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Our new friends in Alaska

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This summer we have been making friends with St Matthew’s Episcopal church in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Fairbanks is 120 miles south of the Arctic circle and the second largest city in Alaska. It’s much smaller than London though. According to Wikipedia the population in 2012 was 32,070.

If you’re comfortable worshipping at St Laurence’s church it’s likely you’d enjoy St Matthew’s church too. The buildings are a similar size although they look very different. Check out the pictures!

Episcopalianism is the American word for Anglicanism. St Laurence’s is an Anglican Church. If Fr Steve of St Laurence’s and Fr Scott of St Matthew’s swapped places one Sunday morning both would know exactly what to do.

There is one thing that Fr Steve certainly wouldn’t be able to do at St Matthew’s. Speak Gwich’in!

The Gwich’in are a native people of Alaska. Around sixty percent of the congregation at St Matthew’s church are Gwich’in.

The church recently celebrated a Communion service in Gwich’in and has plans to continue helping the language to survive and prosper.

Here at St Laurence’s church we will be raising a little bit of money to help folk at St Matthew’s with their Gwich’in language mission. We won’t start fundraising until Autumn because we have a couple of other events coming up first.

In the meantime, what would you like to know about St Matthew’s church? What would you like to tell them about St Laurence’s? Have a think about it and let us know.

If you’re over in Alaska why not pay them a visit? This is what it says on their website.

When you visit an Episcopal church, you will be our respected and welcome guest. You will not be singled out in an embarrassing way. At St. Matthews, we do like to acknowlege visitors in our church, and learn where they come from. We even give small gifts, and a surprise for those who come from the most afar. However, do not feel you have to stand if this would make you feel uncomfortable. Most of all, we rejoice in having you worship God with us.

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Important! Changes to Service Times

Here is the text of an email sent out this afternoon.

Thanks to all those who returned the little survey about services. The PCC discussed the answers last Monday and made the following decisions.

For a number of folk the only time they see Fr Steve is Sunday morning, but he is usually running off to get the next service ready. So we plan to reduce the services to 2 on a Sunday so that there will be time for all folk to stop and chat if they wish to between the services.

From Sunday 7th September the pattern of services will be:

9.00am Traditional Communion Service with hymns
11.00am Celebration Service – more informal worship with Communion twice a month, and the use of multi media presentations.

On the third Sunday of every month we will still combine the 2 services at 10.00 am.

Starting from Saturday 6th September 6.00pm there will be a simple said Communion Service with sermon, it will use the same readings as the Sunday services.

Jonah and the Whale

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Jacob’s Ladder

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Alphas, omegas and hairless apes

Anglicans in England have had two sleeps to get used to the idea that there will be female Anglican bishops in England. Much of the celebrating took place on the same day the government announced there are now five women instead of three on the 22 member cabinet.

Most men and women will never be clergy or members of parliament. We can go through our whole lives without caring about equal opportunities for the few who are. Yet, it does matter for all of us in a way we’re often not conscious of.

Politics and priesthood are very visible public service vocations. Clergy and politicians play a noticeable public role in the running of our communities. Rightly or wrongly MPs and bishops are thought of as “in charge.” They are society’s “elders”, now that all good and natural respect for the aged has disappeared.

When people who look like you (whether female, disabled or not white) are absent from a group with a visible and prestigious social function, it sends you a message. It says “you’re not good enough.” You only realise the pressure of that feeling when the group opens up to people who look like you.

We human beings are part of the ape and monkey family. Like our hairy brothers and sisters, we’re intensely status conscious. The hierarchy of alphas and omegas is part of how we see society. It’s something we find very difficult to get away from because it’s part of our biological programming.

It’s easy to kid yourself that you’re not status conscious. Yet it’s in everybody to varying levels. You might not look down on people but you will carry preconceived ideas about what they’re capable of. You will link their capability to their place in the hierarchy. Nobody sees this more than the people who are dismissed as being incapable of doing anything.

Imagine that you have an urgent life or death problem with your finances and you’re looking for someone capable to help you. You run into a room and see a tall handsome 40-year-old man in a smart suit and a short overweight 65-year-old woman in casual clothes.

Most of us, if we’re honest, would head for the alpha male. It wouldn’t occur to us that the woman could be the head of a bank with 40 years of experience behind her. Even today when we see older and overweight women we make assumptions about how they’ve lived.

Most of us, hopefully, would say that the man and the woman were of equal value as human beings. But this is not the same as the capability measure. The capability measure is separate to the conscious assessment of someone’s right to be a full member of society, yet it informs that assessment on a subconscious level.

People who think they believe in equality for all, may still subconsciously give priority to those who they think are the most capable. It’s a throwback to those animal days when our furry ancestors honoured the ones who were most likely to bring home meat or sire strong children.

The severely disabled suffer the weight of people thinking that their assumed reduced capabilities mean they should have less space in society!

When there are women Anglican bishops and more women in high level politics, it will change the public’s preconceptions of what older women are capable of. This will have a knock on effect in the whole of society.

Of course, as Christians, we shouldn’t be associating priesthood or the bishops with power and status at all.

Christ calls us to strip that animal hierarchy out of our minds, and to only see beloved children of God when we look at our fellow human beings. In Christ’s Kingdom there are no alpha males or omega males. Christ is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet.

In Christ’s Kingdom there is no rank or status among human beings. We are each of us tied to God’s heart with a fiery golden thread, and that is all the place we need.

 

Yes to Women Bishops

At long last the Synod has voted yes to women bishops. The Anglican church in England can now catch up with its sister churches in America, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere.

There are members of the Church of England who aren’t happy that we have ordained women priests or (in future) bishops. Like many Christians and others around the world  they believe that a person’s gender (whether they’re male or female) defines what they should do.

If we simply say that opponents of female priests are sexist bigots, we overlook the complexity of their thought. In this article Pope Francis stresses that he opposes female ordination, not because of what he thinks about women but because of his views on priesthood. He states that he wants women to have a greater say in the church.

We’re great Pope Francis fans here at St Laurence Cowley. He is a brave and outspoken innovator, and we’re lucky to have him as a voice for peace in this world. We don’t have to agree with everything he says though!

The Pope is the head of the (Roman) Catholic Church. The Church of England is in the Anglican communion.

Anglicanism is an off shoot of the Catholic Church. It is neither Catholic or Protestant, it is a flexible middle way that leaves space for its members to follow their natural inclinations towards Catholicism, Protestantism, conservative or liberal theology, and so on.

This wonderful freedom is the reason why the Church of England moves so slowly in its decision making.  Everyone has to be consulted and few can agree.

Anglicanism (sometimes called Episcopalianism) takes many different forms around the world. In some places it is a brave and passionate voice for social justice, equality, the environment and dignity for all. In some places Anglicans openly support severe discrimination against Gay people that can include physical violence and exile.

Here in the Church of England the situation for Gay people is wobbly. They can’t marry in church, they’re not supposed to receive marriage blessings, and if they are clergy or want to be clergy, they can’t get married.

The lives of Gay priests have been compromised in the Church of England for a very long time. Officially they are supposed to be celibate, even if they are living with their partners.

Gay lay folk (lay folk are Christians who aren’t clergy) have long had to take pot luck. Some Church of England churches love and accept them just as they are. Others set them apart with disapproval.

Rev Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, has long campaigned for equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people in the Church of England. Here he reports on the atmosphere in Synod after the yes vote yesterday.

St Laurence Cowley church supports women bishops, women priests and full equality for LGBTI people.

If you don’t agree, you are still welcome here. Everyone has a place at Christ’s table and nobody can deny you that. That’s what support for equality and diversity means. No one is unloved, no one is excluded.

Thank you for coming to our display

This afternoon St Laurence Cowley church held a cake sale and First World War in Cowley exhibition in the church hall.

Thank you to everyone who came and to all the wonderful bakers who donated cakes. The cake stall raised £165 for the church’s funds.

If you missed it, don’t worry! There will be a second larger exhibition in early September.

There was a wonderful turn out and it was great to see so many people there. If you have some First World War information you’d like to put forward for the second display, please get in touch.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to display everything this time around because the amount of detail took us by surprise!

If you’d like to help please get in touch with Fr Steve. His email address is stlaurence258@gmail.com.

Planning meetings will be advertised on our social media. Please don’t feel that you have to be a member of the worshipping congregation to contribute. St Laurence Cowley simply isn’t that kind of church!

The First World War involved a great many nations, and we’re keen to hear from families whose ancestors participated in the conflict on both sides.

Here are some pictures from the day.

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