Patronal Festival 2009

I apologise for the lack of photographs, and my failure to record Fr. Toby’s excellent homily last night. There was simply so much happening at the last before Mass, it just went by the board. Poor S. had his bag stolen out of Church, and so had to rush home to get his lock changed, and he lost his keys, his driving license. It put a pall over it all.

Another shadow on the evening was the local murder of two men yesterday. I passed the incident just as the ambulance arrived on scene (and as I am no longer able to practice as a nurse, paramedics on scene and lots of other people around, I did not engage with the event), and so saw it unfold over the day. By 3pm I had been invited by the police to join an Incident Advisory Group which is made up of local community leaders, including local teachers, councilors, a smattering of faith leaders and other agencies to support the Police and reassure the local community. This kind of event is rare in Gosport, so rare in fact that it makes major news. It isn’t an everyday occurence. Fr. Toby opening with his experiences in Peckham, where this is a daily reality and draw this terrible experience into our reflection on the Scriptures. We prayed for the souls of those two young men (who have yet to be formally identified), their families and the Community. Those who commited this crime (three were arrested yesterday) also need prayer: that’s hard, but it’s true. Prayers for all.

Having said that, the Patronal was absolutely lovely: again a couple of major mess-ups meant that it remained resolutely human.

Firstly, although I had created a Visual Intercessions for the Patronal, I had forgotton to put it on the slideshow, so our organist provided me with 30 seconds of covering music so I could get to the back to insert it. My bad.

Secondly, we had such a fab response and more than 60 in the congregation, I ran right down on hosts and had to snap the last couple of wafers for the very last to receive. Churchwarden #2 then reminded me that one of my Spiritual Directees present in a wheelchair had yet to receive. Normal practice here as in most churches is then to turn and signal to the MC to get the reserved sacrament out. No problem.

Earlier in the day, the DAC had visited and been really supportive of our Church Hall and Font plans (more on this later), and because the Archdeacon was present and likely to use the visit as his visitation, we had done the usual dutiful thing and moved the Aumbrey key to the safe. You and I know that most churches keep it close to the tabernacle, we just don’t admit it to the Archdeacon. Hence, no key. Bugger.

Luckily, this lady has such a profound spirituality and sacramental understanding, she would understand that Jesus Christ is fully present in both sacraments, and if in this case, one is unable to receive the blessed sacrament but only the precious blood (or vice versa), then full communion has still taken place. I took the chalice from Caroline, our Ordinand from Cuddesdon (who is doing very well) and went to administer in one kind only. It worked. It was profound. It was still my cock-up.

It was a lovely concelebration with nine concelebrants, and afterwards a happy and joyous sharing of wine, coffee and doughnuts. After that, back to the vicarage for a supper and a few more medicinal tinctures. 2am finish. That was really good fun.

One of the interesting discussions during that lasagne and alcohol-fuelled celebration was about our policy on admission to Holy Communion and its relationship to Baptism. Someone made a comment that there no explicit Scriptural reference to the fact that the Twelve were baptised. Many followers of John the Baptist might have received John’s Baptism of Repentance, but John himself said this fell short of what the Messiah would do. Jesus does not baptise in Scripture, but tells them post-resurrection to do it, and does not explicitly make it a condition of initiation – he just says “do it to all nations”. So, if Jesus shared the Last Supper with the unbaptised, did not demand electoral roll forms off the 5000 on the mountain, then who am I to prevent the working of the Holy Spirit in someone brought to encounter Christ in broken bread and wine outpoured. This position might get me in some degree of trouble with the established church, and Canon Law, but it is precisely because I have such a passionate belief in the power of the sacraments, the role of the Mass as a missionary tool and an evangelistic opportunity, that I will administer those life-giving sacraments to all who come forward, and let God deal with the (usually marvellous) consequences of that. For that, my dear friends, is what evangelism is really all about – letting God in.