Sunday Reflection

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John 17:20-23

It may seem a little ironic that given the diversity of Churches, their incessant squabbling, disagreements, fallings out and even within the Church of England, threats of schism over inclusive and exclusive interpretations of Scripture and that response to marginalised communities, that one of Our Lord’s principle prayers was that “they may all be one”.

The book of Acts describes how quickly the Church started to factionise and if not directly break away from each other, at least have major disagreements on whether pagan converts to this new sect of Judaism were required to become, effectively, Jews with all the incumbent cosmetic changes and dietary laws. Paul and Barnabas saw beyond the adherence to these laws and focused on faith over form in their mission.

As Jesus painstakingly explains to his disciples over 4 whole chapters in the Upper Room, he keeps returning to his nature and the relationship of the Trinity: that they are one, and so therefore should we all be one. As we look over the next couple of weeks towards Pentecost and then the Mystery and Majesty of the Holy Trinity, we should remember this.

This does not mean, however, that Christ prays that we might all be homogenous clones of one another. Individuals, Parishes, Priests and indeed Churches are all unique and special, yet united. Each person and community has something to offer the world and the worship of God. As each context is different, so the Church is represented in many diverse forms of Spirituality, Worship style and Theology.

What unites us, however, is that we are one in Christ. Through the sacrament of baptism, and sustained by the sacraments of the altar, we all seek to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father. If we have the confidence to proclaim that, and to recognise that our brothers and sisters in other parishes, other churches do the same, then we see that the love God had for Christ is shared amongst all brothers and sisters in faith, without exclusion, without favour.

Let us pray…

Lord, as we pray for the growth of your Kingdom in this place and across our nation, may we recognise that which we share with our brothers and sisters in other churches. Together, may we be inspired to seek out those who have not yet come to know Our Lord and Saviour and pray together “May thy Kingdom Come”. Amen.

Holy Week 2019

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This is the most important week of the Christian Year as we walk behind Christ on his way of sorrows: from the triumph of Palm Sunday this Sunday through to the foot of the Cross on Good Friday and the glory of the resurrection of Easter Day.

I often liken this week to the reading of a book. You can read the first page of a book, and then skip to the last page and you will know how it ends (spoiler alert: Jesus wins!) but you will have no idea of how you got there. So this week, I invite you to come and be a part of the whole journey and walk with this community of faith on this way of sorrows. The details of all of the acts of worship are below. Some of these may be unfamiliar to you, and I invite you to dive in and experience them.

Palm Sunday
Palms in the shape of crosses are given to the congregation and (if weather permits – we do live on the edge of Dartmoor after all! – we will process with our Palms singing joyous songs to commemorate the triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. We hear the whole of the Passion of Jesus, this year from the Gospel of Luke before Holy Communion.

The Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross, or the Way of Sorrows – the via dolorosa enable us to follow the last few events of Jesus’ life, meditating on each stage and its significance both then and now.

Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Recalls that very night when Jesus gathered to instigate that special meal. As people come, the priest offers you to have your foot washed. It is symbolic of the Priests’s call to serve the people of this place and an important and moving event. You might feel very uncomfortable at the thought of this, but ask yourself – is this not exactly what the disciples felt that night when the Son of God did that for them? Let go, and like Peter allow yourself to be served.

Watch of the Blessed Sacrament
After the Last Supper Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemene. To symbolise this, we take the consecrated bread (‘the blessed sacrament’) to a beautifully decorated side altar where we spend time in silent reflection. This will be available until Midnight, ending when Jesus is arrested. You can come at any time before that, stay for as long as you like or need to spend time in quiet reflection and prayer (Fr Simon will be there the whole time to ensure your safety).

Good Friday
Jesus, according to the Scriptures, hung on the Cross for three hours, so in recognition of this there are three separate yet connected acts of Worship from Noon until 3pm. Between each there is a short break to eat Hot Cross Buns – traditionally the only day on which they are supposed to be eaten.

It begins at Noon with another Stations of the Cross.

Meditation on the Last Words of Christ

These last sayings of Jesus are meditated upon in a reflection led by Fr Simon. In a multimedia exploration of their significance and meaning for us and for our Christian lives, using art and music to reach new insights.

Liturgy, Passion and Veneration of the Cross
The does not celebrate the Mass as such on Good Friday, but the same blessed sacrament we prayed for on Maundy Thursday night is shared between those who come to the last act of worship, after we have heard the Passionj story, as always according to S. John. It is a powerful story. We then are invited to come forward and recognise the power of the cross, to kneel before it, perhaps make the sign of the cross before it, perhaps even kiss it or touch it if we wish and then to place a red ribbon on it, symbolic of Christ’s blood

Holy Saturday
The Church is in mourning. Nothing happens (except for cleaning) as Christ is in to tomb. We have to wait.

Easter Vigil
Yes, I know 6am sounds like it is going to hurt – but believe me, it will be worth it.

“Very early on the first day of the week…” the women came to the tomb and found Christ risen. From the near-dawn, we bring the Paschal Candle into S. Anne’s and hear of God’s slavation histiry through Scripture and song before (technically at dawn. although this year we will be a little late) Christ bursts from the tomb and the most joyous Mass is celebrated. It is worth the effort, I promise you.

After that Mass, there will be bacon rolls, pastries, coffee and juice as we share breakfast and then you have the rest of Easter free!

Mass of Easter
…or of course you can come back to Mass a little later. At the 11.15am Service we joyously will admit three young people to Holy Communion and celebrate their journey of faith. In our Churches, first holy communion is given with the expectation that they will continue to receive as God welcomes all to his table.

Come and walk with us this Holy Week – get the full story and appreciate the reason for the season!

Popular Hymns

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The day Thou gavest

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.

As over each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

Abide with me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Power in the Blood

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you over evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

There is power, power, wonder working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Alleluia, sing to Jesus

Alleluia! sing to Jesus! His the sceptre, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.

Alleluia! not as orphans are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us, faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er
Shall our hearts forget His promise, ;I am with you evermore;?

Alleluia! bread of heaven, here on earth our food and stay!
Alleluia! here the sinful turn to You from day to day.
Intercessor, friend of sinners, Earth’s Redeemer, plead for us.
Where the voices of the blessed join the chant victorious.

Alleluia! King eternal, You are Lord of lords alone.
Alleluia! born of Mary, Earth’s Your footstool, heaven, Your throne.
You within the veil have entered, robed in flesh our great high priest.
You on earth are priest and victim in the Eucharistic feast.

I vow to thee, my country

I vow to thee, my country-all earthly things above-
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago-
Most dear to them love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Be Thou my vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Mine eyes have seen the glory

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on. Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

O, Breath of life

O Breath of life, come sweeping through us,
Revive Thy church with life and power;
O Breath of life, come, cleanse, renew us,
And fit Thy church to meet this hour.

O Wind of God, come bend us, break us,
Till humbly we confess our need;
Then in Thy tenderness remake us,
Revive, restore, for this we plead.

O Breath of love, come breathe within us,
Renewing thought and will and heart;
Come, Love of Christ, afresh to win us,
Revive Thy church in every part.

O Heart of Christ, once broken for us,
‘Tis there we find our strength and rest;
Our broken, contrite hearts now solace,
And let Thy waiting church be blest.

Revive us, Lord! Is zeal abating
While harvest fields are vast and white?
Revive, us Lord, the world is waiting,
Equip Thy church to spread the light.

O Love that wilt not let me go

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways;
Reclothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word,
Rise up and follow Thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

We rest on Thee

We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender!
We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,
We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

Yes, in Thy Name, O Captain of salvation!
In Thy dear Name, all other names above;
Jesus our righteousness, our sure foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.
Jesus our righteousness, our sure foundation,
Our Prince of glory and our King of love.

We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day Thy grace to know:
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
“We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.”

We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender!
Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.

Silver Service for the Annual Parochial Council Meeting

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With thanks to @davewalker

The temptation in these times of turmoil is to turn inwards, to protect what we have, to lament over what we don’t have, to focus on buildings and maintenance and to fret over the gaps in the pews/seats caused by the passing of much beloved members of the congregation or demographic change.

But this does not equate with God’s vision for his Church.

God’s vision is not parochial. We are part of a bigger story which only starts local, but speaks beyond the four walls of the building to the whole world.

God’s vision is timeless, as his concern is with the whole of history, and not just getting us past the end-of-year financial statement for 2019.

God’s vision is inclusive, far beyond those who look like us, or – most challenging for me – think like us.

So we must cast off our insecurities and make God’s vision, our vision.

Our focus needs to be not just on the maintenance of what we have, but the building of what we most desire: a community that worships God and responds to the world in the light of that love.

This is a re-call to confidence. Confidence in our mission, in our place in the world and in the innate goodness of the Good News that we have to share. To provide a place where all ages, genders, orientations and colours can find a home, a place of inclusion around his blessed sacraments and his holy word and a place which reaches out to the needy in our midst not just with words, but with action. From the Nursing and Care Homes to the Schools and to those who struggle in poverty, addiction, debt or mental illness.

This is not easy. Many of us feel that we have had too much responsibility already. We have served our time, done our bit, and now it is a time to sit back and let someone else do all the work. Therein lies the problem.

Our churches are largely maintained by a small number of people doing a large amount.

Whereas because God’s vision is for the whole people of God, it should be a large number of people working together to do a little bit each.

There are many ministries in our Churches. Some carry statutory and legal responsibilities, some might seem trivial, many can be rota’d and shared between a large number of people. Many of these tasks are unseen, although some – such as making a contribution in worship – can be quite visible.

Very very few of these ministries require a Dog Collar. Which is good really, because that is the scarcest resource in this place.

Maybe you have served in a position of responsibility before, perhaps you were scarred by the experience because everyone just assumed you’d do everything from now on and you felt unsupported and bereft.

This is the time now when we have to reset our understanding of God’s vision, and recognise that we are called as the whole pilgrim people of God to seek out God’s mission in this world and work together – collaboratively – to grow this part of the Vineyard.

Heed God’s word, for us to be blessed.

Share God’s passion for his creation and all his people.

Work with me, and the whole body of Christ to grow outwards and cast aside out fears and feelings of tiredness and insecurity. Invest (in both time and – sorry to say it – money) in His plans and let us rebuild the kingdom, starting with the parochial and ending with the whole world.



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siLENT: Lent Lunch and Reflection 2019

13th, 20th, 27th March, 3rd and 10th April

Each Wednesday in Lent we will gather at the Vicarage (33 Leat Walk, Roborough, PL6 7AT) to share a Lent Lunch of Soup, Bread and Cheese followed by a period of reflection on the Scriptures which will help us to find stillness and strength in silence and reflection. This Lectio Divina will draw us closer to God over this Lent period and encourage us to let go as we delve into silent contemplation.

If you are anything like me, you might find silence oppressive and challenging, but for this Lent, we encourage you to take up this prayerful, psalm-focussed discipline. There is no charge for the lunch, but we will be collecting donations for the Children’s Society to support their work with the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

It would be most helpful if you were to book a place so we know how much lunch to provide; so please email: or text/call him on 07976 802123.

What do I need?

You will need a Bible, of any translation that you like. If you don’t have one, then there are plenty available to borrow at the Vicarage, and a donation for the lunch. Then just bring yourself, and a friend if you would like. ALL ARE WELCOME and we hope you will benefit from this time of quietness and reflection after a nice soup lunch.

I would also suggest reading this recent article about the clutter in our lives, and the #FEAROFMISSINGOUT which I think is very interesting.

Glenholt Post Office

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Most residents of the locality are aware that the Premier Shop and Post Office recently went bust and there is currently no Post Office services in the area. The Woolwell OneStop/Post Office is due to close in April and the nearest is in Southway: an inaccessible distance for many of Glenholt’s Elderly population.

Community concern in bodily form.

At a Public Meeting held a couple of weeks ago, organised by Denise Mills, over 200 people came: a completely packed Church!

We heard from local councillors, Maddie Bridgeman, Chris Mavin and Nick Kelly who was also the owner of the site, but is not the landlord. The landlord was present but unwilling to speak in public and so Nick Kelley was forced to speak on his behalf. Charlotte Holloway, the Labour PPC for Moor View was present but the sitting MP, Johnny Mercer was unavailable in Westminster (during Brexit Vote week, so we actually did understand his absence).

I had the sense that politics were very much secondary to the issues before us, and the meeting was pretty united: we want and need a local Post Office. The councillors and PPC were especially good in their support and I commend them all for this.

Charlotte Holloway (Labour PPC)
and grinning idiot.

There are two strands to this issue: the reestablishment of a permanent Post Office, which requires the appointment of a subpostmaster and a host of other things to come together, in a viable shop. There are traders interested in that, but this will take time, and I do not think can be sorted out this side of Easter.

The other issue is a short-term provision. I offered S. Anne’s as a venue where a portable Post Office could be brought for a couple of afternoons a week. We are committed to support this and ready to roll. This sort of thing already happens up at the Methodist Church in Wotter.

A local resident, Toni, has been very active to try and get this sorted, and her, Denise, Charlotte Holloway and indeed Johnny Mercer (with whom I had a telephone convertsation) have all been eager to encourage the Post Office to get this short-term provision running.

I have heard nothing. No calls, emails, or even a letter (they could always write me a letter). We are ready to provide this and the Post Office have not even had the courtesy to ask when they might want to come. There is a need. There is a demand (see picture above), but nothing.

The Vicar is grumpy because the Post Office have not got back to us. At all.

That’s where we are at present. I am sorry about that. The issue isn’t from our end, because the Church of S. Anne’s wants to be at the heart of the community, serving the people of Glenholt and Glenholt Park and when the Post Office pull their finger out, we are ready and willing to host them until a permanent solution can be made.

Please encourage your local councillors and MP to continue the pressure on the Post Office. There are links to their emails below.

Maddie Bridgeman

Nick Kelly

Chris Mavin

Please circulate the link to this post around the locality, so residents know where we are at present.

Electoral Roll Revision 2019

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Every six years the Electoral Roll is completely revised and all who attend our churches are warmly invited to complete the form which will be distributed shortly. It also gives us a chance to check our records (under GDPR rules) and for you to ensure Gift Aid and other details are up-to-date. Please complete a form available in Church or downloadable below (this is a gatefolded leaflet) .

Even if you already on the Electoral Roll, you need to resubmit this form. This includes all those who through infirmity are unable to come regularly to church but who receive care (Home Communion etc) at home – you are still an important part of the Body of Christ.

Epiphany Proclamation

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The feast of Epiphany begins with the traditional proclamation which sets the dates for Easter and the rest of the Church year. In an age without watches or calendars it was a useful marker of the year, and is a tradition which should, I believe, be maintained…

Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return. Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year’s culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of the eighteenth day of April and the evening of the twentieth day of April, Easter Day being on the twenty-first day of April.

Each Easter — as on each Sunday — the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death. From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on the sixth day of March.

The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on the thirtieth day of May.

Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on the ninth day of June.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on the first day of December.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the Passover of Christ in the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever. Amen

Christmas Proclamation

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Today, the Twenty-fifth Day of December,

when ages beyond number had run their course
from the creation of the world,

when God in the beginning created heaven and earth,
and formed man in his own likeness;

when century upon century had passed
since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood,
as a sign of covenant and peace;

in the twenty-first century since Abraham, our father in faith,
came out of Ur of the Chaldees;

in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses
in the Exodus from Egypt;

around the thousandth year since David was anointed King;

in the sixty-fifth week of the prophecy of Daniel;

in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

in the year seven hundred and fifty-two
since the foundation of the City of Rome;

in the forty-second year of the reign of
Caesar Octavian Augustus,
the whole world being at peace,

JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to consecrate the world by his most loving presence,
was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and when nine months had passed since his conception,
was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah,
and was made man:

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.

Biblical Literalism – it’s not biblical

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Stephen Tomkins

Where does biblical literalism come from? What is the genesis, if you will, of the habit of mind that makes many Christians read the Bible with a different brain to the one they’d use with any other writing?

It is by no means an essential Christian tenet. No creed says anything about how to read the scriptures. The highest claim the Bible makes for itself is when the writer of Paul’s letter to Timothy says the Hebrew scriptures were “God-breathed”, which is wonderfully suggestive but hardly precise or dogmatic. I mean, Adam was God-breathed, and look what happened to him.

The Bible is the word of God, Christians believe, but why should the fact it’s God’s mean it has to be read with naive absolutism? Many Christians call the church “the body of Christ” without considering it anything like infallible, or refusing to see its rites as symbolic.

Part of the problem is historical. The deification of the Bible is a result of the Protestant reformation. Before then, the final authority, the ultimate arbiter and source of information in religious matters was the church, with its ancient traditions and living experts. When Luther and friends opposed the teaching of the Catholic hierarchy, they needed a superior authority to appeal to, which was provided by the Bible.

Fair enough. But in defending or reclaiming the Bible from papists and then liberals, evangelical Protestants made it the very heart of the faith. Hence the ludicrous situation where many evangelical organisations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, have statements of faith where the first point is the Bible, before any mention of, for example, God. Hence the celebrated idolatrous aphorism of William Chillingworth: “The BIBLE, I say, the BIBLE only, is the religion of Protestants!”.

One practical problem of this text mania is that the Bible, unlike the church, can’t answer questions, clarify earlier statements, arbitrate disagreements or deal with new developments. So those in search of religious certainty have to find it all in the text: if it says the earth was created in six days, or that gay sex is an abomination, them’s the facts, end of story. And if it forbids charging interest, well there’s always wriggle room.

The other practical problem is that for more moderate Christians, Christ is the heart of the faith, and the Bible offers information and ideas about him and is one of the things that point us in his direction. But if the Bible itself is the heart, then to read it is to enter the Holy of Holies, making it that much harder to accept any normal human ambiguity or inaccuracy in its words.

This effect is magnified by a more recent historical development: the charismatic movement. Even among evangelicals who don’t speak in tongues or put their hands in the air when the sing Shine Jesus Shine, the movement has had profound effects, one of which is that they don’t read the Bible just to be reminded and shaped by its teaching, but to hear what God has to say to them today.

If you read the Bible asking: “What was St Paul saying to the Galatians?” all kinds of critical questions arise: How would first-century Asia Minor have understood these words? Would Paul have phrased it differently to a church he was less pissed off with? Would other witnesses have recalled the events he describes differently? But if you read the Bible asking: “What is God saying to me today?” it seems less appropriate to do anything but accept it at face value.

One last factor in biblical all-or-nothingism is the part that biblical criticism plays in evangelical conversion, which is none at all.

People who convert to evangelical Christianity, including those who grow up with it, are persuaded by the experience of a religious community, and by finding that evangelical theology seems to hold water. All this is totally underpinned by the Bible – it’s the foundation and guarantee. But the only test of its reliability that inquirers are invited to make is to read it and ask “Is this something that I can accept wholesale and entrust my life to?”

It’s generally much later that a convert will have to consider concrete evidence that biblical writers were human beings, capable of being one-sided, of writing myth, of exaggerating, of guessing, of having opinions it’s impossible to agree with.

Some of us, faced with this evidence, shape our faith in the light of it, making the Bible a far more fascinating, revealing and diverse record of human religious experience. But it’s not surprising if for others the evidence comes as an attack that threatens to undermine the foundation of their faith, and has to be beaten off blindfold.

Stephen Tomkins

adapted from an article

Did Jesus’ family not understand him? There seems no reference to his Mother Mary and other family members

Posted Posted in Uncategorized

Well, apart from the Birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, and after the return from Egypt we hear little more: the story of the finding in the Temple aged 12ish in Luke 2:41-52 and then…

Tradition says Joseph was a much older man (and some claim previously married in order to keep the perpetual virginity of Our Blessed Lady, but I think that is rubbish, because unlike us, the Jewish faith has a healthly view on sex, and it would be unthinkable that when it mentions “brothers and sisters” they are step-brothers etc. (There is a looong discussion to be had on Mary, who isimportant, but essentially all the ever-virgin stuff is more about God’s gracethan the condition of Mary’s hymen).

In Luke 2:19 and 2:51 it says both times that Mary “pondered these things in her heart” and so they key question which is still being fully worked out is “Who is this Jesus?” – If you grew up next to him you might mainly think of him as the Carpenter-guy. I often find it amazing when I see members of my Youth Group or my kids doing great,successful, important things, because I changed my children’s nappies and remember Youth Group kids as gawky teenagers, but Jesus did not fully enter into his ministry until he was about 30 (which is where Mark jumps right in). I shouldn’t be surprised that they do such great things, but as with everybody I and presumably the people of Nazareth, Aunties and Cousins found making the jump hard.

Mary clearly is a part of the early group of followers, which was much bigger than just the 12 apostles (I blame the patriarchy for almost writing out women and the peripheral followers). She is mentioned several times along the way and in passing (possibly if the aged Joseph was dead it was Jesus the firstborn’s responsibility) and is at the foot of the cross and in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Tradition says she went with John (to whom she was commended to at the crucifixion) to Ephesus and I have visited her Shrine there.

On “Who are my mother and brothers” listen to this sermon: