The Revd Cath Atkinson, Minister of Ormskirk Street, Haresfinch and Rainford United Reformed Churches, has written some prayers and reflections for the season:
As we come to this
And see you
Riding into the seat of power
In apparent weakness
You must have known
what was to come
Things. Slow. Down
And I observe your patience
Allowing each day to evolve
In its own time.
Moving slowly and steadily
Towards the cross.
How tempting to take action,
To take control
To speed things up or influence
And yet you held back.
You walked the way
Step by step
Towards the day of suffering
Towards the cross.
We praise you Lord
For your deep love -
Not taking control
Allowing each day to unfold
Moment by moment.
Thoughts on leaving
Loving Lord Jesus
In your final days
And in times of quiet contemplation
Were there ever moments
When you were sad to be leaving?
When you looked around
Your beautiful world
And remembered dear friends?
When you reminisced
About fond landscapes
Dear people and places
And wished it were not to be?
And yet out of love
Was your intention
At such a cost.
Not chosen foolishly
Or stupidly stepped into
Through ignorance or thoughtlessness
From a place of deep love
Love which encompasses each of us
Which embraces the whole world.
Such a painful parting
So sad to leave
And yet you bore it
Because of love.
Thankyou dear Lord.
Good Friday 2020
As the time of the Passover neared
You too must have felt a sense of foreboding
Knowing what was to come
Even as you made the practical arrangements.
You too took comfort in a circle of loved ones
As you shared one last supper
With your friends
Bread shared like your body broken
Wine poured like your blood shed
The place where you knew fearful anguish
Sweat like drops of blood
Hoping the cup might pass
But in trust, accepting the will of God.
And after Gethsemane
You were seized and led away
Accused, and mocked, and beaten
Left punch drunk and weak
Brought before Herod then Pilate
Jesus or Barabbas
A choice is made –
who lives and who dies?
And an ordinary man is chosen to help carry your cross.
you carried our cross
You showed us the labouring of death
The work of being crucified
While others died alongside you.
And yet even then you promised -
‘Today you will be with me in paradise.'
And finally, at the end
In greatest weakness but greatest glory
You could whisper
'It is finished…'
Missional Discipleship Enabler Stuart Radcliffe recommends two options for Lent.
Cris Rogers' Apprentice to Jesus book is an ideal 40 day guide featuring a daily question, Bible passage, thought and application. See the intro video here:
Or Andrew Roberts Holy Habits: Following Jesus looks at Jesus from the wilderness to Easter day, including readings from Luke, prayers, reflections, discussion, worship material and take home ideas. You could even join him for an online homegroup from 16 February.
Steven Mitchell, Children's and Youth Development Officer, also has a great resource recommendation. Walking towards Easter together is a Lent resource for churches to give to students, seniors, households and families to reduce isolation and offer hope in these challenging times. This was produced by the same team (Children's and Youth Work) who produced the very popular advent box last year. You can find out more information about the box at the link below.
Steven has purchased a number of these boxes, so if you need any, please do get in touch with him before buying from the URC website.
This Walking the Way resource has five different sections which cover the four weeks of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love,
and then on Christmas Day itself, Christ. Each part offers a Bible reading, reflection, prayer and activity
to help you on your Advent journey. Download the pdf here
Ideas for Christmas 2020
Read through these great ideas for
celebrating Advent and Christmas in church and community – shared over Zoom by
around 50 people from URC’s Yorkshire Synod and Mersey Synods.
They conform to social distancing requirements and all safety and legal requirements should be adhered to.
Don’t try them all! Pick out the ones that work for your church in your community.
Please be aware of issues of consent and personal data sharing if you are putting things online or on social media.
Hold a Zoom Prayer Room and encourage as many people as you can to attend.
Send Christmas cards to people – church members, friends, relatives, neighbours – and put a prayer slip inside for prayer requests that can be returned to the church.
If you’ve got room outside your church, put up a prayer Christmas tree on which people can leave prayers. Useful resources, including perspex baubles, can be found at Baker Ross (www.bakerross.co.uk).Give out prayer ribbons and ask people to tie them to your prayer Christmas tree.
Hold a nativity trail which finishes at your church and includes prayer stations.
Set up prayer stations around the outside of your church.
“Love Life, Live Advent” provides resources aimed at young people –
Give away Christingle kits so that families can make their own Christingle at home.
Dependent on guidelines at the time, you may be able to hold a Christingle in church – with take away kits – and perhaps you could film it for those not able to attend.
Get imaginative with a Posada! Share photos or pictures on social media of Mary and Joseph looking for somewhere to stay as they travel around your community.
Share you nativity scenes on social media – building up your scene day by day. Put them on display in your household windows. Figures can be knitted, fabric, painted – they can be anything – the more varied the better!
Hold a nativity trail in the windows of local shops and businesses. Families can photograph themselves at the different places. Prizes for completing the trail can be picked up by arrangement.
Nativity Plays – just need a bit more imagination in 2020!
Record your nativity play online – either on Zoom or filmed in section in houses and then edited together. Show in church or online.
Does your church have windows which face onto busy streets? Use them for an Advent calendar – put up a picture each day culminating in the Nativity scene on December 24.
Do you usually have a Messy Church or Junior Church? Make Advent craft kits or Advent activity bags for collection, or delivery.
CHURCH, CHRISTMAS AND COVID Facebook group (which includes a good ‘Lockdown Nativity’ script) https://www.facebook.com/groups/951188848699906/
Post Christmas cards to your local community – with a message that Christmas is still happening.
Put knitted angels, and other Christmas tree decorations, on your church gates and invite people to take them home for their Christmas tree or hang them on a Christmas tree in your church grounds. Top Tip! Don’t put them all out at once as they will soon disappear!
Engage with local schools – knitted or fabric angels and knitted hearts along with the message. “What can I give Jesus? Give him my heart”. Jesus pegs made out of wool with the message “Keep Jesus safe this Christmas” and an invitation to photograph the peg in safe places and post on social media.
Engage with local shops and businesses to participate in an Angel Trail or Christmas Treasure Hunt. Each venue to have a picture or scene and an anagrammed or otherwise scrambled Christmas message (eg Joy to the World, Love Came Down at Christmas).
Work on your ecumenical relationships and look at doing more together with partner churches in Advent and Christmas and 2021.
Ensure you connect with everyone who comes to your church or who has contact during the week via activities, whether church related or not. Be ready to take up requests for help as people are often more ready to connect at this time of year.
Make sure your church looks “open for business” even if the doors are locked now. Use your church grounds, church windows, church railings, church lights, church Christmas tree, church notice boards. Make sure your church is giving out the message that ‘We are here and we are celebrating Christmas’.
Send/deliver Christmas messages/cards to people who use the church, as well as church members, to reach out and maintain the relationship – ‘We haven’t forgotten you and we are still here’.
Socially distanced carol singing – outdoors in church grounds or at the end of the street.
Leave things that people can take away – in the church grounds, or on a Christmas tree or on church railings – angels, Christmas tree baubles, chocolate coins, knitted nativity figures, knitted animals, prayers, prayer request cards.
Collate the Christmas greetings of your church friends and members and circulate on paper (newssheet, church magazine) as well as electronically.