”Put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”
The vicar's view
This week, I shared Holy Communion with a church-family member who has lost most of her mobility. 'How does being unable to leave the room affect your faith?', I asked. She responded straight away: 'If it's the Good Lord's will then I will get through - he gives me strength". What a testimony from this precious saint: sometimes... most times... sometimes all the time, our calling is to "stand firm" (Eph 6.14), especially in those times which are darkest - in the wake of grief, trials, and bad news. If a church can stand firm in faith when it is dark, then they can truly be a vessel of God's light.
This is the message we receive in this season of Remembrance, in which the symbol is the lighted candle, and in our preparations for Advent when we remember that in the darkest moment, Jesus dawned as a new light!
Remembrance of God's faithfulness renews our future hope. This year, we have seen many dear friends pass away; we marked this with a special service for All Souls in which we remembered "those we loved and our Lord who loved them most". Over 50 candles were lit (representing 50 people who are now with the Lord) and seeing them together with the watching the gathered congregation, it reminded me that we are never alone. Each soul is called into life and on from it by a merciful God, and he puts us in a church family to walk through each stage of life.
We celebrated our big church family at our All Saints service too. Although we are the 'Saints on the Rise', we are not on our own, but part of a huge family of brothers and sisters, and a cloud of witnesses from all over the world,. We celebrated our unity with worship, puppets, and by baptizing Lexi and Emani into the family of faith. They are now commissioned to go forward their whole life-long witnessing to the light of Jesus, just as we all are
Our final service in this Remembrance season is a traditional service where we take a break from out usual patterns for Remembrance Sunday. We think of those who sacrificed everything to seek peace and to pray for peace. This is a moving service and I pray that it will be a blessing.
There comes that point each year where we realise that Christmas is coming! For Christians, this season of 'advent' comes at the darkest time of the year and we take the time to still our hearts and worship. It also means preparing to welcome many guests into the light, love and welcome of the church. How can you help us prepare? Well, come to the Christmas Craft Fair on Saturday 2nd December, and consider helping at a stall or baking a cake. Invite people to the Carols by Candlelight (17th December), and why not join the choir and sing (join the rehearsal by clicking here).
Christmas can also be a tough time for those without housing or who cannot afford the luxuries we expect. We hope to be a host as a part of the Brent Winter Night-shelter and to distribute many care packages through the 'Love Christmas' project. Keep listening for more information because these projects involve all of us. I can't wait to enjoy a full St Mark's Christmas experience this year and I hope you are excited to be a part of it.
My main emotion this month has been thanksgiving. It is a joy to serve in a church where people love each-other and are so committed to play their part. I have been unwell and was incredibly sad to miss the Light Party, as well as a Sunday, but watching the online service, seeing photos and videos from the Light Party, and hearing testimony from the monthly prayer meeting, I was so moved by how many people stepped up to help and by how impactful these events all were. I can't wait to be there next time!
Thank you to all who take the time to serve our children and youth and become role models to them; thank you to those who are walking with people who have lost loved ones and helping them find their feet; thank you to all who are using their leadership gifts to get us ready to Christmas with 'Love Christmas', the Christmas Craft Fair, and the singers all getting ready; thank you to the pray-ers who are gathering weekly, monthly, and holding all of us up in prayer. It has now been 3 months since I joined the Church, and I have glimpsed the Kingdom of God here as we serve together.
United with God all things are possible! Let's stand firm together as we celebrate that the light has come!
With grace and love,
What's going on in November?
THIS SUNDAY, Traditional Remembrance Sunday Service with kids groups
DEEPER: This month's Worship and Prayer night is Sunday 26th Nov 7-9pm
SINGERS NEEDED: Traditional Christmas Choir (Thursday 9th & 30th Nov, 7pm at church) and Gospel Choir (Thursday 23rd Nov, 7pm at John Keeble School).
CHRISTMAS CRAFT FAIR: come, but we need help!
look after a stall
bake a cake
forage for wreath-making foliage!
The first time Rachel and I came to St Mark's church, I peered through the glass doors and wondered why the worship leader was wearing a hat and winter jacket while playing guitar. When I came inside I realised why! We received a very warm welcome but the Church was freezing! More recently, I was told by a PCC member that "the church has been cold for over 20 years", and others have admitted that they stop coming to church on the coldest days. I would like to see this fixed before we endure another 20 winters!
This Sunday when you come to church, you will see 2 temporary infra-red heaters near the front of church. Our aim is to fix 8 infra-red heaters to the columns of the church before Christmas. We have been advised that our current radiators on the edge of church will never be powerful enough to heat the middle of the nave, and so they need extra support. Infra-red is a good solution because it is cheap (3x cheaper than gas), environmentally friendly (10x less carbon than gas heaters), and simple to install, simply needing electrical wires.
We do, however still need to fund-raise to buy and install these 8 heater-units. This should be between £12k and £18k. We are therefore starting a 'warm-welcome' fund to look for donations and small grants to install these heaters this December. If you believe that everyone deserves a warm welcome at church, and if you would like to modernize our beautiful building, then please do donate to this fund.
The welcome Rachel and I received at St Mark's that first time in January was one of the big reasons that I applied for the role of Vicar. My hope is that we can continue to offer warm hospitality in God's house all year round. Thank you for partnering in this and please pray for God's grace as we implement these changes.
Mission Partner Update: There is Hope Malawi
There Is Hope is a Malawian non-governmental organization (NGO) providing refugees of Dzaleka refugee camp, as well as their Dowa host community, with access to education and income generating activities and strengthening their spiritual well-being. Their vision is to see them escape poverty and become self-reliant. They are one of our 7 mission partners and here is their latest update:
Good news Story: Pasco, the Genius!
Pasco is a form three secondary school student. He passed the 2022/2023 National Junior Exams with flying colors! Not just a cliché; he managed to get six As and five Bs. Yes, eleven distinctions in all the eleven subjects that he sat for. Rwandese by nationality, Pasco arrived with his parents at Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi in 2016.
There is Hope awarded him a scholarship in his first year of secondary education. “The scholarship helped me with school fees and groceries that my parents would not manage to get for me. We have also been assisted by the Education Coordinator with guidance”, Pasco says. He plans to get good grades in form four and go to the university to study medicine.
“My father died in 2018 at Dzaleka Refugee Camp with unknown sickness. I didn’t know what he was suffering from. Therefore, I made up my mind to become a medical doctor so that I should be helping people like my late father”.
With the support of There is Hope, Pasco’s dream of becoming a medical doctor is now within reach. He is grateful for the opportunity to pursue his education and hopes to make a difference in his community by providing much-needed medical assistance. By offering his services with warmth and compassion, Pasco aims to address the nutritional needs of his family and the medical needs of his community and honor the memory of his late father. “What do you like most about the scholarship?”
We asked him. “The scholarship has provided me with financial support, which has alleviated the burden of tuition fees and allowed me to fully focus on my studies The mentorship program is also great as I have been able to meet with mentors who guide us. The program has helped me with ideas on how I can pursue my career goals. Additionally, the mentorship program has not only connected me with experienced professionals but also given me valuable insights and advice that have shaped my academic and personal growth”