- St Catherine's Church
- Church Road
- CH42 0LQ
The vicar's letter found here is a duplicate of the letter found in our parish magazine, which is now published every 2 months instead of monthly.
Vicar’s Letter (Oct/Nov 2020)
I write this on the day that the Wirral begins a local/regional lockdown and the Prime Minister has issued more national restrictions following a concerning rise in the number of Coronavirus cases. It can all feel very unsettling. We had hoped over the summer that the situation was improving, that slowly we may return to normality. Instead, the situation is now getting worse and the country has been warned that it could be a hard six months ahead.
How are you coping with all this? What emotions are you grappling with? Fear, anxiety, anger, disappointment? So much keeps changing. You may have had to grapple with new rules in the schools your children are going to or contend with different regulations in the workplace. For some, it all feels very exhausting. There’s been “decision fatigue” as everything we used to take for granted now needs to be rethought. Or “disappointment fatigue” as plan after plan has to be cancelled.
So how should Christians cope with this? I shared with the PCC this week these verses from Romans 12:11-12 “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Ne joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer”. Indeed, verse 12 is the verse on the poster on our noticeboard.
At this time it would be all too easy for Christians to be struggling in their relationship with the Lord. But the apostle Paul encourages us to do otherwise, to remain enthusiastic about knowing God and serving him. We need to constantly seek the Lord in prayer and spend time in God’s Word. We’re not to despair in these uncertain times but instead be full of joyful hope as we have a certain future. Nor are we to panic but instead be patient when times are hard. We’re not to be faithless but faithful in prayer.
And when we look to the Lord in these troubled times we have the encouragement to look to help others too. We need to be careful that we keep looking outwards, rather than inwards. Paul notes beforehand “Be devoted to one another in love” (v10) and then adds “Share with the Lords people who are in need” (v13). Selfless, sacrificial behaviour flows out of our relationship with the Lord.
At St Catherine’s we’re thankful that we’ve continued to be able to gather for corporate worship on Sunday morning for our 11am service. We do so in line with government regulations and guidelines, with social distancing, lots of hand sanitiser and, sadly, no singing. However, we’re grateful that we can still gather together, while recognising that some are unable to do so. Therefore, are audio online service still continues, available on our website. You’ll be very welcome to come along and join us on a Sunday morning or check out our audio services.
This week Bishop Mark Tanner began public ministry as the new Bishop of Chester. We welcome him to the diocese and will be in prayer for him. In his sermon at his Crozier Service, which marked the beginning of his ministry, Bishop Mark reflected on life's struggles and reminded us that people have continually brought their burdens before God as “the one still peaceful point of calm in the midst of the storm”. He added that, “I cannot tell you what the future holds, but, as the hymn writers put it, I can tell you who holds the future. And I can tell you that if we resolve even here and now, that, at this phase, indeed for every day of the life of this diocese, we will look in two directions: at Christ and at the lost”.
Well may you and I look to Jesus in these troubled times. As our 2020 verse of the year says so aptly, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Keep on going with Jesus!
Vicar’s letter (August 2020)
I hope that in these continuous uncertain times, you may know our faithful God sustaining you day by day. As I look back over another month, I’m thankful to God for his daily kindness and grace – both for my family and for the church family at St Catherine’s.
It was with great joy that St Catherine’s was once again able to meet for a service together in the church building on July 12th, in line with government guidelines. There was plenty of social distancing and hand sanitiser but, sadly, no singing. However, it was still so good to meet together and see people once again. However, I’m also aware that at this time it’s not possible for everybody to attend a service due to their particular circumstances. It’s a very individual decision.
How do we handle that? Having two groups - those able to come and those prevented from doing so or deciding to wait a little longer - is the opposite of what we want but may be our reality for some time to come. I shared recently with the PCC and also with the church family this verse from Romans 12:15 that a friend helpfully wrote about it: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Essentially Paul is saying this - don’t let your mind focus solely on your own situation. Instead, think about what is happening to others and identify with them.
For those who have to stay home on Sundays, it may feel hard perhaps to see pictures of others together in the church building or hearing about it. But can I plead with them? Don’t let that turn into bitterness and resentment - rejoice with those who have the opportunity to meet together again. But it is also important for those of us who are able to meet not simply to enjoy that and give no thought to those who would love to be with us. That’s part of mourning with those who are mourning. We need to remember that the church is not just those who are there on Sunday. That’s why my aim is to keep doing an audio service and continue doing a video thought for the day. So that we can keep including everybody as much as possible.
Of course that verse is capable of much wider application. In church life almost every piece of good news for somebody (such as a new job, a new relationship) is simultaneously a reminder for others of what they long for but don’t have. The way through those times is for those who feel they may be missing out to look to rejoice in the blessing God has given others. Meanwhile, those who have been blessed should show sensitivity to those for whom life is tough. That’s all part of not thinking primarily of ourselves but of others. Paul goes on to say in v16: “Live in harmony with one another”.
Love for another means we enter deeply into the experiences and emotions of our brothers and sisters in Christ and feel solidarity with them. We do that because we are indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus - the one who above all else focused on others and not his own situation. So, as our verse of the year from Hebrews 12:2 encourages us, we seek to fix our eyes on Jesus - and be like Him as we respond to the different joys and frustrations that we will experience.
If you’re reading this and would like to join us for our morning service at 11am (our evening service has not yet restarted) please do contact me. I can then let you know what to expect on attending our services and the measures that everyone needs to follow. Otherwise, please do listen in to our audio services, which you can find on our website each Sunday here - https://www.stcatherinestranmere.co.uk/sermons.htm
Keep on going with Jesus!
Vicar’s letter (July 2020)
It goes without saying that these last three or four months have been very strange times, indeed traumatic for so many. Whether it’s the pain of bereavement, the uncertainty over jobs and education or the isolation of lockdown, we have all felt stretched in many ways.
Here at St Catherine’s, we had the deep sadness of the death of Tony Keating in April, through coronavirus. There is a tribute to Tony’s vibrant life and faith elsewhere in the magazine. Please do pray for Tony’s wife Christine and his children Becky and Kevin. It’s at such times that our resurrection hope in Jesus Christ burns brightly within us and sustains us in dark moments.
We have had to adjust to new ways of doing church. Of course, we’ve not been able to meet in the church building, but church life and ministry continues. Sunday services have now become audio services, like podcasts, which are found on our website, (www.stcatherinestranmere.co.uk/sermons.htm) with order of services and powerpoint slides e-mailed out. It’s been good to hear of a few people who don’t regularly attend St Catherine’s listening in.
We’ve all discovered the world of Zoom, which I certainly have not heard of before! That’s been a great way to hold meetings, whether home groups, prayer meetings, church quizzes or PCC. Our church Whats app group has been a good encouragement to many. I’ve been posting a daily video thought for the day for the group, which has then been put on our new Youtube channel. Why not take a look if you’ve not seen them yet - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVaZzgnGnggifZAZrc4wNQA
Charlotte, our young people and families’ worker, has been doing a fantastic job of keeping in touch with everyone. Whether its Youtube videos for the Cheeky Monkey or Explore groups or Zoom meetings for teenagers, she’s continued to share the good news of Jesus with all the groups.
Of course, many events and activities have sadly been cancelled. In the last magazine I was writing about the forthcoming series of evening meetings, under the title “More to Life”, organised by the Wirral Gospel Partnership. Obviously, this couldn’t continue but the speaker, Glen Scrivener, has kindly agreed to come at a similar time next year - Monday 22nd to Friday 26th March 2021.
Perhaps you’re someone who has found yourself thinking more deeply about life during the pandemic. Maybe you’ve asked yourself the question, “Is there more to life”, when all the normal activities, whether work, meeting with others, even watching football, have ceased. What is life really about? Why not take a look at this website https://lookforhope.org/ to help you find hope in these difficult days.
The Prime Minister has this week said that places of worship can reopen for church services from July 4th. However, at the time of writing (June 26th), the Church of England are still waiting for guidance from the government on this. Whenever we do reopen St Catherine’s will make sure that we comply with all the necessary guidance. We will have to adjust for a while to the Sunday morning service feeling very different. It will still be good to gather together. For those, for understandable reasons, unable to return immediately, I will continue to do audio services.
In a rapidly changing world it has been good to reflect that Jesus does not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). I hope that during these last few months of lockdown we’ve been able to take time to look to Jesus, to call out to him in prayer, to read his word. The Lord Jesus, who himself knew all the suffering of the cross, is the one who promises to be with us in distress and gives us eternal hope for our future.