From the Ministry Team September 2003
Lets talk about sex, baby...
No, I am not ignoring the Editors directive that certain subjects have had enough airing! Ive never been one for pop music, as many of my friends will tell you. I do however remember a song from the 1980s (correct me if the date is wrong) which had those words as its title. At the end of each stanza was the phrase lets TALK about sex.
Some would say thats all the Church does talk about. Others comment not so much on the subject of sex, but on the fact that all the Church does is talk. Talk about God. Talk about compassion. Talk about community involvement. Talk is safe, and for those who enjoy endless committee meetings and are able to talk for England, talk is to be welcomed.
But when does the spoken word move to action, if indeed it ever does? The anonymous writer of a letter in last months Newslink said quite rightly lets open discussion on things that really matter, such as poverty, disease, fair trade, mans inhumanity to man.
All very easy to say. However these issues rarely (if ever) are brought to the agenda of PCC meetings. We have talked for over ten years about community involvement (meaning really we want to say the right words to get funding for a posh church hall). Fr. Mark at our PCC away-day suggested the formation of a mission committee to help us in our thinking about where we are going as a parish. Two people on the PCC offered to join (its a start) and I hope there may be others among the congregation who feel they would like to be part of that discussion.
At the recent Holiday Club one or two people said Do you think it will get people into Church? I would love time to unpack what that question means. Some of our so-called regular congregation only come on average every six or seven weeks. Were told from them that know that that is the pattern of things these days. (Why?) And if they do come to church, what are they coming to? A body of people who want to work for change in the community? A body of people 100% committed to worship? A body of people who spend more time criticising, bitching or moaning than they should? What is it exactly we want people to come and join?
Unless we have the courage to face that question, and I hope the mission group will help us in our thinking, then we will never really know as a parish where we are going or what we have got to offer. I am firmly convinced that any plans to re-apply to the Community Fund, or indeed any other grant-making body, must be put on hold until we as a Church have really come to terms with this question.
Fr Mark Waters reminded us in the sessions he did with both PCCs that God is already active in the world. God doesnt need approval or permission from his local parish church! God doesnt need a faculty in order to change the world. But do we wish to join in that activity? Doing the will of God may well be encouraging others to share in the worship of the Church and all that springs from that. But are we in the church brave enough to embrace Gods activity outside in the world? (There is actually no separation if we truly understand what Christmas is all about!) Perhaps it is the regular church-goer who needs to get involved in things outside the church building in order to discover the true nature and identity of God who is intimately involved with His creation in so many exciting and diverse ways.
It must be clear that we all have different talents to offer and we must never compare the different gifts people have and use in the service of the Lord. Some people say to me all I can do is pray: I cant do much else. Prayer is not to be underestimated. It is, or ought to be, at the very heart of all we do. Each one of us must think about our own Christian discipleship and whether we are offering to God our very best. For each one of us, offering our best will mean different things. But God knows, and you know deep down, when we are only offering 50, 60, 70%.
Golf clubs thrive, as do music societies, football clubs, swimming clubs, health clubs, fancy restaurants, posh clothes shops and so on. They do so because people are committed to them! In our congregation, and in the wider community, we are blessed with many people who possess such tremendous gifts, skills and talents. People who have time for other people; people who pray daily for the sick and needy in our world and in our community; people who will travel an hour and a half on the bus to visit someone ill in hospital; people who have skills working with younger people; people who have the gift of working with older people; small acts of kindness which often go unnoticed. We need to rejoice in this and somehow draw it all together for the good of the Church and the wider community in which we are set. That is the challenge. So, sisters and brothers, do we talk about it, or do we do it?
With my love and prayers,
...for the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary: 8th September
In my view, Mary is, for women and men alike in the poorer areas, more than an individual person, even if a relationship with her is established in a personal way. She is the expression of a desire for fulfilment, which expresses itself as a response to the various needs of daily life. She is the one who is able to understand my difficulties with my husband or with my wife, or with my children, my problems at work, or with my health, my difficulties in relationships, and in all the other things that make up the innumerable sufferings of human life.
Mary is wife and mother. In Latin America she is above all mother: a mother who cares for her children, who feeds and protects them. She transcends all historical images of a mother. For in these images lies a fundamental human need to find symbolic expression, which is what happens in the different forms of devotion to Mary.
The devotions reveal the power which is accorded Mary by the believing people. She has the power to intervene in our history, to change certain events and difficult situations. In this way she is a powerful woman, a woman possessing a strength which is different from that of the ordinary run of mortals, a divine strength capable of fighting the evil which is present in history.
If we set ourselves to listen more to the faith of simple people in their relationship with Mary which expresses their need for survival and for a fuller life, we will understand much better that theology has to be poetry, helping us to live more richly, and that it has to be prophecy, denouncing all forms of religious pharisaism and every kind of injustice. Theology is finally a Magnificat sung by women in the name of all the poor of the land who need bread, justice, liberty and love.
Mary is, today as yesterday, not only present in the individual struggles of each person, but is involved in the collective struggles for liberation in Latin America. She is with all those who need land to live on; with all those who campaign for better living conditions all round. Mary is an ally in the various campaigns for liberation and, in this sense, she is more than a model for women to imitate. She is the symbol, or rather, one of the symbols of a people in search of economic, cultural and religious autonomy and identity.
That is why, in the popular songs, she is called mother of the oppressed, ally of her people, liberator of us all.
Prayer for Michaelmas
from Uncommon Prayers by Cecil Hunt
Good St Michael, if we must
Leave our bodies here to dust
Grant our souls a heaven where we
Still your Michaelmas may see
Do not make me quire and sing
With radiant angels in a ring,
Nor idly tread a pearl-paved street
With my new unearthly feet;
Do not shut me in a heaven
Golden bright from morn to even,
Where no shadows and no showers
Dim the tedious, shining hours,
Grant that there be Autumn still,
Smoke-blue dusk, brown, crisp and chill,
And let the furrowed plough and bare
Curve strongly to the windswept air;
Make the leafy beechwoods burn
Russet, yellow, bronze by turn,
And set the hedgerow and the briar
Thick with berries red as fire.
Let me search and gather up
Acorns green with knobbed cup,
And prickly chestnuts, plumping down
To show a glossy kernel brown.
Splendid cities like me ill
And for song I have no skill;
Then let me in an autumn wood
Sweep and pick up sticks for God.
Not too soon to be advertising the Grand Bazaar, to be held on Saturday October 25th. We shall be asking for helpers and appealing for items to sell, so please be ready to support this vital annual fund-raising event. Please note that there will be a Planning Meeting for the Bazaar at 8.15 pm on Thursday 4th September in the Upper Room, following on from the Healing Service.
Dates for the Diary
Sunday, October 5th
7.00pm Sung Compline and Benediction for the Eve of St Faiths Day
Monday, October 6th
8.00pm Procession and High Mass
Celebrant and Preacher: The Right Reverend Nigel McCulloch
(Bishop of Manchester) followed by buffet supper
11.00am Solemn Eucharist
Preacher: Canon Peter Goodrich
6.00pm Festal Evensong, Procession and Te Deum
Preacher: Canon Paul Nener (S. John the Baptist, Tuebrook)
St Faiths and the Jackdaw ChrisPrice
Scanning the papers in the long idle days of summer (joke), I came across a book column devoted to the Ingoldsby Legends. I knew it ought to mean something, and I was relieved to find that the most famous poem in the collection of that name was The Jackdaw of Rheims, familiar from many a school poetry anthology.
The author called himself Thomas Ingoldsby, but his real name was Richard Harris Barham (1786-1845) which meant nothing to me, until I found that he was a priest (the reviewer called him the Anglican saint-sceptic Barham) - and that he was the vicar of St Faiths, in the City.
Curiosity aroused, I used the splendid, and splendidly-named, Google internet search facility and soon found out more. In an article about bell-ringing, of which there is seemingly quite a lot in the poems, I discovered that Barham was at one stage a minor canon at St Pauls Cathedral, and was indeed Vicar of St Faiths from 1842. The church of St Faiths was apparently destroyed by bombs in the Second World War but the tower survived, and is now incorporated with its replacement fibreglass spire in the East end of the Cathedral.
I had remembered knowing that there was a St Faiths Chapel in St Pauls, but this latest discovery fills a gap and explains why it is there, as well as providing a link with an intriguing Victorian poet-priest. Verily the internet is a treasure-trove of information. When I get a spare hour or two (dont hold your breath, its coming up to September, with Fr Denniss D and then the Flower Festival) I must try and follow the St Faiths trail further.
An Evening of Song
..bringing you Operatic Arias, Musicals,
English Art Songs and Folk Songs
presented by Pupils of
at St Faiths Church, Great Crosby
SATURDAY 13th SEPTEMBER at 7.00 pm.
Admission £4 (concessions £2.50)
Proceeds to Church funds
Cistercians and Benedictines in the Vienna Woods
The first Sunday in July, and after several days in Vienna, capital of Austria, we had tired of the Prater, colourful and cheerful funfair, the lively pedestrian squares near Saint Stephens Cathedral, the formal gardens and museums of the Belvedere Palace and everywhere, references to Strauss, Mozart, Brahms. Schubert, Beethoven and many other composers who had been drawn to this part of the world. We had been chilled by the bleak Holocaust Memorial by English sculptor Rachel Whitehead, unveiled in 2000, which we found in the quiet Judenplatz, once the site of the Jewish ghetto and so with some relief, took a leisurely drive through Danube villages with orchards of apricots and vines to Heiligen Kreuz.
Here a Cistercian Abbey was founded in the twelfth century and a community of 52 priests still worship God, teach in the seminary, look after the library of 50,000 volumes and minister to the needs of the people in the neighbouring parishes. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Turkish assaults caused the monks to flee along the Danube to Passau, carrying with them precious manuscripts. Now safely back in the library, many still show signs of water damage.
All was silence in the Abbey courtyard. Local people arrived reverently in family groups for the Mass and quietly knelt. The white-robed priests processed slowly to the east end of the church and then calmly and without haste their plainsong led the worship.
The next day. still in the Danube valley, we found Melk, where above the village is an ornate collection of baroque buildings. once a royal palace, later given to the Benedictines as a monastery, now a museum dedicated to Saint Benedict, but with the church still in use.
Born in Italy in the fifth century, Benedict was educated in Rome but then for three years, lived in a mountain cave, during which time, he made a close study of the Scriptures and for the rest of his life gave all that God asked: The finger of God had only to point and he followed whatever it cast.
His Rule changed and renewed monastic life in Europe, much of which is as relevant today as it was 1500 years ago:
Prefer nothing to the love of Christ,
Help those in trouble.
Console the afflicted,
Speak the truth from your heart as from your mouth.
Attribute the good you find in yourself to God,
Listen willingly to the Holy Scriptures.
Daily confess your faults to God in your prayers and in the future, correct them,
Honour those who are old
Love those who are younger.
Pray for your enemies with the love of Christ,
Make peace before the setting of the sun with those from whom you have been separated by discord,
And never despair of the mercy of God.
Flower Festival 2003 MaryCrooke
The Flower Festival is looming ever closer. As well as lots of flower arrangers, we will need volunteers for a bit of an (Autumn!) Spring Clean before the actual festival. Also, many helpers will be needed to welcome visitors and generally act as stewards and to provide refreshments at the back of church, as we do for the Saturday recitals.
In due course lists will appear on the notice boards at the back of church asking for volunteers. Please sign up to help. We will also need lots of greenery, so if you have a generous garden, or know of a friend who has some greenery to spare, please let me know. Many thanks in anticipation.
The proposed opening times for the Festival are:
Friday 3rd October, 11.00 am - 4.00 pm
Saturday 4th October, 11.00 am - 4.00 pm
Sunday 5th October, 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm
Captain Brian Heaton Jones, who paid us a visit from the United States some months ago, has written to cast further light on our continuing quest to throw new light on our Patron Saint.
He points out that when Christopher Columbus was out and about, he named the islands of the Caribbean after such saints as Saint John, Saint Thomas and St Martin. When the Spanish were settling places in the west, they did the same. California has many of these: such as San Diego and of course San Francisco. But he wonders how many of us realise that the city of Santa Fe in New Mexico was named after Saint Faith?
HOLIDAY CLUB 2003
At the beginning of August some 45 children attended the first ever St Faiths Holiday Club. A week of activities and outings was blessed with fine weather and, as they say, a Good Time was definitely Had by All! Below we print Joan Tudhopes report, and one of the prayers written during the week. Next month we will print a poem created during the week. It was read out during the Sunday morning service at St Faiths following the Holiday Club, at which it was lovely to welcome some of the children and their parents and to hear some more of the prayers they wrote (and the noise they made!).
Why did I volunteer? Joan Tudhope
It was with some reserve, and wondering about my sanity in doing so, that I volunteered to help with the first St. Faiths Holiday Club. Little did I know how it would all turn out.
I thought it wise to go to St. Marys Holiday Club first to get a feel of how things happened and what was expected of those helping. St. Marys Holiday Club has been running for 15 years and Lynne Connolly, who has organised it for some years now, readily agreed to help St. Faiths to set up the Club. She ordered equipment, completed funding applications and undertook the administrative work for both churches. Some of the people who helped with groups at St. Marys also helped at St. Faiths.
The children were divided into four Groups: Disney, Bugs Life, The Mowglis and Tiggers, according to their ages. The group I was helping with in both churches were 6 and 7 year olds, known as The Mowglis. They were, without exception, delightful, polite, well-behaved children.
The sessions for the week were laid out as activities in the hall in the mornings and trips out in the afternoons. We were very fortunate with the weather in the week the Club was running at St. Faiths and Fr. Neil made the Vicarage garden open to all the children so they could eat their lunches outdoors.
The children made masks and clay models, they baked, decorated biscuits, made mobiles, listened to stories, painted pictures, did quizzes, played in the sandpit and on the bouncy castle. They enjoyed playing games on Chaffers playing fields, visited the Fire Station where they sat in the fire engines, squirted water from the large hoses and dressed up as firefighters.
We went on an afternoon out on a double decker bus to the Botanic Gardens in Southport and had a full day out at Park Hall, near Oswestry, where the fun and activities laid on for families was superb. The Sports Bus came for an afternoon and they organised lots of games for the groups.
When we were outside of the hall on any occasion what so ever the children wore baseball caps, bright yellow ones for St. Marys and bright red ones for St. Faiths. They had St. Faiths Holiday Club, or St. Marys Holiday Club printed on the front. The sight of so many children going out with these brightly coloured hats on attracted attention and people were genuinely interested in what was going on. The hats also made it easy for us to recognise the children belonging to us and to make sure we brought the same number of children back as we had taken out.
On the Friday of each week the children did a short presentation to their parents of what they had done for the week; they went home early that day in order to get themselves ready for a barbecue and disco in the evening.
The 110 or so children had a wonderful time and lots of fun, and we the helpers had an amazing time. What an experience! Hard work but every minute well worth the effort to see the pleasure on the childrens faces and getting to know them. They all made new friends at Holiday Club as did we.
I have already volunteered to help with both weeks next year - just let anyone try and take my place! We do need more helpers from St. Faiths and I would encourage anyone who has half an inkling to do so, to go ahead and volunteer. This has been yet another example good example of working together within the United Benefice.
Thank you, children!
The Vicar adds...
Many thanks to all who helped in any way towards the success of this event. Particular thanks to those who bravely coped with two weeks of it! Lets hope that for us here at St Faith's its the first of many... (another St Faiths tradition? Ed.)
A Prayer for the Holiday Club
Written by Evangeline
Thank you for the good weather and for all the news friends I have made.
Thank you for all the helpers and all the days out I have had.
Thank you for all the activities that we have done.
We hope our parents enjoyed the rest while were so busy in Holiday Club.
Thank you Lord. Amen.
The Soham Story ChrisPrice
Just a year ago, the tragic murders of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman shocked the world and filled the papers. A year later, a 'Daily Telegraph article has revisited the Cambridgeshire town and spoken with some of its people. This is no ghoulish tabloid exercise but a sober and reassuring account of a small town that has coped well with its suffering and displayed a commendable and encouraging community spirit.
I remember a year ago being impressed by the pastoral care and quiet dignity of the vicar, Fr Tim Alban Jones, who seemed the epitome of the caring parish priest. A year on, he reports, the people of Soham have been supporting each other in the past 12 months in a way that has surprised the professionals. It is very fashionable, he goes on, to say that the idea of community is dead, but here it is alive and well. I have always believed that goodness is stronger than evil and what has happened in Soham over the year has reinforced my belief.
It is so good to read of such positive news in a media world which usually only gives space to scandal and stories of decline and schism. And there was one final thing to gladden at least this writers heart. The article more than once mentions the provision of a wide range of therapeutic services lined up for the people of Soham, but reports that it has been scarcely used! The head of the Village College, where one of the accused was caretaker, says: We had an army of counsellors ready in September, but no one asked for them. It seems to me very good that this was the case: good that the faintly ludicrous ever-present obligatory counselling armies of the nanny state have been sidelined for once. Even better that the homely and compassionate wisdom of a community and its clergy has been shown to be sufficient for Soham. If this can be a pattern for the future then, once again, God will have wrought some good out of evil.
Jenny Kemp writes....
Way back in 1977, St Josephs Secondary Modern School in Virgins Lane, Thornton, became Holy Family Catholic High School, and on July 4th this year a Gala Day was held to celebrate the 25th anniversary and the opening of a fine, purpose-built Sixth Form block which will house over 200 pupils - the largest Sixth Form ever!
During the afternoon, to my complete surprise, I was presented with a beautiful parchment certificate giving me an Apostolic Blessing from Pope John Paul II for my long and dedicated work at the School as a Governor. It shows a coloured picture of the Pope, with trailing vine leaves and bunches of grapes, with loaves of bread and ears of corn. It is signed by Oscar Renato, Archepiscopus Eleemosynarius Apostolicus.
I am very proud of the school and its pupils, who come from all walks of life and who attain excellent results academically, in sports and games and in music and singing. They have as their Mission Statement:
We want each young person to:
Grow in the Faith
Develop as a well-rounded individual
Make a contribution to the Church, the Community and the World
Care about themselves, others and their environment
Enjoy learning, developing and growing.
I couldnt ask for more.
The Editor adds....
Another CERTIFIED WINNER in recent weeks was none other than Father Neil who, on Sunday 22nd June last, took part in St Marys Sunday School Sponsored Run and received a certificate to mark the occasion. It doesnt say how far he ran, but it must have been miles and miles...
Silver Jubilee Concert
(not HM but Fr. Dennis!)
Saturday 20th September 2003
at 7.30pm in Saint Marys
GED CALLACHER and NEIL KELLEY
will be performing on both organs in St Marys
Lots of popular and patriotic tunes.
Bring along your Union Jacks to wave!
(to include a free glass of champagne during the interval!)
From the Registers
26 JulyLeslie John Birtles and Paula Crawford
3 AugustBecci-Jane Louise Wildman
daughter of Reginald and Angela
E-Mail and Viruses Denis Griffiths
Many members of the congregation now have access to the internet and to e-mail and anybody who uses the internet must be aware of computer viruses. A computer virus is a small programme which infects the computer and has an effect on its operation. It is generally introduced by means of an infected e-mail attachment, an infected downloaded file or an infected file transferred to the computer by means of a floppy disc or CD.
Some computer viruses are malignant and cause serious damage to the computer operating system, resulting in the need for a complete reformatting of the hard disc and reloading of the operating system and software. Other computer viruses are less damaging and simply cause the computer to display irritating messages on the screen. However, all viruses are a problem to the computer user and nobody wants their computer infected.
Before you panic and pledge never to use your computer again, it should be realised that there is much the computer user can do to prevent infection. Having a virus protection programme running on your computer is the primary means of defence; anti-virus programmes from MacAfee and Norton are probably the most commonly available but there are others. It is essential that the anti-virus software is kept up to date by downloading the latest virus data files; dont worry about this as todays anti-virus software will automatically check for updates and download these whenever you go on the internet provided that the option to do so is selected. The anti-virus software will start automatically when the computer is started and will run in the background, monitoring activity and checking for viruses which may be present or which may attempt to infect your computer.
Many viruses transmit themselves over the internet via e-mail attachments by using the e-mail address book of the infected computer. Basically the virus sends an e-mail to everybody on the computers address book, thus the infecting e-mail will appear to come from a friend or acquaintance; the subject of the e-mail will appear friendly or informative such as Here is the information you wanted, I thought you would like to see this, This will interest you, etc. The unsuspecting recipient will then open the attachment which will contain the virus programme and that computer will be infected. The process is repeated as the virus then has access to a new e-mail address book.
NEVER open e-mail attachments directly even if the e-mail appears to come from a friend, me or (even) the vicar. If you are at all suspicious about an e-mail do not open it but delete it immediately, then it cannot cause damage. If you have received an attachment which you believe is genuine do not open it directly but save it to a folder on your hard disc; when you click on the attachment heading in the e-mail you will be given options to open it or save it to disc: always save it to disc. Save it to a particular folder on your hard disc or to the desktop, then run your anti-virus software on that folder to check the attachment. If the anti-virus software indicates that the attachment is virus-free then you can open it. The same procedure should be adopted when loading up files from floppy discs or CDs which somebody else has given you. Before loading the file check the floppy or CD using the anti-virus software.
Remember, it is essential to keep your anti-virus software up to date by downloading the latest virus definitions. Without these latest definitions your anti-virus software may not be able to detect the current range of viruses.
Two further points are worthy of noting when it comes to internet and e-mail use. You may receive an e-mail purporting to come from a virus-checking laboratory telling you to check your computer for a file of a certain name and to delete this file as it is a virus. DO NOT delete the file! The message is false, as no virus laboratory would send such a message and deleting the file will probably stop Windows or some of your software from working.
You may receive a pop-up message or advertisement with an amazing offer over some product or service (often these advertisements offer links to a pornographic web site). DO NOT click on the icon to visit the site or seek further information about the offer. Many of these pop-up advertisements are linked to Premium Rate Dial-up services which will cost a fortune in telephone bills. By clicking to visit the site or obtain further information software is loaded on your computer which will automatically reroute your normal internet calls via the premium rate dial-up connection which charge your telephone bill at the rate of £1.50 per minute or more. In some cases the dialer will operate automatically when you are not at the computer and may even start the computer automatically to do this. The first you may know about this is when you receive a massive telephone bill. It is always worthwhile switching off the computer at the mains socket when not using the machine and unplugging the modem from the telephone socket. Firewall software is available to prevent unauthorised access to your computer and if you are worried about such access, particularly if you spend long periods of time on the internet then you should consider loading firewall software.
The main safeguard against computer viruses and other problems is vigilance. Never visit any site or download any software you have doubts about and never allow any site or software access to your computer. Use a virus checker and keep the virus definitions up to date. Never open any e-mail attachment you are not expecting without putting it through a virus checker and preferably e-mail the supposed sender to check that the attachment has actually been sent by them.
If the above precautions are taken most of us should remain virus free and enjoy the many benefits of internet access and e-mail communication.
On behalf of Lisa, Simon and James, Chris and Angie Price would like to thank the whole family of St Faiths for their prayers, messages and many kindnesses in the past weeks and months, and for the moving healing services at both churches. Lisas chemotherapy is ongoing, but we give thanks for the safe arrival of a brother (Daniel Jack) for James. We all look forward to seeing you at the baptism before too long!
Once every twenty five years, we allow a priest his centre spread. Nothing to do with waistlines (as if we would...!) this is to give due and respectful prominence to our esteemed assisant priest.
'For the past thanks: for the future yes!'
Hope is the future tense of faith, writes Bishop Richard Holloway in his book Anger, Sex, Doubt and Death. It is hope that compels the Christian faith to be forward-looking, conscious of divine purpose, anticipating future glory, encouraging a sense of destiny.
That awareness of divine destiny manifested itself frequently in the Bible. Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward, God tells Moses. It is an invitation to reach out and fulfil their destiny within Gods purpose.
St Paul saw his destiny as the attainment of the spiritual goal. I press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, he told the Philippian church. It is a sense of destiny that helps to create the energy which makes us go on.
We have therefore four elements that provide a secure base from which we can face an unknown future in an uncertain world: a sense of direction, a sense of perspective, a sense of adventure and a sense of destiny. But what of security? Such is the potential violence of our modern world that not a day passes without a mention of that word. How ironic it is that this same world is psychologically, emotionally and spiritually gravely insecure!
The loss of theological and ethical landmarks and boundaries, the decreasing authority and influence of the church, the constant erosion and dismissal of traditional standards and values, the questioning and belittling of institutions, the revolution in attitudes to marriage and relationships, the preoccupation with possessions and material gain - all these trends have combined to create in many people those negative characteristics already mentioned: rootlessness, alienation, meaninglessness and lostness. Inevitably, nervous and mental breakdown abound, while others increasingly find themselves unable to cope with the economic, psychological and social demands of life. It is, sadly, dis-ease rather than health that dominates our times.
It is part of our belief in a living Providence to feel not only that God is with us, but that He goes before us. The Eastern shepherd who leads his sheep to ensure their safety is one biblical model for that truth. Another is the picture of the Israelites on their journey to the promised land as God went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way.
We love him because he first loves us, John writes in the New Testament. His, in Emil Brunners phrase, is the divine initiative. We have a sense of destiny because we know that he leads the way.
In a few weeks time, family, friends from near and far, former clergy and parishioners of St Faiths, fellow priests, colleagues and pupils past and present and, hopefully, many who worship in our United Benefice, will join me in celebration of twenty five years of priesthood. It has been an enormous privilege to serve God in this hallowed place and I am profoundly grateful for all the love, encouragement, prayers and support I have received from so many over the years. I am only too conscious, also, of my own unworthiness, and of my many faults, failings and shortcomings which have, no doubt, prevented or hindered my ministry from being as fruitful or as effective as it might have been.
Father William Hassall, of blessed memory, often used a prayer which has also long been a favourite of mine, and is apposite at this time of thanksgiving and expectation:
Go before us, Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works, begun, continued and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With my love, thanks and prayers,
Dennis's words, originally designed as the Ministry Letter for the month, have been promoted to a centre spread (still no comment on his waistline) to mark the special significance of the forthcoming celebrations.
The whole family of St Faiths join in congratulating Dennis on his Silver Jubilee. This writer, as Churchwarden during all but the last few of his years of priestly service to our church, is well aware of the enormous debt of gratitude we owe him, not least for his sterling services during the long interregnum that preceded Fr Neils appointment. As editor of Newslink throughout that period, I have always been able to rely on Dennis for a supply of material, sacred and secular, snippets of news and thought-provoking 'Reflections' to help fill these pages. From the pew I have shared the delight of the congregation at his erudite and informative sermons, and also his splendid and idiosyncratic announcements and notices: not least the badinage with a succession of incumbents in general and the current one in particular.
The forthcoming High Mass of Thanksgiving, on Friday September 19th at 8.00 pm, to which of course absolutely everyone is invited, promises to be another St Faiths Great Occasion. There will be more priests than you can shake a stick at, with Denniss old friend Bishop Graham James of Norwich at the head, and the solemnities will be followed by the traditional refreshments, at which the Jubilee Boy, in keeping with another St Faiths tradition, will doubtless mark the happy event by an evening of Conspicuous Consumption, leading, as ever, from the front...
Well done, thou good and faithful servant, as someone once said. Heres to the next twenty five years.