Author: Graham Stacey

Advent Windows

This year Advent and Christmas are going to be very different – but different doesn’t have to mean worse! To bring Good News and joy to our communities, we are going to be decorating our windows.

You might like to choose one of the days, or you might like to choose a part of the story.

You might want to change your window once a week throughout Advent, or you might like to organise with some local friends to do a different part each so that the story is added to in your neighbourhood. You might feel really ambitious and divide your window up into 24 squares and do one a day! Or you might have several windows you would like to decorate. However, you want to go about it, bring some joy and the Good News of Jesus to your friends and neighbours this Christmas.

Let’s shine as lights in the darkness to the Glory of God!

1Good news!‘God sent the angel Gabriel to a girl named Mary’ Luke 1:26Thank you God that you reach out to us
2Don’t worry‘The angel said to her, ‘don’t be afraid because God is very pleased with you’ Luke 1:30Please God take my fear away
3Listen!‘Listen! You will become pregnant and have a baby boy. You will name him Jesus’ Luke 1:31Help me to listen out for you
4Son of God‘He will be great. People will call him ‘the son of the most high God’ Luke 1:32Thank you for your amazing gift!
5She said yes!‘Mary said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. Let this thing you have said happen to me’ Luke 1:38Help me to say yes like Mary
6The register‘Caesar sent out an order that everyone’s name must be put on a list’ Luke 2:1Give me strength when I have to obey
7The journey‘Everyone traveled to their own town to have their names put on the list’ Luke 2:3Protect all those on journeys today
8Mary and Joseph‘So Joseph went to the town of David because he was from the family of David. Joseph registered with Mary’ Luke 2:4-5Bless my family
9The baby arrives‘While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have the baby. She gave birth to her first son’ Luke 2:6-7Be with those giving birth today
10A strange crib‘There were no rooms left in the inn. So she wrapped the baby with cloths and laid him in a box where the animals are fed’ Luke 2:7Help those who do not have a home
11Shepherds in the fields‘That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep’ Luke 2:8Bless those working night shifts
12Angels shining!‘An angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them’ Luke 2:9Please shine on us today
13Don’t be afraid‘The angel said to them, ‘don’t be afraid, because I am bringing you some good news!’ Luke 2:10Comfort us when we are afraid
14Christ the Lord!‘Today your saviour was born in David’s town. He is Christ the Lord’ Luke 2:11Open my heart to you
15Signposts‘This is how you will know him: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding box’ Luke 2:12Open our eyes to notice you in surprising places
16Glory all around‘All the angels were praising God, saying, ‘give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace to the people who please God’ Luke 2:13-14Please let there be peace in the world
17First visitors‘So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary, Joseph and the baby’ Luke 2:16-17Help us to be eager to see you
18Everything changes‘Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything that they had seen and heard’ Luke 2:20Give us thankful hearts
19Visitors from far away‘After Jesus was born, some wise men came from the East’ Matthew 2:1Thank you for wise people in my life
20Shining star‘When the wise men saw the star, they were filled with joy’ Matthew 2:10Fill us with joy this day
21Wonderful baby‘They went to the house...and they bowed down and they worshipped the child’ Matthew 2:11Bless our home
22Treasures for a tiny King‘They gave him treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh’ Matthew 2:11Help me be generous
23Prince of peace‘A child will be born to us. God will give a son to us. His name will be... prince of peace’ Isaiah 9:6Thank you that Jesus came to bring peace
24God loves you!‘For God loved the world so much that he gave his only son. God gave his son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life’ John 3:16Thank you that you love me

Comfort and Joy

The idea: 

In partnership with The Long Table, we will be distributing [frozen] Christmas lunches, cooked from scratch using ethically sourced, local produce in a pretty bag with lovely Christmassy items to families who are struggling at this time. We are partnering with our local schools, who have been overwhelmed by this act of kindness. Before the meals have even been made, blessings have been received!

The logistics

The wonderful Mary, who is part of St Laurence community, is coordinating the project; Holy Trinity, Stroud and St Matthew’s, Cainscross have both identified funds that can be used for just this sort of project; the meals will need to be put together in bags and we hope lots of people will join in by baking some mince pies, or hand making some cards, or decorating jam jars for tea lights, or anything else you would like to do to add blessings to the bags!

If you would like to get involved in any way, please contact Mary.

Plans for Christmas

This year, the national Christmas campaign will be ‘Comfort and Joy’, and my goodness, those are two things we need in spades this year. And they are two things our Good News delivers, beyond our wildest dreams!

We will have to think about Advent, Christmas and Epiphany in a very different way, but we are confident that different will not be worse. We are determined to focus on what can be, and let go of what can’t be, in order to be comfort and joy.

There will be trees and lights – prayer trees, for those in our communities to add their prayers and hopes; beautifully decorated buildings, hopefully inside, certainly outside.

There will be symbolic actions – giving food as an act of blessing; offering creative ideas for you to engage with in your homes.

There will be the real story – told in many different ways through our advent windows; in assemblies put together going out to primary schools across Stroud.

There will be silence and stillness – through our Stroud grown Contemplative Christmas; creating space to be still in our buildings.

There will be tradition, music and words – in our Nine lessons and carols; as we sing carols on our doorsteps.

Contact us through the links if you would like to find out or join in, and share with others!

Everyday Faith Festival October 2020

The Everyday Faith Festival was so welcome after months of lockdown. It refocussed my journey as a Christian and what my faith is without Sunday in a church building. Being able to connect with other Christians across the county, talking openly about faith, sharing ideas and opinions on things that matter and feeling heard and supported was an inspiring and uplifting experience. I particularly found the session on ‘Praying with your eyes open’ thought-provoking and something that would help me live out my faith throughout the day rather than just in those set moments of prayer. I am now constantly on the ‘look out’ for God in my day and praying openly for the ows, wows and nows! I am truly thankful for all those who must have put so much time into providing this experience.

Joanne Wykes

Prayer for the Nation

Our church leaders are deeply aware that this current lockdown will impact people in many different ways; through the sense of loss and trauma, being faced with sickness and even death of loved ones and threats to physical and economic, mental and spiritual wellbeing, being separated when we are created to live in community.

So, for 28 days, starting on Thursday 5th November the Archbishops have called on people from churches across the country to be committed to pray every evening at 6 pm. Cathedrals will ring their bells at 6 pm as a call to prayer and you might just hear a local bell. Phone alarms can be effective! Some people will light candles; children and adults might like to switch on a torch as we pray together – a reminder of the light of Jesus shining in the darkness.

There are prayer resources to enable participation but not to limit prayer and there is a theme for each day. To access them look here. In addition, there is a simple printable Prayer Booklet.

Photos from a wonderful day

Helen’s ordination was such a joyous occasion! I hope you had a chance to watch the service [see below], but if not, here are some photos.

The ordination service, in case you missed it

Getting ready for Helen Hill’s Ordination

I’m looking forward to being ordained on Sunday 20th even though it won’t be what we’d imagined a year ago. It feels it will be like a wedding without guests and without the party but poignantly reduced to the essence – my commitment to God and his commitment to me. I am overawed by the responsibilities of this calling, the promises I will be making but believe that everything we each do in serving Jesus is only accomplished through the enabling of the Holy Spirit – what a relief! It’s also a huge assurance to know that we always live in the love and grace of Jesus and God the Father and brilliant to have the love and gracious support of so many church friends, old and new friends and my family. What an honour! Thank you to all who have prayed and will pray for me.

Updates on spaces to come together for growth, learning and action

[Updated 10 September]

The Government have amended their advice, and services are now permitted under extremely limited circumstances. As clergy and churchwardens, we have made the decision to take this very slowly, so that we can ensure everyone is safe and so that we continue to listen to what God is saying at this time.

However, we are making tentative steps and there are opportunities to gather together both physically and online as we continue to walk together as fellow pilgrims.

Monday 10.10: online Morning Prayer
Evening: online Compline

Tuesday 10.10: online Morning Prayer
Evening: online Compline

Wednesday 11.30: Holy Communion at Holy Trinity, Stroud
Book Club online monthly. Starting 7 October 7.30pm

Thursday 10.10: online Morning Prayer
10-11: Holy Trinity, Slad open for praying together
Evening: online Compline

Friday 10.10: online Morning Prayer
10.30-12.30: St Laurence, Stroud open for prayer
Evening: online Compline

Saturday 10.10: Morning Prayer
10.30-12.30: St Laurence, Stroud open for prayer
Evening: online Compline

Sunday 10.10: Holy Trinity, Slad fortnightly. Next service 20 September 11am
Church of the Holy Spirit, Paganhill fortnightly. Next service 20 September 11am
St Laurence, Stroud weekly. First service 20 September 9.30am
If you would like more information about any of these, please get in touch with any of the clergy.

Giving during the crisis

The crisis we are living through has had an impact on almost every facet of our lives, and that includes the finances of our churches. Our Treasurers and Revd Graham Stacey have been working hard to find ways to make giving easy and efficient, not just for now, but into the future. You will hear more from your local Treasurer, and it is now very easy to give through our website, either to the Team or to a specific church, and we are able to collect Gift Aid on those donations where it is applicable. Many thanks for your generosity towards God’s Kingdom in this place – it really does make a difference.

The church is not closed

As our church buildings are closed, it has been suggested that the church, and even God, are closed with them. This is not the case, and we want to make sure we are communicating, and demonstrating that to those in our communities.

We have produced two cards that we have been distributing during this crisis, and it would be great if you were able to distribute some too.

We are praying:

We have a wonderful, dedicated prayer team who faithfully pray for all those who ask for prayer. This is something that we can bring that is unique, and we know from both requests and feedback that it is hugely appreciated. You can drop one of these cards through your neighbour’s door and there is nothing more for you to do, but who knows what a blessing that will be to them.

Just ask:

These cards offer contact and practical help. As we get further into this crisis, there may well be some in your street who feel they simply can’t ask that person to do another favour, and this card, on which you simply write your name and contact number, could come at just the right moment for them.