Monday, June 19, 2017

The echoes of Silence

The silence of remembrance is deafening in a city usually bursting with a cacophony of noise. During those moments of remembrance, if you happen to be out on the streets, in a supermarket, the sudden cessation of activity, the pausing of the daily clamor is tangible and moving.Stopping to focus on the lives lost this time and the lives lost before, so many echoes of  silenced souls flooding forward to fill the void.  The only disturbance being the gentle automatic pokes of modernity from the self service tills, the message tones of phones, the technology that has no understanding of loss. We remember lives pointlessly lost at the hands of tragedy or evil and other lives given for us in the fight for justice and freedom. Then creeping into my mind at the height of the silence the remembrance of the one life that meant all lives lost have a meaning. Those brief seconds can seem like an eternity, as my heart heaves with the weight of what is lost, what has been sacrificed and  then also what has been received.
Yesterday was Corpus Christi, a time when we focus on the Body of Christ. We take Jesus out onto the streets, process him through the community so people can see hope in the middle of all the despair. The hope that Jesus brings us is desperately needed at the moment. Society is hungering for a meaning to the utter evil unfolding around us. It is easy to forget that before us there was a darkness, there has always been a darkness permeating our societies. Despite this encroaching darkness there is a light burning in it's midst to strengthen us in the disorder to guide us through the confusion. The tears of weeping, the weight of loss, can be transformed by love. The darkness can be washed by the blood of sacrifice and reveal a new world of unity. Each time the darkness comes knocking, love comes answering even stronger, the sacrifice is not meaningless and in the loss we can see the hope Christ has given us.
Walking Jesus through the streets in the burning sunshine seemed somehow so appropriate.We needed a time of hope, even though it was followed by more tragedy, it gave us a reminder of the burning light that will carry us through. The procession may have been challenging in the heat and the weight of his sacrifice weighed down on those clergy who carried him. It was never meant to be an easy path to follow. True love is hard, involving real sacrifice, tears and pain, but through it all, he holds us and guides us with his love. He summons us all to the call of his love. He summons us to share his body and his blood, to consume it, to take him into our very being. That we might walk out today and show him in all we say and do. Then we can ensure every action we make today is one of love, hope, tolerance and reconciliation. Then we can stand together and stifle the darkness.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Painful Love

The other day one of the members of the congregation stopped me and said " I have been thinking about what you said the other day, you know the bit about everyone deserving a little bit of love. It really got me thinking" I had said it in passing, not really stopping to think about the full implications. Someone else had, so it forced me to stop and think a little more on what I had said.

It is all to easy to love those I have chosen to love, my family, my friends and our Parish. It is easy to give a passing impression of love and kindness to those with whom I agree. It is easy to demonstrate charity to those I see as good, deserving and one of us.

It is however much harder to sit round a table with those whom I have recently disagreed, those whom I believe to be sinful and those who I perceive to be at odds with what I believe. However, Jesus dined with the tax collector, and then he sacrificed his life for those he knew to be sinners and rose again that we might be saved.

His love, his grace and his mercy is unlimited. It flows down on us no matter how many times I stumble, fall, turn away or deny him. When I pick myself up and turn back to him, he forgives me. Welcomes me in to his flock and gives me a new chance.

There have been many occasions since my husband has been in ministry when I have met challenging people. People who challenge who I am, where I am, what I believe and my ability to give a second chance and sometimes many chances. It would be so easy to shut them out, ignore them or judge them. Love is not an easy path. Charity not a journey that comes without sacrifice. Tolerance is not achievable without sacrifice on both sides.  Salvation was not possible without Crucifixion.

In the wake of so much violence, so much pointless death and injury, it would be easy to condemn those committing it. But condemnation breeds hate, resentment and anger. Though much harder to kneel in prayer for those who take away lives so freely, it is only right that we pray for them. That we show them how to love by loving the communities around us. That forgiveness, though painful and hard, can be given. That through this harder path we can pull together with those we find ourselves at odds with, that we can heal ourselves and our communities. We must be a beacon of Christ's love in all that we do, knowing that such love comes at such a high price, but the rewards are eternal and priceless.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

When it all gets too much

Since moving to London almost every local paper I pick up contains some violent attack or murder. Combine these with repeated stories on the threat of terrorism and the impending doom of Brexit, I am surprised I make it out of the house. Sometimes it feels as if the best scenario would actually be to shut the door, make hot chocolate and hide with the multitude of books and films we own. I would certainly be safe, but I suspect that even I could get fed up of comfort food and books.

There is always a thought nagging at me when I feel like retreating permanently into safety. Christ did anything but keep himself safe. He did not retreat, he stood in the line of danger, stood by his faith in his Father and ultimately sacrificed his life for us. He did so peacefully and with love.

It is so easy when you feel at threat to retreat, build the barricades and judge those who threaten you, sometimes even lash out. All are acts born out of fear, we all feel it sometimes. Even Christ had moments when he paused, questioned and pleaded to be removed from dangers way.

" Luke 22:  42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. "

The whirling chaos of fear sometimes paralyses us, causing a cacophony of thoughts that hinders us praying. Sometimes we feel totally abandoned by God, unable to find him in among the swirling sandstorm of threats. It is only when we stop for a few moments, take a deep breath and like Christ find away of putting ourselves anew into God's hands that the seething seas begin to calm and peace is restored. This is not a process without risk, it ultimately means sacrificing ourselves to God and trusting everything we are to him. Then and only then can we turn to those who have caused our angst with courage, peace and love.

Christian life was never an easy one, Christ suffered, was persecuted and crucified, however he received strength from his Father. Living a life where I attempt to love all and abide by the morals of a Christian life will always provide me with challenges. Often leave me out on a precipice with many staring and judging. Living in a community that has it's own struggles before you add yours is always going to require adjustments.  But it is only when I leave my house, with prayers in my mind, love in my heart, ready to share Christ's peace with all, that I can ever find my own sense of inner peace. Just like Christ sometimes I need a few moments to retreat from the world, to question and replace myself into God's hands. However it is vital that I then go out of the house, that I become a living breathing example of Christ's love. I may not always get it right, sometimes fear may get the better of me (I am only human) but it is vital that I learn embrace that which makes me feel vulnerable with love and peace.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

At noon, a darkness came over the whole Land

"The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." Mark 15 v38

The Church has been torn from top to bottom and again I stand in the ruins asking where is Christ? 

Five guiding principles on which our fragile community stood. Five principles written to show mutual love and mutual sacrifice, so that all may sit round the table and share in Christ's Holy sacrifice. 

As the Bishop of Dorking has said "Jesus calls us to get over ourselves". 

It is time to start looking to each other in friendship. It is tempting to start hurling back at those who hurl at us. To write in anger, pain or even revenge, but Christ calls us to look beyond ourselves and look towards the good of all our Church. We all, every single one of us will have variances in our understanding of theology and our Church, even if we broadly share an opinion. I have no desire to fight with you, anyone of you. I want today to say I want to "get over myself" share a Church with you. I want to forgive you, though it takes every ounce of patience I have to say it. I have been through the many reactions that I have had in similar situations:-
 Flight to the other Church,Anger,Disappointment, Acceptance to forgiveness. It is not easy, trust is earned and today we have taken a few steps back. My trust has been lost, my faith in walking together has been dashed. But this is bigger than you and me and bigger than those who started this whole sorry mess. We must not allow the Church to die, we are stronger for our differences and learn more from walking together than we do apart. 

We are all called to a ministry of incarnation, to reflect Christ in all we do and say. Recently, some the members of our Church have made a serious error in their behaviour. Again in the secular world we have not presented ourselves as a Christ like body. What hope have we of calling others to a life of love, tolerance and forgiveness if we can not even show it to each other. Tomorrow is a new day, maybe we can walk again in the footsteps of Christ by getting over ourselves. We must as a Church embody Christ in all we say and do, and this means putting ourselves round a table together and sharing in Christ's Holy Mysteries together. If we do not we lose far more than mutual flourishing, we lose our Church.

Tonight I pray for +North, the Diocese of Sheffield and all those who have been hurt and all those who have to deal with what must now follow. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In his Image

As I walked through the streets of London yesterday, I decided I must look a little daft. Dressed for a meeting, except for my shoes which were covered in Donald Duck and my backpack covered in Mickey Mouse. Eccentric as I may have looked, I refuse to walk across London in heels. However my attire was a good metaphor for how I think, life should be taken seriously but we need to laugh, sometimes even at ourselves.  So yes I looked some what unique but that is the point really, I am unique.

Each of us are God's creation, everyone of us of equal value in the eyes of our Almighty Father in whose image we were made. Part of the amazing power and wonder of God's creation is that each of us are unique. We were created to be individual, diverse and unique. This does not make us of less value.

Today is International Women's Day, there are many women around the world from whom I have received great inspiration, Our Holy Mother is one of them. Far from being a weak and submissive, she faced her fears and the persecution of others when she chose to accept the life God asked of her. The choice she made will not have been an easy one, she risked losing it all. She had to place her life in God's hands and have faith that it would all play out just the way God had promised her.

In accepting God's request of her she knew that she would not be conforming to the demands that society had asked of her. In today's society there are many demands put on women. One of the most demanding of which is to be the same as a Man, it is the one I find most perplexing because quite simply I am not a man. I have no burning desire to take my God given uniqueness and trample on the opposite sex just to prove I am as good as them. I already know that I am as good as them (as does God). By all means we deserve equal rights, we deserve to be paid the same for the same jobs, we should have the right to vote. However, there are somethings which are God given. God gave us man and woman, they are not and were not the same. That is what makes us special and of value to one another as we compliment each other.  I think we are very much endanger of losing sight of our uniqueness and qualities that God gave us in trying to prove we are something that we are not.

Today I pray that like our Holy Mother, I have the strength to say to God "Be it unto me according to thy word". That in doing so, I bring up my daughter to value both men and women equally. That we treat those who think differently to us as though they are our friends and not our enemies. As all are loved in the kingdom of God. I ask too that Mary will pray for us all, that we may all be like her and show grace, mercy and strength today and everyday.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Upon the Cross we must Suffer for Salvation to be achieved

When I first started write this blog, it was when I was first beginning to get used to the idea that I could be Anglican and not be ashamed of the fact that I did not believe in a female Priesthood. I began to find my footing and understand the theology behind the instinct and teaching I had had as a child. The first responses I go to this is that I could only have been taught this by a man. I was not, I grew up in the midst a multitude of different Christian influences. It was a decision I reached myself and researched  myself. So, you will forgive me if I find two men writing articles on how women should feel about a Bishop who does not ordain women somewhat ironic.

As a Church we made a commitment to allow both integrity's to flourish, a decision made by a vote in Synod. It allowed everyone what they wanted with compromises on all sides. The decision was what allowed us to live the Christian way, together, in harmony, in peace and loving one another without boundaries. We all sacrificed that we may have a new Church born out of the ashes.

And so the consecration women Bishops commenced, many of them. All very good and all of them doing an excellent job. Bishop Libby and Bishop Philip consecrated within weeks of each other, hugged and commenced their Episcopal ministry supporting each other.  Most of the female Bishops are supporting the decision that Sheffield diocese has made.  All of the newly consecrated women have been supported and upheld in their ministry by those who do not support their ontological position. They have been shown tolerance, love and acceptance. This is as it should be, this is what we agreed it to be, this is how as Christians we should be living. Yet others seem think that their own political agenda or at worst their patriarchal view of feminism is more important the kindness, generosity and tolerance of those with whom we disagree. They may think that my point of view or indeed that many others (whilst also rooted in theology) is wrong and maybe even sinful, but Jesus' action would have been to invite them to dine with him not to throw them out of the community from which they live.

When the 5 guiding principles were announced I had great scepticism as to whether we would ever see another traditionalist Bishop, let alone a Diocesan one.  It gave me great hope and confidence in the Church when Bishop North was consecrated as a Suffragan Bishop. He is Godly man, he is filled with passion for the Gospel, Mission and Evangelism. He is a man who considers the poor and the vulnerable, he will fight their corner in all aspects of society. Above all he has supported the women in their ministry in Burnley and he would do so in Sheffield too.

For the unity of the Church, for the upholding of a Christian way of living, for the development of mission, for the proclamation of the Gospel, for those who need to someone to fight their corner for them, I hope against hope that Bishop North will not allow recent outbursts from those who are entirely selfish to affect his decision to take the post. He has been prayerfully chosen and the decision will not have been lightly made. He is very much the future of our Church, where as I am afraid I do not think his opponents are even in the line to be.

It is a Garden of Gethsemane moment, we can all kneel and wonder at God's plans for us right now. A time when the Church may suffer, but salvation lies after the suffering has been completed.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Today's Mission

I knew that on arriving in London we would be greeted with a whole new community and that community had many needs. However reality hits home rather hard, when you see the queues at the Citizen's advice bureau, read the newspapers, walk home from school past hand cuffed men, arrive home on a Friday night to a line of cuffed drug dealers and see the numbers arriving at the food bank. I knew there were issues before we came. Having said that, the thought that there were people who could not heat food even if they were given some had not occurred to me. I was naive (and perhaps even wilfully blind) as to just how broken and fractured the community surrounding our little Church would be.I have ever encountered a place that needed Christ's love more than this one.

Yesterday I attended the Forward in Faith National assembly. The ideas that were put to us about the Mission of the Church were absolutely what is needed here. That we as baptised Christians are each one of us responsible for taking Christ's love out into the world and working for the common good of all. At the heart of this mission and evangelisation is the Sacraments.That it is vital to keep learning and developing our understanding of the Sacrifice given in each and every Mass.  That we all have a part in the liturgical drama laid out in the Mass. In turn therefore we each have a part in the mission outside of the the Church doors too.

Being a Christian and living according to Christ's example, is neither comfortable, nor cosy. It does not mean we should go out of our way to find hardship and suffering. However it means giving up who we are, sacrificing our hearts and putting our faith in Christ. For if we can not give up who we are and tread in the footsteps of Christ, we can not show others the fullness of his love.

The Church as it is now, in it's present, will become it's future. The way in which you and I interact with those people around us, is how people will view Christ and Christianity in the times to come.  This means today is a challenge to meet hate with love, to meet the sinner with kindness, to walk along side those who hurt us most and show them forgiveness. So as we are shown his grace and mercy, we should show it to others. Then we can bring the essence of  Christ's sacrifice to future generations. If we start meeting those who pour torrents of hate on our communities with hatred of our own. We will deepen the fractures and the chasm between us grows. Society at the moment is cracking and creaking with hatred and intolerance. Let us be the beacon of Christ's light and let's share that light with all we meet.