There’s no doubt about it; the death of Jesus was unexpected, and although he gave quite a few hints that it would happen, the disciples either didn’t believe him, or just didn’t want to. And when it did finally happen, it left the disciples in a state of shock and dismay that they wouldn’t have recovered from had it not been for what happened next. For if Jesus’ death was unexpected, his resurrection was doubly so … or was it?

Dear Friends

I have just been looking at what the month of March this year brings us…apart from Mad March Hares and beautiful Spring flowers!

There’s St David’s Day which is also Tear Fund Sunday, the Women’s World Day of Prayer from The Bahamas, Mothering Sunday, St Patrick’s Day, the International Day of Happiness, End Racism Day, World Water Sunday to name but a few! We will also be in the season of Lent leading to the roller coaster of events and emotions expressed throughout the Easter Story itself. Phew!

The problems facing our mental health services, particularly regarding lack of funding, have repeatedly made the headlines in recent months. Specific problems have included the sporadic provision of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) across the country meaning that some children and young people have had to travel hundreds of miles to get the care or beds they need. This suggests that there is a widening gap between what is set aside for physical health needs, and that made available for mental health services, a very worrying trend if indeed true. Politicians have responded by saying that there needs to be greater parity of esteem between physical and mental health sectors if we are to tackle the increasing mental health needs of our citizens.

Dear Friends

How many groups do you reckon you belong to, beyond family? My guess is, quite a few. For, while it's not impossible to live a good life without reference to God, it is impossible to be Christ's body without other people. The letter to the Hebrews tells us: 'Don't give up meeting together!' and churches like ours take that advice very seriously. We thrive on interest groups, like the Chandler's Ford craft group or Freemantle's badminton; on groups set up for particular people, like the Avenue St Andrew's lunch club for older people or the Isaac Watts Boys and Girls Brigades, on groups making decisions, like each of our Elders and Church Meetings. Then there are the non-church groups that are also part of our lives: hobbies, volunteering, campaigning. For, if all your social groups are church people, you're missing out on a lot that God has in store for you!

Dear Friends

A few weeks ago, Freemantle URC celebrated its first café service since I've been there. To be honest, it was the first cafe service I've ever led, so I can't tell you whether or not it was a proper one - Chandlers Ford might be able to help me here! We sat around tables (with lovely lacy tablecloths); we called ourselves to worship by the lighting of tealights on each table; we confessed our sins by helping Shaun the Sheep get back home through a maze (well, it was Good Shepherd Sunday) and instead of a sermon each table had its own discussion of our Bible passage. But for our Communion I said all the usual words before we shared the usual small cubes of bread.