Christmas in the Year of our Lord: 2017

Once more the Christmas season has fallen upon us.

During this Festive time of the year we are given the opportunity to ask the kinds of questions that we should really be asking all the time.

In the run up to the annual series of Christmas services that we put on for the town, we’ve been trying to ask some of these questions to ourselves, so that we can reflect on the importance of this time in the context of our religion, as well as our identity as British Citizens and members of this small community here in Livingston Green.


What does it mean to be a Christian in 2017?

John 7:24 says: ‘Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.’

Being a Christian in the 21st Century is no easy task. We have to constantly contend with many harsh realities and contradictions that our forefathers would not have had to. The information age means has made us fully aware of the wrongs being done in the world, but we’re still (mostly) powerless to stop them. To be a Christian in 2017 is to be aware.


How can we make this Christmas truly special?

John 3:16 says: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’

When we’re children Christmas is an exciting time for us; every year we anticipate it’s arrival writing Christmas lists and opening advent calendars. Time and age change our perception of Christmas, regardless of our denomination, it can be hard to make it special after you’ve done 20, 30 or even 40 of them already. Make yours special by meeting new people and celebrating in a new way.


Is it always possible for us to go the extra mile?

Isaiah 58:10 says: ‘Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.’

Some of us know that we can try harder – that we can do more, but some other might already be doing as much as they can. Is it a good idea for us to constantly keep pushing to go the extra mile? Balance is important when it comes to giving, make sure that you leave enough time for yourself.


Can we ask ourselves to do more throughout the year?

Romans 12:10 says: ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour.’

It’s important for us to consider helping people more during the Christmas season, but surely it follows that we should be acting charitably throughout the year? Christmas is a time to remind ourselves about what we can do – what change we can make – throughout the year, rather than just at Christmas.


Can the Christmas story be relevant to non-Christians?

Luke 11:41 says: ‘But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.’

At this time of year, we can easily forget that Christmas is not celebrated by everyone. Here in Livingston Green we are a predominantly Christian population, with very few other minorities; we must be careful not to force our celebrations into the faces of those that might find them confusing or offensive. The Christmas story can be relevant to non-Christians but it’s up to us to let them find their own meaning from it.…

Alternatives to Church Weddings

Livingston Green is a small village, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see our fair share of Weddings here.

Whether you’re a Methodist or not, you’re always welcome to get married here in our lovely church.

When it comes to the notion of sharing we take the lessons of Luke 3:11 very seriously: ‘And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”’

However, if you find the idea of a traditional church wedding to be a little predictable, then take your special day to a more alternative venue. If you’re living locally, why not check out these ideas for unusual wedding venues in North Wales?

We may seem like a fairly traditional institution from the outside, but the Methodists here in Livingston Green are surprisingly forward thinking, when it comes to weddings. Unlike some of the other Christian denominations in England, we take a relaxed approach to how we get married. The most important thing is that two people are allowed to celebrate their union – in a way that honours the Lord, as well as each other.


Here are a few ideas with what you could do on your special day…

Take It Outside

Psalm 96:12 says: ‘Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the tree of the forest sing for joy.’

Although a church wedding might well be the first requirement on most prospective couple’s agenda, taking the service outside into the majesty of the great outdoors could well be the thing to elevate your special day to the next level.

Public parks are often open to services taking place in their grounds, you can also consider National Trust sites or even a particularly scenic spot in the countryside – just make sure it’s a summer wedding!


Make It Public

Colossians 3:14 says: ‘And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’

Many would argue that a wedding should be a private affair – something shared between the closest of family and friends. Of course, there was a time when they used to be very much the opposite. Why not engage your entire community and make it a day for hundreds to remember?

If you live in a village, hold the service in the square and invite everyone in the neighbourhood. If you’re a city dweller, you could consider holding a street party – just as long as there are lots of people.


Keep It Small

John 4:12 says: ‘No one has ever seen God; but if we love another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’

This might seem antecedent to the previous idea, but there’s no reason why they can’t work in tandem. Save on costs for the service and get together just the closest members of your circle. By only inviting your most cherished friends and family members you can make the service a real moment to remember.

After you’re done with the official business you can bring the rest of the wedding party together at a larger venue to celebrate en masse. Don’t worry about other missing out on the service – most people are just there for the party anyway…


Make It Retro

Fashion trends in weddings come and go – but there’s one fad that will always be in vogue. Have you ever stumbled upon an old photo of your parents or grandparents on the day of their wedding and thought how cool they look? Its not just the illusion of Black and White photography, weddings might well have been more fun back in the 20th century.

Take a truly alternative approach to your wedding and ban all kinds of modern technology. Hire a DJ with real vinyl, take away the smartphones and waltz back into the past for a day with vintage suits and dresses.


If you’re thinking of planning a wedding or need some ideas about your day, just message us on the Contact page!

Make The Most Of Your Winter Days

At this time of year, it can often feel like Winter will never end.

After all, we’ve had 3 months of cold, short, nights with the promise of at least another two months left to go.

At time like these it can be very easy to slip into the habit of taking our lives for granted. It’s hardly surprising: when the days get shorter it becomes more difficult to feasibly pack more into each day.

There’s only so much we can do with the little amount of daylight we have, usually more mundane tasks end up taking the forefront. By the time the sun sets at 5pm, we’re done for the day and our bodies naturally enter into evening mode. Our metabolism slows down, but our hunger does not dissipate, so we eat ourselves into food comas and pass out in front of the TV.

So how can we make the most of these short Winter days, when our bodies, as well as our social calendars, are hardwired to make us lazy?


Here are a few ways you can maximise your Winter hours, so you can achieve more:

Get Up Earlier

Proverbs 6:9-11 says: ‘How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest”– Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.’

Whilst you might infer that you’ll end up being more tired come the evening, you would be wrong.

If you set your morning wake-up alarm anywhere from half an hour to an hour earlier than usual (and actually wake up) then you’ll give yourself extra time in the morning before you need to go to work. That extra time can be used to relax or smash through a couple of small tasks.


Don’t Have A Day Off

Proverbs 13:4 says: ‘The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.’

The Lord saved Sunday as a day of rest, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole day lazing around!

One of the best ways that you can maximise your productivity in Winter is to simply not give yourself a chance to stop. Don’t let yourself sit down for day – get up and keep going!


Keep Busy In The Evenings

Ephesians 5:16 says: ‘Be very careful, then, how you life – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.’

This goes hand in hand with the above point. Your evenings should be seen as opportunity to get things done rather than a chance to slob out.

Make plans with friends, go out for dinner, schedule a hobby session. Don’t leave yourself with a spare evening and you’ll soon find that you’re making the most of the Winter nights.


Eat Dinner Early

Proverbs 17:1 says: ‘Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.’

Lastly, eating dinner early, besides being good for your health, is a great way to free up hours in the evening.

Obviously, if you work in the evenings then this won’t be helpful, but if you arrive home at 5:30-6, don’t simply sit down and rest for an hour – crack on with dinner ASAP and you’ll have the rest of the evening to spend at your leisure!


We may still have another 8 weeks or so of cold dark Winter nights ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get lots done. Follow the above tips and tell us if they help!

Finding New Ways To Engage Young Methodists

Over the course of ten years, the total membership of Methodists in the UK has diminished by over 100,000.

This isn’t a scare tactic.

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Nor is this number the result of gross manipulation of statistics.

Taken from the Statistics for Mission report, produced by Alan Piggot (Research Officer for the Methodist Church), this number was not plucked from thin air.

Since 2002, the Methodist Church has been actively collecting data for their Statistics for Mission, with the aim of assessing the number of people actively involved in the UK’s Methodist community.

A single ‘pro forma’, the standard form that is required to be filled in by each Church, requires 108 unique pieces of information to be filled in.

With nearly around 4,600 local churches spread across the length and breadth of England, the total data collated stacks up to a staggering 188,905 separate records. This is the amount of data that is collected and analysed by the Church every year. As a result, there are now over 20 millions individual records at researchers disposal to.

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Of course, statistics can often be misleading.

Indeed return rates from churches were initially low at around 85%. This would have significantly skewed results and given us Methodists some hope that there were perhaps more of us, simply choosing to go uncounted. However, these rates have since improved, with a 99% return rate recorded in 2013.

The results are now conclusive. Taken on average, the Methodist Church has been losing around 9,000 members a year, since records began in 2002. Let us not forget the words that John Wesley wrote in 1986:

“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist. However, I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of a religion without the power.”

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The only question now is, what are we going to do about it?

We need to be devising new ways to engage people from all backgrounds to visit their local Methodist Church and become part of the community. For the last month, we have been conducting meetings and discussion groups, to brain storm ideas on how best to do this. Here are some of the few ideas we’ve come up with so far:

Engage Educational Establishments

Luke 11:9 says: “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

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Mimicking companies in America, who are always looking for news ways to market to college students, we need to be getting amongst school and college kids, raising awareness of Methodism. Getting involved in Open Days and offering counselling are just a few examples of what we could be doing.


Open Up Church Spaces

Acts 5:14 says: “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…”

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Earlier this year it was proven that communal experiences, such as Pokemon Go, could successfully lure young people into church spaces. By paying closer attention to current recreational trends, the Church could open up safe spaces for young people to enjoy at their own leisure.


Social Media Experts

Mark 16:15 says: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'”

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Part of our responsibility as Methodists is to spread the word of the Lord, through any means necessary. Standing out on the pavements, attempting to wrangle unwitting members of the public, is no longer a viable option. Social Media is the most efficient method of outreach in the 21st century and it’s one that we need to be making better use of.


However we choose to approach the matter- we need to act decisively to bring more members into the fold. This is no longer an issue that can be ignored. 

Livingston Green’s Political Views

The Congregation of Livingston have spoken.

Aleppo’s New Aid Appeal, Good Samaritans Offering Sanctuary and Benefits Caps in Britain…

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Good samaritans come in all shapes and sizes.

Although Livingston Green may often feel like it’s far removed from the troubles and issues of the modern day world, we are not completely ignorant. We have internet connections and we do use them!

Over the course of the last few months, there has been an increasing amount of discussion of topical matters in our Church Services. It appears that our congregation have been galvanised by the current political climate, so we thought it would be a good idea to get some of these opinions out in the open.

There may well be a precedent set for keeping Religion and Politics separate, but we’re a liberal bunch and believe that the two will forever be intertwined. So without further ado, let’s get to it!


Trump & Immigration

Galatians 6:2 says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

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There was widespread outcry after Donald Trump was elected as the next President of the United States. But the outrage wasn’t strictly limited to the States.

Members of Livingston Green’s community were also found to be angry at the result and worried about the outcome for the thousands of Central American immigrants who could soon be at risk of deportation.

Village Store shop keep, Mavis, had this to say: “Hundreds of Churches and Synagogues across the United States have pledged their commitment to offering sanctuary to those poor, lost people, but I’m still worried for them. I’d let them into my home in a heartbeat.”


bENEFIT CAPS COULD hARM fAMILIES

Hebrews 13:16: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

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At the start of November a new cap was introduced by the UK government, intended to provide recipients of benefits with a ‘clear incentive to move into a new job’. The cap was decried by many as an outright attack on the most vulnerable people in our society.

Although Livingston Green is mostly a well-off community, that gets by without the aid of government aid, the plight of young families and single mother’s still struck a chord with the congregation here.

Sheep farmer and choir member, Gerald, raised this point: “The government exists in this country to help it’s citizens. By forcing the hands of thousands of young Mothers across Britain, the politicians are putting children’s growth and development in peril.”


oNGOING sYRIAN CRISIS

Proverbs 3:27 says: Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”

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Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the community of Livingston Green has been deeply saddened by the loss of human life in Syria. The lack of empathy or support offered from major world powers has also led to a deep well of sympathy for those displaced by the war.

Amongst all the ongoing topical issues in the news, it is the Syrian Conflict (in addition to the ensuing Migrant Crisis) that has drawn the most discussion amongst the congregation here in Livingston Green.


Unanimously, the community here stands firmly in support of the men, women and children whose lives have been irrevocably damaged by this devastating conflict.

 …

Mary’s Trip To Florence’s Duomo

Finding God and Sanctification in a Foreign Land

Church Organist and avid Traveller, Mary Piper, tells us about her holiday to Florence which became an unexpectedly spiritual experience…

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I went for the sights and discovered a sense of sanctity.

Since my retirement from teaching 10 years ago or so, I’ve been lucky enough to have the funds and time to explore foreign lands. The trips usually consist of some sightseeing and food – but, very rarely, I find my spirit transported.

When the Winter months begin to batter our small little community of Livingston Green – I act rather cowardly and book myself a holiday.

The Christmas season is a very busy one for me as Church Organist for the area, so I tell myself that I need a break before my schedule starts to fill up.

For a long time, I’ve been applying a ‘spin-the-globe’ methodology to picking my destinations, but this time I was acting on a recommendation from a good friend. She told me that the temperate weather (around 20 degrees at this time of year) would help lift my spirits and that the Cathedrals truly had to be ‘seen to be believed’.

I’ve always thought that places of worship should be humbly furnished.
However, after seeing the duomo, I had to agree with her.

After going through my usual rigmarole of finding the best flights, packing a small bag and booking my airport parking at Manchester (where I was due to fly out on the Friday, for a long weekend) – I was on the plane, excited to touch down in a new land an visit a Cathedral that had left such an impression on my friend.

Florence is one of Italy’s most popular tourist cities, thanks to it’s central location (making it a great stop-off between places like Pisa, Venice and Rome) and gorgeous architecture. Home to great works of art, such as Michelangelo’s iconic ‘David’, as well as some beautiful plazas.

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Amongst the plethora of tourist attractions lies Il Duomo di Firenze – a building started in 1296 and not finished until 1436 – a Goliath of Gothic architecture and an unexpected fount of sanctification.

As I’ve mentioned briefly, I’ve always found the extravagance of Cathedrals to undermine the simple nature of praising God. The grand ornateness of England’s Cathedrals may have astounded older generations of believers, but now they merely serve as distractions to the would-be faithful masses.


That was the opinion that I had before setting eyes Florence’s main church.

Philippians 4:8 says: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”duomo-3

The Bible tells us to dwell on the good, excellent things that exist in our world. Although the intricate designs, and endlessly detailed paintings that cover it’s interior, could be deemed extravagant – almost boastful – they fostered in me a deep sense of inspiration and awe. 


The city of Florence is abound with lush sights and stunning vistas, but there are none more spiritually uplifting than the Duomo.

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A building that made me stop and think about the wonder and majesty of our world. 

Is Christmas Here Already?

The Christmas Season Is Approaching – What Does This Mean?

Us Brits try and put it off for as long as possible, but eventually the Christmas Season takes hold of the country…

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The beginning of the Christmas Season is now murky and ambiguous.

In the times before the rampant commercialisation of the Festive Season, when the Christian Faith was more prevalent within the communities of Britain, the beginning and end of the period was more defined.

Traditionally, the period of Advent (which begins on the nearest Sunday to the feast day of St. Andrew) lasts for the breadth of four Sunday, running up to Christmas. This year, it will be the 27th November.

However, the observant might have already noticed Festively packaged food items creeping on to the shelves – suggestively putting thoughts of Christmas into our minds ahead of Advent.

There are no rules or law as to when people should start discussing Christmas, or even using the period as a way to create brand awareness. John Lewis, for the last few years, have done well out of investing millions in creating powerfully emotional – yet slick – adverts, capable of ‘warming the hearts’ whilst also reminding the viewer of where to shop for their presents.

For most people, this advert is a calling to think about the practicalities of christmas: presents, travel plans, dinners.
But what should Methodists be thinking about?

Even though we are yet to officially reach the start of Advent – it does us no harm to start considering the implications of this period of expectation.

It can be easy to take a superficial view of what Advent means to us Methodists, with the many rituals and thematic readings that we can, sometimes, grow a little weary of.

So, before we surround ourselves with the rich purple hues that denote the season, let us consider the theological ramifications of Advent and how we can let it effect our daily routines.

think towards your charitable actions

Matthew 5:42 says: “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”

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As the Winter months draw in, the cold winds and rain drive us indoors, into the warmth of our homes. It’s important to remember that there are those not so lucky to have their own refuge. 

Giving to charity can be as simple as  buying someone a cup of coffee

Proverbs 29:7 says: The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it.”

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The bigger the sacrifice you make, the better you can make the world – so don’t let the bad weather keep you from exercising your charitable nature – go on and make someone’s day!

Consider those who might be alone for the period

Ephesians 4:32 says: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

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The Christmas season can be a painfully lonely time for those with few friends – so why not take the time to keep those people company. It can be as little as dropping in to a Hospice once a week or a Retirement Home.

Don’t let the the early start of the Christmas season put you off from giving and being generous.