News from the Benwell & Scotswood
"My Father is the Vine-grower" (John 15.1)
Worship returns to St James'
Our team service has now returned to St James' Benwell. You are very welcome to join us even if you're new!
Sundays at 10.30am
10:30 at St James
Sadly we currently don't have the capability to provide captions on our Live stream (though we hope to change this!) but you are most welcome to come in person to the 10:30am Service at St James and we will be happy to accommodate you the best we can.
We would like to welcome everyone. St James can be accessed by a wheelchair and we do have a Disabled Toilet that can be used. The welcome team will be more than happy to assist you during your visit. If you would like to inform us in advance that you are interested in coming please click here. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with us!
APCM and Electoral Role
St James, 11.20am, Sunday 23rd May 2021
This year's 'Annual Parochial Church Meeting' will be held directly after the Sunday morning service. (This will also combine the ADCMs for the individual churches). To approve the Electoral role in time new members need to fill in a form this week Sunday 2nd March (The Revised roll should be on the notice board next week)
Some of you may have met Edward a couple of weeks ago and we are very happy that he will be doing some volunteering with us in the parish! (Pending the completion of the usual safer recruitment process of course!) We hope he will help us with some admin, our technology, and also advising us on how to be more hospitable to those with additional physical and mental needs. He has written a bit about himself below:
Hello my name is Edward Fraser
I am new to your church, I have attended your church at St. James on Sunday 18th April but sadly following a fall last week I couldn't attend church last week as I sadly ended up in hospital I am doing ok and all is well. I am deaf and I lip-read so when you say hello to me please remove your mask to enable me to communicate with you.
I will volunteer for the church to help keep the church running and also as a Disabled wheelchair user help the church become more accessible. I will also help with live streaming as well. So if you need any help, I am more than happy to help the best I can to make your visit to the church welcoming.
Free and cheap meals in the local area
Every Wednesday you can order cheap hot meals from Cornerstone. Get your orders in by Wednesday 10am for free delivery within 2 miles of Cornerstone. Call 0191 2260941 or drop them a message on Facebook. Find out more here >
From 19th April FoodCycle Benwell will dish up free, nutritious meals for the local community every Monday from 7pm - 8pm. Find out more here >
James, Christina, and baby Xavier
Ali Zareie and his family
The Riches Family
Graham Shaw (Priest)
all affected by Covid 19
who through your only-begotten son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that ,as by your grace going before us,
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help,
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
whose son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever
Acts 8.26 – End Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.’ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized? He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
John 15.1–8 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
The Revd David Kirkwood (Team Rector)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Amen
‘I am the true vine’ This is one of the great ‘I am’ sayings from the Gospel of John. Last week we heard ‘I am the Good Shepherd’ elsewhere in the gospel we find others.- ‘the true Bread ‘the Light of the World’, ‘the Way the truth and the life’ ‘the resurrection’ …
All of them are deceptively simple, single images -just one or two words, basic symbols capable of being understood across many different cultures, and so in some senses universal, and yet carrying many levels of meaning and a wealth of associations, especially when read against the background of the bible.
Take the vine, it is used as a sign of blessing wherever wine is found, and the scriptures reflect this, in the promised land not only will there be milk and honey, but oil and wine, each will sit under his vine and fig tree.
But Jesus and his hearers would have been familiar with other Bible passages where vine and vineyard are not just general signs of blessing but symbols of Israel itself, the chosen people are God’s vine.
You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. Psalm 80.
Although this might still seem a wholly positive thing in fact the image comes to have real ambiguity. As the prophets rebuked the people for their disobedience to God, the vine comes to represent an unfaithful people, a people under judgement.
Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire; at your rebuke your people perish Psalm 80
The Song of the Vineyard in Isaiah (chapter 5) is an image of a people who have abandoned God and are now abandoned by Him
The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
The same theme is found in Jeremiah,
I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vinel (Jer2)
This is the background to Jesus’s teaching. Unlike the old Israel which was unfaithful and turned away from God, He comes perfectly fulfilling Gods purpose, those united to Him will become God’s new people, destined not for failure but fruitfulness.
What should we take from this?
Well first it should make us hopeful. We are still in the Easter season still celebrating the resurrection the victory of Christ and looking to Him expectantly for that fruitfulness.
But at the same time we can’t afford to ignore the note of warning; united with Christ, fruitfulness, blessing, abundance; cut off from Christ, sterility, uselessness, death. As St Augustine put it ‘either the vine or the fire’.
During this last strange year, we have all had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what it means to be cut off. Cut off from Church, cut off from friends, cut off from families, cut off from the everyday routines that gave shape to our lives. The fire of covid 19 has burnt through many connections we relied on. As we begin tentatively to re -connect I think we get a sense of just how important those connections are. As we look back can we also see how some connections continued and perhaps too how new ones were made? It has been heartening for me to see families and friends continuing to support one another, wonderful to see how organisations and individuals have found new ways to reach out. I know here in Benwell & Scotswood the Food Bank, the Good Neighbour Project, Cornerstone, the Youth project have all found new ways to connect. As a church we have certainly made new connections and our online presence has been transformed. We owe a great deal to all involved including James and Claire who continued producing Church at Home right up until Easter, to our Churchwardens who have been instrumental in holding things together, to Zohreh who has offered her skills in translation into Farsi, and of course to my younger colleagues who connect with all things digital so much more readily.
Worshipping together as one congregation, albeit gathered physically and digitally, has also helped remind us of the strength that comes from our communion our connection with one another.
In the next few weeks we hope we can be increasingly re connecting as lock down eases, of course there are no guarantees but for the moment thankfully that seems to be the direction of travel. That will raise vital questions for us a church. How should we move forward into this new world? I think we have probably all realised we do have to move forward, we will not be moving back, the world really has changed and will continue to change. The question is what are we being called to do and be in this altered landscape? In a few weeks we will have our annual meeting, and yes as always, we will definitely want to look back and give thanks, not least for some of those contributions mentioned already, and yes we will look at our bank accounts, but above all it is this question of the future that needs to be foremost in our minds. How can we carry out God’s mission for this changed world? What will that mean? Where will we worship? When? how many services? what kind of services should they be? Not easy questions and questions we will need to face together, so of course I’m not saying come to the APM to FIND all the answers, I am saying come to the APM and we can begin to explore the issues.
I said our connection with one another strengthens and sustains us and that is absolutely correct and will continue to be the case as we move forward but the gospel emphasis is the prior connection we have. ‘I am the Vine you are the branches’
To be fruitful we must be one with Christ, united to the vine. If the Divine Life flows in us our growth will follow just as bud and blossom. How can we help that happen?
This week in our calendar we celebrate Julian of Norwich, you may recall at Easter Dominic reminded us of her great words of reassurance ’all will be well and all manner of things will be well’ Julian writing in the 14th century at the time of the Black Death is, as Dominic said, perhaps the earliest female writer in English and herself an example of the Divine fruitfulness, her writings neglected and unknown for many centuries before blossoming in our own day. Julian coined her own phrase for being united with Christ. One-ing
‘Prayer’ she says ‘oneth the soul to God’. Prayer is not an optional extra but essential the means of staying united, ‘oneing’ us to God. The heart of our ‘oneing’ Prayer is meant to be what we do today taking bread and yes -wine. Sadly that full communion is one of the connections undermined by the pandemic. Here in our Eucharist we are supremely united with Christ, the wine of the kingdom, flows freely, but the new wine flows whenever we turn to Christ in prayer pruning away all impediments, giving us what is wholesome and lifegiving.’ One-ed’ with Him, we will bear fruit. Amen