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Our newsletter, Tidings, is published 10 times a year to be available at the beginning of each month but, to give the editor a break, there are no January or August editions.  It is circulated to members and friends of three churches, namely Longbenton Methodist Church, West Moor Methodist Church and St. Andrew's Church (Methodist and United Reformed) at a cost of 40 p a copy.  Rev. Alison Wilkinson is the minister for Longbenton and Rev. Gavin Hume is the minister for the other two churches.

Here are some items from the February 2018 issue, beginning with letters from Gavin Hume and Alison Wilkinson.

Dear Friends

How do you fancy 40 days in the wilderness?

Perhaps after a course with wilderness survival expert Bear Grylls at his Survival Academy! Quite a few celebrities have risen to the challenge to go Running Wild with him, including Stephen Fry, Kate Winslett, Julia Roberts and even Barack Obama, learning survival skills for harsh and remote environments.

Why do people choose to go into the wilderness? Even when they are not being paid to participate in a TV show?

Throughout the Bible, living in the wilderness has been an important experience for many of God’s people, especially in discovering and being prepared for their calling. The people of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness. King David spent time in the wilderness, hiding from Saul, and waiting for the time when he would see God’s promise fulfilled and he would be called to be king. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, and this shaped his character and ministry.

The season of Lent, which begins in a couple of weeks, marks the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. He was led there by the Spirit for a time of testing and preparation for the change, from his life as a carpenter, to his amazing ministry, and a journey that would ultimately lead to the cross.

Time in the “wilderness” can be really important – even those wilderness experiences that we would never have

chosen to go through.

This Lent, whether we choose to deny ourselves certain things as part of our devotional journey, or we find ourselves denied certain things in a “wilderness” experience not of our choosing, let us remember that God has a long history of being at work among his people in the wilderness.

With every blessing,

Gavin

Dear Friends,

I’m sure all your decorations are taken down, the pine needles are hoovered up and all signs of Christmas are packed away. I always feel the house looks bare, and a little less jolly, when this job is done, but soon the undecorated house will appear normal again.

It’s so easy for us to move on from Christmas. We’ve done it. We celebrated, sang carols in the twinkle of candlelight, ate too much, saw family and friends, and as January progresses life returns to “normal”.

For the Church, however, Christmas is not over until February 2, some forty days after Christmas Day. This often forgotten celebration called Candlemas is a reminder to people that celebrating Jesus coming as the light of the world was not a day celebration, but a season – a reminder to us that the decorations coming down and the restarting of the ordinary rhythm of life are not the end of the message or significance of this season.

The blessing and lighting of candles at Candlemas reminds us to continue to carry the light of Christ into the world, to be engaged with the dispelling of darkness that is central to the Christmas story, and to continue to celebrate God with us. To steal a well-known phrase, Christ is not just for Christmas, but for all of our lives.

God bless!

Alison

Christians Against Poverty  (CAP)                                                                                

Christians Against Poverty is a charity with an active branch in Killingworth.  St. Andrew's Church supports their work, done by people trained in debt counselling, by providing basic food supplies to help create the food parcels mentioned below.

Throughout 2017, we have continued to see the need for people to be supported and encouraged in life – particularly with regard to debt. Changes to benefits and the way they are paid are causing very real problems to people, who are already finding their finances to be in difficulty. But, as they share their financial troubles, it is often apparent that there are many other issues in people’s lives, such as health or isolation or troubled family situations.  Sometimes we are able to help directly: at other times we signpost them to more appropriate agencies. We have developed good relationships with organisations who are happy to refer their clients to us – such as Jobcentres, Barnardos and Family Partners – who are impressed with the service that we are able to provide.

As in previous years, we have offered a range of social events which encourage people to move out of their isolation and to develop some positive relationships. We have had several coffee afternoons with a craft activity available, a beetle drive with a pie and pea supper, our annual firework party which is always hugely enjoyable, and once again we are looking forward to a Christmas meal which is a highlight of the year. These activities are free of charge to all clients thanks to the generosity of church members and organisations providing funding.

Many of our clients struggle to find enough money to buy food to feed themselves and their family. Through the generous giving of local churches, we are able to provide both food parcels throughout the year to deserving families, as well as hampers at Christmas. This is such an amazing way to end the year, showing families that churches do care and are willing to support people when their need is great.

And so, as we look forward to 2018 and the clients who have already booked in and those that are yet to do so, we trust that organisations will continue to provide funding so that we continue to have the opportunity to provide the service which enables households to become debt free.

Gwyneth and Dawn

The run-up to Christmas

On December 2-3 we were delighted to see the amazingly varied array of nativity figures in the foyer, some of which continued to be displayed right through the Christmas season. We seem to have been in the fashion: in 2017 many other churches featured cribs (from minute to life-sized, and made of everything from wool to Lego). Hearty thanks to Pauline Oliver and Margaret Wall for masterminding the project.

The Cedarwood Trust expressed thanks for our gifts on December 3.

The morning of December 17 was very special, as the Junior Church (in the persons of the Smith family and some of their friends from school) had devised a festive service based on the Christmas story and Christmas customs from all over the world. Some of those customs involve food, so they had set the church out with tables decked with greenery and served us all with cups of tea – and mince pies, stollen and Yule logs! There were carols too, of course. The first verse of Silent Night was sung in German, and O Tannenbaum in English (though I was tempted to sing it in the French version I had learnt at school). We thank Charles, Karen, Hannah, Holly and Isaac, and their friends, for their ideas, research and generosity. No-one needed coffee afterwards, but we were grateful to all the people who washed up, tidied up and set the furniture back in its usual order.

The beginning of the evening  service, “Good News: Readings, Poems and Carols”, was led by Andrew Thomas, but by the end 14 other people had read, Ann Makepeace had played, the Singers had sung 4 carols and the congregation had joined in 10 more. Thank you, everyone.

Angels were knitted and distributed by the Community Church and St. John’s Church (Killingworth), St. Mary’s Church and West Moor Methodist Church (Great Lime Road), and St. Aidan’s Church and St. Andrew’s Church (Benton). Others were handed out in the Longbenton area. One lady wrote: “My girls found four in Killingworth this morning – a really lovely idea, and it helps me to teach them the real Christmas story, as I fear the Christian message is being lost in over-commercialisation.”

Margaret Burchell