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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26

Mothering Sunday

 By Tony Villiers

Mothering Sunday originates from a sixteenth-century church tradition of servants returning to their mother church on the fourth Sunday of Lent. As Michael Caine allegedly once put it, ‘Not a lot of people know that’! Not much there to do with flesh-and-blood mothers I know, except it’s likely that a servant would have seen their mum upon returning to their home church. Today, the early twentieth-century secular US festival of Mother’s Day has replaced the earlier tradition in churches - well, you can’t get the servants these days! But it’s only right we should have a day to celebrate mothers after all they do for us. There aren’t many people in our lives who’ve cared for us so fundamentally - feeding and dressing us, teaching us how to speak and think for ourselves. And that’s just the beginning! Of course, we should show our appreciation for our mums a lot more than once a year. That's acknowledged in the Ten Commandments and taken up in the New Testament: ‘“Honour your father and mother” - which is the first commandment with a promise - “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”’ (Ephesians 6:2). We don’t have to look far to see the harm done when there’s conflict in families and children turn away from their parents. Even if our parents are in the wrong, Christians - by the grace of God - have the power to honour them and work for reconciliation.

As part of Grace Church’s celebration of mothers, we have two events coming up this weekend. The first is a craft day for children this Saturday morning at Middleton Primary School, where they can make presents for the mums, grans and aunties in their lives. If you haven’t yet asked your friends and neighbours with children to come along to this free event please can I encourage you to do so? It’s a great way that we can bless local families and the community. There are more details on the Events page.

Our service this Sunday will be full of appreciation and blessing for mums, too. There’ll be presents and pastries so please encourage parents and children you know to come along and make it a part of their Mother’s Day celebrations.

People in the church have reported getting very positive responses from parents towards these events. One person’s leafleting led a mum in Middleton to tell them which other houses in her street had children! As a church let’s bless mums and we’re sure to see people come to recognise that the church is good news for ordinary families. Maybe then there’ll even make us their mother church!

Posted by Tony Villiers at 7:32 AM

FRIDAY, MARCH 14

It is well with my soul

 By Tony Villiers

I was recently listening to UCB Inspirational when I heard Anne Henderson telling the story of 19th century hymnwriter Horatio Spafford. And what an amazing story of faith it is! He's best remembered for the hymn 'It is well with my soul', but what makes the hymn's bold statement of security in God so astonishingly faith-filled is that it was made in the face of great personal tragedy. In 1871 Horatio endured both the loss of his 4-year-old son to scarlet fever and faced financial ruin when the great fire of Chicago reduced the city to ashes along with most of his investments. But this was only the beginning of his troubles... Two years later, Horatio sent his wife, Anna, and their four daughters to England ahead of him by sea. As their steamship crossed the Atlantic it was struck by another vessel causing the deaths of 226 people, including all four of the Spaffords' daughters. Anna survived the tragedy and once in England she sent a telegram to Horatio beginning 'Saved alone'. You can imagine how Horatio, far away in America, must have felt upon receiving the news. And yet as he sailed to England to join Anna, crossing over the place where his daughters had died, he put his trust in the sufficiency of God and wrote the words, 'When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.'

Horatio's story made such an impact on me that I just had to share it in our Sunday meeting later that day. Then, in the week, the person leading our prayer meeting chose Horatio's hymn for our time of worship, and the truth and the power of the words seemed to grip us as we sang. Whether it's in a hymn written in 1873 or a new song by Matt Redman like 'Your grace finds me', the powerful truth that God's love will help us in the most difficult times in life never changes or fades. He truly is worthy of our praise!

Posted by Tony Villiers at 11:11 PM