13th October: Our harvest Appeal
Immanuel Harvest Appeal
Sunday 13th October was when we launched our 2019 Harvest Appeal here at Immanuel, and what a challenging event it was!
This year the charity we have chosen to support is ShelterBox, which some of you probably know about. Liz Odell shared the morning service with us and even brought a Shelter Box with her, except for the tent –which is heavy to carry, and not something we could set up as part of the service, otherwise she showed us the content of the Box, among other things tarpaulins, blankets, water filter, pots and pans, mosquito netting, tools, even a floating solar powered lamp which lasts 16 hours. She shared the story of ShelterBox and told us of the many times they have reached out to victims following natural disasters, hurricanes and to refugees – the lot!
Liz herself has been on many of these missions making sure the boxes reach the people in need, and told us how lives are changed, sometimes through a tent which becomes “home” while the destroyed house is being re-built with tools provided; even how the solar light helped a man in Peru, extend his day activities beyond sun set because he now had light.
Everybody felt challenged, and there was a time to ask questions over coffee/tea at the end of the service with the ShelterBox to be explored close up.
This charity carries out amazing work and we pray Immanuel’s Harvest Appeal can respond to this challenge, so that with the money received, a number of Boxes can be bought and reach the many people who year by year are affected in so many different ways and that these people may know there are many who care and help.
Thanks to ShelterBox for all they do, and thanks to Liz Odell for sharing her story of ShelterBox and helping us understand, in a very moving way what it does.
Please make sure you know about this and try to contribute to this year’s Appeal if you feel you can.
6th October: Harvest Thanksgiving
Once again the floral artists of Immanuel had worked hard to put on a splendid display depicting the bountiful harvest we enjoy. Under the watchful eye of our resident scarecrow the red, yellow and orange hues of the flowers complemented the colours of the fruit and veg that spread out from the communion table.
Whilst in the windows, matching displays picked out all manner of harvest crops.
Those who came into the church via the East porch encountered a striking display based on the theme of ‘wine’ – what our teetotal, non-conformist forebears would have made of that I dread to think, but it certainly made for a striking display!
It goes without saying that following a very long tradition at Immanuel our congregation brought their own gifts of God’s bounty to us that were later distributed to those in need: this year our Harvest donations go to the “Swindon Food Collective” (or foodbank) and the “Swindon Night Shelter” that provides not only overnight accommodation but a hot midday meal to the homeless of the town and others in need.
As always, bunches of flowers were taken out to friends unable to be with us to share in what was yet again a memorable service of thanksgiving, during which we were all reminded of the desperate need to care for our fragile world.
15th September: a wonderful celebration
A packed congregation from across our Partnership together with the Mayor and Mayoress of Swindon, gathered at Immanuel to celebrate both the 80th anniversary of the opening of the church on the site in Upham road and also mark the 50th anniversary of the formation of the partnership of churches in Old Town.
An enhanced choir led the congregation in some rousing singing that nearly raised the roof (I wonder, has the Vaughan Williams setting of “All People who on Earth do Dwell” ever sounded so magnificent?)
The service was led by the Moderator of the URC General Assembly, Derek Estill, who gave us a very simple but clear message to be mindful of the ecological future of our planet and urged us to listen to God, to each other and work out the way ahead. He reminded us in a challenging way, that discipleship in following Jesus is not easy and that our faith should never be a crutch but the very mainstay of our lives.
Afterwards in the hall, the Moderator joined Margaret Williams in cutting a celebratory cake while others of the congregation spilled out into the sunshine of the garden to enjoy what was a glorious day. It all made for a fitting end to a really great weekend that, as well as looking back, also looked forward to the challenges ahead.
It has to be said that Immanuel struck lucky once again in organising an afternoon event to celebrate both the 80th anniversary of the opening of the church and at the same time mark the 50th birthday of our Partnership of Churches in Old Town. Some fifty or so folk met up during to enjoy an afternoon ‘cuppa’ and a slice of cake (thanks are due to Liz Gleed for organising all the refreshments!) and at the same time were able to get to know the visiting Moderator of the General Assembly of the URC. Derek Estill had travelled down from Lancashire to be with us and lead our worship on Sunday morning but while he was here, took the time to visit Bath Road, Christchurch and St Mary’s and have meetings with Simon Stevenette and Mark Barrett. The afternoon session gave everyone who had turned out the opportunity to talk with him and appreciate both his interest and his gentle humour. (Right : Derek and Robert in deep discussion with Anne Doyle – former Ecumenical Officer of Wiltshire Churches Together)
Sunday evenings throughout August are traditionally a time when we hold joint services across the partnership and it was Immanuel’s turn to play host on Sunday 18th. Once again the decision had been taken to organise a “Summer Singalong” and give the minister a rest from preparing a sermon by arranging a service of favourite hymns. We are blessed at Immanuel in having such a fabulous group of musicians happy to turn up and accompany our singing, so along with Geoff on the organ we had Julie and Shelly on keyboards, Jenny and Kathy on woodwind, Andy on bass and Keith on drums…… and what a great sound they made!
Over 100 folk came along from our partnership to join in the fun, and with the sun streaming in on a glorious summer evening we nearly raised the roof in some of the really rousing hymns. Robert guided us through the background to the hymns and filled us in on a few interesting facts for each one.
We were particularly fortunate in that our ‘peripatetic’ tenor, Dr Mario was able to be with us and having performed a wonderful solo during the morning service (Schubert’s Ave Maria) he filled the church with his magnificent tenor voice in the ever-popular “I’ll walk with God”. It all made for a very moving service that was greatly appreciated by everyone; it was particularly good that so many felt able to stay behind to join in teas and coffees that were served in the church parlour. As several people asked…..”When’s the next one?”
Our hardworking Buildings and Grounds Committee organised a working party for Monday 5th to do some of the little jobs in and around the church and grounds that mount up over the year. Thankfully the weather stayed fine and most of the tasks were accomplished even by lunchtime. A team of fourteen turned out that included the minister (who, by the end, seemed to have more paint on him than on the fence!)
Roses and hedges were pruned, the shed roof was re-felted, lots of weeds met their fate, the cycle rack was repaired, the front garden tidied up as well as the far (west) side of the church. And inside the church itself, a lot of tidying, dusting and polishing went on.
We may have been a group of OAPs but we still managed to leave the place looking much better than we found it and as Myra proved, age is no barrier to weeding and tidying the front garden…. single-handedly she did a wonderful job and thoroughly deserved her half-time cup of coffee! A great team spirit reigned all morning and it has to be admitted there was much hilarity and laughter. If you’re free next time, pop along and join us – its great fun!
Farewell to Tom!
Tom Wheeler joined Immanuel choir as a little treble (well to be honest he was never really that small!) and transferred to the tenor section when notes in the treble clef became too high to reach; so it was with some degree of sadness that when the choir started its summer break on Sunday 28th July, we bade farewell to him. In September he starts a new and exciting phase in his life when he continues his studies in music at the University of Canterbury.
He has recently been awarded a distinction in his grade 8 singing examination by the associated Board of Music, so he can head off with our best wishes and an excellent qualification already under his belt! The choir gathered prior to our morning service to wish him well in this new chapter of his life and Geoff made a small presentation of a card and token which we are sure he will use sensibly! We know he will be back with us from time to time but the back row of the choir won’t be the same without him!
Despite being postponed because of heavy snow and other events which prevented it happening last year, at last we managed to hold our joint service with our Romanian friends this Sunday….. and what a time we had! The holiday season was already on us so congregations from both churches would have been somewhat diminished, but we still had a fairly crowded church to celebrate our ‘oneness’ in Christ.
During our time together we learned something of their background and how their church had come together in Swindon, and they learned a little about the URC, our history and way of thinking . The middle of the service gave everyone a chance to mix and get to know one another: so much chatter was going on that Robert and their pastor, Vio, had a major task in calling us to order. (see picture above)
With readings in both English and Romanian, some lively hymns and musical contributions from a male trio singing a Taizé chant in Romanian, a joyful song from their children and a rousing anthem by our own choir, it all made for a service that will long be remembered. Let us hope it won’t be the last time we meet in such a way. It has to be said that the language barrier didn’t exist!
30th June : visit of former minister
It is almost 30 years since Revd Bob Ellis preached his farewell sermon at Immanuel and set off to minister in Exeter. He was quite surprised to see that he recognised so many faces and old friends in the congregation (some had travelled to be with us for the day). From our point of view it was evident that he hasn’t changed much either – still quite capable to producing a challenging message (peppered with characteristic humour). It was also very fitting to take his photograph out by the foundation stones – laid on the day that he was born (18th January 1939).
29th June: Partnership Garden Party
We couldn’t have chosen a better day to hold our Garden Party (other than perhaps have asked for it to be a little cooler!) and there was a really great turn out to mark the 50th anniversary of our churches in Old Town working together. Today wasn’t about worship though, it was about socialising and enjoying each others’ company in the garden at Immanuel. That said, was only the bravest of souls who ventured out to enjoy the lovely surroundings of Immanuel’s lawn and rose garden – although the organising committee had thought to erect gazebos, most of us preferred to stay indoors and enjoy the shade offered by the church hall! Refreshments were served all afternoon and there was so much home-made cake, that the morning congregation the next day were able to enjoy the bonus of a slice of cake with their after service coffee!
An added bonus for Immanuel’s congregation was that former ministers Bob Ellis and Michael Hodgson were both in attendance and it was a real pleasure to be able to meet up and chat over old times. These events don’t happen ‘at the drop of a hat’ and thanks are due to the organising committee with its representatives from Christ Church, Bath Road and Immanuel. They had thought of everything it seemed – musicians to keep everyone entertained with gentle background music, all manner of games and activities for those who had the energy and for the rest of us a cooling ice cream that was really very welcome!
As well as thanking the folks who planned it all we ought to add a word of thanks to the stalwart members of our B&G committee who managed to get the grass cut and the garden looking lovely despite the issues of a broken mower to contend with!
9th June: Pentecost Sunday
Pentecost Sunday saw a massive presence by the Partnership of Churches at the Old Town Festival. Numbers were so impressive that we won the cup for the “best float” in the parade (photo to follow).
Up on the Lawns, volunteers from our churches had mounted and staffed a stand that displayed the history of the partnership as well as the community activities that go on in our buildings.
Happily the rain held off for most of the day and our open air service took place as planned in the ruins of the old Holy Rood Church.
Led by the three principle clergy of the Partnership and with music from Geoff and a music group, a congregation of almost ninety enjoyed some uplifting up-beat hymns and songs. It was altogether a very remarkable day of witness and evangelistic outreach.
The Church Meeting today accepted the nominations proposed by the Elders for the positions of Church Secretary and Church Treasurer: for the coming year David Leadbeater will act as secretary and for a three-year period Sue Goodall will take on the mantle of treasurer. We are grateful to them for agreeing to stand and at the same time extend our thanks to Liz Gleed and Helen Marson for all the work they have carried out over the past years.
21st April: Easter 2019
Maundy Thursday: it was Immanuel’s turn to host the partnership “agape service” this year, and Robert led a beautifully meaningful communion service based on a liturgy prepared by the Iona Community. In traditional style it followed a simple meal of soup, rolls and biscuits and cheese with grapes to follow – all prepared by Joyce Harrison and her team of helpers.
It made a fitting start to the Easter weekend.
Good Friday saw the traditional three-hour service at Christ Church this year conducted by Revd Liz Griffiths . Entitled “The Reconciling Work of God”, it took the form of six mini services all of which were thought-provoking and asked us to see the world differently. With a range of refreshingly new poems and hymns, it was indeed good on “this day called Good” to be given the chance to be challenged to think and pray in a new light.
Easter Day: our floral art team had worked hard in the run-up to Easter to prepare some really beautiful floral art to decorate the church, which on a sun-filled morning and following the redecoration of the church looked truly glorious. Roy Lowes who led our worship invited us all to consider the resurrection story afresh. True to long-standing tradition at Immanuel, members of the congregation had brought single blooms or small posies to decorate the empty cross which after the service was taken outside as a symbol for the passing world to see, admire and perhaps ponder on.
17th April: Lent lectures
The last of the series saw Fidelma Meehan talking on “Faith through Charity”. After sorting out the technical glitches with technology she gave us a very passionate presentation on “Save the Children”. Celebrating its centenary this year, this international charity was founded by a very remarkable lady, Eglantine Jebb, who established the very concept of children’s rights at a time when even human rights were unheard of! Working worldwide in 120 countries each year they assist over 22 million children and are noted for their work in the areas of Education, Health Services and Famine Relief. Perhaps lesser-known areas of their work are in Child Poverty and Child Protection. In a moving plea to us to continue the fight for children and their rights both abroad and in the UK, Fidelma gave some very thought-provoking facts…. the births of 1 in 3 children round the world are not even registered, so they have no nationality or status; in the refugee crisis caused by the conflict in the middle east, some 200,000 children have ‘disappeared’, scattered across Europe and are at risk……needless to say the discussion turned to some very sombre thoughts!
Fidelma mentioned a moving poem that can be found at the entrance to the UN building:
The children of Adam are limbs of each other, having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb, the other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a human.
Iranian poet, Saadi
10th April: Lent Lectures
This evening saw the second of two presentations by Liz Griffiths (see below for the first one). Although still dealing with the theme of ‘change’, this time she offered a two-fold approach to the evening: how to plan for change constructively and what the church might offer to the wider community. Liz offered very constructive advice and tips on how to work towards building consensus when looking to make changes, and reminded us that we also need to try to develop Christian discernment – the ‘mind of Christ’. One interesting thought was that we should always move towards resistance and never back away, but instead positively seek different views: that way we might even learn. The process is perhaps more important that the outcome – a lesson for us all!
3rd April: Lent Lectures
Revd Liz Griffiths who works for “Bridge Builders” led our session this week. Bridge Builders is charity that stems from the Mennonite church and works in the area of “conflict resolution”, seeking ways to transform conflict in many different areas of life. At a time when conflict and change is all around us, even in our own UK political scene, it was a very apposite theme to be considering.
Liz led us to consider the various types of change we meet and how we react and cope with it, giving us several practical exercises to help us understand and analyse our own personal stance. Towards the end of the evening she moved on to take something of a theological view of what change entails by looking at Psalms and that wonderful section of Paul’s epistle: Philippians 2: 5-11.
We all came away, if not wiser, then at least more aware.
Geoff and Liz’s 40th Wedding Anniversary: a dangerous precedent to post a photo of a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, but in this case, with Liz as church secretary and Geoff as organist, I think an exception can be made. It was a real joy on Sunday morning after the morning service to be able to share both their joy and a slice of delicious cake! Best wishes and congratulations to a couple who do so much for Immanuel!
27th March: Lent Lectures
Forty of us crammed into the parlour at Immanuel to hear a presentation by Linda Culling, appointed last year as the first principal of the Deanery Academy being built at Wichelstowe. In what was, unsurprisingly, a highly polished talk, Linda interspersed the story of her own professional development from her school days in Chippenham to her appointment in Swindon, with her philosophy of Education and provided ample anecdotes by way of illustration. For Linda, the individual pupil is at the heart of everything she believes in, in terms of education – to strengthen and develop child by offering hope and build self-esteem, and consequently build up the community. It was good to hear, too, where her own faith stands in the sometimes stressful world of Education. Questions abounded afterwards during which she was able to amplify her thoughts and ideas. It was a very good evening which fully filled the brief “Faith in Education”
Friday 22nd March
Many of you will be unaware that overnight from 21st to 22nd March our Romanian friends used the church as a very temporary warehouse for all manner of domestic and other goods destined for Namibia. In an act of Christian support to the people of that impoverished country they had assembled a whole container full of items that headed off on Friday 22nd (see photo left). Robert was there to see it go and assures us all that it really was packed full and has a short video to prove it! Its good to know that yet again Immanuel plays a small role in offering humanitarian aid.
20th March: Lent Lectures
Numbers attending the talk this week were even higher to hear the High Sheriff of Wiltshire, Nicky Alberry, give an impressive presentation on “Faith and the Law”. Initially she covered her own appointment…. from the arcane ‘pricking’ by the sovereign and her induction to the Bailywick of Wilts, and then took us through some of the quaint historical facts surrounding the post – which gave rise to some smiles and laughter. Our High Sheriff then moved on to much more serious matters and the research she has carried out during her year of office into the troubled area of domestic violence. She gave us a very comprehensive overview of the situation as it exists across our county and provided us with some truly shocking stories of the treatment meted out to victims of coercive behaviour – physical violence, mental and emotional as well as financial pressures. It was good to hear of some of the work going on across Wiltshire to support victims of domestic violence (both men and women) and of her own hopes that as she retire that she might be able to leave a legacy of hope. It was clear from the questions and comments from the floor that it was a topic that had ‘hit home’ and may well be an issue that as a Partnership of Churches we need to come back to in future months. It was perhaps a mark of the respect that the High Sheriff has built up in our community that the Mayor of Swindon, Cllr. Junab Ali and his wife felt able to join us for the evening and join in the discussion.
13th March: Lent Lectures
Some thirty or so members of the partnership attended an excellent inaugural talk at Immanuel on the evening of 13th March. At the first of our annual “Lectures in Lent ” for 2019, the guest speaker was Simeon Mitchell who is the URC’s Secretary for Church and Society based at Tavistock House, London. The subject of his talk was “The Church in the Public Sphere”. Since he is also a member of the Joint Public Issues Team that links several denominations working for peace and justice, (URC, Methodist, Baptist and Church of Scotland) he was well-placed to tell us of the work being carried out by the church to pressurise governments. His talk concentrated on the need to be a more welcoming society, a society that places the poorest at the centre of our thinking and a society that looks to creating a world that cares for and shares the planet on which we live.
The interaction and subsequent level of discussion proved how stimulating and challenging Simeon had been.