Category Archives: My Encounters

New Beginnings

At St. Andrew’s we celebrate New Beginnings.  Yesterday’s blessing service for the new homes was awesome.  It is great to have Mark back with us and we have just issued our first ever Annual Report.  Praise God!  To receive a copy, please contact Mark East on 41262.

Alternatively you can download it in two parts:

Cover;  Annual Report

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A Harvest of Grace

Harvest Supper by Candlelight.

Harvest Supper by Candlelight

Words cannot describe the awesome power of grace at work for the Harvest Supper last term.  Spearheaded by Grisedale Arts, the entire village donated food, lots of good cooks volunteered their time and in three short hours, the local Primary School was transformed into a dining extravaganza.  A long William Morris print table cloth, candles, mood music, waiters, and personalised service.  It was an extraordinary evening where many were fed by the few.

There was nothing we could do to earn it.  Like God’s grace, we were given a Harvest Supper to remember.  Delivering containers of food throughout the village the next day was even better.   An encounter with more lovely souls.

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Shining Stars

Thanks to all you shining stars for making our dinner to celebrate Thanksgiving, St. Andrew’s Day and Advent such a success!

Blessings to the churches of St. Andrew’s and St. Luke’s for coming together at the very large table beautifully laid out by Liz and Mike with candles from their daughter’s wedding along with their entire linen supply. For Gill who supported me in planning from the beginning baking beautiful rolls and supplying two massive bags of potatoes.  Her nimble hands chopped vegetables diligently, washed every single potato and stood at a very hot stove to the very end.  To Linda who gave us that last minute power assist needed to get the sausage and roast potatoes cooked.   To Mike Furness, Mike Batho, Nick, Howard and Liz who helped serve every delicious morsel – we even had turkey, mashed potatoes and kale leftover.  To Mark who arranged for us to get the Youth Centre making the entire event possible and for personally calling to ensure all were invited.  Thank you for leading us in the blessing.  To Gill and Linda who supplied lovely pies for the pumpkin pie bake-off and to Peter for being such a good judge.  To Mike Furness for a knock-out quiz and the reminder of that exquisite horse, See the Stars! To our surprise visitor who helped massively by washing up at the end.

A special thanks to Howard and Norman who stood by us all the way from the beginning to the end running interference to insure every pass was completed.

To all who came and joined in the celebration with much wine and merry mirth,  God bless you all.

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The Tomb is Empty – Does Jesus Live Today?

At Easter we celebrate the empty tomb, the risen Lord, the resurrection life and I wonder…

I wonder what this means for us here, in this place, in the 21st centurty.  Somehow it seems to me that what we choose to think about Christ’s resurrection power will fundamentally alter every aspect of our lives.

Thursday I attended a funeral for a man who was full of love and grace.  I never knew him when he was a preacher but as I sat there listening to the CV of his life I found myself wanting to hear instead the story of how he became full of the love and grace of the living Lord.  I wanted to hear the stories of the lives that were changed through this man’s relationship with Jesus.

Is this transformation power a one-off event relevant only 2,000 years ago?  is it a momentary event, a one-off for each one of us or is it a filling up again and again, brought on by a relationship that takes us from here to God’s eternal throne?

This is about relationships.  This is about encounter.  Do you have a story to tell?  Does Jesus live today?

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Christening, Baptism or What?

‘I’d like to get my baby done, Vicar!’ has been a very common request in parishes up and down the country. That request still goes on though I have to say in general people today will use the word Christening or Baptism. Many people, whether they regularly attend church or not, are still requesting something special in their children’s early life by asking for a Christening (or Baptism) the words are interchangeable.

At St Andrew’s and St Luke’s we are taking a fresh look at the best way in which to respond to these requests and help the parents and their families understand the implication of what they are entering into. In the Bible, baptism was clearly seen as a personal and public declaration, by adults, of their own desire to be a committed Christ-follower.

The Anglican Church has adopted the practice of not only baptising adults, but also their children, on the understanding that these children are brought up and nurtured to be Christ-followers.
Right at the beginning of the Baptism service we read the words:-
Children who are too young to profess the Christian faith are baptised on the understanding that they are brought up as Christians within the family of the church. As they grow up, they need the help and encouragement of that family, so that they learn to be faithful in public worship and private prayer, to live by trust in God and come to confirmation.

The implication of this paragraph is that whole families together will be involved in the regular worshipping life of the local church, so that the children understand better what it means to be a Christian, a Christ-follower.

In my experience, not just here in our two villages, but in most of the parishes I’ve ministered in, as a rule, this does not happen. One approach we could take is to say, Baptism, particularly infant Baptism, isn’t achieving what it sets out to achieve, therefore we’ll only baptise adults who show a real personal desire and commitment to becoming Christ-followers! However, our desire as churches is to discover, with you, how we can make the best sense of the Baptism promises that are made by, or on behalf of, those brought for Baptism.

You see, the baptism event is in itself symbolising the beginning of a life-long spiritual journey with other Christ-followers. So we would value your help as we seek the most effective way of journeying together into a deeper relationship with Christ. It makes little sense to baptise if there is no desire or real commitment to develop one’s relationship with Christ Jesus. How can we effectively nurture you and your children in growing as Christ-followers? It’s like joining a Gym or Golf Club then not going anywhere near it. You’ll not develop you expertise or get the benefits unless you do!!

We’d love you to join us on Monday 24th April, 7.30 pm in St Andrew’s Church so that we can together find the best way of fulfilling the baptism promises we make for ourselves and our children.

Easter Blessings & happy journeying to you all!
Mark East, Priest-in-Charge.

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Revelations from Joshua

Sometimes the word of God comes when you least expect it.  This morning’s UCB readings from Joshua 5-8:29 gave me much food for thought.  I came away with three revelations.

  1. To be effective, we all have to be on the same page.  Grumbling, in-fighting, tiny criticisms, petty jealousies – they all come from the powers of this world not the Kingdom of Heaven.  We can’t go to the promised land until we are on the same page.
  2. God will reveal methods, strategies and tactics that make no sense to the powers of this world.  If God speaks, listen and act.  The result will be beyond anything imagined by our human minds.
  3. Do not let down your guard.  No matter what crisis is taking place, maintain good practice to ensure the gates are guarded.
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Is this a Divine Plan?

When in London recently, I saw the Supremes exhibition at the V & A.  It was more about the rising up of black people from the south and their journey from the lands of cotton picking to the Motor City, where good paying jobs could be found.  There was strife along the way.  Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream” rallied the people and culminated in a series of riots during one of the hottest summers in the 60’s several years later.  In fact, some of these burnt out blocks have never been rebuilt and stand as a memorial of this terrible time.  I was struck by the reminder that Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968.  Forty years later, a young black man, Senator Obama was running for President.

I had a sense that in this 40 year span, there was a divine plan at work.  Forty is the time of waiting in the Bible.  Moses waited forty years working on the land before his calling.  The Israelites waited 40 years to be taken to the promised land.  Jesus was tested by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights.  Chills ran down my spine.  It was clear to me that this was Obama’s time.  This was confirmed in Tuesday’s election.

Did we have a previous chance to move the world in a different direction and did we fail in our first try?  Is this all part of God’s plan for us?  If so, what are we to be doing differently?

After 911, I felt that America had a chance to reach out to the world in love and humility.  What could have possibly brought about such wrath?  Was it a chance to bow down to our heavenly Father in prayer or was it a time to take up arms and dust off the same old weapons?  I believe that nations around the world were filled with empathy for America at that time.  Could we have changed the course of the world by reaching out to them and holding hands around the world?

In the book of Jonah we read of a man called by God to preach to the people of Ninevah.  Jonah refuses and is swallowed by a whale.  Finally he is spewed out of the whale and he does as he was told.  He preaches a gospel of salvation and the people are saved.  The message here is that God will have his way with us one way or the other.  If one tactic will not do, he will use another.  If God wants something to happen, it will happen.

We had our first chance to repent and start anew.  The events of the last few months have been like a waterfall of woes.  Falling markets, falling economy, and tales of doom abound.  Enter Obama.  Groomed for this task, plucked out of the ocean of humanity for just this time.  God has a plan and it will happen.

So what are the new ways of looking at the world?  Jesus came with love, salvation and the offer of grace.  He was crucified and died for our sins.  I believe that if we can reach out to one another in unity and peace, forgive one another, and work together with citizens from every land, we can mend fences and build a better world.  Let’s get down on our knees and ask for the grace to make it happen.

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Going for the Gold

As I was looking up at the hills the other day, it suddenly dawned on me that perhaps I have been an 80%’er in most of my endeavours.  It is said that the first 80% of the learning for any given field is quick in comparison with the final 20% that can take a lifetime.  This week as the Olympics begin in Beijing, I will be exploring this idea further.  What does it take to move beyond 80% and are we guilty of being 80% Christians?  Are you going for the gold?  Read full text now!

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A nostalgic look back

I’ve recently bought a tape console for my computer so that I can play the boxes of cassette tapes I have in my loft. Not only will it play them, but it can also convert them to digital files to store on my computer or copy onto CD’s to play in the car. It’s been quite a trip down memory lane listening to music ranging from Genesis, to Dire Straights, to Queen, to Supertramp. And then some more unusual or less well know musicians like Bob James, Earl Klugh, Michelle Shocked & Basia. Some of them you may know (if you were in your teens and twenties in the 70’s & 80’s), some you won’t! But what you’ll know will bring back quite powerful memories.

It amazes me how evocative music can be. When I listen to a particular track I can often be transported back to a particular event or moment. The memories are usually comforting, though there are some that are painful. But what tends to happen is that I go back into that memory with rose tinted glasses on. The past often appears better, but I easily forget the difficulties, trials and tribulations I went through. I forget the times I often said I can’t wait till .. Now much of what I couldn’t wait till…, has happened.

I guess for me the lesson is two fold.
1) Don’t wish your life away by thinking things are going to be better when! But make the most of every situation you find yourself in.
2) Don’t look back and wish you could return to when things seemed so much better. They probably weren’t, but rejoice in what you learned from them.

Jesus’s disciples were at a point like this in the time after His death and resurrection. He told them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit who would equip them to carry on the work that He had begun. I imagine it would have been quite tempting for them to look back to their life before Jesus became so influential to them. In fact there was an occasion, recorded in John 21, where they went back to what some of them knew before “fishing” and as they were fishing they had a resurrection encounter with Him. But they were not to go back. They were to keep moving forward, to keep in step with what Jesus wanted to do in and through them. Their wait was rewarded at Pentecost (Whitsun) when the Holy Spirit empowered them to go out and witness to the love and power of Jesus Christ.

We likewise, although we think life is better when we look back, have to have the courage to keep looking forward and welcome the things that God wants to accomplish in and through us. Jesus wants an encounter with all of us – are we willing to look to Him. Put your hand in Jesus’s hand and trust Him for the new thing He wants to do in and through you!!
Isaiah 43:18-19
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
(from The Holy Bible: New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society)

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Dusk on Coniston Water

The blue grey glow on Coniston Water, the twinkling lights on the shoreline and the snowy peaks of the Old Man are a feast for the eyes.  At 17:00 the sky is still softly lit and with days getting longer, relief from the dark days of winter is in sight.  Still we have to pinch ourselves that we are here, alive in God’s kingdom, where his glory shines in the hearts of men even when the sun doesn’t shine.

On an airplane in December I closed my eyes and saw visions of healing (always the colour of lapis lazuli in my head) in souls close to my heart and then I saw a throng of people as a great mass and each one of those persons had a tiny blue dot in their heads.  This lapis lazuli dot was revealed to me as God’s light in each man. Whether those men choose to acknowledge God’s presence or not, God is there.  So the world is not so black and white.  The God seed is there, it just hasn’t found fertile soil.

A continuing theme everywhere I went in December is that Christians make a lot of work for themselves and are worn out from trying to do everything.  They are exhausted.  Sometimes the stress is a burden of success like my brother who has pastored a church for so long that the younger ones are growing up, getting married and wanting him to go anywhere to preside.  Sometimes it is where congregations are losing more than they are gaining and the few doing the work are tired of doing it all.

If you were to start a new church today, where would you start? What exactly do you need to consider yourself as a church?  What is your purpose?  Who is going to help you build your church?

Some of the problems I saw in the U.S exist in this country on a more massive scale. Here, throughout the country are dotted countless churches in rural communities built during boom times and now the burden of care is falling on a population that doesn’t recognise this blue dot in the centre of everyone and everything.

Today I received a newsletter from my home church in the U.S.  Two souls just died and a family that had been a large part of the church is splitting apart – the children are moving to China and the parents are moving to Chicago.  I felt the pain of these changes through my heart.  I love these people and this church.  They have worked tirelessly through some very big changes.  The previous building was sold and they now have a profit of close to $2 million to rebuild but not enough bodies to carry the load.

Is all this work falling on blind eyes?  Do all our wails fall on deaf ears?  God has a plan and we are part of it.  Every day is a testimony to his great work.  Thankfully, Lent begins this week.  God never intended for man to ignore his natural laws in our daily lives.  In the first chapter of Genesis, at the end of every day, ‘God saw that it was good’.  We can’t live without this knowledge that what we are doing is good.  We need to hear it ourselves and we need God to tell us and sometimes that means that we need to tell others that God tells us.  This praise and thankfulness needs to filter through our very beings in everything we do.

I don’t know the answer to the problems of our churches but God does.  This Lent, let’s spend extra time just listening to what God wants.  I know what questions I am going to bring to him.  I also know that God’s plans are better than anything we can conceive.  Let’s turn it over to God and spend time listening.

So for me, whatever the weather, I am going to find more time to go outside to feel his presence in the world of creation, to study the Bible more thoughtfully, to listen to the CD-rom ‘Relaxing into Prayer’ available on this web site, to be thankful for every blessing.  God speaks and I don’t want to miss a word he has to say.

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