New life!

St. Mary and St. Michael, Mistley with ManningtreeAt this chilly, bare-branched time of year, there is rarely talk of new life. The snowdrops seem a little far away right now, not to mention the daffodils. This blog, however, is having a Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe epiphany: it has been always winter, but now it's nearly Christmas. Welcome to the newly revamped Manningtree Benefice Blog!We're in the midst of changing our website, but while we do, we can't do a lot with it! Therefore, our sadly neglected blog  which has languished, unused and unloved for too long, has a new lease of life. Please do check here for news and events coming up. What's more, our general service pattern and our special Christmas services, and more besides, are all available on the tabs at the top of the page.St. Lawrence, BradfieldWe're also on facebook. Search for 'Manningtree Benefice' and like us for updates and more. We're needy like that.That's it,...
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Christmas 2010

Dear Friends, Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world, which traditionally both looks back to the first coming of Christ and looks forward to the second coming or return of Christ. As Christmas Eve approaches, the mood changes from longing and expectation to joy and recognition. The song of the Church changes from ‘Maranatha’ - ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16:22) to ‘Christ is born today’ with alleluias and glorias ringing out through the church’s worship and liturgy.As we wait with, and through, the familiar characters in the gospel stories, just as Christ was formed in Mary so let us reflect on Christ being formed in our lives, coming again to us, to be born again in us this Christmas time. Maranatha! Our Lord, come! Revd. Chris Hills...
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Big Bang Day

Big Bang DayIf you are reading this I guess it didn’t happen. I mean the world didn’t end. I write this on Tuesday 9th September, the day before Big Bang Day, when the long awaited particle accelerator at CERN near Geneva is switched on for the first time. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest atom smashing machine has been designed to smash together beams of phenomenally high velocity protons in order to discover more about the nature of matter and what the universe was like one trillioneth of a second after the big bang that created the universe. One fear that has been expressed about this experiment is that the scientists will inadvertently create black-holes here on earth into which we will all be instantly sucked never to reappear, heralding the end of the world.I’m carrying on writing this in the confident hope that this doesn’t happen and that you’ll still be here tomorrow to read these musings....
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The Hard Sayings of Jesus

Mark Twain is remembered for numerous pithy sayings on various subjects. When it came to the Bible he is reported to have said that the things that bothered him most were not those that he did not understand but those that he did understand - because the latter he would have to do something about! This is especially true of the teaching of Jesus. We might find Jesus’ sayings ‘hard’ because they challenge us to put things into practice (e.g. ‘love your enemies’) or we might find them ‘hard’ simply because we lack understanding of the culture and context in which the words were spoken. Or we might find Jesus’ sayings hard because we are be required to think; this can be very hard work when we find our contemporary prejudices and convictions challenged. The distinguished Bible scholar F. F. Bruce wrote in the introduction of his book The Hard Sayings of Jesus: “It is all...
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A balanced spiritual life

A balanced spiritual lifeAn interesting phenomenon of Church History is the way that different movements have arisen emphasising different aspects of spirituality. Each has been a corrective to what the movements’ leaders have seen as a deficiency in the church of their own time. There have been movements which have focussed almost exclusively on ‘the word’ because, they argue, Jesus was very much word-centred. Others have said that we have forgotten that Jesus was a charismatic, and so they have made the gifts of the Holy Spirit the primary focus of their movement. Yet others have argued that Jesus came primarily to release captives, so it’s issues of social justice that must be paramount; still others have majored on the sacraments because Jesus was clearly a sacramentalist. Each movement or tradition has had a very important and timely point to make, and in so doing has potentially made a life giving contribution and corrective to the wider church. Richard Foster,...
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The God who comes alongsideWhen I was a boy I had a fascination for ‘teach yourself’ and ‘how to’ books. Each week I’d go to the library and come home with titles as varied as: ‘Teach yourself colloquial Arabic in 14 days’, ‘How to build your own astronomical observatory’ and ‘How to win friends and influence people’I never got very far with any of these books; each week I’d find the going tough and return the book to the library in hope of finding another which would promise a quick result. Eventually I got disillusioned and stopped getting such books out at all. Although I have to say that the urge has never quite left me - I was in a bookshop recently and was intrigued by a book called ‘The power of positive thinking.’ - I almost bought it but then I thought to myself, ‘No, what good would that do?’ But seriously, I’d still be keen to read...
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Recognising the footprints of GodBoth our churches have just had their annual meetings where the PCCs have represented their reports for the year 2007. If you have read either of these annual reports, you will, I’m sure, agree with me that 2007 was a very good year for the benefice. Both reports list the number of good things that are going on here; they witness to the fact that there is a great deal of life and vitality among us, and with the church extension going up fast in Bradfield we are on the brink of an exciting new chapter in the life of this benefice.It is so important to recognise God’s goodness and provision for us. We must be thankful and remember to count all our blessings - not only because it would be rude not to, but also because our faith in God, both in the present moment and in the future, will not grow if we fail...
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We have been experimenting with new forms of worship on Sunday evenings at Bradfield Church. Our traditional Anglican worship, whilst it is very beautiful, can seem very wordy at times (especially for the worship leader), so the Bradfield PCC have given their consent to a little bit of experimentation - within the requirements of the canon laws of the Church of England, of course! Our aim is to provide, once a month, a quieter and more reflective service for the end of the day. We aim at developing a service that may well be an easier way into church for those who have previously had little experience of it or may in the past have been put off by it.So, on the third Sunday of the month we have been paring down the words as much as possible and including space for self examination and times for quiet reflection. We are also taking the opportunity to...
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I’ve just finished reading A Little History of the English Country Church by Sir Roy Strong, the historian and one time director of the National Portrait Gallery and the V & A. He has written an absorbing account of the ups and downs in the fortunes of the myriad English parish churches that have been at the centre of our villages for anything up to a thousand years. He describes how these buildings, and the people who have used them, have coped with and adapted...
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