Friday, 25 December 2009

Christ the Saviour is born

The reality of the Christmas celebration would have been the same, regardless of the weather. In the event, despite yet more snow on Christmas Eve, with a fair bit of effort people managed to reach St. Cuthbert's - mainly on foot...

Numbers were pretty much the same as in recent times at the 6p.m. Carol / Christingle Service - almost full, but with a well-represented choir as a real bonus. They were back for Midnight Mass. And numbers were actually up a bit this morning! But it's still freezing with Church Bank in the grip of ice and snow.

The weather was my starting point in preaching at Midnight Mass, and I felt even chillier after reading R. S Thomas's poem, Hill Christmas as part of it. But the offering of worship was warm. Thanks to all who made it possible. I haven't yet taken any pictures of the church - but it was beautifully decorated.

And my sermon is to be found here.

Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas approaching

I think I'm going to have to sort out what we're doing on Sunday before I think any more about Christmas. Sunday is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, and we've decided to keep the Feast - but how to combine it with all the carols that people might expect?

Meanwhile, we're continuing to have the white lead-up to Christmas which Bing Crosby dreamt about. But the good news is that Church Bank has now been salted - so we're accessible with care. Flower arrangers are hard at work in church, the Brownies and Guides produced about 250 Christingles for the Christmas Eve Carol Service (service details in my previous post), the Crib is in place, orders of service are sorted out etc. etc....

So come along and join us - as well as sweets, our Christingles have sultanas... the healthier option (and why not try eating the orange?).

Monday, 21 December 2009

Lovely snow and the perils of the hill

We've celebrated the Fourth Sunday of Advent with a Nativity presentation by our Sunday School at the Sung Eucharist. All credit to them for making it to church on foot. The average gradient of Church Bank is 1 in 7 - and at its steepest is nearly 1 in 5. Only two cars made it to the church - both 4 x 4s. Yet still more than half our average numbers turned up for our main service.

And it's worth it, of course! We got our rather wonderful tree in place last week - and it's been beautifully decorated. After the Eucharist a working party got the stable for our crib scene in place too. Now we just need the decorations and good turn-outs later in the week. Brownies  & Guides are preparing to make 250 Christingles for the Christmas Eve Carol Service.

The snow is lovely - but we could do with a clear road (and more salt please, Durham County Council!).

Meanwhile the next event is carol-singing round the Tree in Shotley Bridge Village Centre - 7p.m. Monday 21st December. Later in the week in St. Cuthbert's Church, there's...

Thursday 24th December: CHRISTMAS EVE

6.00p.m. Carol Service with Christingle – a lovely service with candlelight and hand-bells.
11.30p.m. Midnight Mass of Christmas

Friday 25th December: CHRISTMAS DAY

9.30a.m. Parish Eucharist with Carols - a service for all ages.

Sunday 27th December: 1st SUNDAY OF CHRISTMAS (St. John the Evangelist)

10.00a.m. Sung Parish Eucharist

Meanwhile you might like to take a look at a new website / blog from Shotley Bridge Village Trust

And more wintry pictures from my phone are to be found here

Monday, 14 December 2009

Gaudete - Time to rejoice!

The use of liturgical rose (pink) at St. Cuthbert's sadly doesn't extend further than the colour of the third candle on our Advent wreath. But it was duly lit, and we were reminded that yesterday was Gaudete Sunday, the name coming from the Entrance Antiphon for the day: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near - and also from the Epistle of the Day, Philippians 4.4-7.

Paul Heatherington, preaching, took the Epistle as his starting point and involved us in an imaginative excursion into personal relations in the early church at Philippi. I'm glad to say that the members of the congregation who took the parts of Euodia and Syntyche get on rather better than the characters they played. Click here to find out more.

Sending me his text, Paul added pictures to the e-mail of two of his subjects, Bishop Tom Wright and St. Paul, with the cheeky note: "Separated at birth?" I suspect this has been noted before...

Monday, 7 December 2009

Advent 2 & a Victorian Christmas

We had an excellent weekend at St. Cuthbert's - and in the village of Shotley Bridge. Our Christmas Fair was brilliantly successful, and the decision to time it within the village's "Victorian Christmas Weekend" seems to have paid off to mutual benefit. I was a bit wary on purist grounds of being too Christmassy - but then again, we have been known to have our Christmas Fair even before the start of Advent.

Santa Claus apparently arrived in style - if not with reindeer and sleigh - and carriage rides continued throughout Saturday with proceeds going to charity, while Father Christmas went to his grotto in the local Dentist's surgery. I'd already expressed the opinion that this would either do wonders for the image of dentistry or put children off Santa for life - in the event getting an appointment with the bearded one was to prove almost as difficult as getting speedy attention for that painful molar, and he found himself fully booked (yes, you couldn't just turn up!) for the whole weekend. Though he did find time to come out and switch on the Christmas lights.

In the midst of it all I found time to write a homily for Sunday, which you can find here. It's about that most un-Christmassy character, John the Baptist. How is it that he manages to hog two Sundays out of Advent? Well, that's the question I started from...

After a Sunday morning in church, it was back to the village where crowds came out for carol-singing from our local schools, and a performance by our own St. Cuthbert's Handbell Ringers. Everyone seems to have had a great time - and there was lots more going on. What started as a local business initiative to stimulate trade has grown into a genuine community event.

Finally, back up the hill we transformed our Hall with its own Christmas decorations. In response to those who asked, we can't put them up in time for the Christmas Fair simply because we can't get the decorations in as well as the customers!