Category Archives: Christ Church

The Right Rev Andrew Watson on “Hearing God’s Call”

A sermon preached on 1 Samuel 17 at Christ Church, Virginia Water, Sunday 12th October 2015 during a special Deanery service on the theme of Christian Vocation.

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Bishop Andrew Watson on Regeneration

View photos of Bishop Andrew’s visit here

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Christmas Eve: The Purpose of Christmas

The Purpose of Christmas from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Trains were humming, loudspeakers blaring, porters rushing about shouting at one another, and altogether there was so much noise that Mr Brown, who saw him first, had to tell his wife several times before she understood. ‘A bear? On Paddington station?’ Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. ‘Don’t be silly, Henry. There can’t be!” “Seeing that something was expected of it the bear stood up and politely raised its hat, revealing two black ears. ‘Good afternoon,’ it said, in a small clear voice … The bear puffed out its chest. ‘I’m a very rare sort of bear,’ he replied importantly. ‘There aren’t many of us left where I come from.’ ‘And where is that?’ asked Mrs Brown. The bear looked round carefully before replying. ‘Darkest Peru. I’m not really supposed to be here at all. I’m a stowaway.'”[1]

Michael Bond’s marmalade sandwich-loving Peruvian bear first appeared in 1958’s A Bear Called Paddington. Now the star of his very own film, Paddington, is a charming and funny adventure about a very polite and friendly orphan bear who yearns for adoption and new home in London.

At the Carol Services, we realised that we are all a little like Paddington, orphaned, lost, vulnerable, in need of adoption. But tonight, because the children should all be fast asleep by now, I want us to consider “Paddington Bear for Grownups”. Michael Bond, Paddington’s creator, says the inspiration came from seeing Jewish evacuee children pass through Reading railway station from London during the Kindertransport of the late 1930s. “They all had a label round their neck with their name and address on, and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions. So Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees.”[2]

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Ambassadors Needed

Heartened by the recent historic meeting between Prime Minister David Cameron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the United Nations, signaling a long-overdue thawing of Anglo-Iranian relations, I was delighted to attend the New Horizons interfaith conference in Tehran last week, as a member of a UK delegation.

The conference addressed issues where faith and politics intersect in the Middle East such as Israel’s war on Gaza, Islamophobia in the West as well as the rise of ISIS and those sponsoring extremism.

“There is no teleology in western society, no guiding morality, only an obsession with materialism,” argued organizer Arash Darya-Bandari. “We believe it is necessary to control the negative tendencies in culture, such as pornography, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, to strive towards a more moral and justice society.”

One of the contributors, Eric Walberg wrote, “Contrary to the shrill cries in the western media that the conference was anti-Semitic, it was unique in my experience in addressing Zionism and US imperialism forthrightly and intelligently, without a hint of racism. The issue of anti-Semitism was addressed and dismissed, as “There is no issue with Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” explained Darya-Bandari, “but rather with Zionism, that secular distortion of Judaism that itself is racist, and has been used as a pretext to dispossess and kill Palestinians.”

He went on to report, “The conference issued a resolution condemning ISIS, Zionism, US unconditional support of Israel, Islamophobia, and calling for activism locally to boycott Israeli goods and to promote understanding between the West and the Muslim world, and to fight sectarianism. “This was a great opportunity to meet anti-imperialist activists from around the world, to bring Russians, Poles, western Europeans, North Americans together with Iranians and other Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, in a forum without sectarianism, truly supporting peace and understanding,” said delegate Mateusz Piskorski, director of the European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis in Warsaw and former MP in the Polish Sejm.”

I was invited to contribute to the opening ceremony and present a biblical perspective on Jihad and in particular, a Christian refutation of the Islamic State (IS). Later in the conference I was asked to present a paper on the impact of the Israel Lobby in the UK, especially in parliament and in the media, ahead of the publication of my new book on the subject.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Ambassadors, of necessity serve in foreign countries, where perspectives may be different and at times even hostile to one’s own. But given the dire consequences of any breakdown in relations between countries, dialogue and diplomacy are always to be preferred over war and strife.

In the journal Diplomat, Michael Binyon asks,

“Are Christian church leaders becoming the world’s most active peacemakers? Only a week after President Peres of Israel and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the Pope’s invitation to pray together with him in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a dramatic flight to Nigeria to pray with President Goodluck Jonathan and encourage him to make every effort to find the schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.

The Archbishop’s impromptu trip came hard on the heels of a visit to Pakistan, where he visited a small embattled Christian community and praised their efforts to forge closer links with the wider Muslim community, despite regular attacks by militants, the threats of mob violence and the increasing use of the notorious blasphemy laws to force Christians from their land and property…

Peacemaking and reconciliation – within the Anglican Church and between the world’s main faith groups – were the declared priority for Justin Welby from the moment he became Archbishop. He is well qualified for the role. As an oil executive who visited Nigeria often before his ordination, he has seen at first-hand the conflict raging between Christians and Muslims in Central Nigeria that is now taking a deadly toll. As a former head of Coventry Cathedral’s Centre for Reconciliation, he has himself conducted delicate negotiations between militant groups in an effort to free hostages, often risking his own life.”

A walk through the deserted US embassy in Tehran last week was a poignant reminder of how a failure to pursue diplomacy has fueled not only decades of missed opportunities but also perpetuated misunderstanding and animosity between our countries.

Ironically, the leaders in Jesus day, tried to dictate whom he could and could not meet with, criticizing him for eating with “tax collectors and sinners”.  Clearly they considered his actions “conduct unbecoming” a rabbi. Thankfully for us he did not listen to them.

Critics of conferences such as New Horizons should think more carefully about how their inflammatory words will negatively impact on their own communities in Iran.

They would be better served following the examples set by our Prime Minister, the Pope and the Archbishop who, as true ambassadors, are working for peace and reconciliation.

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Harvest Festival

Why do we celebrate Harvest Festival? The Bible mentions Harvest a lot! Lets consider Harvest past, present and future.

Harvest Past – When did Harvest Begin?

Do you know when the first Harvest Festival took place?

“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” (Genesis 4:3-4)

From the very beginning and right through history, people have given back to God some of what he has given them. Harvest Festival began as a way of saying “thank you”.

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Garth Hewitt, Reem Kelani, Beth Rowley, Blake – Gaza Benefit Concert: Saturday 13th September

All funds raised will go to humanitarian relief in Gaza via Amos Trust Partners.

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Gaza Benefit Concert with Garth Hewitt and Friends

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Church Membership 6: To Give Money to the Work of Church

1101060918_400Does God want you to be rich? It’s a straight question. When Time magazine asked the question, they found, 61 percent of those surveyed believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31 percent agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.

Of the four largest megachurches in the USA, three—Joel Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar’s World Changers near Atlanta—are all Prosperity pulpits. For Osteen, the Prosperity Gospel isn’t a pejorative term: “I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy.” The pastor of the fourth largest megachurch, Rick Warren, however, sees things differently. “There is a word for that” he says, “baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty.”

Does God want us to be rich? from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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The United Kingdom: A Christian Country?

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Church Membership 5: To Receive Communion Regularly and Faithfully

When I travel abroad, I empty my wallet of all my extraneous plastic – there’s my Boots Advantage card, Tesco Club card, Waitrose, Shell and Nectar ‘you deserve it’ loyalty cards, my Starbucks, Costa Coffee, and Caffe Nero cards, my Halifax Ultimate Reward Card, my RAC members card and of course, my Wentworth Club card. Into my wallet goes my British Airways Executive Club card and my Passport. I would be very surprised if you are not and never have been a member of various ‘clubs’ at some time in your life. It may be a trade union, professional association, community group, society or charity. Membership is universal. Some are more exclusive, and more expensive than others. But what may surprise you is that ‘Membership’ is actually a Christian word.

In the letter to the Romans it is written, “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5). That means ‘the Church’ is the oldest and largest club in the world. What makes membership of the Church unique however, is this – it is granted freely because Jesus has paid the price.

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