The funeral of Geoff Banks who died aged 73 on 26th January was held at St John’s Upperthong on 8th February. Geoff was Team Vicar of Holmbridge, Netherthong and Upperthong from 1998 to 2009. He was an essentially approachable person and always ready to talk with members of his congregation and those outside the church in an interested and informed way. His sermons were immaculately planned, written in his own distinctive and attractive hand – he was never happy with computer-generated products. Geoff always claimed his sermons lacked originality but his hearers never felt that they’d heard it all before. There was always food for thought and both assurance and challenge. Certainly in his time at
St David’s the congregation grew gradually and significantly in numbers.
During his time in the valley Geoff was helped by various self-supporting clergy and so was able to carry out efficiently the otherwise impossible task of ministering effectively to three parishes. He seldom complained - except about the parking problems in Netherthong and of course about political leaders!
Geoff was particularly interested in the formation of liturgy and during his time orders of service for the various seasons and holy days were thoughtfully planned and found approving acceptance in all the three parishes. Biblically his particular interest was in the fourth gospel, that attributed to John, and he spent his sabbatical term in its close study.
Geoff had a likeable sense of humour. For a time he was chaplain to Halifax Town FC (now FC Halifax) and at home one day before a big match one of his sons said, “Dad, we’re sure to win with God on our side aren’t we?” Geoff’s immediate response was “Forget God, what we need is a new goalkeeper and some decent defenders” (not necessarily word for word, but something on those lines).
Though Geoff had had various health problems for many years, his death following a short illness with an aggressive form of cancer came as a shock to all who knew him. His smiling face and ready wit will be missed.

Psalm verse and prayer for March - from Psalm 25
Turn to me O Lord and be gracious to me, for I am alone and brought very low.
The sorrows of my heart have increased;
O bring me out of my distress.
Prayer
Free us, O God of mercy, from all that keeps us from you;
relieve our sadness and fill us with hope of peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen





A message from Bishop Nick

So much has been achieved since the Diocese of Leeds was created just two and a half years ago. Bringing together three very different dioceses was a hugely complex procedure, but we are all now part of a large, coherent body, whose benefits are being increasingly revealed.
The bishops and archdeacons are working closely with their areas, and the combined spiritual wealth of 656 churches, over 240 church schools and three cathedrals has brought increased creative energy.
We now have a central office in Leeds (complete with a charitable coffee shop that’s open to all), a new parish share system, new governance and further delegation of authority from the diocesan bishop to the area bishops.
Some of the challenges we face include: getting the right balance between one diocese and the five episcopal areas, tackling the anticipated fall in clergy numbers, growing our churches and maintaining parish share. And it remains vital to reach children and young people with the Gospel in order to build future generations of strong Christians.
At the heart of all we do are the values captured in our diocesan strap line, ‘Loving, Living and Learning‘. It’s a useful list to check against everything we do. What does that mean for you and your church?
+Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds
Loving, Living, Learning
We aim to:
Love God, the world and one another.

Live in the world as it is, but, drawn by a vision of something better,
we want to help individuals and communities flourish.

Learn when we get things wrong, by listening and growing together.

People have often wondered if
William Shakespeare had any involvement in the most important writing project
of his time, the translation and preparation of the King James Bible. Although
there are no ways to verify this, at least one set of clues indicates
Shakespeare probably had some involvement with at least the Old Testament part
of the book.

William Shakespeare lived from
1564-1616. The creation of the King James Bible began in the year 1610,
the year in which Shakespeare would have been 46 years old.

If you turn to Psalm 46 in the
King James Bible, and if you count exactly 46 words into the psalm, you find
the word "shake." If you count 46 words back from the end of
that psalm, you will find the word "spear."

It just seems too coincidental
to think that it was by fluke circumstances that the 46th Psalm would be
translated around the time of Shakespeare's 46th birthday and that the 46th
word from the start and the 46th word from the end would be "shake"
and "spear." My professional opinion is, Shakespeare translated
that section of the King James Bible and he slipped in a secret byline to prove
it was his work.

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley

Christmas:          Why does it begin at midnight with Holy Communion? 

The hour was first chosen at Rome in the fifth century to symbolise the idea that Christ was born at midnight – a mystical idea in no way hindered by historical evidence!  No one knows the hour of his birth. 

Certainly in recent times, Holy Communion at midnight on Christmas morning has proved popular with modern families.  One British writer pointed out its “domestic convenience” in 1947:  “for where there are children and no servants, husband and wife may be unable to communicate at any other time.”  (So things don’t change, then!)

**

               

Christmas:          Where did Christmas trees come from?

There are two early stories that mention fir trees.  The first involves St Boniface, who went to Germany in the 8th century as a missionary and found people sacrificing a child to their god under an oak tree.  Boniface was appalled, and rescued the child. He then chopped down the oak tree and found a tiny fir tree growing nearby.  He gave this to the people and said:  “This is a symbol of life. Whenever you look at this tree, remember the Christ-child who is the one who will give you life, because he gave his life for you.”

The second early fir tree story involves Martin Luther in the 16th century.  It is said that one year he decided to drag a fir tree into his home and to decorate it with candles. He used it as a visual aid, telling people that the candles symbolised Jesus as the light of the world, and the evergreen tree symbolised the eternal life that Jesus gives to us.  Many of the people who followed Luther were struck by the idea, and took up the custom.

Christmas:          The story of mince pies

Did you know that mince pies have been traditional English Christmas fare since the Middle Ages, when meat was a key ingredient?  The addition of spices, suet and alcohol to meat came about because it was an alternative to salting and smoking in order to preserve the food. Mince pies used to be a different shape - cradle-shaped with a pastry baby Jesus on top.

**

 

Christmas:          World’s oldest fake tree

Did you know that it is a family in Wiltshire, the Parkers, who claim to own the world’s oldest artificial Christmas tree?  It was bought in 1886, and is still put up every year.

**

 

Christmas:          We three kings of Orient are... what?

“A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey, in.  The way’s deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solstitio brumali, the very dead of winter.”  

It was 1622, and the Bishop of Winchester, Launcelot Andrews, was preaching a magnificent sermon to King James I.  Reckoned one of the best preachers ever, Launcelot Andrews’ words were later taken up by T S Eliot and transformed into his wonderful poem ‘The Journey of the Magi’.  What a vivid picture – we can see it all!   The camels’ breath steaming in the night air as the kings, in their gorgeous robes of silk and cloth-of-gold, and clutching their precious gifts, kneel to adore the baby in the manger.

Yet the Bible does not give us as much detail as some people think.  Tradition down the centuries has added a great deal more.  For instance, we know from St Matthew that the magi were ‘wise’, or learned men of some sort, but we do not know if they were kings or not.    The Bible tells us there were several;  tradition has decided upon three, and even named them: Balthassar, Melchior, and Caspar (or Gaspar).  But the Bible does tell us that the magi gave baby Jesus three highly symbolic gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  Gold stands for kingship, frankincense for worship, and myrrh for anointing – anticipating his death.

There is a lovely ancient mosaic in Ravenna, Italy, that is 1,500 years old.  It depicts the wise men in oriental garb of trousers and Phrygian caps, carrying their gifts past palm trees towards the star that they followed... straight to Jesus. 

**

Christmas:          Thank Dickens for Christmas as you know it!

Ever wonder where many of our Christmas traditions come from?   A surprising amount of our modern Christmas celebrations can be traced back to the well-loved story of ‘A Christmas Carol’, by Charles Dickens. 

When you read ‘A Christmas Carol’, you discover almost a template of the ‘ideal Christmas’ which we still hold dear today.  Dickens seems to have selected the best of the Christmas celebrations of his day (he ignored some of the odd excesses) and packaged them in such a way as to give us traditions that we could accommodate and treasure – more than a century later.  

So, for instance, in A Christmas Carol, Christmas is a family day, with a family-centred feast.  In a home decorated with holly and candles the characters enjoy a roast turkey, followed by Christmas pudding.  They give their loved ones presents. Scrooge even gives donations to charity (!). 

And all the while outside, there is snow and frost, while church bells ring, and carol singers sing, and hope for mulled wine.  In ‘A Christmas Carol’ there is even a Father Christmas – in the shape of Christmas Present.    Only the Christmas tree itself came later, when Prince Albert imported ‘a pretty German toy’ that won the heart of the English court, and hence the rest of Victorian society. 

**

 

The Challenges of Christmas

Christmas is a great time of year, but it’s not without its challenges! One household had 250,000 Christmas lights, but could not boil a kettle for fear of blowing the system!

The challenge of over-indulging

We all remember the episode of the Vicar of Dibley, where she had to consume four Christmas dinners! Christmas is a time when we usually eat and drink far too much, the average person gaining 6 pounds in weight. But Christmas is not simply about gaining weight, but losing what weighs us down. ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7). Whatever your concerns or worries this Christmas, bring them to God.

The challenge of overspending

In the rush to buy Christmas cards, a woman bought a pack of 50 identical cards. Without reading the verse, she hastily signed and sent them off, but for one. A few days later she read the message: ‘This card is just to say a little gift is on the way.’ Christmas is not about getting into debt, but God getting us out of debt. He spent exactly what was needed on the first Christmas night: You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21).

The challenge of over too quickly

 

Christmas doesn’t last very long, yet the effect of the first Christmas is long-lasting. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). Jesus has come to bring us life in all its fullness, both for now and all eternity.

How do we face the challenges of Christmas? Yet what I can, I give Him - give my heart’.

**

The Challenges of Christmas

Christmas is a great time of year, but it’s not without its challenges! One household had 250,000 Christmas lights, but could not boil a kettle for fear of blowing the system!

The challenge of over-indulging

We all remember the episode of the Vicar of Dibley, where she had to consume four Christmas dinners! Christmas is a time when we usually eat and drink far too much, the average person gaining 6 pounds in weight. But Christmas is not simply about gaining weight, but losing what weighs us down. ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7). Whatever your concerns or worries this Christmas, bring them to God.

The challenge of overspending

In the rush to buy Christmas cards, a woman bought a pack of 50 identical cards. Without reading the verse, she hastily signed and sent them off, but for one. A few days later she read the message: ‘This card is just to say a little gift is on the way.’ Christmas is not about getting into debt, but God getting us out of debt. He spent exactly what was needed on the first Christmas night: You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21).

The challenge of over too quickly

 

Christmas doesn’t last very long, yet the effect of the first Christmas is long-lasting. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). Jesus has come to bring us life in all its fullness, both for now and all eternity.

How do we face the challenges of Christmas? Yet what I can, I give Him - give my heart’.

**

 The night before

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, except Papa's mouse.

The computer was humming, the icons were hopping,

As Papa did last minute Internet shopping.

The stockings were hung by the modem with care

In hope that St. Nicholas would bring new software.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of computer games danced in their heads.

**

 

Over Christmas

I asked a friend of mine what he would be doing over Christmas. He told me he reckoned he would be doing a lot of work on "aqua-thermal treatment of ceramics, aluminum, and steel under a constrained environment." 

I was astonished – and baffled. 

In further conversation, I learned that he would be "washing dishes with hot water under his wife's supervision."



**

Want

First man:  “My wife doesn’t know what she wants for Christmas.”

Second man:  “You’re lucky.  Mine does!”

Thanks

“Thanks very much for the beautiful jumper,” said Charles, kissing his grandmother dutifully on the cheek.   

“Oh, there’s nothing to thank me for,” she murmured.

“That’s what I thought, but Mum said I had to.”

Many of you will remember the Festival of Faith last year, and hopefully a good number of you took part in it and thought another Festival would be good. Well that is happening in the summer of 2017.

As part of the planning we need to ensure we have the means to fund the costs, and we are hoping as many of you as possible will help. We aim to make it as painless as possible, by getting people to start putting aside a small sum on a weekly basis.

If we aim for a start in September, where possible, there are about 40 weeks until the Festival. At 50p a week, that would be £20, and at £1.00, obviously £40. If you had a coffee jar on the side, or small box, it would be easy to drop the coins in, after getting back from shopping or a trip to town. We will be providing handy stickers for your containers.

Of course anyone who would like to help, but thinks this is all too much trouble, could simply make a larger payment. ‘No Genuine Offer’ declined!

We are aiming for around 200 people to take part from our various congregations. There will be no need to sign-up, just a promise to join in, and after that, it is over to you. We hope that a volunteer will be appointed in each parish to administer this, possibly collecting the funds after three months, six months, and then near the end of the period. That way we will know how the scheme is going. We also hope to be able to collect Gift Aid on the contributions.

You can of course start as soon as you like, but we are aiming for the beginning of September, when holidays are over and Christmas is not yet upon us.

Please help as much as you can.

John Bullimore, on behalf of the Festival Planning Group