News from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Meester van de Amsterdamse Bodegón, Kitchen scene, 1610-25
Oil on Canvas, Rijksmusuem, Amsterdam
Dates for your diary
18th May - PCC meeting
7.30pm, Venerable Bede
Sun 22 May - APCM
12pm (after the morning service)
Sun 5 June - Pentecost celebration and bring and share Lunch
11am service at St James followed by lunch
11am at St James every Sunday
Join us every Sunday at 11am at St James' Benwell.
Every week, we will have singing, refreshments after the service, and communion with both bread and wine (though the wine will be entirely optional).
We will keep some distance between chairs and encourage mask-wearing and hand sanitising.
APCM - Sunday 22 May, 12pm
This year's 'Annual Parochial Church Meeting' will happen directly after the Sunday service.
The happens once a year and receives reports on changes to the electoral roll, general parish activities, and finances. It is also when we elect members of the PCC and churchwardens. ADCMs (Annual District Church Meetings) will happen at the same time (these will run consecutively prior to the APCM).
Don't forget to check if your name is on the electoral roll, and if not, then remember to join!
Sequence/ballroom dancing at St John's, Wed 7-8.30
Sequence/ballroom dance classes have begun again at St John's. Whether you're a total beginner or have had a go before, come along to St John's Ferguson Lane, NE15 6NW, Wednesdays 7-8.30pm. £4.
Speak to Linda, Ellen, or Joyce for more info.
Carnival workshops for the Platinum Jubilee
Urban Green Newcastle are running free community workshops in carnival dance, music and craft activities every Saturday in May. These free workshops take place at the West End Library, Condercum Rd, Benwell, Newcastle, NE4 9JH. Offered for ages 12+ and with families welcome to take part and turn up on the day, this project is kindly supported by Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Newcastle City Council and delivered by Urban Green Newcastle.
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.
Acts 11.1–18 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’ Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’
John 13.31–35 When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
Revd Chris What do you think about eating meat? Vegetarianism and veganism is becoming more and more common, meat consumption in the UK has apparently dropped by more than 17% the last decade. For some it is because of a genuine sympathy for living creatures and the desire to improve animal welfare, but for some it is also to protect the environment. Intensive meat production is massively bad for the world, not just because of the infamous flatulent cows releasing methane into the atmosphere, but because of forests being slashed and burned to clear space for livestock or to grow vast amounts of crops used to feed that livestock. This all destroys biodiversity, ruins soil quality, and reduces the amount of the much-needed CO2 absorbing trees. Even if we all limited our meat consumption to ‘now and again’ or to special occasions, it could be one of the simplest ways to help save our planet. In our current context, therefore, the first reading from Acts sounds quite jarring. God, rather strangely, lowers a bed sheet to earth filled with reptiles, beasts, and birds, and tells that Peter he should kill and eat them right there and then. It is certainly a strange vision, but believe it or not, this is a story of radical inclusion. It’s just the meaning isn’t so immediately obvious in our context.
The story comes from the earliest days of the church when the Jesus movement had not expanded beyond Judaism. It is strange thing to think that, for Jesus and the disciples, Christianity and Judaism were one and the same religion, without separation. Something incredible and momentous is happening in our Acts reading then: Peter, always the disciple most keen to do everything correctly, transgresses the law and shares a meal with gentiles, sat at the same table, with food forbidden to Jews. Peter’s brazen actions are then questioned by the incredulous apostles and believers. But he explains that it was an angel of God who told these gentile men to invite him, and the spirit of God led him there. And what is more, the gentiles were baptised in the Holy Spirit. Peter says to the other apostles “If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’”. He basically says, look at the evidence, it must be God’s will, however unlikely and whatever our prejudices.
God’s will is to reach out in love to all, to redeem his whole world. But we must avoid thinking that the freedom from Jewish law is a condemnation of it. Christianity is the story of God saving his people, but it is a story that began with Adam and Eve, Moses, Abraham, and Jacob. The law we believe existed to declare that God had made a special covenant with them, that God saved them from Egypt and dwelt among them, that God took them to the promised land and preserved them throughout exile in Babylon, until the Messiah came. Jesus tells us that the law is not abolished, but it has fulfilled. What happened with Peter sharing a simple meal with gentiles was the expansion of this story, the old ways are not rejected, but opened up and transformed so we all become God’s chosen people. Gathering round a table and eating together is the most simple act, but it is an act of love and unity with those who are different to you. Do not underestimate the power of a simple meal. And do not forget that gathering round the table for communion is to do just that.
The relationship between Christians and Jews throughout history has been painful and shameful. Just last week a special service with Christians and Jews was held in Oxford, to mark the 800th anniversary synod of Oxford and repent for the wrongs that it caused. The Synod was a meeting of the church, when the church had the power to make laws for society, and it is one of the most shameful moments of Christian history, it forbade social interactions between Jews and Christians, established specific taxes on Jews, prevented Jews from certain professions, confiscated their property and wealth, and enforced Jews to wear identifying badges. These laws set in motion events of worsening Jewish persecution, culminating in the mass expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 - Jews were not allowed to return to England for 500 years. This set the precedent for other European countries to follow suit, a precedent that continued for 800 years. Indeed, in 1930s Germany Jews were subjected to some familiar sounding rules: they were forbidden from social interactions, had property confiscated, and forced to wear identifying badges. The methods of Nazi persecution were invented and by the English many years before. The service last week then was to apologise for this immense wrong and to rebuild relationships with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Some are keen to emphasise that the Church of England didn’t exist 800 years ago, that it was pre-reformation, and therefore nothing to do with us. But that is wrong, the Church of England broke from Rome, but the church continued with the same succession of bishops and priests, cathedrals, and people. This too is part of our story.
The story of ‘us’ is not always easy and straightforward, and we see this in the Bible, there is conflict and disagreement between the apostles and early believers. There is transgression, pain, suffering, and difficulty, but there is also transformation, hope, repentance, reconciliation and resurrection. Nothing is set at the beginning because God’s story is not finished. We are still in it, and we are still expanding that circle of love to include more and more people. The disagreement amongst the apostles reminds us that God’s people need to continue developing and changing. Just like now we have to question whether to eat meat is good or bad for the environment does not mean that it has always been bad and always will be. Right and wrong need to be discerned afresh all the time, just like Peter did. If we take anything we away from this passage, it is that we need to allow ourselves to be surprised and have the humility and grace to change our own minds. We can’t be stuck in our ways, to stop here and preserve things how they have always been, because God’s work is not finished. We are a living, growing, changing community, a community which must hold onto only one unchanging truth – the call to live out Jesus’ greatest commandment: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” Amen.
To add names to the prayer list please email email@example.com
Prayers for others:
James, Christina, Anastasia, and Xavier
The Riches Family
Anastasia, and Xavier
Rest in peace
Terry and Elaine Lipscombe
Julianne Hardy and James Burrows
Claire Lewis discernment panel
Ukraine, Yemen, Ethiopia and all places at war.
Post Communion prayer
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.