Archives July 2011

Sermon Notes: Ordinary 17, Year A: ‘Pearls of Salvation’

Text: Matthew 13:44-52

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

  • We live today in an age when synthetic pearls are commonplace, when plastic is the norm.
  • Even real pearls today are farmed or ‘cultured’
    • This is a very different way from the natural pearl that Jesus speaks of
    • Only 1 Oyster in a 1000 might contain any kind of pearl, and they were found deep underwater, at depths of more than 40ft in naturally occurring, not manmade  oyster beds.
    • A diver would have to go down with only the air in his lungs, often with a rock tied to himself to make the descent quicker, scrabble around in the murky, muddy depths and then shoot up (not not that fast, which is highly dangerous) with perhaps a small beautiful pearl, or more usually empty handed: hard, dangerous, low paid work.
    • In a haul of 3 tons of Oysters, only 3 or 4 will contain a pearl of any real value.
    • So we begin to see why pearls might be so expensive in Jesus’ time
    • A pearl is the result of something gritty that gets trapped inside the oyster shell
      • A grain of sand which irritates the Oyster
      • Layers of natural calcium carbonate (the same as the oyster shell) are built up around the grit and this beautiful object is produced: it catches the light in almost unique ways
      • In our lives, we too are exposed to the grittiness of life
        • Challenges and disappointments
        • Indecision and temptation
        • Burdens and the unpredictable twists and turns of every day life
        • I wish I had the opportunity to promise you that such grittiness will not occur in your lives, but we know the truth: that life is filled with these challenges, these tests, these difficulties
        • In fact, I want to suggest to you that it is precisely because life has its ups and downs that the promises of Christ are even more significant
          • That through Christ, and with Christ alongside you, the gritty challenges of your life produce something of immense value
          • Value to yourself, value to others, value to the God who loves you
          • We have the opportunity to enclose the tough and challenging things in our lives
            • Wrap them in prayer and love
            • And produce something transformative
            • This is why the Merchant who finds a pearl of great value risks everything to obtain such a great prize
            • This is why Paul speaks of Athletes in training  (1 Corinthian 9:24-25)
              • 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
              • The prize of salvation, which the Merchant risks all for, that the Athlete trains for is not the promise of the future, but the here and now: the pearl is available NOW
                • If we are prepared to pay the price asked of us
                • If we are prepared to put everything aside to focus upon God’s will
                • If we are prepared to risk our old, sinful, belaboured lives
                  • And embrace God.
  • The Kingdom of God is, as Christ told us, close at hand
    • Not ‘pie in the sky’
    • Not the empty and vapid promise of harps and halos, forty virgins or whatever else has been brainwashed into you
    • Not a platitude intended to put of the necessity of making things better in this world
    • But bringing the rule of God ‘on earth as it is in heaven’
    • Here
    • Now
    • Fighting for Social Justice, for equality, for the involvement of all to all regardless of race, gender or sexuality
    • Fighting for freedom from oppression
    • Giving a voice to those without words
    • Fighting for those trapped in poverty and the degradation of addiction in this very place
    • Seeking to make the love of Christ known to all whose gritty lives have not yet had the opportunity to gain a little of God’s wonderful pearl.
    • If we fail to do this, if we fail to win these generations for Christ,
    • If claim timidity, or age, or tiredness or lack of formal education for failing to at least try and build the Kingdom of God
    • Then we will find ourselves in the wrong basket
    • The question the good judge will ask us is not “have you behaved” but “what have you done”
    • Not “who have you condemned” but “who have you embraced”
    • Not “how pious have you acted” but “what has been in your heart”
    • For no pearl can form without a little bit of grit
    • No Kingdom can be built without an earth to build upon
    • No salvation is possible until we ourselves realise how much we need God
      • And when we see that, we will have found the treasure which is worth everything


Confirmation Notes: Christ – Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection

  • The pre-existence of the Word, the Logos  Genesis 1, John 1
  • The outrageous idea of Incarnation
  • Carne – flesh  lit ‘en-flesh-ment’
  • No other faith comes close in engagement with humanity
  • Human and/or Divine: Video of the Geneology of Matthew

  • The paradox of two natures – ikon of Christ as reminder
  • The vulnerability of the Incarnation, Matthew and Luke nativity stories, esp compared to the ‘chocolate box’ story of the traditional Christmas story
  • Growing up as God: Christ in theTemple(Luke 2:41-52), Temptation without sin (Matthew 4, Luke 4), righteous anger (Matthew 19:13)
  • Claims of Jesus

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (CS Lewis Mere Christianity pg. 52)

  • The purpose of the Passion
    • The mistake of Penal Substitution “cosmic child abuse” & how it fails to fit our understanding of a loving Heavenly Father
    • Kensosis – Phillipians 2:5-11
    • The Cross not as defeat but Victory
      • John 19:30 “It is complete / paid off” Gk: Tetelestai
      • §  The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show indicating that a bill had been paid in full. The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this: “Receipts are often introduced by the phrase [sic tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner…”
    • o   “The cross is a stake planted in the ground around which the whole history of the world revolves”
  • The significance of the Resurrection
    • As vindication of the power of God
    • Not immediate – for patience is a teaching point
    • Hidden from view, then revealed: John 20
    • The resurrection body cf Bramantino’s Resurrected Christ
  • The proof of the resurrection
    • Genuine death on the cross – blood & water
    • Empty Tomb
    • First witnesses were women (the wisdom of God vs the foolishness of men!)
    • Testimony of the Apostles even to Martyrdom
  • The impact of the resurrection on the world today in the lives of Christians

Connecting with Generation Y: Seminars on Sacramental Mission, July 2011

This is the text that I wrote for the seminars on the 8th and 9th July 2011 at Great Yarmouth and Norwich. Obviously, the actual seminar differs from what was actually said, and the audio from at least one of them will be available on

We gather in the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


The title of this paper and workshop is about “How can one connect with people in an age of so much diversity, apathy & choice”. I’d much prefer my original title “How to set your church on fire” but I suspect this would have garnered undue interest from Archdeacons and Ecclesiastical Insurance; but we need to recognise that they are essentially the same thing, and the missionary objective of the Church as embodied in the Gospel calls us to set our Churches on Fire for the Lord and use the tools of this modern age as bridges to connect with those who see the Church as irrelevant, sidelined or beyond them.

This is probably best explored through the telling of our story, the story of Blessed and the story of the development of a missional approach which places an encounter with the sacraments at the heart of the outreach of the Church.

The problem is, I’ve never been conventional: always been in trouble, always been at the back of class irritating the authorities who tell us how it should be done, and why it has to be like it is.

Blesséd (the Fresh Expression, the alt.worship community I speak of) is, I suppose a reflection of this: a loose collection of individuals and their charisms that almost on purpose seeks to take what we know and love and do it differently.

Blesséd is an alternative worship community which gathers a dozen times a year in worship, almost always sacramental worship and usually as Mass, shaped by the liturgical seasons; and is continuing to seek (rather haphazardly) to become a more distinct non-parochial, non geographical ecclesial community as it tries to support itself through social networking and other media between gatherings for worship.

On one level, Blesséd is solidly traditional – deeply sacramental, unashamedly Anglo-Catholic, soaked in gin and the cycle of the daily office, and on another it seeks to blow that world apart – to declare the whole of creation as sacramental, and our approach to God as immersive, multisensory and wildly, rabidly inclusive.

Blesséd is, as I am sure you are, steeped in values which have been passed down to us from the apostles and the saints, moulded by Holy Mother Church and shaped by the weight of theological consideration, liturgical practice and the pastoral needs of the pilgrim people of God.

This seminar seeks to build on our shared Anglican heritage: in our case, a catholic heritage, to re-emphasise our mission and the proclamation of the Gospel, and for us to be reminded that we already have the principle tool of mission to hand: the mass.

It gives me the opportunity to speak on a number of subjects close to my heart: liturgy, mission and creativity and not what many of you were expecting: computers. I find myself in an odd position: much of my ministry, my missional work is in the practice of liturgy, its use as a missional tool, especially to young people and yet, what do most of my colleagues use me for?

I am simply a parish priest: Vicar of St Thomas the Apostle, Elson. An urban parish in Gosport in the Diocese of Portsmouth. I come to this place via a career in Intensive Care and Critical Care Nursing in a number of London Teaching Hospitals and an almost accidental role as a guru in the use of Information Technology to support Nursing which came about from my research into the communication between Nurses and Patients in a particular kind of High Dependency Critical Care. I also worked for a while as a freelance Computer Programmer in the City of London just before my theological formation at Mirfield.

I carry all of the pressures and anxieties of Parochial Ministry: a heavy pastoral load with sixteen and a half thousand souls in my cure, a small, struggling and (I have to admit it) poor parish; a desire to proclaim Christ made present in a particularly Catholic spirituality.

So, I suppose the key questions you want to have answered in this session are:

• Why should I do creative liturgy? Does it make a difference?

• Can I do it in ways which are authentic to my tradition? (I will speak primarily to my tradition, but the same can and should be applied across the board)

• How can I do it when I don’t have any technological expertise?

(and not computers)

One of the legacies of the Reformation was the rejection of the sensual and the sensuous. Our engagement with God is much more than simply what we say aloud, or even what we hear, but in sight (spectacle and ritual), smell, taste and touch and through these we are enabled to engage both our minds and hearts in worship: we are creatures created to worship, but I suspect that the evangelical narrowness of sola scriptura cuts out many of our worshipping experiences by restricting our means of engaging with God. God is bigger than that.

Catholicism is a fundamental way of looking at the incarnation and the world as affected by the incarnation, and therefore our sacramental life is crucial, central even to the work of mission. Being authentically Catholic means being multisensory and opening ourselves to the outrageous and audacious possibilities which the Incarnation offers to us.

Bishop Lindsay Urwin, [now in this Diocese of course in an article on the sacramental ministry in fresh mission, suggests that:

“One might argue that in a culture saturated with trivial, unmemorable and unreliables words, Christ-filled symbol and action might have more chance of breaking through [and being heard”

Mission-Shaped Questions p31

When words run out, and they always run out when we are in an encounter with the indescribable, we turn to symbol and sign. Society is surrounded by symbol and sign, not to control us, but to enable us to engage with that which is beyond our experience: from the burning bush to the body and blood, our encounter with the sacred cannot solely be through word alone, for the soul encounters God on so many more planes of function.

Fundamentally, I believe that our primary encounter with God in worship is not an intellectual one, but an emotive one. Worship is one of the first ways that seekers of faith encounter Christ, and when asked about their first dip in the worship ocean, they do not reflect on worship in terms of reason or logic: whether they were convinced by the argument, but how it made them feel.

The experience of Blesséd firstly in Southsea, and now in Gosport shows how it is worship, and fundamentally sacramental worship is a key tool in breaking through the mundanity of everyday life. In urban Portsmouth, we stepped out in mission to an extremely mixed group of teenagers. Not having any money, resources or (quite frankly, any clue), my first solution was simply to introduce these largely unchurched young people to the Church: the Lady Chapel in particular. In the dark: lit only by candles and swathed in incense, around a cross, or an ikon, projecting some words on a blank wall or the altar frontal: something wonderful happened and these young people who only months before were the ones vying to knock out as many quarterlight windows as they could were able to grasp the presence of God in their midst.

It is a risky strategy of course, because it means opening ourselves out in vulnerability, but Church isn’t simply a building placed in aspic, and inviting a mob of the unruly, the untidy, the snotty and the messy into the sacred space is precisely what Christ told us about in the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:15-24)

Truly effective mission simply allows people to encounter God, and the missioner simply turns up for the ride.

The last great swell of Anglocatholic Mission was in the 20’s and the 30’s and took place in poor, working class slums where the beauty and transcendence of worship lifted the people of God. It was through the sacraments that encounter took place. When we started to plan worship, a number of our young people involved all said independently “well, it has to be a mass doesn’t it?” “We wanna do that fing with the bead and the wine, Farv” [yes, we talk like that in Portsmouth It is intriguing that they sought to define themselves in terms of their relationship to the sacrament and yet not to be constrained by the traditions of it. For them, each element of the mass was seen as being up for grabs, for a radical interpretation and a retelling of the story.

So, in 2002 (long before the Fresh Expressions labels was applied to anything outside of Choral Evensong), Blesséd was born – Eucharist with funky backbeats, Gloria with dancing, Sacrament with Attitude. Blesséd sought to continue its sacramental heritage whilst proclaiming its ancient truths in new and creative ways. This has meant taking what we know and love and asking how its story may be told for new generations.

And I explored this in a chapter of the book published in 2009 edited by Ian Mobsby and Stephen Croft on Ancient Future: Fresh Expressions in the Catholic and Contemplative Spiritualities

and last year in a book specifically on Creative Sacramental mission [I have some here at a bargain rate

This year’s book on sacramental worship with Children will be published in the Autumn, and you can pre-order that on Amazon now.

This is not the place for me to extensively explore the role of the sacramental life in mission suffice for me to leave you with the impression that for our community, it is the fount of all being: all life is sacramental and the sacramental life is the mechanism through which Almighty God and his creation encounter each other.

We could explore a lot of stuff about PostModernism and the role of sign and symbol: semiotics in mission, but I think that is better kept for a discussion over a coffee later!

Blesséd therefore seeks to encourage creativity first and foremost: the Gloria is tap-danced. Bread is kneeded. New prefaces are said and wine is consecrated by the bottle-load in unspoken action. Blessings are scribbled on a rocket and exploded in the night sky over Gosport. These creative, expressive ways are as real to these missional communities as were the first Eucharistic prayers of Hypolytus.

I am not advocating the throwing away of our carefully honed heritage in favour of some spiritual supermarket of technical wizardry and gimmicky mass, but rather a creative and free-flowing use of the entire tradition of the church: tradition which is not static, but dynamic and as engaging as the Incarnation. To the other extreme, this creative flow should not be restricted to just “youth services” or “children’s services”, but as we find at St Thomas the Apostle, creativity starts to infuse and cross-fertilise: We must be one of the few anglocatholic parishes to use a projector at each Parish Mass, and we benefit from the flexibility and cost-effectivness of projecting the entire liturgy and hymnody on screen each and every week.

One of the things I repeatedly hear after Blesséd worship, especially from fellow Clergy is “oh, I couldn’t do anything like that – I am so untechnical” as if I am the holder of some kind of esoteric secrets. My friends, the key skills are the ones you already posess: your creativity

For I am convinced that the best multisensory worship does not have to plug into the mains and our key tools: incense, stones, flowing water, bread and wine transformed into the body and blood of Christ are the best tools, and dancing pixels are there to support them.

In the V&A Museum is this work by Jonathon Barnbrook.

We should be constantly asking ourselves whether the technology we are using is appropriate or indeed is of any use. Ironically, this means any technology: how many people have been forced to wince through the murder of Shine Jesus Shrine played inappropriately on the Organ a full trad choir butchering Taize and a badly set up projector emasculating a worship chorus. The use of a mic, a guitar, a video can enhance worship, but it can also be used to destroy that delicate moment where God and people come together.

We have to recognise that whilst created in God’s image, we are all different and have different learning styles and different approaches to God. Eneagram and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have backed this up – what works for me will not necessarily work for you.

Our problem has been that Archbishop Cranmer was clearly an auditory learner and our legacy as Anglicans is to be rigidly tied to the prayerbook, the Common Worship Text, to the hymnal and to the written word.

Not all of us are like this. Some are. Good for them. I [as you might have guessed am not. I work best with visual stimulation backed up by the auditory others love ritual and body prayer and have what educationalists refer to as a kinaesthetic bent.

None of this is wrong. I used to think I was a terrible Christian because I was useless at silence: I’d get twitchy before the Blessed Sacrament until I did Myers-Briggs and the wise monk who analysed me said “you need something to do in prayer” and gave me a rosary, and my prayer life was transformed.

However, because we have lost our pre-reformation love of the visual and the ritual, the first thing I want to share is some good practice in the use of projectors.

My worst experience of projection occurred in a sacred space where one should have expected it to be slick and professional: the wildly successful St Aldates in Oxford. A rich evangelical parish in central Oxford (which I am not going to name, but you can work it out!)

There, amid impressive music, powerful testimony and the sight of dozens being baptised was the most second rate use of a projector I have ever seen. For successful use of a projector does not rely on how much money you spend on kit but the thought and the preparation of what is displayed and the training and liturgical awareness of the operator.

The major error is one of distraction: the worst thing about Powerpoint (more on that later) in business and especially in teaching (my wife is a newly qualified teacher and the worst powerpoints ever are made by educationalists) – the worst thing is the templates: they distract: fonts, backgrounds, animations (oh! Lord have mercy, animations!).

You don’t need any of them. You don’t need a cross, a waterfall, a sunset behind your words. Use images where words are not needed, but if words are the important thing – use just words.

Similarly, you shouldn’t use too many words. Many Churches (St Aldates included) havn’t grown out of their days with an OHP and acetates with two whole verses and a chorus on screen in very very very small writing.


My tendency is to put no more than 2 lines of a hymn on screen at anytime and to fill the screen with it, so that it may be seen without a distracting background and in a simple clear font. Given, the operator cannot fall asleep but this is a good spur for teenagers for whom the mass is otherwise the most boring thing ever – it keeps them alert because you have to change the [what I will call the slide before the end of the line, so you are up to speed with the text.

An example: (to the tune of St Denio)

Verse 1

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

in light inaccessible hid (change) from our eyes,

most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

almighty, victorious, thy great (change) name we praise.

Verse 2

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,

nor wanting, nor wasting, thou (change) rulest in might;

thy justice like mountains high soaring above

thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

I use simple visual clues:

The Lord be with you

and also with you

We probably all do similar already with bold text in printed sheets, but instead throughout I always use yellow or red (depending on background colour) for congregation responses, and green for directions


(let us be seated)

Or translations: Miserere Nobis (have mercy on us)

People unfamiliar with Church find this simple “say the bright colour” approach easy to pick up and therefore less intimidating that wading through a booklet. It encourages singing and works very well with traditional hymnody.

When it comes to the sighting of screens, I have to confess that the DAC can sometimes prove a challenge [although I am sure your DAC is lovely. The solution lies in the moveable: we created an 8ft high tressel upon which a standard [and very cheap projector screen is G-Clamped. No faculty is required.

The most effective position for projection is immediately behind the altar so that the screen does not distract from the focal liturgical activity, but rather encourages, points, focuses on the real liturgical action, as seen as Walsingham. This works well when you pull the altar into the Nave as you can back-project from the Chancel, but this does tend to annoy the Choir [as do most things, let’s face it

Other solutions involving temporary hangings, banners, or even multiple projectors or LCD TVs but I would counsel care that they do not become the focus of worship away from what is taking place on the altar. In a big space such as Walsingham, we concentrate during the consecration of the elements on the priests hands and the elevation.

I have already spoken of Powerpoint and for many it would be the first choice of software for projecting words and even embedded videos in worship. One piece of advice: don’t.

It’s like using a bicycle in the Isle of Man TT Races: you would get round but after a lot of wasted energy. It doesn’t have the flexibility or the speed to display liturgy effectively. There are a number of applications which are available ranging from Open Source [ie Free solutions such as DreamBeam through to very effective commercial applications such as MediaShout or my personal choice Easyworship

a more detailed list can be found at

What they offer is a complete integrated system for scripture, images, video and even web pages with the ability to respond dynamically to the worship environment which a linear system such as Powerpoint, even using Presentation Mode cannot live up to.

Beyond words, we should consider the use of video and image, both as a creative tool and as a supportive tool for liturgy. We could speak of all kinds of places for this kind of work, and today’s session has been littered with gatherings, penitential rites and even Eucharistic prayers, but for simplicity, I will speak only of the development of the Visual Intercession. It wasn’t my idea, but I believe that Blesséd has taken the concept further than many.

Many years ago, my wife and I, as simple Sunday School teachers introduced a session of prayer (for a Harvest festival if I recall) using pictures photocopied onto OHP acetates as someone played piano (now that dates it, doesn’t it. I think it was the early 90’s).

Later we stuck some pictures together on a Powerpoint Slideshow and pressed play on a CD… and later still as a simple video made on a PC and at last we were able to pray with others rather than be tied up with the mechanism to help others to pray without words, guided by the images seen on screen.

Not everyone responds to visual intercessions as I have mentioned earlier, but it allows many more to explore intercessory prayer in a creative response as an image will guide two different people to have different foci of prayer: they are individual and I believe that this makes the Baby Jesus smile.

In videos generally there are two distinct styles, philosophies even which need to be noted:

The Visions Style

based in York, Visions is an alt.worship community which arose from the 1990s club scene, it uses video loops as an immersive process, as wallpaper around the scene (often using multiple screens) so the worshipper can just drop back and absorb the vibe from short repetitive loops

The Blessed Style

tends to use longer, less looped videos which drive forward the liturgy – which support direct liturgical action and have a distinct beginning and end.

They are simply different approaches and one is not better than the other, simply recognise that they are different.

These days the tools of simple video making come shipped as Standard with every PC or Mac

To show how easy it is to create a basic visual intercessions, we have a small number of workstations around this room (mostly PCs but one Mac, depending on your inclinations, but we are an inclusive Church and I won’t mind if you are an abnormal Mac user) and I think it might be nice if we can have a go at producing a simple visual intercessions.

But before we do that, I know that the issue of copyright might be lurking in the back of your mind. After all, it’s important that we uphold the law…

Speaking personally, the Gospel is more important than any manmade law and honouring God comes before honouring financially any person. I inhabit a culture where intellectual property is seen not as an end product but as a tool for further enhancement: the growth of sampling or the mashup video and the development of the download as the key method of music distribution in the past 2 years has reflected modern youth’s disregard of copyright as a concept and the embracing of other forms of intellectual property which ensure proper attribution, reasonable recompense and creative freedom. Sharing files is not seen as a crime by young people.

Having said that, we should respect an individual’s creativity. Thankfully the performing rights society think the same as I do: they have stated that they will not pursue copyright on a creative work if it is being used in an act of divine worship for which no charge is being made

As we never charge for the Mass (which probably explains why Blesséd is constantly underfunded, starved little urchin of a group – no official or central FE funding for us, I must say!) we are safe. However, stick a video with a piece of copyrighted material on YouTube or on a DVD on a book or charge entry for an event (a collection doesn’t count, thankfully) and you’ll find yourself taken down or worse, sued. Thankfully more and more companies are seeing YouTube as a means for generating awareness of their music, linking to the option of downloading the music from iTunes and letting you keep it, with the notable exception of TimeWarner, who just remove it.

Luckily there is so much stuff available that the use of Copyrighted Material is seldom wholly necessary. Material can be found on the internet that is in the Public Domain – a work in the public domain is free for everyone to use without asking for permission or paying royalties. The phrase “public domain” is a copyright term referring to works that belong to the public. Works can be in the public domain for a variety of reasons: because the term of copyright protection has expired; because the work was not eligible for copyright protection in the first place; or because the copyright owner has given the copyright in the work to the public domain. Often video placed on sites like YouTube by their creators are considered to have placed them in the Public Domain (and I will explain later how to obtain those videos)

There is other material which is available freely for use but still remains the property of its creator. This is the marvellous Creative Commons works allows free use and reuse but asserts certain rights, ranging from requiring credit to be given to the originator (attribution) or restricting its use to non-commercial uses – such as worship. The Creative Commons website details this much more readily.

Of course, the best material for you to use is stuff you have made yourself. The quality of digital still and movie cameras is now amazing. £150 will buy you a camcorder which records onto a small memory card – no tape or disk anymore and an 8Gb card costing £10 can record six to 8 hours of high quality video on it.

A still camera can be used to take successive still images and a free program used to ‘stitch’ these together into a stop frame animation. I have the habit of ‘borrowing’ my daughter’s Barbie dolls to film bible stories with a Sacred Heart statue playing Jesus.

Google Images is a marvellous source for finding still images, but care must be taken to ensure that you don’t simply select the first image you come up with, and you choose carefully for image quality as a web image is often much poorer in quality than an image on screen and when put on a 6ft screen will look very blocky…

YouTube is a great source for video images, but the site (and many others) uses a compressed video format called FLV or Flash Video to stream the video. You need a converting tool. This can be done online at sites like ( or there are standalone programs such as the excellent Save2PC, all of which can convert to a variety of other useful formats, from which you can use your video editing software to shape and change, maybe removing the audio and replacing it with something else, or just chopping out a little bit that you want.

Whatever you are gathering, throw nothing away. 1Tb of Data Storage in an external drive can be got for £50, and you’ll always want to trawl back for something useful.

So, now: how to make a video using Windows Video Maker…

Concluding Remarks

So, after all that does what is produced enable us to tick the box marked “Fresh Expression”? I am not so sure, because so much has been given to the corporate branding of “fresh expressions” that I, and I am sure, many of you, now view it with little more than cynicism. But:

• I would want to argue that if anything we are doing is stale, tired, weatherbeaten and not-really-very-dearly loved then it is a waste of time, effort and misson.

• If anything we do does not stimulate the heart and soul for Christ then it must be ditched.

• If anything that takes place in Church does not stretch and challenge the faith then it is not Gospel-Shaped and has no place in Church.

• If each-and-every mass that you say is not a fresh expression of faith then I would want to challenge you to go back to your ordinal and remind yourself of your ordination charge.

The Mass is, let’s face it, the freshest of fresh expressions.

As Pete Ward discussed in his book Mass Culture the mass is an evangelistic opportunity and a missionary tool. It provides a unique opportunity for expressing the salvation story and the joy of the resurrection in word, song, action and ritual.

The mass provides both fixed points of reference and an ever-changing cycle of encounter with God, and this mix of the familiar and the challenging provides a framework on which to hang new explorations of worship; rather than being a limit to fresh expressions of worship, it forms a skeleton upon which a new creation is formed. No community which seeks to be Christian can be said to be authentically so unless it gathers to break bread and pour wine and see that Christ is in their midst.

The Catholic spirituality might layer more over that and see much more (quite rightly) into that, but essentially each community, regardless of what it calls this engagement with Christ, regardless of its explicit sacramental theology, one thing all actually agree on is that Christ in some way is here amongst us.

So, my dear friends, what are we to make of a paper which seeks to say in new and radical ways “Go and carry on with what you are doing”, for all this messing around with pixels are only an extension of the central act of worship which it supports: the breaking of bread and the proclamation of the resurrection.

So often Catholics are prepared to beat themselves up about mission and their lack of activity in this area. But, to you I say, the tools of mission are in your very hands – broken bread and wine outpoured are far more effective tools than an expensive and limited missionary pack. The fan-the-flame missions are Eucharistically centred for a reason, and the message of freedom, challenge and radical hospitality of the altar has so much to say to a society which is broken and confused by messages which say little to their context.

The Mass cannot be simply set down in a place and expected to do the work itself The concept of priest as conduit of that sacrament has much to say about how we bring about that sacred encounter. Getting bodies over the door is not the end result, but the beginning, and the sacramental encounter is the source of transformation and the cradle of faith.

If all this workshop has done is make you consider how Mass can be retold in your community, and offer you a possibility to unleash your creative and missional juices to that end, then I will have done my work.

So, Go and make mission, and proclaim the Gospel afresh to each and for each generation! Thank you.

Sermon Audio for Patronal Festival

Unfortunately, the Ven Caroline Baston, Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight was unable to come and preach, but with grateful thanks, the Bishop’s Chaplain, the Revd Karen Schmidt came to deliver her sermon on her behalf.

Please follow the link to hear the podcast of the sermon, which can also be found on the parish website at

Sermon at the First Mass of Mother Caroline Rhodes, Feast of S. Thomas the Apostle, 2011

In the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

  • Greetings on this Feast Day of St Thomas the Apostle
    • From St Thomas the Apostle Elson, your brother & sisters in Christ
    • Small urban parish in Diocese of Portsmouth on the South Coast
    • An Inclusive Church with a Sacramental, Eucharistic focus
    • Missional
      • esp in work with young people, families, schools
      • notorious for its unique sacramental fresh expression called Blesséd
        • something almost unique in the Church of England
        • Missional, radical
        • a reputation for quality multimedia worship, challenging the norm and inadvertently setting fire to church carpets (and occasionally the priest!)
        • One day I was called by someone from theological college who, inspired by encountering the noise created by Blesséd at Greenbelt asked if she could come and do a Summer placement
          • Keen to sample all that Missional Anglocatholicism had to offer
          • to work with the young, the old, the disaffected and the challenged that make up our Parish and our Fresh Expression
          • to create and innovate and do playful things in the worship of Almighty God
          • We in the parish could tell that she would be an excellent priest, and a great judge of character after even just a short period of time, as she gave me a bottle of the ludicrously expensive Hendrick’s Gin after her placement. What a good judge of character! She will always be welcomed back in Elson!
          • She has remained an active member of the Blesséd Community, contributing liturgy, wise counsel and good humour in person at Greenbelt (where she Deaconed the Mass last year) and over the interweb.
          • I am of course, speaking of Caroline
          • That Ordinand is the newly ordained priest at whose hands Christ will be made present here today
          • And that is a special thing
            • a mysterious thing
            • a profound thing
            • We are all indeed privileged to be a part of Mother Caroline’s first Mass
              • a fine old English word found in the 1549 Prayer Book no less, so let us call it what it is.
              • It does not matter whether your Church Tradition believes this or that about Priesthood in the Church of England
              • It does not matter if you believe X or Y about what happens at the Eucharist
                • because from the very heart of Anglicanism comes the understanding that something special and significant happens when the people of God gather and bread is broken and wine in poured out
                • when Christ is present amongst us
                • when we come into Communion with God and with each other
                • and the ordinary things of this world, bread and wine and you and me are transformed into the body and blood of Christ and the people of God
                • and it happens at the hands of a priest
                • today a newly ordained priest in the Church of God
                • and Christ is revealed, hiding as St Francis of Assisi so famously said, hiding under an ordinary piece of bread
                • And that is why you must treasure your priests: Mother Caroline, Mother Chris
                • Because you and the Lord are calling them to be set apart to undertake a task so significant
                  • so momentous
                  • so life-transforming
                  • that the rest of the world hardly notices
                  • and yet yearns for it.
                  • God calls men and women apart to undertake three distinct roles
                    • The Bishop recalled them to us in his charge at Caroline’s ordination last night
                    • They are specific to a priest and distinct signs of God’s work in the world
                    • They are
                      • To Pronounce God’s Forgiveness in the absolution
                      • To Proclaim God’s Blessing upon his people
                      • To Make Christ Present in the Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
                      • When a priest Pronounces God’s Forgiveness
                        • Whether that is in Corporate Worship or in Private acts of Sacramental Recnciliation
                        • The priest is an agent of God’s forgiveness of the world
                        • They seek to articulate for a broken world the reaching out of God to his people
                        • To make visible his love
                        • To proclaim the power of God over sin and death and the possibility of renewal through a lfe lived in God
                        • To reconcile us the people with God as the priest acts as conduit and shining example of love in action
                        • What the world needs more than ever is a proclamation of forgiveness
                        • What the world needs more than ever is a demonstration of the power of reconciliation
                        • and this happens at the hands of your priest
                        • When a priest Proclaims God’s Blessing
                          • once again it is as an agent of God’s grace.
                          • It is not their blessing, but God’s
                          • They are an earthly extension of God’s action in this world.
                          • Throughout Scripture Blessing is seen as important manefestations of the work of God
                            • and there are simply not enough blessings given in this day and age
                            • The broken world can be reunited by a response to God’s love
                            • broken people are transformed by the promise, hope and release of God’s blessing
                            • society is  renewed, change is initiated.
                              • If you have the opportunity, today of all days, and after this Mass, seek out a personal blessing from Mother Caroline
                                • It is a vindication of her new role
                                • It is a gift from God
                                • Who amongst us would want to eschew that?
                                • A priest’s primary calling however is to stand before you as an ikon of Christ at this altar and so to Make Christ Present in the Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist
                                • It is a mystery so profound
                                • A sacrament so significant
                                • The heart of Anglicanism
                                • The lifeblood of the world wide church
                                • as Christ is revealed to us on this very altar in broken bread, in wine outpoured
                                  • Dom Gregory Dix, an Anglican Monk, many years ago wrote so vividly of the universality of this act:
                                • Was ever another command so obeyed?
                                • For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth.
                                • Men have found no better thing than this to do
                                • for kings at their crowning
                                • and for criminals going to the scaffold;
                                • for armies in triumph
                                • or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church;
                                • for the proclamation of a dogma
                                • or for a good crop of wheat;
                                • for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation
                                • or for a sick old woman afraid to die;
                                • for a schoolboy sitting an examination
                                • or for Columbus setting out to discover America;
                                • for the famine of whole provinces
                                • or for the soul of a dead lover;
                                • in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia;
                                • for a village headman much tempted to return to [paganism because the yams had failed;
                                • because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna;
                                • for the repentance of [a soul;
                                • for the settlement of a strike;
                                • for a son for a barren woman;
                                • for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war;
                                • while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre;
                                • on the beach at Dunkirk;
                                • while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church;
                                • tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows;
                                • furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk;
                                • gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc
  • one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them.
  • And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom,
  • the priests have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.
  • This, Mother is the heart of the Eucharistic Celebration which we witness this, and each and every Sunday
  • This is the very heart of your ministry – the transformation of the ordinary people of God through the transformation of the Lord’s Supper.
  • This Mother Caroline, Mother Chris and I tell myself here and now is what we are about.
  • In this world, which cries out for the work of God, can there be three more important tasks?
  • For each of these tasks are a proclamation of the Gospel of Love, a call to transformation, a demonstration of the of God in the world
  • These special, set apart acts show
    • That God’s forgiveness is make clear
    • That’s God’s blessings are present even in times of great tribulation
    • That God’s love is poured out upon us all
    • All other functions of ministry
      • from the interminable paperwork (you can tell I am an Incumbent!)
      • to the sitting on a PCC subcommittee
      • are a shallow reflection of these three key tasks
      • Through them, you, Mother Caroline are called by the people of this parish, the pilgrim people of God to make Christ known to the world
      • Each of these tasks make up the essential mission of the Church
      • They are a part of the mission of the whole people of God which you, Mother, your training incumbent, Mother Chris, and you, the good people of this place should take great heed of:
      • In the words of a powerful ordination charge:
        • “We have not ordained you to ministry; that happened at your baptism.
        • We have not ordained you to serve the Church in committees, activities, organisation; that is already implied in your membership.
        • We have not ordained you to become involved in social issues, in ecology, race, politics, and the search for justice and peace; for that is laid on every Christian.
        • We have ordained you to something smaller and less spectacular;
          • to read and interpret those sacred stories of our community, so that they speak a word to people today;
          • to remember and practice those rituals of meaning that address people at the level where change takes place;
          • to foster in community, through word and sacrament, that encounter with truth which will set people free to minister as the Body of Christ.
  • We are ordaining you to the ministry of the word and sacraments and pastoral care.
  • To proclaim God’s forgiveness
  • To pronounce God’s blessings
  • To make Him known in the breaking of the bread
  • Mother Caroline, may God grant you grace not to betray these mysteries but uphold them, not to deny but to affirm these things, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
  • Amen