This Sunday

This week we see the end of British Summer Time, the clocks go back, we have an extra hour in bed (if you are not at the sleep over!) and the mornings are lighter. This Sunday’s service is an all age worship and, continuing our series on Romans, Richard Barton is going to share some thoughts on Romans 7:15-25 and Luke 18:18-23.

Just a thought on British Summer Time:

When told the reason for daylight savings time, the old Indian said, “Only the government would believe that you could cut the foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom of the blanket, and have a longer blanket”


Sermon by the Rev Bob Brooke 22nd October 2017

Notes from the sermon by the Rev Bob Brooke on Sunday 22nd October 2017

Romans 6:20-23
John 14:1-7

Many years ago, long before I got into any official kind of ministry among people with learning disabilities, my wife and I were friends of the then newly formed L’Arche community in South London.  L’Arche is a Christian organisation that welcomes people with learning disabilities and others to live together in community.  These days the L’Arche community in South London is quite a big organisation but then it was just one house where about eight people with learning disabilities lived together with some young people who assisted and supported them.  One of the people who lived there was Little Brian – he was called that because there was another Brian living there – Big Brian.  Little Brian was about 4ft 10ins tall.  He had spent most of his life in a long stay hospital.  He couldn’t see or hear very well and only spoke a few simple words.  He enjoyed playing bongo drums.  Meal times were always important in the house and Little Brian’s contribution to them was to ring a hand bell very enthusiastically with a great big smile across his face to announce to everyone that the meal was ready.  One night, totally unexpectedly, Little Brian died peacefully in his sleep.  The whole community gathered round his bed next morning with candles and flowers and prayed and sang for him and with him.  It was a time of great anguish and great sorrow for everybody there.  It was the first death that had occurred in that little community and they were going to miss Little Brian very much, and yet there wasn’t a feeling of gloom and despondency, but rather a sense of peace and contentment.  John, another man with learning disabilities who lived with Brian, he tended to just sit quietly taking everything in and then occasionally would make some profound comment ….. as the hearse was taking Brian’s body away and everybody was waving goodbye, John said “Have a good time in heaven, Brian, see you there”.  Despite their sense of loss and sadness there was peace and contentment in that community because it was all very natural – there was no fear.  Brian’s death was sad, but his friends had a deep sense of faith and trust that whatever was happening to Brian and whatever was going to happen to the rest of them in this life and afterwards, they were all safe, secure in the hands of a loving caring God.

In his Letter to the Romans, Paul invites us to make a choice between life and death.  Paul tells us that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  When he says “the wages of sin is death” he’s not talking about some sort of punishment but observing that a life spent pursuing our own selfish desires and needs and neglecting other people inevitably leads to a kind of self destruction.  Paul talks about sin as something which enslaves us, something that can take over people’s lives and control them.  Paul says if we chose to sin, then what we have chosen starts to take control over us.  He says we’re not free to choose this or that or the other for now and then tomorrow choose something different.  What we have chosen has power over us.  Every time we choose in favour of one thing we choose against another.  What we choose today controls us and directs us and will make it hard to choose differently tomorrow.  But Paul reminds us of the Good News that God chooses us and frees us from the power of our other choices and enables us to choose again, to choose God and turn our back on sin.  He invites us to choose and to go on choosing God over sin, life over death.

I started by telling a story about a death.  If we choose life, if we seek to live a fully authentic life, we have to take death seriously.  Etty Hilesum was a young Jewish woman who lived in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation.  Many Dutch Jews were sent to the Westerbrook transit camp and many of them went from there to their death in the extermination camps.  Etty was a member of the local Jewish Council and sought to care for those who had been sent to Westerbrook.  By her vitality and warmth and compassion she became a source of life and hope to others.  She was eventually put to death in Auschwitz in 1943 when she was just 29.  For the last two years of her life she kept a diary and wrote many letters.  I want to read you something she wrote about life and death.

“I have come to terms with life…  By “coming to terms with life” I mean: the reality of death has become a definite part of my life; my life has, so to speak, been extended by death, by my looking death in the eye and accepting it, by accepting destruction as a part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or the refusal to acknowledge its inevitability.  It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life, we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life, we can enlarge and enrich it.”

(Etty Hillesum: An Interrupted Life, the diaries and letters from Westerbrook)

So choosing life means taking death seriously.

I was a great fan of the long running BBC comedy programme “Last of the Summer Wine”.  The actor Bill Owen who played Compo the scruffy little man who always wore wellies – Wellington Boots – Bill Owen died in the middle of the filming of a series.  The producer and writer of the programme decided to incorporate the death of his character Compo in to the programme.  They called the episode “Elegy for Fallen Wellies”.  They managed to combine a sense of sadness and loss for the actor as well as the character with humour and some serious theological insights.

Truly and Clegg, Compo’s friends have not been able to sleep and have gone out for an early morning walk on the moors where they had often walked with Compo.  They see the sun rise and Truly says “Do you think the dead ever see a sunrise?”  Clegg says “Yes I do, actually”  “Even those who don’t get up very early?”  “Even them.  Maybe that’s what Paradise is – a place where the sun doesn’t come up until you are ready.”  “You think he was heavenly material do you?”  “Certainly.  To be as little children – that was him.  Never lost it did he?”

Nora Battye, Compo’s next door neighbour and the love of his life was talking to Edie, played by Thora Hird.  Edie asks “Did he go to church?”  Nora replies “Well he used to go on Remembrance Sunday.  He never missed a Remembrance Sunday.”  “Well that’s not exactly a season ticket, but I expect there’s room for a few cheap day returns.”

I remember at the funeral of another man with learning disabilities, a man called Nick, the minister leading the service referred to the words of Jesus in John chapter 14 that we heard earlier  “in my Father’s house there are many rooms”.  The minister said “God has prepared a special room for Nick in heaven – a room with his name on it.

There’s a song we sing at some of the services with people with learning disabilities that goes:  “There is room for all in my Father’s house, where there’s joy, joy, joy.

Later Jesus said “If you know me, you would know my Father also”.

The late David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham used to have a very simple kind of credal statement:

God is

God is as he is

God is as he is in Jesus

Therefore we have hope.

Jesus shows us that love is at the centre of the universe – that the whole creation and everything in it including you and me was brought into being as an act of love.  This means that the last word is not with corruption and death and nothingness but with love.  I believe we can trust in God who having allowed us to find the meaning of life in his or her love and forgiveness and to be totally dependent on him or her for our very existence will not then at our death destroy that meaning or take away that existence

This Week: 23 Oct – 29 Oct

Mon 23 – Sun 29 October One World Week
Mon 23 October @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 24 October @ 7-9pm Bible Study at David’s house (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 25 October @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Wed 25 October @ 7-9pm Theology Night at AH vicarage – a walk through the Bible
Thur 26 October @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Thur 26 October @7-9pm PCC Meeting at Andrea’s house
Friday 27 October @8pm Bengali Bistro at Rainbow Junktion Cafe – book your ticket!
Saturday 28 October 6pm onwards Movie and sleepover night to celebrate All Hallows’ “birthday”
Sun 29 October @2am British Summer Time ends and clocks go back an hour – an extra hour in bed!
Sun 29 October @10.30am
Sunday worship
Sunday 29 October @ 4-6pm Sacred Wing rehearsal

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

One World Week 2017

This coming week, 22nd-29th October, is One World Week. The theme this year is “Good Neighbours – My World Depends on Us” and explores how we can become good neighbours locally and globally. Why not have a look at their website and the resources they have made available to help us discover more about being good neighbours.

This Sunday

This week we welcome back Heston and Lydia from their trip to South Africa to see Heston’s family. Ease them in gently! Heston will be presiding at our 10:30am service and we welcome the Rev Bob Brooke who will be sharing his thoughts about Romans 6:20-23 and John 14:1-7

Sermon by Jan Betts 15th October 2017

Readings: Romans 5:1-11 and Mark 10:17-22

Holy spirit may all that I say and all that we hear lead us closer to Jesus.

Sarah’s lovely introduction to Romans last week told us that Paul was writing this letter to a church which was divided. It was divided between a group who thought that salvation came from obeying the law, as good Jews in Jesus’ tradition did, and those gentiles who thought that obeying the law, especially being circumcised, wasn’t necessary for salvation. Paul hasn’t met these people but he wants to try to sort out this dispute. So the letter he wrote to the Roman church, like the letter to the Galatian church in Turkey, was all about the question of what is the place in the life of those of who follow Jesus of non negotiable rules dictated by church authorities? Does that sound familiar? Are we ever oppressed by rules? I grew up with no putting on swimming costumes in the garden on Sundays…seems unbelievable now…but the principle was good, about making the Sabbath different. We have other rules now which may seem equally ridiculous in due course.

Let’s bring Paul to life. As Sarah indicated he was a passionate man and a clever privileged man. Those two things don’t always sit easily together. He could be bossy and opinionated, and pretty demanding. And he did things with enormous energy and conviction and love for the people he was engaged with.

Two huge things drove Paul. One, in the early part of his life, was his upbringing as a Jew, as a dedicated keeper of Jewish law. He was happy to hunt down and kill the Jewish Christians who were preaching against the Law as the one way to reconciliation with God. Does killing because you think you are right sound familiar? Obeying the Law was a tough call but if that’s what it took to be right with God Paul would do it. Like my silly Sunday rule what Paul was trying to do was good; he wanted to be right with God through obeying every law from Leviticus to Deuteronomy. That was exhausting: every day you were riddled with guilt and hatred and superiority towards those who argued against you. But what Paul knew very well, what we all know and what he argues here in Romans 1-4 and in Galations, is that keeping a set of rules is impossible. Rules are only there to keep all our base human stuff of jealousy and egotism and revenge and selfishness and laziness at bay, to let us live together in some way as human beings. We all disobey them, jump the traffic lights, whatever but they hold society in check. They don’t make us happy, or give us a reason to look forward to the day, they work to make us guilty.

The second absolutely related thing which drove him, the crossroads of his life, is when this all got blown away on the road to Damascus when Jesus met him and challenged him and blinded him and turned his life upside down. What he found there was an overwhelming freedom from all that bigotry in a God who was love, and who brought salvation through faith not the law to everyone. You can’t get much more upside down, nor can you eat much more humble pie than Paul had to do. Paul’s utter conviction about faith in God’s love being the way to reconciliation, his great goal, let him do some remarkable things. One of these was to not be ashamed, as Sarah told us last week. Paul wasn’t ashamed to say he’d been wrong! I’m reminded of people coming out as gay – learning not to be ashamed is hard.

This root of Paul’s passionate conviction about faith in the redeeming love of God as the only way, has to be in our mind as we read and understand his words. It’s of huge importance to us too as we examine our own inner convictions or hidden assumptions about our faith, for ourselves and others. What do we think is ‘necessary’ for us and others to do in order for God to love us and others? Only faith, says Paul. Will that shake us too?

Such faith is what brings us peace, the peace and joy which Paul never knew as a law keeping Jew. We too can be at peace with ourselves before God because God has accepted us just as we are through our trust in Jesus. Paul rejoiced for his whole life in his release from law keeping. Who, he asks, would die for a righteous man? Maybe someone…but Jesus died for us while we were still rebellious and uncaring and selfish and failing to keep the law. No more retribution, says Paul, skipping with glee and joy, no more of that thing I used to dread and used to hand out to other people in spades. Yes we have to keep the commandments – but we do it from love not from fear.Jesus challenged Paul on this but he challenged someone else. 

 READING Mark 10 17-22

This young man was loved by Jesus but it wasn’t enough. He knew how to be restrained and follow rules. But when Jesus challenged him by saying that’s not enough, you have to leave all that privilege behind and become totally dependent on me and the grace I bring you, then this lovely young man went away sorrowful because he was very wealthy. God isn’t viciously full of demands, except that we accept the love which Jesus shows God has for us and trust him and act accordingly.

And so says Paul, we have hope, hope which comes pouring into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Such a hope! Hope is in short supply often but we have it through our trust in Jesus through whom we are reconciled to God. We don’t have to earn it, just believe it.  

This hope leads to rejoicing. We rejoice in God’s glory and in our salvation through faith in Jesus.

But then there’s the tough bit, the bit where Paul has a flash of the old self. His nature is extreme – he never does things by halves.

Paul says we rejoice in our hardships, because they build us up and give us a ‘tested character’ . Paul knows this from the inside. He’s been through such a lot, but he rejoices in it because that’s the walk with Jesus. It’s not fluffy joy, it’s utter conviction that we are inseparable from the love of God in Jesus.

Rejoicing in hardship sounds like very muscular Christianity and I need to say that I know much less of physical hardship than many here, but there is a deep truth in what Paul says about perseverance. We lay the spadework of our faith each day, and I have challenged myself through this sermon to think how I can find something of God, find God reaching out to me, in each day. We are such poor creatures of our wills and bodies: we don’t do what we know we should and our bodies betray us very often. Habits are a good thing when we are troubled, habits of prayer and habits of knowing what our trust is based on, of rejoicing in the solid fact of our salvation. When tough times come the habits of trust can count for much. I’m reminded of Maximilian Kolbe who volunteered in prison under Hitler to die for a young man who had been chosen for a retributive starvation group – and how he kept the faith in sharing Jesus with the rest of the group. There were many people who died for their faith in the early church as there are now and we need to pray for all those threatened for their faith, for them to have an upholding knowledge of God as Paul outlines it here. What are our habits of meeting God each day?

We don’t need to be people of great saintliness. We just need to recognise and be thankful and acknowledge that God is with us in the frantic rush and mess of our lives. It may be a quick prayer for strength or patience or for someone you meet or remember, but Paul is saying that as we consciously bring the hardships to God it encourages us to see God at work, and to remember that however tough it is God is there at work in us by the spirit. It’s not Pharisee stuff, making a song and dance: it’s just each day recognising that like it or not – and we should like it! – God is with us and we can act in ways which reflect the love of Jesus. I recently was worried about my son and as I was praying for him I found myself saying ‘you love him more than I do – can we do this together’. Our great gift of God’s love expressed in Jesus happens all day, every day.

So we have faith in the one who died for us, who calls us like Paul to an overwhelming joy in our salvation through faith in him.


This Week – 16 Oct – 22 Oct

Mon 16 October World Food Day
Mon 16 October @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Tue 17 October @ 7-9pm Bible Study at David’s house (07930 815911 for further info)
Wed 18 October @12-2pm OWLS lunch
Thur 19 October @10-3 Rainbow Junktion Cafe
Sun 22 October @10.30am Sunday worship
Sunday 22 October @ 4-6pm Sacred Wing rehearsal

See our calendar for more details of what is happening at All Hallows’

Bulletin 15th October 2017

Bulletin 15th October 2017

This Sunday

This Sunday, at our 10:30am service, we continue our series looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans. This week our very own Dr Jan Betts will be looking at Romans 1 and the readings will be Romans 5:1-11 and Mark 10:17-27. And we will be welcoming Rev Hayley Matthews to preside over our communion service.

Romans 5:1-11

Mark 10:17-27

Sermon by Sarah Derbyshire 8th October 2017

Romans 1:14-17​​

Mark 8:27-end

Today marks the start of a new preaching series for us. Last week we finished Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and today we’re set to dive into Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans!

Martin Luther wrote a whole preface on this letter, stating that “the letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament” that it is “the purest gospel” and that it is “well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word, but also to occupy him or herself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul”.

Luckily for you, I’m not going to make you memorize this letter word for word like Martin Luther recommended we should all do, however, if you should wish to take his advice, then I definitely won’t be the one to stop you. Instead, we’ll be taking the easier root, and introducing ourselves to one of the longest and most significant letters written by Saint Paul.

Saint Paul was a Jewish Rabi belonging to a group known as the Pharisees, and was formally known as Saul of Tarsus, who was passionate and devote to the Torah and the traditions of Israel. The Pharisees, along with Paul, saw Jesus and his followers as a threat, and this was so until Paul had a radical encounter with the risen Christ who commissioned him as an apostle.

Paul, consequently, travelled around the ancient Roman empire, telling people about Jesus and forming his new followers into communities and into Churches. It was these communities he would occasionally write letters to, helping them foster their faith, answering questions and telling them what they were doing wrong… and the book of Romans is one of these.

Despite Paul’s seemingly natural ability to create multiple Church communities, the book of Acts, chapter 18 tells us that the Church in Rome had already existed for some time, and that Paul had never actually been to Rome when writing this letter. We know that the Roman Church was originally made up of Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus, that the Roman Emperor had expelled all of the Jewish people from Rome, and that 5 years later the Jewish community returned to Rome, and upon arrival found a very non-Jewish church in terms of custom and practice.

So, by the time Saint Paul writes this letter, the Roman Church was divided, people disagreed on how to follow Jesus and tensions grew between Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Christ. In writing this letter and in giving his fullest explanation of the gospel, and of the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection Paul wanted to make this divided church unified once again.

Both of today’s readings talk about being or not being ashamed. In Romans 1:16 Paul, very early on in his letter writes “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

And in Mark 8:38 we see Jesus telling his disciples that “Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”.

The dictionary tells me that to be ashamed is to be embarrassed or guilty because of one’s actions, characteristics, or associations. It is to be reluctant to do something through fear of embarrassment or humiliation.

Being ashamed is a unifying factor, not only between these 2 texts, but also between human kind. Each and every single one of us experiences shame. It is a part of human nature that begins very early on in life, and stays with us until death.

In today’s 21st century capitalist, materialistic society, where the media seems to dominate pretty much everything, we’re often ashamed when we don’t have the latest smart phone or when we don’t have the latest designer clothes that are in line with the latest fashion trend.

In a society that tells us to reach targets and to compete for the best grades, we’re often ashamed when we don’t do as well as our fellow students at university, or when we make a mistake in front of our colleagues.

Sometimes, it’s not what we’re ashamed of, but who we are ashamed of. Most children go through a stage where they are embarrassed of their parents. My Dad was a taxi driver for most of my teenage years, and he’d often park his taxi right outside the house where the party I was at was taking place, and beep the horn as to catch my and everyone else’s attention, and consequently embarrass me in front of all of my friends and peers.

Shame is a part of the human condition and the very nature of human personality… but, what does Saint Paul mean when he talks about being ashamed of the gospel?

Well, the other day, I was in a bar in the Student Union meeting with one of my friends. She’s on the committee for the Christian Union, and I’m the president of the Student Christian Movement… so naturally we ended up talking about our faith. Half way through the conversation she said to me “Sarah, are you ashamed of being a Christian?” to which I replied “no, I love telling people I think I have a calling to the priesthood, I love sharing my faith with others”. The point she was trying to make and understand was that her evangelical church and the Christian Union she’s very much a part of are always out – whether that’s in the city or on the university campus – telling people about the love of Christ and the good news of the gospel… and when she looks at the Student Christian Movement and the more liberal and progressive Churches which I would naturally identify with, she never sees that evangelism in action – therefore, she had concluded I must be ashamed of the gospel.

I spent most of my weekend trying to think of a way I could best communicate that I am not ashamed of being a Christian and that just because I don’t stand in the street telling people about Jesus, I’m not embarrassed by my faith in the good Lord. Just when I was about to call it a day, the Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell tweeted “we think of evangelism as one big scary thing. But it could be hundreds and hundreds of lovely little achievable things”.

So, to take a step back again, when we are ashamed, we are often embarrassed or humiliated by someone, something or ourselves, and we want to keep what has happened secret. If this is so, then the opposite of shame is pride. When we are proud of ourselves, someone or something, we want everyone to know, we want to spread around the good news.

Maybe, then, the answer to my friends question in the Union Bar when she asked me whether I was ashamed of the gospel and of Christ because I don’t act in a similar way to her, is that, for me, I show pride in the gospel through my actions, whether that is through ethical consumption, campaigning for what I think is right and by showing people how I try to live in a Christ like way.

So, to summarise I’ll use a very well-known quote from a particular favourite saint of mine, St. Francis of Assisi – “Preach the gospel always, and if necessary use words.”