Last Sunday, we met together outside (in rather windier weather!), to worship as a church family, focusing on the theme of "sharing a smile". We chatted in bubbles, crafted, wrote letters and poems to those who may need a smile and went on a prayer walk where we measured "smiles per hour" (we made it 96 smiles per hour!). It was a great opportunity for fun and fellowship outside in the fresh air! So why focus on smiles? Steph shared some of her thoughts on what the bible has to say about the importance of smiling!

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart: Proverbs 15:30

The last few months have been a time where we have perhaps struggled to find things to smile about – there have been many challenges along the way, strains on home life, some have lost jobs, have been furloughed or had to work longer hours to cover colleagues. There has been home schooling, working from home, isolation, and people have been seriously ill.

However, I am sure there were times where you did find happiness and joy during lockdown and more recently – zoom calls with family and friends, online quizzes, being with you close family – playing games, cooking together, going for walks, being in the garden and enjoying the wildlife. Even just the slower pace of life.

Smiling is good for you! Did you know …..

Smiling helps you relax and boosts your immune system it lowers blood pressure. Smiling releases endorphins and relieves stress, it is sometimes referred to as a natural pain killer! Smiles are contagious- a study done in Sweden at Uppsala University showed that people struggled to frown when they looked at other people who were smiling, and their muscles twitched into smiles on their own! It takes 62 muscles to frown, but only 26 muscles to smile!

When we are in crowded areas the wearing of face masks is advised and it is not always easy to see people’s expressions, but you can tell when someone is smiling as their eyes really do sparkle.

Throughout everything, even when we are feeling down God is smiling on us, but sometimes we are preoccupied with what is going on around us to notice.

How do we know God is smiling down on us?

The beauty of the world around us – the bird song, the trees blowing in the wind – when we are feeling low a walk in the countryside can lift our spirits.

When we have said or acted as we shouldn’t, God will forgive us and wash our sins away. The Bible often refers to water washing away our sins as it is cleansing, powerful and pure.

God smiles on us when we take time to talk to Him, to pray, to reflect, to tell Him our worries, our stresses – by sharing our concerns He will take them and ease our load.

God smiles on us when we follow His word.

So allow God’s love to shine through our smiles to spread joy & happiness; as you go about your day to day life, do as it says in Proverbs, give a cheerful look to bring joy to those you meet.

Steph - Family Praise Team

If you want to find out more about the Smiles Per Hour initiative then visit Gloucester Community Building Collective's website. The next Family Fun morning is due to be on 11th October. Would be great to see you there!

Today (6th September) marks the beginning of Creationtide where we turn our focus to the climate crisis and explore the theological and scientific basis of creation care and action on climate. This morning, we heard from Dr Ian Todd, who in addition to being a trainee Reader, has spent his career lecturing in biology and conservation. You may recognise his name from the last blog post, where Ian spoke about the importance of biodiversity when heading up the new wildflower meadow.

As stewards of God’s creation we have a responsibility to look for warning signs or damage to the earth and everything that lives on it, including people. And when we hear and see those warning signals we are called to respond— whether it is ecological damage, inequality in availability of resources, oppression of groups of people or unsustainable ways of living. Despite the terrible cost to human life and health, the Covid-19 lockdown led to reduced pollution across the world and an opportunity to see how things can be different. This can be an inspiration to us all to recognise our Christian role in not just living in harmony with God’s world but striving for national and global changes in the way governments and businesses impact on our planet.

In the online service, we also watched a video from A Rocha, which is a organisation dedicated to the protection and restoration of the natural world, committed to mobilising Christians and churches in the UK to care for the environment. If you would like to find out more about what they do, visit their website, where you can also find resources about being an eco-church and "Wild Christians".

St Barnabas is currently working towards its Bronze award as an Eco-Church, where we have begun to think about our energy use, the way we use our grounds and what we choose to preach regarding the environment. This week, a group met at the grounds to begin a bit of a tidy up of the grounds, including tidying up and filling our compost bins! It was a great time of community, worshipping God and caring for creation in a hands on way!

As we move forward we pray that we continue to hold God's creation in the forefront of our minds in all of our day-to-day lives. We are really exciting to see how the grounds will transform over time but this really is the very start of our journey!

If you are reading this, and you would like to commit yourself to this part of the Christian journey, you may like to say these words that we said at the end of our service this morning.

As followers of Jesus, we seek to honour God and love our neighbour by committing to pray faithfully and act boldly to care for the Climate, Amen

Updated: Sep 15

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Faithfulness, Generosity, Gentleness and Self-Control there is no law against such things" Galatians 5: 22-23

These past few months, we have been doing a sermon series on the fruits of the spirit ending last week (30th August) with Rev Sarah's talk on self-control. The challenge to those giving the talks over the past few weeks has been to not only talk about what the fruits are, but what they mean for us living today, not only in 2020 but in a pandemic.

The book of Galatians is thought to be one of the first letters Paul wrote in the bible and was written because the churches in Galatia were facing a religious crisis! Both Jewish and Gentile (non Jewish) people were starting to follow Jesus and there were some disagreements on how a Christians should lead their lives. Some disagreed that you could enter heaven purely based on faith and that you needed to prove yourself through human works whilst on earth. Some Jewish Christians also believed that all Christians should keep the Jewish Law, essentially converting to Judaism first to then become a Christian. Paul aims to remind the Galatians of the good news of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to clear up some of the misunderstandings!

So what is the Fruits of the Spirit? In the bible, the Greek word for fruit can be translated in different ways, and as well as meaning something that we would find in the fruit bowl, on a tree or in the fridge, a fruit is an action or result. So when we say "the fruit of the spirit" we are saying the "results of" or "action of" the spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in a Christian's life or community is the presence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, generosity and self-control. These are in comparison to the "result of" or "action of" the flesh, which Paul speaks about in Galatians 5:22-23. Look it up if you'd like to find out what he said - we need the pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and communities; when we start to do things in our own strength they quickly begin to go wrong.

As Christians, we know we aren't perfect. We know we make mistakes - we are human! Paul gives a really clear explanation for this, for it is when we rely on "the flesh" or our humanity that we make mistakes. In this way, Paul explains to the Galatians that having faith alone was enough to enter into heaven, because by having faith, the Holy Spirit will enter their lives and bring about good human deeds. Bit of a "two birds - one stone" message there!

In the sermon series, Dave, Hilary, Bishop Robert, Michael, Sue, John, Catherine and Rev Sarah each take one of the Fruits of the Spirit and talk more in depth about it, from Love through the Self-Control. If you have missed any of the talks through July and August, you can catch up here. Thanks to all of them for their interpretations and thoughts on what these fruits are and how we can use them in our lives.

Then there's the pandemic. I think we can all agree that the pandemic has been harder than perhaps some of us thought. We have worried about loved ones, jobs, money and watched as the government have tried to keep us all safe. We have had the chance to take a step back, watch as nature has healed itself, enjoyed a slower pace of life. But we have had also had thoughts of frustration, anger, sadness, grief and loneliness. Now that we are in September, we are in a strange limbo. The immediate threat of the disease seems to have passed but we remain in that state of vigilance.

Will it come back? What about my friends and family? I need to work! I just want things to be back to the way it was.

Stress does weird things to our brains. It's there for a reason, stress is the thing that lets us react to perceived threats and get us out of there! But when we stay stressed for too long we end up in a state of "hyper-vigilance". We misinterpret things as threats when they may not be, we find it harder to sleep, we are short-tempered and emotional but aren't always able to say why.

People find different ways to cope with the stress. For some, conforming precisely to government guidance on social-distancing and "bubbles" brings them comfort because they feel they are alleviating the threat. Some crave social contact because it brings them comfort. Some focus on threats that they can see and do something about. And some will seek out threats or danger because it is better to be in control of the danger than to not know where it is.

All of these are natural and human responses to threat. We are biologically wired to find and respond to danger. But when we rely on human responses, rely on "the flesh" we make mistakes. We argue, we grow defensive, we disobey. We feel pain and anger.

For us to make it through this pandemic and to come out together the other side we need love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, generosity, gentleness and self-control. We need to love and care for one another, seek out joy, find moments of peace, be patient, show kindness, have faith that everything will be okay, be generous with our actions and resources, be gentle and understanding of one another and have self-control over our thoughts, actions and behaviours. We cannot do this by relying on the flesh. We have to turn to God and have faith, so that the Holy Spirit will fill us with this fruit. Some people have asked the very good question, "where is God in a pandemic?" Perhaps one answer is "right alongside us". The Holy Spirit is often described as being an enabler, comforter or helper, and this is what God longs to be for us as we step into the last quarter of the year. So let's commit to praying one of the oldest prayers of the church "Come Holy Spirit" as together we follow Jesus into an future that remains uncertain.

- Ellie Todd


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