From the Clergy - October 2017
Revd Jayne Lewis reflects on the meaning.
As I write, we are currently in the liturgical season of Creationtide.
The Season of Creationtide is a time for Christians throughout the world to pray, reflect, and act, on issues related to the care of all of Creation, the environment and the world in which we live.
To quote the Church of England’s website: ‘Celebrating Creationtide marks a shift in the Christian understanding of our relationship to creation under God. The consequences of teaching over recent centuries that humanity has been given domination over creation are clear in the complex environmental crisis we now face. It is important that Christians rediscover older traditions of a godly relationship of humanity to the wider created order.’
In this season, we pray through the prayer of penitence: ‘we are sorry…we have broken our relationships with one another [and] abused your fragile creation.’ During September, we watched the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma and are warned that such storms will become more common due to climate change. We have also watched as the hillsides of Bangladesh have rapidly become covered by thousands of tents as Rohingya Muslims have fled persecution from Myanmar. I find it impossible to watch these scenes without deep sadness and concern.
‘Wherever there is suffering there will be seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades, embitters and enrages.’ These are the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel prize winner who is currently “state counsellor” – her official government title – for Myanmar. After decades of adulation she now finds herself at the centre of global anger and disappointment.
Fellow Nobel peace prize winner, Desmond Tutu has written to Aung San Suu Kyi, from his retirement, breaking his vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in her country.
“The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya is filling us with pain and dread. We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have a greater firepower than others- but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus; Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice.
Discrimination doesn’t come naturally; it is taught. My dear Sister: if the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. If a country is not at peace with itself, that fails to protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country. It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to be leading such a country; it is adding to our pain.
As we witness the unfolding horror, we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back to the way of righteousness. God bless you. Love, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu Hermanus, South Africa.”
Creationtide is a fitting time to celebrate Harvest. In our Harvest Festival services, we will be collecting non-perishable foods to replenish our Foodbank, supporting those locally who are finding it difficult to afford to feed their families.
The images of refugee camps in Bangladesh, reinforce the importance of the collection we will making on behalf of Toilet Twinning. Their campaign this year reminds us that ‘there are more displaced people in the world today than at any other time in history.’ Toilets and basic hygiene education are vital for the health of those living in these camps; food aid cannot be effective without them.
With a heavy heart, I look outside the window and soaring gently on the warm thermals in the sunshine between rain-showers is a beautiful red kite, a symbol of hope for us all.
As the RSPB website explains: This magnificently graceful bird of prey was saved from national extinction by one of the world's longest running protection programmes, and has now been successfully re-introduced to England and Scotland. The population that survived the persecution in the old oak woods of mid-Wales has spread, and continues to go from strength to strength. This spring I watched a pair of Red Kites building their nest in Great Bowden.
Our bible readings throughout Creationtide have focussed on conflict, reconciliation and forgiveness. As we pray our Creationtide prayer ‘we are sorry…we have broken our relationships with one another [and] abused your fragile creation.’ May God’s forgiveness transform our hearts with desire to restore God’s creation to the beauty and goodness he intended.
Revd Jayne Lewis
From Chorister to Succentor
Former member of St Di’s choir, Revd Catriona Cumming, has been appointed to a prestigious role at York Minster.
On Monday August 7 this year York Minster announced a new appointment. The Revd Catriona Cumming, assistant curate with Melton Mowbray Team of six parishes, is to become Succentor and Minor Canon at the Minster.
Catriona has sung in church choirs since the age of ten. As a student she sang with York University’s Chamber Choir and with the choir of St Olave’s church, York.
She was a chorister singing soprano in St Dionysius Church Choir for four years between graduating from York University with a degree in Politics in 2005 and leaving in 2011 to train for the ministry at Westcott House in Cambridge. During her curacy at Melton Mowbray Catriona has sung with the group 8ctave(www.singingpriests.co.uk).
Traditionally, the Succentor (literally ‘sub-chanter, or under-singer’) acts as Deputy for the Precentor – the member of the clergy responsible for delivering music and liturgy in the cathedral. Catriona will become fully immersed in the daily routine of services and prayers at the Minster, singing the Offices at Evensong and Matins, presiding at services and contributing to the planning and delivery of worship at the Minster.
As Succentor, Catriona will also support pastoral activity and will become fully involved in the life of the community at York Minster.
Posts like this were once commonplace, providing priests with opportunities to gain experience of cathedral work at an early stage in their ministry. In recent years there have been fewer – she is the first person to take up the post at the historic venue for 20 years.
The Chapter of York is committed to providing opportunities for ministry development. It is delighted that Catriona will be joining the clergy team in the Autumn – she will be installed at Evensong on Sunday October 8.
Catriona, reflecting on her appointment, said:
“ Having graduated from York University in 2005, this feels a little like coming home, although the university, the city and I have changed quite a lot in twelve years. I am grateful to the people of Melton Mowbray for their love and support and for their role in shaping my calling to serve Christ. This will stand me in good stead for this challenging role at York Minster.”
To the Melton Times she confessed “it was a delight to be told I had got the role. It feels a bit like going home because I know the city so well. One of my great memories was walking past the Minster to go to work. In the same way that St Mary’s is part of Melton, the Minster can be seen from miles away and is so important to the community.”
Catriona started her career in 2010 in retail management for the Clarks shoe company. Then came a change of direction, working as a volunteer co-ordinator for the Christian charity Torch Trust for the Blind, staying for a year before being selected for training. She was ordained in Leicester cathedral in 2014.
All fall down – the point of Adam and Eve
Derek Williams explores an age old story
If Eve were the only girl in the world, and Adam the only boy – where on earth did their son Cain get his wife from? That conundrum is sometimes used to dismiss the biblical story of Adam and Eve as having neither truth nor relevance. But there are ways of looking at it that preserve the integrity of Scripture and important Christian truths.
One is that they were physical beings. “Adam” is a generic term in Hebrew for “mankind” and is related to the word for “ground”. “Eve” simply means “living”. Genesis rules out any idea of humans being pre-existent souls (or aliens) clothed temporarily in flesh or trapped on earth, and any idea of reincarnation.
Another is that for the purposes of the biblical story Adam and Eve are the founders of the race from which the Israelites, and later the Christians, would emerged. They were the first to become aware of God’s existence and character as creator, boundary-setter (the command to abstain from one tree), and task-giver (to tend the environment).It says nothing about the possibility of there being other hominoids existing at the same time. God always works from small beginnings.
And then the snake slithered in. God can “speak” in all kinds of ways through scenery, circumstances, events, animal behaviour and human antics. Some prophetic messages were prompted by external factors (as in Jeremiah 18:1-12). Temptation can assault us in the same way. In the Bible snakes are seen by Jesus as a symbol of deception in Matthew 23:33; and Satan is referred to as the serpent in Revelation 12:9 and 20:2.
Eve saw the tree was “good for food”. So maybe the snake was enjoying it; maybe birds were pecking at it, too, with no ill effects. Did the windfalls smell appetising? Was the fruit smooth, pleasant to the touch? All her senses were assaulted. Temptation is not usually an intellectual thing.It attacks on several fronts and especially through feelings and emotion. She could have turned away, but consciousness overwhelmed conscience. It often does.
People are naturally curious and we are constantly tempted to push our luck and cross the boundaries. Eve ignored the possibility of unforeseen consequences; she did no risk assessment. She didn’t consider if God’s warning was designed to protect her from hidden dangers. By disobeying she and Adam gained only the hurtful personal experience of guilt and lost a close personal relationship with God (the meaning of “death” in the story).
Paul asserts that “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). The habit of doing what we feel like, of keeping God at a distance, is part of human culture now. It’s a virus we’re all infected by. We’re inherently self-centred, not God-centred.
We can overcome temptation but we remain vulnerable to misjudgement and hasty words and actions. The rest of the Bible describes how slowly God sought to remedy the situation, culminating in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is a summary of an extended discussion about Genesis 2-3 on Derek’s website, https://gentlerword.blogspot.co.uk/
Make “Truth” your 2017 Resolution!
Derek Williams offers some contemporary considerations of this well-used word
Oxford Dictionaries declared that “post-truth” was their word of the year for 2016. It means that objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals. It is a development of a word popularised by US comedian Stephen Colbert. He described “truthiness” as preferring one’s wishes to be true rather than believing what is factually true.
It has long been the case that many newspapers and some broadcasters gear their coverage to pander to the interests and opinions of their audiences. In turn, we tend to buy, or tune into, media that reflect our views. On social media, where fake news is now spreading like fire, and as destructive, we “like” or “follow” those who think and feel like us. So unconsciously we collude with “truthiness” and contribute to “post-truth” attitudes.
It’s not a new problem. The seeds were sown at least as far back as the 1960s, when traditional constraints were questioned and cast off in the name of freedom. Rapid developments in the scientific community revealed that previously-held truths were inaccurate, and demonstrated that with every new discovery we learn how much more we don’t know.
So it’s easy to shrug our shoulders with Pontius Pilate, faced by Jesus on the one hand and a mob baying for blood on the other, and ask cynically “What is truth?” Who knows? And we adopt the fallacy that all “truth” is relative: what is true for you may not be true for me. Hence, “post-truth”: if it feels good to me, it’s true.
That is not what Christians believe. Without needing to become obscurantist, and certainly needing to retain an enquiring and open mind, Christians believe that there are crucial objective truths that never change. And those truths form the basis for successful, meaningful, truth-full Christian living.
They are summed up in the creeds that we recite in our worship. Because they are summaries, they are open to discussion and interpretation. But they are based on some absolutes, not least that God is the supreme determinant of what is true and false, right and wrong. Some truths are not relative, even if our brains, superb as they are, cannot fully comprehend both the what and the why. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
When Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) he meant that he was the truth about God and the truth about life, demonstrated in human form. He spoke and lived truthfully.
The apostles call us to do the same as far as our human limitations allow. Instead of being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” we are to “speak the truth in love” and thus “grow up into Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
So this year, why not resolve to learn more of God’s truth; consider rationally all sides of arguments and issues; and be measured in voicing opinions?
An extended version of this article together with Bible study suggestions is on Derek’s website: www.gentlerword.blogspot.co.uk
New Team Rector Appointed
After a false start and following the lengthy process described by George Marshall in the May edition this year a new Team Rector has been appointed. We welcome the Revd Barry Hill and look forward to his taking up office early next year.
Bishop Martyn describes how the new post will work. We reproduce his letter to the parishes in full below.
“The Bishop of Leicester is pleased to announce the appointment of Revd Barry Hill as the next Team Rector of Market Harborough combined with Diocesan Resource Church Enabler.
Barry will take up his new appointment in Market Harborough in Spring 2017 (working half-time) and this role will be combined with a new half-time diocesan role enabling the development of ‘Resource Churches’.
These are churches committed to the principle of generous giving and to sending people out from the Resource Church to establish fresh expressions of Church and new congregations and to resource mission and ministry across a wide area. Over the coming years, the Market Harborough Team will grow into being the first ‘Resource Church’ in the Diocese of Leicester.
Market Harborough is ideally placed to become a Resource Church both because of its size, its ministry team (which will be further strengthened by the appointment of an Associate Rector) and its location
Barry has worked with the Diocese of Leicester as Diocesan Mission Enabler since 2009. During this time he has overseen the development of fresh expressions of Church across the diocese and has played a significant role in encouraging local churches in their calling to serve their local community. He was previously Curate of Emmanuel Loughborough and has a background in the aviation business.
Bishop Martyn commented: “I am delighted that Barry Hill is taking up this exciting new role. He has been a very effective Mission Enabler in the diocese and this is the natural next step as the diocese commits to a strategy of developing a number of Resource Churches in different contexts around the city and county.
“Market Harborough is ideally placed to become a Resource Church both because of its size, its ministry team (which will be further strengthened by the appointment of an Associate Rector) and its location. I am particularly pleased that our first Resource Church will be in a vibrant market town and will be well placed in the coming years to resource mission and ministry in the rural South East of the county.”
Revd Barry Hill said: “The opportunity of a significant increase in resources for churches in making a bigger impact across a region is a wonderful God-given opportunity as we seek to invite the nine out of ten people who are not a regular part of a Christian community to know the fullness of life Jesus offers.
“I am delighted to take on this new role, working with very able colleagues in serving and leading the five Anglican churches of Harborough, and working in partnership with the wider community, the other churches of Harborough, and the Welland Valley Mission Partnership."
The Diocesan Resource Church Enabler role is being funded by the Church Commissioners and the diocese is hoping to access further funding to develop a number of other Resource Churches around the city and county.
Please pray for Barry, Pep and their two children as they prepare for this significant transition.”
Retreat at Monastero di Bose San Masseo Assisi, 16-19 June 2015
This summer I had an unforgettable experience, staying at a monastery on the edge of Assisi, home of the much loved St Francis. Going on retreat, usually for three days a year, has always been important to my Rule of Life, and a major spiritual resource for my ministry. This year, partly in preparation for receiving a new curate but also because of my life-long love of Francis, I decided to venture beyond our shores and try something new! The opportunity arose for me to visit a unique ecumenical community, now occupying a beautifully restored 11th Century monastery, that Francis himself is thought to have prayed in. The experience was profoundly renewing and will stay with me for a very long time.
I first discovered St Francis at the age of 14, and my vocation is bound up with his influence, the way that Jesus Christ has spoken to me through him. Interestingly, San Masseo sits astride Assisi’s hill, more or less equidistant between the various Franciscan pilgrimage sites.
It is close to the Church of San Damiano (a short walk away), in which Francis, the romantic young knight, first heard Christ call out to him: ‘Francis, repair my Church, which you see is falling down!’ Ten minutes’ walk up the hill, on the eastern side of the city, is the Basilica of St Clare, Francis’ female counterpart, who founded a contemplative order of nuns, living in strict poverty. In this Church hangs the original Byzantine cross from which Francis heard the Christ speaking to him.
Further down the hill, on the Assisi plain, is the large Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, containing the little Portziucola Chapel, restored by St Francis himself. Here he heard, in the words of Matthew, the call to ‘Preach the kingdom, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers… taking nothing for the journey.’ All of which St. Francis, with his early companions, went out to do! He set the world on fire with the love of Christ and showed that the Gospel is first of all a life to be lived.
The last site that I walked to from San Masseo (alongside the dramatic Basilica of St Francesco, which frames the whole city), is the hidden hermitage of the Carceri, some six kilometres walk up into the beautiful hills of Mount Subasio. Here is a place of immense stillness, peace and contemplation, where Francis adored God and his bounteous creation, allowing himself to be equipped for a life of mission and service. I too was privileged to pray there, a still point in a fast turning world. Having walked there in the heat, I was grateful for a lift back to Assisi with some visiting Catholic priests, one of them a Congolese seminarian, who told me about life in his home country.
Let me say a little bit more about San Masseo, where I spent most of my retreat. The monastery is a home of the Bose community, from North Italy, who live a life of prayer, hospitality and manual labour. All guests are welcomed, after the Rule of St Benedict, as if they were Christ. This in itself is a transforming experience. The hours of prayer, in the beautifully simple stone Church, are profound and melodious. I had never experienced the liturgy in Italian before! Lectio Divina is an important part of their life, listening for God speaking through the Bible. Food is simple and wholesome. The monastery is surrounded by vineyard and olive grove, which sounds romantic, but involves back-breaking work for the small community of brothers. Guests are housed in a well-equipped guest house. I truly appreciated, within the context of the liturgy, the gift of silence, for meditation, reflection and writing.
How did San Masseo affect me? It restored in me the simple joy of faith, of knowing that ‘the Lord is near’. I was reminded that at the heart of my active life is prayer, the wellspring from which all else flows: an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I found myself, as an Anglican, strongly connected to the universal church, of which we are a part, and much encouraged by our ministry in Harborough. I found myself drawn to make connections between faith and contemporary life at many different levels. And I glimpsed an outflow of creativity, as I reflected, prayed and read, including the following stanza - part of a longer poem, ‘Pilgrimage of Trust’ - about my time in Italy:
Returning to the fire which first drew me
Landscape bathed in iridescent light
Drawing from the well which first irrigated me
Water cascading onto thirsty ground
Inhaling the breath of wind flowing freely
The Spirit blows where it wills, Assisi fills
Feeling the fertile earth beneath my feet
Bursting with life, flower and grasses greet!
The invitation go on Retreat, joining with a community of prayer, enjoying their hospitality and soaking in the beauty of silence and creation, is a life-changing opportunity. It may take us time to overcome our inner restlessness (it does for me), but it is well worth it. The benefits are immeasurable. Why not try it? God may be trying to show you something.
Rev James Shakespeare
An Amos Trust Alternative Pilgrimage
Two and a half years ago I went on a pilgrimage to The Holy Land and visited many religious sites. I also went to a Palestinian refugee camp and a farm as well as hearing speakers from Palestinian and Israeli organisations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
This time the emphasis was on the plight of the Palestinians living in Israel/Palestine. The pilgrimage was ‘alternative’ because, for the majority of the time, we visited Palestinian projects in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Hebron, the Jordan Valley and Haifa. We did have a couple of days to visit the sites in Jerusalem and Galilee as well.
We learned what life is like for people who have to live in the shadow of the separation wall, are forbidden to drive on main roads, and endure the uncertainly of house demolitions.
The wall at the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.
The painted slogan says ‘We can’t live so we are waiting for death’.
The skips are for rubbish, which is infrequently collected and so has to be periodically burned.
Hebron, where Israeli settlers have moved into the Palestinian city. We could show our passports and walk past the IDF soldiers into the settlement. Palestinians cannot do that, or return to their confiscated homes in the area.
A demolished house on the left.
Palestinians have to apply for a permit to build, but these are rarely granted, and so they are forced to build in the knowledge that the IDF can come along and bulldoze their houses at any time and with little warning.
The house on the right was rebuilt with the aid of Amos Trust volunteers shortly after Easter. The family of nine had been living in one room in a nearly refugee camp. Although they hadn’t fully moved in all 35 of us were invited inside, seated and served mint tea! This house is less likely to be served with a demolition order because of the involvement of the international community in its rebuilding
What hope for the future?
Peacemakers like these men, a Palestinian ex-fighter and a Jewish rabbi, who became united in the cause of peace once they started talking to one another – something that just doesn’t happen under normal circumstances - and started the Roots Project.
For more information please visit websites such as:
The Amos Trust - www.amostrust.org,
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - icahduk.org/
The Roots project - http://www.friendsofroots.net/
Ma’an Development Centre