Congregational thoughts on the Reflection Questions given on Sunday 14th June…

After the sermon on Sunday 14th June, the congregation were given three questions to consider. They were asked to send their thoughts to Kristee, who then summarised them.

The sermon begins at 13.01 minutes on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8opMOTu1sa4

The six questions asked are:

1. When have you had moments of true joy in your life?

2. Are you able to revisit and treasure memories of those moments and to be thankful for them?

3. Does being a Christian feel a joy to you?

4. If not, how can you connect, or reconnect, with God in a joyful way?

5. What do you believe God is calling St Peter’s Church towards?

6. What is your place in the mission that He has for us?

Kristee has summarised the congregational responses below:

As usual, many thanks to those who took the time to send me their thoughts on the Reflection Questions from the sermon on 14 June. Please find below my summary of the answers I received.

1. When have you had moments of true joy in your life?

I must say, I felt privileged to be given the chance to read through the many personal examples that were sent to me, relaying experiences of true joy in life. Most emails mentioned the happiness found in feeling connected to loved ones or to a community. These included family weddings, childhood with family and friends, the birth of children, the feeling of being united with others on the basis of common beliefs around what is just and right…or even simply around a love of football! One member of St Peter’s shared a cherished example of when his previous church family rallied around in prayer and practical support as he and his partner, as a young couple, struggled to organise their wedding, in the face of financial obstacles and family discord. This practical support included “two ladies marching me to a shop to make sure that I had a decent shirt to wear on the day!”

I found it interesting to observe that equal levels of personal joy were found in both the giving and the receiving of love and support from those around us. For example, one person spoke of the joy and relief found during his medical career, when a difficult and stressful case ended with a positive result, wherein a patient’s life was transformed or even saved. On the flip side, a lady was reminded of the joy of coming through her first cataract operation and being able to see the colour blue in such a vivid hue! There was “a great team of people” involved in this joyful experience.

Some people gave examples of happiness they experienced from a sense of spiritual connection. Specific examples of this included:

  • Reading – when something amazing comes off the page and hits you in the heart
  • Moments of true joy in my early years came from singing in some of our great cathedrals during summer holidays which opened my eyes and ears to the glories of Anglican choral music (especially from the 20th century ) – rehearsing with the evening sun streaming through the windows of Westminster Abbey as a 12year old initiated a feeling of faith in a higher force which has not left me. This has been reawakened by joining St P’s choir since retiring and getting to know members of choir and congregation.

2. Are you able to revisit and treasure memories of those moments and to be thankful for them?

Everyone who emailed said that they are able to treasure these moments through their own memories, through photographs and through reminiscing with family members and friends. One lady added a very interesting point that, sometimes, treasured memories are later overshadowed by a more recent personal betrayal or hurt. As such, the good memories become tinged with sadness or regret. This was a very relatable observation, as I’m sure that many of our most treasured, long-term relationships have included periods of pain and heartache.

3. Does being a Christian feel a joy to you?

I was grateful for the honesty in the answers I received. Moments of Christian joy were recounted:

  • When I feel God speaking through the scripture
  • In a loved one’s recovery from serious illness
  • When singing in the choir
  • When helping others in practical ways that make a difference to their lives

On lady shared that joy was found in her choice to become a Christian and to be baptised, as she was raised in a different religion; becoming a Christian was a major life decision for her.

Another lady said, “I can’t honestly admit that I have the ‘cup running over’ or bubbling spring of joy that Christians write about.” She agreed that there are moments of joy but that it is not something that is experienced consistently. Most people mentioned feeling imperfect to varying degrees, when it comes to being a Christian or behaving in the way we expect Christians ought to be behave.

4. If not, how can you connect, or reconnect, with God in a joyful way?

Maya Angelou once said, “I’m grateful to be a practicing Christian. I’m always amazed when people say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I think, ‘Already?’ It’s an ongoing process. You know, you keep trying. And blowing it and trying and blowing it.”

I thought of this quote when I read through the many examples from St Peter’s folk of how they endeavour to connect and to reconnect with God in a meaningful way.

  • Being part of the choir, which brings extra joy to both the choir and to the congregation
  • Recovering the joy of Christians fellowship
  • Practising meditation on a daily basis
  • Finding quiet and stillness each day, in order to reflect and reconnect with God

It was mentioned that some ‘Christian’ practices in churches seem to encourage feigning a joyful connection with God in a way that makes one “squirm”!! This really made me smile and it was such an important point to make, that genuine connection with God should make a person more of their true self, not less.

5. What do you believe God is calling St Peter’s Church towards?

There were two broad themes that came across again and again in answers to this question: Unity and Community Outreach.

Unity

  • Creating a friendly atmosphere at St Peter’s
  • Enacting small kindnesses and taking care of each other
  • Listening to each other
  • Respecting each other’s needs and wants (A house divided against itself cannot stand)

Community Outreach

  • Working closely with other denominations and religions
  • Supporting less fortunate groups
  • Developing a ministry to students
  • Praying with and standing with those on the edge of our community in their difficulties
  • Expanding our membership
  • Being honest in terms of our own faith journeys, our struggles and our doubts.
  • “Wearing a practical, recognisable and accessible face; and offering, but not imposing, a space to explore spirituality”

6. What is your place in the mission that He has for us?

Many of St Peter’s folk expressed a deep desire to get back to actively practicing their Christian beliefs in the real world, including working with those who are disadvantaged, returning to the choir, and further developing St Peter’s community (after agreeing upon specific missions!). Continuing to attentively learn from the scriptures was seen as another important element in St Peter’s ongoing ministry.

This summary can be downloaded: