to redevelop the community centre so that it can be a hub of the community in so many different ways, for the next generations of people in Filey. If we do it right, it could easily last another 50 or 80 years or more and serve the community we love. Steve Yates our Projects Co-ordinator is heading up a team of people who know their way around grant funding and restoration of ancient buildings. Significant funding would be needed, but the professional advise has been to think big, be bold and let the Holy Spirit inspire and lead us.  I do hope you feel you can join with us in this exciting adventure as we explore and move forward – in faith.

 

Nigel Chapman

Filey Vicar