Living in Love and Faith Week 4: Sex

Some of us arrived at this week’s session feeling slightly apprehensive about the content of the session and what we might be expected to share! However, at the beginning of this week’s video presentation, we were reassured that no one would be asked to share anything about their experiences that we were not comfortable with.

The session began with time to think about the pastoral principle of ‘speaking into silence’ and in particular, what it is like for people whose experiences are met with silence in the church, including those who have been abused. We then watched a story film featuring Mark and Esther who shared their experiences of preparing for marriage and how they came to terms with Mark’s divorce. We then had some teaching about sex and bodies which led on to a discussion about aspects of sexual behaviour and attitudes in our culture that we find worrying and/or liberating, and what form intimacy takes in our own lives, including with God. We discussed these questions in small groups before sharing with one another some interesting issues that had arisen from our conversations.

After the group discussion, we watched a second story film featuring Andrew and Gerhard, a gay couple in a civil marriage worshipping in a church where views about same-sex relationships are mixed. They both spoke very movingly about their experiences of being ignored and overlooked by some members of the congregation but also of the way in which they had remained worshipping at the church and had found within it a good support network. This led on to this week’s Bible study on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. We reflected on the similarities that exist between Christians today and the Christians in Corinth and thought about what difference it makes to know that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. The session finished with a final time of teaching on sex and relationships and we discussed what questions other people might raise about sexual relationships that we find particularly difficult to respond to. We also thought about how, in practice, our parish shows the radical welcome of Jesus, while upholding Christian convictions about sexual relationships.

Here are a few reflections that were shared at the end of this week’s session:

‘How do we answer the questions of those who don’t share our views on sexual relationships?’

‘Work towards accepting individuals who are different; it must be acceptable in the body of the church.’

‘Try to accept each other as we find each other.’

‘I welcome open debate and the discussion of difficult issues.’

‘It’s hard to believe that the church isn’t welcoming to all in this day and age.’

‘We need a parish policy on inclusion. Need to understand how to manage ‘difficulties.’’

‘Help! Making rules and having policy is generally divisive.’

Living in Love and Faith 3: Relationships

Session 3:  Relationships
For the third session of the LLF course we looked at relationships.   The evening focused on: 

·         understanding how friendships and marriage have their roots in the Bible and Church
·         exploring different views on friendship, civil partnerships and marriage in the Church and society today
·         relating compassionately and respectfully to people who have different views to ourselves on relationships and marriage.

As for the other weeks the evening was guided by a video which tied the sections together and informed us to help with our discussions.   

We started by looking at the third pastoral principle of  the Church of England: Respect of others and acknowledging where there is prejudice.  The video explained how prejudice can make us very selective about who befriend or even accept within our church communities.  However, if we look to Jesus, we can see that he spent time with the despised Samaritans and Tax collectors showing compassion, being respectful and welcoming them although it made him unpopular with others.

We then watched a story film of a married couple, Laura and Ben, who have two  young children who shared their thoughts about marriage and friendship, especially since an illness which meant Ben was unable to use his legs and now was dependent on a wheelchair.   They talked about the changes that had happened in their relationships after Ben had lost his job as a chef and the hardships that had followed.  Laura described the friendship and help she had received from her church family.  In small groups we discussed what made a good friendship and two words in particular emerged: Love and trust.
 
The Bible study was based on the Matthew 19:1-12 which tells of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees question concerning the legality of divorce.  Over tea and biscuits, a discussion followed about what struck us about the passage  and how its teaching helped us in our discussions about  relationships and friendship. It was generally felt that we needed to consider the context of Jesus’ response and the status that many women had at that time compared to the present.  It was agreed you could not have a rule or belief set in stone especially if there was violence or abuse in a relationship, or children were not safe. Also mentioned was that some relationships just break down and people drift apart, sometimes not noticing till it’s too late.
 
The last story video introduced us to Julie and  Alice who are living together in a longstanding relationship which grew out of friendship. Both worship together at a church in our denary, Julie as a Reader (Licensed Lay Reader) and Alice as a verger and spoke of the deep love and trust that had grown between them and the extent of God’s love they felt in their lives.  A discussion followed about relationships, marriage and the church, including same sex relationships and marriage. 
 The session ended with a prayer.
 
And this is my prayer:
that your love may overflow more and more
with knowledge and full insight
to help you to determine what is best,
so that on the day of Christ
syou may be pure and blameless,
having produced the harvest of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God
 
Everyone was asked to note what they had gained from the session or their thoughts about this or future sessions or any questions they might have. Here are a few :
“ Tolerance and Kindness”
“Love conquers all!”
“Don’t know all the answers but I keep thinking…”
“The church can’t remain rooted in the past. It needs to reflect the present or it will be seen as irrelevant and left behind”
“I think that same sex marriages should be blessed by the church , otherwise they are being discriminated against. Human Rights!”
“To move forward we must redefine marriage”
“ Everybody should be able to marry in God’s house”
“Thought provoking”
 
Want to explore session 3 further? Download the LLF book* and  look at Chapters 2,3,5,7,9,10,12,13,16  and scenes 1,2  or watch Podcasts 2,9
*Resources for the course can be found via www.churchofengland.org/LLF
We now have a week’s break and the
Next session focusing on Sex, sexuality and relationships will be at All Saint’s Church Hall , Weston on Thursday 3rd March, starting at 7:30. All are welcome.

Living in Love and Faith: Session 2 Identity

This week’s session took place at St Mark’s and it was good to welcome some new people to the course. One of the benefits of the course is that each week has a different focus. So it doesn’t matter if people are not able to make every week and there is always the opportunity to catch up with the video sessions via the Living in Love and Faith website (llf.churchofengland.org).  

This week, the session was divided into three sections. In the first section, we listened to some teaching about identity via the video presentation and then we watched two story films, Alex and Jo (a married couple, Alex is trans) and Luke (who is gay but has chosen to be celibate). We then talked together about words that we might use to describe ourselves and then shared what we have learned about what it means to be human that brings us both joy and pain. We also thought about how our own church might respond to someone whose sexuality and gender identity might be different from our own.

The second part of the session involved looking at two Bible passages, Genesis 1:27 and Galatians 3:28. We reflected on how the verse from Genesis helps us to understand our different experiences of being gendered. We also discussed what it means to have a new identity in Christ that is more important than other identities. At the end of the session, there was opportunity to share our thoughts and reflections with the whole group although there was no pressure for people to say anything if they didn’t wish to.

The final part of the session involved listening to some more teaching via the video presentation about how questions of gender and sexual orientation are complex and there is still a lot of learn. In our small groups, we discussed how we understand the connection between sexuality and identity and shared some of our own thoughts and feelings about these issues. A common theme was an acknowledgement that language around gender and sexuality is often new and unfamiliar, and we might need to look up what some of those words mean!

Here are some of the reflections that people shared at the end of session 2:

‘Wonderful to have safe debates and different viewpoints, ALL accepted with laughter.’

‘I haven’t walked in these people’s shoes. Jesus help me to understand.’

‘I am learning.’

‘How can we welcome all to our church?’

‘Identity is personal but shock or surprise causes fear. Fear for the future perhaps.’

‘Accept people for who they are.’

‘Allow people to be themselves.’

‘Age affects how you deal with the issues. Younger people don’t have a problem with the issues raised.’

Living in Love and Faith Week 1

Getting Started

On Thursday 3rd  February 18 people from across the parish were welcomed to St Mark’s  Church for the first session of the Living in Love and Faith course.  Many of us were not absolutely sure what to expect of the evening!

The sessions are in the format of a video introducing the different sections of the evening, which is then stopped to allow for small groups discussions prompted by  a series of questions or for periods of individual reflection.

This week we explored what it means to learn together as  followers of Jesus, making commitments to each other which would enable a safe learning environment and ensure that everyone was listened to and had a voice.  We also were introduced to the 6 Pastoral Principles of the Church of England which we will look into more detail in each session.

After a short break with coffee and biscuits, we studied  Matthew 7:24-29 (The Wise and Foolish Builders) together and discussed what we thought it told us about learning and about life as a follower of Jesus.  The video then introduced us to people from the LGBT+ community, who will contribute in later sessions, as they gave a short insight into their experiences when engaging with church communities.  The session ended with a prayer.

Everyone was asked to note what they had gained from the session or their thoughts about the future sessions or any questions they might have. Here are a few :

“It wasn’t as scary as anticipated……”

“ A firm foundation of faith helps us to get through and overcome the tragedies of life.”

“Listen, don’t judge”

“Lots about LGBT+, what about other discrimination?”

“Looking forward to the next session…”

Want to explore session 1 further? Download the LLF book* and  look at Chapters 4,5,6,7,15,16,17  and Encounters or watch Podcasts 1,3,5 and 15.

*Resources for the course can be found via www.churchofengland.org/LLF

Next session focusing on Identity, will be at St Mark’s Church, Shavington on Thursday 10th February, starting at 7:30. All are welcome.

Living in Love and Faith

Living in Love and Faith (LLF) is a six week course during which we will explore issues relating to what it means to be human and ask ourselves the question, how we can live lovingly and faithfully alongside people whose identity, relationships or sexuality might be very different from our own? The course is open to everyone and will be a safe space in which to share, reflect and learn together. We hope that it will enable us as a parish to understand more fully what it means for us to live out our strapline ‘Sharing the love of Jesus with all.’ The sessions will last for an hour and a half with opportunity for a break for refreshments half way through. They will include videos, case studies, Bible study, discussion and prayer. The topics for each week are as follows:

DateTopicVenue*
Thursday 3rd FebLearning TogetherSt Mark’s church
Thursday 10th FebIdentitySt Mark’s church
Thursday 17th FebRelationshipsSt Mark’s church
BREAK  
Thursday 3rd MarchSexAll Saints’ hall
Thursday 10th MarchLife TogetherAll Saints’ hall
Thursday 17th MarchWhat have we learned?All Saints’ hall

Each session is stand-alone so if you can’t make them all, don’t worry. You can also access all of the resources online for any sessions that you miss. Details of how to access the resources will be shared in a weekly blog on our website (www.allsaintsandstmarks.com). If you have any questions, please speak to Rachael or Gaynor. We look forward to learning together!

*All sessions start at 7.30pm and end at 9pm.

New Lamps for Old

Two new floodlights have now been installed to illuminate the side pathway at St Mark’s church which has often been in at least partial darkness during nightime. The old tungsten-halogen lighting was installed over 20 years ago, the bulbs needed frequent replacement and the cast aluminium lamp housings had severe corrosion – see photo 1.

The new floodlights (one can be seen in photo 2) use LED technology, are energy efficient and should last for many years.

Old floodlights after removal
One of the new floodlights in-situ

Luxury Christmas Hamper Raffle

The lucky winner, Heather Trafford (left), was presented with the hamper by Elizabeth Davies on Sunday 19th December.

£234 was raised for St Mark’s New Build Fund – many thanks to everyone who supported this event and to Elizabeth who did a great job organising it all.
Our New Build plans are still awaiting attention by Cheshire East Council – watch out for further announcements early in the New Year.
The next Fundraising event is our Race Night at Shavington Club on Friday 20th May (postponed from Thursday 27th January) – more information in due course.

St Mark’s Hall Clearance

A small team of volunteers did sterling works on the morning of Saturdat 9th October clearing vegetation from the hall perimeter and tidying the storeroom.

The side of the hall had become impassable due to hedge growth and ifestations of ivy, nettles and brambles whilst the rear of the hall (behind the storeroom which had previously become the toilets and kitchen) was overgrown with ivy and had suffered from the dumping of cutdown leylandi branches and other rubbish.

The storeroom had amassed many items brought there with good intensions but which were really no longer of use. Many thanks to Sheila, Ian, Hilary, Sara and Jools who undertook the tasks enthusiastically – the hired skip was full by 1pm!

There is more to do – the rear of the hall needs further work, as does the storeroom – so watch out for requests for help from Roger in the future!