12 June 2022
In recent months, I have been visiting churches around Milton Keynes, in particular seeking out many of the historical buildings that predate the 20th century vision for a new city in Milton Keynes.
On the other hand, one of the new churches I have visited in recent weeks in this new city is the Cross and Stable Church in Downs Barn.
Stephen Fletcher introduced me to this church, one of the newest churches in Milton Keynes. The church involves a partnership of the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Church. It is also part of the Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership and is part of the Diocese of Oxford.
Cross and Stable Ecumenical Church was designed by Denton Tunley Scott in 1986. The architects Wayland Tunley and David Grindley (now of Grindley Architects) designed the building as a combined church and community centre and as part of a complex that includes a vicarage and workshops. Milton Keynes Development Corporation made a contribution to the bell tower as part of a budget to provide local landmarks throughout the city.
The congregation is ‘ecumenical,’ with people coming from different denominations and traditions, and the services reflect this variety, including material from the Church of England, Methodist and Iona liturgies.
It says, ‘We are a young growing Church that welcomes everybody to worship God together. There is music, readings and reflections. Visitors and newcomers – especially families and children, are very welcome to our lively service.’
The church has a service every Sunday at 11 am, with Sunday School or Junior Church. These are mainly Communion services. On the first Sunday each month a team of volunteers sign the service for the benefit of people who are deaf and hearing impaired.
Cross and Stable is in a partnership with Bradwell Church (Saint Lawrence) within the Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership. The Associate Minister is the Revd Dr Sam Muthuveloe, Associate Priest in the Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership, and the Licensed Lay Minister is Stephen Fletcher. They share their ministry with the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, Willen, the only surviving church among the buildings designed by the scientist, inventor, and architect Robert Hooke.
Other activities include: ChatterBoxMK every Wednesday providing an opportunity ‘to chat and connect’; fortnightly Bible studies on Thursdays; ‘Friday 2 pm on Zoom,’ with prayers and Bible reflections; and Bellringers.
The church building is also used on Sunday afternoons by two independent church groups: World of Grace and Winning Souls.
The Community Centre in the Cross and Stable building is available to hire for community and social functions.
The Stantonbury Ecumenical Partnership involves six churches from four denominations in north-east Milton Keynes: Saint Lawrence, Bradwell; Saint James’s, New Bradwell; Saint Andrew’s, Great Linford; Saint Mary Magdalene, Willen; Christ Church, Stantonbury; and Cross and Stable, Downs Barn.
Today is Trinity Sunday (12 June 2022). Later this morning, I am reading one of the lessons in a short broadcast service recorded for Clare FM, and I plan to attend the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church in Stony Stratford.
But, before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections from the seasons of Lent and Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.
In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:
1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;
2, reading the psalm or psalms;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
Psalm 109 is sometimes known by the Latin name Deus, laudem, from its opening words, Deus, laudem meam ne tacueris (‘Do not be silent, O God of my praise’). In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is Psalm 108.
This is one of the Imprecatory Psalms, invoking judgment, calamity or curses on one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God. The major imprecatory Psalms include Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, while Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 79, 83, 94, 137, 139 and 143 are also considered imprecatory.
Psalm 109 is attributed to King David and noted for containing some of the most severe curses in the Bible, such as verses 12 and 13.
This Psalm opens with the psalmist’s plea (verses 1-5), followed by an extensive imprecation (verses 6-19, concluded or summed up in verse 20). The renewed pleading in verse 21 is made with appeals on the grounds of God’s steadfast love, the details of the psalmist’s own misery, and the request for vengeance on the enemies. But the lament ends with the vow to offer praise, which is common in this type of psalm (verses 30-31).
In verses 8-14, the curse by the psalmist extends through three generations: on the person (verse 8), on the person’s children (verses 9-13), and on the person’s parents (verse 14). The extinction of a family and its name was considered the most extreme calamity.
In verse 4, there is evil given ‘in return for my love.’ The curses here are consistent with Proverbs 17: 13, where ‘if evil is given for good then evil will not depart from their house.’ Returning evil for good is also seen in other psalms, namely 41, 69 and here in 109.
In verses 2 and 30, there is an inclusio near the opening and closing of the Psalm: in the opening, the Psalmist is facing the lies of accusers mouths, while in the close his own mouth greatly praises God.
In verse 12 (‘May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children’), the Hebrew phrase (משך חסד, mō-šêḵ chā-seḏ) can also mean ‘to draw out mercy’ in the sense of ‘causing it to continue and last’ (see Psalm 36: 11, Jeremiah 31: 3).
The close of Psalm 109 has God at the right hand of the poor man, in striking contrast with the opening of Psalm 110, where God calls a man to sit at his right hand, made forever like the priest king, Melchizedek.
Psalm 109 was used by Thomas Hardy in his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. Michael Henchard, the protagonist of the novel, is drinking with the choir after practice when he sees his rival, Donald Farfrae, whom he hates. He later persuades the choir to sing Psalm 109. The choir master remarks of this psalm that, ‘Twasn’t made for singing. We chose it once when the gypsy stole the parson’s mare, thinking to please him, but parson were quite upset. Whatever Servant David were thinking about when he made a Psalm that nobody can sing without disgracing himself, I can’t fathom.’
Psalm 109 (NRSVA)
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 Do not be silent, O God of my praise.
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They beset me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me,
even while I make prayer for them.
5 So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.
6 They say, ‘Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand on his right.
7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin.
8 May his days be few;
may another seize his position.
9 May his children be orphans,
and his wife a widow.
10 May his children wander about and beg;
may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit.
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.
12 May there be no one to do him a kindness,
nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.
13 May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation.
14 May the iniquity of his father be remembered before the Lord,
and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15 Let them be before the Lord continually,
and may his memory be cut off from the earth.
16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the broken-hearted to their death.
17 He loved to curse; let curses come on him.
He did not like blessing; may it be far from him.
18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat,
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones.
19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself,
like a belt that he wears every day.’
20 May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
of those who speak evil against my life.
21 But you, O Lord my Lord,
act on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is pierced within me.
23 I am gone like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.
26 Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.
27 Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it.
28 Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame; may your servant be glad.
29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonour;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save them from those who would condemn them to death.
The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Focus 9/99,’ which is introduced today by the Revd M Benjamin Inbaraj, Director of the Church of South India’s SEVA department. He writes:
‘Focus 9/99 is a programme in which one local church in each of the 99 districts of the five southern states of India, where the Church of South India is based, is trained along with representatives of the community on the promotion of child rights. They learn to identify and report instances of violation and abuse of the girl child to the respective State Commissioners for the Protection of Child Rights and to the National Commissioner.
‘The campaign is focused on rights and justice issues concerning the education, food, nutrition, and health of the girl child that will secure her future. Care providers and significant others are trained in legislation that will protect and enhance the dignity and rights of the girl child. A child protection policy is drawn up during the course of the campaign to demonstrate the Church of South India’s commitment to protect the children from harm and abuse. Joining with the global initiative of the World Council of Churches and UNICEF, the Church of South India is also working on the ‘principles for child-friendly churches.’
Sunday 12 June 2022 (Trinity Sunday, World Day Against Child Labour):
‘Let the little children come to me,
And do not hinder them.’
You teach us to care for children.
Help us to prevent their exploitation.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org