An Essex Liturgy by Andrew and Keeley Wickham (2015)
I will prepare my heart and my mind to seek God
Firstly, in praise
This is the day that the LORD has made, I will be rejoice and be glad in it!
Then through this request
Hear my voice when I call, LORD
Be merciful to me and answer me
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek (Psalm 27:7-8)
From the overspill of London to the beaches on the eastern coast
The richness and diversity in the county of Essex in which I have been placed
Leads me to reflect on your awesome work in creation
And the salvation that you offer
The LORD is the great God
The great King above all gods
In his hand are the depths of the earth
And the mountain peaks belong to him
The sea is his, for he made it
And his hands formed the dry land
Come let us bow down in worship
Let us kneel before the LORD our maker
For he is our God
And we are the people of his pasture
The flock under his care (Psalm 95:3-7)
The Thames becomes the sea
Beaches turn to mud flats and saltmarshes
Woodland to rolling hills
The crabs and cockles exposed as the tide ebbs
The seals beside Foulness
Avocet, godwit, grebe and redshank
find refuge at Two-Tree Island
Gulls cry above City Beach
The breadth and beauty of your creation
So close at hand
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
Throughout all generations
Before the mountains were born
Or you brought forth the whole world
From everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90: 1-2)
Through [Christ] God created everything
In the heavenly realms and on earth
He made the things we can see
And the things we can’t see
Such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world
Everything was created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15-16)
Earthly rulers and their dynasties have risen and fallen
From the Stone Age to the Post-Modern Era
The human story has unfolded
Shaping the boundaries of this county
Conquered by the Romans
Occupied by the Saxons
Defended by the Plantagenets
The artefacts and architecture still stand
As testament to our unending quest for power and legacy
Over these thousands of years of human endeavour
You, God, stand
The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high…
…He will be the sure foundation for your times
A rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure (Isaiah 33:5-6)
I believe that you are here:
Ever present in our busy towns and quiet villages
Alive in the commuter bustle, school runs
Shopping trips, football matches and traffic jams
I believe that you are here:
Amongst day trippers who explore the seafront
and walk our world-famous pier
Amongst the shrieks of joy and excitement at Adventure Island
Amongst the sailors, surfers, swimmers and fishermen
Alongside families from far away seeking to make their home here
And those whose family history spans generations of life in this county
Watch over our communities
And help us to cherish the diversity and difference within them
Bring peace and prosperity to our homes
Our schools, our offices and our streets
Watch over those who have plenty and those who have nothing
And bless them both
Prayer for issues relevant you
Meditation from Nick Fawcett, Baptist minister born in Southend from his book ‘No Ordinary Man’
Have you heard the news?
They’re saying the Messiah’s been born
right here in Bethlehem.
Honestly, that’s what I was told,
God’s promised deliverer,
come at last to set us free.
Do I believe it?
Well, I’m not sure.
It’s hard to credit, I admit,
but this friend I spoke to seemed pretty certain.
Heard it from a shepherd apparently,
some chap who claimed to have seen the child themselves,
and by all accounts he was delirious with excitement,
absolutely full of it.
He may have been mistaken, of course,
or simply spinning some old yarn-
you can never be sure, can you?
And, believe me, I don’t go around believing everything I hear.
But this friend of mine,
the one who heard it from the shepherd,
he was full of it too.
You would have thought he’d been there,
in the stable,
beside the manager,
the way he spoke.
He was utterly convinced, there’s no question about that,
and as I listened to him chattering on,
I felt the urge welling up inside me,
just as he had done,
to tell someone else,
to share the good news with those around me.
If he was right then this wasn’t something to keep to myself,
not for the privileged few,
but a message for everybody,
one they all needed to hear.
But before I say anything more,
risk making a complete fool of myself,
there’s something I have to do-
something my friend should have done
and which the shepherds presumably did-
and that is go and see for myself.
Call me a cynic if you like but I believe it’s important-
no, more than that, vital-
for if you’re going to accept something,
let alone expect others to do the same,
you have to be sure of your ground,
as certain as you can be that it’s not just all some grand delusion.
So I’m going now,
off to find out the truth for myself,
off to see this child,
if he really exists, with my own eyes.
And if I find everything just as I’ve been told,
the baby lying there in a manger,
wrapped in strips of cloth,
then I shall go and tell others what I have seen-
for let’s be honest, what else would there be to do?
What else could anybody do in my place?
For this season of my life I have been placed here, in Essex
Amongst natural beauty
The rich legacy of history
And the uncertainties of contemporary culture
God, just as you are righteous in all your ways
And loving toward all that you have made
Enable me to act with clean hands and a pure heart
For the good of all that is around me