It is difficult to write something this month without referring to recent tragedies. Since I last sat down to write for this newsletter the Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park terror attacks have all taken place, not to mention the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire that claimed so many innocent lives. I imagine you feel just as overwhelmed as I do knowing there seems so little we can do. Some of us will pray for the families, others from the same desire to do something to help will offer whatever is right for them. It seems to me that the majority of people in our country, from faith groups or no faith at all, share a desire to show that love is greater than hate, and love will not be defeated.

Sadly, such horrific events do remind us that evil exists in our often beautiful world and thrives on exploiting our differences or should I say distorting our differences. Yes it is true that Christian beliefs are different to Muslim, or a socialist ideology, or a secular approach, but our ideological differences should never result in hatred and separation but a common love for all. It seems to me that this is the message of the past four weeks, in fact the hope of these past weeks. We are one community bringing different beliefs and gifts to one another for the good of all. It is the Christian belief that evil will continue until Jesus returns, but love will not give way before his victorious return. 1 John Chapter 4 v 7 says; ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.’ v8; ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ Many bad things have happened in history claiming to be done in the name of God, but no evil act can ever represent the heart of my God. Jesus said the greatest commandment is; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart ……… and love your neighbour as yourself,’ (Matthew 22). We join together as a community, no matter what our different perspectives are, to look after one another in love.

As I wish you a peace filled and joyful July and August, I am uncertain what our news stories will be. No matter what happens, remember, we can overcome whatever evil brings. On Saturday 17th June over 120,000 events took place across our country under the umbrella of ‘The Great Get Together.’ All these events were planned in memory of the beautiful but tragically murdered MP Jo Cox. She believed in the power of community as her memorable maiden speech in Parliament expressed; ‘We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’ May we continue to prove her right!

Alan Comfort, Rector

Temptation and Prayer

During my football career back in the 80's I know I didn't experience the exact same dilemmas modern sports people face today. With the clever advances in the production of performance enhancing drugs, the temptation to 'risk' everything to achieve your dream is clearly too much for some to resist. In my day choosing to eat steak and chips three hours before a big match or some modern version of healthy pre-match food like scrambled eggs on toast was the extent of my dilemma. I always chose the wrong option and struggled round the pitch for the ninety minutes as those who watched me will testify to.

So here's my question; is Maria Sharapova a drug cheat or not? The facts state that Sharapova has recently finished a two year ban that was reduced to fifteen months on appeal, for taking a banned substance called meldonium. So the answer is yes. Well, yes but no. She was wrong to be taking meldonium when tested at the Australian Open in 2016, but she had previously taken this drug for over ten years whilst it was not on the banned list. She says she took the drug for health reasons but the drug can aid performance hence the reason for it now being banned. For those who see the world only in black and white she is a cheat, but it could be an innocent mistake. I'm not really sure. It's certainly easier to call Lance Armstrong a drug cheat. He won the Tour de France on seven consecutive years, but later was found to have cheated through drug use all this time and was stripped of his titles.

Could you ever be tempted to risk everything to achieve your dream? We remember Jesus was tempted but did not sin, so being tempted is not the same as doing the wrong thing but wrong things do seem to call out to us in various ways. So being tempted by wrong ideas is not new, but I wonder if I can tempt you with good help?
Numerous scientific studies have shown that if we want to be as healthy as we possibly can, there are three things we need to do: exercise, eat well and lose some pounds, and thirdly pray. According to a University of Rochester study, (USA), it was found that 85% of people facing serious illness pray because it helps. Other studies show that if you pray regularly, for 20 minutes each day perhaps, you are 40% less likely to have high blood pressure and three times more likely to recover from a serious heart operation.

Prayer works in many different ways. Of course I believe this but why not try it with me? Could you get a cup of tea at the beginning of each day, sit quietly, then thank God for five things that have blessed you the day before or throughout your life, then ask God to help with five things/people you are worried about. Being thankful, sharing our problems, and asking God to help seems to make a profound difference. Could this be a 'risk' worth taking?

Alan Comfort, Rector