Love, Faith and Faithfulness: walking together into 2021

How are you feeling as we enter 2021 as a church family?  Full of hope or rather anxious?  However you feel, we know that the Lord is with us and He has gone ahead of us, showing us the way forward into the new year – a year which promises to be full of new learning and new growth.

Lent Programme – Faithful God, Faithful Church

The new school term coincides with the season of Lent, a time when we ask the Lord to reveal to us what is in our hearts and how He wants us to grow more like Him.  This Lent, Jamie and I have sensed that the Lord wants us to grow in two fruits of the Spirit in particular – the Fruits of Love and Faithfulness  – and growing in these areas will require us to step out in faith.

Have you ever had a Family Meeting? 

A time when you gathered as a family to discuss plans, make decisions or try to find solutions to problems?  This Lent is going to be a bit like doing St Nic’s Family Business as we ask the Lord to show us what’s really in our hearts – the good, the bad and the ugly – ask Him to pull out some weeds and co-operate with Him in growing more of the fruit of love and faithfulness in our lives.  We will be starting our  Lenten teaching  a little early this year as the ‘Faithful God, Faithful Church’ programme lasts 8 weeks, rather than 6.

At times it will be challenging.  We may have to confront our own sin or disappointments – but thanks be to God, thorugh Jesus sacrifice on the cross He has provided free forgiveness and has promised to cleanse us from all sin.  At other times we will be challenged to step out in faith in ways we have not done before.  And at other times we will just need to keep on doing what we have been doing – what Eugene Peterson called ‘a long obedience in the same direction’.  That can be a challenge in itself.  Yet the Lord doesn’t ask us to do anything He isn’t already doing for us daily , over and over again – and Jesus is our model.  Learning to love and be faithful like Him is going to be a wonderful adventure!

Get Involved!

Church membership can be a little bit like a gym membership.  We join full of good intentions but we often do not make the most of the opportunities afforded. In order to grow together as a community, we need everyone to be involved wholeheartedly.  We recognise that in our framework for the community. We aspire to Bless abundantly, Belong wholeheartedly, Believe increasingly, Behave with integrity and Become Good News. We don’t want to be merely hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word too – and not just a few of us – but all of us!

We would like to encourage everyone who considers St Nic’s to be their spiritual home to do the following:

  • Attend a Sunday service every week of the ‘Faithful God, Faithful Church’ teaching series, starting on Feb 7th and culminating in Easter Week. The family service will be following the same theme each week as the 8 am service.
  • If you are unable to attend a service each week, listen to the sermon that you have missed on line.
  • Do the Faithful God, Faitihful Church Study Notes each week either with a St Nic’s small group, a spouse or a friend.  These notes and exercises will be much more productive if done in conversation and prayer with others.
  • Take time to do the personal reflections and responses each week in order to effect genuine change and/or perseverance in your life.

Does that seem like a tall order?  Well the good news is, if you commit to each of these you will have your Lenten Disciplines all worked out for you!  And what’s more you will have a family of supporters walking the same path with you, praying and encouraging you along the way.  And, if you ‘drop the ball’ one week, just pick yourself up and get back on track, with no judgement or condemnation.  We’re in this together – all hopefully trying our best, but none of us yet perfect.

For Parents and Children

An information and activity pack will be available by February 7th so our younger members can put some of our learning into practice too.  These will be available on the table in the church building. Please ask Amelia if you would like it emailed to you.

I want to end with the famous words of the Three Musketeers – “All for One and One for All”!  Let’s aspire to love and faithfulness that brings that kind of unity among us at St Nic’s!

With love

Verity and Jamie

The Two Wings of the Church

Taken before Covid restrictions.

(Please note the picture above was taken earlier in the year before COVID restrictions applied- it illustrates studying together in groups.)

Last Sunday we completed our teaching on the Armour of God. It’s His armour and He gives it to us.

However, that does not mean we now park it and forget all about it. Armour needs to be put on. We can readily incorporate this in our daily prayer as a helpful spiritual discipline. Combine that with the Lord’s prayer and you have a whole pattern of prayer to draw upon. As we explored at our 10 am service there are significant overlaps. This next three weeks we are following the lectionary and then beginning our series on the ‘God of Joy’ starting October 18th.

Thanks to those of you who have already given us feedback on the Armour of God series. (18 families so far on the 10 experience) along with informal comments along the way. We appreciate all of you taking the time to do this. There were many encouragements and some things to explore further.

If you did not participate in our group bible study written to support the sermon series on the Armour of God, you can ask Amelia via stnicholasminster@gmail.com. If you want to explore the teaching more fully our bible studies really are helpful in this. Working through a study with others brings alternate perspectives and insights.

When we think of our community life and learning together, my hope is that we understand our Sunday gatherings are only one part of our discipleship. We encourage as many of you as possible to join a small group as this is where we explore the teaching more fully, build closer links with one another and bless each other. Small groups and congregational gatherings are the two wings of the church. If you cannot commit to a small group, it may be possible to form a triplet. Do talk to me more about this if it interests you. We also need to consider our emerging youth and how we can support them in small groups in the future. Please pray about this with me.

Pray for all our families on holiday. Please uphold Alf, John, and I as we prepare for our diocesan synod. Pray that we will be a diocese that remains in step with the wider Anglican communion and faithful to His word. Remember it’s in prayer that we stand together, in Christ and see His kingdom come.

Shalom, all,

Jamie

The Truth Sets Us Free

This Sunday is week 3 of our series on the Armour of God. We are thinking about the belt of truth with John bringing the teaching at 8 am. I am aware that people are listening in from other churches and you are most welcome. If you have missed previous weeks, our website recordings are available to you under the sermon tab.

As we have the children with us each week at our 10 am family service, we are presenting some of the same teachings in two quite different ways! Last week Verity had us putting on the helmet of salvation with the words,

“I belong to God – God keeps me safe

I am a child of God”

1 John 3: 1

The first challenge in our spiritual battle is on our identity and standing. Jesus experienced this in his time of testing in the desert before beginning his ministry. This morning we are considering the belt of truth which is the antithesis of all that the devil brings. From our gospel reading today Jesus describes him as,

‘the devil…..a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’

As I continue as a disciple of Jesus I am still growing in my understanding of His teaching and the truth that is in Him. As I do that I am knowing by experience greater freedom just as Jesus says in John 8: 32. One prayer for us all this week could be that we would be a church community that knows the truth in Christ and grows increasingly in His freedom as the beloved sons and daughters of God.

Shalom,

Jamie

The Armour of God

This Sunday we begin an 8-week series on the Armour of God. Tragically, conflict is part of our world and the scriptures give us a ‘behind the scenes’ explanation and understanding of this. Scripture also tells us how God works to overcome all evil. Genesis 3: 14-15 frames the conflict where enmity is placed between the serpent and the descendent of Adam and Eve. We know this is fully realised in Jesus. (1 Cor 15: 20-21) It is Jesus who reveals the nature of the conflict in more detail and exposes the usurper the devil. Jesus goes on to disarm and expose him (Col 2:15), overrules him (Eph 1: 20-23), masters him (Phil 2: 9-11), and ultimately renders him powerless (Heb 2: 14-15). John declares ‘the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8).

The fall that occurs in Genesis is form our position in relationship to God, angels, including the devil and the creation. The fall exposes us to the lies and deceit of satan, his accusations and desire to destroy all that is good. In Christ we regain our standing and God given authority to partner with Him in pressing His victory increasingly on Earth until Jesus’ final triumphant return.

As we looked at last Sunday with the parable of the weeds, there is a reason for the in between period from Jesus’ victory on the cross and the final renewing of the heavens and earth and destruction of all evil. This period is time for people to be restored in relationship to God, born again into his family and enabled to live as His body on Earth. we form a ‘triumph’ for Christ Jesus.

Bible study notes will be made available each week for our groups and anyone else in our community who wants to lay hold of this teaching and apply it. There are of course overlaps with some of the teaching we brought in our ‘Living Free’ course. The most significant thing I have realised in my preparation is the corporate nature of this warfare and that the sphere is primarily in prayer. Paul clearly declared our battle is not against ‘flesh and blood’, yet that is how we tend to think. In fact our battle is spiritual and in the heavenly realms. I am looking forward to sharing it with you and pray this will be a further equipping of our community in realising God’s kingdom in us and through us into Australind and beyond. To God be the glory.

Please read through the scriptures I have referenced here. Pray for all of us as we work through this teaching that we would be lay hold of it. If you cannot be with us in person, listen to the teaching online if you can. it is important for us as a community going forward.

Shalom as always, Jamie.

Chaplaincy Catch Up

Greetings fellow St Nicholas-ians! Thank you so much my lovely church family and wonderful sister & brothers-in-Christ for your patience and understanding as I’ve journeyed through this process—the initial part, until my appointment at a school, waiting to be informed of what and when I could do things and let you know.

The role is so much bigger than I thought or anticipated, not only at the school but also with the connections to the YouthCARE District Council (of which our own Jan Capp is a rep) and with the church community, all of which has been made a little more challenging with the current pandemic. However, God is gracious in surrounding me with support in all areas and in reminding me that it is still early days. The need is big, but our God is bigger!

I love my role as a Chaplain at Parkfield Primary School on Tuesday and Thursdays. I am now fifteen weeks in and things are settling into a lovely routine. My key roles are; providing pastoral care for students and staff; supporting and building upon our existing Virtues and Wellness programs and providing a link between the school, the community and local support agencies. I have always had a heart and love for others and pastoral care. As many of you know chaplaincy too has always been a focus of mine, although  I thought it was to be a support person with prayer and fundraising or donations! The main message(s) of our training were: we are called and equipped—we are appointed and anointed; we are the most valuable resource, and be you. As most of you who know me would know the ‘be you’ part I can’t help but live out and the being called and equipped is the ‘wind in my sails’! I do know that I am called and equipped and know when I have my eyes set on God I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

YouthCARE’s theme this year is to ‘be Peacemakers’. This follows their previous themes of being a ‘light on the hill’ and ‘salt of the earth’ people. We have been celled to reflect the light of Christ by living out our lives with hope and, in our encounters with others, through our words, actions and deeds, to demonstrate peaceful confidence as we go about engaging with all in our school communities. I pray as I answer God’s call that I may be an encouraging peacemaker, an instrument of peace, looking at everyone through the eyes of Jesus and all in God’s strength and in, and for, His Glory and that everyone sees Him in me and my actions. I am so grateful for you all, for your amazingly insightful words for me, your encouragement of me and mostly for your love of me just as I am, and that is what I take with me. I would appreciate your prayers, especially on Tuesday and Thursday,  for me to ‘walk the talk’ and ‘practice what I preach’ through God’s strength and with His Holy Spirit breathing through me—especially on the ‘tricky’ days and with the ‘tricky’ parts.

Blessings to you all, Jo xox

Rick’s Testimony

I must admit, I entered the Alpha course with some apprehension considering that it would be done in the isolation of our own homes, online! Most courses I have been on or facilitated involve a heavy bias towards interaction and the fellowship of being together. These fears soon dissipated with the warmth of the people involved and the excellent way that Jamie and Verity ran the sessions.

There was a good mix of people in different stages of their journey with Christ. The course material is very well structured. The initial meeting focused on the solid foundation of belief. I found the presentation of the history and supporting evidence of the Bible and the session “Why did Jesus Die” particularly compelling.

The narration from Nicky Gumball and his team is uplifting. This is followed by testimonies by some incredible people. They ranged from hardened criminals that had turned to Christ to personal prayer friends of the Pope! The common thread is the love of Jesus and you could see the gentleness and warmth these people exuded.

I highly recommend everyone to participate in an Alpha course, whether you have been involved with church for a number of years or just a few weeks. I am looking forward to my renewed journey with Christ. God Bless. ~ Rick

News From Our Youngest Members

How our families continued in their relationship with God over the Covid isolation period – Melissa Cahill

Hello to all the members of St Nicholas. I have been asked to collate some of the Home Godly Play experiences of the families from St Nics with young children during the COVID isolation. As much as we were unable to connect at Church and at Godly Play, we still continued some form of Godly Play within our families at home. We wanted to share some of the activities we did with all of you, so we can continue to feel connected as a Church Family, even though we haven’t all caught up in person yet!

Leading up to Easter, although it was quite sad knowing we would not be able to attend church, it was also a little easier to arrange Godly Play with my family, as it provides a clear platform for our readings from the bible and enacting out the stories. Our first attempt was a little disorganised, though having a bit of a perfectionist personality, was more about too high expectations! Emily and Imogen were so excited to set up our Godly Play area. We set up candles on a plate on the floor, had my laptop ready to play worship songs the girls knew from school (YouTube is great for this!). The girls grabbed barbie dolls for our enactment of the bible story. We used a children’s bible so the girls could read from it easily. We also had a cup ready with water and rice crackers to do our own little ‘feast’. We said the Lord’s Prayer and then each of us said a prayer for our family and the community. I found it easier when we had set roles, everyone wanted to do everything the first time, which was too much. So we started with having set roles for the reading, the story enactment and also the asking questions about the story. My girls loved organising the Godly Play, which included, making more appropriate clothes for their dolls, dressing Jesus and the donkey, and making props. They also relished each having a lead role in the Home Church.

Emily & Imogen Cahill

We also added from Verity’s suggestions and Carol’s, lighting coloured candles, and placing the various items such as the palm cross in the centre of the plate of candles. We also included standing in a circle, placing a hand on each others’ shoulder and saying a personal prayer for that family member at the conclusion of our Godly Play. Even though it was a difficult time, it’s been lovely to see my children’s development in their understanding of God and understand how they relate to Jesus.

Lighting of the coloured candles

Other families participated in more structured Home services, such as the online Zoom church services provided by a few other churches, which meant they could see other families and share a spiritual connection via online video. The Elliott family watched a lot of online ‘Bedtime Bible Stories’ which they found entertaining and perfect for primary and older age groups.

Karen and Logan enjoyed using the children’s Examen in the ‘Pray as You Go’ app. They enjoyed incorporating the Examen at the dinner table or as part of the bedtime routine. Karen and Logan explained how they loved the simplicity of the app and found the daily reflection helped them to focus on God and how he had worked in their day. Karen expressed how ‘it had been a great springboard into other conversations about school, their needs and wants and what was important to them’. Karen included the app which you can download from the App Store or access the website https://pray-as-you-go.org/.

Karen also described ‘how they held a special blessing for their puppy ‘Jack’, the newest member of their household. They lit Logan’s baptism candle as a reminder to him of God’s light and that we are responsible for looking after God’s creation. They sprinkled water on Jack to bless him from his dog bowl to remember that water is vital for God’s creation’. Karen and Logan described this as ‘a very memorable ‘service’ and one they won’t forget as a family’.

Karen and Logan’s newest addition – Jack

The Lotufo family read Bible story texts and watched YouTube videos of Bible stories with a discussion afterwards as part of their Godly Play at home. Julieta provided one of the stories here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYO_382TpCc the YouTube story on The Good Shepherd which she recommended to watch and discuss.

Julieta described Levi’s two favourite stories.

  • The Easter Story – the story of Jesus dying and being resurrected and what this means for us today – His great sacrifice, which shows God’s love for us. They also discussed the bread and wine and what this means and why we partake of them. Julieta explained, “Levi does not like the part in which Jesus is arrested by the soldiers, he thinks this is ‘bad’ and would like to stop them from taking Jesus. However, Levi knows that happens next and the outcome. He likes the part in the story in which the tomb is empty and understands that Jesus has risen to heaven”.
  • The second favourite story is David and Goliath. Julieta expressed, “Levi has a great interest in how David was able to defeat Goliath with only the use of rocks.” She explained, “they begin the story by talking about how God looked after David and received God’s favour”. Julieta added, “I secretly think he likes the story because a giant was killed by a boy who used rocks instead of the swords that the army had. Every time we read this story he always says that if he had to fight a giant he would do the same thing – I do love how his little mind works. Only 5 years of age and such innocence.”

So as you can hear from our stories, we have all found a way to continue our relationship with God and share this with our families. It has been a wonderful time for sharing and interacting together and gaining a greater insight into how our children are building a relationship with God and learning from them.

Emily’s and Imogen’s Barbie dolls dressed up for Palm Sunday, with Jesus on the donkey.

Surrendering my prayers to Jesus during Isolation

Dear friends,

I would like to encourage everyone to consider sharing some of their isolation experiences. Today I will set the ball rolling.

I have been blessed in many different ways. I’ve shared with you before the wonderful results since I started surrendering my prayers to Jesus and asking him to take care of everything. Last month, I was praying for Kelvin who had throat cancer. He wasn’t eating and was rapidly losing weight. I told him that I was surrendering him to Jesus during my daily prayers. he’s not a believer but thanked me anyhow. Then, out of the blue, he told his wife that he fancied a lamb chop. It was grilled and cut into the smallest pieces and he got it down. Since then, his appetite has returned and he’s put on weight. Last week, he was told that the cancer has gone and that they don’t need to see him until six months time!

Another friend who had survived prostate cancer was told he had pancreatic cancer and the prognosis was very dire. He had no idea that he was being surrendered to Jesus everyday, but the cancer has miraculously disappeared. Thank you Lord!

My sister, who had sunk so low into depression that she had convinced her family and herself that she was dying, has been reading the daily Novena and surrendering herself to Jesus. She has since completely recovered. her husband mocks my claims of answered prayer and attributes her recovery to the drugs, but I tell him the doctors were guided by the Holy Spirit.

 Our friend, Patricia, sent me a chain mail with a difference. I was asked to send a poem or story to the name at the top of the page. I thought of a short poem exchange I had with out second son who was meddling with drugs nearly forty years ago. I sent it and the stranger responded saying, “it was inspiring and deserved a bigger audience”, so here you go! I wrote,

Moth dancing around a flame 
Fascinated, flirting with death 
Don't ask me to join your game 
Don't ask me to watch you play 
But when you've had enough 
Come home 

The blighter cheekily answered his distraught mother,

I don't want to cause you pain
To see the tears etched on your face
One day I will find my place
And when I do I'll shout Home Base

Thank God he did, and is now a wonderful self-employed family man.

Love and Blessings,

Betty

Monday Fellowship Group

We are a diverse group of men and women, mostly mature Christians, who meet each Monday to study God’s word. Our studies are based on prepared courses covering six weeks. The topics vary; some compiled by Jamie and Verity, and some adapted by Jan Capp.

Discussions are open and all members are encouraged to express their opinions. I sometimes have to close and discussion continue over afternoon tea.

When we started studying ‘Being Together’ the Roman Catholics in our group were concerned that it might be Anglican centred but we have all found the topic interesting and thought provoking.

We are aware of the evil of gossip, as against open discussion of concerns. Our group has developed into a  safe place where people feel free to raise matters of concern.  Free discussion with fellow Christians can be helpful in many ways.

Once a matter has been brought to light and viewed form different angles it may be proven to be unworthy of concern. Shared discussion may produce a solution that can be taken further.

Of course we need some wiser, mature Christians in our group to see that discussion doesn’t slip into gossip. We have those people. Next term we will be studying ‘Living Free’. We would love for you to join us.

Blessings,

Betty Frost

A Holy Lent

Last Wednesday we marked (literally with ashes) the beginning of the season of Lent. There is a lovely phrase in the service where we encourage one another to ‘keep a Holy Lent’. Holy means set apart for a special, sacred purpose.

If you have been around St Nic’s for a while you will know that the purpose of taking seasons of focus in the church year is to realise God’s grace in our lives. We bless and receive blessings, we belong to Christ and to one another, we grow in our renewed belief, we see our behaviour change and participate with God for that transformation. As we live this out, we become increasingly the person God intended. Paul describes the process of putting of our old natures and putting on our true, new nature in Christ. This idea of putting something off is what lies behind the notion of denying ourselves certain things in order to develop certain things. Eg. take Facebook off your mobile phone and limit your social media to your laptop to create more mental space and time for a bible app a verse a day or simple prayer. Or just space!

If you live in solitude most of each day perhaps it’s putting on an additional social activity, joining a St Nic’s small group, visiting the craft group or serving at Little Lambs or in the Op Shop. Feel free to munch as much chocolate as you like. What is a Holy Lent between you and the Lord this year going to look like?