Sermons from St Faith's   

Patronal Indulgence

Fr Michael Finlay, Sunday, 9th October, 2016

Sunday within the Patronal Octave

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 Norfolk.

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 of Churches.

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 Paddle!)

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 early 2000s.

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 Saint.                                                                by faith  and in  faith to our final destination.

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.

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