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Thought for the Week – 13th June 2021

And so we brace ourselves for another summer of sport. Well, at least I do. Test matches have resumed in front of spectators! And then there are the Euro’s; the European Football Championship, featuring England, Scotland and Wales. Whilst it is not my favourite, there is also Wimbledon.

Sport can bring out many things in people. Some of course simply don’t see the point of it; it’s boring, it’s not important. Others find at least some aspects of it repellent; they see it as an excuse for tribalism, it encourages violence and narrow-mindedness, it has been corrupted by power and money. There is some truth in this, but it can also bring people together; I know of the emails I’ve exchanged with a colleague in Iran, discussing football as well as science; going into a bar in a country where I do not speak the language but being welcomed to watch a match on the big screen.

Oddly enough, football and cricket do not greatly feature in the Bible, but St Paul does use images drawn from athletics and boxing, the big sports of his day to emphasise the need for endurance and persistence in the life of faith. And the secular French philosopher and goalkeeper, Albert Camus, wrote “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football “. As a vicar, sport teaches me to accept disappointment and triumph as part of human life; a message that we can find in the Bible in the books of Job, Ecclesiastes and elsewhere. So I will enjoy and endure England this summer, with Job and St Paul for company.

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 6th June 2021

Thursday was an important day for English cricket; for the first time since lockdown, a test match was played in front of spectators. It was a particularly important day for fast bowler Ollie Robinson, making his debut and indeed performing well. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the news that Robinson had posted racist and sexist tweets on social media. They dated back to 2012, when Robinson was 18, but the damage had been done. He was forced into reading a prepared statement, apologising for the views he then expressed.

There are a number of lessons here. One is a warning of the dangers of social media; once something has been posted, it cannot be unposted. Robinson is not the first to be caught by this, nor will he be the last. It was appropriate that he did issue an apology; most will hope he really has changed his views. But the episode also has a warning for us, there indeed, but for the grace of God, go I. And it’s not just the thoughts I had when I was 18 that trouble me…. I really do hope that my private thoughts, my unguarded comments, those things that open a window on the parts of me I would rather not own, stay private; at least to hearers in this world. But I do need to recognise and own them to myself and to God. This is essential for my healing and repentance; God alone can transform and change me.

Gracious God, you know our every thought. When we come to you ashamed and bewildered by our private words and deeds, show us your mercy, guide us in repentance and bring us to new life. Amen.

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 30th May 2021

This week, I’ve been on a curate training day which looked at the role of prison chaplains. For me, prison means “Porridge”, the sit-com from the mid 1970s, recently rerun on the TV channel “Yesterday”. It is set in the fictional Slade Prison and stars Ronnie Barker as Norman Stanley Fletcher, “Fletch”, a middle-aged career criminal, a man, who in the words of the opening lines of each episode, accepts prison as an occupational hazard. Barker considered this to be the best series he ever starred in and as a teenager I recall it being one of the highlights of the week (let’s face it, there wasn’t much competition in Highley in the mid 1970s…). Of course, it reflects the language of its day; “gay” had an entirely different meaning and “BAME” had not been invented. Those easily offended by words may find it difficult viewing at times. However, I would respectfully suggest that if that is the case, they are missing the point; I think the series is underlain by morality that is highly Christian.

The comedy works because of the sense of comradeship between all the characters. The gay prisoner and the black prisoner are accepted for who they are by their fellow inmates. The prison officers, even the strict Mr Mackay, are also shown as being part of the same community as the prisoners. And at the centre of the series is the relationship between Fletch and first-time prisoner, Lenny Godber. Fletch becomes a mentor to Godber, helping the young man to survive his incarceration. But Fletch himself is also changed by the relationship; he is prepared to give up his own prospect of early release to stop Godber from imperilling his parole, he forgives the judge who sentenced him and he eventually rejects his previous life of crime.

There is a sense that Porridge is really a story about rebirth; it is what resurrection looks like. The series is not overtly religious; Barker was a humanist and I have no idea about the beliefs of the writers. But if you want to know what it means to be born again and live in the Kingdom of God, even if you call it something else, this series gives you some powerful pointers.

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 23rd May 2021

Drawn to my attention by Sue Bates from Billingsley; a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah. The title says it all; very apt as we come out of lockdown. You can read it below, but why not the follow the link to hear the poet recite it?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uHHjAsPbLc



People need people,
To walk to
To talk to
To cry and rely on,
People will always need people.
To love and to miss
To hug and to kiss,
It’s useful to have other people.
To whom to moan
If you’re all alone,
It’s so hard to share
When no one is there.
There’s not much to do
When there’s no one but you.
People will always need people.

To please
To tease
To put you at ease,
People will always need people.
To make life appealing
And give life some meaning,
It’s useful to have other people.
It you need a change
To whom will you turn.
If you need a lesson
From whom will you learn.
If you need to play
You’ll know why I say
People will always need people.

As girlfriends
As boyfriends
From Bombay
To Ostend,
People will always need people-
To have friendly fights with
And share tasty bites with,
It’s useful to have other people.
People live in families
Gangs, posses and packs,
Its seems we need company
Before we relax,
So stop making enemies
And let’s face the facts,
People will always need people,
Yes
People will always need people.
(Benjamin Zephaniah)

Rev David Poyner

Thought for the Week – 16th May 2021

Nature, man and the Governor

On Sunday, we had a joyful Rogation Sunday service in church. Rogation Sunday is a time when we remember the fruitfulness of the earth and pray for the fertility of the land and animals. On Sunday we went outside the church to bless fields and farm, sheep (and Rosie the dog), wild flowers and trees as well as all those who care and tend animals and crops. And we sang a hymn! And today (Thursday), we were told that Billingsley has got the Eco-church bronze award. Eco-church is promoted by A Rocha UK, to encourage churches to remember the environment; what vicars call “creation” and most other people just call “nature”. The jargon does not really matter; take a look at A Rocha’s website (ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/ ) if you want to know more or pop into the church to look at our new information panel on wildlife and the churchyard.

Rather appropriately, just after we got the news of our award, I said Evening Prayer and found it included Psalm 8. This sees the whole of the world/creation/nature reflecting God and it points to our special place in the world. The writer of the psalm talks of us having “dominion” over fish, birds and animals, which does indeed reflect our power over them. It is interesting what is not said in the psalm. The people of the Old Testament were very aware that they did not have dominion over many things in the natural world; the weather, earthquakes or indeed plagues of locusts. We can add to that Covid-19. The writer of Psalm 8 is very clear that God is the ultimate governor, not humanity. We can join with the author in rejoicing at the natural world, reflecting on our unique position but using that power to ensure that we conserve, not destroy and to show humility and wisdom when dealing with natural processes over which we have no dominion.

Psalm 8
O Lord our governor, how glorious is your name in all the world!
Your majesty above the heavens is praised out of the mouths of babes at the breast.
You have founded a stronghold against your foes, that you might still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have ordained,
What is man, that you should be mindful of him; the son of man, that you should seek him out?
You have made him little lower than the angels and crown him with glory and honour.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands and put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen, even the wild beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea and whatsoever moves in the paths of the sea.
O Lord our governor, how glorious is your name in all the world!

Rev David Poyner

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