St. Stephens Methodist Church, Tauranga


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Order of Service St Stephens 21.6.20 Here is the link



Opening Prayer

Eternal God,

Who's Son Jesus Christ

is the way, the truth and the life:

grant us to walk in his way,

to rejoice in his truth,

and to share his risen life;

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God"      

 For the Blessed Gift of Mothers"
(Tune: Ar Hyd Y Nos -) All through the night
You can sing along just click or double click the arrows below  for all of the videos        


For the blessed gift of Mothers Tune All through the night 

For the blessed gift of mothers, thanks be to God.
For this art of loving others, thanks be to God.
For the helping, holding, caring, for the blessing and the sharing,
For their courage and their daring, thanks be to God.

In the songs a mother sings out, God's love is shown.
In the growing gifts she brings out, God's love is shown.
In her teaching and her guiding, in her care and tender chiding,
Most of all in her abiding, God's love is shown

In the songs a mother sings out, God's love is shown.
In the growing gifts she brings out, God's love is shown.
In her teaching and her guiding, in her care and tender chiding,
Most of all in her abiding, God's love is shown


Lead us Lord, in this time of worship.

Make our paths straight and your presence clear

Guide us with renewed hope that we may perceive the signs of life that spring forth from your creative love. Meditation for the journey. The journey into life is a choice which we make. It is a choosing to follow the Christ along passageways of emptiness to pathways of fullness. Through valleys of our fear and along roadways of our faith.


Your love is shown and known in your creative act through which we have life.
Hallowed be your name --
hushed in your presence Lord God we see the whole world.  God we see the whole world as yours.
Your kingdom come --                      
in faith we seek first Your kingdom and Your justice, Your love and Your peace in our world.
Your will be done --
in the struggle against all that diminishes our life here on earth.

Give us today our daily bread --
by generous sharing and committed caring.

 Forgive us our sins --
when self-interest and self-concern blind us to Your call to community.

 As we forgive --
remembering Your promise, Lord, we forgive, rejoicing in Your cleansing power.    

Save us from the time of trial --
in our fear of conflict, Lord, remind us again of Your cross

Deliver us from evil --
when we are self-satisfied and self-seeking so that community is threatened, relationships broken. Now and for ever. Amen

(From 'Mission Yearbook for Prayer' Uniting Church in Australia

Psalm 22.25-31

In the full assembly

I will praise you for what you have done; in the presence of those who worship you
I will offer the sacrifices I promised. The poor will eat as much as they want; those who come to the Lord will praise him.
May they prosper forever!
All nations will remember the Lord. From every part of the world they will turn to him; all races will worship him. The Lord is king, and he rules the nations. All proud people will bow down to him; all mortals will bow down before him. Future generations will serve him; they will speak of the Lord to the coming generation. People not yet born will be told: The Lord saved his people.

To God be the Glory Wov 851                                                                                                                                     To God be the glory, great things he has done;
so loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the life gate that we may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord; let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord; let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,

2 O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
to every believer the promise of God;
the vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives. Refrain

3 Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,
and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
but purer and higher and greater will be
our wonder, our gladness, when Jesus we see Refrain


for St Stephens, Te Puke/Mt Maunganui and of course the rest of the circuit.

John 14


14"Do not be worried and upset," Jesus told them. "Believe[a]in God and believe also in me.2There are many rooms in my Father's house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so.[b]3And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.4You know the way that leads to the place where I am going."

5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; so how can we know the way to get there?"

6Jesus answered him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.7Now that you have known me," he said to them, "you will know[c]my Father also, and from now on you do know him and you have seen him."

8Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father; that is all we need."

9Jesus answered, "For a long time I have been with you all; yet you do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Why, then, do you say, 'Show us the Father'?10Do you not believe, Philip that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I have spoken to you," Jesus said to his disciples, "do not come from me. The Father, who remains in me, does his own work.11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. If not, believe because of the things I do.12I am telling you the truth: those who believe in me will do what I do-yes, they will do even greater things, because I am going to the Father.13And I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father's glory will be shown through the Son.14If you ask me[d]for anything in my name, I will do it.


God Calls Moses

3One day while Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock across the desert and came to Sinai, the holy mountain.2There the angel of theLordappeared to him as a flame coming from the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up.3"This is strange," he thought. "Why isn't the bush burning up? I will go closer and see."

4When theLordsaw that Moses was coming closer, he called to him from the middle of the bush and said, "Moses! Moses!"

He answered, "Yes, here I am."

5God said, "Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.6I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." So Moses covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

7Then theLordsaid, "I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated in Egypt; I have heard them cry out to be rescued from their slave drivers. I know all about their sufferings,8and so I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of Egypt to a spacious land, one which is rich and fertile and in which the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites now live.9I have indeed heard the cry of my people, and I see how the Egyptians are oppressing them.10Now I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country."

11But Moses said to God, "I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

12God answered, "I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you."

13But Moses replied, "When I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors sent me to you,' they will ask me, 'What is his name?' So what can I tell them?"

14God said, "I am who I am. You must tell them: 'The one who is calledI Am[a]has sent me to you.'15Tell the Israelites that I, theLord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have sent you to them. This is my name forever; this is what all future generations are to call me.16Go and gather the leaders of Israel together and tell them that I, theLord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appeared to you. Tell them that I have come to them and have seen what the Egyptians are doing to them.17I have decided that I will bring them out of Egypt, where they are being treated cruelly, and will take them to a rich and fertile land-the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

18"My people will listen to what you say to them. Then you must go with the leaders of Israel to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'TheLord,









Reflection   "I am what I am."

 In our readings today we see the story of Moses and the burning bush. Its context is the encounter of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14): Moses asks what he is to say to the Israelites when they ask what God ['Elohiym] has sent him to them, and YHWH replies, "I am who I am", adding, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'"

What images does that conjure up for you? Have you had any experiences of burning bushes that don't seem to want to go out?

 When we lived in Te Puke on our orchard there was a big gum tree close to the roadside which was hollow in the middle. I guess it had rotted out from the centre as trees often do. It was big enough for a small person to get into.

Our house was two storied and Pat was upstairs sewing when she said." There's a lot of smoke coming from the roadside." I said, "Don't worry as it's probably our neighbour burning something off." Which he was prone to do, usually cleaning up shelter belt trimmings.  However I thought that I had better check it out so away I went and found this gum tree belching flames from its hollow middle base. I thought that some little local darlings had decided to play house in the tree and lit a fire to keep warm, or maybe trying to cook. But they probably set the fire to see if the tree would burn, which it did. Needless to say they were nowhere to be seen. I was going to get the tractor sprayer to put it out but as the tree was mainly on council land, a neighbour suggested that I call the fire brigade. They came and it took over twenty minutes to put it out and I had to make several chainsaw cuts in the side of the tree like little windows so the firemen could get their hoses into it. There is a lot more to the story but the good news was that the fire was put out and no one was injured or hurt.

The tree eventually fell over.

Now the burning bush on mount Horeb in Sinai must have gone out eventually otherwise it would still be burning to this day.  I doubt if the fire brigade was called because there probably wasn't one anyway. The only fire that I know of that which does not consume it's self is the sun. The burning bush has been said to symbolically represent the sun which is an unquenchable fire which burns without ceasing.    Because of the significance of the burning bush story, the monastery of St Catherine was built there to mark the approximate spot where the burning bush incident happened. (Image of St Catherine) This often happens with places of significance such as the church of the nativity which was built on the spot where it is believed that Jesus was born. There is also a shrub or bramble called the burning bush because of its flaming red leaves. (Image)

The burning bush has been a popular symbol among reformed churches (Mainly Presbyterian) since it was first adopted by the Huguenots,

 (French Calvinists) in 1583   The Presbyterian Churches of Ireland, Canada Taiwan and New Zealand  all use the burning bush as a symbol.

As the story of the burning bush opens, we find Moses going about his ordinary shepherding duties for his father- in- law. He had run away from his past, hiding where the Egyptians could not find him.  There is little hint that his life is about to change. He hides in the mountains of the Sinai desert. His enemies did not find him but God did! What a surprise for Moses.  He comes to a mountain while grazing the sheep apparently not knowing the significance of the mountain, but we are told that it is Mount Horeb meaning. "The mountain of God." Although probably named after this event and not before.                Moses met God in what one might say an unexpected place, quite a distance from the nearest town, from other people, from a Church or Synagogue. He was shepherding sheep in a hot barren area of land where only a few bushes and rough grass grew and survived on the mountainside. One could say. Why would God want to be there! But we encounter God when we least expect it and often where we least expect it. We may be able to hide from people we don't like or from our past but like Moses we cannot hide from God.

 I found this article on a website that Rev Alex Webster mentioned at a Lay Preacher's workshop. A while ago now it is written by two Rabbis.

It varies quite a bit from the text where he "Turned aside to see this great sight." But who knows may be his experience wasn't as blissful as we would like to believe. It goes like this.

Moses chased after the dancing lamb, just as it disappeared around the mountainside; he tripped, cut his knee, lost one sandal in a bramble patch. He rose hobbling, saw another patch of brambles- burning.

Yelling "Oh my God," he dashed to clear a fire break lest flames spread to the other dry thorn bushes on the mountain. (It would have been a calamity if the whole mountainside had gone up in smoke wouldn't it)

 His other sandal clattered unheeded off the path, he tripped, fell into the blazing bush moaning "Oh my God, my God."

Stop burning stop! You are making my throat burn raw- O God my throat. Burning Shame. "Oh God, I left my people. I ran. I saw them suffering, I burned with anger, I ran oh God I ran. My eyes, they should be burning with a vision of their happiness, instead are burning blind and helpless, hopeless.

The story now takes another twist so I'll leave it there. We expect the story to be about Moses casually roaming with his sheep and looking closer at the bush out of curiosity but this account adds a bit of drama to it and illustrates that God is present in all situations, whether blissful or scary, calm or turbulent and no matter where we are or what we are doing or where we may be going God can find us.

 The familiarity of the burning bush story shouldn't blind us to the miracle that Moses encountered in the presence of the living God when God spoke to him and an angel of the Lord directly appeared in the flames.

In response to the question that Moses asked which was, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them the God of your ancestors has sent me to you: and they ask me, "What is your name? What will I say to them?  God replies "I am who I am." He also said "I am with you." And tell them I am has sent me to you." This answer is mysterious and doesn't seem to answer the question at all.  God does not give a handle but a living mystery. I will be what I will be; I am what I am the nearest thing to a name that we can get. But we all have names to identify ourselves don't we? John –Jane-William- Mary and so on.

  The name Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew word for "I am" but you need to go to the original language to explain all that. Because no written vowels were created in Hebrew until well after Jesus time and we don't know what the sounds were. The consonants we have in scripture could mean a number of things. "May be it was ""I'm what I am." As commonly translated. It could also mean "I am whatever I will be. "Or "I will be what I am." Or "I will be what I have been." 

A.N Whitehead a nineteenth century Philosopher believed that it could be. "I will be what I become."

Traditionally we have stayed with "I am what I am." But we have to admit that we really do not know. It's a name that's not a name. We cannot put a handle on God, but we do have that sense of mystery and awe. God is beyond our understanding yet as close as anyone or anything can get.

 In Luke 17:21 Jesus said that "The Kingdom of God is within you."

The name I am indicates the unsearchableness of God rather than his mere existence as commonly supposed.

Whatever the exact original meaning. What is really intended is the sovereign freedom of God, to be what God will be, not in any way defined or manipulated by human beings. We are denied the opportunity to fix a handle on God. Mysterious as it is, it also says something simple. God is to be worshipped and served simply because of who he is not how we decide that he should be...God is saying "Do not ask my name. You will discover who I am in the things that happen to you as you obey me. I am who I prove to be. Just obey or trust me and you will find out who I am."                                                                                                                        Bruce Prewer says that God is nothing, "No thing." Things can be named and handled. We can name a child and a mountain. We can name an idol or a pet dog. We can name a fruit or an insect; we can name a planet Mars and we can name the southern cross. We can name just about everything including the Milky Way, the remains of dinosaurs, and we can calculate the beginning of all creation and scientists call it the Big Bang.                                                                 But we can never name God! God is not a thing the universe to be named. God is not even the sum total of the universe that we can name.                                                                                                       God is the ultimate mystery, the awesome identity that was there before all things and will be forever. Always the Spirit of God flows where and when it will.                                                                      Our Old Testament text points us forward to the great "I Am's" of Johns Gospel. The nearest we can get to naming God is in Jesus who goes on throughout the New testament describing himself as "I am-The Bread of life- The light of the world-from above- the door- the good shepherd- the resurrection and the life- The way the truth and the and the life- The true vine- Alpha and Omega – The first and the last." So God is revealed Through Christ through his compassion, his miracles, His teaching and his triumph over death. Amen


I the Lord of Sea and Sky, I Have Heard My People Cry. All Who Dwell In Dark And Sin,
My Hand Will Save. I Who Made the Stars of Night, I Will Make Their Darkness Bright.
Who Will Bear My Light To Them? Whom Shall I Send?                                                                             
Here I Am Lord, Is It I, Lord?
I Have Heard You Calling In The Night.
I Will Go Lord, If You Lead Me.
I Will Hold Your People In My Heart.

2 I, The Lord of Snow and Rain, I Have Borne My People's Pain. I Have Wept For Love Of Them, They Turn Away. I Will Break Their Hearts Of Stone, Give Them Hearts For Love Alone. I Will Speak My Word To Them Whom Shall I Send? (Refrain.  Here I Am Lord)

3 I, the Lord of Wind and Flame I Will Tend the Poor and Lame. I Will Set A Feast For Them, My Hand Will Save Finest Bread I Will Provide, Till Their Hearts Be Satisfied.
I Will Give My Life To Them, Whom Shall I Send? (Refrain.  Here I Am Lord)

A prayer for others Lord we pray for the communities in which we live

For families where love and forgiveness is found                                                                              for a society where the weak and the vulnerable   are cared for and cherished speak to us words of love and pour out your spirit upon us

We pray for those who suffer, who are lonely and sad during this period of lockdown for relief from all who are in pain or distress. We ask that you will give strength to all who care for the sick and the dying. Speak to us words of hope that we may know your comfort and bring your healing touch to all those in need of consolation  we may bring your healing touch to all in need of   our help

1.    God be with you till we meet again, By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you, God be with you till we meet again.

o   Refrain:
Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus' feet;
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again

2.    God be with you till we meet again, 'Neath His wings securely hide you,
Daily manna still provide you, God be with you till we meet again. Refrain

3.    God be with you till we meet again, when life's perils thick confound you,
put His arms unfailing round you, God be with you till we meet again. Refrain

4.       God be with you till we meet again, Keep love's banner floating o'er you,
Smite death's threatening wave before you, God be with you till we meet again. Refrain





Margaret's Blog.

Thanks for the opportunity to let you know I am still around and am appreciating opportunity to offer pastoral care in a different way, to St Stephens and Te Puke/Mount Maunganui parishioners, as well as the many people I am in touch with in the community. So how's lockdown going having survived level 4;  with  more time for phone calls and finding people at home when I ring,   Not having to set the alarm,  My car is wondering what's happening – at least the battery hasn't gone flat yet. Also the petrol station hasn't seen me for at least 4 weeks  Ensuring that I am making time for myself, and experiencing what this means. 

                                                  He waka eke noa. We are all in this together                                                                                                                                                                     This whakatauki has several meanings, one of which is "a waka we are all in together" – we are all in this together – we rise together, fall together, work together, keep going together. But as I was reminded recently we may not do it all the same, and we remember we are individuals who cope with things differently. So if you don't match the situation as described by media, don't worry. Just remember to keep safe, stay in the bubble, but still keep in touch by phone, technology, and letters. Yes and even Zoom!  Zoom!! What's that?  I am certainly not needing to 'Zoom" to get anywhere in a hurry.  A month ago I would have wondered, but I am learning and now it seems I have been able to conquer  the process and in fact enjoying talking face to face rather than just on the phone. It certainly is the way to be able continue to have meetings, and where would Methodists be if there weren't any meetings!  In providing pastoral care in these unusual times, I want to make sure those without computers, don't get forgotten because they can't get emails or for anyone not familiar enough with IT,  that they are not wanting to connect to Zoom.  God will use whatever we feel comfortable with, However please get on touch if you would like to explore these different ways of communicating.Thanks to those who have been phoning me, I appreciate your caring. So now what do I do when a planned month overseas doesn't happen and then there is more months on lockdown, so I can't even do an NZ holiday. Well I won't be on study leave for a month; I'll still be around as usual,       For those of you who enquired about Deacon Helen from the UK, well she has experienced a very different sabbatical in NZ than what was planned. Fortunately she saw most of the North Island, and then with lockdown pending, was stranded in Wellington. Fortunately I was able to find her accommodation, and she has been living with my daughter in Cambridge, and a few days ago finally got a ticket to return home on Tuesday – incidentally the day she and I should have flown out to begin my overseas trip. Helen is very grateful to those who she met at the St Stephens luncheon; you were one of the very few church people she was able to meet.                                                                                                            A final thought from Pooh. and my best wishes to you all.              Margaret


 On Sunday the 10th of November St Stephens held a Promotion and awards Service, led by Deacon Margaret Birtles and Captain Ann Booth


On Sunday 6th October our Women's fellowship Conducted the service. The theme was celebrating Spring


t was great to have a Vice Presidential visit over the weekend. Nicola Grundy had asked for time to discuss with Deacons issues around ministry, so she and Peter visited Tauranga for the weekend. It was good to have Brenda Fawkner  from New Plymouth join us, as she , Sesi from Auckland and Nicola represented NZ at the Diakonia Pacific conference in Fiji.

The Parish was invited to St Stephens for lunch and 15 attended, including the Parish Supernumeraries.  In the afternoon Nicola was shown over the Wesley complex,  toured around the area of the proposed circuit, and met with Te Puke/Mt Maunganui  members for afternoon tea. St Stephens was pleased to welcome Nicola and Peter to worship.

Margaret Birtles

Worship services  2020 Preachers
March 8th Deacon Margaret Birtles 15th Rev Doris Elphic (Holy Communion) 23rd Villiame Naliva 29th Ngaire Southon
April 5th Rev Ralph Vickers 10th Deacon Margaret Birtles 12th Methodist Women's fellowship. 19th Rev Leigh Sundberg (Holy Communion) 26th Geoff Warth.  

May 3rd Penny Guy. 10th Geoff Warth. 17th Rev Ralph Vickers. (Holy communion) 24th (Combined service at Wesley,) 31st Viv Whimster