Tag Archives: Christ Church

Pentecost Baptisms at Christ Church

On Sunday 31st May, six members of Christ Church family were baptised. Check out the photos and video. Or watch it here…

Baptisms at Pentecost: Sunday 31st May 2009 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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Building Community to Defeat Extremism

Remember that phrase in the film Miss Congeniality when all the beauty contestants are asked what is the one most important thing our society needs? They all reply “world peace” and the crowd cheers ecstatically. What is your wish for Virginia Water in 2009? Sounds a little more specific than your hopes for the entire world doesn’t it?

Focussing on Virginia Water moves us from generalities to responsibilities, from what we hope others will do to what we can do. And sometimes it only takes one person’s initiative. I hope you too were inspired by PC Elaine Bryant’s initiative to get the first ever Virginia Water community Christmas trees up. I kept thinking two things – first, why hadn’t we done it before and second, see what a person with vision and determination can achieve in a few weeks to bring us together.

OK, we are only talking about two Christmas trees with lights for heaven’s sake but that is not the point. Judging by the hundreds of people who turned out on a cold wet evening, including families with small children and senior citizens, to sing carols, drink mulled wine and eat mince pies and ginger bread men, perhaps PC Bryant’s initiative struck a chord in a lot of us. We certainly had more police officers in Virginia Water than I have ever seen before.

So what is my hope for Virginia Water in 2009? To see you and everyone else in the community come to know Jesus as your friend and leader. That is my first hope and prayer. If you want to know more, come along any Sunday at 9:30, 11:00 or 6:30.

My second hope is to see us as a community grow closer together in the year ahead. With the recession beginning to bite harder and forecast to last at least a year, with the steady rise in radical political and religious extremism, anti-social behaviour and the threat of terrorism ever before us, the temptation in 2009 will be to retreat into our shells or begin to blame others for our woes.

Remember Oswald Mosley and his Black Shirts that fed off the back of the Great Depression? How do we avoid it ever happening again? If we are tempted to think it could never happen here, we need to think again. I was pleased to see that the Holocaust Research Centre of Royal Holloway University are collaborating with German educational institutions in a conference this month in Berlin on holocaust perpetrators. The conference will address how and why ‘normal’ people become genocide perpetrators.

With the leaking in November of the names, addresses and occupations of the 12,000 members of the British National Party (BNP), media attention, has focussed on the handful of police officers, teachers and soldiers so identified. While membership of the political party is entirely legal, certain occupations are banned from being members of the BNP.

I was encouraged by two aspects of the incident. First, membership of such parties is still perceived to be an embarrassment to the majority of people in Britain. Second, given legitimate concerns over evidence of institutional racism and anti-semitism I was relieved that so few Christian leaders were listed.

Ben Wilson, a spokesman for the Church of England, said in November. “The church’s General Synod passed a motion in 2004 stating that any political movement that seeks to divide our communities on the basis of ethnicity is an affront to the nature of God revealed in creation and scripture and is a grave danger to harmonious community relationships; consequently voting for and/or supporting a political party that offers racist policies is incompatible with Christian discipleship.”

So how do we combat religious and political extremism and build community here in Virginia Water? Here are three ideas:

1. Support the Virginia Water Community Association; the Royal British Legion; our three local schools PTA’s and governing bodies at Trumps Green, Christ Church and St Ann’s Heath; the Scouts, Cubs, Guides and Brownies; the Library; the Help the Aged charity shop; and further afield, White Lodge and St Peters Hospital. There’s also the lobby against the incinerator at Trumps Farm. I am sure you can think of others.

2. Volunteer to serve in the community. At Christ Church, we encourage every member to volunteer at least an hour a week in the church and community – with things like a monthly senior citizen’s lunch club and Scallywags and Cherubs toddler groups. If everyone in Virginia Water volunteered an hour a week to the community, it would be the equivalent of employing 18 people. Two hours each and it would be the equivalent of employing 36 people. A sign of a healthy community is how well it cares for the most vulnerable – whether in terms of gender, health, age or race. How do you think we are doing?

3. Support community based events in 2009. There will hopefully be the VWCA Carnival Capers, the open air Summer art exhibition, the school productions and Fayres, the Polo Championship, the Wentworth bonfire, the Remembrance Sunday wreath laying, and now the Christmas tree lighting. At Christ Church we have added annual events like Mothering Sunday, the Bank Holiday Rogation Walk around Virginia Water, a Summer Picnic in the Park and of course the Church festivals of Easter, Harvest and Christmas to help build community.

So, how about it? What is your hope for Virginia Water in 2009? What are you prepared to do to turn it into a reality? If you have other ideas on how to strengthen our community write a letter to the editor. May the Lord bless you and those you love throughout the year ahead.

Article published in the January edition of Connection, the community magazine of Virginia Water, and delivered at the 2008 Wentworth Christmas Carol Concert

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Wentworth Golf Club Christmas Concert

They say there are four phases in life. In the first phase you believe in Father Christmas. In the second phase you don’t believe in Father Christmas. In the third phase you are Father Christmas. In the final phase you just look like Father Christmas. Well, if you were the real Father Christmas and you happened to visit a few hundred thousand carol services on a  re-Christmas dry run this week, I suspect you would observe a common theme in many of the sermons.

It’s a theme picked up in one of my all time favourite films Miss Congeniality. It’s about an FBI agent, played by Sandra Bullock, who must go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a group of terrorists from bombing the event. Each of the contestants is asked the same final question “what is the one most important thing our society needs?” They all reply “world peace” and the crowd cheers ecstatically. But when Sandra Bullock the undercover FBI agent is asked, she replies, “That would be… harsher punishment for parole violators.” And then after a long embarrassing silence, she adds, “and world peace!” and then the crowd cheers ecstatically.

Well what is the one most important thing our society needs? “World Peace” is a no brainer. The question is how to achieve it? Many are looking to the new President in the USA to deliver. Perhaps that is why Barak Obama said recently that contrary to rumors, he was not born in a stable.  I’d like to suggest we need to lower our sights if not our expectations and think local instead of global.

So let me ask you what is the one most important thing Virginia Water needs in 2009? Sounds a little more specific doesn’t it? For the new ‘West Course’ you are going to have to wait till 2010.   Focussing on Virginia Water, moves us from generalities to responsibilities, from what we expect others to do, to what we can achieve. And sometimes it only takes one person’s initiative. I was inspired by PC Elaine Bryant’s initiative to get the first ever Virginia Water community Christmas trees up. I kept thinking two things – first, why hadn’t we done it before? And second, see what one person with vision and determination can achieve in a few weeks to bring us together.

OK, we are only talking about two medium sized Christmas trees with lights for heaven’s sake but that is not the point. Judging by the hundreds of people who turned out on a cold, wet evening, families with small children and senior citizens, to sing carols, drink mulled wine and eat mince pies and ginger bread men, perhaps PC Bryant’s initiative struck a chord in a lot of us. We certainly had more police officers in Virginia Water than I have ever seen before.

So what is your hope for Virginia Water in 2009? I’ll tell you mine. To see each one of you come to know Jesus as your friend and leader. One of his titles is The Prince of Peace. He alone can reconcile us to God and bestow his peace upon us to cope with the storms of life. You are very welcome to our Christmas services to find out more. My second hope is to see our community grow closer together in 2009. With the recession beginning to bite harder and forecast to last at least a year, with the steady rise in radical political and religious extremism and the threat of terrorism ever before us, the temptation in 2009 will be to retreat into our shells (or behind our electric gates) and begin to blame others for our woes. Remember Oswald Mosley and his Black Shirts who fed off the back of the Great Depression? How do we avoid it ever happening again?

Here are three ideas for building up our community:

1. Participate in community based events in 2009. The VWCA Carnival Capers, the open air Summer art exhibition, the local school fayres, the Wentworth bonfire, the Remembrance Sunday wreath laying, and now the local Christmas tree lighting. At Christ Church we have added annual events like Mothering Sunday, the May Bank Holiday Rogation Walk around Virginia Water, a Summer Picnic in the Park and of course the Church festivals of Easter, Harvest and Christmas.

2.    Support the local voluntary organisations. The Virginia Water Community Association for example; the Royal British Legion; our three local schools at Trumps Green, Christ Church and St Ann’s Heath; the Scouts, Cubs, Guides and Brownies; the Library; and our one local charity shop – Help the Aged – I’ve got one of their gold club cards.

3.    Volunteer to serve in the community. At Christ Church, we encourage every member to volunteer at least an hour a week in the church and community – to help us host a monthly senior citizen’s lunch and Scallywags and Cherubs parent and toddler groups, for example. If everyone in Virginia Water volunteered one hour a week to the community, it would be the equivalent of employing 18 people full time. Two hours each and it would be the equivalent of employing 36 people. Imagine what we could achieve. A sign of a healthy community is how well it cares for the most vulnerable – irrespective of health, age, race or religion.

These are some of the practical ways we can build up our community and neutralise the influence of the isms – cynicism, isolationism, radicalism and extremism. So, how about it? What is your hope for Virginia Water in 2009? What are we prepared to do to turn our hopes for world peace into a local reality?

At the beginning I said there are four phases in life. The first – ‘believing’ is not enough. We can’t revert to childhood. The second – ‘not believing’ won’t help much either. So which is it to be? Resign ourselves to looking more and more like Father Christmas or spend the rest of our lives becoming like him?

Jesus said “Give and it will be given you, pressed down, shaken together, running over. With the measure you give it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) May the Lord bless you and those you love this Christmas.

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The Day the Earth Stood Still: Jesus, Klaatu and Osama Bin Laden

Jesus, Klaatu and Osama Bin Laden
“Once upon a time, a supernatural being, who so loved the world, took on our DNA and became one of us. He walked among us, taught us, cared for us, walked on water, brought one of us back from the dead, and ascended into the heavens. You know the story well. And his name was Klaatu. Klaatu? Well, yes. He is the central figure in the box office hit this Christmas in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still. Its a remake of the 1951 classic, which was one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. Klaatu is an alien who has come to earth in an attempt to save the planet—ostensibly from itself (on the brink of war in the 1951 original, and rolling toward environmental catastrophe in 2008). A representative of an alien race that went through drastic evolution to survive its own climate change, Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) comes to Earth to assess whether humanity can prevent the environmental damage they have inflicted on their own planet. Klaatu himself already has a negative opinion of humans, and in the end the aliens decide to intervene pre-emptively—without any warning—and wipe out human civilization so that all the other species on our planet can survive.  If you have seen the film or just the trailers, then you know that swarms of microscopic beings—insects, robots, or both—are sent forth to bring about the apocalypse, shredding everything from giant sports stadiums to moving vehicles.[1]

Peter T. Chattaway observes, “One of the fascinating things about the original film is that Klaatu was such an obvious Christ-figure—he went by the name Carpenter when he mingled among regular people, he died and came back to life, and he professed a belief in the “Almighty Spirit.”

In the remake, the religious parallels are more subdued: Klaatu raises someone else from the dead, after killing him, but never dies himself; he never goes by the name Carpenter; and he talks of how “the universe” transforms people when they die. In the original film, Klaatu represented a certain ideal, a vision of what we humans could become, and our survival depended on becoming more like him. In the remake, on the other hand, our survival depends on bringing the alien down to our level and making him more like us. That may or may not have theological significance, but it does say something about how our culture has changed over the last five decades.”[2]

Kenneth Chan writes, “The verdict? The human race is destructive. The sentence? The human race will be terminated. “If the earth dies, humans die. If humans die, the earth lives,” Klaatu says in one scene. Although some will see a green agenda in the remake, the message goes deeper than that. It’s not just about our destructiveness toward the Earth, but toward one another. Is the human race without hope? This is what Klaatu believes after receiving his colleagues’ report.  I won’t spoil it by giving more of the plot away.[3]

The movie does help us understand why a Holy God could and one day will cleanse this world of evil.[4] Klaatu is not a type of Jesus Christ. He is fallible and fallen. But he is representative of those who believe it is their destiny to use violence to bring about God’s judgement. Can you think of anyone who believes they have a divine mandate to purify this world of evil and destroy all infidels? The man President George Bush refers to as “the evil one”. The one the newspapers call the “CEO of Terror Incorporated.” The mastermind behind the worst terrorist attacks in recent history – monstrous crimes of premeditated mass murder – Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, New York and  Washington in 2001, Madrid 2004, London 2005, Algiers 2007,  probably Mumbai 2008.

If Bin Laden represents the most wanted man in the world what would Jesus say to him tonight? If we could listen in on a one to one between Jesus and Osama bin Laden this Christmas, what would Jesus say?

Read more here

Listen here

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Christmas for Children at Christ Church

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Christmas at Christ Church

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