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In this month's edition of our newsletter, we have an encouraging word from Arun Arora on what this season of Lent is about, a brief update on Healing on the Streets (HOTS) from Tom Musson, a chance to get to know our new Administration Assistant, Janet Dawson, and LeAnne Davis talks about the Youth Climate Strike that happened a few weeks ago.

Lent: Preparing for New Life

By: Revd Arun Arora

The Church is in the period of Lent, a period of forty days of prayer, reflection and self-denial that provides an opportunity for a spiritual MOT.

Anyone who has been to a traditional Ash Wednesday service will recall the words used by the priest during the Imposition of Ashes: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and turn to Christ”

Our six week Lent course at our church this year has taken that instruction literally as we embark on a course called “Preparing Well” which focuses on death, dying and preparing well for both. Now at first blush, this doesn’t sound like much of a marketing triumph. The potential for six evenings of doom, gloom, and moping might sound like a hard sell. But asking questions such as “what would you like to be most remembered for after you have died ?” can be incredibly life giving.

It’s an odd thing to say, but outside of funerals we don’t talk about death very much in Church. Of course, every year during Holy Week and Easter we reflect on the passion of our Lord, his death and crucifixion, his resurrection and ascension. When, however, it comes to speaking of our own mortality or what happens after we die, we rarely talk about this on any given Sunday.

One reason for this is that the society in which we live largely avoids talking about death. That is one of the reasons for the growing number of Death Cafés operating around the country – places where people can go to talk about death and dying long before the inevitable occurs as an opportunity to explore this most certain of outcomes and the things that come with it. Of course in church we have a particular understanding of this. Whilst some would see death as the end of the matter for us  death is simply, after all, part of our life.

For Christians, dying and death are not the final act of the life story but a transition point in a story that continues.

Death is both inevitable and unpredictable. And so over the next six weeks we are going to spend time talking about death and preparing well for it from wills and powers of attorney through to care for the bereaved, palliative care through to funeral planning. Questions about the practical alongside the spiritual will be shared as we listen to one another about our cares, fears and hopes.

As the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams noted some years ago,  it's important to remember that the word 'Lent' itself comes from the old English word for 'spring'. It's not about feeling gloomy for forty days; it's not about making yourself miserable for forty days; it's not even about giving things up for forty days. Lent is springtime. It's preparing for that great climax of springtime which is Easter – new life bursting through death. And as we prepare ourselves for Easter during these days, by prayer and by self denial, what motivates us and what fills the horizon is not self-denial as an end in itself but trying to sweep and clean the room of our own minds and hearts so that the new life really may have room to come in and take over and transform us at Easter.

Are Miracles Happening in
the Market Place?

By: Tom Musson

To be honest with you, when I sat opposite Arun and Mary Anne in my first interview to become a MEV last July, I sat anxiously wondering if that was the right time to tell them I wanted to set up an evangelistic healing ministry at our church. It wasn’t so much because I thought they would reject my idea – they didn’t, thankfully. But I wondered whether this was something our church, a church I’ve been blessed to call home these last 5 years, would be prepared to back and walk into with great expectation and faith. And so, believe me when I say that 6 months later, kneeling with 5 others on a cold and bright Saturday morning in the marketplace before embarking of this very ministry, was nothing but a supreme reminder of our God’s generous love and enduring faithfulness.

Healing on the Streets (HOTS) is not an outreach ministry of the traditional Christian variety, inspiring vision but with a small amount of timidity! It is evangelistic but not in the old “hellfire and sin” kinda way. There is no one guldering through megaphones or forcing passers-by to recount their worse sins! No – HOTS is something quite different – literal, gentle, but brimming with confidence, unashamedly seeking and celebrating the good news of God’s powerful and life-changing love. Are Miracles Happening in the Market Place? By: Tom Musson page

And, already, we are seeing this in practice. At HOTS, we aim to leave everyone we encounter with a deeper knowledge of God’s love for them, whether or not they experience instantaneous healing. It’s not that we don’t long for healing to happen (we do!), but if healing is only ever an outflow of God’s love, then it is God’s love above all else that we want people to encounter. Take for instance a conversation I had with a lady, Judy, 2 weeks ago. Upon approaching her she was almost impressively quick to tell me that not only did she not believe in God but that she didn’t want any prayer.

Q & A with Janet Dawson

Janet Dawson was introduced this past Sunday, but we thought it would be great to get to know her a bit better.
What is your role here at St Nics?

Hi, I'm Janet and I'll be helping out in the office as the new Administration Assistant.

Where are you from & what were you doing before starting at St Nics?

I am lucky to have lived in beautiful Durham all my life. Born in Gilesgate, I'm the middle child, with an older brother and younger sister. My family moved to Framwellgate Moor when I was 8 years old where I lived until I married. I attended St Leonard's RC School where I found enjoyed PE and was good at running and joined the athletics and cross country team. My knees no longer can cope with running but I do try and walk 10,000+ steps a day to keep me active. When I left school I began work at Durham University which is where I have worked most of my adult life.

I married my husband Eddie at St Godric's RC Church in Durham City 37 years ago and began married life Ushaw Moor. I have two grown-up sons, Eddie (there are three Eddies in my family as my father-in-law is also Eddie, which can be confusing at times) who lives in Gateshead with his wife Alex and my younger son Marc who with his wife Cathy is living in Kathmandu,Nepal for 3 years. Currently, I take an active part in my local parish church of St Joseph's where I volunteer as a Eucharistic Minister and visit the elderly house bound at the weekend taking them Holy Communion and keeping them up to date on what's happening in the parish and local gossip. Due to a three year restructure at Durham University last Summer, I was made redundant after 20 years service as a Reception Manager. It was a job I loved but I wanted to be positive about the future and look for a new opportunity which would suit me and where I could used my experience and skills.

What is something about yourself that most people wouldn't guess?

I love to spend time with my family which mainly involves good food and board games. I love to travel and visited Kephalonia 18 years running so that tells you how much I love Greek food. I don't have an adventurous bone in my body so my hobbies are pretty boring, I enjoy going to the theatre, socialising with my family and friends and I am a Jane Austen fan.

What are you looking forward to the most about joining St Nics?

The exciting new opportunity I have been given is the privilege of working at St Nics. I have been given a warm and friendly welcome and feel a sense of community which I am already starting to feel part of. I am hoping in my small way I can help with the smooth running of what goes on behind the scenes and a little part of St Nics history. Looking forward to meeting you, please come and say hello.

Youth Climate Strike

By: LeAnne Davis
Over the past few months I have had the amazing privilege to get to know and work with a group of sixth formers from Durham Johnston. We’ve been working to coordinate and lead in facilitating the Durham Youth Climate Strike. Friday the 14th Feb marked the one-year anniversary of the Youth strikes in Durham and held in the week that the Church of England seeks to go carbon-neutral in a decade.
The atmosphere was great and it was lovely to see the students and the older generations all coming together for a common purpose. The speakers included students, the council’s climate champion, and many more. The real treasure was that the young people themselves had a space to passionately communicate the need to act. As the strike was held on Valentine’s Day there was a global campaign for green hearts as part of the #showthelove campaign. Green heart stickers were worn, green heart chocolates were given out, and we had our very own selfie photo frame. The St Nics Eco Group did a great job of serving free hot drinks.

One of the highlights of the strike for David Lucas and myself was the prayer space attached to the monument. Named Plastic Planet, this was a chance for any of the strikers or passers-by to take a moment to write a prayer or make a promise on a gift tag and hang it on the net with everyone else’s. The 5th Mark of mission is “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”. We must take responsibility for our use of creation, not simply for future generations here in this country but also for present generations in other parts of God’s world today. We can make a difference in simple ways but also with the way we order our lives. The prayer space gave time to reflect on our use and what we can do to make a difference in order to safe guide God’s creation.

One of our own young people said:
“I loved the climate change protest. It was beautiful to see lots of people who were passionate about climate justice. During the whole thing I was on the verge of crying, these were happy tears. It was so enjoyable because so many people had so much energy and enthusiasm. I was the only person who came from St Leonard’s. I hope I will be able to bring more people from my school next time.”
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