Welcome to our webcast video service, to be found by way of this link:
I am delighted today to welcome Bishop David Williams, the Bishop of Basingstoke, to share a reflection with us.
At St Peter’s, Canon Sue Wallace is presiding at the Eucharist and preaching.
At St Stephen’s, The Rev’d John Staples will preside and preach.
Next Sunday, 23rd August, Canon Sue will kindly be with us again at St Peter’s at 10am;
Fr Stephen Holmes will be at St Stephen’s at 10.45am;
and Fr James Sharp, our friendly neighbouring pioneer priest from Winton, Charminster and Moordown, will welcome people back to worship, presiding and preaching at St Augustin’s at 10am. Huge gratitude to them all.
Lucinda is looking forward to preaching at St Peter’s at 10am on 30th August, when I preside again, after our imminent Summer break.
Similarly, at St Stephen’s at 10.45 am on 30th August, we benefit from the long-standing ministry of another LLM, Roger Marley, soon, I hope, to become our ‘Reader Emeritus’ – he has served for 35 years! (I sense a party is needed to celebrate!).
The office of Licensed Lay Minister (aka Reader) signifies particularly well, amongst other things, the partnership in ministry of the whole people of God with all people of goodwill in seeking the common good. Put simply – we all need each other! And Christians can ‘start the ball rolling’ or join-in with good things others have initiated. Partnerships of mutual respect are what it’s all about. It’s not easy; but it’s the way God does things.
These partnerships flow from the outgoing love of God, and are making real our Diocesan priority that the church be active as an agent of the transformation of society. They are local, cherishing a lateral sense of working alongside others whom we can get to know and trust. They are, for us, Christian lay ministry because they are rooted in the ‘becoming man’ of God in Jesus, and in His death and resurrection. So, for us, these partnerships have distinctively Christian inspiration and vision.
As we seek inspiration from God for how He wants us to be in the future, there is no short cut from waiting on God. And, as we wait, the Gospels (within my reading of them) make clear that partnerships are going to be an essential facet of church life as, in due course, we look beyond the pandemic.
What do I mean? Look, for example, at how Jesus is shown in all four Gospels as insisting to an extraordinary degree on the co-operation of those he was healing, or those through whose trust a miracle was effected. So … the man with the withered arm must stretch it out. The man born blind must walk the length of the town, his eyes caked with clay, and wash it off. The ten with leprosy must simply take him at his word and report themselves to the priests as free of the disease; and only as they were going there did the healing take place. The palace officer from Capernaum, like the Syro-Phoenician mother, must turn round on the strength of his bare statement and go home to find the child recovered. The disciples must go and see how much food they can raise between themselves before the multitude can be fed. It isn’t so much the crude wisdom of ‘God helps those who help themselves’ as the much stranger and much more profound truth that God chooses not to act solo in relation to the world, but always with and through its creatures. Bishop John V. Taylor, who was the Bishop of Winchester who first welcomed me to work in this diocese (as Chaplain of Elizabeth College, Guernsey) in 1984, put it this way:
“It has been God’s loving purpose from the beginning to raise those creatures to more responsible partnership with their Creator. That’s the basis of all our thinking about partnership” (1998, 13).
Of course, no one wants to pretend that partnerships are easy:
But they do seem to be the way God does things.
Enjoy the week!