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Intercessions for Second Sunday of Lent (Year B): 1 March 2015

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The Collect

Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth, that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion, that they may reject those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Genesis 17.1-7,15-16

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Psalm 22.23-28

Praise the Lord, you that fear him; * O seed of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, O seed of Israel.
For he has not despised nor abhorred the suffering of the poor; neither has he hidden his face from them; * but when they cried to him he heard them.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation; * I will perform my vows in the presence of those that fear you.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied; * those who seek the Lord shall praise him; their hearts shall live for ever.
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, * and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s * and he rules over the nations.

 

Second Reading: Romans 4.13-25

The promise that Abraham would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’). Abraham believed in the presence of the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’ according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Gospel Reading: Mark 8.31-38

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’


 

The RSCM offers: ‘It’s no good claiming to be a follower of Jesus if you are not prepared to have your world blown apart and put back together again. Peter learned this the hard way. He did know who Jesus was, ahead of the others, but he made the mistake of thinking he also knew what that meant. In the course of understanding his mistake, he suffered public humiliation at the hands of Jesus, and later denial and despair. But Jesus did not leave him there. It’s the putting back together that’s important, and the gift of life that comes with it.’

 

Prayers of Intercession

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you ask us to follow you: may we follow you as bread. Knead us and rest us. Raise us, bake us and break us. Set us at the centre and disperse us. Let us be absorbed by others and multiplied in their hearts. Let us be collected as manna or as leftovers. Let us be in twelve baskets when your work is done. For you are the bread of life: we trust you to feed us each with just a fragment apiece, and to fill us with the smallest crumb. *

Lord, when we wander astray, guide us with the light of your truth: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, may the nations of the earth recognise their common humanity, and cease from all hostilities. May the people of the book, the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, learn to share so much in our faiths which unites us and make the holy city of Jerusalem a shrine which we can all share. Restore, we pray, among our leaders, the wisdom to govern in a spirit of service to the common good, free from the all-consuming desire for material gain.

Lord, when we wander astray, guide us with the light of your truth: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, foster in us that questioning interest we feel when we see a new face or hear a new name, when we give attention to someone unknown. And may that interest become respect, and respect flower as reverence in the face of whatever triumphs and wounds, hurts and mistakes, make this stranger unknown and yet knowable, unlikely yet likeable. Lord, many found you to be strange and yet the most vulnerable found healing and peace in your presence. Make friends of us, that we might be ready friends to strangers as strange as ourselves. **

Lord, when we wander astray, guide us with the light of your truth: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, you told us to take up our cross and follow you: we are humbled by your example as you were broken on our behalf. The pain of the cross takes many forms, and we pray for those who are finding it hard to bear. May we neither fall into the error of clinging to our pain when it is futile, nor refusing to embrace the cost when you require it of us. May we be strengthened and comforted by your promise that in losing ourselves for your sake, we may be brought to new life in you.

Lord, when we wander astray, guide us with the light of your truth: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we pray for the departed of all the ages, who have heard your promise and followed your calling. As we are their descendants on earth, grant that we may share with them the life of heaven.

Lord, when we wander astray, guide us with the light of your truth: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

Prayer after Communion

Almighty God,
you see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves:
keep us both outwardly in our bodies,
and inwardly in our souls;
that we may be defended from all adversities
which may happen to the body,
and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


*This is based on Stephen Cherry’s Barefoot Prayers and his meditation for Friday in the first week of Lent.

**And this is ‘Hospitality’, from the Revd Stephen Cherry’s book (Saturday of the first week).

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2002 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

‘The Cross: Meditations And Images’ by Serena Fass

The Cross 001Reflections on the Cross through Images

Foreword by Abbot Timothy Wright OSB

“The Cross, however designed, represents the most horrific way any human being could die. It symbolises the worst that humans do to each other. It shows the most degrading way of treating the human body and is the most cruel method of extinguishing a human life. It allows no comfort to those who stand and watch their loved ones die. Crucifixion degrades judge, executioner, victim and observer. It still continues.

Beyond this degradation, Christians have been empowered to see something greater, and new, emerging from the crucified corpse of the God who became Man, in Jesus Christ. Like so many millions of others, before and since, he was a victim. Nothing in his behaviour was criminal enough to deserve such a capital sentence. The authorities of his time thought differently. To them he was a threat to their power, for Jesus healed people, he did not exploit them. Even on holy days when ‘work’ was not permitted, he brought healing, repairing broken bodies, giving life to the dead, even controlling nature – disempowering wind, expanding a few loaves to feed multitudes, walking on water to save his struggling friends.

Such work can only be a threat to those who hunger for the power to exploit.

That power is destructive, of the victim and the agent, of community and humanity.

Power used for selfish ends always destroys someone else. The power that Jesus brought to the world was a power to affirm, to heal, to expand. Nowhere was this power more convincingly shown than in the manner of his death. He alone held the key to unlock the door, closed tight till then for the whole of human history…the empty tomb, followed by Jesus’ real appearance to Mary Magdalene, changed it all. No wonder the disciples who met the Risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus were so astonished. It is precisely that astonishment we recall when we look at the Cross. Death no longer has any power, not just for a few, but for anyone who sees the Cross as the gift of life, a gift to be shared with the ‘other’, not possessed for myself. That is what makes the Cross unique and precious. Without  it the future is increased pain, suffering and despair. With it we look forward with hope and trust to eternal joy in the presence of God.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. This is the message of the Cross…”


 

Lay Anglicana Review

I must begin by declaring an interest, in the sense that Serena and I have known each other for more years than I can remember, mostly through our shared love of India. Our lives seem intertwined, rather like ‘A Dance To The Music of Time‘ and we recently met again serendipitously at morning service in our Hampshire church.

Serena is a brilliant photographer, and the illustrations alone make a wonderful collection of images of the Cross. Perhaps a quarter of the pictures are of crucifixes, indisputably Christ on the cross. They are from every age and every tradition: ‘from Jerusalem, first through the Middle East and Turkey, then to the Orthodox world [including] the Greeks and the Russians, the Copts and the early independent churches of the Armenians and the Georgians’.  Then…the Catholic Mediterranean, [northern Europe] and the empires of the Portuguese, the Spanish and the British.’

You will find it hard not to look first at the images. But you will miss much if you don’t go on to explore the accompanying meditations, which are also a delight: what could be a better accompaniment to Lent and the road to Calvary?

Depending on which tradition you come from, you may find the crucifix a compelling image or hard to ‘gaze and gaze upon‘.  I admit that I find it hard to ponder the meaning of the Crucifixion when confronted with the horror of the death itself. And the artist’s interpretation I also find intrusive. For me, it is more helpful to have a plain cross to contemplate as it provides a focus as well as allowing the imagination free rein. Serena is ahead of me on this, in that perhaps half of the images are of simple crosses, although in contexts which are again in  incontrovertible reference to the Crucifixion as a summary of our faith.

The remainder are occurrences of the cross as a simple geometric shape. The originator may or may not have intended any Christian reference. They are embroidered, or painted, or sculpted, or the calyx of a passion flower, or, most wondrously, in the markings of a donkey’s coat. Interspersed with the other images throughout the book, they are like the madeleines of Proust,  evoking involuntary memories and:

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
         Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
         Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
         Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
         The land of spices; something understood.

Reviews and Publisher’s Comments

Serena Fass has compiled a collection of many important and beautiful representations of the Cross. Spanning different strands of the Christian faith from the earliest Christians in Pompeii to the present day, and criss-crossing the globe from Norway to Zimbabwe and Peru to Australia. Works are illustrated in a variety of media including architecture, painting, sculpture, ivories, textiles, metalwork, jewellery, as well as examples of the cross manifest in nature. Serena has tried to convey the wide variety of cultural representations that illustrate Jesus’s great commission to “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation”  (Mark 16:15)
“These images, gathered in one place, are an unique experience for the believer and nonbeliever alike. They are extraordinary artistic representations of great beauty from all over the world. Serena Fass’s passion to follow her path is palpable as you turn the pages.”
– David Verey, Chairman of the Art Fund

“…a beautiful book.”
           Mark Amory, The Spectator

Serena Fass has compiled what can only be described as a breath-taking archive… A beautifully designed and well thought out book.”
          Margaret Daniels, The Methodist Recorder

“…a handsome book.”
           Brendon Walsh, The Tablet
416pp • 195x292mm

Picture List price: £25.00

A donation from the proceeds of this book is being made to the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal
Serena Fass is well-served by her publisher, Gilgamesh, specialists on the world of the Middle East from which sprang Christianity and the Cross. If you order directly from them, quoting this review, they will sell it at a £5 discount.

Intercessions for First Sunday of Lent (Year B): 22 February 2015

1146px-The_Rainbow_oil_on_canvas_painting_by_Robert_Delaunay,_1913

The Rainbow, oil on canvas by Robert Delaunay, 1913, Honolulu Museum of Art

 

The Collect

Almighty God,  whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Genesis 9.8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

Psalm 25.1-9

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust; * let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame, * but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord, * and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, * for you are the God of my salvation; for you have I hoped all the day long.
Remember, Lord, your compassion and love, * for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, * but think on me in your goodness, O Lord, according to your steadfast love.
Gracious and upright is the Lord; * therefore shall he teach sinners in the way.
He will guide the humble in doing right * and teach his way to the lowly.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth * to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3.18-22

Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you – not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Gospel Reading: Mark 1.9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Jane Williams says: “Lent challenges us to remove some of our safety nets…but…is not just an exercise in breast-beating and self-testing. Its basic questions are ‘What are you for?’, ‘What do you depend on?’, ‘Where do you get your self-definition?’….All life is utterly dependent upon God. If God did not choose to preserve it, it would not be.  ..Jesus…too is about to accept his part, and to relinquish control, so as to acknowledge dependence upon God alone. But his is the acceptance that is to bring God and humanity together again, as at the beginning. Our Lenten discipline cannot bring us back to Adam’s tsate, or even Noah’s, but it can help us to accept, with gratitude, our creation and re-creation in Christ.”

You can see the whole piece here, by searching for ‘cushion’.

Prayers of Intercession

Lord, show us your ways and teach us your paths. Lead us in your truth and guide us, for you are the God of our salvation.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, although we have thousands of churches throughout this land, at times they seem  so cramped that they barely allow room for you. Help us to knock down the partitions and raise the roofs so that you may come in. May our collective prayers expand the walls and open up the roofs with skylights to let in your heavenly light and radiance, so that those within may be transformed by your love.

Lord, in the austerity of Lent sharpen our awareness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, who gives life to all life,  washing us clean, wiping out our mistakes and healing our wounds, teach us to seek you in the world of the everyday. Rather than a pot of gold to be found at the foot of the rainbow, help us to look for you in the complicated and messy world of our daily life. It is in the here and now that you show us the Way, the Truth and the Life. May we see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.

Lord, in the austerity of Lent sharpen our awareness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, your Son entered a time of solitude in the desert and we, too, are sometimes alone and miss the comfort of human company. Our hearts are in pain and constricted, the arteries of affection are hardened. Open us to your Holy Spirit and lift our hearts high, with your breath filling our lungs. Lord of compassion, fill us with the spirit of forgiveness and grace, that we may believe in our hearts’ core that we are accepted just as we are. *

Lord, in the austerity of Lent sharpen our awareness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, as we enter the desert of Lent, help us to clear the clutter from our crowded lives and find a space to be still. In listening to our own heartbeats, may we find you. In the bleakness, with none of the cushioned comforts of our daily routines, may we be brought face to face with ourselves as we actually are, with none of the masks that form our daily covering, none of our little security blankets. In that space, Lord, we ask you to grow your wholeness in us. Give us a new vision, and make our desert blossom like a rose. **

Lord, in the austerity of Lent sharpen our awareness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we pray for all those who have departed this life into your presence. In the light of heaven, may they join the praise of those who have worshipped you through all the ages.

Lord, in the austerity of Lent sharpen our awareness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


* Based on Jim Cotter’s prayers around Psalm 25

** Based on Ann Lewin’s poem, Lent.

In general, the prayers today are inspired by ‘For lovers of God everywhere: poems of the Christian Mystics’ by Roger Housden.

Prayer after Communion

Lord God,
you have renewed us with the living bread from heaven;
by it you nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
and strengthen our love:
teach us always to hunger for him who is the true and living bread,
and enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material  included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Invitation to Confession (Lent) © The Archbishops’ Council 2002 Collect (1st of Lent) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

‘Online Mission And Ministry’ by the Revd Pam Smith

pam 001
“In 2004 two online churches started in the UK, the Church of Fools and i-church. They were considered so unusual that they both attracted headlines all over the world and hundreds of potential members had to be turned away. While that level of novelty has worn off, people still do a double take when I tell them that I am the priest in charge of an online church. After the double take come the inevitable questions…this book is my attempt to answer all those questions in the depth they deserve” (extract from Introduction)

“Motivation and Longevity (Matthew 13.3-8) (p.113)

As Christians, we seek to be both culturally relevant, so we are heard by the people around us, and counter-cultural in challenging the assumptions and habits that take people further from God or prevent them from hearing the gospel.

The digital world is built for speed. It is possible to have an idea for an online campaign or initiative and set it up within weeks, if not days. If your project is unusual, or you have someone with a high profile involved, it is possible to gain a large amount of publicity very quickly. The downside of this is that things can disappear as quickly as they appear.

One approach to digital ministry is to go for high-speed, high-impact campaigns that have a short lifespan, arousing interest in the Christian message, hoping that people will be motivated to connect with a church that will take them on the next part of their Christian journey.

The counter-cultural strategy is to stay with our online ministry for the long haul, waiting for the seeds we are sowing to germinate and nurturing people in their Christian journey. This is a challenging and possibly a personally costly option. It may be possible to set up an online mega-church of millions of people but it is more likely that a long-term online Christian community will be small and quiet rather than large and exciting, and may not be understood by the wider Church…the commonest question I am asked about online church is ‘What do you do?’ and it is hard to explain that we don’t ‘do’ church – we are church to each other, despite the lack of sacraments or a building, because we are committed to each other’s journeys in the faith and in Christ’s love.

I have been conscious while I have been writing this book that it may sound rather daunting, with large amounts of space given to dealing with the more difficult aspects of online life. The downside of online mission and ministry is no greater than the downside of anything we undertake for God, but there is also a great sense of excitement and enjoyment in exploring a new form of ministry with others who are equally enthusiastic. Because the digital world moves so fast, one of the most striking statements we can make about the  gospel and God’s love is to be there for people and to remain there, praying, welcoming, teaching, comforting and being the good news for whoever needs us.

In the words of the visionary Mother Julian of Norwich, ‘He did not say ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.’ But he did say, ‘You shall not be overcome.’

In the ever-changing digital world, what will not change is the person and nature of Jesus, his ministry of healing, his teaching of God’s love and his death and resurrection. While we have those, we have nothing to fear. ”


 

A review by Joyce Hackney

This new book by Rev Pam Smith, the Church of England’s web pastor, is one of the most helpful books I’ve read for a long time. The subtitle ‘A theological and practical guide’ lives up to its name as far as I’m concerned.

 

In clear, plain, non-patronising language,  Pam Smith explains the use of the internet for Christians. She does not assume any reader knows anything, but takes us through the technology and theology in a way that a beginner – or expert – can understand. The reader is led through the history of the internet to the present day.

 

Whether readers already make Christian contact via the internet, or wish to, or have misgivings about starting, this is an ideal guide. There is advice for everybody, including clergy and others who are led to ministry. She describes the similarities between online and real-world interaction without forgetting to mention the need for caution. We are informed of the advantages and drawbacks of using the internet as a field for Christian work. At all times her information and advice is backed up with Biblical references.

 

I’m sure many of us here in Lay Anglicana will recognise what she’s saying. I was drawn-in more or less as soon as I began to read. Good job I wasn’t on a bus or train while I was saying, ‘ Yes. I did that’ and ‘that’s true’ or ‘I remember discovering that.’

Joyce Hackney


 Some additional thoughts by Laura Sykes

I met the Revd Pam Smith about four years ago, when I first ventured onto Twitter. As she had finished something she was doing and had a spare half hour or so, she tweeted ‘Entertain me.’ Ernie Feasey (@minidvr) and I took her at her word and we began a very silly, but very entertaining exchange about liturgical dance, Joyce Grenfell and her song which begins ‘Stately as a galleon…’. I felt I had found a friend, someone to laugh with in this strange, rather frightening world to a woman in late middle age (all right, old age) venturing into social media for the first time. It didn’t occur to me at the time that what she was offering me was pastoral ministry, but it was exactly that, as I came to realise. We continued to engage on twitter and Facebook despite the fact that, although we agree about almost everything in the Church, in ordinary politics we are at different ends of the spectrum. When we met face to face a few years later, we didn’t need to introduce ourselves and it was like catching up with an old friend.

The Church of England has a document called ‘Ministry in the Church of England’ which includes the following by ++Rowan Williams in the preface:

‘At the very heart of this calling [to ministry] is God’s invitation just to be there, in the middle of the Church, holding it in prayer, seeking God’s will for the Church’s future, trying to put yourself completely at the disposal of God for that future. It isn’t a role that lends itself very easily to self-congratulation, a nice clear sense that you’ve done the job, because there’s always more to discover of God and God’s purpose for the future. You have to become a certain kind of person, not just do a certain number of things. And that can be hard, since we all like to know we’ve done all right, that we’ve ticked the right boxes. But it can also be liberating, because this is a role in which God is helping you become yourself more deeply and fully, through your relationships with the whole community of God’s people’

You will look in vain for any element of self-congratulation in Pam’s book. But that is not the only part of the above description which could have been tailor-made to fit her. Pam, thank-you for all the help which you have been to me (mostly without your knowing it). Thank-you for all that you do, online and offline, to be at the centre of the Church and to offer inspiration to those around you.


Pam2‘Online Mission and Ministry’ is officially published by SPCK on 19 February. This is what they say about the book:

Clergy and churches are increasingly being encouraged to use the internet and social media to promote their ministries. But they may worry about some of the difficult pastoral and theological issues that can arise online.

‘Virtual vicar’ the Revd Pam Smith guides both new and experienced practitioners through setting up online ministries, and considers some of the questions that may arise, such as:

Are relationships online as valid as those offline?
Is it possible to participate in a ‘virtual’ communion service?
How do you deal with ‘trolls’ in a Christian way?
What is appropriate for a clergyperson to say on social media?

 

Online Mission and Ministry
A theological and practical guide
Author
Pam Smith
ISBN
9780281071517
Publisher
SPCK Publishing
Additional information
144 pages. Paperback. (216 x 138 mm)
Our Price
£9.99

 

Intercessions for Sunday next before Lent Year B: 15 February 2015

Iordan_Feodor_-_Transfiguration_of_Jesus

“Transfiguration of Jesus” by Feodor Ivanovich Iordan 1835 via Wikimedia Commons

The Collect

Almighty Father, whose Son was revealed in majesty before he suffered death upon the cross: give us grace to perceive his glory, that we may be strengthened to suffer with him and be changed into his likeness, from glory to glory; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: 2 Kings 2.1-12

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent.’

Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’

Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.’ As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Psalm 50.1-6

The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken * and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting.
Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth; * our God comes and will not keep silence.
Consuming fire goes out before him * and a mighty tempest stirs about him.
He calls the heaven above, * and the earth, that he may judge his people:
‘Gather to me my faithful, * who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.’
Let the heavens declare his righteousness, * for God himself is judge.

 

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 4.3-6

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Gospel Reading: Mark 9.2-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.  As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.


For an explanation of why today’s lectionary is about the transfiguration (but the Feast of the Transfiguration remains in August) see the intercessions for 2013.

The RSCM has: ‘What the three disciples saw was simply what had always been true: that as beloved Son of God, Jesus exists in God’s glory. The presence of Moses and Elijah confirmed him as Messiah, and emphasized what the companions of Jesus had been groping towards in their understanding – that the ‘day of the Lord’ spoken of by the prophets was here. As on Sinai, the cloud indicated both the presence of God and the veiling of human minds from the full impact of his glory.’

Jane Williams writes: ‘Both before and after the Transfiguration, Jesus talks about suffering and death. How are the disciples to put together what they have just seen and what Jesus is telling them? How are they to be faithful to the vision and command of God, which seem to point in differing directions? The vision tells them how important Jesus is, and the command tells them to listen to him while he stresses how he must suffer and die.’

Prayers of Intercession

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, give us grace and strength this day to build up your church in love for the world, in the making of disciples and to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Plant your hope deep within us. Open our eyes to a fresh vision of your kingdom and give us wisdom for the common task. And draw us, and all your Church, deeper into Christ, our foundation and cornerstone, that we may work together as one body in the power of the Spirit and for the sake of your glory. *

Lord, may all that we do be to your greater glory: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, every cloud has a sacred lining and the sparkle of the spirit nestles in the every day. Like gold, you glisten where the earth is broken. You are as close as the air we move through, and the soil in which we are rooted. Give us eyes to see you and a heart and words for praise.**

Lord, may all that we do be to your greater glory: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, open our eyes and ears to the world that surrounds us. You have given us so much to enjoy and to share with others, but so often we are absorbed in ourselves and our own needs and wants. Tear down the walls of separation and rebuild the roads of trust. Set us on fire, we pray, and burn from us all that dims your light. Kindle an answering flame in the lives of those around us that darkness may be driven back and glory stream into this world, transforming it with love.

Lord, may all that we do be to your greater glory: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we are all emerging out of the dark, out of the fog, out of discordant human cries.  When the fog descends, be with us. Though we lose our horizons, may we keep your hand, unseen shepherd, and know you near. When the road uphill seems about to explode our lungs, and the road downhill stretches our faith to the utmost, we know you are travelling with us. Blind as we are, Father, lead us into light, into freedom and into you.

Lord, may all that we do be to your greater glory: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, grant us to trust in your unfailing promise of salvation. We give thanks for all who have passed beyond death and been transformed in your glorious kingdom, especially those whom we love. May we, like them, come to the fullness of your presence

Lord, may all that we do be to your greater glory: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

Prayer after Communion

Holy God, we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ: may we who are partakers at his table reflect his life in word and deed, that all the world may know his power to change and save. This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.


 

*This prayer comes from the General Synod paper GS 1979, Resourcing Ministerial Education in the Church of England; it was used at each meeting of the Task Goup and they commend its use to the wider Church.

**Based on Gerard Kelly’s twitturgies ‘Clouds’ and ‘Glory’.

 

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Post Communion (Sunday next before Lent) © 1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

“Of The Making Of Many Miscs…

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there is no end, and much study is a weariness of flesh,” as Ecclesiastes might have said had he been writing in 2015. Are you sitting comfortably? Refreshing beverage to hand? Very well, then, I shall begin.

The Church has prepared (at least) 39 GS Misc papers for the three-day General Synod which begins on Tuesday. Restricting our interest (for the sake of our collective sanity) to those documents which refer to the laity and lay ministry, they derive from the quinquennial review of November 2010:

GS MISC 995
GENERAL SYNOD (November 2010)
CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW QUINQUENNIUM – NEXT STEPS
1. ‘Three main themes have emerged with absolute clarity. We are called –
i) To take forward the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church of England including the growth of its capacity to serve the whole community of this country;
ii) To re-shape or reimagine the Church’s ministry for the century coming, so as to make sure that there is a growing and sustainable Christian witness in every local community; and
iii) To focus our resources where there is both greatest need and greatest opportunity.’
2. Those words from the Presidential Address to the new Synod in Novermber 2010 shaped the report which the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops brought to the Synod for debate in February – Challenges for the New Quinquennium (GS 1815). The report was well-received in a take note debate, but a number of speakers asked: ‘now what?’

Extract from the agenda for February 2015 highlighting the relevant documents

AGENDAGS 1973

Tuesday 10 February

GS 1977 – Discipleship

GS 1978 – Resourcing the Future Task Group Report

GS 1979 – Resourcing Ministerial Education Task Group Report

GS 1980 – Simplification Task Group Report

Thursday 12 February

GS 1985 – Mission and Growth in Rural Multi-Parish Benefices and GS Misc 1092 – Released for Mission [item 16]

 

As discussed on the previous blog post, Wikichurch: The Next Big Thing? (and its 23 comments)

On almost every page of the papers for this General Synod is a reference to placing greater reliance on the contribution of lay people, and GS 1979, for example, talks of ‘an aspiration to see numbers of volunteer lay ministers of different kinds grow by 48% (to over 17,500)’ (para 45). The numbers of paid lay ministers would grow by 69% to over 2,000.

The huge increase envisaged in the number of lay ministers (to 20,000) is likely to change the character of the Church and power structure within it considerably. At the very least, it would be unwise to assume that such a body of people would simply form a docile lumpenproletariat. . Similarly, if the people in the pews are to be asked to dig ever deeper into their pockets, it would be wise to recall that he who pays the piper often expects to call the tune.

 

And yet, in the interview on R4 this morning with Bishop Steven Croft and Professor Linda Woodhead, only Professor Woodhead mentioned the laity. Given that none of the GS Misc papers I have seen goes into any detail at all as to what sort of lay ministers these are to be,  how on earth we are to increase their number to 20,000, and what responsibility they will be given, it is hard not to form the impression that the laity are the last rabbit to be pulled out of the hat in a would-be conjuring trick by a desperate Church of England hierarchy. Although Professor Woodhead did not use this metaphor, she did point out the oddness that more research had not been done into an analysis of the problems and potential solutions before coming out with these papers announcing decisions which have already been made in principle.
A number of people are still asking ‘now what?’

Wikichurch: The Next Big Thing?

communication

It is possible that the Church of England is about to invent Wikichurch.

It seems highly unlikely that it is intending to do so but, as we know from the law of unintended consequences, the original drafters of a programme do not necessarily long retain their control of its development.

What makes this extraordinary proposition a possibility? Well, having kept the aspirations of the laity successfully repressed for a couple of millennia, the Church is now so desperate about its prospects for survival that it seems to have concluded that only the laity can save the day.

I happen to agree, but then I would, wouldn’t I?

 

What would Wikichurch amount to? Well, here is Wikipedia’s definition of wiki:

A wiki  is an application… which allows collaborative modification, extension, or deletion of its content and structure…While a wiki is a type of content management system, it differs from a blog or most other such systems in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing structure to emerge according to the needs of the users… Wikis can serve many different purposes both public and private, including knowledge management, notetaking, community websites and intranetsWard Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as “the simplest online database that could possibly work”. “Wiki“… is a Hawaiian word meaning “quick”.

My evidence for this sweeping statement? Well, I am gradually ploughing through the vast mountain of paper that has been produced for the General Synod which begins on Monday. ‘Re-imagining Ministry’ is one of the aims of the quinquennium (see GS Misc 1025 and 1054 for starters). And Archbishop Justin began his archiepiscopate by declaring: we live in a time of revolutions.

On almost every page of the papers for this General Synod is a reference to placing greater reliance on the contribution of lay people, and GS 1979, for example, talks of ‘an aspiration to see numbers of volunteer lay ministers of different kinds grow by 48% (to over 17,500)’ (para 45). The numbers of paid lay ministers would grow by 69% to over 2,000.

Let us round this up to 20,000 lay ministers operating in the Church of England. Wow! I can see alarmists heading for the hills, but sometimes it is worth taking a risk. And the risk is what exactly? Lay ministers can be presumed all to be followers of Christ. Whether or not they have any financial reward, they are sticking their head over the parapet and risking criticism by their peers (congregations, fellow lay ministers and clergy) if they get it wrong. Some may be more gifted than others, but it must be a working presumption that they are well-intentioned.

What do you say? About time we made full use of the whole Body of Christ? Or doomed to failure?

“Between the probable and proved there yawns
A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd,
Then see behind us sink the ground and, worse,
Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
Our only hope: to leap into the Word
That opens up the shuttered universe.”
Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

Let us pray…

Intercessions for Second Sunday before Lent Year B: 8 February 2015

1029px-The_Hand_of_God_from_Sant_Climent_de_Taüll_-_Google_Art_Project

The Hand of God from Sant Climent de Taüll, fresco c.1123, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

The Collect

Almighty God, you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

 

First Reading: Proverbs 8.1,22-31

Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth –  when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.  When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

 

Psalm 104.26-37

O Lord, how manifold are your works! * In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, spread far and wide, * and there move creatures beyond number, both small and great.
There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan * which you have made to play in the deep.
All of these look to you * to give them their food in due season.
When you give it them, they gather it; * you open your hand and they are filled with good.
When you hide your face they are troubled; * when you take away their breath, they die and return again to the dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created, * and you renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the Lord endure for ever; * may the Lord rejoice in his works;
He looks on the earth and it trembles; * he touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; * I will make music to my God while I have my being.
So shall my song please him* while I rejoice in the Lord.
Let sinners be consumed out of the earth and the wicked be no more. * Bless the Lord, O my soul. Alleluia.

Second Reading: Colossians 1.15-20

Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

 

Gospel Reading:  John 1.1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


 

(This starts with a solo and builds very slowly – but is exhilarating at the end)

I turn to Jane Williams once again for the best explanation of the lectionary I have read this week. Searching ‘weight’ here will take you to page 36 as the second result. I cannot reproduce it all, but here is part of what she says:

When we call out to God in anger at so much evil and suffering, we are demanding that God explain the world to us, as he himself seems to promise he will, by creation through ‘Wisdom’, ‘the Word’, ‘the image of the invisible God’. We are demanding that God be God. God’s answer is the Word, Jesus. It is, in one sense, no answer because it does not take away the suffering and injustice that we cannot bear to see in God’s world. But Jesus suggests God’s anger and love in the face of suffering. He also suggests a way of living that confronts injustice, that has compassion for suffering, that brings the vitality of God into everything. And he suggests a way of dying that might hold, contain and transform evil and suffering. Is that enough? If not, honour God by demanding to see the ‘image of the invisible God’ through whom all things have bee created and who makes God known to man.

 

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray to God, our creator, sustainer and redeemer. We bless you for the living arc of the sky over us. We bless you for the miracle of light to our eyes and the mystery of it ever changing. And we bless you for your countless mercies to us.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord,  let the light of your guidance shine upon your Church and confer a new spirit upon your people. Unlock the gates of true understanding and let the light of faith shine forth in resplendence. Gather all your people under the shadow of your wings and unite them in harmony, so that they may become like the rays of the sun, or the waves of the ocean, or the fruit of a tree. Drinking from the same fountain and refreshed by the same breeze, may we proclaim anew the good news of the Kingdom to all people.*

Lord, your word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, our creator, still our minds and bodies as we contemplate the marvels of your universe. Help us to become fully aware of the interdependence of our human lives with all aspects of the natural world. When we seem alone in the darkness, puppets of impersonal forces,  we look at the atom, a space both minute and infinite, and each of us in turn seems like a universe. Marvellous and vigorous, splendidly unfolding, we contemplate with awe as, with passion and with tenderness, fresh energy divine brings new beauty to birth.

Lord, your word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord, when we look at the world and the people we live amongst in a narrow way, how narrow they seem! When we look at them in a mean way, how mean they seem! When we look at them selfishly, how selfish they seem! But when we look at the world in a spirit of open-mindedness and generosity, in a spirit of love and friendship, what wonderful people we see we are surrounded by! Lord, we thank you for our community and ask for your help in seeing our neighbours with the same eyes of living love that you see them with. **

Lord, your word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, be a living presence to all those who suffer in mind or body, so that they may feel the reality that you are the light of the world for every season, which can never be overcome by darkness and shines forever for all people. However long our lives, we can never outrun your love. However far our journey, we are never beyond your loving care and you have promised that you will be with us always, even unto the end of the age.

Lord, your word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, you have taught us that the way lies onwards. We cannot turn back, we cannot retrace our steps; we cannot stay still, the way lies on. We shall not be lost, but the way goes on. All things pass but you, O Lord, never change. *** If we perservere in patience, we shall want for nothing. For you alone, O Lord, suffice in all things, for all eternity.

Lord, your word is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 


 

Prayer after Communion

God our creator, by your gift the tree of life was set at the heart of the earthly paradise, and the bread of life at the heart of your Church: may we who have been nourished at your table on earth be transformed by the glory of the Saviour’s cross and enjoy the delights of eternity; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 


The prayers today are based on poems and texts from ‘Worldwide Worship’ edited by John Marks Templeton.

*Abdu’l – Baha p.9

** Horace Rutledge p.160

***Edwin Muir p. 251

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): John 1.1-14 © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton Post Communion (2nd before Lent) © 1980, 1986 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint: Prayers for the Alternative Services comp. David Silk Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Collect (2nd before Lent) © Oxford University Press: The Book of Common Worship of the Church of South India Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000

Heliopher: A Story For Candlemas by Maxim Gorky

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Once upon a time there was a race which was lost in a great, dark forest. The trees stood so close together that the light of the sun could not penetrate the thickly entwined branches. There were also numerous wild animals which fell upon the people, especially the children, when they wandered too far from their parents while they were playing. So everyone lived in a constant state of fear of death and destruction, and a hopeless despair took hold of the hearts of the folk.

Continuous black darkness had strangled all the light in their hearts. They could not love one another any more. They even hated and murdered one another in their rage. Yet they were forced to remain together, for it was impossible for any single man to defend himself against the attacks of the wild beasts. They had lost all hope of ever finding their way out of the forest. Many of the young people did not believe in the light they had never seen, and they mocked their elders, when, with a last weak light gleaming in their dim eyes, they recounted tales of the festive, sunny days of their youth.

Among the people however, there was a young man called Heliopher. He was very much alone, grieving over the misery of his people, and seeking a way of salvation. He bore in his heart an endless longing for light and love in the desolation which surrounded him. Heliopher left his people to seek the sun. For many months and years he wandered through the dangers of the forest and of his own soul, and often, very often, nearly lost all hope and confidence. But Heliopher bravely withstood his enemies, whether within himself or around him, and at last he reached the edge of the forest and saw the light of the sun. In terrible amazement he fell into a swoon, and when he awoke he saw in the twilight that he was watched over in his slumber by beautiful people. In the green meadows stood the simple huts of the sun-people, and Heliopher lived with them in peace and endless joy as the most beloved amongst living men.

Then Heliopher went back to the forest to seek his people. “Come, brothers and sisters,” he said to them, “I will lead you to the light.” At this there was murmuring and frowning, wavering and hesitation, wonder and questioning, incredulous laughter, and finally a jubilant “Yes!” And then, at last, the longed-for departure.

Then the light of the sun shone in Heliopher’s eyes, but the way was long and difficult, and demanded much suffering and sacrifice, and murmuring arose among the people. Some spoke and said, “Let us murder him, the betrayer of the people!” And the dark glow of hatred was in their eyes. Others were wiser and said, “No! let us judge him in the presence of all, for it is dangerous to give the people a martyr.” And Heliopher spoke to his people, and talked about light and love. But the wise ones answered, “You lie! There is no light, there is no sun, there is no love. Let us be darker than the forest and more cruel than the wild beasts. Then we shall be masters of the forest!”

Heliopher answered in great pain, “O believe not, ye wise men, that ye can be victorious over darkness by being more dark, that ye can overcome the wild beasts by being more beastly. Only love is stronger. Only the light of the sun can drive away darkness.”

“Be silent!” said the wise men. “There is no light, there is no sun!” And the people shouted, flinging their arms about in raging despair, “There is no light, there is no sun!” But Heliopher called out, “Follow me!” Then, with his nails, he tore open his breast, and his heart burned with love, and it glowed and shed its beams through the dark forest. He took it in both hands, held it high over his head, and strode forth in front of the people.

In reverent wonder and silence the multitude followed the burning heart.

As they came out of the forest, the people ran in jubilation towards the sun, dancing in its loving rays, and loving one another. But Heliopher knelt down at the edge of the forest, and with the last strength of his outstretched arms he held up his loving, pulsing heart to the light of heaven, and gave his last smile to his people.

 

‘Spiritualise: Revitalising Spirituality To Address 21st Century Challenges’ : Review by Canon Martin Coppen

RSA 'Spiritualise' report on Pdf

Associating, in the archaeology of memory, the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) with typing qualifications, the first surprise for this reviewer was that the Society had become a university (not in the modern sense). The second shock was to read a booklet which actually welcomed religion to a place at the richly-provisioned table of spirituality, even though there are many younger and brighter fellow guests. Dr Jonathan Rowson marshalled the two year project which led to the publication of Spiritualise with the strategic grasp of the chess Grandmaster that he is, but also wrote the report with the conceptual fluency of expression which suggests he could turn a sow’s ear of almost any argument into a silk purse. His width of reference is impressive, choice of quotations illuminating and he has an ability to find gold even in glutinous socio-speak worthy of Pseuds’ Corner.

The report is hopeful, but with a thread of nostalgia running through it. An early quotation (p.8) from the novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson captures this so brilliantly: “I want to overhear passionate arguments about what we are and what we are doing and what we ought to do … I miss civilisation, and I want it back.” In a ‘market society’ (p.83), extrinsic values dominate at the expense of intrinsic. Rowson has to face the difficulties of defining spirituality for the purpose of writing about its virtues for the sceptical public square, while bravely admitting that it is necessary to think the concept cannot be satisfactorily defined (narrowed, reduced), nor those, for instance, of spirit and soul. That is part of the problem in a utilitarian, ‘scientistic’ (a wonderful neologism! p.77) society. Also problematic are strident misconstructions of what religious belief is, which Rowson meets with admirable gentleness in his section rebutting the misunderstandings (pp.30-4).

The six public seminars underpinning the report, which are briefly summarised in boxes in the text and videos online, brought together contributors from a number of disciplines, though there were no ‘professional’ religious. Perhaps some were invited but declined? There are few of us who can hold our own in discussions about neuroscience. Theologians have been padlocked in a cellar out of the way of modern knowledge, but even if mindfulness and atheistic developments in spirituality are helping to bring depth to modern life, the Christian spiritual tradition (just to single out our special interest) potentially offers so much towards what Rowson argues for in his exposition of the four irreducibles of Love, Death, Self and Soul (ch.3, pp.56-78).

In summary, there is so much to admire, cheer, inspire, challenge and stimulate in this booklet that it deserves being taken with real seriousness in the Church of England. Institutional reorganisation may be critically necessary, but misses the point that we reveal our spiritual treasures old and new grudgingly to our faithful and but poorly to the public. I would be really interested in the CofE’s best theological and spiritual minds engaging imaginatively and carefully with Spiritualise. Now that would be Mission.

Martin Coppen is a retired CofE priest living in Andover, Hampshire.

Dr Jonathan Rowson, Spiritualise: Revitalising spirituality to address 21st century challenges (RSA, December 2014) Download from http://www.thersa.org/ .

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