Your weekly update from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Services this week
Sun 11 Dec
9.45 - St Margaret's Holy Communion
11am - Ven Bede, Hub Service (Parish eucharist)
Wed 14 Dec
6.30pm - St John's Carol Service
Thurs 14 Dec
11am - St John's Holy Communion
Dates for your diary
Wed 14 Dec
6.30pm - Carol service at St John's
Wed 21 Dec
3.30pm - Community carols at St James
Sat 24 Dec
4pm - crib service at St Margaret's
11.30pm - Midnight Mass at Ven Bede
Sun 25 Dec
11am - Christmas Day Service at Ven Bede
Advent & Christmas Programme
Find full details of our Christmas events here >
It's coming up quickly! Publicity for our Advent & Christmas services and events will be appearing shortly. But make a note of the dates and times of the following events:
Wed 14 Dec, 6.30pm - Carol service at St John's
Wed 21 Dec, at St James, 2pm - Christmas event opens, 4pm Community carol service.
Sat 24 Dec, at St Margaret's, 2.30pm - Messy Church, 4pm - crib service.
And 11.30pm - Midnight Mass at Ven Bede
Sun 25 Dec - 11am - Christmas Day Service at Ven Bede
Interactive Christmas Exhibition - Fri 16 Dec, 3-6pm at St James
The 'Something Wonderful' art club in Benwelll invite you to their latest exhibition of artwork and interactive art activities - let's all collaborate together! The event is free and refresments will be served.
Service times Review
After consultations, we started after Easter with a new pattern of worship and committed to reviewing this pattern after six months. To help us do so, we would like to hear from you. There is a questionnaire which we hope you will find time to fill in and return by Sunday 18th December.
We know we have not been able to find a pattern that is ideal for everyone but with your co-operation hope to do the best we can. Once we have looked at the responses, we will think about what changes may be needed, talk to Churchwardens and DCC’s as appropriate, and take a proposal to the next PCC on the 19th January. Any changes will then take place.
We are also keen to make sure that those who are unable to come to church are not excluded. Online worship continues to be offered and we are happy to arrange home communions as needed. Please let us know.
Bishop's Christmas Appeal
Bishop Mark is appealing to you to give a gift to help WERS and Walking With carry on helping asylum seekers and refugees. Can you help to support their seeking of sanctuary here?
Donations can be made through the diocesan giving page for the Bishop’s Christmas Appeal, or cheques made out to ‘Newcastle Diocesan Board of Finance’ can be posted to: Finance, Church House, St John’s Terrace, North Shields, NE29 6HS. Please write ‘Bishop’s Christmas Appeal’ on the back of the cheque. More information is available here.
Lighting the Advent Wreath
3rd Sunday - John the Baptist
Lord Jesus, light of the world,
John told the people to prepare, for you were very near.
As Christmas grows closer day by day,
help us to be ready to welcome you now.
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
35The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’ 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. 8 A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ 4Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’ 7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” 11Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
by Revd Chris Rejoice! Today is traditionally known as ‘Gaudete’ Sunday, meaning ‘rejoice’. It is when the rose-pink coloured candle is lit on our Advent wreath, showing that things are looking brighter, lighter- we can start getting excited that Christmas is near! In the growing cold and dark of winter, and in a world which needs rescuing from itself, we begin to glimpse the light of Christ shining in the distance. It is a Sunday when the anticipation of Christ’s birth causes joy to spill over into the here and now.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist, from the despair of a prison cell, hears that something is finally happening out there in the wilderness: "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." Finally change is here! John is the last of the prophets preparing the way for Jesus, preparing for God to step into the world and transform it. Hope is the anticipation of joy and goodness, spilling out into the world. And John was the ultimate sign of hope.
However, Advent is not just a time just for telling old stories of prophets and angels and shepherds. Our faith is not one of the past, during Advent as we look backward to how Christ first came, we also look forward with hope for the coming of Christ again. John was there to proclaim the first coming of Jesus. But the church exists now to proclaim the hope of the second coming of Jesus.
Unfortunately, the church seems to be in the wilderness itself. The 2021 census showed for the first time that the UK is a minority Christian country. This sent the press into a flurry of calls for the disestablishment of the Church of England and sending church leaders into panic mode. How can we be hopeful, if it seems the great promise of Jesus Christ, of eternal love, joy, and peace, seems to be failing?
Well, to be honest, I think we have had a minority Christian country for many decades already. What has changed is the cultural identification with Christianity, there is no longer the de facto acceptance of Christianity as the norm and the expectation of the church to have privilege and influence. This has nothing to do with the message of Jesus.
The church may be in the wilderness, but, to be honest, I think that is exactly where it should be- the church should be where John was. And Jesus tells us what it should look like:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet?”
What the world needs is a prophet. And what they have is something broken, a church devoid of kindness and love– a community known for judgment, prejudice, and abuse. Or they get something more concerned with its finery- obsessed with privilege and power, fine buildings and traditions. No wonder people are turning away from the church in droves, rather than the promise of hope, they see an institution without integrity concerned for its short-term wellbeing.
What would it mean for us to be prophets then? Prophecy is not some supernatural talent for predicting the future, but to say the world is not as it should be and live and work to make it how it could be. To be prophetic means to say that where there is poverty and prejudice, climate change and destruction, that this is not ok, the world must be different and the change begins with us.
The hope of Jesus Christ and the love of God has not gone anywhere and will not go anywhere. For the church to be prophetic means to show the hope of the gospel in the realest ways possible. Christianity started from nothing, it started from nowhere in an oppressed and poor country. From the most difficult and barren place came the first spark of light shining in the darkness. The job of the church is to let that light shine in the here and now, to be a visible sign of the eternal life that God promised to the world, to be the much-needed sign of hope, a promise of joy.
If you would like to add someone to the prayer list please email email@example.com
The name will stay on the list for 1 month unless requested to be long-term.
Prayers for others:
Christine, David, Philip, Neil and Steven
Moe and Mary
Rest in Peace:
Post Communion prayer
We give you thanks, O Lord, for these heavenly gifts;
kindle in us the fire of your Spirit
that when your Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns now and for ever.