Harvest Mass with the Ministry of Children

Harvest Mass – 5th October 2008

This was originally done with Frs North and Barnes at the Children’s Pilgrimage, reworked at the Critical Mass Weekend at Lancing and now once more rehashed for our own purposes into a Harvest Service themed on the Vine and Branches

Gathering Song(s)

– Our God is Here (with procession of Candle, Word & Wooden Cross)

 

Introduction

 

 

SPR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LR

 

 

 

 

 

SPR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LR

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

 

The Lord be with you

And also with you

 

Well, we have everything we need for this special Mass today. I have Acolytes, Servers, Ministers of the Word, Andi, and her glitter, a Thurifer, Debbie and … hang on, where’s Lou?

 

Has anyone seen Lou? I saw her this morning, but have you seen her?

 

(from the balcony) Not coming.

 

(banter between SPR and LR)

 

Not coming to Mass. It’s boring. I never get involved.

 

You can get involved. Everyone can get involved. You don’t have to carry stuff, or read stuff in Church to be involved, you ARE involved, just by being here. By coming, singing and worshipping with us, you are involved. It’s like being part of the same tree, a tree that we are all branches on.

 

Here in the Mass is the best way that we can be close to Jesus, come on down and I’ll show you what fun we all will have worshipping together and sticking close to Jesus.

 

Oh, okay, hold on…

 

 

Need to find something here – maybe the gathering video

 

 

Lou returns –trying to stick head to cross

 

SPR

-er, Lou, what are you doing now?

 

LR

I’m staying close to Jesus, just like you said. I want to be joined onto him like a branch.

 

SPR

No silly! That’s not how we stay close to Jesus?

 

LR

Well, how do we then clever clogs?

 

 

SPR

Well look, that’s what we’ve come to Mass for today. We are going to find 5 ways we can stay close to him in our lives. Just look out for them now –then you’ll see how we can stay close to Jesus, so that we can bear fruit for him.

 

It’s time for the first one now.

 

 

Screen:

1. BY SAYING SORRY

 

 

Jesus wants us to be friends with him, and with one another. Every time we do or say something hurtful or selfish we damage our friendship with him. But when we say that we are sorry he shows us his love and forgives us and draws us close to him.

 

My young ministry team are going to hand out some special paper now, and some pens and I’d like you each to take a small piece. Holding your small bit of paper, I’d like you to pause, pray and reflect. You can write your confession down on it if you like or you can just pray your confession into that paper, and then at the end of this time of penitence, we will gather them up and show you what God does when we are truly sorry.

 

Screen:        

“Reconcile”

 

Penitential Rite

 

Paper

 

Absolution

“you are forgiven”

 

 

 

Almighty God,

who forgives all who truly repent,

have mercy upon you,

pardon and deliver you from all your sins,

confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,

and keep you in life eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

 

 

Gloria

Anderson Gloria

 

 

Collect

Let us pray.

 

God our Father,
look upon us with love.
You redeem us and make us your children in Christ.
Give us true freedom
and bring us to the inheritance you promised.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Screen

2. BY LISTENING TO HIS WORD

 

 

SPR introduces the Liturgy of the Word by a couple of lines about how we stay close to God when we listen to what the Bible says about him.

 

 

First Reading:

Colossians 2:6-8
You must be rooted in Him and built on Him”

 

Gospel Accln:

Alleluia, Jesus is the Lord (Johnston/Ryce-Kelly)

 

 

Gospel Reading:

Vine & Branches Video and Dance

 

 

Affirmation of Faith:

Creed Video

 

Screen         

3. BY PRAYING
SPR goes on about being close to Jesus when we say our prayers

 

Intercessions      

God Hears Me When I Pray

 

Screen         

4. IN EACH OTHER

 

 

SPR goes on about the fourth way we stay close to Jesus –which is by the love we share with one another: Seeing Christ in everyone we have contact with

 

Peace

 

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. Alleluia

 

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you.

 

 

Let us offer one another a sign of peace

 

Screen

5. IN SHARING BREAD AND WINE

 

SPR goes on about the last supper –Jesus told his friends to break bread and drink wine together as the way of remembering him.

 

After he had risen from the dead the disciples would remember his words at the last supper and realise this was the way they would know his presence with them. Through prayer now this bread and wine will become different from how they were before –they will be the way Jesus share his life with us etc…

 

 

Offertory Song

We Come To Your Feast

(dressing of altar etc.)

 

Elements (cloth, bread, wine etc) are brought forward during appropriate verses in song. Children are given processional candles and gather around the altar

 

Offertory

Pray, dear friends, that this sacrifice, which is both mine and yours, may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father

 

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands

for the praise and glory of his name,

for our good, and the good of all his church.

 

 

Prayer over the Gifts:

Lord,
receive these gifts from your Church.
May the great joy you give us
come to perfection in heaven.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Preface

The Lord be with you

and also with you.

 

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

 

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

 

Father, you made the world and love your creation.

You gave your Son Jesus Christ to be our Saviour.

His dying and rising have set us free from sin and death.

And so we gladly thank you,

With saints and angels praising you and singing:

 

 

Sanctus

Thorne

 

 

Eucharistic Prayer 2 for Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen:

 

 

 

 

Screen:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen:

Yes, Lord, you are holy;

you are kind to us and to all people, for this we thank you.

 

We thank you above all for your Son, Jesus Christ.

You sent him into this world

because people had turned away from you

and no longer loved each other.

 

He opened our eyes and our hearts

to understand that we are brothers and sistersand that you are Father of us all.

 

He now brings us together to one table

and asks us to do what he did.

 

Father, we ask you to bless these gifts of bread and wine and make them holy. Change them for us into the body + and blood of Jesus Christ, your Son.

 

On the night before he died for us,

he had supper for the last time with his disciples.

He took bread and gave you thanks.

He broke the bread and gave it to his friends, saying:

 

Take this, all of you, and eat it:

this is my body which will be given up for you.

 

In the same way he took a cup of wine.

He gave you thanks

and handed the cup to his disciples, saying:

 

Take this, all of you, and drink from it:

this is the cup of my blood,

the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.

It will be shed for you and for all people

so that sins may be forgiven.

 

Then he said to them:

Do this in memory of me.

 

God our Father,

we remember with joy that Jesus died to save us.

In this holy sacrifice,

which he gave as a gift to his Church,

we remember his death and resurrection.

 

Father in heaven,

accept us together with your beloved Son.

He willingly died for us,

but you raised him to life again.

We thank you and say:

 

Glory to God in the highest!

 

Jesus now lives with you in glory, but he is also here on earth, among us. We thank you and say:

 

Glory to God in the highest

 

One day he will come in glory

and in his kingdom

there will be no more suffering,

no more tears, no more sadness.

For this, we thank you and say:

 

Glory to God in the highest

 

Father in heaven, you have called us

to receive the body and blood of Christ at this

Table and to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Through this sacred meal give us strength to please you more and more.

 

Lord, our God, remember Kenneth our bishop before you

Help all who follow Jesus to work for peace and to bring happiness to others. Bring us all at last together with Mary, the Mother of God, and all the saints, to live with you and to be one with Christ in heaven.

 

Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever.  

 

 

 

Great Amen

Anderson Gloria Amen:
Amen!
(Clap Clap) Amen! (Clap Clap)

Alleluia! Amen!

Amen! (Clap Clap) Amen! (Clap Clap)

Hosanna to the Lord!

 

Lord’s Prayer

Video: My Friend (Short Modern version)

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tyT7IvcxGM

 

 

 

Celebrant receives a 15 second visual timer to cue the words:

 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

 

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours

now and for ever.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

We break this bread to share in the body of Christ

Though we are many we are one body,

because we all share in one bread.

 

This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Blessed are those who are called to his supper.

Lord I am not worthy to receive you,

but only say the word and I shall be healed.

 

 

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God (Maher)

 

 

Communion Antiphon

“I am the Vine and you are the Branches” says the Lord

 

 

Communion

Video during Communion, Music by Brian Eno

 

 

Communion Song(s)

We plough the fields and scatter

 

 

Post-Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
may these mysteries give us new purpose
and bring us to a new life in you.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

SPR

SPR recaps on how we have stayed close to Jesus in the Mass

 

Screen:

1. By saying sorry

2. By listening to his word

3. By praying

4. In each other

5. In sharing bread and wine.

 

 

 

Maybe Lou could show that he’s been enlightened by the experience! Lou then says now we are sent out to bear fruit for Jesus –sent out into the world to carry his life to others. He talks about ways that this could be done.

 

 

Blessing & Dismissal:

Lambeth Blessing and Dismissal Video:

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14Ma-AodQ9I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are pilgrims on a common journey with Christ as our guide.
Will you be faithful and determined in discipleship?

With the help of God we will.

 
We have gathered around the table and been fed for the road.
Will you share the good news of Christ with those whom you meet?

With the help of God we will

 
The Spirit breathes many gifts to build up the body
Will you use your gifts in the service of others?

With the help of God we will

 
The path we travel brings pain and sadness, joy and delight
Will you endure on this way to bring in the Kingdom?

With the help of God we will

 
May the boldness of the Spirit transform you
May the gentleness of the Spirit lead you
May the gifts of the Spirit equip you
to proclaim afresh in this generation the unchanging love of Christ.
 
And the blessing…

Celebrant (SPR)

…the blessing of God +Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Be upon you and remain with you,
this day and always

Amen

 

 

 

Go in the peace of Christ.

Thanks be to God

 

 

Final Song:

We Wanna See Jesus Lifted High

 


Harvest Mass with the Ministry of Children

Harvest Mass – 5th October 2008

This was originally done with Frs North and Barnes at the Children’s Pilgrimage, reworked at the Critical Mass Weekend at Lancing and now once more rehashed for our own purposes into a Harvest Service themed on the Vine and Branches

Gathering Song(s)

– Our God is Here (with procession of Candle, Word & Wooden Cross)

 

Introduction

 

 

SPR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LR

 

 

 

 

 

SPR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LR

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

 

The Lord be with you

And also with you

 

Well, we have everything we need for this special Mass today. I have Acolytes, Servers, Ministers of the Word, Andi, and her glitter, a Thurifer, Debbie and … hang on, where’s Lou?

 

Has anyone seen Lou? I saw her this morning, but have you seen her?

 

(from the balcony) Not coming.

 

(banter between SPR and LR)

 

Not coming to Mass. It’s boring. I never get involved.

 

You can get involved. Everyone can get involved. You don’t have to carry stuff, or read stuff in Church to be involved, you ARE involved, just by being here. By coming, singing and worshipping with us, you are involved. It’s like being part of the same tree, a tree that we are all branches on.

 

Here in the Mass is the best way that we can be close to Jesus, come on down and I’ll show you what fun we all will have worshipping together and sticking close to Jesus.

 

Oh, okay, hold on…

 

 

Need to find something here – maybe the gathering video

 

 

Lou returns –trying to stick head to cross

 

SPR

-er, Lou, what are you doing now?

 

LR

I’m staying close to Jesus, just like you said. I want to be joined onto him like a branch.

 

SPR

No silly! That’s not how we stay close to Jesus?

 

LR

Well, how do we then clever clogs?

 

 

SPR

Well look, that’s what we’ve come to Mass for today. We are going to find 5 ways we can stay close to him in our lives. Just look out for them now –then you’ll see how we can stay close to Jesus, so that we can bear fruit for him.

 

It’s time for the first one now.

 

 

Screen:

1. BY SAYING SORRY

 

 

Jesus wants us to be friends with him, and with one another. Every time we do or say something hurtful or selfish we damage our friendship with him. But when we say that we are sorry he shows us his love and forgives us and draws us close to him.

 

My young ministry team are going to hand out some special paper now, and some pens and I’d like you each to take a small piece. Holding your small bit of paper, I’d like you to pause, pray and reflect. You can write your confession down on it if you like or you can just pray your confession into that paper, and then at the end of this time of penitence, we will gather them up and show you what God does when we are truly sorry.

 

Screen:        

“Reconcile”

 

Penitential Rite

 

Paper

 

Absolution

“you are forgiven”

 

 

 

Almighty God,

who forgives all who truly repent,

have mercy upon you,

pardon and deliver you from all your sins,

confirm and strengthen you in all goodness,

and keep you in life eternal;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

 

 

Gloria

Anderson Gloria

 

 

Collect

Let us pray.

 

God our Father,
look upon us with love.
You redeem us and make us your children in Christ.
Give us true freedom
and bring us to the inheritance you promised.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Screen

2. BY LISTENING TO HIS WORD

 

 

SPR introduces the Liturgy of the Word by a couple of lines about how we stay close to God when we listen to what the Bible says about him.

 

 

First Reading:

Colossians 2:6-8
You must be rooted in Him and built on Him”

 

Gospel Accln:

Alleluia, Jesus is the Lord (Johnston/Ryce-Kelly)

 

 

Gospel Reading:

Vine & Branches Video and Dance

 

 

Affirmation of Faith:

Creed Video

 

Screen         

3. BY PRAYING
SPR goes on about being close to Jesus when we say our prayers

 

Intercessions      

God Hears Me When I Pray

 

Screen         

4. IN EACH OTHER

 

 

SPR goes on about the fourth way we stay close to Jesus –which is by the love we share with one another: Seeing Christ in everyone we have contact with

 

Peace

 

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. Alleluia

 

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

And also with you.

 

 

Let us offer one another a sign of peace

 

Screen

5. IN SHARING BREAD AND WINE

 

SPR goes on about the last supper –Jesus told his friends to break bread and drink wine together as the way of remembering him.

 

After he had risen from the dead the disciples would remember his words at the last supper and realise this was the way they would know his presence with them. Through prayer now this bread and wine will become different from how they were before –they will be the way Jesus share his life with us etc…

 

 

Offertory Song

We Come To Your Feast

(dressing of altar etc.)

 

Elements (cloth, bread, wine etc) are brought forward during appropriate verses in song. Children are given processional candles and gather around the altar

 

Offertory

Pray, dear friends, that this sacrifice, which is both mine and yours, may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father

 

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands

for the praise and glory of his name,

for our good, and the good of all his church.

 

 

Prayer over the Gifts:

Lord,
receive these gifts from your Church.
May the great joy you give us
come to perfection in heaven.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Preface

The Lord be with you

and also with you.

 

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

 

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

 

Father, you made the world and love your creation.

You gave your Son Jesus Christ to be our Saviour.

His dying and rising have set us free from sin and death.

And so we gladly thank you,

With saints and angels praising you and singing:

 

 

Sanctus

Thorne

 

 

Eucharistic Prayer 2 for Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen:

 

 

 

 

Screen:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen:

Yes, Lord, you are holy;

you are kind to us and to all people, for this we thank you.

 

We thank you above all for your Son, Jesus Christ.

You sent him into this world

because people had turned away from you

and no longer loved each other.

 

He opened our eyes and our hearts

to understand that we are brothers and sistersand that you are Father of us all.

 

He now brings us together to one table

and asks us to do what he did.

 

Father, we ask you to bless these gifts of bread and wine and make them holy. Change them for us into the body + and blood of Jesus Christ, your Son.

 

On the night before he died for us,

he had supper for the last time with his disciples.

He took bread and gave you thanks.

He broke the bread and gave it to his friends, saying:

 

Take this, all of you, and eat it:

this is my body which will be given up for you.

 

In the same way he took a cup of wine.

He gave you thanks

and handed the cup to his disciples, saying:

 

Take this, all of you, and drink from it:

this is the cup of my blood,

the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.

It will be shed for you and for all people

so that sins may be forgiven.

 

Then he said to them:

Do this in memory of me.

 

God our Father,

we remember with joy that Jesus died to save us.

In this holy sacrifice,

which he gave as a gift to his Church,

we remember his death and resurrection.

 

Father in heaven,

accept us together with your beloved Son.

He willingly died for us,

but you raised him to life again.

We thank you and say:

 

Glory to God in the highest!

 

Jesus now lives with you in glory, but he is also here on earth, among us. We thank you and say:

 

Glory to God in the highest

 

One day he will come in glory

and in his kingdom

there will be no more suffering,

no more tears, no more sadness.

For this, we thank you and say:

 

Glory to God in the highest

 

Father in heaven, you have called us

to receive the body and blood of Christ at this

Table and to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Through this sacred meal give us strength to please you more and more.

 

Lord, our God, remember Kenneth our bishop before you

Help all who follow Jesus to work for peace and to bring happiness to others. Bring us all at last together with Mary, the Mother of God, and all the saints, to live with you and to be one with Christ in heaven.

 

Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever.  

 

 

 

Great Amen

Anderson Gloria Amen:
Amen!
(Clap Clap) Amen! (Clap Clap)

Alleluia! Amen!

Amen! (Clap Clap) Amen! (Clap Clap)

Hosanna to the Lord!

 

Lord’s Prayer

Video: My Friend (Short Modern version)

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tyT7IvcxGM

 

 

 

Celebrant receives a 15 second visual timer to cue the words:

 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

 

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours

now and for ever.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

We break this bread to share in the body of Christ

Though we are many we are one body,

because we all share in one bread.

 

This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Blessed are those who are called to his supper.

Lord I am not worthy to receive you,

but only say the word and I shall be healed.

 

 

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God (Maher)

 

 

Communion Antiphon

“I am the Vine and you are the Branches” says the Lord

 

 

Communion

Video during Communion, Music by Brian Eno

 

 

Communion Song(s)

We plough the fields and scatter

 

 

Post-Communion Prayer:

Merciful Father,
may these mysteries give us new purpose
and bring us to a new life in you.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

SPR

SPR recaps on how we have stayed close to Jesus in the Mass

 

Screen:

1. By saying sorry

2. By listening to his word

3. By praying

4. In each other

5. In sharing bread and wine.

 

 

 

Maybe Lou could show that he’s been enlightened by the experience! Lou then says now we are sent out to bear fruit for Jesus –sent out into the world to carry his life to others. He talks about ways that this could be done.

 

 

Blessing & Dismissal:

Lambeth Blessing and Dismissal Video:

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14Ma-AodQ9I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are pilgrims on a common journey with Christ as our guide.
Will you be faithful and determined in discipleship?

With the help of God we will.

 
We have gathered around the table and been fed for the road.
Will you share the good news of Christ with those whom you meet?

With the help of God we will

 
The Spirit breathes many gifts to build up the body
Will you use your gifts in the service of others?

With the help of God we will

 
The path we travel brings pain and sadness, joy and delight
Will you endure on this way to bring in the Kingdom?

With the help of God we will

 
May the boldness of the Spirit transform you
May the gentleness of the Spirit lead you
May the gifts of the Spirit equip you
to proclaim afresh in this generation the unchanging love of Christ.
 
And the blessing…

Celebrant (SPR)

…the blessing of God +Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Be upon you and remain with you,
this day and always

Amen

 

 

 

Go in the peace of Christ.

Thanks be to God

 

 

Final Song:

We Wanna See Jesus Lifted High

 


parishLife.org.uk

Well, it was only £3 a year to register the domain…

Fellow Readers (if there are any of you!), I present to you

www.parishlife.org.uk

for all your bitter and twisted liberal catholic ranting and unpleasantness, commonly known as “my blog”.

I know I have a habit of collecting domain names like some people collect empty beer glasses left on the step of church, but sometimes one seems to be right, and as I keep accidentally typing “parishlife…” instead of “frsimon.wordpress.com” it seemed to be calling me.

If it helps you remember, also, then please update the link to this bizarre collection of stories, homilies and moanings about the state of the Anglican Communion. The old address will remain constant and ever thus, so you don’t have to do anything…


Birthday

Eight Years Old. Where does the time go?

Have just started to rediscover Black and White again on my camera. I prefer to shoot directly in B/W rather than take in colour and process into B/W in photoshop. It has an immediacy and a photojournalistic look which I quite like.

Currently reading: 24-hour Party People by Anthony Wilson. A novelisation of the film screenplay, a zeitgiest of Factory Records and the bands that mattered to my adolescence. Nokia N95 user manual: so many functions, so little time. In the eye of the Storm – Gene Robinson honest and prayerful, everyone should be reading this book before Lambeth


Quiet Day – 17th May 2008 – Trinity and Unity

Despite the fact that my team are playing in the FA Cup Final, I am slaving away over a quiet day at the Sisters of Bethany in Southsea. Of course, when I promised to do this, there was no way that Pompey could get into the final, but that’s devotion for you…

As it is the day before the Most Holy Trinity, I am concentrating on the Trinity and the Body of Christ in two separate talks as models of Christian Unity.

Address 1

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

Let us pray:

Come Lord Jesus, in the fullness of your grace, and open our hearts to your will, our minds to your word, and your love to our whole being. May we each find in today what we came to search for, and amid what we search for, may we find you amongst us. O Lord and King, we strive towards you: our goal, our capstone, our eternal high priest, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

Well, we would appear to be the only ones in Pompey not glued to a television set today, as we play in the FA Cup Final. However, this is a quiet day, and I promise that if you wish to be insulated from the football, then this house is probably the best place for it!

Tomorrow, of course is Trinity Sunday, and so it would be most appropriate for us today to consider some aspects of the most holy trinity, and consider the trinity not only in itself, but as a symbol of unity. It would seem appropriate, in the house of a religious order which prays daily for the Unity of All Christians, to consider during the two addresses of this Quiet Day, the nature of Unity, to consider what Unity means, what Unity costs, and above all, with whom we actually seek to have Unity; using the Trinity and other scriptural models of unity to discern it.

Before Priesthood, I worked extensively in the National Health Service, first as a Registered Nurse and latterly as a Manager. In one hospital I worked in, there was a newly built modern chapel, and it had a single Aumbrey: the box in the wall in which the Reserved Sacrament – the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ used for administration to the sick – was kept. Both the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Chaplains shared the same Aumbrey, within which was a very tasteful little glass partition, separating the sacrament consecrated by the Church of England and the sacrament consecrated by the Church of Rome. One morning, they found taped to the little glass partition the words: “IN CASE OF UNITY – BREAK GLASS!”

But is it indeed that simple? Can we simply sort out of differences and our arguments, simply break the glass so that all would be one? I would like to take you today, therefore, on a journey through unity and give us all something to meditate on during today’s quiet day; and as we think of unity, we think of all that it asks of the church, all that it asks of us, as individual Christians.

If we are to properly meditate on unity, then we should perhaps look first and foremost to the model of the most perfect unity: the Trinity. It is through the Trinity that we see a unity most perfectly formed – perfect elements combined in a single indivisible one. However, we should recognise that much ink and even much blood has been spilt over the doctrine of the Holy Trinity over the centuries. It is ironic that there should be so much schism, so much heresy and anathema on the fount of all unity.

The Trinity is a perfect model of unity, for the Three are One and the One is Three. They form a single Godhead, and yet they are most definitely distinguishable and differentiated charisms.

A Story:

the Lord High Bishop (clearly of a different generation to our own) imperiously sailed into the Sunday School room to have the children presented to him “I would like to ask you all some things… what is the Trinity” – and little Johnny’s hand shot up “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” he replied. Trying to engage the children, the Bishop tried to lead him on a little further “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you mean, my young man” “You’re not supposed to, your Grace, it’s a mystery”.

The mystery, then, is how to apply something of the perfect to our imperfection; to take that which has no division and use it to unite that which has so much division. The key problem is this: we cannot ever fully conceive the nature of God, we can only understand that which is revealed to us. The nature of God has never been fully revealed, and so the Trinity must be seen as Karl Barth describes it as, a ‘revelation-in-progress’, the finality of which we shall not see until the Kingdom comes here on earth – an event called the Parousia.

The Trinity first came to our notice around 180AD, in the writings of Theophilus of Antioch. The Trinity is not seen explicitly in the Holy Scriptures. However, strongly Trinitarian themes can be seen throughout the Old and New Testaments, and more specifically the actions and interventions of different elements of the Trinity throughout history.

The Father is clearly the Creator of us all: the one who spoke and it then was. The Father is most clearly identified with the sacred name Yahweh, which was, until the new covenant, blasphemous to repeat, so a number of euphemisms arose: each time a line in the scroll containing the name ‘Yahweh’ was encountered, the reader aloud would substitute “THE LORD”, which is why a number of translations, such as the Authorised Version keep it in capital letters to signify it is a substitution. THE LORD, or Adonai in Hebrew was translated into Kryios in the Septuatgint – the widely used Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. You are probably most familiar with the petition “Kyrie Eleison” “Lord Have Mercy”. It is Yahweh-Kyrios who appears to Moses in the Burning Bush.

The Father has other names in the Hebrew Scriptures, many of them considerably older than the revealed name of Yahweh. Eloihim is responsible for the older creation narrative of Genesis 2, whereas the 7 day creation is attributed to Yahweh. As a wholly monotheistic faith, the Jews have no problem in identifying that Yahweh and Eloihim are one and the same.

The Son also clearly has a clear role in Scripture, for the Prophets predicted his coming and the Gospel proclaims the life and continued existence of a man fully human and fully divine: two natures and three persons, as revealed in Orthodox Iconography.

The Son, even while on earth was fully human and fully divine. We would not wish to fall into the trap of subordinationism, which places Father and Son in a hierarchy within the Trinity. In the same way, Christ was Christ before, during and after the incarnation. He was not a human being who was graced with divinity at some later stage (Adoptionism), nor was he a God which just ‘appeared’ to be in human form for our benefit, and therefore did not actually suffer on the cross (Docetism). It must be of some comfort to us, as humanity, to realise that the Trinity envelops our humanity as it envelops the personage of the Son.

“The Spirit of God which moved over the water” of Genesis 1 (Gen 1:2) and the Word or Logos which was in the beginning with God in the Prologue of the Gospel of John (John 1:1) is the same Spirit which Paul says leads us to confess that “Jesus is Lord” in his First letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:4). In later Hebrew writings, much is written of Wisdom, a feminine noun just like Rauch the spirit which moved over the water, and her actions, motivation and sustaining work can be seen to be directly analogous with New Testament descriptions of the work of the Holy Spirit.

We should not be too caught up in the application of gender to these issues, for English is a language poorly equipped to deal with the masculines, feminines and neuters of classical languages: God is all genders, God has no gender. Some languages even have a separate pronoun for God: he, she, it and God to emphasise this point. Our labels of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are those used through antiquity to describe this other, and no more.

Of the Trinity as a combined entity, the three men who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18 are seen by many as an early indication of the Trinity. Trinitarian Scripture culminates in the great commission of Matthew 28:19 where the disciples are told to go and baptise all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Note that it is in the singular name of the three and not the plural names: for our God is a God of singularity, a monotheism and not a random selection of the pagan pantheon which was the prevailing religious climate of the Greek diaspora.

The source of much thinking about the nature of the Trinity comes from three Greeks known as the Cappadocian Fathers: Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzus and Basil’s brother, Gregory of Nyssa, the latter of whom wrote a work the thrust of which is given away by its title: “On Not Three Gods”. We should not be intimidated by the sound of such austere Fathers, for much of their writing is an illumination on the Scriptures in which they were entirely pickled, and an application of classical Greek logic.

Our prevailing view is that which we know from the Creeds formulated by the Councils of Nicea (325AD) and Constantinople (381AD), which coalesced the Cappadocian’s ideas. We recite them each Sunday: that the Trinity is One, and that one is Three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is an eternal and co-equal partnership, “I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord, who was and is, and is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8)

It is not really their individual charisms which need interest us at this point, but the interplay between them.

But what does the Trinity say about our Christian lives? Clearly the Trinity can be differentiated: the personae have different actions on the world, as creator, redeemer and sustainer. They can at times operate individually – during for example the Incarnation, but never alone, for the Son continually referred to the Father and to the Spirit (especially in the Gospel of John). In the same way, the Spirit sustains faith today in the hearts of believers, but can only do so with the presence of the Son in a living relationship with that individual, blessed by the Father.

In the same way, our lives as individual Christians and as Churches need to mirror this diversity within a pattern of interdependence. It is simply impossible to be a Christian alone, for even the eremitic Fathers lived alone, together. This is why Communities such as the Sisters of Bethany exist: to provide a framework of Community in work and worship. In our daily lives, our faith is worked out in its interrelationship with others – how we act towards our neighbour (thinking especially of Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan) and how we share the Gospel Commission we have all been given, for Matthew 28:20 applies to all of us. Too often, as individuals and magnified as Churches, we believe that we are the only ones who are able to solve an issue: evangelise a new housing estate, work with young people in the inner city, befriend the elderly and lonely, and we allow our pride to get in the way of our mission as Christians. Collaboration and interoperation are at the heart of this model of unity.

The mutual relationship between the persons of the Trinity is described as perichoresis – mutual interpenetration – an idea with its roots in the Cappadocian Fathers. Perichoresis allows individuality to be maintained whilst insisting on sharing with others. It describes (literally) a divine dance between the persons and is best summed up in the words of Christ himself from the Gospel of John (Jn 14:10-11):

“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;”

Trinitarian perichoresis allows us to both hold on to the individual gifts of the Churches and acts as an imperative for us to share together in common lives grounded in Christ. I am reminded of the Scriptural example of Luke 5:2-11:

When the disciples tried to haul the catch of fish into the boat – Peter had to call the others to help – this could be an example for us of perichoresis – a mutual interdependence. When a task needs assistance, we work together, dance together, share the workload and share the rewards.

None of this perichoretic unity calls for a negation of our individuality, but is a call to dance together, in the literal sense of perichoresis. We seldom dance to the same tune, even within our own Churches, and we seldom even have much idea within our own hearts what the tune actually is; but if we were to forget self for a short time, then we could still be able to dance our own tunes, to live our lives as separate and diverse elements of a not-quite-holy Trinity and yet still appear as part of a choreographed set-piece. The choreographer, of course, being the Holy Spirit, herself.

But unlike the dance of God, we stumble and fall, falter in our steps and get our timing wrong. This stumbling is the sin that ever confront us, and limits our participation in this perichoretic dance, no matter how much we are welcome.

To close this address, I would like to bring us some more of the visual. For here I have a copy of that most famous ikon: Andrei Rublev’s Trinity. It was painted around 1410 in Russia.

Let us just examine this ikon for a moment and explore what truths the iconographer is trying to express to us.

In the icon there are three angels, representing the three persons of the Trinity. They are seated around a table. There is a striking stillness, as if the three persons were frozen in time. At the same time, there is in the picture a sense of warmth and life that circulates among the persons of this Trinity, extending out to include the person at prayer.

The three are seated to the left and right of the table, and one in the back who faces the person at prayer. There is a place for one more at the table. There is a place for us. We are welcome here. We are wanted. We have been thought of. We are being drawn into this mysterious relationship.

The Son and the Spirit have their heads slightly bent toward the Father, their gaze fixed on him. The Son receives his being from the Father, from all eternity and with no beginning. The Spirit is this loving bond between Father and Son. In the reverent gesture of the Son and the Spirit, one becomes profoundly aware that all life has sprung from the Father’s giving. This concept is hard to wrap our minds around, and will remain forever the greatest of mysteries. But springing from the mystery of the Trinity, like a fountain, is the truth that the Father is a Person, initiating personal relationships and expressing personal love. The love that exists between Father and Son is so real and profound that it also exists, proceeds as a person, the Spirit.

To guide your meditations this morning, I would like to encourage you to visit this ikon at some point, and to engage with it yourself, to gaze upon the three and the empty place and to reflect on how you might dance with the Deity in the perichoresis of the Trinity.

Amen.

Address 2

This morning we considered the Holy Trinity, and its dance which sweeps up the participants into a Trinity of mutual interdependence, not by sacrificing individuality, but by active engagement with others. The ultimate in active engagement is the interpenetration or perichoresis of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, recognising that we fall by nature of our sinfulness short of such deep mutuality with God. In this second address, I want us to consider another model of unity known to the Church: the analogy of the Body of Christ. It is through this essentially Pauline model that we see how even our imperfect humanity can function in a model of Godly, Trinitarian unity.

St Paul said:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
(1 Cor 12:11-13)

In Paul’s letter to the ill-tempered, factional and in-fighting Corinthians, he speaks at length of the need for unity in diversity. His imagery of the body in disunity was well known within political circles, for Livy quotes the following in his History of Rome (2.32:9-12):

The senate decided, therefore, to send as their spokesman Menenius Agrippa, an eloquent man, and acceptable to the plebs as being himself of plebeian origin. He was admitted into the camp, and it is reported that he simply told them the following fable in primitive and uncouth fashion.

“In the days when all the parts of the human body were not as now agreeing together, but each member took its own course and spoke its own speech, the other members, indignant at seeing that everything acquired by their care and labour and ministry went to the belly, whilst it, undisturbed in the middle of them all, did nothing but enjoy the pleasures provided for it, entered into a conspiracy; the hands were not to bring food to the mouth, the mouth was not to accept it when offered, the teeth were not to masticate it. Whilst, in their resentment, they were anxious to coerce the belly by starving it, the members themselves wasted away, and the whole body was reduced to the last stage of exhaustion. Then it became evident that the belly rendered no idle service, and the nourishment it received was no greater than that which it bestowed by returning to all parts of the body this blood by which we live and are strong, equally distributed into the veins, after being matured by the digestion of the food.”

By using this comparison, and showing how the internal disaffection amongst the parts of the body resembled the animosity of the plebeians against the patricians, he succeeded in winning over his audience.

Compare it to the key passage on this topic from 1 Corinthians 12:14-31. Paul astutely takes a political idiom (mixing politics with religion – whatever next!), well known in an educated city like Corinth and adapts it to the situation of the body of faith; he writes:

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Paul’s desire to emphasise both unity and diversity is a record of the situation of the time. If we read Paul’s letters to the different early Churches, and read some of the debates in Acts, we see not one single coherent ekklesia or church, but a number of quite different entities which had grown up around the different missionary activities of the apostles and their own individual charisms. Clearly, there were considerable differences in understanding, teaching and theology between the Churches, which the letters of Paul only partially helped to calm. Even within a location, different meetings of Christians, most of which were partially clandestine because of oppression and persecution, were still referred to by Paul as “the Church”.

Paul is keen to emphasise that the range of charismatic gifts which have been rained down upon the Churches have not been universal, and recognises that we each have our individual gifts to offer: prophet, teacher, worker of miracles, speaker in tongues. No individual should be tempted to look down upon another’s paucity of charismatic gifts, nor at the same time look jealously at another’s overabundance. I am sure we have all sinned at some time in this way, for that is frail humanity. It is worthwhile to remind ourselves, that this limitation in charism also applies to your clergy, who are not all equally talented at some things: quiet days being one of them.

Another clue of the diversity in the early church is shown in the book of the Revelation to St John the Divine, where seven churches in Asia Minor are identified: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, each with specific problems unique to themselves. John the Divine sees this apocalyptic writing as serving as a warning to these churches, but for different reasons. They operate differently, they have their own episcope, and they have no real central authority – the Christians were in this earliest stage, a missionary faith, and devoted more energy to spreading the gospel than to centralising it: Rome was a mere outpost of believers, with or without the episcopacy of Peter, by 110AD when the apocalypse was written. Working in isolation, with poor communications between them and with an emphasis on mission, which is always contextualised to those to whom you are speaking, it is no wonder that the churches were independent, isolated, different and troubled.

So, we recognise that like the early churches, we are too all different, and that our own charisms, and those of our churches, both within and without the Anglican communion are all different. If this is to become a truly workable recognition of truth, then we need to examine the cost of such diversity.

The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) has been a long process of dialogue between two strands of Church. It has been an engagement on the basis of theology and ecclesiology, rather than the desperate need to merge because of the threatened implosion of a church, which is never equal or fair as seen in the case of reunion with the Methodists.

At the heart of the ARCIC dialogue is the issue of authority, and the statements ex-cathedra of that authority: for instance, since the 1896 Rome has taught that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and void”. It takes great internal courage to come back from such a position, especially when made from the position of infallibility. Although we are not in the position of making such sweeping statements, at such a level, we each often find ourselves in positions where it is difficult to back away from. Losing face is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do, but must be at the heart of being prepared to offer the other cheek.

We need also to accept that as we share the path of faith with others, there will sometimes be convergence and sometimes parting. This requires us to take a wider view of the road of faith than our own narrow practices of it, and to validate and affirm the faith journeys of others.

For example: I worked for many years with a young man called Carl. I recognised his vocation and was overjoyed by his growth in faith. When he went to work on a pastoral scheme, he went to a very different kind of church to the one we were previously associated with, and he became a hardcore conservative evangelical. I had to recognise that this was God’s path for him, and that he would still make a good priest, but not of the model I perhaps envisaged; but another part of the body of Christ nevertheless. At the same time, someone from that conservative evangelical church started to become more interested in more Catholic worship, and also grew in faith. She was essentially rejected by her old faith community who saw her as some form of apostate, and she was forced to leave that church and her friends behind because she had chosen a different path. Some parts of the body find it more difficult to accept that they are a hand or foot, rather than the whole body.

It would appear appropriate that the body of Christ is fed, and the table around which the body is fed is that of the altar. This may be a somewhat simplistic statement, for there is much diversity of interpretation of the significance of this most special act. As a matter of unity, we only need remind ourselves that one of the principle Anglican terms used for this joyful celebration (or Eu-Charis ) is Communion – a coming together, an intermingling.

As Paul said once again to the Corinthians (1 Cor 10:16-17):

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

Recent writers have written about the Eucharist as one of the essential legacies of Our Lord: a narrative and an action which has been preserved from within Scripture and to which has become imbued so much significance and portent. However, even within the most basic language of speaking of the Eucharist, it becomes clear that there are many different interpretations of its role and purpose within the Christian journey.

Some would argue that it is a memorial gathering – the wake of Christ, where the faithful gather to remember his final night and to effectively drink and eat to his memory. Others would focus on the meaning of Christ’s words in Greek in the Upper Room, doing this in anemnesis of him which is not about turning to the past in memorial, but bringing the past into the present, remembering his promise that “he would be with us always” (Matthew 28:20).

So when Christ said, as the priest repeats during the Mass “This is my body, this is my blood”, Christians ask themselves whether he was speaking literally, spiritually or metaphorically, and whether there is a real presence in those elements which transform the everyday – the bread and wine – into the extraordinary. One often finds it so ironic that those often quickest to deny the real presence of Christ at the Eucharist are those who are quickest to embrace the all-powerful action of the Holy Spirit moving within the faithful: the two are not incompatible and the Spirit which transforms us is the same Spirit which is made known through the breaking of the bread.

But setting those finer points of Eucharistic theology apart, we need to take a step back and ask what the effect of the Eucharist is, regardless of the signification we give to it.

The Eucharist is quite rightly spoken of as the well-spring of faith. In a recent book called “Mass Culture”, writers from across the churches have spoken of the Eucharist as the overarching narrative which feeds and sustains faith – through its combination of Word and Sacrament. Most people come away from that encounter with some form of spiritual fulfilment, which may range from a sense of calm, a sense of unity with God (of all things!), a sense of encounter, either in a real sense or in a memorial sense.

Few would deny, therefore, that the bread and wine have some significance; some sense of being set apart. The word used for those things set apart is Holy. It is through an encounter with holy things, therefore, that God can be encountered. It is not the only way – I am the first to emphasise that, but it is an almost universal way.

Gathering around the Lord’s Table is an act of unity which is fraught with problems. We must accept that when the priest raises the sacraments and shows them to the people (if he does that at all), the people may have quite different understandings of what is being shown to them. If we are to be truly honest, this is what happens even within a single congregation, and two individuals who have sat next to one another (usually towards the back) for years may have no idea of what the other thinks, knows, understands or feels; let alone what someone from another parish, church faction or denomination is experiencing. In fact, it is not their concern. It is not my concern either, as their Parish Priest. That is a matter for God alone, who looks into the hearts of us all, and takes us for what we are and what we would be.

You may recall at the beginning of my first address, I recalled the Hospital Chaplaincy Aumbrey, with the glass partition and the words “in case of unity – break glass”. My suggestion at the beginning was perhaps that we needed Unity first, before the glass was broken between the Anglican and Roman reserved sacraments. Perhaps, as we conclude today, it would rather better be that we should break the glass first, come together in the presence of the living God, share his holy sacraments, and then, perhaps, from that unity will flow.

On one level, Paul’s writing on the body of Christ, the body of the Church would appear to be divisive, factional, ununified, and at odds with our model of perfect unity in Trinity, and yet, the mechanism for that mystical union is very much in our presence, in that aumbrey and at this holy altar. When we eat of normal food, it becomes a part of us, is absorbed into us and excreted when we are done with it; when we eat of Christ, we become a part of him, and we are absorbed into the mystical union of the trinity, and our place at that table is laid.

To guide your meditations this afternoon, I would encourage you to revisit St Paul’s exploration of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12, and to reflect on the words of the Eucharistic prayer, especially the dominical words: the words Jesus himself used at the last supper and reflect on your own response to this act of redemption.

Amen.


Mass of Healing

Every month, our Mass of Healing grows in popularity. More and more people are drawn to these powerful sacraments of the eucharist and of healing. Hands are laid, oil is plastered on foreheads and hands, which are then smothered over each other in the peace.

Mother celebrated with confidence and style, and I had the privilege of smothering them in the oil of blessing. After annointing, they lit floating candles in the font. Simple, beautiful and a powerful statement of the action of God in our lives.

“Thy will be done” is the hardest prayer we ever get to pray. Trust in him still. Amen


Sermon: Easter 4, Year A

Text: John 10:1-10

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

Two sheep were standing in a field.

“Baaaa” said one.

“Bother” said the other one, “I was going to say that!”

The real challenge of Good Shepherd Sunday is to make it real for an urban and sophisticated congregation like yourselves. I suspect that the flow of this sermon would be made so much better if we were surrounded by sheep and rolling hills, rather than concrete, pavements and the interminable roadworks on the A32.

Sheep simply do not enter into our mindset, and so to fully understand the significance of our Gospel this morning, we need to understand some country ways.

We often think of Shepherds as people who drive sheep, from the rear with their snarling but canny sheepdogs, pushing the flock of sheep to where the Shepherd wishes them to go: to safety, or to the market or even the abattoir. I recall watching on holiday once a demonstration of shepherding. One man and his dog, a whistle and a large field, it was amazing to see man and dog working together as one to guide and drive these sheep. If only my own dog, Ruby, were so obedient!

However, it would be quite incorrect for us to assume that when Christ spoke of being a shepherd, and we in the language of Psalm 100 as the sheep of his pasture, he was thinking of driving us poor creatures to where we didn’t want to go. That is a metaphor for the west, and the modern age, not the Middle East at the time of Our Lord.

Out there, a shepherd does not have the advantage of a sheepdog, and so rather than driving his sheep forward, from the rear, a shepherd leads his flock, leads from the front. Indeed, the text of the Gospel makes explicit reference to this:

“The sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. He goes ahead of them and the sheep follow because they know his voice”

With this metaphor in mind, we can see the role of Christ much more clearly: to lead us towards God, not to drive us; to guide and inspire, protect and save rather than to coerce, bully or harass.

The Good Shepherd is a challenging illusion. We tend to think of Shepherds as being part of the biblical scene, as they are referred to frequently by Christ; they were witnesses of his birth, we recall. We grace them perhaps with the dignity of the working man, and see them as perhaps a representative of us, the common people.

That is, however, not how the original hearers of Christ’s words would have interpreted them. Shepherds were required to spend long periods of time away from their homes. They lived uncomfortable lives in the semi-wilderness confronted by the dangers of wolves and thieves. They did not have the luxury of a day off, and so Shepherds were seen as disreputable and scandalous because they had to break the Sabbath Law. We have lost our awareness of how scandalous it would be for Christ to liken himself to one who broke the Sabbath – would Christ today say “I am the Good Prostitute?” – would we be equally scandalised by such a suggestion? That sounds outrageous doesn’t it? It would have had the same impact in the first century.

And yet, time and time again God proves to us that his ways are not our ways, and many of our concepts of scandal are misplaced. King David was a shepherd: a loyal, good and effective shepherd as well if his prowess with the slingshot was anything to go by. His descendant, Our Lord identifies himself with the scandalised, he was revealed to these poor-quality Jews at his birth, and uses them to teach us something very significant about his mission.

Christ, of course, was frequently the subject of scandal: he ate with sinners as well as likening himself to them, and he died a criminal’s death. The lamb of God is not an image of a pastoral ideal, but the image of a sacrificial victim – the lambs sacrificed for the Passover on the night we call Maundy Thursday.

For Christ be the Good Shepherd to us, we need to accept being his sheep. Today is also Vocation Sunday; a day when we pray not only for vocations to the sacred priesthood or the religious life, although that is both necessary and welcome. We pray for the discernment of a vocation for all of us, to respond to God’s call to be whatever he leads us to. The Good Shepherd has a vocation in mind for all of us, a ministry for us all to perform, a response to Him as one of his flock.

When we think of vocation, we usually focus on priesthood, on the religious life. But what about the other vocations that being a Christian is all about. We so often only think of vocations in terms of actual work in Church, and let’s face it, I am sure the Choir would welcome others to join them, and I am always wanting to train up servers (of all ages), a music group, intercessors and readers – there is so much that we can collaborate on and for which you might be being called to…

But what about visiting that otherwise lonely elderly person. What about enabling a harassed single mum have an afternoon to herself. What about the friendly smile to the disaffected youth on the street corner? These are all part of our vocation as Christians and vocations that we can all aspire to.

In participating in God’s holy sacraments at this altar, and doing God’s work here on earth, building the kingdom of God, we are responding to his call, the lead of the Good Shepherd: our vocation as Christians is to be the Sheep of God’s pasture – to follow where he leads us, to be protected from harm by him, to be nourished through him, to join with him as one body.

There can be no greater vocation: the vocation to be a Christian, to be a sheep for the lamb of God.

Amen.


A Vision for Mass-Shaped Mission – A Seminar Given at Critical Mass Weekend, Lancing College, Sussex, 11th April 2008

Opening Prayer

Let us pray…

Open our hearts and minds, O Lord. Give us vision and confidence in your mission. Bless us with your presence and inspire us with your Holy Spirit. Enable us, as your unworthy ministers, with grace to sing your Easter praises. In the powerful and thrice-holy name of the living God. Amen.

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

Introduction

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.

And Blesséd (my experience of creative, or in this diocese, Critical, Mass) is, I suppose a reflection of this: the loose collection of individuals and their charisms that almost on purpose seeks to take what we know and love and do it differently.

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 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.

I am, like many of you, a parish priest: St Thomas the Apostle, Elson. An urban parish in Gosport in the Diocese of Portsmouth. I was a Mirfield-trained Chichester Ordinand, who found my vocation through youth work and especially the youth camps in this diocese under the wing of Fr. Stephen Gallagher (who preached at my first mass 6 years ago – and surprisingly we are still speaking!).

I carry all of the pressures and anxieties that you do: 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 our tradition?
  • How can I do it when I don’t have any technological expertise?

Angela Tilby last year spoke of the challenges of a Catholic Missionary Spirituality, in an age when it would appear that the only mission in the church is undertaken by the Evangelicals: where Hope08 would appear to be only youth ministry focus in the church (Hope08 is important, but it’s not the only thing happening this year) and where, according to some, if it doesn’t happen at Soul Survivor, it’s not authentic mission.

We know that the timeless and yet deeply relevant spirituality of anglocatholicism has so much to offer the church, offering depth as well as breadth, context and relevance as well as a proclamation which speaks deeply to the hearts and souls of many.

Dr Tilby suggested that Catholics might have lost the missionary focus, but I suspect that Catholic and especially Anglocatholic mission is alive and well: flourishing in the hearts of parishes like yours and mine and small villages in northern Norfolk. It is found wherever an encounter with God beyond the superficial is needed, and where the Church knows that an authentic spirituality still has so much to say to people of all ages: not just children and young people, but those past their first flourish and beyond.

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.

Paul Bradshaw remarked in last week’s Church Times that we are creatures created to worship, but I suspect that the evangelical narrowness of sola scriptura cuts out many of our worshiping 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, 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

The original multisensory worship was the liturgy celebrated in the Basilica of the 8th Century: a place where sight, sound, smell and taste ensured that the people of God sought to engage with God’s wondrous creation and to try to express the inexpressible.

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 in Southsea, 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 knockout as many quarterlight windows as they could were able to grasp the presence of God in their midst. 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?” 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, 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.

In mission, context is everything. One of the challenges of a creative Catholic Spirituality is concerned with making this happen and remaining authentic to a heritage with people for whom heritage is meaningless and outdated. The Gospel proclamation is eternal, but the wearing of maniples is not, and our liturgy must not be seen as the truth in itself, but a way of communicating that truth.

For this reason, we need to move away from a slavish following of a set text, regardless of whether that comes from the Liturgical Commission or the Curia and a focus on the missionary purpose to express that story in any given context: a mass for youth is very different from a mass for the elderly bereaved, but both are deeply missional.

The rubrics and the shape of the mass are therefore much much more important than the words we actually use, and the Liturgical Commission’s work needs to be refocused on getting an Anglican Shape right and leaving those engaged in that mission to find the right words to express it: to strengthen Canon B5 ad pick up on the suggestions of the Fresh Expressions Round Table on Catholic and Contemplative Spirituality within which I am engaged. (I am pleased to report that there are some positive signs from some members of the Liturgical Commission on this suggestion).

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: the penitential rite we will be using later today was used at a Harvest Festival service in mainstream worship and many other elements of the mass take on new forms. 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 worship, especially from fellow Clergy is “oh, I couldn’t do anything like that – I am so untechnical” – a statement which usually comes from someone brimming with Liturgical Creativity, but no self-confidence. The next seminar I will present will be a little more practical and hands-on, but the core message I need to convey to you today is that the best multisensory worship does not have to plug into the mains

The means of engagement with God are at our very fingertips: stones, water, flames (and the marvellous variety of different ways that we can set fire to things). Mark Yaconelli has written an excellent book on contemplative youth ministry, and this evangelical (the son of the famous Mike Yaconelli) has discovered the power, effectiveness and beauty of silence, an ikon, and Lectio Divina. It is an inspirational book which I commend to you.

When we are sometimes unable to move mountains and need to bring an audiovisual experience into our churches, this can be done very cheaply and simply and most of you, if you own a Mac or a PC have the very equipment to hand. My second paper today will deal with that in much more detail for those who want to engage with those practicalities

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 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”. 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 seminar 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.


Lectio Divina for today

It’s one of those God-given moments when a portion of Scripture leaps out at you. Dwell with me for a moment on this text:

2 Chronicles 7:14

If My people who are called by My name put away their pride and pray, and look for My face, and turn from their sinful ways, then I will hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Faithfulness. Forgiveness & Healing. Promise to God’s people, promise to Solomon, promise to you and me. Amen.

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Easter Vigil, 6am

After a busy day of expectant praying, and even more frantic church cleaning [How good and pleasant it is when the people of God work together in unity.’ (Psalm 133:1), we left the place in a lovely condition. It had been a powerful Good Friday – Children’s Stations based on the excellent What a Day! resource, Mother Margaret leading the adult stations based on the Walsingham intercessions and then my Meditation on the last words and the Liturgy of the Cross, including a very moving veneration, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYZqLMBsYCI as we came forward to kiss the cross and drape our red ribbons on the instrument of our salvation.

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The morning came too quickly, and we gathered at 6am to greet the risen Lord: Exsultet, Vigil Readings, Renewal of Baptismal Promises and a Joyous Mass of the Dawn celebrated with Champagne followed by the best breakfast I have ever enjoyed: bacon and sausage and danishes.

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It was a wonderful celebration, and even amidst our small and poor congregation, it felt like something special was happening. It was well worth getting up so early, and judging by the comments of the congregation, they felt that they had also done something worthwhile. Like with all things in faith, it was worth the extra effort.

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Zoë and Kristy admire the Easter nests

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Alison and Tony, Organist and Churchwarden get into the spirit(s) of Easter…

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The Sunday School Easter Garden

Other pictures at http://www.saintthomaselson.org.uk/parish/parish_news/record_of_events/easter_2008.html

We made the local newspaper! See the page for the clippings and also some scans of the comments book. I decided to scan the comments so that people could see that they were genuine, and not just spun by me. As you can see, wonderful response but such a pity that more people did not experience it.