Challenging child, avid thinker, monastic leader, Bishop, Father of Western Theology, person of prayer: St Augustine of Hippo is a fascinating and enigmatic character. In this seminar we’ll explore his understanding and experience of prayer through a variety of his writings, including his Confessions, his sermons, his letters, his commentaries and his monastic rule. Augustine has much to teach us about prayer and theology, prayer and the life of the church and, above all, prayer as Christ’s activity, which we are invited to join.
Kirsty Borthwick is an ordinand at Westcott House, and is finishing a PhD on the doctrine of prayer, in conversation with Augustine’s trinitarian theology. She is examining what it means to pray to the Father “in the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ”. God and Bishop willing, she hopes to return to the Diocese of St Albans for curacy, and to continue exploring what it means to be a theological educator.
In recent times the writings of Shenoute the Great have been appreciated for their unique contribution to the ancient writings of early Egyptian monasticism and in this session we will consider Shenoute’s writings around Discipline and Desire in 4th century Egypt’.
Jarel Robinson-Brown is an Honorary Chaplain at King’s College London and postgraduate student at St Mellitus College London. His main interests are in Church History (particularly Late Antique Egypt) and Liberation Theology.’ ‘Whilst many Egyptian saints throughout history enjoy a certain degree of fame through the writings of the desert fathers or a focus on Christian history in Alexandria – Shenoute of Atripe has been a rather elusive figure in the history of the Church, and the history of monasticism in particular.
Martin Luther is well known for his advocacy of the authority of Scripture within the church. In this lecture, Bishop Graham will explore why this was so important for Luther, how he felt Scripture should be interpreted, and something of the legacy of Luther’s views on the Bible in subsequent church history and theology.
The Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin is Bishop of Kensington and President of St Mellitus College. Among past roles he has served as Chaplain of Jesus College Oxford and Vice Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, where he taught within the Theology Faculty of Oxford University on Historical Theology, specialising in the Reformation period. He was the first Dean of St Mellitus College. He is the author of many books and articles, including The Power of the Cross: Theology and the Death of Christ in Paul, Luther and Pascal (1999), a biography of Martin Luther entitled Luther and his World (2002), Looking through the Cross (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for 2014), and Luther’s Gospel: Reimagining the World (2018). He is married to Janet and has two children and three grandchildren. He suffers a lifelong addiction to Bristol City Football Club.
Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) is chiefly known outside the Roman Catholic church for his Spiritual Exercises, which are increasingly popular beyond the borders of his own faith community. Recognizably a mystic in the medieval tradition he
founded the missionary Society of Jesus or Jesuit order whose members have been famous as scientists, explorers, schoolteachers, artists, musicians and builders. One Jesuit motto, ‘For the greater glory of God’ points to a striving for excellence in all human achievements, while the other, ‘Finding God in all things’ suggests that holiness is found in the ordinary. The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises above all point to the graced and redeemed life being one that is lived to the full.
Gemma Simmonds is a sister of the Congregation of Jesus, founded by Mary Ward (1585-1609). She is a senior lecturer in pastoral theology based at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology in Cambridge where she is director of the Religious Life Institute. She lectured in Christian Spirituality at Heythrop College, University of London from 2005 until its closure in 2018, specializing in Spiritual Direction in the Ignatian tradition. An international speaker and lecturer working in the fields of Christian spirituality and ecclesiology, she has been a missionary in Brazil and a chaplain in the Universities of Cambridge and London as well as a chaplaincy volunteer in Holloway Prison for 26 years. She is a regular broadcaster on religious matters on the BBC. Her book, The Way of Ignatius, was published by SPCK for Lent 2019 and was serialised as the Lenten retreat on Pray As You Go https://pray-as-you-go.org Her most recent book, Treasuring God’s Word is published by Pauline Books and Media
The talk will be given via Zoom – use this link to schedule the presentation in your Zoom App. If you’re unable to join using the Zoom App you’ll be able to dial into the presentation on your phone using these details:
I am thrilled to announce that from the 22nd July 2020 I will be the new Priest in Charge at St. Anselm’s, Hayes.
Hayes is an extraordinary town that has a diverse and vibrant life. It’s situated to the West of London on the Grand Union Canal and was the home of EMI – which is where, amongst other things, the Beatles albums were pressed before being sent around the world.
Its position on the Grand Union Canal, the M4 and now on Crossrail means it has always been a hub of exciting new ideas and life. A place of interaction between many different communities, cultures, and histories.
My calling has always been to find the spark of God in everyone and fan it into an inferno of Love in Jesus Christ. I look forward to serving the people of Hayes in that Love.
Why now? This is the usual period of time it takes from entrance to seminary to first post – six years in total of formal training. I now go into my first church where I am responsible (with the Bishop) for the cure of souls of the parish. It will be my job to care for and love the people of Hayes Town as a father does his children.
Catherine and I looked back at our diaries this week to see how long we had been on this path. My first meeting about this was eight years ago… in some ways that time has flown by, in others… it’s moved rather more slowly!
We move towards the end of June, there’s lots and lots to organise before we get to that point – not least the incredibly hard goodbye to the people and families of St. Mary’s, Kenton where I will have served the last 16 months of my curacy. I will post separately about that nearer the time of us actually leaving.
My last Sunday in the parish of St. Mary’s will be the 21st June 2020 (Fathers Day), and my licensing at St. Anselm’s, Hayes will be on the 22nd July 2020 (St. Mary Magdalen) at 7pm, you are all very warmly invited.
Last week I posted a tweet that caused quite a stir. I suggested that white, privileged men were being delayed in their journey through discernment within the Church of England and illustrated it with a screen grab of someone who was going through that particular journey. I tagged on the end of that tweet that LGBTQi folks were experiencing an acceleration in their journeys.
The tweet was inelegant, blunt and did not marry with the experiences of many LGBTQi people who have been through the discernment path of late. My comments were in no way meant as a denial of anyones experiences, but an attempt to demonstrate that the process is riven with bias – unconscious and conscious – for many groups. However, that point was lost in the outrage that (quite rightly) people felt.
In the real world, face to face I could have corrected the assumption, got across my wider point in a more helpful way. Heat could have been taken out of the conversation and a helpful one could have ensued – but in the world of Twitter the heat got worse and I hardly helped myself – adding petrol to the fire in several sarcastic and unhelpful responses.
Bruised (as indeed others were), I retreated from Twitter and left things alone for 24 hours. I woke the morning after and checked my messages to discover that a kind soul felt that I should take myself off with my shotgun and ‘do the honourable thing’. Another message expressed a desire that I would die horribly and painfully of cancer.
I am deeply sorry that my tweet caused upset and even more so for any pain that it may have caused – but I wasn’t prepared for those messages and – after prayer and a night’s sleep – I decided to deactivate my Twitter account altogether.
Interestingly, this led to a few people being upset that I had unfollowed them because I disagreed with them, fortunately a good friend let people know what was going on and the upset turned to concern (for the most part). I also received a number of supportive and loving messages from others in that 24 hours.
So, what now? Well, as I counsel my clients when this happens – retreat from the platform for the moment. I’ve re-activated my Twitter in the last 48 hours and protected my account. I’m not tweeting, checking messages or responding to conversations. I’ve deleted the app on my phone/tablet/computer and will take a good period of time away from the platform. I’ve been on Twitter for 13 years – it’s not something I’m happy to leave behind in a fit of pique because I’ve been stupid and because others have been unkind. A good chunk of my life is recorded on Twitter in photos, videos and tweets. All the good, all the bad, all the ugly. All of who I have been since 2006.
Thank you for your support and kind words. Thank you for the correction. Thank you for your prayers.
This is the homily I delivered at the Vigil Mass of the Assumption at St. Mary’s Abbey Church in Nuneaton [14/8/19] and then again at the Assumption Mass of St. Mary-the-Virgin in Kenton [15/8/19]. What it lacks in theological depth it makes up for in conviction, love and a desire to take Christ out into the world. Be encouraged and strengthened by Our Lady.
Full text / notes
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Being asked to preach about Mary is a double-edged sword. On one hand – what a huge honour – to preach on the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady, Our Hope, Our Love, Our Mother… on the other hand… what more is there to say that you have not already heard?
It was in that conflict that I started to pray about what I should say this evening. As I sat with my rosary it occurred to me that one of the central truths of Our Lady in all our lives is that she is never dull or over-preached or over-talked about. She is fresh and current and engaging at all times. When she touches us, appears before us to guide us towards Her Son, she is always radiant and loving and – to use a horrid word – contextual. She is always relevant; she is always present, and she always points us to Our Lord.
There is no danger that I can stand here this evening and preach about Our Lady in a way that you could possibly receive as ‘well I’ve heard that before’. Because as you sit here this evening open to her guidance she will touch each one of you in a different way – and therein lies her most powerful gift to us – her ability to reach past the layers of defensive crust we place around our hearts and point us towards Christ.
I often ponder on the Sacraments and I was once asked to define exactly what a sacrament was. I immediately responded that worship was where we reached for Christ and a Sacrament was where Christ reached for us. Where he reached right into our souls and bodies and grabbed hold of our heart and claimed it for Him. He does this over and over and over and over again and this constant flow of earth trembling love should floor us to our knees in love and terror. But… we forget this awesome love, this awesome action and over time we become blind to it. We approach the altar rail with hearts cloaked in darkness, in sin, in perhaps in sheer defence of the flooring awesome Love that we know is ours.
Our hearts are encased in steel. Our beating Love for Christ is diminished and hidden and throttled to within an inch of its life through indifference, through lack of prayer, through sin without thought of repentance and through the slow draw and the flashy lure of secular culture and so-called progress.
Week by week we approach the altar with our hearts hidden from Christ and week by week he still claims us, but we feel that claim on our lives in ever diminishing ways. Our fault. Our failure, Our Loss – not His.
And this my friends is why Our Lady is so so important in our lives. She is as necessary to the redeemed as she was to the Redeemer. Her goodwill, her obedience and love and consent was required before mankind could be elevated to eternal beatitude.
The sanctification of our souls is more dependent upon Our Blessed Lady’s continuous care and maternal love than upon any other influence.
The whole world is filled with her glory and in particular England is considered her dowry. It has been a wonderful and joyous year as we have watched the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham take her image around England to be venerated and to re-ignite a national devotion to her. More churches are dedicated to Our Lady in England than in any other nation on earth. There is no good church in our good land that does not have an altar dedicated to her glorious honour.
Earlier this year I was honoured to be at Westminster Cathedral as the image of Our Lady of Walsingham from the Anglican Shrine was taken back into the heart of our country. The first time her image had travelled from Walsingham to London since that dreadful day in 1539 when she was taken from her shrine and burnt in London.
Bishop Philip North who preached that day asked the assembled congregation
“What have we just done… We have just carried a penniless peasant girl from Nazareth into this great symbol of our National Life.”
“And we are not putting her here in some innovative or original act [of course this was before helter skelters and golf courses took over our Cathedrals]. No, we are putting her back, for this nation has always been Mary’s. Many of the monarchs who lie here loved Our Lady, many of them indeed would have made the pilgrimage to Walsingham that is so familiar to us. We don’t have to go back many years to find this land littered with her Shrines. Countless of its Parish Churches and numerous of its Cathedrals are dedicated to her and to her glorious Assumption.”
Our Lady is making herself felt in our midst once again. Her powerful devotion to us is being felt throughout every community, every church and in the throbbing arteries of the institutions that run our country – and THIS IS THRILLING!
Why?! Why is this thrilling? Why am I so excited about this?
I shall tell you… I am so excited about this because who comes before Christ in all things?
If Our Lady is being felt across this country in such a powerful way it gives me hope that we’re about to feel and see the powerful presence of Our Lord.
It gives me hope in the face of reduced congregation sizes in our more middle of the road parishes – because I see those churches that are turning to Our Lady growing and drawing in people who the church feels were lost to Her generations ago. I am excited because I am seeing so many people pick up the Rosary and dedicate their devotion to Our Lady so that they may come to know Christ better. I am excited because I see teenagers at Walsingham just getting it. Just wanting to know Her better. I see Our Lady taking these children, these young people and holding them in front of the sacrament in exposition, adoration and benediction and saying to them – HERE HE IS!
I am excited because this is how our hearts are broken open again. I am excited because our Lady is capable of taking the crud and the steel and the sin around our hearts – tearing it away from us, throwing it away and holding our hearts open to her Son. And I see her doing this everywhere. I see her doing this in small chapels in rural Hereford, I see her doing this in large churches in London, I see her doing this in tiny oratories and private shrines in peoples living rooms and I see her doing it in Westminster Cathedral in the beating heart of our country!
How then can we ensure that we are all part of this re-ignition, this exciting breaking open of hearts for Christ? Well, in a small way we can all pray the Rosary. The rosary is a tiny tiny thing. It is a collection of beads on a bit of string – or it’s a collection of fine cut glass on links of gold – it doesn’t really matter about the THING – what matters is that it forces us to sit and to pray and to ask our lady to pray for us for about 20 minutes. That discipline is hard to find. It takes time and practice to find a rhythm that works and allows you to sit and ask Our Lady for her intercession. The more steel and crud and sin we have collected around our hearts – the harder that will be to find. So go to confession. Come and see Fr. Tom and lay aside your sin and be forgiven. Shred a small part of that enclosed heart and then sit with the rosary and pray. Pray until a crumb of crud falls from your heart. Then come back and pray again until a large chunk falls from it, and then pray again until a crack appears and then pray again until it shatters into a thousand pieces and you can once again come to the altar and be floored by the awesome power of Christ claiming you for himself.
Then take your heart out into the world. Out of this church and shine so brilliantly and brightly full of love for Christ that others will be blinded by your radiance – a tiny reflection of the radiant love that Christ has for you – and when they ask you – what’s changed? What’s new! Tell them! Tell them Our Lady has prayed for you and opened your heart to Christ and tell them to do the same. Hand them your rosary, walk with them as they pray for the first time, hold their hand as the first crumb of crud breaks from their heart, hold them in prayer as the first crack appears and it may feel like their heart is breaking, assure them of Our Ladies prayers as it shatters and then bring them to the Altar – bring them to Christ and let Him claim them!
And then! Only then, will we start to see the coming of Christ, foreshadowed by His Mother.
Our brief sojourn to the borders of Wales didn’t last long – just over 18 months in fact. We’ve returned to London and we’re very excited about it.
Hereford has been a wonderful place for us as a family. We were close to our clan in Wales, and I was close enough that I was able to spend a lot of time with my Grandmother in the last few months of her life. A huge gift for all of us – but especially for Edmund for whom Grandma Jean is still a very real presence.
But onto pastures new! I am now the Assistant Curate at St. Mary-The-Virgin in Kenton. I was licensed by the Bishop of Fulham on Sunday 3rd March and am now firmly ensconced. A great gang from Hereford came all the way to London (a four hour journey each way!) to wish us well. We were touched by the many kind words from Hereford as we left and the flurry of cards and gifts. We shall miss them a great deal.
We have been made to feel so welcome at St. Mary’s. A church that feels like a great big family. Food, fun, sacrament, prayer – a place that seems to represent the very best of what it means to live a Christian life.
We are hugely grateful for the loving kindness shown to us by Father Edward Lewis – my new Training Incumbent. A man from whom I have a huge amount to learn from over the next couple of years.
And so onwards… pray for us and for the good people of St. Mary’s, Kenton.
We took time to discuss what we did at our Harvest Festival last year (asking the congregation to provide food for the refugees in Calais), what we have planned this year (no spoilers), the homeless and vulnerable of Hereford and A Vicar’s Live Live on September 8th.
You can use the media player below to listen to the interview, or listen to the whole show via the BBC’s iPlayer.
(preached at St. Mary’s, Wolverton, Stratford. 12/08/2018)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Good morning everyone and thank you for inviting me to come and preach this morning. It’s a real treat to come and visit Richard and his family – in which of course I include you, we are all one family and I always feel that in coming to a church I’ve not been to before – in coming amongst a new congregation I am rediscovering a branch of my family that I’ve always known, but not yet go to know. We are – one bread, one body.
Each week millions of Christians around the world come to church to seek nourishment. We pretty much all do it in different ways, but we are united by the sacraments of baptism and of the eucharist. Today, Jesus tells us quite explicitly that He is the bread of life. But what does that mean to us in our journey towards Him and towards a deeper relationship with Him?
Let’s start with that word – nourishment. It’s used a lot in Christian circles. We seek nourishment from the scriptures, we seek nourishment from the eucharist, we seek nourishment from prayer – we seek nourishment in the biscuits after the service, from our bring-and-share meals at festivals and Holy Days – we seek to nourish others – feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the broken. Continue reading