From the Vicar

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Fr Kevin

A warm welcome to the parish of St Katherine with St Nicholas, Southbourne on Sea.

Please take some time to look around our website, which hopefully will give you an insight into our church family.

We are always delighted to hear from people, so if there is anything you need to know that is not on the website, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and we will see if we can answer your question. Visitors to the church are always welcome, and I do encourage you to come and look around our churches and to join us for worship. Both churches have a deep spirituality, and many people value spending time in them.

As a parish we seek to engage with our local community, and to show them the love of Jesus Christ in both word and action.

Access to the church for prayer or quiet reflection can be arranged by contacting Fr Kevin.

You will always be very welcome,

Fr Kevin

From our May Magazine…

Praise him on the cymbals

Psalm 150:5 – Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Alleluia Christ is risen. By the time this month’s magazine goes to press, we will be in the midst of our Holy Week and Easter Celebrations. A time to reflect on Christ’s offering of himself and then rejoice as we celebrate his resurrection.

The psalmists knew exactly how to celebrate, and we are told to praise God not just on cymbals but loud clashing ones, such is our joy over our great God, the Holy One of Israel.

In the middle of March, a small number of us from the parish visited St Peter and St Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in Bournemouth. At the invitation of Fr Botros, whose parish covers half of the South West, we joined them for Sunday worship. I think all of us were struck by the family involvement in the service, with young children serving at the altar, reading parts of the liturgy, and accompanying the singing with their own tiny cymbals. The worship had a formal atmosphere, yet also felt relaxed and there was a real sense of joy in their worship.

The service itself has remained largely unchanged since the third century, and follows the “Liturgy of St Basil”. It is perhaps the closest glimpse we will get in modern times of ancient Christian worship. Hymns of praise are accompanied only by bells and cymbals. Even though much of the service was in Arabic or Coptic, the use of two plasma flat screens enabled us to follow the service, and join in some parts. Some of us even had a go at joining in the singing, and I am sure the Lord appreciated the intent behind our effort, however we may have sounded.

What struck me though was not just the sense of reverence, but the sense of joy. You could see the passion in people’s faces, their body language and in the whole ethos of their worship. Although we could not share the Eucharistic with them due to centuries old divisions between the worlds Christian denominations, they had kindly laid out everything we needed for us in one of their teaching rooms so we could receive at the same time they were.

For their communion services the Coptic’s use a special bread, baked on this occasion by Fr Botros himself. At the beginning of the service several loaves of this bread are presented to the priest who selects one to be for them the Body of Christ, this is called the “Qurban” meaning “sacrifice”. It is stamped in the middle with a special symbol meaning “Christ the Lord” and has five holes in it, reminding us of the five wounds of Christ.

After the conclusion of the mass, the priest distributes bread from the remaining loaves to the congregation. This bread is not consecrated, but is seen as being sanctified as it has been offered before the altar at the beginning of the service. We were privileged to be able to use one of these breads for our own communion service, which made our time there particularly special.

After the service some of us remained where we shared lunch before leaving. Many of those there stay on for Sunday School for Children and teens, and bible study and confession for the adults. As some of the people there came from as far as Exeter each week, it was very moving to see their level of commitment. There was a real sense of being part of a community, and in every respect you could see and feel people’s dedication to God and how central their faith was to their lives. Their whole worship reflected the fact that every Sunday was a celebration of the resurrection, and of transformation. This weekly reminder is so important, to Christians of all denominations. It enables us to grow in Christ.

And that really is the point of what we celebrate at Easter. New life, transformation and being made a new creation in Jesus. St Paul reminds us of this in his second letter to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

And as new Creations, new people in God, no longer of this world but of the Kingdom of God, we are called to live that resurrection life each day by not just centering our lives on God, but allowing Him to BE the centre of our lives. Every thought, action, deed, and word, should be made mindful that we are new creations.

Reminding us that we should live as new creations in Christ, as transformed people, St Paul draws our attention to the fact that as Christians although we are in the world, we are not of the world, and should act accordingly:

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

It is not enough to just believe in the resurrection. Belief in the resurrection is the catalyst to change, to becoming new in Christ, to leading a God centred life where His priorities transcend our own. However, for that change to occur, to become these new creations St Paul speaks of, we must allow God to work that change in us, or at the very least begin it. He will not force himself on anyone, it is a decision we must make, and each one of us must decide for ourselves.

So, this Easter as we reflect on the Risen Christ, let us be mindful of what that means for us. Will you allow Christ to transform you, to continue that process of change in your life? What does being a new creation in God mean to you? Are you on fire for the Lord, or are you Lukewarm? Easter is an opportunity for us all to consider these things.

Jesus resurrection did not just change the life of his disciples, but it turned the world upside down, and God’s love broke free across the world as it changed hearts and minds. Let us pray that we might share in that same sense of wonder at the Resurrection that the first disciples had, and not just on Easter Sunday, but every Sunday, and indeed every day of the week.

Father Kevin