The speaker was Pat Riches – an old friend and member of the branch – she came to talk about the Sycamore Tree Course.
There was a reasonable number of members at the meeting, which began with a short service led by Dorothy as Carol was away for quite some time in “foreign parts”. Val led us in some lovely prayers.
Pat began her talk be saying that she did not believe that punishment alone works – people need guidance to start a new life once released from prison. She did add that there are however evil people in this world whose behaviour can never be changed.
Pat is a volunteer on the Sycamore Tree Course at Thorn Cross Prison. The Course is faith led and all the sessions are based on the story of Zaccheus, a tax collector working for the Romans. (Cheating the people, he climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus as he was not very tall. Jesus called him down and went to his house. Eventually Zaccheus paid back all the money he had taken to line his own pocket.) The six sessions include talks, television and video clips, and small group discussions.
The people within each group try to explore the wider affects of their crimes, e.g. how whatever they did impacted on their victims and their own families. Some members of the groups are required to join the course as part of their sentence.
Pat had felt drawn to do something outside the church and prison work appealed to her. Gail Miller, who was our curate and is now a prison chaplain, may well have had a hand in this choice!
By the time the lads, as Pat referred to them, reach week six, they must complete a form of apology to their victims. They may write a letter, create a carving or paint a picture, to show their remorse.
There are some good outcomes as a result of the Course. One young man addicted to heroin had no idea of the harm he had caused, but eventually he was released from prison and went on a course of rehabilitation and he is now working as a Rehabilitation Officer himself!
Pat spoke about many individuals and her passion for the Course is amazing. We wished her well with her future work on the course.
Mothers’ Union is always pleased to welcome new people joining or coming to meetings as visitors.
Important jobs are best done alongside colleagues.
For my first two months I have led all of the services and preached all of the sermons at St Luke’s (with the exception of Pulpit Swap Sunday). It has been helpful for me to learn St Luke’s foibles quickly. It has probably helped regulars to get to know me a bit more quickly. But I am pleased that the ministry of the Word is being shared a little in the coming months.
Not only will guest clergy like Rick Gates help out when I am away. But most encouragingly, there are three people within our congregations testing a calling with us.
Tim Fryer has been a church member for quite a few years, and a churchwarden for several. He has led a Housegroup for a while and in January led a 10am service and preached at an 8.30 in order to help us discern a call to train as a Reader.
Yvonne Janvier moved into Holmes Chapel last year and joined our church in November after an active up-front leadership role in her previous church. She has joined the choir, become a sacristan, and been a regular at each of our three weekly congregations. Having attended a Diocese of Chester day in January on the options for licensed ministry, Yvonne was encouraged to consider Reader ministry. We have started to discern a call through her assistant leadership of the Christianity Explored group and intercessions plus preaching at the midweek Communion service.
If the PCC supports their applications, Tim and Yvonne will be interviewed in the late Spring by the Diocesan Team in charge of Readers’ ministry. If successful they will start two years’ training in September, which will include a placement at a contrasting CofE church not too far away. We have appreciated the valuable contribution of Reader ministry in the past and it would be great to have good Readers sharing in leading services, small groups, and preaching God’s word in the future.
In addition the diocese has referred to us a potential ordinand in the early stages of preparation for a National Selection Panel. Lee Hardy (together with his wife Liz) has been with us since December having moved nearby and decided that St Luke’s is God’s place for them. From January Lee has been on placement with us, testing his suitability for ordination in the CofE. I am pleased to be his placement supervisor as well as to welcome them as two of the several new members we have been glad to receive in the last few weeks.
It is the season for building a team of those with the gifts and character to share the ministry of God’s word.
Jesus had a unique ministry, but he also trained others to share the work of spreading the Word and taking authority in spiritual/pastoral matters. He put a lot of time and effort into training the 12 apostles. They became effective teachers and evangelists and church planters. The twelve apostles appointed seven deacons in Acts 6, in order that the ministry of the Word would multiply again. This is a healthy Biblical pattern.
Multiplication of good ministries helps the church to grow. This is particularly true of good ministries of the Word. So may the Lord give us good growth in fruitful ministries.
It is not just me who could benefit from team mates in the Lord’s work. There will be several other ministries in St Luke’s which would benefit from newcomers added to make a great team.