Fr. Matthew Cashmore

Deacon in the Church of England. Trustee SPCK. Father, husband, son. Digital media & publishing consultant.

Tag: god

Sermon on St. Andrew

This morning was a little on the nerve racking side. At the 9am BCP Communion service I was preaching the sermon on St. Andrew and also helping serve communion (but not serving) and at the 10:30am BCP Matins I was leading the service and preaching the sermon… all a bit scary.

I think I came through it okay, I’ve had nothing but great feedback – but I always fear the bad feedback (and actually the most useful) comes later in the week and never at the door to the church as people are on their way out or over a cup of coffee and biscuit at the back.

So here’s the sermon along with a recording. I’m sorry the audio is a little off with errant noises – I was trying out a new app on the iPad that I was also using to read my sermon from… I need another method for recording I suspect.

Oh, and whilst I remember – here’s my parting column for The Bookseller on leaving publishing and bookselling and heading to train as a Priest.

The sermon I preached today is blatantly inspired and outright stolen in some cases from this fantastic short sermon given at Jesus College in Cambridge.

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Right click to download the audio of my St. Andrew’s Day Sermon

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Please sit.

What an exciting day! Well I say exciting; it’s actually quite scary. As you all know I’m well into my first term at theological college and I’ve started to learn enough to be dangerous – which is why I was a little bit worried when our Scottish vicar suggested a good second sermon slot for me would be St. Andrew’s saints day. What could possibly go wrong?

I scurried away to the college library (my favourite place in the world) and pulled out all the books that mentioned St. Andrew, I was determined to give you a fully academic and exhaustive history of St. Andrew , his miracles, his life and his teachings .

I discovered some fascinating facts about him… I hadn’t quite realised how busy he is. As well as Scotland, he is patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (where he was the founder and first bishop) as well as Saint Andrew in Barbados.

Now I get into the dangerous territory bit… I’m sorry Jennifer… It’s fair to say that his connection to Scotland is a little… well a little on the weak side. St. Andrew never visited Scotland, although sometime around the eighth or ninth century some of his alleged relics were brought to the town on the East coast of Scotland which bears his name and which became an archepiscopal see, as well as home to a University and golf course (a rather better connection for Jennifer perhaps as St. Andrew is also the patron saint of golfers?).

His patronage of Scotland was part of a deal by the then Pictish King – ‘give us this victory over the evil English St. Andrew and we will make you patron saint of Scotland’.  Scotland prevailed in the battle (despite weaker numbers) – the sign of St. Andrew’s patronage over the Scottish in battle was his cross appearing in the sky before everything kicked off. Hence the Scottish flag: the saltire – the method of St. Andrew’s  martyrdom – on a sky blue background forever granting Scotland victory over the English.

From there the facts get a little weaker still… Tradition on the continent suggests that if an unmarried girl puts basil under her pillow and prays to St. Andrew then the man who takes it in her dreams will be the man she will marry. Or putting the saltire on a post next to your fireplace will stop witches flying down it… the list goes on and I’ll let you do your own research if you want to find out more…

Clearly I was disappearing down a rabbit hole of stories about St. Andrew that came in later centuries and stepping away from the man who is mentioned so often in the Bible… so I went back to my Bible and went back to the man himself.

Who was the real St Andrew, behind all these later traditions?  St Andrew is one of the twelve apostles and brother of St Peter.  Like his brother he was a fisherman, from Bethsaida, and in St John’s gospel he was previously a follower of John the Baptist who discovered Jesus before his brother Peter, who he then brought to faith.

This relationship with his brother Peter is perhaps part of the reason for him being so popular with the Russians and the Greeks who see themselves as rivals to the see of Rome, which of course traditionally claims Peter.  But the account of how he brought his brother to Christ has also led to his saints day being particularly associated with the work of mission or evangelism, bringing people to faith in Jesus.

Andrew, just like the other apostles was taught by Christ to be a fisher of men. What does that really mean? It can sound a little creepy… going ‘out there’ and fishing for people – hooking them in and dragging them into church, where they’ll immediately see the light and become Christians and good Sunday church goers. But that’s not what Jesus taught his apostles to do. He taught them to bring people to Him through love and selfless acts. He taught the apostles, as he taught everyone that to come to God through Him was the greatest act of love there can ever be.

We associate the word evangelism with showmen pastors from the US who evangelise on TV and encourage you to open your wallet. We associate it with many things that most of us would not recognise as Christian. What does being an evangelist in England, in Wales… In Scotland mean today?

We should not consider evangelism and mission to be the creation of flashy lures that hide the hook underneath and hope that someone will bite. Flashy lures are only useful if they mirror the life beyond the hook. But the reality is that the Christian life is often a life of sacrifice and service. It is not flashy, it is not glamorous – it is the life of service to our fellow man – and through that service – to God.

It is the life of the Street Pastor who gives up their Friday and Saturday nights to help people by giving them water or flip flops with no sermon or judgment attached. It is the life of giving generously of your wealth to help those who are not as fortunate in money as you may be, it is the life of holding someone’s hand when they are dying and telling them that everything is okay, that there is something even more wonderful next – when all you want to do is hold onto them here.

That is not flashy. That is evangelism. Evangelism is not selfish, it is selfless. Sometimes evangelism is as simple an introduction, sometimes evangelism is being St. Andrew and introducing your brother to Christ.

So I want to use today to reflect on what that words means to each of us. What does it mean when we leave church today? What does being an evangelist for Christ mean for us here in Bledlow?

If our faith is real then we shouldn’t need to be ‘out there’ flogging it and trying to sell it like some dodgy second hand car salesman. If our faith is real then it will shine in everything that we do so that other people will want to know more about it and why it is so important to us – and when that happens we should be ready to answer. Why is my faith important to me? Why do I love Christ? Why do I go to church on a Sunday morning to praise His name? Why do I hold the hand of someone I love and tell them that everything is going to be okay?

So like St. Andrew – may the enthusiasm for what we have found shine through our lives and give us the boldness to share that love with those around us… and only then will we really understand what a fisher of men is.

Amen.

 

 

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Leaving Blackwell’s & next steps

Leaving Blackwell's Bookseller Article GrabWell what a week. We announced  that I was leaving Blackwell’s to train as a Priest. Those of you who follow this blog will not be surprised, especially if you followed my posts on this recently.

It’s been an amazing journey – I’ve only been at Blackwell’s for two years but in that time we’ve managed to get a huge amount done. Turning up at a company with a blank sheet is an awesome opportunity and I can’t recall the last time I’ve had so much fun professionally.

It was a tough decision to leave, but when God calls you answer and… here I am.

I will be taking up some small consultancy work in the new year to supplement my tiny new income and if you’re interested in working with me you can email me or contact me on Skype on matthewcashmore. I have a very special day-rate for charities and faith organisations.

I’ll be taking some time over Christmas to give this blog a bit of a facelift and re-introduce the God Blog to the central theme and perhaps also taking the opportunity to write about bookselling the publishing world as well.

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Intercession Prayers 27th July 2014

Begged, borrowed and pinched from a few places – including the Church of England Topical Prayers page but broadly my own.


 

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.

The response to God of love is Hear our prayer:

God of love
Hear our prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for your Church.
We pray that all those embraced by the love of the
Church continue to cherish and mirror your love.
We pray that all those embraced by the love of the
Church welcome others into the tender Grace you taught us.
We pray for our leaders and we pray for unity in difference and love in diversity.
God of love
Hear our prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for peace,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
and that earth may know the peace of heaven.

We pray for peace in Gaza and Israel:
for an end to hostilities,
for comfort and help for all who suffer,
and for reconciliation between Palestine and Israel.

We pray for the Christians of Mosul,
a city where Christian and Muslim have lived together for over 1400 years.
We pray for healing, peace and restoration.
Bring light out of this darkness and hope from despair
that guided by your Holy Spirit, all your children may find a new way forward together based on your love for us all.

We pray for those damaged by the fighting in Syria.
To the wounded and injured:
To the terrified who are living in shock:
To the hungry and homeless, refugee and exile:

Give strength Lord Jesus Christ
To those bringing humanitarian aid:
To those giving medical assistance:
To those offering counsel and care:
For all making the sacrifice of love:

God of love
Hear our prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for those in pain or suffering.
We pray for those who are ill in our community

God of love
Hear our prayer

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Amen

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Intercession Prayers

I’ve read intercession prayers quite a few times in church – but I’ve never written my own. I often borrow from a wide source of books and websites. This sunday however I decided it was time I sat down and wrote my own prayers to read… here’s my first attempt. All feedback very much welcome.

Lord, we come to you in peace, calm and prayerful meditation this morning.

Lord, as we stop and pray for others, we ask you to guide us over the next week so that we may understand what it means to come as we are into your Kingdom. Help us to understand the gifts you have given each of us and how we can best use them in God’s service.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for the unity of all christians in Christ.
We pray that whatever church we belong to you help us see what brings us together, rather than what divides.
We pray for those christians who are persecuted and for those that are forced to hide their faith.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for peace in our world and especially ask you to support and care for those involved in difficult and complex peace talks for Syria. The opposing sides in Ukraine, South Sudan and Egypt and for those caught up in war, conflict and division wherever they may be.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we ask you to be near Judy Kidd and Ann Lees this week. Unite us in your wonderful love and be near all who are sick, or in need of comfort. We pray for Bill Nicholson who has passed into your care and for his family and friends.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Lord, we bring these prayers to you as we are, ready to embrace your love and to take your Church forward in the spirit of ministry you taught us in such a short time. We take a moment now in silent prayer to bring to you those people and things that need your infinite love.
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

The Gospel reading for today was Matthew 4: 12-23

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The Five Marks of Mission

The question posed for me to answer (on no more than two sides of A4) was:

Assess myself and my Church against the five marks. Where are we?

The five marks are: (via)

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Again I struggled to answer this on two sides of A4 and ended up editing quite heavily. I did leave the first mark, for the most part, unscathed. You’ll see why as you read on.

Cross, Sunset, Holy Island, Northumberland by Ian Britton

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom

This is the central, most important aspect of these five marks for me – everything else is either derivative or carries this first mark with them in action. By carrying out the other four marks you are, through your actions, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom.

As the website of the Anglican Communion also points out this first mark is a summary of what all mission is about, because it’s based on Jesus’ own summary of mission. The website points to several readings on this point, but the one that best describes this first mark for me is Mark 1: 16-19.

Jesus calls his first disciples
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 ‘Come, follow me.’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. (NIV 2011).

To now sit and assess myself and my Church against this first mark is to assess all marks of mission. Do I proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom? Am I a disciple of Jesus? Does my Church proclaim the Good News? Does my Church create disciples?

I could write several pages on just the first question. I am humble in my belief that I do proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom – I say humble because whilst my calling, my sense of mission is so wrapped up in this first mark I am also horribly aware of how far short I fall. I believe the best way to proclaim the Good News is through action. I so often find myself asking where God is in my actions, where he is in my decisions. Too many nights I sit and pray and seek forgiveness for actions that do not proclaim His Good News.

My Church is somewhat different. Bledlow connects with the parish in proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom in the way one would expect. There are a wide variety of services – both liturgical and some new non-liturgical options that connect with people in a way that opens the doors of the building to hear the Good News – but also stay with you afterwards. I love the pew sheets because they allow you to take the readings away and re-read them – I’m sure most people don’t do this, but it’s there when people need it. Jennifer is tireless in pursuit of this first mark – supported by a community that loves Christ and the parish, it’s people and it’s Church.

Throughout the Gospels we are told of Jesus proclaiming the Good News to the poor,

“So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Luke 7:22 NIV 2011.

Bledlow has its share of people who may be considered poor – but on the whole we are a very wealthy parish. Mission here, for me, is about bringing the Church to the door of the poor and letting them see the challenges people face every day. It’s about opening the doors of our Church so that those inside can see out. It’s about proclaiming the Good News to those already within the Church – it could be argued that this is a more challenging job!

To teach, baptise and nurture new believers

I strongly feel that by proclaiming the Good News we nurture new believers – and with that in mind it is fair to say that I nurture new believers where I am able. I actively demonstrate my faith and welcome conversation about the Church and about Christ wherever I am – in work, in the pub and in Church. I pray that I teach when I lead the odd service for families and when I talk to people about Christ in a less formal way – I think I can get a great deal better at that. Each time I visit a new Church or see a teacher I’ve not seen before I am mentally scribbling notes to help improve my teaching. This has now manifested in a ‘ways I can be better’ document, and an ‘ideas for church’ document I keep on my phone.

Holy Trinity certainly teaches, baptises and nurtures new believers in a way that is consistent with the type of parish and the congregation. Jennifer & Matthew are incredibly welcoming and through events like the village Fete, high-days and holidays engage with the wider community to enable nurture for those on the edges of faith.

To respond to human need by loving service

How can you teach, nurture and proclaim the Good News without responding to human need by loving service? You cannot teach without an understanding of the person or people in front of you; you cannot lead without serving and you cannot proclaim the Good News unless you offer loving service in the name of Christ.

Do I respond to human need by loving service? I hope I do – I hope that my vocation with the Church mirrors that of my time spent nursing, working in care homes and with other vulnerable people. This is at the heart of my faith. This is where I find God most easily.

My Church is a loving community of people who really care for each other. They come together in times of pain and in times of celebration – they hold each other carefully and prayerfully. There is so little politics, so little of the expected cliques and gossip that can harm a congregation. I am blessed to be part of this Church.

To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation

Christians throughout the world combat unjust structures and challenge violence every day – as a family we are strong and by supporting charities and other NGOs that work in these areas we can have a large impact. I try to support these through both financial donations and by alerting others to the work that they do – as does my Church.

Beyond that we have work to do in our every day lives – do I, as a Director of Blackwell’s ensure our structures are supportive, ethical and ‘good’? I believe I do and I work hard with the board to ensure that fairness is felt throughout the company. I’m not always successful and it’s easy to be ethical when you’re profitable. When you’re a company that loses money, and has done for several years, that can be more of a challenge.

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

This mark very much falls into the field of ‘looking after God’s creation’ for me. Taking care of our world and the people in it. On a personal note I ensure I recycle, encourage others to do so and to also think about their impact on the world. I do this in a very typical English middle class way – I recycle – therefore I take care of the world. It is of course a great deal more complicated than that and this mark is the most difficult for me to asses as I do so little to uphold it. I need a good deal more thought and prayer on this.

My Church carries out recycling, promotes charities that care for the world – but I’m sure there’s more we could be doing in this area.

Note on bible verses. 

At this stage in my Biblical study I can’t say that I have a favourite Bible. I skip between whichever is nearest to hand and I have to say that my little travel NIV Bible from Hodder Faith is nearly always within reach so tends to be my first port of call. Most of this piece was written in Starbucks in High Wycombe so that was the Bible I had with me. At home I tend to use the Collins NRSV Anglicised Version for the Church of England and if I’m preparing something for the children in church I fall back on old faithful – The Good News Bible.

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What does the Nicene Creed mean to me?

Taking into account what I wrote here – here’s my second piece of writing for my Area Director of Ordinands.

What does the Nicene Creed mean to me?
What would I change in the Creed if I had the opportunity?

It would be very easy in this short essay to explore the theological meaning and history of the Nicene Creed. I spent the first two weeks after you posed these questions reading deeply into the history and theology before returning to the questions of my view of the Creed and what I would like to change given the opportunity.

I’m not sure that at this stage in my faiths maturity and development I am in a position to offer any coherent view of the Creed and what I would want to see changed. I have found this essay difficult to complete. I would be far more comfortable writing an in-depth academic piece. However, part of the discernment process and my training will require the exploration of areas in which I feel comfortable and force me to engage in areas where I am not comfortable — and the Creed is as good a place to start.

For a very long time the Creed was something I read on Sunday mornings in Church with Grandma (it’s not something I read in chapel). I always had to read it — it never stayed with me — and over time it began to stick and it disappeared into the background dogma of a Sunday service. When I met Catherine and we decided to marry I was required to attend lessons with her at the Catholic cathedral in Birmingham and at her parish Church in Newport. During those lessons we spent some time examining the Creed and it came as a surprise that it was word for word the same Creed I’d been saying in the Church in Wales with Grandma for so many years — indeed I found it surprising that so many of our services appear to follow much of the same liturgy at times.

I was surprised at how much of the Creed had passed me by each Sunday morning — despite the number of times I had read it I still did not appreciate the depth of the Creed or even begin to understand its implications.

As I learnt more about the Creed and its history it became apparent that the aim was to bring people of differing — you could say, arguing faiths and schools of theology together. It is at its very heart, indeed at its very inception, the definition of an ecumenical declaration.

When you sit and read the Creed it stands out as a declaration. Here we are, this is what we believe, and we believe this together. We are one Church, we are one family and we believe in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s incredibly powerful and the more you study and read the Creed the more that settles on you and demands to be taken more seriously. Reading it on a Sunday morning does not engage you in the same way as studying it does.

The first verse is wonderfully simple. It’s not even a full verse; just a simple, single, sentence — a pure declaration of faith. It is comfortable and easy to remember. A simple introduction to the Creed.

As we move forward from the pure declaration of the first verse into the second we are again presented with a firm collective declaration ‘We believe…’ before moving onto the most important narrative of the New Testament – that of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the most central tenet of our faith and reminds us — along with the word ‘we’ that we all believe this, that our church — along with others all over the world — hold this central tenet to be self evident.

It doesn’t stop there. The second verse moves beyond the resurrection of Christ to outline — to declare — that Jesus is sat at the right hand of the Father and that he will come again. The beginning of the thread of Trinity within the Creed.

The third and final verse again starts with ‘We believe…’ and adds the final element of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. It anchors our belief in the Holy Spirit and makes clear that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son – very clearly stating the Trinity as one in the Father and not as a separate divine presences.

For me the final few lines of the last verse are the most important — the least clearly stated but the most important ‘We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church’ — catholic as in all embracing and again the ‘We believe…’. Given the history and birth of the Creed this seems to be the verse that brings everything else together. We accept that there are many facets of church, we accept that there are many different ways of seeing and worshiping Christ but here are the central tenets, here is what our faith is, here is what we’ll stand together for.

We come together in this declaration of our faith — we are Christians in a worldwide family. Every Church that says this together on Sunday morning is declaring their part in the family of Christ and in the worldwide family of Christians – that is the most powerful aspect of the Creed in todays Christianity and one I think is perhaps lost on the vast majority of people who recite it.

What would I change?

The only time I ever get frustrated with liturgy, just as I do with work projects or documents, is when the language gets in the way of the meaning. The Creed is not terribly onion like — there are not many layers of understanding going on here. You could theoretically argue the theology of the declaration but the meaning is very clear to everyone who reads or speaks it. But whilst the meaning is clear — the understanding is not — without context.

I would argue that the Creed should not be altered, but would suggest that perhaps some more explanation should be offered to the congregation before the Creed is said. In the same way that each Sunday I lead the Children’s talk or the family service I talk of our ‘family prayer’ the ‘prayer that Jesus taught us to say together’ I would suggest that the Creed could use some placement — some context — an understanding that people all over the world are saying this same Creed at their Churches. A way to ensure that the repetition of the Creed does not push it to the back of peoples mind, a way to ensure that the dogma of the words slip from understanding but retain some importance in the liturgy each Sunday.

After writing this essay I’m going to work on a session for the Children’s Explorer mornings on the Creed. I’m not sure what shape that will take yet but I feel that the youngest members of our congregation need to grasp that we are one holy catholic and apostolic Church – wherever you chose to worship, wherever you are in the world.

 

 

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What is a priest and why do I want to be one?

I’ve been trying to figure out if this is the right thing to do or not (posting my work that is!) The reality is this blog gets between zero and one hit a week (and I suspect that one is Google) – I think that’s a good thing and this is really a personal diary of a journey that at some point in the future may help others on the same path but also provide a place for me to re-discover what I was thinking and doing as I stepped through the process.

So if you are reading this please take these posts as they’re intended and offer your feedback, thoughts and prayers.

Part of the selection  process involves writing short essays on certain topics. The first I was asked to write was to help me understand if my calling was towards offering as a Deacon or as a Priest. I’ve posted what I wrote below – I’ll continue to post these but only after I’ve presented them and had feedback on them from my Area Director of Ordinands. Your thoughts are very welcome on them. They are designed (from what I can tell so far) to encourage me to think and pray about a certain topic in detail.

What is a priest and why do I want to be one?

This is a more difficult subject to write on than I first imagined. I needed to separate the titles from the practice – the words from the action. I feel this exercise has helped me understand the differences between a ‘deacon’ and a ‘priest’ and what my calling is pointing me towards.

The difficulty I had with the title of priest is the almost incessant use of the word ‘leader’. I made the mistake of confusing the leadership of a priest with the secular meaning of the word – something I’m very familiar with. I lead people on a daily basis – I write and help people understand large complex strategies and how that translates into tactical work each week. It would be easy to draw a parallel with the role of a priest as leader; a role that requires him or her to help people understand a complex big picture and what that means day-to-day.

I think this is a mistake. I don’t see, and I certainly can’t discern my calling into the role of ‘translation of faith’ – a diktat on what it means to be a Christian and engage with the Church. In trying to write this short essay I have searched for a way to answer this question – the more I think and pray on it the more I see the role of priest as a farmer.

A farmer is responsible for his farm – it can be 1,500 acres, or just a small plot – regardless of the size his duties remain the same. He needs to care for everyone within his farm – from the gentleman who comes to collect the milk, to the poacher hiding in the woods. He is a good neighbour to other farmers (even if they are growing crops he doesn’t think are worth while), he is part of an ecosystem that needs to be cared for in partnership with a large number of other people.

He needs to care for his stock, plan for their care and lead them with gentle kindness to ensure they are safe and can find what they need. A farmer does not chain his horse to the trough because he knows the water is good for him, rather he ensures that the trough is clean, available and always full to the brim with water. He can show the horse where the trough is and help the horse by making sure his field is clear of obstacles.

I understand that this may appear quite trite; a rather obvious metaphor for a priest, but one that does help me to voice my understanding of a priest. A priest needs to lead a congregation in worship, he needs to lead his congregation in prayer and he needs to lead his congregation in a maturing of their faith. A priest does not dictate to his congregation what they must and must not do – he gives them the tools to discover those truths for themselves.

A priest’s congregation is not limited to those sitting in the pews on a Sunday morning – or if you’re lucky at morning prayer! A priest in today’s society is a farmer without land. He must connect with people outside his church building – he must see Church all around him and help others to see that as well. Importantly he must help those inside the Church to see those outside – this is a part of priesthood that feels much more diaconal in service rather than priestly in leadership. Through this work I have come to understand to a much greater degree the role of deacon in every priest.

This is where I see my role as a priest being. On the edges of Church offering people with faith – who may not be ready to come to church – an opportunity to discuss their faith, an opportunity to find faith – an opportunity to have a conversation with someone who won’t respond with a raised eyebrow and question their reason.

I work in an industry based on science, on hard research and on not making decisions based on gut feeling or intuition. Digital research and development requires firm evidence before moving forward, if you don’t have that evidence then you stop re-assess and retest before trying again. It means people with faith can be left feeling like outsiders. There is no-one in their work life that they can talk to or mature their faith with. Talking about faith is seen as a weakness. I want to reach out to those people, to that congregation if you like, to be a visible person of faith who is also a working member of their industry. I want to show people that you can be an evidence based professional and a person of faith – that whilst science answers our questions on how – faith helps us answer questions on why. Science and faith are not enemies; they are brother parts of the same journey towards understanding.

As a priest I will be able to fully engage with this community – and importantly, something I’d not fully understood – play a full role within my parish. Leading worship, leading prayer, helping people of a parish marry, take communion and mature their faith is something that will ground my ministry and enhance it – it’s not about being a manager of a church building. This is the heart of ministry and I had not fully grasped that until I walked through this process.

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Working through selection

Over the past year I’ve been working through this calling – trying to discern what it is God wants me to do. Is this a calling to be more involved in Church? Is it a calling to more ministry with Children? Is it to a more formal role within the Church (Lay Minister?) or is the calling towards ordination – Deacon / Priest?

I’ve taken my time to try and understand my calling. I headed off on retreat to The Well in Milton Keynes, I’ve prayed, I’ve thought and I’ve talked to a lot of people – both lay and ordained. Ultimately my calling is falling into shape around ordained ministry – specifically  ministry within my industry (media, R&D, the digital world) where faith is often approached with at best cynicism and at worst outright hostility.  There is a ministry here to people that are on the edge of faith and who have a hunger to discover more but feel unable to.

I’m now working through selection with the Area Director of Ordinands – the aim is to discern my calling, to test my calling and and go through the very early stages of understanding if this is the right thing for me, for the Church and is God’s will.

One of the wonderful outcomes of this process so far is the discovery of discipline in prayer, which I suspect will form its own post at some point. I’ve also had the most wonderful conversations with people about faith – both Christians and those of other faiths –  going through this process has opened me up to wider conversations and engagements about faith. I’ve had emails from people I’ve not spoken to for years offering me support and prayer and discovered old friends who are also feeling a call to God in one form or another.

Wherever this calling takes me, wherever God takes me, this entire process has helped me mature my faith, discover more wonderful connections with others and introduced me to a wider world of faith.

Please pray for me as I move forward in this process – on Sunday 24th I’ll be confirmed into the Church of England – the service starts at 6pm at  St John’s in Lacey Green. If you can come that would be wonderful – if you can’t please hold me in your prayers.

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My first sermon

Hi all – yes, I know – it’s been a little while since I last posted. I have a very good reason for that – he’s called Edmund and he’s rather taken over my life!

Now, before you read any further this post is not about camping, cooking or motorbikes. If you’re looking for that then I’ll have some posts very shortly about Europe’s biggest overland traveller event – HUBB – and the Adventure Travel Film Festival (I’m speaking at both). This post is very personal and concerns God. Now – given the last time I wrote about God here I had a bunch of comments along the lines of ‘great blog, shame about the God stuff’ I’m giving you fair warning – this one is about the God stuff.

Today marked a very import day for me. I’ve been on a journey over the last year or so that’s brought me closer to God and left me exploring a calling to vocation within the Church of England – I appreciate that means very little to most people – but it’s very important to me. One of the first steps on that journey was to deliver a sermon – to preach – to my church family today. I spoke about Christian Aid week and the unity which all people of faith share in trying to make the world a better place. I recorded the sermon and pasted the text below – I’d really appreciate any thoughts or feedback. Over to you.

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Sermon John 20 17 to end MP3

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Lord, grant us the peace and grace to hear your word, your message, both here and in our actions throughout the coming week.

We’ve heard this morning about Jesus praying for believers and praying that as believers we are one. That’s a very simple thing to say of course – in our faith in Him we are one – of course we are – through His word we spread the message and in spreading that message we bring new people into our faith and into our unity.

Each Sunday we sit and we listen to the word of Christ. We listen to His message and each Sunday someone stands here and helps us to try and understand what Jesus is trying to teach us. But ultimately God speaks to us directly. The message that we understand is very individual – God speaks to our hearts and minds directly and we take that message out into the world, outside our church, and spread His message. When we do that, we are bringing other people to God’s message – and as Jesus prays here: ‘I have given them the glory which you have given to me, so that they may be one, just as we are one.’ We have brought people into our unity with Christ and each other.

That’s not to say that we must all go out and evangelise on street corners or to our co-workers by quoting the bible on some profound, mature understanding of that we have come to. Our actions are just as important in bringing people to faith – and therefore to the unity of our faith – as our words are.

This unity isn’t just us here in this Church, or even in the Church of England – it’s the unity of every Christian around the world. The unity Jesus talks of is so profound that it mirrors the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. ‘So that they may be one, just as we are one’.

It’s interesting that in a report by the Charities Aid Foundation in February of this year it became apparent that religious respondents – of any faith – gave an average of £576 in the previous year, those with no religion gave £235. Religious people donate more than twice as much to charity as those who are not.

The director of research at the Charities Aid Foundation said that, “The survey shows that there is a link between associating with a religion and charitable behaviour, even when people aren’t actively practising their faith. Their giving is not uniquely focused on their own religious activities, if anything, people of faith broadly give in line with the rest of the general public – to a variety of different appeals – primarily medical and overseas aid.”

I would argue that donating to charity – whatever that may be – is an active practising of faith – going to Church on a Sunday is not the only way to hear the word, to listen to and spread the message – that can also be done through our unity – through our actions.

Through everyday acts of kindness and generosity to others we practice our faith. Every time we think of others first, every time we take a step to bring people into our unity with Christ we practise our faith.

It could be argued that all people of faith are held together in unity and when brought together by the love of Christ we see beyond borders, beyond race, sex, gender or other dividing lines and want to help where we can. Faith helps us see the world through unity – not division.

All of this is very timely of course – it’s Christian Aid Week. The stories from Christian Aid – from all over the world demonstrate that even in the midst of debilitating scarcity, people of faith work together and demonstrate they can transform lives for a common good.

Again and again we hear of lives being changed through the empowerment of those who are most vulnerable – of those most desperate. The bible shows us time and time again that God is not impressed by national or racial identity. Rather His concern is for those who are powerless, the starving and suffering, those living in fear and anxiety, those drained of time or energy.

Those of us blessed with wealth, with time, with food and comfort should, through our unity, help others with understanding, patience, and of course through financial donations!

Christian Aid Week starts today and runs to next Saturday. The focus this year is on hunger – indeed the tagline for the week is ‘bite back at hunger’ – I see what they did there! If all of us play our part, if all of us nibble at the problem then we can make a massive difference – see what I did there?!

There is more than enough food in the world that everyone can eat – that no one needs go to bed hungry. This isn’t about food parcels or hand-outs – it’s about intelligent ways of helping people in the long term. Christian Aid is about helping people to help themselves.

For example we all take the weather forecast for granted in Britain – in fact it’s almost a national sport, never mind the first refuge of small talk. But living here in rural Buckinghamshire we also appreciate how important the forecast is to our farmers. Without detailed knowledge of rain, wind or sun farmers would struggle to know when to plant – when to harrow – when to get the combine out! But in Kenya farmers are experiencing increasingly erratic weather patterns and without detailed, scientific forecasts they can be left unable to feed or provide for their families. Planting seeds at the wrong moment can be disastrous when you only have one sack of seeds.

Christian Aid, through their partners, have helped farmers in Kenya by providing detailed forecasts via mobile phone. Most families have no access to a radio or television – but nearly every family has some sort of simple mobile phone – it’s often the only means of communication a farmer and his family has.

By sending small-scale farmers scientific weather perditions and forecasts via text message, translated into their local language, they enable those farmers to plant armed with valuable information. Farmers can respond via text with follow up questions or to share crop information that they believe may be valuable to others beyond their own community.

With training provided alongside the forecasts, farmers have been able to adapt their farming techniques and crop choices to the changing climate and provide food for their families and community.

There are many many stories of this kind from Christian Aid – it allows us to remember that we are part of a broad Church, that we are part of a united world where our belief, our faith, our unity can help those most in need.

Through our actions this week, let us make Christ’s name known, so that the love which God has for Jesus and for us may be in them and in us – uniting us against social injustice and poverty.

We can make a difference – however small – we can donate this week to Christian Aid (£576 seems the right amount according to the research) or even by just filling in the Gift Aid details on our donation slips for collection.

As Jesus said, “I am praying that they may all be one” – today I ask us to pray together: Lord, through our unity in faith, through our fellowship with you and each other, enable us to give freely of our gifts so that others may be empowered to live in your glory. Amen.

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