There is more significance to this coming weekend than having people in-person at church! (Though that is VERY exciting and it will be lovely to see those of you who live on streets with names between A and H!)
This Sunday is the day before All Saints Day or All Hallows Day (which is why the day before is ‘All Hallows Eve’ or ‘Halloween’) a Christian feast day, which according to Wikipedia is, “celebrated in honour of all the saints of the church, whether they are known or unknown.”
I was thinking about Bartimaeus from Sunday’s reading who was clearly a saint who was known in the early church which is why his name is included, and yet there have been so many saints, so many followers of Jesus throughout history – known and unknown, significant in the eyes of others or perhaps significant only in the eyes of God.
The saints that I have been thinking about this month are those who have had the courage to share their stories as part of Mental Health Month. It has been an inspiring month (there is one final session to go this Sunday at 6pm on Zoom) hearing people speak of the challenges they have faced, how they have often faced these challenges unsupported, how they have kept seeking support (I am reminded of Bartimaeus crying out even louder when many in the crowd sternly ordered him to be quiet) and how they have learned to live with their diagnosis, to care for themselves and others, and be more compassionate, more courageous, more Christ-like.
I have learned a lot from these saints in our church, and I have attached two images (see attached images) from the Mental Health Month Australia site with some of the myths that are busted when we take the time to listen to the voices of those with mental health illnesses and to come alongside them as allies, or in our case, as brothers and sisters in Christ.
This Sunday, as you know, we are welcoming back those who live on street with names from A to H. Next Sunday, 7th November, it will be the turn of those who live on streets with names from 1 to Z! If you forget which week is which, don’t worry, there will be an overflow room set up and there will always be room at the church for you somewhere!
Following this Sunday’s service, there will be a half-hour online Family Church! All you need to do is stay on the church link after church – or log back onto the church link at 11:30. The Youth Team are very excited about a service on Halloween and after rejecting my suggestion that we talk about saints (“We’re Baptists, aren’t we, Belinda!” they said to me.) they are going to tell a spooky gospel story – but in a manner appropriate for the age group! All you need to have ready is some pieces of white A4 paper and some textas!
Coming back to being saints, in a few weeks’ time, on the 14th November, the saints at Canberra Baptist Church are being surveyed! Once again we are participating in the National Church Life Survey. This survey of church attendees’ attitudes, beliefs and practices helps churches to nurture life and health in the congregation as they build on the strengths of the past and adapt to the current context and needs. This survey is conducted every five years in Australia and this year celebrates 30 years of national research into church life, the longest running longitudinal study on church life in the world! (All the statisticians can get very excited about that!) There will be more info about NCLS and how the survey will be conducted in the weeks to come.
It is common, on All Saints Day to sing the well-known hymn by W.W.Howe, For all the Saints. I’ve included the first verse below:
For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.