Tuesday 28th April – Bible Study by Skype

May 5th, 2020

Rev Nockels led a joint bible study on line with representatives from Tapton, Hillborough Tabernacle and The Salvation Army.

Bible Study Based on ‘This Risen Existence’ by Paula Gooder 

Read Mark 16:1-8

With the sudden ending in Mark and verses added in different versions of the bible Suzanne asked:

What is your favourite ending of a book, theatre show or film?

Do we prefer happy, sad or curious endings?

What parallels can you identify between Mark 1:9-12 and Mark 9:2-10 

Read Mark 15:38-39

When was the last time you were alarmed? 
When has fear or strangeness got in the way of you doing what you were meant to do?

Sunday worship 26th April

May 5th, 2020

Reflections by Suzanne Nockels on You Tube

Sunday worship – 12 April

May 5th, 2020

Reflection by Rev Nockels to be found on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqxLt6WOT2s&feature=youtu.be

March 24th – Crosspool Community Hub started

May 5th, 2020

This was the first date that Tapton members had staffed the office at St Columba Church. then role is to answer the telephone, take details of people who wish to volunteer to be a ‘listening ear’, do shopping or ruin errands for the vulnerable in Crosspool. Tapton will staff  the office each Tuesday morning between 9am x noon

March 29th – Sermon by Rev Nockels on You tube

May 5th, 2020

Mar 25th – Bat & Chat cancelled due to Covid 19

May 5th, 2020

March 22nd – Due to Covid19 sermon by Rev Suzanne Nockels on YouTube

May 5th, 2020

Bible Study by Rev Suzanne Nockels

April 5th, 2020




Welcome to the last of these Bible Studies. There will be more and hopefully we’ll work out a way of discussing them together during the lockdown.

This week we’ve got to the creatures that live upon the land which of course includes us as human beings. Again, I’m sure we’ve all had amazing encounters with wildlife. I can remember waking up on holiday in Scotland and going to fill a kettle from the kitchen tap to find an enormous stag looking through the window at me. I went on a badger watch when I was seven months pregnant with Isaac. I was surprised about how big they are- about the size of a dog. Then there was the evening we watched an Attenborough-like sequence through our patio windows as a hedgehog tried to catch a frog. In the end the frog was cornered.

The land brings forth ‘living creatures’ and as we saw in the last Bible Study the word for life and soul in Hebrew is the same. All creatures have the breath of God within them as a life-force (verse 30). As with vegetation, sea creatures and birds the animals are made ‘according to their kinds’. I am fascinated with the sheer diversity of creation and attempts to classify it. Who knew that prawns and woodlice are part of the same ‘family’ or that there are 42 different species of mole? Every distinct species or type is thus recognised as having worth.

Read Genesis 9:8-11

It is interesting to note the promise God to Noah is also with ‘every living creature that was with you’ and this is emphasised seven times in the verses that follow. Just as we share a day of creation with the animals our destinies do seem bound up together. During the night of the Passover when death came to every firstborn Egyptian son it also came to every firstborn Egyptian calf. As the Egyptians wailed in grief the Israelite kept silent even their dogs did not bark (Exodus 11:6). Perhaps my favourite animal story is also one of the weirdest. Balaam’s donkey is far more aware and more obedient to God than his prophetic master. Its clear from these passages that the lives of animals are bound up with our own- something that pet owners probably understand.

Like people of his time, Jesus also lived his life alongside animals. He was born in a stable and rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. However, there is a little detail in Mark’s telling of Jesus’ time in the wilderness that is often missed. He tells us that Jesus ‘was with the wild animals’. In the wilderness Jesus encounters three types of non-human creatures: Satan, the wild animals and the angels. The writer Bauckham suggests that Jesus make friends of the wild animals in a reference to the vision of Isaiah 11:6-9 when all creatures will live together in peace. The promise of the kingdom of God includes animals and we live with them rather than dominate them.

Currently about 1 in 4 mammals is at risk of extinction which is a terrifying number. Much of this is due to loss of habitat as the land is used to produce goods that we as human beings want to purchase and consume. I am drinking coffee and typing on a laptop. Both include components from places in the world where wildernesses have become plantations and mines. I reap the benefits of a consumer culture and God’s creatures pay the cost. While we cannot extricate ourselves completely from these global networks I can try to consume less. Do I need this? Can I do without it? Is there a version that uses less resources/could I share it?

You might like to research your favourite land animal. How many different species are there? Is it endangered and why?

Made in the Image of God

The last thing that God creates is us- human beings. We don’t get a whole creation day to ourselves but share it with our fellow creatures. Instead of being made ‘according to their kinds’, humanity is made ‘in the image of God’. People have puzzled over this phrase for centuries. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? What makes us unique? Is it self-consciousness, intelligence or creativity?

The Israelites were aware of other religions around them where statues or rulers somehow represented God. The name of the Pharaoh ‘Tutankhamun’ means ‘the living image of the God Amon’. The Israelites are commanded not to make any idols or set up any images because in a real sense they are the living images or representatives of God. To make other images can only mean they have forgotten their calling. People should be able to look at us, individually and collectively as human beings and see something of the nature of God.

This is a task and a responsibility for all of us. It is not just left to a King or Pharaoh. We are obviously not identical. We have different skills, abilities and experiences but as Dr Rowan William writes;

This means that whenever I face another human being, I face a mystery. There is a level of their life, their existence, where I cannot go and which I cannot control, because it exists in relation to God alone…The reverence I owe to every human person is connected with the reverence I owe to God, who brings them into being. I stand before holy ground when I encounter another person.’

There is a radical equality here. All people matter.

Do you find this idea about being ‘made in the image of God’ exciting or daunting? Have you thought about it like this before?

Are there people that you need to remind yourself have been made in God’s image?

Being ‘made in the image of God’ is not so much about an innate quality but more like a job title. The words ‘subdue’ and ‘have dominion/rule over’ have been used to legitimise the abuse of the natural world for our own ends. However, ‘subdue’ can be linked to the idea of occupying or filling the land rather than beating it down by force. ‘Dominion’ and ‘rule’ are neutral although we often associate them with the negative use of power. God expects His rulers to be different. We are expected to work for justice and stand against oppression with love and compassion (Proverbs 31:4-9) Jesus of course was a servant king. How might we be servant kings of the created world?

How might we as a Church be servant-kings of creation?

One way might be to consider what we eat. Animal farming around the world destroys habitats and contributes to greenhouses gases. There are also issues surrounding transportation and packaging. Should we eat less meat as Christians? After all Genesis 1:29-30 seems to suggest that the original vision for creation was a vegetarian one. Meat-eating seems to be granted as a concession to sin in this in-between time after the garden of Eden and before the city of gold. I continue to be greatly challenged by this and while I still eat meat, I eat less of it than I used to and source it to the UK. I also try to eat vegetarian at least once a week; not easy in a house of carnivorous boys. Rabbi Yonatan Neril and Yedidya Sinclair suggest that before we eat, we should ask ourselves; Why am I eating? (Am I actually hungry?) How fast do I eat my food? (Better to eat slowly and gratefully) Where do I eat (In front of the TV?) With whom do I eat? Where has my food come from?

Would you consider changing what you eat? How helpful do you find Rabbi Neril’s questions?

What has been your favourite day of creation in this Bible Study series and why?

Lent bible study for self study

March 26th, 2020

Authored by Rev Suzanne Nockels for Tapton and Hillsborough churches




Last Summer, my husband and I went to Paris to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary. I can remember sitting in a restaurant in the Palace of Versailles (yes, I know, very posh and tress romantic!) mesmerised by the swarm of swallows going in and out of the eves of the magnificent building. Versailles was the home of a few French kings and it seems hundreds of swallows. I have other memories about birds; watching ospreys in Rutland water and sea eagles on Mull. I often catch a charm of goldfinches from my living room window in Hillsborough. Isaac once astonished an RSPB stallholder when he finished the quiz in a couple of minutes. In these strange times the sight and sound of the birds is definitely ministering to me.

As for the ‘teeming waters’, I am not an angler, I am afraid I don’t find fish that exciting. However, they are the food-source of some of my favourite creatures on the planet: marine mammals. I have been blessed with sightings of Fin and Humpback whales and again on Mull, Minke whales. I will never forget, as long as I live, Joe welling up with joy and emotion at the age of 8 as dolphins played in the slipstream of our boat.

What are your experiences with the living creatures of the waters and the birds that fly?

How do these creatures minister to us (obviously this is not a conscientious thing on their part)?

The world does indeed teem with creatures. There are something like 11,000 bird species and as many as 30,000 fish species although no-one knows for sure. I once did a funeral for an entomologist and we had a huge model of a beetle on the communion table. Insects definitely win as the estimate is between 6 to 10 million different species. The biologist J.B.S Haldane is reputed to have said ‘God if he exists, must have ‘an inordinate fondness for beetles’. God not only looks at all His work on day 5 and calls it good, He blesses it. It is the first time in the text that God pronounces such a blessing and tells it to be fruitful. God’s blessing is not just reserved for human beings but all creatures. It is worth noting that ‘living creature’ is the same word that is used for Adam in Genesis 2:7. The Hebrew for ‘creature’ and ‘being’ is the same word ‘nepes’. ‘Nepes’ can also be translated as ‘life’ or ‘soul’ and our familiar Bible translations are far from consistent. For example, the King James translation has ‘moving creatures that hath life’ in Gen 1:20 and Gen 2:7 as ‘living soul’. We are perhaps not so different from other creatures than we think. We are all granted ‘nepes’ from God.

Does the idea that life, soul, creature and being are all the same word in Hebrew surprise you? What thinking does it confirm or challenge?

Doves, Ravens, Eagles, Sparrows and Chickens (!*!)

Write a list of all the birds that get mentioned in Bible.

Doves are among the best-known birds in the Bible. In the story of Noah’s ark, the raven is sent out first and then the dove. The dove becomes the hero/heroine by bringing back an olive branch thus showing that there is dry land and the time of self-isolation was over. While many of us picture a pure white dove, the biblical dove was a turtle-dove or a rock pigeon. When we think of the dove as the symbol of the Holy Spirit I quite like to think of a mob of urban pigeons instead of a dainty fairy-like thing. I like a Spirit that gets into the crevasses and corners of ordinary life.

Elijah is famously fed by ravens in (1 Kings 17:2-6) which doesn’t sound too hygienic to me. It’s a total role-reversal of the ‘Feed the Birds’ song in Mary Poppins. Through the birds we see God as a miraculous provider.

Eagles in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible are used metaphorically and beautifully.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

One passage that has always appealed to me is Deuteronomy 32:11 which describes God as a mother eagle that stirs up the nest so that her young are forced to fledge. She then helps them to fly. What an awe-inspiring picture of a God! A God who disturbs our comfort so that we grow and develop. In the New Testament the mother bird theme continues. Movingly, Jesus looks towards a doomed Jerusalem and compares himself to a hen ‘How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings’ (Matthew 23:37)

When I young I had a storybook called ‘The Very Worried Sparrow’. It was based on Matt 10:29-31 and Luke 12:6-7. Sparrows were numerous and cheap (yes there is a pun there!) but God knows and cares for each one. Arguing from the lesser to the greater, if this the case with sparrows whom God loves, then just think how much your heavenly Father loves you.

Which of these bird passages appeals to you the most?

The Teeming Waters

Write down as many Bible stories that mention sea creatures or fish as you can.

As I said, I need someone to enthuse me about fish, but I loved David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ series and I eat just about anything that comes out of the sea. Despite having Jewish ancestry my adoration of shellfish knows no bounds. The earth is 71% water. We are indeed a ‘Blue Planet’. Billions of people rely on the sea as their main source of protein. Much of Jesus’ ministry is around the sea of Galilee and fish were a staple part of the diet. It was the first meal he ate after the resurrection. The creatures of the sea are also blessed.

here is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number –
    living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there (Psalm 104: 25-26)

Isn’t great that Leviathan, a great sea-beast of some kind, gets to play in the deep a bit like the dolphins on Mull? Jonah gets rescued by a big fish but forgets not only his fellow human beings but also other creatures when he moans that Nineveh has repented and God will not bring judgement upon them. God rebukes him that He has every right to care for the city’s 120,000 people and ‘also many animals’ (Jonah 4:11). God’s compassion is wide and for all living things. An abundance of fish is a symbol of the abundance of life including spiritual life. The waters that flow from the temple in Ezekiel’s vision are filled with large numbers of fish (Ez 47:1-12)

I don’t need to tell you that the birds of the air and the creatures of the sea are under threat from a decline in habitat (even sparrows are rarer), poisoning, plastics, changes in water temperature and disturbances on migration routes. The prophet Jeremiah saw the evils of habitat destruction; ‘I looked at the earth and it was formless and empty (a sort of un-creation) and at the heavens and their light was gone…I looked and every bird in the sky had flown away’ (Jer 4:23-25). Winston Halapua from the Pacific Islands writes of how a conch shell would be blown in a time of danger. He writes; ‘We need to blow a conch to alert the world of danger not only to ourselves but the whole planet’.

Ideas of how we can care for the birds and the creatures of the deep include; the church organising habitat clean-ups, not using bottled water at big events, eating sustainable fish and seafood and not eating cheap chicken that has been reared in cramped and intensive conditions.

Have you seen harm to the birds or to the seas?

What of the ideas to help mentioned would you find easy or difficult?

We’ve seen that God cares for His creatures and His character is seen through them. We’ve seen that we have more in common with other creatures than we thought. We all have ‘nepes’. What should our collectively Church response be?

A Prayer

Look and listen to the birds today or watch a nature video/film and give thanks.

God, You know my imperfections.
I ignore the baby chick within.
All that is fresh and new, and desires growth,
Sometimes I ignore it or fight it.
I am sometimes too fragile to allow the new within me to survive.
Create within me the ability to greet each day like Your birds.
And to care for animals as You would, God,
You who would gather us all within
Your outstretched wings.

From Carol J Adams, Prayers for the Animals.

21 March 2020 Upate

March 21st, 2020

We are very sorry but the church is closed for all activities until further notice.