Services in the Benefice
Sunday 18th July
Morning Prayer in All Saints', Stone at 10.30 am
Parish Communion in St Michael's, Hill at 10.30 am
Evening Prayer in St Mary's, Berkeley at 6.00 pm
Click the following link for services at Gloucester Cathedral:
Reflection for 18th July
2 Samuel 7:1-14a Ephesians 2:11-end
The season of Trinity is a time to look at the big picture and reflect on what it all means. Today’s readings take two perspectives.
Our first reading: a prophesy from the book of Samuel in the Old Testament, 1000 years BC at the time of King David with his tribe of Israelites: looks forward to future developments, gently reminding David that it wasn’t all over yet, in case he thought it was. The second reading 11 centuries later, sometime in the first century AD; a letter to early Christians in Ephesus: takes a retrospective view of events, explaining what it meant for them, and for mankind.
The book of Samuel tells us that, after David had beaten the Philistines, he mobilised thirty thousand troops to bring home the Ark of the covenant: the Ark of God. He danced in the streets in jubilation as it arrived home, his quest over. With peace achieved at last, he confided in his prophet Nathan, ‘Here am I sitting comfortably in my cedar palace while the Ark is sitting outside in a tent!’ Nathan replied, ‘You can fix that I’m sure, the Lord is with you.’
But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan, telling him: “Say to David: ‘So, you’re planning to put me in a cedar palace, are you?’ For all the time that I’ve been with the people of Israel I have managed alright without a palace, and as I guided your leaders, have I ever asked them why they haven’t built me one?! So, tell David, ‘Listen, I’ve raised you from a shepherd boy, made you great, and cut down your enemies, and I’m not finished yet…”
God can’t be put in a box. Whilst he can be witnessed in his goodness, he can’t be described. He can’t be defined; he’s not a commodity. You can’t stick him on a pedestal.
David, in his joy of hard-won victory for his people, could be forgiven for wishing to exalt him in a palace, forgetting that God’s work is not like man’s work. Having helped David and the Israelites thus far, God wasn’t about to rest on his laurels. He was moving on. He is dynamic, not static.
Recently I came across some words by American author, Ursula Le Guin; words that somehow resonate with the message that Nathan was to give to David. She wrote:
“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone. It has to be made, like bread; remade all the time; made new.”
God had more plans for David, plans for the Israelites, and plans further still that David could not have imagined. Plans that extended beyond the house of David. The intended house, or palace, was not of material but of the spirit: without confinement and, being so, was not to be confined to David’s line, nor to the Israelites.
And so, we move on a thousand years to Paul’s writings to ‘God’s Holy People’; living in cities like Ephesus across the Roman empire: cosmopolitan, pagan, prosperous. In his letters Paul sought to put God’s plan for humanity into perspective. He wrote of Christ: tearing down the pretensions; the divisions between people. Two thousand years later, it remains work-in-progress. Because folk still love to erect barriers, putting others into boxes, commoditising them, labelling them, ‘cancelling’ them, or worse.
Paul wanted to draw attention, not to our differences through accident of birth, tribal custom or adopted creed, but to what we share, at our very heart, in the true Spirit. Only when we have the courage to strip away the superficial walls of pretence that we build around ourselves, walls that Christ’s death brings to our attention, can we hope to find a lasting peace.
Thought for Sunday, 18th July
The long walk
Triumph and disaster: what a thin line separates them. One minute you are the hero of the moment as glory beckons, the next you become the butt of contempt and abuse. Elation, then deflation. Hosanna one moment, crucify the next. How true it is, and how bitterly experienced recently, as Alan Shearer comments, that the longest walk you’ll ever do as a footballer is the walk to the penalty spot. We too will all know such times in our lives when so much turns on an action or decision of a moment.
In the Gospel reading from Mark, the disciples have just returned from a highly successful mini-mission: in Luke’s account of the same incident they “returned with joy”. In Mark’s version the emphasis is on the rush and busyness of the moment of return as the crowds press in set against the need for the disciples to take time to assimilate and learn and reflect. “Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” We may know and crave the rush of euphoria that comes from success, but setbacks and failures de-energise us badly. Jesus knows this: come away with me, said to us as well as the first disciples. There will be troubles ahead. Do we have strategies and habits in place to cope with those lows and black times which are very deep the more we are invested in a success culture, where crash and burn in the form of the failure of our deepest wishes and dreams is just unthinkable and the most fearful disaster?
Come away with me. In our disjointed times and a year of disrupted holidays, our need for rest and distance from present reality is great. Jesus offers the disciples, us too if we choose, his very presence as an antidote to a lifestyle addicted to success and bigger, better, faster, newer. “I have come that they may have life, and life to the full.” So perhaps some reflection on this might be life-enhancing. It might feel like a long walk to do so, but it is a choice worth embracing. Remember Jesus’ words: Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
David Frith, Reader
Private prayer in church
If you would like to enter the church for a moment of private prayer, please contact Naomi (details below). She will arrange for the church to be unlocked for you.
Should you need someone to talk to, or you'd like someone to pray for you (or with you), contact Naomi (details below).
At the moment All Saints' doesn't have a vicar.
For general enquiries you can contact Naomi by emailing
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01454 260376.
For enquiries about weddings and funerals, please contact David Bainbridge: 01453 810049
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Church services during the pandemic
Each week there is a 10.30 am Sunday service in one of our three churches. Our Lay Readers, the ‘Eleven’ team and the Stone Leading Worship team have stepped into action to take the majority of these services, and we have priests booked for Parish Communion services. Risk assessments and careful planning to manage services have been done for each of our very different churches. It is a good idea to arrive early for a service so you have enough time to ‘check in’ - hand sanitising and finding a socially distanced seat mean it could take longer to settle in. You'll be asked for a name and contact number from each ‘bubble’ so we can assist ‘Track and Trace’ if need be. Don't forget to bring a face covering.