Our minister is the Reverend Kim Stilwell


 March 2018

Dear Friends


‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’ (1 Peter 3.15)

For me, it has been an encouraging start to Lent. After some controversy over the dropping of the CTAL Lent groups and the running of an Alpha course in its place, I was delighted to see the level of support for the “Abiding” course led by Neil Richardson at St Peter’s. Between this course and Alpha there are well over 100 people actively engaged in exploring what it means to follow Jesus today. And between the courses a reasonable spectrum of ages and backgrounds is covered.

Some of the remarks at the Alpha session I attended challenged me afresh over how to respond to the kinds of questions people have today – and the same is true for the “conversations” we have with young people at the Youth Café. (There one person was heard to say “I quite like this church – it’s less religious!” – Amen to that!)

People ask why we go to church “in this day and age” (wrongly thinking that the scientific community has led us to reject belief in God). For many of us the answer will begin with an observation about there being something intrinsically good about the church community – and the people who go. People who care for one another and for those outside, responding with generosity and love where they see need. People who give a warm welcome to all and have time for one another. Worship may come into the discussion with an account of the joy and sense of being moved by the singing of hymns.

This is all good but may not satisfy the one asking the question. What they want to know is do we really believe in God, and if so why, and what sort of God do we believe in?

Many who have been in hospital will know the experience of anticipating that critical moment of the Consultant’s round - here is the very brief, and perhaps only chance to find out what I need to know from the one who really knows. It’s a frightening thought but for a young person at the Café we are the ‘consultants’ - the way we answer may be critical for someone searching. Lent is a really good time to prepare ourselves for this – to revisit our questions, to put our faith on a firm footing. It’s not too late to join one of the courses, read a book or speak to myself or someone else about what might be another good avenue of exploration.

May this Lent be a time of blessing and spiritual nourishment for us all



February 2018 

Dear Friends

 February begins with the marking of another desperately tragic loss in the church.

It is very hard to find the right words to say or the silence to keep with relatives and friends for whom the pain is most acute.

But what can we say to one another? What words of truth or comfort does our faith bring?

For me, the starting point is the shortest verse in the bible - John 11.35: Jesus wept.

There is a time and place for putting on a brave face, for accentuating the positive - and there is much that is positive to be said. But the reality is that God's world experiences suffering and pain of which God's story of Calvary is our defining example. Another son's life is cut short - and the pain of the onlookers does not go unnoticed - "Mother, behold your son".

To leap to the truth of resurrection can be to deny the pain and the lessons of suffering and death. It is so easy to negate the hurt of another which cries out for comfort and companionship.

Churches are often places that make people (us) feel that to share their (our) hurt - physical or mental - is wrong. We encourage them to speak about something else, or we quash their confessions of hurt with platitudes. In church you put on a false mask, a brave face, while the reality of how you feel is scarcely bearable.

There is no shame in pain, physical or mental - Jesus wept! - and the church must be the place where we are most able to be open and find support, not the place where there is a strict requirement that pain be glossed over because we are meant to be brave and happy.

"Love your neighbour as yourself" Jesus said. To love a neighbour is to be alongside them where they genuinely are. That involves relationship, time, patience, listening, "rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn" as Paul writes. It also involves loving ourselves enough to believe that we are worth listening to. As the hymn says: "Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too".

May we find God's help in being both honest and compassionate with one another - "See how these Christians love one another" - and may that love bring comfort especially at this sad time.

 May the peace of God which passes all understanding be with you.




December 2017 & January 2018

Dear Friends

 At a recent church event someone told the story of a couple who let their daughter go into the bedroom to say goodnight to her new-born sister while, unknown to her, they listened outside on the baby monitor. The daughter had one question for the baby - "Can you tell me what God's like? - I seem to have forgotten." It was as if in her few years of living, already the world was crowding in and her knowledge of God was being squeezed from her.

How apt a picture that is for us as the values of daily living in 21st Century Britain shape our worldview and swamp the hopes and dreams of being a follower of the table-turning, joy-bringing Son of God. The Christmas adverts sell us the dream of an easy, well-fed life, absorbed in the fantasy world of TV or YouTube, cut off from community and its joys and pains. Reality TV shows teach us that success is measured in terms of power, entrepreneurial skills, possessions and ability to attract a mate.

The news tells of a world full of violence and destruction, a planet being destroyed.

Amidst all of this cacophony there's a still small voice - the voice of baby crying in a manger (a sausage roll, you will note, is silent!) The voice is saying "it doesn't have to be like this - and I'm here to expose your ways for what they are. I'm here to bring Joy to the World, Peace on earth, Good News to the poor and oppressed, Hope to the downhearted, Truth amongst falsehood, Living Water, abundant Life."

Advent and the Christmas season are so cluttered with expectations that it's perhaps unrealistic to expect too much of ourselves - but perhaps we can all identify at least one place where we've seen evidence of that baby making his presence felt over these days and weeks. Perhaps we can be more aware of how easily we forget God and God's disturbing power - God's gift to the world revealed in Bethlehem. Perhaps we can even share our discovery with another - "Look - he's not frozen in a Nativity scene - he's here!"

  A joyful and peaceful Christmas to you all with our heartfelt gratitude and love

 Kim, Stella, Anna and John


 November 2017

 Dear Friends

 I'm not sure why they've started naming weather events, and as a natural worrier I'm immediately fearful they'll quickly use them all up!  (all the useable ones that is. You can hardly have a hurricane Kiley or Samantha after all!)

Today Ophelia has been terrorising these Isles, and we were treated to the spectacle of eerie light and a red sun peeking through thin cloud during the daytime.

Meteorologists predicted the storm and have explained the appearance of the sun as a result of a Saharan dust cloud.

But I wonder what our ancestors would have made of it all. These signs, taken together with repeated hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, floods lead to one conclusion - their gods were clearly very angry and they should prepare for disaster.

Some today have interpreted these recent phenomena in apocalyptic terms, but I would prefer to remember Jesus' words "no-one, not even the Son knows the day or the hour."

Of course, that doesn't suggest being in denial about the possibility of a cataclysmic event, still less being unconcerned about the damage we do to the environment which brings about some of these events.

On the contrary, Jesus teaches that the proper approach to the fact of the uncertainty with which we all live, is to be prepared, by living faithfully and well with what is entrusted to us. We have to ensure that our lives bear good fruit in our works, in our words, in our relationships with God and with others, being a blessing to them and to God's world - while we have time.

November is a time when we remember those whose lives were lost in various wars - those whose plans and dreams were never fulfilled, and to whom we owe a great debt. Their loss will not be without purpose if it teaches us, during whatever time we each have left, to live well, thankfully, peacefully, fruitfully, faithfully, so that we are prepared for whatever may come, assured that in all things, God is with us - for nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God.