As part of my training I have to produce a blog and I thought I would love to share some positive stories about our Church. I think because of all the difficulties and challenges of the last year we have got used to hearing negative stories about, well, almost everything and I would like to change that, at least a bit.
Sharing positive stories, for example: things people have done to show us love and care, groups we are part of that bring us joy, services that we have been to that bring us peace or closer to God or activities that help us grow or live out our faiths. These stories are positive for us but also can be positive to others if shared and could even encourage others to join in with groups, activities, or services.
Really I am interested in anything that is a positive story about anything to do with this Church. Below are some stories people have allowed me to share. I hope they help you see the joy and peace of God in this place.
Click on the link to take you to each story
- Back in the Building
- Oasis in the Middle of the Week
- Joy of a Pilgrim
- Joy Ringing Out
- "Joy to the World"
- What the Choir means to me
- Thank You
Back in the Building
I am like a travelling salesman, I visit many towns and villages and stay for a couple of weeks/months at a time. I very much enjoy seeking out the local churches. Through a very long lockdown I had to make do with admiring the architecture and spending peaceful thinking time in the churchyards.
In time the odd church bravely opened its doors to visitors on some days, I was overjoyed to sit in the peace and sanctuary of the church, to light a candle, to pray, by this time a had so much to say!
Circumstances and opportunity arrived when I came to Lyme Green and I have had the privilege of attending services at St James. My first visit was to the churchyard again, to the beautiful sound of 'blue danube' coming out of the open doors. A sunny day. The next day I walked up again, came in, such beautiful stained glass windows and ceiling, amazing. Then I saw the prayer tree... I Knew exactly who to ask for prayers for, my little 3 y/o grandson who had just been diagnosed with renpenning syndrome.
I can't tell you how much it meant to me to be back to a Sunday service after that time. I felt uplifted, whole, thankful, and above all I felt a relaxing type of peace all over. I prayed to God and gave my heartfelt thanks for many things and many people. Feelings that never seem to be achieved when praying at home, in the car, in the park, or on the top of a hill.
My faith is strong, my faith is private. I know when my prayers have been answered, its like a eureka moment. I give thanks as soon as I realise it.
Oasis in the Middle of the Week
Trudi said that when I asked about sharing some positive stories about our Church, she automatically thought of the midweek service because it brings her such joy. The midweek service is a said communion service every other week on a Thursday morning at 9:30. It begins with a moment of quiet, and it is followed by coffee and some wonderful cake (that Trudi makes). Trudi shared that as she walks into the church she is just enfolded in a feeling of comfort and peace. It is, for her, an oasis in the middle of the week; a place to recharge her batteries.
She finds it a privilege and an honor to set up for the service and to be part of it all. She enjoys the quiet of the service, uninterrupted by songs but focused on prayer and communion. And finally the fellowship at the end is a joy, having coffee, cake and chatting with a growing number of people.
Jennifer's story of finding Joy is both her story and mine as it is both about the celtic style service I led one Sunday afternoon at church but also her experience visiting Holy island, and Iona and how those visits were wonderful times that brought her closer to the peace of God.
The Joy of a Pilgrim
Celtic Christians believed that certain places were thin places, where only “a tissue paper separates the spiritual from the material”, that is why pilgrims would go to Iona, or Lindisfarne, islands where people have often found it easier to hear the voice of God.
Some people find Churches, like St. James Church thin places, places where there is a long history of devotion and others find the liturgy or music written in the communities of these celtic thin places helpful in finding joy and peace in worshiping God.
I find Celtic Christianity has a lot of wisdom for us today, with its focus on life as a journey, roots in land and the here and now; walking together as individuals in community and living joyfully day to day with God in the normal everyday of our lives. So one evening I asked others to join me for a Celtic evening at St. James, Sutton. Jennifier and her husband joined me for the service, hopefully the first of many. Jennifier said “She had an overhead screen and explained the Celtic Cross and stories of Christianity long ago. We also had Celtic music. The most enjoyable evening and very informative.”
On Jennifier’s pilgrimage to Lindisfarne with her husband she found this prayer asking God to be with us in all things:
This weeks postive story is from Sarah our Tower Captin. She explores the many ways bellringing is a positive and joyful witness, community, service and tradition within our church and also invites you to give it a try.
Joy Ringing Out
As Anna and I were chatting, she asked me to explain reasons to be positive about ringing. I have narrowed them down to four.
Faith: Bells call the faithful to worship and reach out to all in the community, reminding them of God’s work and witness around them. The sound reaches beyond walls and to all, including those doubting, unable or not in the habit of attending, the agnostic and atheist, those of other faiths and traditions. We also offer Remembrance of important events (local, nationally and globally) and the deep emotion of more personal moments (Weddings and Funerals.)
Our band (ringing speak for team): We have a large band for a village church; it is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds. Their reasons for ringing vary. Many do not live in the parish but enjoy coming. Many comment on our warm inclusive, sociable welcome. All enjoy ringing and the friendship and support offered- recipes, cakes, veg seedlings, surplus garden produce, IT support, homework help, gardening tips, good reads, kitchen utensils, knitting patterns .. and the list goes on. We like to think of ourselves as the first port of call for others in our band, come a crisis.
A sense of service: For some they might see this as Christian service whereas for others it might be simply service to others. We ring most Sundays, and for many other occasions besides. To cope with the reality of today’s world, many can’t come every week due to working hours, family commitments and a healthy work-life balance so we need a large band to cover all eventualities. As it is, we sometimes need to call on ringers from elsewhere to help and, of course, we return that help. Others do hours of voluntary work which you may be unaware of; two of our ringers have been clearing jackdaw detritus from the inside very top of the steeple, as the church could not get professional to do so. I feel privileged to be part of this band which has such a positive attitude to service.
Tradition: Ringing is an ancient art; once the initial rope handling skills are learned one can continue learning more complex elements throughout one’s life and many enjoy that mental challenge. In addition, it is also a good overall physical work out without being too strenuous. Many ring into their 80s and beyond. Some like the music- ringers and those who listen. It’s always a positive when I hear gratitude or compliments about the ringing. Some say they have a joy when ringing to a steady rhythm, feeling they are part of something beautiful. Others like to feel a sense of connection and are proud marking events as an integral part of a community. For me, personally, I come from a ringing family and this tradition spurs me on. Our youngsters learned too back in their adolescence; in their 20s, they see it as a welcoming and do-able part of Christian service. In fact, Christmas bells would not have happened this year here at the height of Omicron without those youngsters stepping in. We are also lucky to have in our band an able group of people able to teach and encourage others. This again is a rare thing for such a small church so we are well placed to keep the art alive here as long as people continue to come forward.
The Bible quote for our Church for 2022 is: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43 v 19
We are not doing a new thing as such, but invite any interested to find out more about ringing with us. We have learners at different stages, indeed doing a ’new thing’ for them. We have very experienced teachers so there is little chance of anyone literally ‘springing up’ but some of our ringers express a metaphorical spring to their step, to be part of something so special. I like to think of the ringers working together for others in the Church and beyond, across barren times, times of joy and times of reflection.
Sarah Jacot email@example.com or 01260 253773
This weeks joyful story is a little Christmassy. Sandra tells us of the changing experience of carol singing with the choir and the joy spread through singing carols however if has been done.
"Joy to the World"
Sutton St. James choir has been carol singing around the village and in the hills for many, many years. There was a time when we had feet of snow all around and people were marooned in their farms and houses out of the village. Of course there weren’t nearly as many evening events going on either so it was more or less guaranteed that people would be huddled round their fires keeping warm.
When carol singing started singers went out most evenings before christmas so farmers and those living out of the village knew that they weren’t forgotten. We were taking the church to those who couldn’t make it down to the village. Collections were made in those days on behalf of the church and choir fund. The choir loved meeting everyone and the singers were often invited inside for drinks and mince pies to help them on their way!
A number of years ago it became obvious that out of the village residents weren’t in when we called although they had left lights on to make it look as if they were there. It coincided with the effects of global warming when there was much less snow in winter. This made it much easier for the singers to get around but the hill folk too to get out in their cars. Sadly our route became shorter- however, incredibly some generous people still sent a contribution to our fund although we didn't get the hot drinks and mince pies.
Change was on the way-
We made the big decision not to go up into the hills but to spread our wings in a different direction. Our system changed. We now have sung outside and inside pubs as well as in the garden center and we go out into the town. A very different style but we are still carol singing and reaching out to a different clientele. Being in town, we have met many people from different backgrounds, we have been surprised how many wanted to stop and talk and ask about the choir and where we come from; this has been a real bonus and made it worthwhile.
The money we collect now goes to good causes - those have included Guide Dogs for the blind, the new macclesfield Christie Hospital, Salvation Army, and Cancer Research.
Through the years,In both cases, in the hills or in the town, we have been spreading the word of God, and the meaning of Christmas through the joy of singing carols.
This weeks story is another singing story, Janet reminds us that the benefits of joining a choir go much deeper than just the singing in church and the joy that can bring...
What the Choir means to me- Janet
I have always enjoyed singing, so when I moved to Sutton several years ago, I was keen to find a choir to join.
Recovering at home from an operation, I saw an advert in the parish news for Sutton St. James Choir, and decided to find out about joining, although apart from hymns and carols, I had no knowledge of other church music e.g. psalms, anthems, canticles etc.
The leader of the choir, Sandra, came to see me and encouraged me to come to choir practice. This was the start of my St. James Choir journey!
I was made very welcome and it has been an experience which has hugely improved my life and wellbeing.
The music we sing lifts my spirits and it is a wonderful way to make good friends and give praise to our father in heaven.
I want to say thank you for all the positive stories of things about our church that make you joyful. It has been a real joy to read them. I know there are others out there so I hope we can continue in the future but I am going to take a break now for a bit.
I thought I would finish by saying what a joy it has been for me over the last 9 months (can it be that long already?!) to become part of the peak parishes family, especially at St. James, where I have mostly been based. I have met some wonderful people, with wonderful stories to tell and I have found a very active and caring church and village. I am very fortunate to be spending my curacy with you all and am looking forward to the next 9 months and beyond.