As some of you will realise from hearing my sermon last week, I think one of the best things to have been broadcast on TV for some time is the series Broken. The last episode was broadcast last Tuesday evening. It tells the story of Fr Michael Kerrigan, played by Sean Bean, a Roman Catholic parish priest working in a tough parish. He is beset by doubts, he is haunted by past abuse from school and his mother, and as a result he thinks himself unworthy. He thinks his ministry is a failure. Of course, his ministry is anything but a failure, despite the fact that his church is not full to capacity. He simply injects the love of God into every encounter. He’s far from perfect, yet his very humanity, gives us a glimpse of the nature of true priestly ministry. Being Christ to others, even if they slam the door in your face. It has been suggested that this series should be used to recruit more clergy, I sincerely hope so. What’s so refreshing is that it celebrates an unremarkable life of self – offering, even in the face of rejection and indifference. I fear the Church today is so obsessed with the growth agenda, and management theory, that it misses the essential point of ministry. It’s not all about bums on seats, it is about being Christ to and in the Community. As the Bishop of Jarrow put it in the Church Times this week. “It is about being there for people in a life-giving way“.
On an entirely different matter you may have noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign by the Old Vicarage Moorings, on Chiswick Mall, the Diocesan Property Department has decided to sell the land and the moorings. This sale will not benefit the parish of St Nicholas in any way, we will NOT receive one penny of the proceeds, which will be reinvested into the Diocesan property fund.
I quote from the Diocesan email sent to me.
“We do not consider that the property presents any Pastoral opportunities, and there will be no direct benefit to the Parish from the sale, though the enhanced performance of our investment portfolio benefits all parish in the Diocese of London.”
I offer this information because I do not want people to feel we are in any way being underhand when we are raising money for our Development Campaign.
With my prayers
Some of you will have been following in the press the discussions of the General Synod of the Church of England which has been meeting in York over the past week. For those who might not have been following it in detail perhaps I can highlight some key points:
(i) There was a debate about the state of our nation entitled ‘After the General Election, a still small voice of calm’. Amongst several amendments was one from the Archbishop of York inviting us to pay more tax voluntarily to support education, the NHS etc. Perhaps not surprisingly this motion was rejected.
(ii) The place of LGBT+ people in the life of the Church was debated, coinciding with the Pride March in London, marking the 50th anniversary year of decriminalisation of homosexual practice. Synod endorsed a statement condemning ‘conversion therapy’ aimed at changing the sexual orientation of gay people. A motion was also passed welcoming transgender people and supporting a call for the House of Bishops to consider preparing nationally commended liturgical materials to mark a person’s gender transition.
(iii) The topic of clergy well-being was discussed. Archbishop Justin Welby revealed that the job of a parish priest had been the “hardest” he had ever done and explained: ‘Mainly because it was isolated, insatiably demanding, and I was on the whole working without close colleagues, particularly in the first few years’. It’s a reminder that we are very fortunate at St Nick’s to have a team of three priests who can work together and share the load of ordained ministry.
(iv) A motion was passed permitting Christian burial of the unbaptised, excommunicated and those who have committed suicide to be treated in the same way as others, although in practice this has been happening for many years and was merely a ‘tidying up’ matter.
(v) A motion was passed which permits clergy to officiate at services without wearing the robes and vestments prescribed in Canon Law. In practice this has been happening for some time in some churches. I think it unlikely that we shall follow this trend at St Nick’s which, in any event, would have to be approved by the PCC. So please don’t expect to see your clergy officiating in the latest glamorous fashions in the near future…
With every blessing