We certainly can’t claim that this week will have been uneventful! What great news to hear of the safe rescue of that young football team and their teacher in Thailand, although terribly sad that it was at the expense of a brave young navy diver who ran out of oxygen when planning their rescue. We offer our prayers for him and the young family he left behind.
And closer to home, who knows what state our government will be in by the end of the week?!
On Wednesday of this week, whether or not the country is celebrating another football success, the Church will be celebrating the feast of St Benedict, founder of the monastic order of Benedictines. He founded a monastery on Monte Cassino, in Italy, where he wrote his Rule of Life. A humble man, he would no doubt be amazed to learn that his ‘simple school for prayer’ and his ‘modest rule for beginners’ led to the foundation of communities which kept the Christian flame alight throughout the dark ages. These communities have fed the poor, transformed societies, promoted learning and scholarship, and today provide solace, perspective and retreats to both religious
and laity throughout the world. I have enjoyed many visits to one of their sites, Douai Abbey, in Berkshire. Below is one of my favourite prayers written by St Benedict.
“Almighty God, give me wisdom to perceive You,
intelligence to understand You,
diligence to seek You,
patience to wait for You,
eyes to behold You,
a heart to meditate upon You and life to proclaim You,
through the power of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
With every blessing
Earlier this year at our Parochial Church Council (PCC) Awayday we set ourselves a number of targets in the form of a Mission Action Plan. Some of these targets would be achievable in the short term, others were longer term goals. I am delighted to say that we have just achieved two of the shorter term ambitions. The first is to have the church open most days (not always on a Monday) and, as I always say: ‘If you open the doors the people come in’. This is particularly true over the warmer months of the year and I have been very pleased to meet so many visitors already.
The second target is to publicise the very commendable sums that we as a parish church give to charitable activities. Later in this bulletin you will see a chart which sets out all the donations to charity made via St Nick’s in 2017. Many of them relate to collections at our Congregational Evensongs, others are the result of annual collections, for example Christian Aid and the Poppy Appeal.
The sum which might seem a little mysterious and requires further explanation is the ‘Support to other parishes via the Common Fund’. The Common Fund is the sum we are obliged to pay to the diocese each year to cover the stipend and housing costs of our vicar, plus a contribution towards diocesan expenses, clergy training etc. As a parish in a wealthier part of London, we are also requested to pay an additional sum to help support those parishes in less affluent areas which cannot possibly afford to pay the full quota for their parish priest. Last Sunday I was helping out in such a parish, on the White City estate, where the parish priest, Fr Ben, is off sick after having surgery. We have invited him to come and preach to us in September and explain how vital it is for us to help in supporting financially the life and ministry of his parish. It is very commendable that in 2017 we were able to contribute to the wider mission of the Church in this way, via the Common Fund.
Last, but by no means least, I would like to congratulate our churchwarden’s son Ian Lucy, on his recent achievements in the World Powerlifting Championships in Canada (see below for details). God gives our children some wonderful gifts and talents, but it is not always obvious where they lie. It is great that Ian has found his own niche in life and we wish him well in future challenges.
With every blessing
I was looking at one of the first sermons our new Bishop of London preached at the annual festival of the Sons and Friends of the Clergy at St Paul’s’ Cathedral on Tuesday 15 May. Bishop Sarah quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his understanding of interconnectedness. He changes the old adage of ‘I think therefore I am’ into ‘I am human, therefore I belong…I am because you are’. Studying Paul’s, or one of his disciple’s letters to the Church at Ephesus, the author give thanks for the Ephesians’ faith in Christ, but the author does more, he gives thanks for their prayers and support of their fellow Christians. There is an acknowledgement in this letter of their interconnectedness in Christ and the understanding this leads to support for others. This is at the heart of the Church, we are a community of relationship, impaired communion results in a fracture of the Church. We must work for unity. That might seem an impossible task and indeed without a significant amount of humility and penitence on all sides I fear we are a very long way from that unity for which Christ prayed. However, we can take small steps. It is precisely for this reason that 10 years ago I suggested we begin a relationship with the parish of St Simon and Jude, Namacunde. The relationship is sometimes difficult and frustrating, Angola is a long away away and communication is difficult. Not only do we have the problem of language, but also cultural considerations and yet, with all these difficulties, we are one in Christ we are brothers and sisters in faith, we are the Church.
Some of you might know of Mark Oakley, who has been Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral for the past eight years. He is a great preacher and also loves literature, poetry and theology. He has recently been appointed as the new Dean of Chapel at St John’s College, Cambridge. Mark is a most engaging and challenging preacher. Last Sunday, when we remembered the Birth of John the Baptist, he preached his last sermon at St Paul’s, at least in his present role. Always a campaigner for social justice, Mark spoke powerfully as follows:
[John the Baptist was] someone speaking again the language of God – someone who looked into the future and could see where it will all end and who reports back quickly before it’s too late, someone who is urgently telling us to take a look at ourselves, admit where we’ve gone inhuman, telling us to uphold what is just and right and not always seek compromise.
Someone who asks us for God’s sake to be a citizen of the kingdom of love and not a consumer of the world of competition, consuming away even the environment we live in and breathe, consuming away our hearts in envy, consuming away compassion towards those who so need it in a hard life.
Anyone who tells you that belief in God shouldn’t be mixed up with political consequences – well, show them John the Baptist, show them Martin Luther King, show them Archbishop Tutu, show them William Wilberforce, show them Elizabeth Fry, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Edith Cavell, Janani Luwum, Esther John, Gene Robinson and ask how they could speak the truth, rebuke injustice and evil and suffer for God without being political? They were following Christ who, if he were a man who just spoke about spiritual things with no threat to the establishment or status quo, why did they execute him?
Mark has made a great contribution to the life of St Paul’s and will be greatly missed.
With every blessing
As many of you know, Ian and I have just returned from two weeks holiday in the South West. The first week was spent in Devon, the second in Cornwall – two contrasting locations. Devon’s verdant countryside and hedges and glorious rivers, reminded me of scenes from The Wind in the Willows, such beautiful places to walk in and admire. In Cornwall we took a cottage on the top of the county’s highest hill, on the edge of Bodmin Moor. It was stark, and we were surrounded by relics of Cornwall’s industrial past. The view from the cottage was amazing, we could see for miles right over to Dartmoor. It was another kind of beauty, and equally compelling. There was so much to be thankful for.
When reading Paul’s letters to his various young churches, you will notice he invariably begins by giving thanks and praise to God. The idea of giving thanks to God is an important aspect of Paul’s ministry and he encourages us all to give thanks. Saying ‘thank you’ is not just about being polite, it is principally about recognising the importance of building up and maintaining relationships. We do not exist as an island, entire of ourselves, we live as individuals in relationship and our actions impact others. To give thanks in humility is to recognise our place in this economy of relationship. To give thanks to God is to acknowledge his influence in our lives and world – all things come from him. We are encouraged in our prayer life, first to give thanks, then to acknowledge our failure and finally to intercede for others. So however difficult or even desperate the situation it is good, indeed it is vital, to pause and to give thanks for the many blessings we have received and we enjoy.
It is good to give thanks
It was good to have so many guests join us for our monthly lunch in St Denys last week. Anne McBride and her team go to great lengths to make the tables look attractive and the food delicious, and always with a special theme. Next month our lunch will be on Wednesday 11th July when we will be celebrating the Wimbledon tennis championships as we look forward to the finals the following weekend. Newcomers are most welcome, do let Anne or a member of clergy know if you would like to join us, so that we have enough food.
With every blessing
There are several events I’d like to flag up this week. The first took place on Monday of last week, and perhaps some of you might have been present. A conversation took place in St Paul’s Cathedral between Dean David Ison and Bishop Sarah. Our new bishop talked about her faith, what is important to her in life, and the challenges that lie ahead for her as the first female Bishop of London. If you were unable to attend you can watch a full recording online now at:
Last weekend also saw the start of the Bedford Park Festival, organised by St Michael & All Angels Church, which runs from 8th to 24th June. I saw several members of our congregation enjoying Green Days over the weekend, but there are lots more events still to come. You can find full details, and book tickets, on their website: www.bedfordparkfestival.org
Finally, as I am sure many of you are aware, Thursday of this week marks the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, the worst mass disaster London has experienced since the Second World War. The Diocese of London has composed the following prayer which you might like to pray in a mark of solidarity with all those who were affected in any way during the week:
Heavenly Father, sustain your beloved children in times of distress;
Lord Jesus, as you became one with us, help us to work together to reveal your kingdom;
Holy Spirit, fill our hearts and minds, and guide us into the ways of truth and justice.
Holy Trinity, Three Persons in One God, may we learn to listen; help us to love; bless and uphold the people of North Kensington and all who have been traumatized by the Grenfell Tower fire, and grant them your healing and peace. Amen.
With every blessing
Today I have been preparing to officiate at a local funeral at Mortlake crematorium, a funeral for a lady who had lived a good life and died at the ripe old age of 86. I have also been reflecting on a week in which grief and death have been so much in the news. Recalling the first anniversary of the unspeakable atrocities at Borough Market. Being reminded of the horrific loss of lives at Grenfell Tower. So when I received the following message in my email today from Jean Vanier, founder of l’Arche Community for people with disabilities, it seemed very poignant to me and has given me much food for reflection. He writes as follows:
Every human being has his or her secret and mystery. Some lives are long, others short. Some people seem to live through stages of growth, others do not. But I believe that every person arrives at true maturity at the moment of death. It is very easy to see the purpose of some people’s lives; with others it is more difficult. But I believe that every person’s life is important, whatever their limitations, poverty or gifts. There is a meaning to every life, even if we cannot see it. I believe that each person, in his or her unique beauty and worth, lives out a sacred story. For me a person exists from the moment of conception. He or she exists even if…he or she has a profound handicap.
With every blessing
Several people have told me they like the poems I share, so today I reproduce below a poem on the Trinity by Malcolm Guite, from his collection entitled ‘Sounding the Seasons’, published by Canterbury Press.
In the Beginning, not in time or space,
But in the quick before both space and time,
In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,
In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,
In music, in the whole creation story,
In His own image, His imagination,
The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,
And makes us each the other’s inspiration.
He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,
To improvise a music of our own,
To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,
Three notes resounding from a single tone,
To sing the End in whom we all begin;
Our God beyond, beside us and within.
What an amazing weekend. A huge thank you to everybody who was involved. I thought Friday evening set the tone for the whole weekend, excellent food and expertly mixed cocktails. The Jazz quartet set just the right mood of celebration and the flowers were amazing. Saturday was a triumph, it was so good to see so many people arrive to watch the wedding on our TV, there was such a community spirit, it was a joyful occasion. Our evening organ recital was very well received. Jane Parker-Smith playing was superb and the organ was magnificent. Sunday morning mass was a wonderful occasion, Hyden’s St Nicholas Mass was beautifully sung and it was good to see so many people in church. The crowds continued throughout the day. Chiswick Gospel Choir brought a great energy to the afternoons proceedings with the powerful gospel songs and it all ended with our Songs of Praise at 6 pm. There were some rousing hymns and deeply moving explanations, we will certainly be singing ‘Be Still for the presence of the Lord’ again.
I know it was incredibly hard work, it took a lot of organisation, time and skill, but we did it, we achieved something very significant. Thank you all.
Photos below from Alex Smith