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Last Sunday Pastor Nathan began a mini -”open-ended” - series looking at aspects of prayer with the purpose of motivating us to pray both individually and corporately, encouraging us to be a church that prays together. Nathan pointed out that 1. the Spirit of God is the source of Christian prayer - for instance helping us to overcome distractions and focus on prayer. 2. Salvation is a prerequisite of Christian prayer - we can approach God because of Jesus, our Saviour. 3. Sanctification is the prompt for Christian prayer - Peter reminds us to be holy so that Jesus is revealed in our lives for the glory of God. 4. The scriptures are the foundation of Christian prayer - the bible guides us re what and how we should pray.

Now that the festive period is well and truly over, all our usual activities have started up again with the addition of an exciting new one -

Mainly Music - for pre-schoolers (and parents/carers) is on Thursday afternoons at St Bridget’s from 1.30 pm. Please see our facebook page or our website for further details.

News from St James & St Philips - Epiphany

Despite the foul weather, both the 9.00 service and the 10.30 All Age Service were well attended at St James. However, at the beginning of the service, Anne felt obliged to announce that the St Philip’s afternoon Communion service would not take place as there were SEPA advisory notices on some of the roads in Catterline.

Anne’s theme for this week was ‘The Epiphany and an all-inclusive church’ and what follows is largely taken from her address. On Wednesday of this week we began celebrating the Epiphany – and in this case it was about the arrival of the three Kings from the East who came to worship the Christ whose star they had seen. We had moved the models of the three kings up to the Bethlehem scene where they joined the shepherds in adoration of the Christ child. Traditionally in the Western Church – that’s us – we celebrate this event and call it the Epiphany. However, Sunday was designated ‘ the Baptism of Christ’ – when the voice came down from heaven with the message ‘You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased’. .And that is also an Epiphany. Epiphany means ‘showing forth’ or manifestation. It is about the significance of Jesus, his importance. In our church liturgies, we celebrate these two important events – but there are others – some say the wedding at Cana was also an epiphany, showing Christ’s god-given power in a domestic scene.

So what I have to say today is based loosely on some of the traditional readings we hear at Epiphany. Today we read in Acts how Samaria – where the Samaritans come from – had accepted Jesus – and Peter and John were sent to them to pray with them and baptise them. They had been set aside, ordained, to carry out this work in an area that had previously been loathed by the Jews. Then elsewhere in Acts we can read how Paul and Barnabas were sent to be the active branch of the church in the eastern Mediterranean. They were sent by the church committee – the equivalent of our Vestry, or the PCC in other branches of the church. The church committee of that day comprised Barnabas – a Cypriot by birth; Simeon called Niger and Lucius of Cyrene and almost certainly black. Manaean, a member of the royal court of Herod – not to mention Paul himself, a short dark Mediterranean type from Antioch – Jewish, but Greek-speaking and a Roman citizen.

What this points to is the way that even from the beginning the church encouraged all sorts and conditions of people to join their ranks and to take office as ministers and evangelists. The church was all-inclusive. True, it is a pity that half the world’s population is not more represented in the history of the early church, as it appears in the Bible but I have a theory that this is more to do with the editorial policy of the later emerging ‘official’ church.

And what about women – it is a disgrace that women have been discriminated against in terms of ministry until very recently – and still are in the largest branch of the church. Yet Paul relied greatly upon women to assist in his ministry – in Romans he commends several women as ministers of the church, including Prisca, Phoebe, Mary and others.

The fact is that in the church today there is no room for any of the –isms that we are plagued with: sexism, racism, snobbishness, genderism (if that’s a real word) and of course, ageism. The problem is that once we plonk a label on a group of people, we have an expectation that they will behave in a particular way – and this is how social divisions are created.

Now Jesus was not like that. Even from before he was out of the cradle, the first to become his worshippers were a group of shepherds – of whom I spoke last week. Generally discriminated against by the regular synagogue-goers. Then there were the foreigners – the wise men from the east. From where? Pakistan, India – I don’t know. Maybe Syria or Saudi Arabia. But they were there.

And think of those who Jesus helped, touched, spoke with, partied with indeed.

Women – he was best-friends with Martha and Mary of Bethany. He healed a woman with a menstrual problem, raised a girl-child from the dead. The sick – people who were poor and outcasts because of their illness – the mentally ill – he sat and talked with a man who was out of his mind. People suffering leprosy. Money-changers and financial advisers – who seem to have been just as bad as some of the bankers of today. And despite their reputation as religious hard-men and hypocrites – the Pharisees. Remember his friend Simon, AKA Lazarus who was dying from leprosy and he raised him from the tomb – a double whammy, a Pharisee and a leper! – and then at the end, it was another Pharisee, Joseph of Arimathea who give his tomb for Jesus to lie in.

I am sure that Jesus would approve of an all-inclusive church such as ours and would want us to continue to act in the spirit of reconciliation to root out the kind of hypocrisy that discourages certain sorts of people from becoming our members or leading worship or taking office.

Now I could go on about the different kinds of prejudice and the harm this does in our society. But rather I want to finish with a quotation from the writings of Pastor Reinhold Neihrbuhr reflecting on the Nazi pogroms.

First they came for the Communists. But I wasn’t a Communist so I said nothing. Then they came for the Jews but I wasn’t a Jew so I said nothing. Then they came for those of mixed race, the gypsies, and the Jehova’s witnesses. But I am not one of those, so I said nothing. If they come for me, who is left to speak up on my behalf.

Dunnottar linked with South

Welcoming everyone to morning worship at Dunnottar Church last Sunday, Reverend Rosslyn Duncan wished those she had not yet seen a very happy New Year. In her all age address she spoke to the children about their names. She explained that their first name was specially chosen by their parents, and would be the name they would be known by throughout their life. A middle name might be a relative’s name and then the Family name followed.

When Jesus was baptised the Holy Spirit descended upon him and a voice from heaven said ‘this is my dearly beloved Son, who brings me great joy.’ When babies are baptised we ask the Holy Spirit to bless them. We are all unique to God and special in his eyes. As the children left for Sunday school, Rosslyn gave them a large poster with a drawing of God’s hand on it. She asked each one to write their name on it as a reminder of God’s love for each.

In her sermon, Rosslyn reflected on Jesus baptism and she described the difference between a Christening and a Baptism. Traditionally children, especially very young babies, were christened quickly after their birth, when infant mortality was common. A christening simply means giving a child a Christian name. Sometimes they were given the middle name of a saint. Baptism is a sign that Christ himself has come amongst us.

In Baptism, the symbolic sprinkling of Holy water from the font depicts Christ descending into the river Jordan and rising again – a foreshadow of what he would do when he descended into the tomb signifying death for us, then rising again on Easter Sunday. Christ doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves. Baptism is becoming part of Christ and him being part of us. During a Baptism we ask for the blessing of the Holy Spirit. We talk of the Holy Spirit being sealed in our hearts and we are part of Christ forever.

Activities have started up again after the break over Christmas and New Year. The Bible Appreciation group met on Monday afternoon, the Guild held its first monthly meeting of the year on Tuesday evening of this week when the speaker was Frank Dunn, who spoke about his visit to India and the monthly whist afternoon took place on Wednesday, all in St Bridget’s.