Faith in a Bubble!

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This email comes from Diana, the hard worker and resource maker at Strands. This is a wonderfully rich resource centre supporting our Children and Families ministries in the church. I thought you might like to read her email.

Greetings from our bubble to yours!

If anyone had told me a few weeks ago that I’d be sending this from lockdown, self-solating myself in a ‘bubble’ with my 95-year old neighbour, and distancing myself from all my friends and family – I’m not sure I would have believed them! You may be tired, worn out, ‘over-zoomed’ and trying to juggle being a teacher/ parent/genius/ninja/human being. We get that. So we’re not expecting anyone to ‘recreate children’s ministry’ at home, and to have permission to soak up this new season and the peace that God offers us, today. The family household has always been the most amazing incubator of faith in the Bible, passing on God’s story to each generation anew. While this may be a challenging time, this may also have much fruit.

As we adjust to life in our new ‘bubbles’, we have highlighted a few ideas and thoughts below, and pray that they are helpful. May we all discover new treasures in this bubble life, and all that God has for us in it. These words from Bishop Eleanor, our Strandz Bishop, have given me deep peace this week:

Breathe deeply today the breath of God. 
Know God’s love for you. 
Know God’s love for the world. 
Be at peace.


Grace and peace to you all,
Diana
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Bring God into the everyday

https://youtu.be/iNAy7V5B4oE

A few years ago, we did a video on Faith 5, a simple conversation starter over a meal time to talk about the highs and lows of the day. (Bonus: This doesn’t require any props, preparation or resources!)Share the highs and lows of your dayRead a verse from your Bible – you can choose one, use a lectionary or read through a favourite psalm.Talk about how your verse relates to your highs and lowsPray for your highs and lows, for your family and the worldBless one other .

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Sunday worship
Our main platform for supporting the Sunday worship of families will be on Connectibleour Lectionary based website that has videos, sermons, simple crafts and prayer ideas. 

This Sunday is the story of Lazarus. If you have any ideas to share, please let us know – we’d LOVE some extra contributors.

Connecting a scattered church
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2h8bFrbukw&feature=youtu.be

The video above was filmed by the Anglican Diocese of Wellington, and models how you can run a house church service at home. Please note this was filmed before the lockdown was implemented, and before the distribution of the Eucharist was difficult. Please follow your diocesan guidelines for how to celebrate an Agape meal or non-eucharist gathering. 

**Maybe you could:

*****Joining in with a livestream church service on Sunday mornings

*****Sharing dinner with a family from church via Zoom, and going through Faith 5.

*****Going through a House Church Liturgy as a church, or with another family on Zoom.

*****Having a family worship jam with Worship for Everyone, a family of 5 who tell stories and sing worship songs once a a week during lockdown.

Helping kids process COVID-19

There internet and social media are full of resources to help kids process COVID-19, and the changes they are experiencing.
Here are some that we like:
Coronavirus, children, anxiety and the church (BuildingFaith)

Coronavirus resources for kids (Nanogirl)

Talking to kids about coronavirus (Ministry to Children)

A Q&A with Lucy Moore (Messy Church)

Youth ministry during a pandemic (Fuller)

Talking to children about COVID-19, and learning from home (Min. of Education)
Live-streaming worship across  New Zealand

There are many option for connecting into NZ worship, prayer and services. Here are some, and we’ll be adding to them on our website and Connectible as the days go by:

Auckland: Night prayer with Bishop Ross Bay, live-streamed to his Facebook at Facebook. You can find the liturgy for the service here.

Christchurch: Live-streams at 10am and 5.30pm, with many churches doing livestreams. Including. More information here

Wellington: 10am Sunday service on Freeview TV channel 200 and on movementonline.org.nz

Waikato & Taranaki: Weds evening Bible reflection and Sunday evening Night prayer

Dunedin: All Saints and the Cathedral online services – see here If you know of any local family friendly church services being run, that may be accessible for all to enjoy, please let us know.

 Download and print out this Night Prayer found in 
A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa.

This would be great to put up by kids’ beds and read at bedtime, if they are having trouble going to sleep.Check out our Strandz website – we’re constantly updating it!

Contact: 
Strandz Enabler: Diana Langdon   
Strandz Administrator: Annelies Berends 

Copyright © 2020 Strandz, All rights reserved.

Messy Church Conference

I got a great piece of mail yesterday – a copy of the book ‘Messy Church does Science’ from Book Depository. The book is edited by Rev’d Dr David Gregory – a keynote speaker at the recent National Messy Church conference I attended.

I was looking forward to hearing him speak and I was not disappointed. ‘Dr Dave’ has a particular talent of breaking down seemingly impossible complex concepts into ‘kid speak’. From his Friday evening reflection and rocket launch demonstration to his keynote address, David spoke of his passion for the world we live in and the Creator he serves. As well as debunking the myth that God and Science cannot be in the same space, David encouraged us to open our eyes further to the miracle that is all around us.

His descriptions of weather, atmosphere and our universe were enlightening, as was the way he led us into a glimpse of refracted visible light using Diffraction sheets.

It takes a special skill to communicate so clearly and he encouraged all of us to do so within the Messy Church setting. It is an ideal format for allowing young and old to experience wonder and to look deeper into our complex world – together.

Alister’s Sermon for Lent 5 29 March 2020

Lent 5 (A)

Out of the Depths comes New Life

Ezekiel 37.1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

We know what it’s like to lose something or someone that matters to us – to lose what gives meaning to our lives. It may be the death of a loved one, or perhaps a relationship; the loss of a job, of good health, or the loss of a dream or hope we held. For many of us today, as we learn to live in our ‘bubble’, physically separated from others, we’ve lost daily life as we know it. What was normal has died. Today’s readings tell two stories about this type of experience. One was about a nation and the other about two sisters, and both these stories are about us. They give us an idea of what Easter is about.

Easter is the highlight of the Christian Year. Normally the church would be decked out in flowers. The purple replaced by white and gold, and we shout and sing “Alleluia!” as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. But to get to Easter morning we have to travel through Holy Week as we watch Jesus being betrayed, arrested, suffering, and killed. We watch the disciples scared and confused. They grieve and are fearful as their hopes and dreams are dashed. All this must happen before we can get to the joy of Easter Day.

Don’t rush into Easter morning without first experiencing the preceding days. This year, not being able to gather as a faith community, I’ll be offering online a very simple Journey through Holy Week. Spend time with the events that lead up to Easter Day. They are events that connect our story with Jesus’ story. They tell us what it’s like to hurt and be scared, to grieve and lose what matters. Then, and only then, when we’ve travelled through all that, do we discover that Jesus has risen – that life and love reign as never before, and hopelessness is replaced with hope. We find that we’re presented with new life and new possibilities as a love that’s mightier than death is made known.

Ezekiel tells the story of a nation at the lowest point of its history. They had lost their king, their capital had been destroyed, their temple lay in ruins, and the people had been taken away as captives into exile. “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” They’re like a wasteland of dry bones, scattered across a desert valley – lifeless and arid. They grieve: “God can’t help us. God won’t help us. There’s no God. We’ve been left here to rot and die. We’ve become like dry bones.”

Ezekiel then caught a picture of hope. He speaks for God and says, “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD… I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live…” It’s the promise of new life. There is, through all this, hope! “And the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” A people who had reached the bottom, who had given up hope, discover that God takes what is dead and brings new life. God breathes into what is arid and lifeless and gives birth to fresh hope.

So it is with the story that John tells. Lazarus is critically ill. His sisters send for Jesus to come and heal him. But Jesus delays, and when he finally arrives Lazarus is dead and buried. The sisters are grieving. There’s no hope. Their brother is lost to them, and Jesus, who could have saved him, has let them down. Perhaps that’s our story. You know what it is to grieve; to cry out with the psalmist: “Out of the depths have I called to you O Lord: Give heed O Lord to my cry.”

Just like the psalmist, Mary and Martha lament – they give voice to their anguish and suffering. They’re telling God how it is. This is the raw reality of their pain. We might be like Martha and accuse God: “Why weren’t you here? Why didn’t you act?” Has God forgotten us? But God hasn’t finished. Deep within lament is the knowing that this isn’t the end. In the midst of suffering, the psalmist waits: “I wait for you Lord with all my soul: and in your word is my hope.” Yes, somehow, somewhere, there is hope.

It wasn’t over for the people in exile. It wasn’t over for Lazarus, or Mary and Martha. It’s not over for us. Death doesn’t have the final word. Despair and hopelessness aren’t the final chapter. With God there’s always something more. But to find that something more we’ve got to be real about how it is.

We can be real because we have a God who is with us. When Jesus arrived what did he do? He shared the sisters’ grief: “Jesus began to weep.” God isn’t removed from our lives. God is with us. “Jesus began to weep.” Those four words tell of God’s tenderness ­– of God hurting with us – of God knowing what it’s like to be us – God going through it with us.

When faced with the tough stuff that life throws up our natural inclination is to take a detour and skirt around it. But we can only know resurrection if we’re prepared to travel through our hurts and fears. Then, in the midst of that honesty, in the midst of our lament, we find God. I’m not talking about positive thinking or some vague optimism. This is about God who is here with us, in all the muck of life, and who draws something new out of it.

This is the example offered by Ezekiel and the psalmist, as do Mary and Martha. There’s hope and courage to be found in the depths of our lament. It’s a hope based on who God is – the God who is in the darkness with us, sharing the desolation – sharing our grief and anguish. Like the psalmist, that doesn’t stop us from ranting at God, but then, gradually, even imperceptibly, we find that we’ve been brought to a new place – a new beginning.

We wish it wasn’t like this. But there has to be an end before there’s a new beginning. Resurrection and new life can only come when the old has died – like Ezekiel’s vision of the scattered bones of a defeated, crushed people coming back to life, and Lazarus coming out of the tomb. They are pictures of how it can be for us.

Paul, writing to Christians in Rome, reminds them that they, as do we, have the Spirit of God living within. This Spirit is the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. God is within bringing to us, through the losses and griefs that permeate our lives, the gift of new life and new hope. 

“I am the resurrection and the life.” This is about life now as much as about life to come. It’s about God transforming the challenges, anxieties, and apparent chaos of the present situation, and enabling us to create something new – creating life in the midst of loss, faith in the midst of despair, light in the midst darkness. It’s about God breathing new life into our dry bones and raising us from our big and little deaths. It’s about God having the last word and taking what is dead and giving birth to fresh hope.

God of life,
give us such a vision of your purpose
and such an assurance of your love and power,

that we may ever hold fast the hope
which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

Alister Hendery
St Matthew’s, Hastings – 29.3.2020

It’s the little things…

It’s the little things… 

Here I am, in my bubble, with Deborah my wife and two Persian cats (who think this is heaven because there’s always a human around to give a cuddle on demand or let them in and out through the doors whenever). Confined to this bubble, reminds me that it’s the little things that can bring meaning and purpose. Two little examples.

We’ve put a couple of Teddy bears in our windows visible to the road. This idea, which has become popular all around the world as people are locked down, is a little visual gift to children and families on a walk. It’s a simple way of putting a smile on people’s faces. 

We’re all now very conscious of washing our hands for 20 seconds. It was suggested that we sing ‘happy birthday as we do that’. Singing happy birthday didn’t do anything for me, but I found singing (not too loud as I’m not gifted with the best singing voice) the first verse of a hymn you probably know:

    Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am God.

And, for me, those words put everything else into perspective.

They are little things, but they give meaning. I wonder, what little things are you discovering? Perhaps you might share them with us.

Alister, your parish priest.

PS. The bear’s name is Markus.