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October 2012 Archive:

Intercessions: 20th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 24): The Glory of God

Job 38.1-7 (34-41); Psalm 104.1-10,26,35c; Hebrews 5.1-10; Mark 10.35-45

Interesting. You know I suggested you look at the readings yourself first and make up your own mind about the theme before looking at any interpretations or suggestions (like this one)? Today reinforces that advice – I had decided that the subject was the glory of God, but David Adam (although he includes the glory aspect) focuses on ‘Lord, as you have called us, make us worthy of our calling‘ with the response ‘Lord in heaven, hear us and help us‘. Raymond Chapman has ‘Bless those whom you have called to be priests and ministers in the Church‘, with no mention of glory. Ah – Perhaps I’d better think it out again?

At this point, I must introduce a new source when the going gets difficult: the RSCM. I am lucky enough to be married to a former organist, who played for the services which I took over a five year period, and was an RSCM member for this time. We still have the copies of ‘Sunday by Sunday‘, which will hold good so long as Common Worship is in use. Perhaps your organist might agree to donate his old copies to a vestry library? It’s worth a try!

First issued in July 1997, Sunday by Sunday is the RSCM’s quarterly liturgy planner, offering…a guide to planning music for worship…are presented with a brief commentary to provoke reflection and assist planning.

Here is what the RSCM had to say about this Sunday in October 2009:

Ambition and conflict rear their ugly heads. The fact that their journey’s goal is Jerusalem, city of Israel’s kings, has gone to the heads of James and John. Blinkered by worldly notions of kingship, the brothers want places of honour when they get there. It’s not like that, though, says Jesus. The world’s norms will be turned upside down. We are called to model a different pattern of relationships. Honour and glory are in the gift and will of God.

And, just to settle it, let us look at the collect:

God, the giver of life, whose Holy Spirit wells up within your Church:
by the Spirit’s gifts equip us to live the gospel of Christ and make us eager to do your will,
that we may share with the whole creation the joys of eternal life;…

That doesn’t really settle anything, but it’s the passage from Hebrews which for me is the most memorable of today’s readings:

The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements – surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?…‘Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, “Here we are”? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together?…


Lord, you deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward; in your great goodness, lead us into the ways of justice and peace, that all that we do on earth may be to your greater glory, until we rejoice in glory in your kingdom.

To the greater glory of you, O Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


The Church of Christ

Lord, bless all those whom you have called to your ministry. As the Methodists celebrate Laity Sunday today,  we too pray that your ‘disciples may transform the world through service and witness.’  Fulfil your purpose in us, that we may always be faithful to the divine priesthood of Christ. Free us from worldly ambition and guide us to serve you faithfully in all things. Lord, make us a serving church, a giving church and a loving church.

To the greater glory of you, O Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, whose beauty is beyond our imagining, and whose power we cannot comprehend: show us your glory so far as we can grasp it, while shielding us from more knowledge than we can bear until we may look upon you without fear.

Lord, your Spirit is around us in the air we breathe; your glory touches us in the light that we see, the fruitfulness of the earth, and the joy of its creatures. You have written for us your revelation, as you have granted us your daily bread: teach us how to use it.*

To the greater glory of you, O Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


The local community

Lord make us useful in the community in which we live. Make us gracious, make us generous, and make us aware of where we can help. We thank you for the gift of laughter with friends, and we thank you too for the moments when we see the seriousness and the meaning of life. We thank you for those whom we love, and those who love us and for all the difference it has made for us to know them.

To the greater glory of you, O Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


Those who suffer

Lord, we ask you to watch over those who are suffering, whether from physical ills or mental anguish. We pray that through their weakness you may give them strength to endure, and in their wanderings you may show them the way. We worship you, who are infinite love, infinite compassion and infinite power, and we ask you not only to be with those that suffer, but that they may be granted a sense of your presence.

To the greater glory of you, O Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.


The communion of saints

Lord, into your hands we commend the departed, that they may rest in peace and rise in glory. Light us all with your grace, and grant through your infinite mercy  that we may never be separated from you, in your kingdom where you will be our glory and everlasting light.

To the greater glory of you, O Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.




The illustration is by Bruce Rolffe via Shutterstock

*Based on words of John Ruskin,  prayer #209 from Angela Ashwin’s ‘the Book of A Thousand Prayers’

Church of England Bishops: John Pritchard

It seems safe to assume that Bishop John Pritchard wrote his own biographical note on the diocesan website, which I quote by way of illustration that here is a perfectly serious churchman who wishes us to think he does not take himself too seriously:

John Pritchard was born in Salford (under the shadow of Manchester United floodlights), the son of a clergyman. He was determined not to be ordained himself as there was no money in it and you rarely saw your father. He went to Arnold School, Blackpool and then read Law at St Peter’s College, Oxford. While at Oxford he met his future wife, Wendy, who was doing a Maths degree. His summer job was as a Blackpool tram conductor and he has therefore seen the Illuminations more times than anyone could reasonably want.

Whilst at Oxford John recognised a calling to ordained ministry and he went on to take qualifications in theology at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham. He was ordained in 1972.

The Crockford’s entry is as follows:
+PRITCHARD, The Rt Revd John Lawrence. b 48. St Pet Coll Ox BA70 MA73 Dur Univ MLitt93. Ridley Hall Cam 70. d 72 p 73 c 02. C Birm St Martin 72-76; Asst Dir RE B & W 76-80; Youth Chapl 76-80; P-in-c Wilton 80-88; Dir Past Studies Cranmer Hall Dur 89-93; Warden 93-96; Adn Cant and Can Res Cant Cathl 96-02; Suff Bp Jarrow Dur 02-07; Bp Ox from 07.

He received a Certificate in Pastoral Theology at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He was ordained as a priest in 1972. From 1972 to 1976 he served as a curate at St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham and, from 1976 to 1980, he was Youth Chaplain and Assistant Director of Education in the Diocese of Bath and Wells. In 1980 he became priest in charge of WiltonTaunton. From 1988 he was Director of Pastoral Studies at Cranmer Hall, Durham and, from 1993, the college’s warden. In 1996, he became Archdeacon of Canterbury and a canon residentiary of Canterbury Cathedral. He was consecrated as suffragan Bishop of Jarrow in January 2002.

On 11 December 2006 it was announced that Pritchard would become the 42nd Bishop of Oxford. Having taken office at his confirmation-of-election in London on 23 March 2007, he began his ministry in the diocese on 8 June 2007 after a service of inauguration at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

Bishop John entered the House of Lords in 2010. He lists his interests as “education, world development, environment and Camp Ashraf“. He chairs the Church of England’s Board of Education and National Society Council, and became controversial in March this year when launching ‘The Church School of the Future Review‘. The Guardian reported: Pritchard also called for the Christian culture and ethos in Anglican schools to be protected “against a rising tide of strident opposition” and the “onset of so-called ‘aggressive secularism’.” The Humanist Blog reacted predictably:

In some ways, the news is hardly surprising – religion uses religious schools to evangelise shock horror! – but for those atheist or agnostic parents who send their parents to a Church of England school because they don’t really have a choice, an evangelisation push is unlikely to be a welcome development. Church of England schools are often seen as offering a fairly mild religious education but, if the Bishop of Oxford has his way, that could be about to change. And if does, the Church may find that more people start to question why it has control of large numbers of publicly-funded schools.

In 2008, he supported the application by Muslims in Oxford to broadcast the adhan from the minaret of a mosque. As a result, he received hostile comment and letters of complaint. Still, in the words of King Umberto I after a failed assassination attempt by an anarchist, ‘ce sont les risques du métier’ (these are the hazards of the profession).

It makes a change: the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, has reportedly been sent death threats by outraged so-called Christians for supporting local Muslims’ application to broadcast a daily call to prayer from the minaret of their mosque in the city. The application has been strongly opposed by local evangelicals. One of the letters called for the bishop to be beheaded. Stephen Bates, The Guardian, 12 Mar 2008

His wider responsibilities include chairing the Church of England’s Board of Education and being episcopal spokesperson on education in the House of Lords. He is also President of St John’s College, Durham and on the Trustees of Church Army, SPCK and St George’s House, Windsor.


Bishop John is a prolific writer, and has had the following books published by SPCK:

Practical Theology in Action (1996/2006), The Intercessions Handbook, (1997/2011), Beginning Again (2001/5), Living the Gospel Stories Today (2001), How to Pray(2002), The Second Intercessions Handbook (2004), Living Easter Through the Year(2005), How to Explain Your Faith (2006), The Life and Work of a Priest (2007), Going to Church: A User’s Guide (2009), Living Jesus (2010),  God Lost and Found (2011)


The Wikipedia entry describes Bishop John as an Open Evangelical. He presumably voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, though his diocese as a whole rejected it.  He voted in favour of  adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by  those in favour of women bishops.

Leap in the dark assessment

Bishop John seems an attractive character who is not afraid of controversy.

Mercy: Thought for 19th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 23)

Job 23.1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22.1-15; Hebrews 4.12-16; Mark 10.17-31

I discussed on the intercessions page for today my reasons for thinking about this set of readings, which are about anguish,  as linked by a common plea – if unspoken – for the mercy of God. We have known since the beginning that God will have mercy:

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.Genesis 9.16
But are we equally good at showing mercy to those who need it from us?

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter our enemies
And make them fall.
Confound their politics;
Frustrate their knavish tricks;
On thee our hopes we fix;
God save us all!

So goes the second verse of the UK national anthem, the one that is so politically incorrect that we are rarely allowed to sing it these days. But the sentiments are surely exactly those of our compatriots during two world wars in the last century, and it is human nature, when attacked, to concentrate on foiling one’s enemy’s (dastardly) aims rather than focusing on the need to show mercy.
‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’, saith the Lord. Romans 12:19

Judge not, that you be not judged, for with what measure you mete it shall be measured unto you again – pressed down and running over. Matthew 7:1-2

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.Micah 6:8
Justice and mercy are often competing goals, and Shakespeare based ‘The Merchant of Venice‘ on this moral dilemma. Portia’s speech is probably the best-known utterance on mercy except for the Bible:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronéd monarch better than his crown.
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings.
But mercy is above this sceptered sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute of God himself;
And earthly power doth then show like God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: Exactly. Or, as St Matthew put our Lord’s words: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7
Alexander Pope was inspired by this to write his ‘Universal Prayer’:

Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.


Sir Thomas Browne elaborates:
By compassion we make others’ misery our own, and so, by relieving them, we relieve ourselves also. 

Jeremy Taylor used the metaphor of the rainbow:
Mercy is like the rainbow, which God hath set in the clouds; it never shines after it is night. If we refuse mercy here, we shall have justice in eternity. 
Let’s give C S Lewis the last word on justice and mercy:

A busload of ghosts is making an excursion from hell up to heaven with a view to remaining there permanently. They meet the citizens of heaven and one very big ghost from hell is astonished to find there a man who, on earth, had been tried and executed for murder. ‘What I would like to know,’ he explodes, ‘is what are you doing here, you a murderer, while I, a pillar of society, a self-respecting decent citizen am forced to walk the streets down there in smoke and fumes and must live in a place like a pigsty.’ His friend from heaven tries to explain that he has been forgiven, that both he and the man he had murdered have been reunited before the judgment seat of Christ. But the big ghost from hell replies, ‘I just can’t accept that!. What about my rights!’ he keeps shouting, ‘I have got my rights, just like you!’ ‘Oh no!’ his friend from heaven keeps reassuring him, ‘It’s not as bad as all that! You don’t want your rights! Why, if I had got my rights, I would never be here. You won’t get your rights, you’ll get something far better. You will get the mercy of God.‘The Great Divorce’

When Adam in ‘Paradise Lost’ asks Michael the meaning of the “coloured streaks in Heaven,” his angelic teacher instructs him that they have been placed there to remind the sons of Adam that:

Such grace shall one just Man find in his sight,
That He relents, not to blot out mankind,
And makes a covenant never to destroy
The earth again by flood, nor rain to drown the world
With man therein or beast; but where He brings
Over the earth a cloud, with therein set
His triple-coloured bow, whereon to look
And call to mind His Covenant.

Isaiah reassures us that the Covenant is everlasting:
For the mountains shall depart, the hills be removed, But My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed’, says the Lord, who has mercy on you. Isaiah 54:10
O Lord our God, whose power is unimaginable and whose glory is inconceivable, whose mercy is immeasurable and whose love for mankind is beyond all words, in your compassion, Lord, look down on us… and grant us… the riches of your mercy and compassion. For to you are due all glory, honour and worship…now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen From the Greek liturgy

The illustration is by Firewings via Shutterstock


Church of England Bishops: Dr Alastair Redfern

After taking soundings, Lay Anglicana has decided to continue with our episcopal portraits, but to drop the justification that they are all in the melting pot for Cantuar. Few bishops are national figures and, unless one is a member of General Synod, most of the laity have little knowledge of those with whom they have had no personal contact.


 Background and Career

Our next subject has a Wikipedia entry  even shorter than Bishop Tim Thornton:

Alastair Llewellyn John Redfern (born 1 September 1948) was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. He was ordained in 1976 and was a curate in Wolverhampton. He then became a lecturer and later vice-principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon. From 1987 to 1997 he was the Canon Theologian of Bristol Cathedral before his ordination to the episcopate as suffragan Bishop of Grantham. In 2005 he was translated to be the Bishop of Derby. Redfern received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 2001.


Crockford’s has:

+REDFERN, The Rt Revd Alastair Llewellyn John. b 48. Ch Ch Ox BA70 MA74 Trin Coll Cam BA74 MA79 Bris Univ PhD01. Westcott Ho Cam 72 Qu Coll Birm 75. d 76 p 77 c 97. C Tettenhall Regis Lich 76-79; Tutor Ripon Coll Cuddesdon 79-87; Hon C Cuddesdon Ox 83-87; Can Res Bris Cathl 87-97; Dioc Dir Tr 91-97; Suff Bp Grantham Linc 97-05; Dean Stamford 98-05; Can and Preb Linc Cathl 00-05; Bp Derby from 05.

This makes it clear that Bishop Alastair not only has a BA (and accompanying MA) from Christ Church Oxford, but also from Trinity College Cambridge.

We learn from the diocesan website that  Bishop Alastair is married to Caroline. He has two children, Elizabeth and Zoë, from his marriage to his late wife, Jane.

He has been a member of numerous committees in the national Church.  He is also co-chair of the Inter-faith Network. In wider community circles he has volunteered for several roles throughout his ordained ministry, including work in night shelters for the homeless, working with Oxfam and Christian Aid, being a member of a steering group for regeneration in Lincolnshire communities and contributing to local radio.


These include ‘Ministry and Priesthood: Exploring Faith‘ (1999), Being Anglican‘ (2000),’ Oversight and authority in the nineteenth century church of England: a case study of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (2001),  ‘Thomas Hobbes and the Limits of Democracy‘ (2009), Public Space and Private Faith (2009),    ‘Growing the Kingdom: The Letter to the Hebrews as a Resource for Mission’,(2010), Community and Conflict (2011),  and Out of the Depths (2012).


Not only did Bishop Alastair vote against the adoption of the Anglican Covenant, he was joined by 23 out of 24 clergy in his diocese who voted against or abstained, and 26 out of 28 laity who did likewise. (How splendid!).

He also voted in favour of   adjourning the General Synod debate to enable reconsideration of amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.

I have found nothing more definite about Bishop Alastair’s churchmanship (perhaps someone will tell us in the comments) but suggest that this indicates that he is no sort of extremist, and if he is an Evangelical is likely to be of the Benny Hazlehurst variety.

Leap in the dark assessment

I detect a definite twinkle in the eye of the Lord Bishop of Derby. In this address, he compares human beings in the 21st century to Legion, the person  who had all those competing voices in his head whom Jesus healed (Luke 8.26-39). We too are beset by competing voices, and must make an effort to clear our minds in order to concentrate on what is important.  I think he would make a congenial bishop.

The Bible As Story

If I were to say to you these days, ‘Of course the Bible is just a story’, you would probably be highly offended, thinking that I was claiming that it is untrue. ‘Don’t tell stories’, we say to a child, meaning ‘Don’t tell lies’.

But imagine yourself back in childhood for a moment. And let us assume (at least for the purposes of this post) that it was at that age, at your mother’s (or father’s!) knee,  you first learnt of God. It was also at that age you would have learnt about Father Christmas, nursery rhymes and stories of dungeons and dragons. All mythical – except the story that isn’t. And somehow over the next few years you (fairly easily) learned to distinguish between the two. But you still (again for the purposes of this post) continued to read stories, only now you called it fiction.

Why is that so? Why do people read fiction (or watch films) which they know not to be a real depiction of events? Isn’t the answer that fiction very often is true, even if it isn’t real. If you want to understand the human heart, read the novels of Dickens. Or Balzac. Or Trollope. Or…

The Bible is full of stories, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. I expect you know the hymn, ‘Tell Me the Old Old Story’, which  was written by a member of the Clapham Sect, born just before Queen Victoria came to the throne. And now I will tell you a story about that:

This ex­cel­lent hymn by Miss Hank­ey, of Lon­don, has been trans­lat­ed in­to ma­ny lang­uage­s, and has been set to sev­er­al tunes. Dr. Doane has this to say re­gard­ing the mu­sic by which it has be­come pop­u­lar, and the oc­ca­sion on which he com­posed it: “In 1867 I was at­tend­ing the In­ter­na­tion­al Con­ven­tion of the Young Men’s Christ­ian As­so­ci­a­tion, in Mont­re­al. Among those pre­sent was Ma­jor-Gen­er­al Rus­sell, then in com­mand of the Eng­lish force dur­ing the Fen­i­an ex­cite­ment. He arose in the meet­ing and re­cit­ed the words of this song from a sheet of fools­cap pa­per—tears stream­ing down his bronzed cheeks as he read. I wrote the mu­sic for the song one hot af­ter­noon while on the stage-coach be­tween the Glen Falls House and the Craw­ford House in the White Mount­ains. That even­ing we sung it in the par­lors of the ho­tel. We thought it pret­ty, al­though we scarce­ly an­ti­ci­pat­ed the pop­u­lar­i­ty which was sub­se­quent­ly ac­cord­ed it.” Sankey, pp. 256-7

Human beings love stories. Mark seems in no doubt in his gospel that he is telling us a story. He gets off to a cracking start, not with the birth of Jesus, but his baptism by John. John, as it were, is the warm-up act for Jesus, who appears in verse 9. He is baptised (v9); the Spirit descends on him like a dove (v10); a voice from heaven says ‘thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased(v11); the Spirit drives him into the wilderness (v12); he is tempted by Satan during 40 days in the wilderness (v13); he comes into Galilee and begins to preach (v14). How’s that for narrative pace!

What are the miracles if not stories? At this point I want to persuade you to read, if you have not already done so, Jeffrey John’s book ‘The Meaning in the Miracles‘, published 10 years ago. Poignantly, it was chosen as Archbishop Rowan Williams’ Lent book for 2002, when he was still in Wales.

Jeffrey John brilliantly explains the layers of meaning in the miracles in a highly readable way, a page-turner in itself. He enables us to peel off the layers, as in an onion. But a special sort of onion, as described by the faun, Mr Tumnus, in ‘The Last Battle’: “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.”

C S Lewis ends ‘The Last Battle’ with his idea about the story that we are all caught up in:

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”


This post is based on a contribution as a digidisciple to the Big Bible website dated 5 October 2012, ‘Tell Me The Old Old Story’.

The main, Magritte-like, illustration is by Bruce Rolff, via Shutterstock. I chose it because of its mystery, and hint at hidden worlds yet to discover.

Intercessions for 19th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 23) (Year B) 2012 series 1: Mercy

Job 23.1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22.1-15; Hebrews 4.12-16; Mark 10.17-31

These are tough readings. I expect you know the lovely psalm 139.8? Job turns it on its head with

‘If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me;

The psalm is a complaint to God on the same lines as Job, ending with: ‘My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my gums: and thou shalt bring me into the dust of death’

Hebrews begins: ‘The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow;’

Mark’s gospel is the story of the rich young man who does not want to give it all away: ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

Although most of us have felt like this at some point in our lives, and have been helped through prayer, I think it is difficult to base intercessionary prayers for the whole congregation on our pain, concentrating on the pain. Instead, I suggest we base the prayers on asking for God’s mercy, which is hinted at in the gospel and, not for the first time, we are saved by the Collect:

O God, forasmuch as without you we are not able to please you;
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;


Lord, in times of need may we know your mercy and grace; through Christ our King, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.


¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we have allowed our Church to be distracted into division and debate. We pray for your help in turning instead to concentrate on mission. We ask you to inspire the choice of a new Archbishop of Canterbury to lead the Church of England and perhaps the Anglican Communion into a new chapter of our life together. May the Church learn to accept the help of each according to their ability, whether male or female, priest or lay, and may the Church also seek to give to each according to their needs.

 Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; in your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.

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

Have mercy on all whose wealth in this world holds them back from the knowledge of where true riches are to be found. Inspire the rulers of wealthy nations like ours to feel compassion for those that are poor, not only those in poorer countries but also those on our own doorsteps. In your mercy, Lord, do not send the rich empty away but show them how their wealth can be used for good, without waiting for ‘the authorities’ to do everything.

 Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; in your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, we pray for all that see you in simplicity and humility, for all who find you in the service of others. We ask you to bless all who seek to consecrate their lives to you, and we pray for any who have lost their faith and their way.

We pray for all who are choked by their riches, for people possessed by their possessions, for all who are afraid to give and afraid to share, for all who have amassed wealth but are poor in spirit, and for all who are suffering through the greed of others.

God, we thank you for all who have sacrificed for us, for all who have enriched our lives through their goodness, for all who have been gracious and generous to us. Teach us in turn to be generous and ready to give. Make us springs of strength and joy to all whom we serve.

 Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; in your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

We commend to your care all those who find life too difficult; those who have daily to face tasks with which they cannot cope; those who are daunted by the business of life itself; those whose families make demands on them which they cannot meet; those who cannot summon up the strength to do the things they know have to be done. those who feel they cannot go on. *

 Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; in your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

(After a prayer by St Columba)

Lord, allow us to keep a door in Paradise. That we may keep even the smallest door, the farthest, darkest, coldest door, the door that is least used, the stiffest door. If so it be in your house, O God, if so it be that we can see your glory, even from afar, and hear your voice, and know that we are with you, O God.

 Lord, have mercy; Lord, have mercy; in your mercy, Lord, hear our prayer.


The illustration is by Kostas Tsipos, via Shutterstock

* From ‘Further Everyday Prayers’

Candidates for Cantuar: Graham Kings


 The Bishop of Sherborne looks a very jolly prelate, radiating bonhomie in every direction. In fact I am tempted to commission a Toby jug of him, so representative is he to look at of a certain type of John Bull Englishman, if not of Falstaffian proportions. But if you look below the surface, even in a necessarily superficial piece such as this, it is apparent that Bishop Graham is both a more complex, and perhaps a less jolly, character than this would indicate.

Graham’s wife, Alison is a psychotherapist, and Hon Sec of the Guild of Psychotherapists in London.


Graham Kings  was born on 10 October 1953  in Barkingside, Essex on the eastern outskirts of London.  He was educated at Buckhurst Hill County High School and then spent a ‘gap year’ as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards on a short service commission at   Sandhurst. Bishop Graham then studied theology at Hertford College, Oxford, followed by Selwyn College, Cambridge and he studied for a PhD from the University of Utrecht.


He trained for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Following ordination he served as a curate in Harlesden for four years until, in 1985, he moved to Kenya as a Church Mission Society (CMS) mission partner to teach theology at St Andrew’s College, Kabare (in the foothills of Mount Kenya). In 1992 he returned to Cambridge to become the founding Director of the Henry Martyn Centre for the study of mission and world Christianity and affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity of the University.

Dr Kings became vicar of St Mary’s Islington in 2000 where, according to his admiring Boswell on the diocesan website, he quickly made his mark as a forward thinking, innovative teacher and pastor. Crockford’s more prosaically has:

* +KINGS, The Rt Revd Graham Ralph. b 53. Hertf Coll Ox BA77 MA80 Utrecht Univ PhD02. Ridley Hall Cam 78. d 80 p81 c 09. C Harlesden St Mark Lon 80-84; CMS Kenya Rest of the World 85-91; Dir Studies St Andr Inst Kabare 85-88; Vice Prin 89-91; Lect Miss Studies Cam Th Federation 92-00; Overseas Adv Henry Martyn Trust 92-95; Dir Henry Martyn Cen Westmr Coll Cam 95-00; Hon C Cambridge H Trin Ely 92-96; Hon C Chesterton St Andr 96-00; V Islington St MaryLon 00-09; Area Bp Sherborne Sarum from 09; Can and Preb Sarum Cathl from 09. 


He also served with the Bishop of Salisbury on the Liturgical Commission and the Mission Theological Advisory Group of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion Network for Inter-Faith Concerns.

He has a developed media awareness, as evidenced by the summer he led a camel called Cleo from Oxford to Selwyn College Cambridge in an imaginative ploy for the CMS to raise money for education in Kenya.


Amazon shows two books currently in print, Signs and Seasons: A Guide for your Christian Journey (2008) and Offerings from Kenya to Anglicanism: Liturgical Texts and Contexts (2001).

In 2003, Kings co-founded Fulcrum, the online evangelical Anglican journal, and is its theological secretary. The aim of Fulcrum was to “renew the evangelical centre of the Church of England”. Dr Kings, as he then was, has commented on the creation of personal ordinariates for disaffected traditionalist Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.



When Salisbury diocese voted on the Anglican Covenant (which it rejected), one bishop voted in favour of the Covenant, and one against it. As Bishop Nick Holtam is known to be against the Covenant, it seems a reasonable presumption that Bishop Graham voted in favour.  He had written on the need for Anglicans to be homogeneous like grapes, rather than heterogeneous like marbles.


Leap in the dark assessment

Do you remember the Grand Old Duke of York? If the CNC believes that Anglicans consist of grapes in serried ranks, Bishop Graham might be the one to lead them to the top of the hill, and then presumably down again?

Thought for the 18th Sunday after Trinity (Proper 22): Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 2:1

Paul the apostle famously found his faith in a blinding light on the road to Damascus, but most of us cannot claim anything so dramatic. Some days, the most any of us can manage is Lord I believe; help thou mine unbeliefMark 9:24

Matthew Arnold expressed his despair in ‘Dover Beach‘:

The Sea of Faith was once, too, at the full and round earth’s shore, lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, retreating, to the breath of the night wind down the vast edges drear and naked shingles of the world.
Noel Coward said Life without Faith is an arid business 
But Faith, an unswerving unshakeable faith, is sometimes difficult to find:
Our technological civilization has cushioned life on all sides, yet more than ever before, people helplessly succumb to the blows of life. This is very simply because a merely technological culture cannot give any help in the face of life’s eternal tragedy; here only an inward foundation can help. Externalized as they are, too many people today have no ideas, no strength, nothing that might enable them to master their restlessness and dividedness. They do not know what to make of trials, obstacles, or suffering—how to make something constructive of them—and perceive them only as things that oppress and irritate them and interfere with lifeF W Foerster, ‘The Cushioned Life’
But here the French come to the rescue, in the shape of Blaise Pascal.
You have to bet. It is not voluntary- you are already embarked [on life’s voyage].
And not to bet that God exists is to bet that he does not exist. Which side will you choose? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in opting for the side that God exists. If you win, you win everything. If you lose, you lose nothing. So you should wager without hesitation that he exists. I tell you that you will also win in this life; and that at every step you take along the way you will see so much certitude of winning, and so much and so much nothingness in what you are hazarding that you will know in the end that you have bet in favour of something certain and infinite. ‘Pensées’ #54
I told a Turkish friend about Pascal once, and she was deeply shocked at what she regarded as such a cynical reason for having faith in God. But Christianity allows us to use our reason as well as our emotion, and I think Pascal, whose faith was deep and genuine and who also said:
Be comforted. You would not be seeking God if you had not already found Him, was just trying to talk to the most logical people on earth in a language they could understand.
Tolstoy said:
We have one infallible guide, and only one: the Universal Spirit which inspires each and all of us, implanting in every individual a yearning for what ought to be – the same spirit which causes the tree to aspire towards the sun, which causes the flower to shed its seeds in autumn and which impels us instinctively to draw closer together.
Lucerne, 1857
Wordsworth speaks of:
one in whom persuasion and belief had ripened into faith, and faith become a passionate intuition‘The Excursion’ Book IV, line 1293
In the end, we have to be prepared to make a leap of faith.

Did Jesus live? And did he really say
The burning words that banish mortal fear?…
Between the probable and the 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 shattered universe.

Sheldon Vanauken‘A Severe Mercy’1
Professor Vanauken was a friend of C S Lewis, who describes how he finally took this leap:
You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed …I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought or great emotion. It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake. ‘Surprised by Joy’
We started this thought with our bad days, when our faith wobbles. But let us not forget our good days, when we can echo with feeling the words of Job,9:25 set so marvellously to music in Handel’s Messiah that I challenge you to say them without your spine tingling:
‘I Know that My Redeemer Liveth!’

Finally, I end with the same thought as the passage from Hebrews with which this post began, the strapline from June Butler’s blog:

Faith is not certainty so much as it is acting-as-if in great hope.



If my selection of singer for ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ is not classical enough for you, I suggest you follow the hyperlink instead, which leads you to a rendition  by Isobel Baillie. The reason I chose this one is that I was left in no doubt whatsoever that the singer does indeed have faith.

1 I am unfortunately unable to quote the poem in full for reasons of copyright but you can read it if you follow the hyperlink.

The illustration is by Tim Pillinger – view my workCeltic Cross Abstract Acrylic in Red Gold Black & Blue. A canvas showing a cross. On the cross is a knot pattern based upon a three point grid. Each has a different function, but without all three it would not work. Sound like anything?


The Charismatic Movement in Britain: A Personal View by Joyce Hackney

I write this post  from my own experiences of The Charismatic Movement as a pew-filler over nearly fifty years.  Most of my Christian life has been spent in the Anglican Church. I knowingly had my first Charismatic experience when I was 17 years old.


What the Charismatic  Movement is as I know it.

The Charismatic Movement is the name given to the revival, including during divine service, of the overt practice of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as exercised in the Early Church  and about which St Paul answers questions  in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14.

The Charismatic Movement in the Church of England uses the ordinary Anglican liturgy.  There may be times during the prayers when someone speaks a message from the Holy Spirit, just as someone may add to an intercession. The speaker might be the vicar or a member of the congregation. It can be in English  or in a tongue which is then interpreted by someone else. After a hymn, usually the last one, there may be members of the congregation singing for a minute or so in tongues or even wordlessly while the rest of those present are moved to go quiet or to join in. Sometimes a musician may be inspired to play in the Spirit. A person with a gift of dancing before the Lord might dance. Occasionally there may be a time of healing with the laying-on of hands and perhaps anointing with oil when a leader is told by the Spirit that someone in the congregation is sick. More often, there will be a special service dedicated to healing which will be advertised around the Deanery or more widely. All things, as the New Testament says, done in decency and order. This sort of Holy Spirit public activity I’ve seen happen when two or three local churches combine for an event, not just in the Anglican church.

If a newcomer has never before seen or heard The Holy Spirit so obviously move through a congregation then he or she might be taken by surprise. The King James Version of the bible says it is a sign for unbelievers otherwise visitors ‘will think you are all mad’:

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. (1 Corinthians 14 . 20 -25)

But the J B Phillips translation says it is a sign ‘not for unbelievers but for those who already believe, otherwise they’ll think you are all mad’. Phillips comments that the original makes more sense that way and that somebody probably copied it wrongly at some time in the past.

  My brothers, don’t be like excitable children but use your intelligence! By all means be innocent as babes as far as evil is concerned, but where your minds are concerned be full-grown men! In the Law it is written: ‘With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; and yet, for all that, they will not hear me’. That means that tongues are a sign of God’s power, not for those who are unbelievers, but to those who already believe. Preaching the word of God, on the other hand, is a sign of God’s power to those who do not believe rather than to believers. So that, if at a full church meeting you are all speaking with tongues and men come in who are both uninstructed and without faith, will they not say that you are insane? But if you are preaching God’s word and such a man should come in to your meeting, he is convicted and challenged by your united speaking of the truth. His secrets are exposed and he will fall on his knees acknowledging God and saying that God is truly among you (14.20-25)


Why then, why now?

There have been revivals and renewals throughout Church history. They happen when the time is right for them,when the Holy Spirit leads people to lead them. Until the latter half of the last century, the Church of England  did not appear to be led to want to revive the customs of the Early Church. The Lord must have a reason. Tom Wright told a gathering at a Charismatic church I used to belong to that  we are living through a hinge time. Of course The Holy Spirit has never left us so perhaps we have a need as human beings in this generation more so than in the past to perceive God with our senses.

Over the centuries there have been references in fiction and in lives of the saints to tongues, ecstatic utterances,visions, healings, prophecy,’transports’ and so on. Mostly they read as if it was an individual thing. I haven’t come across much mention of collective experience later than Paul’s advice to the young churches. There was perhaps the odd sect here and there in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I’ve never been to a Quaker or Shaker meeting. I’m told from those who have that there are Waitings on The Lord in silence unless or until somebody is moved by the Holy Spirit to say something. That description reminds me very much of a charismatic Anglican prayer meeting or the time of prayer during a service. When deciding what to include in the New Testament, to my mind the Fathers must have thought Paul’s advice worth including, believing that it was ongoing or would come back. I must emphasise that I am not a scholar of Church history,it’s just what seems reasonable to me as an ordinary churchgoer.

In my mid to late teens when I was working in local government, news of  the resurgence of Gifts of the Holy Spirit in whole congregations or to individual vicars was being discussed by colleagues. It was reported in newspapers and on the TV in tones of surprise by journalists who didn’t seem to know whether to be respectful or not.I wasn’t to hear the term ‘Charismatic Movement ‘ for another ten years.

Scripture was a compulsory subject in every UK school so there would hardly be anybody in the country who hadn’t heard of what happened in Acts 2 and in the conduct of the Early Church but most of us thought it was something that had been experienced only in the past and had no expectation that it would be repeated in our lifetime. Until it happened to us or we witnessed it, that is. My father  said he was told by a lay reader relative not to worry, I’d only got what the disciples had and it was harmless. Some young people of a nervous disposition got it now and again. It sounded rather as though I’d picked up some weak virus.

The generation just above me had been through a war, travelled the world and seen many things. Some were sceptical,others said nothing would surprise them. Attitudes varied. On reflection, remembering that when we ‘young people’ used to tour geriatric wards and old folks’ homes singing old hymns and reading the Bible to the generation that survived the trenches, how often we were called over afterwards to be told a story that began ‘I had an experience’, I realise if those old people been listened to when they were young, the Church might have noticed much earlier that the return of the Spiritual Gifts was on its way.


What of the future?

I’m not really in a position to comment on such criticisms as I’ve read. All the links I can find lead to comments on the practices of foreign churches or of other denominations. However, I have heard first-hand accounts from Christians who have left certain denominations and come to the Church of England because of what sounds like bias, undue emphasis on certain styles of worship and being belittled. They say they have been told they ‘have not The Spirit’ (as Paul puts it) if they have not been through a specific recordable experience of Baptism in The Holy Spirit as described in Acts 2, or if they don’t speak in tongues. I have never encountered this teaching in the Church of England. Surely we’ve all encountered lay and clergy alike from whom The Holy Spirit radiates but who’ve never even met anybody who speaks in prophecy or tongues.

The biggest change in worship I have seen is in the growth of the internet. In online chat and services the Holy Spirit has certainly been present. God does not restrict Himself to where two or three are physically present in person.


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

The illustration is by Andy Lindley, downloaded from Twelve Baskets under licence. Called ‘When Pentecost Came’, the text is from Acts 2 with the flames of Pentecost superimposed.

Joyce Hackney has been a regular contributor to the Lay Anglicana forum, and also to the comments on the blog posts. She was an active participant in Lay Anglicana’s ‘house group’ which joined the Big Read’s discussion of Tom Wright on Mark’s gospel.  Thank-you Joyce! Ed.

Celebrating National Poetry Day: Chris Fewings

Today is national poetry day. Anglicans have much to celebrate – our liturgies old and new are loaded with poetry; there’s poetry in any translation of the Bible, not least in the Psalms; there’s poetry in our hymns. Two Anglican priest-poets spring to mind: George Herbert who died of TB in 1633 after a few years as a country parson, and R.S. Thomas, a Welshman with a cut-glass English accent who died in 2000, bequeathing (along with poetry on other themes) many, many poems which question the nature of God and our relationship with him as a scalpel questions flesh. Both were consummate craftsmen and were highly innovative in their use of line and rhythm and metaphor. Both searched their own hearts.

Many people who flirt with George Herbert seem to stick with one poem, ‘Love bade me welcome’, which is a pity. What about the flight of Easter Wings? What about ’God’s breath in man returning to his birth’? Or the spring resurrection in The Flower:

Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart
Could have recover’d greennesse?

Maybe it’s the hospitality of ‘Love bade me welcome’ which attracts. Poems can invite us in: the author may have included more than one interpretation for us to explore, or we may bring our own. We might uncover new riches in a well-loved poem many years after we first met it. (In a similar way, when I visit an Anglican church I feel welcome, and sometimes I’m aware of a rich feast: I might help myself to something from the architecture, from the light at the window, from a hymn, from a smile or a kind word. I often feel myself pulled further in towards some undefined second course, some intangible gift.)

So here it is:


Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sinne.

But quick-ey’d love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lacked anything.

A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here;

Love said, you shall be he.

I the unkinde, the ungratefull?

Ah my deare, I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?

My deare, then I will serve.

You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:

So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert

The last four lines are incredibly compressed. Insert at least one long dramatic pause (after ‘blame’) and imagine what the eyes of guest and host are doing there. After that, like the prodigal son, the guest offers to serve, but instead is offered an outstretched hand to lead him or her to the feast.

But the poem’s yours to read as you wish, George Herbert’s gift to you. In his book The Contagion of Jesus launched on his 90th birthday, the Benedictine monk Sebastian Moore delights in telling us the story of a young friend with no religious upbringing coming across this poem for the first time, aged 17. He thought it described a good sexual encounter, overcoming all his inhibitions. Sebastian writes “Herbert’s poem registers at every level, from the nervous adolescent having his first sexual experience to the divine.”

I keep coming back to the shame/blame lines – Love takes the blame, but we are always trying to claim it back! I’ve used one of the lines in this short poem on my website.

There’s recently been a discussion on this site on whether it’s legitimate to rewrite hymns. The general consensus was that it’s not – still less, then, a revered poem. Yet sometimes I need to tweak or rewrite poems, prayers, Bible verses, creeds to enter more deeply into them. (Wendy Cope has added to my appreciation of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land by rendering it brilliantly in five limericks!) Sometimes it’s a single word I change. It’s a round trip – I end up back at the original, with a deeper appreciation.

So for what it’s worth here’s my moustache on the Mona Lisa (see Marcel Duchamp). It goes a bit hippy at the end.


To George Herbert with love

Life bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back
Unwilling to engage.
But quickfoot life, observed me grow slack
From my first entrance in
Drew near to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here.
Life said, That’s you baby.
I, the undead, the ungrateful?
Ah my deare, I cannot dance with thee!
Life took my hand and smiling did reply
Who made thy feet but I?

I see your point, but I’ve messed up.
I think I’ll just sit this one out and have another drink.

The music came over me in waves. I shut my ears and it seeped into my soul. The room fell away; the sun warmed my cold bare feet on the dewed grass. Life’s hand was still in mine, and catching the dawn of hope in my eyes, pulled me to my feet, towards her, away again, jiving, twirling, swirling, jumping. The music was in the ground, and the dance never ends.

Chris Fewings

For some, church is inaccessible and poetry (or other arts) does some of the job that religion once did: words serve as sacrament, as I wrote on the last national poetry day. Others might approach church as if it were a poem or an anthology. For those whose faith is in prose, a little of the power of poetry to subvert words and juggle them joyfully might not go amiss.



The Church of St Andrew, Bemerton, is known as George Herbert’s Church. It is in the parish of Bemerton. In George Herbert’s day the other little church in the area was St Peter’s Fugglestone which now comes within Wilton parish although in Herbert’s day there was the one parish of Bemerton-cum-Fugglestone. On the 14th June, 1934, the stained glass in the West window, as shown here, which had been given by admirers of George Herbert, from all over the world, was unveiled by the Bishop of Salisbury (Dr St.Clair Donaldson). It depicts the Poet and his great friend Nicholas Ferrar. Caroline Townshend and Joan Howson were responsible for the window’s design and execution.” Photographed by Weglinde, and downloaded from Wikimedia under CCL

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