This Easter seems to be one for firsts. My bishop this morning has released two different Easter messages (one first), one written and the other a video (another first).
The video is filmed in various locations around the diocese, (Bangor Cathedral, St. Seiriol’s Well, and Penmon beach), and ‘it follows the story of Jesus’ death, resurrection and appearances after his resurrection and examines the meaning of these events’.
Great to see even more advancements into the 21st century and the diocese using new methods of communicating the good news of the Gospel.
Today my incumbent retires and she will be very missed in these parishes where she has served her entire ordained ministry. We’re celebrating her retirement with a service followed by lunch and the presentation of a few gifts from the churches and the community. We wish her well in her retirement. Here is a online copy of an album of photos that have been compiled over the last few weeks, photos of the parishioners memories.
This week I was invited to a celebratory service of 125 years of St David’s, Glanadda, Bangor, where I first found the courage to act upon my sense of calling and formally start exploring my vocation.
It was strange and wonderful to be back. The building is often likened to Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. It’s a barn of a building, tall and dark, but for me there is a warmth that welcomes you in. Your eye is pulled up to the alter and your attention is fixed.
Of course the building holds great memories for me, a lot happened over the 4 years I was there, but with any church it’s the people that are the most important. And in many ways it seemed like nothing had changed since the first time I walked through those doors, the familiar chattering before the service continues as many of the same people go about the same jobs and the faint music from the choir drifts up from the vestries down stairs.
It was strange to be back.
As well as it being the place where I first acted upon my calling, it’s the place that encouraged and nourished me in those early years. I preached my first sermon there, carried out my first home visits, led my first services, and chaired my first congregational meetings. I was able to observe the PCCs and have an active role in organising coffee mornings and fetes.
I learnt so much from my time there. And it is only now, after serving two years in curacy that I am really, truly appreciating all that they taught me and all that I learnt from them.
It was lovely to see the old faces, and really good to see some new. The church was decorated in pictures from the local school, and some of the congregation couldn’t wait to tell me about their family service, and he recent work they had been doing. Except for one funeral, at which I did not hang around to chat, I had not been in the church since I left for college in 2009 and so it was really pleasing to see them encouraged and excited by their ministry and gong out into their community. They are a small congregation, but not without hope in continuing their 125 year calling to bring Christ into the community of Glanadda.
As the ordinations this Peter-tide come closer I’ve been thinking back over the past two years since my own ordination and starting my curacy. But this visit has sent my mind back even further. I give thanks for St David’s, who, without their support and encouragement I would not be where I am today and I wish them every blessing for the next 125 years.
This is what I will be preaching on Sunday, a message on vocations from our Bishops within this province, but with a few small adjustments. When thinking about the gifts that we have been given by God, we need consider how we best use them. These may well be in the role of priest, or deacon, or lay reader, but they my also be in reading the lessons, praying, visiting the sick, or housebound, administration, music, working with children, IT and computer skills, worship leading………….
WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST, we are his hands and his feet, his eyes and ears, and we need to own that, as disciples, as followers of him who leads us. Make some time over this next week to think and pray about what you are good at, what you can be good at, and what you want to be good at. Take stock of what is around you, what your community is like, what difference an individual/ community/ church could make to the situations you see. Take time to dream about what you would like your church to look like, take that vision to the furthest points your imagination can stretch it, and then think about how it might happen in reality. Talk to those around you, give praise when you see people using their gifts and encourage others to use theirs. Give and/or create opportunities where people might be able to explore their own gifts.
Pray for a future that is as bold as the gospel we have received.
A Pastoral Homily from the Bishops of the Church in Wales for Ministry and Calling Sunday
The Sunday after Ascension, 12th May 2013
To all those who are disciples of Jesus Christ and members of the Church in Wales:
Jesus prayed “I made your name known to them, and will make it known”
Last Thursday, the Church celebrated the occasion when Jesus took his leave of the disciples, and commanded them to wait for the gift of power from on high.Next Sunday, we celebrate God’s sending of the Holy Spirit.As they waited, the disciples must have had a sense that they were on the brink of something new.They had given their lives to become wanderers with the Lord.They had become living witnesses of Jesus’ betrayal and execution, of his Resurrection and of God’s vindication of his Son, yet they could not have guessed where they might be led, or how God would support them in their witness.
In our gospel reading today, Jesus prays for all his disciples, down from that first fellowship, that his followers may become bearers of “glory”, in the same way that he had revealed the glory of God to the world.Jesus had done this by proclaiming God’s grace in word and in action, in radical outreach and in divine power, and he prays in this reading that the quality of life of his disciples would be such as to make known God’s name, God’s character – a quality of life that would speak of the fullness of God’s glorious nature.
Such a witness was the mission of the early Church, and our reading from the book of the Acts of the Apostles shows how Paul and Silas among others found themselves doing that in unlikely ways and unlikely places.
The Church in Wales today inherits not just the witness of these first disciples and apostles, but of at least fifteen hundred years of witness to Jesus by the saints and disciples of Wales.Our forebears in the faith witnessed the Romans leave these shores, the Saxons and the Normans arrive.They have seen conquest, war, union with England, industrial revolution.They have seen decline and revival, the flowering of Catholic spirituality, and the passion of the Reformation.In every generation God has raised up those who make known the glory of the fullness of life found in Jesus.When the Anglican Church would not or could not, God raised up others, and we have been through separation and division, and yet we have also been drawn back towards relationship with one another because our true relationship is founded on the one Lord Jesus Christ.
In every generation we have tried to work out what being a disciple of Jesus and a living witness to the name of God means.We have asked ourselves questions about the scriptures and our witness and our worship and our service.The world in its turn has asked questions of us about our way of life and our beliefs in ways which stimulate new thinking.
Such questioning has never been more urgent than today, and as we approach the centenary of our disestablishment[our separation from almost a thousand years living as part of the Church of England] we are beginning to learn that we have to be less of an institution and more of a movement: that we have to recapture the spirit of those first apostles; uncertain what our role might be, but excited by the knowledge that Christ reveals the glory of God and makes his name known through our witness.
Jesus called all people to turn their lives around in order to become ambassadors in God’s name, to receive from God’s hand the new heart of flesh, of compassion and love, to replace the hardened heart of life outside of God.He invites us into the glory of a fullness of life in which God’s name is made known through healing and justice and love.
The worth of the Church in Wales depends entirely on our being ambassadors for that same glory today.Unless our lives reflect God’s love and glory, and we live the sort of life that he wants proclaimed, then the witness of the Church in Wales is hollow and without power.
That is why we are talking today of “ministry” and of “calling”.There is not a person sitting in the congregation today who cannot offer ministry in God’s name to the world.God calls every one of us into the exercise of that individual service for which God has made us and equipped us.God calls every one of us to be a bearer of God’s name and glory for others.
We would not be your bishops today, if we were not aware in our own lives that God has been merciful to us, and if we did not in some measure know that renewal of our hearts by God prophesied by Ezekiel and prayed for by Jesus. We have confidence that God has called us to this ministry and will sustain us, in the very same moment that each of us feels deeply unworthy of the task.However, the question today concerns not just our vocation, but the vocation of every member of the Church in Wales.What has God called you to do and to be alongside us for his sake?How can we together make known the glory and love of God in our world?
Today, we are asking you to join us in making God’s name known.Jesus prayed for us that we might reflect God’s glory and love, and we believe he calls us to become a people together, ready for ministry and service. Each member of our family has a place and a vocation to contribute and adventure forth in God’s name.The letter to the Ephesians speaks of God’s vocation: God “gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”, and we could add “and some, priests and deacons and readers and lay ministers”.What gifts has God given you to equip you to make known his name?
Isaiah heard the Spirit of God, saying:Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?
There is only one answer which can meet such a call, and God waits for everyone of us to give it:
This year, like other years gone by, Bangor Diocese has commissioned a Lent course to be used throughout the diocese based on our common theme for the year. This year we look towards our future. There is great change happening in our churches, and if you’ve missed it I don’t think you have been looking hard enough. Our society had changed so much in the last decades, and so we must too if we are going to be able to stand beside people and help lead them in their journey with God.
Its been a few years in the making, but this year Bangor has produced a document containing our Vision Statement. (A copy of the leaflet can be found on the website http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/bangor/files/documents/visionDocument.pdf) In it can be found the hopes and aspirations for our ‘learning church’ and our lent course is based around these topics and the broad headings for these are our calling, our character, and our commission.
Two topics a week for the six weeks until Easter.
This course offers us, and those outside our diocese a chance to think and reflect about where we have come from, where we are now, and where we need to be in the future. And I am delighted that this year our course will be available on line and will be tweeted each day of Lent. I hope that through these ways of sharing our vision, others will be inspired in their own places.
We do not always know the effect that our ministry and mission has on people, we can only hope that we plant a seed and give it enough water to grow in good soil.
It is my prayer that people will find inspiration from our vision.