It is many years since I stood here in this pulpit at St
Faith’s. I think it has only been once since my ordination
– perhaps 15 to 20 years ago and I was ordained in
1981 as an ordinand from this Parish.
This church has been responsible for many a calling
- people who have ministered to many
in varying situations throughout Christendom from
Archbishop to teacher, from parish
priest to Chaplaincy, in this country, and each of the
continents in our globe.
Indeed as well as me, three other clergy involved in this
celebration of St Faith, Fr Dennis, Rev Denise and Fr
Colin, have each had our vocations fostered here, been
nurtured - encouraged and affirmed. In one
sense we have committed to taking up our crosses and
finding those vocations in Christ.
The reputation of the number of ordinands from this place
is extremely impressive and a credit to the numbers of
faithful Christians who have worshipped here over the
years since its dedication.
There has always been a distinctiveness about St Faith’s
and it has a national if not international reputation, and
that is not just because of its clergy, but because of
you, the committed and faithful worshippers,
together with those who have gone before whose memory,
example and faith we thank God for: those who have taken
up the challenge to carry the cross and have followed in
faith, found Christ.
In looking at your website the other evening, I was
interested in seeing and learning of the
number and variety of places dedicated to St
Faith. Some of them I had heard of but I
didn’t know of the former Consecrated Garage, (uncovered
by Les Crossley , who has now joined that cloud of
witnesses ) or the Ship Inn with the press headline
Fathers, Sons and Holy Spirits! Then there is
the Car Transporter and Passenger ferry to the Isle of
Wight named after our Saint. There are many others
too, so if you haven’t seen the web pages, spend some time
on the site and have a browse.Congratulations to the
website manager Chris for what is evidently a superb site.
And while talking about the web site, perhaps I
could formally welcome Teddy Bear James and all his
friends who I believe are due to appear here today.
Recently, Ann and I were at a parish retreat from
Latchford in Warrington, together with people from various
churches from many parts of the country, celebrating
the Assumption of Our Lady at the Walsingham Shrine in
I don’t always remember sermons and addresses, but
sometimes a phrase or sentence will stick in my mind: THE
ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS
I am sure that all of us here this morning are full of
good intentions - and I am also sure we fulfil most of
them – but we are all fallible and as “in Adam …” we
lose the way, yet we also know about forgiveness and the
sacrificial love of God through Our Lord Jesus Christ so
that we can revisit the road and try again.
If we listen to God in our time of prayer and reflection
we can find the road that leads to God and heaven, the
signs and maps are there for us all.
Although many things have changed since my childhood here
there is still that distinctiveness, which
might have been misunderstood by some (even in high
places!). but that distinctiveness is embedded in
the very walls of this place as well as the people
of the worshipping community and the Waterloo Group
The sharing of spiritual life and traditions helps, and
will always help to enrich our lives and experiences of
our faith, as you come together as God’s church to serve
the community and your neighbourhoods.
As I look back over my seventyish years of life, one of my
first memories was being brought to Evensong as a small
boy about 4 or 5 – sitting on the back row with a
butterscotch sweet to keep me quiet.
The inevitable happened and having swallowed the sweet I
was rushed outside where mother and father desperately
squeezed, shook, fingers down my throat with the
assistance of a long serving Jim Burgess, the verger until
the offending sweet was thankfully retrieved.
I wasn’t put off church but have always been cautious of
hard boiled sweets. I was introduced to Sunday School
where my dad had become a Sunday School teacher --- I well
remember Bunny Mountfield and George Houldin, who seemed
to run Sunday afternoons, Raymond Clarke and Derek Clawson
were teachers too (and both followed ministerial callings)
Derek was also a cub leader and I joined them,
eventually becoming a Sixer, but never
graduated to the Scouts. My route was as a Choirboy
(and Head Choirboy too) and then training to become
a Server -- at least six weeks of Friday evenings trimming
and polishing, yes polishing candles and then polishing
and preparing the silver for Sunday - then came the
training to be a Server.
I suppose I have now lapsed into reminiscing mode! Having
become Head Server eventually, I was asked by Fr Charles
Billington to be his crucifer when he was inducted into
his new parish at Harold in the St Albans Diocese. The
Bishop, as soon as he saw my red cassock and cotta,
remarked that he well remembered wearing those same robes
when he was a server at St Faith’s, The Bishop was of
course Robert Runcie, former Server who of course became
Archbishop of Canterbury.
Denise and Dennis will no doubt remember the dances that
Shaun Howard and I ran with the youth club
- no disco, but three live bands, one of which
was run by David Delaney (Irene’s brother). A pair of
Playhouse tickets would be bought, together with a box of
chocolates and we sent the Vicar out for the night!
We progressed from youth dances to church hall dances for
the adults with a licensed bar and three years of Royal
Iris cruises up the Mersey, each being very successful.
Hiking weekends away and “pop-up” communion services in
the sand hills at Formby are some of the other memories
that come to mind. Then there was the annual Parish Dinner
at the Blundellsands Hotel and later at the Civic Hall and
the “order of the Wooden Spoon”!(one year it was a
Other memories would have to include our wedding, with a
Nuptial High Mass and many other times and events,
including our children’s Baptisms (one of which was
during the Easter Midnight Eucharist).
There are many other memories that come flooding back. I
am sure that the most important event was when I felt that
calling – nudging – that God wanted me to do something
different. It took two long walks with Fr. Peter Goodrich
along the beach from the Royal Hotel in Waterloo to the
Blundellsands Hotel (now luxury apartments) to work
through the issues.
To my surprise, Peter Roberts, a co-conspirator in the
dances at the church Hall was going through the same
process. We were both accepted for training and joined the
Northern Ordination Course together. We were both Deaconed
and Priested in Liverpool Cathedral together. Peter to
serve his title at St Thomas’s Seaforth and later in South
Africa and I to Birchwood in Warrington. A move to
Newton le Willows for five years was followed by a
move to St Margaret and All Hallows, Orford ,
then to Warrington Parish Church of St Elphin as Rector,
becoming an Honorary Canon of Liverpool Cathedral in the
The Gospel story comes at the end of a time when Jesus and
His disciples share a time of openness. Jesus had
asked, “who do people say that I am and who do you
say that I am?
Peter had replied “You are the Christ” and he was given
the keys to the gates of heaven, then Jesus went on
to explain what was to happen to Him - to be
killed and to rise again. Peter replied “this will never
happen to you” to which Jesus suggested he was a hindrance
- “Get behind me Satan!” Peter’s good intentions
were a distraction to what Jesus knew to be the road to
God and what God’s intentions were.
We too need to affirm and discern within ourselves
(and for each other) the intentions which are
God’s to avoid being a hindrance to His plan. We walk with
by faith and in faith to our final
May God bless you all as you discern your way together as
a group of churches in Waterloo, sharing each
other’s distinctiveness to go forward in mission and
ministry to serve God’s Kingdom. May I thank you for
allowing me the indulgence of reminiscing and every
blessing for your future together.