Your weekly update from the Benwell & Scotswood Team
Dates for your diary
Sun 30th Oct
11am All Saints' Day (Celebration service at Ven Bede)
Wed 2nd Nov
12pm All Souls' Commemoration of the departed, Ven Bede
Services this week
Sun 23rd Oct
9.45am - St John's Holy Communion
11am - Ven Bede, Hub Service (Parish eucharist)
4pm - St Margaret's Evening Worship
Wed 27th Oct
11am - Ven Bede Holy Communion
New Bishop of Newcastle announced
On Thursday it was Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley will become the next bishop of Newcastle. We were delighted that, after the announcement, Benwell was the first place in the Diocese she visited!
Originally brought up in the North East, she is currently bishop of Ripon in Yorkshire and formerly bishop Waikato in New Zealand.
Bishop Helen-Ann said of her appointment: “I am absolutely delighted and excited to be the next Bishop of Newcastle. With life-long connections to the whole region covered by the Diocese, I am inspired by the example of the Northern Saints, whose engagement in God’s mission lies deep in the fabric and contours of the land. I am, and will continue to be in this new role, a passionate advocate for the region. I look forward immensely to supporting and encouraging the vital work of the Diocese at every level: parishes and benefices, schools, chaplaincies, clergy and lay together as we continue to engage in God’s mission in the season that lies ahead.”
Funeral of Den Whitten - Update, now 10.45am Tuesday
Den's funeral will take place at St James on Tuesday 25th October. Please note the change of time to 10.45am.
We are very sad to announce that Den Whitten passed away. Please keep Pat and their family in your prayers at this time.
There will be a live stream of the funeral on our facebook page for those who cannot attend in person.
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
2 Timothy 4.6–8,16–18 6 As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 16 At my first defence no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! 17But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Luke 18.9–14 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
If there was ever a reminder against the sin of pride, then this Gospel reading is it. Jesus tells a parable as a warning to the self-righteous. In the story one man does all the right things expected of him but looks down on others. The other man takes excessive taxes from his neighbours to give to the oppressive occupying regime, but looks to God for mercy. One looks to himself for glory, the other looks to God. No matter how often we study the bible and pray, we can still be shocked by Jesus aligning himself so strongly with the sinner.
In the parable, even though the Pharisee is doing all the ‘right’ things, when he is talking to God, he is really praising himself and taking the chance to put down the other man. His self-worth is entirely based on others doing badly- “thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector”. He needs others to be suffering, getting things wrong, to be unpopular, for him to feel good about himself. Whereas the tax collector, says a simple prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” his focus is on God’s power, God’s mercy, God’s goodness. The Pharisee’s prayer points to himself, the tax-collector’s prayer points to God.
There is a self-righteousness in the Pharisee’s prayer, he has decided he is doing well at life and is telling God all about it. Self-righteousness is a form of idolatry, your aim is to glorify yourself, present yourself as the object worthy of praise, rather than God. God does calls us to show our love for God in the way we live, but God is not interested in our worldly success, God is interested only in a constantly developing relationship, always growing in love.
Pride has a way of creeping up on us, it is when we do good actions, things that we know to be right, but start to do them for ourselves, rather than for others and God, and start to compare ourselves favourably to others. We start to become glad we’re doing better than those around us.
On Thursday we were very proud to welcome the newly announced Bishop of Newcastle to St James and the Venerable Bede. After the announcement at the Cathedral this was the first place Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley visited. It made me feel proud, that we were being noticed, all the wonderful things we do, caring for people in poverty, refugees, those who are isolated or struggling with mental health, and celebrating the wonderful community that we are always building here.
I was more disappointed when the press, rather than let bishop stay to talk to our wonderful people, whisked her off for a photo-op in the foodbank storage cupboard, presumably because we did not look depressing or poor enough, and packing boxes and tins for the poor was the image they would rather have. This was not the fault of the new bishop I must add, she was relying on others to be introduced to the diocese.
These are the dangers of what happens when people only look on the outside. Foodbank parcels are something that are part of our life here, but we are more than poverty, we are more than a photo-op to help others feel better about themselves. We are an incredible community of real people, who find real ways to show love for one another – whatever our background or means. We don’t do what we do to help the rest of the church feel less guilty about their privilege. We are more than the conscience of the Church of England, and we should not have to remain defined by poverty to matter to them.
However, I also realised I was becoming guilty of pride. It would be all too easy to look at ourselves and give ourselves a pat on the back for all our hard work, all the ways we are lovely to each other. Whatever we do here, and however others perceive it, it must point to God. Our actions must speak of a God who loves all unconditionally, and our lives must always show how we are in need of that love ourselves.
Last weekend we met at St James for our ‘creative’ mission planning day. We built this arch looking at the ways we can reach out to people, and also how we grow once we’re inside. An arch is two-sided, inside and outside, but it is open, a threshold for all to enter, and a place from which we can all go out to help others. It is a symbol of how our relationship to each other and the community reflects our relationship with God. And Petra found us this shiny paper, which for me a reminder that our job is to reflect God’s light, not for ourselves to shine.
Today we baptise Daniel, Desmond, and Gift. We welcome them across the threshold of God’s church. Here they will always be welcomed, this will always be their worldwide family. In baptism you are committed to a relationship between you and God - you don’t need to be better than anyone else, you don’t need to be anyone other than the person you are, because God wants to know you. There will be good times in your life, there will be tough times, there will be things you flourish at and plenty of mistakes to make, but throughout it all, you will have the reminder that you are baptised, you are marked with the sign of the cross, you are God’s and you are deeply loved for eternity.
The journey of life is not about getting everything right, not about being better than others, but always doing everything pointing to the eternal love of God, who looks back at us with endless love. We are called to a journey of love, and we start from where we are now, however successful or sinful. So my prayer is: may God be merciful to us, each and every one a sinner loved by God.
If you would like to add someone to the prayer list please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The name will stay on the list for 1 month unless requested to be long-term.
Prayers for others:
Cath and Dave Welsh
Christine, David, Philip, Neil and Steven
Pat Whitten and family
Moe and Mary
Gift, Daniel, and Desmond Osagie Idahosa
Rest in Peace:
Post Communion prayer
God of all grace,
your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your true and living bread;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.