Tag Archives: ministry

Letting Go

Talk based on John 17:11-19

I wonder how many of you, if you’ve ever been a parent, or have trained someone in an apprenticeship or simply have given some instructions and then had to leave someone to carry them out without supervision. Then we come a point that we all have to let someone go in order for them to flourish on their own. It can cause much heartache and a lot of prayer that they will remember everything you have taught them.

I can remember both of my girls leaving home and the feeling of helplessness that I wouldn’t be there to step in and protect them if they came up against some adversity, and over the years, like everyone I suspect, from time to time things have not always gone smoothly. but I have prayed to God that he would be there with them, and sure enough whether the outcome was what I would have wanted or not, he seems to have answered my prayers.

Of course, I haven’t had to face those times of feeling powerless to act alone, and reaching out for prayer from others and sharing my concerns has helped me see what is happening a little clearer and gain greater understanding that a mother cannot always make things better with a hug and a magic kiss – although it works with my grandchildren… but that prayer can be the most valuable thing I can do.

In today’s gospel, Jesus’ prayer for his disciples continues from that we heard on Sunday, and like a lot of John’s gospel it is full of theological toing and froing around the topic – but at its heart it is telling us that Jesus will be letting go of his earthly protection of the disciples and it handing them into the care of the Father. He has taught them how to live by God’s Word and has warned them of the dangers they will face as his followers in their lives on earth. He knows that this will set them at odds with a lot of people. He needs them now to take up the reins of his ministry and start to do things for themselves, however hard that might be to start with.

So how good a job did they do on their own?

For nearly 2000 years the Word of God has been lived by millions of people, from that small group of Jews become Christians to worldwide mission and founding principles of many democracies. Not everyone has agreed that it is linked to a higher power than that on earth. Its radical idea of living in a loving community, of showing vulnerability and forgiveness has caused many to decry its power. For the disciples themselves, not many lived to see old age but became matyrs. However, they remained true to their mission and set an example for others to follow. And follow they did, which is probably one of the reasons that we are here today.

How often though do we feel like giving up on this difficult world of ours, so resistant to the gospel and its values; when we look at our divided world, where not even those who believe in Christ are united. Yet Jesus, who is fully aware that we share his same lot of being hated by the world, does not ask the Father to remove us from the world, but to protect us, as we do our best to carry out our mission, and we must continue to pray for healing and the overcoming of division. For the disciples and for us, we shouldn’t ask to be taken out of the world with all its messiness. This is where we belong until the time comes for us to follow Jesus to the place he was going to. We can face all of the risks and the struggle that it sometimes is for survival because we can be assured of God’s protection.

Jesus tell us that we too are being ‘sent’ in his name to continue his mission. Our mission as his followers is in the midst of and in the depths of the world. He wants his love and message inserted in the centre of the world, the city, the neighbourhood. In following him in mission and love, we are ourselves blessed. Jesus’ love for the disciples didn’t fade because he wasn’t with them any longer, it endures eternally. When he asks God to protect and guide them this is a request that includes all those that have come after and are going forward today

The reality of the risen Christ is that, from now on, nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love and the same is true for those we love. Parents and guardians spend their best years guiding children in life and in faith. Then there is a gradual letting go as they grow into adulthood.

Like Jesus we should pray for those who move beyond our active care. This morning, at this very moment, my daughter Ruth is in hospital undergoing a planned C-Section operation for the early arrival of my latest grandchild. She is beyond my physical reach, but I am praying for her and the doctors and nurses, for their skills and protection. But most of all I have placed them in God’s hands, because the Father’s arms are a safe place for them and for us.


The End Is Only The Beginning

Winchester Cathedral Crucifrice 'Credit Helena Del Pino'
Winchester Cathedral Crucifrice ‘Photo Credit Helena Del Pino’

So much has happened over the last three weeks that I have been meaning to share, and kept promising myself that I would do so as soon as the dust settled. However, one thing I have learned about ministry so far is that dust never really settles or if it does then something is seriously wrong!

When I starting writing this blog it was to record my journey through my training as an ordinand, my thoughts and experiences and hopefully offering an insight into all that entailed. That training culminated in my being ordained a Deacon on the 5th July in Winchester Cathedral, along with six fellow ordinands, some of whom had been alongside me over the last two years.

New Deacons, Petertide 2015 'Photo Credit Winchester Diocese'

New Deacons, Petertide 2015 ‘Photo Credit Winchester Diocese’

The seclusion of the pre-ordination retreat

The seclusion of the pre-ordination retreat

 The preparations for the ‘big’ day had actually started during the week before when we had been secluded on a pre-ordination retreat at Park Place, Wickham, led by Abbot Stuart Burns OSB.

The Abbot gave us a lot to think about over those days, with stimulating talks and plenty of space and time to reflect on what our ministry would might look and feel like.

Some of us enjoyed the solitude and chance to indulge in our creative sides, whilst others needed the stimulation of social opportunities when we came together – others simply caught up on some sleep in order to be re-energised. However we chose to spend our time there was a real sense of God’s presence and an affirmation that we really were meant to be here despite any last minute doubts or concerns.

Putting on your collar for the first time feels a bit strange

Strangeness of wearing a collar for the first time

Sunday morning felt very strange as we donned our collars for the first time; suddenly it was all becoming very real. Even so, Morning Prayer and a good breakfast set us up as we made our way to the Cathedral and the opportunity to see our families as they arrived – hugs and kisses and so many happy faces in the congregation. Quickly, we changed into our robes before taking our places within the body of the church before the choir struck up with a spine-tingling introit from the West Door.

When I had told my friends and guests that the service may last up to two hours some of them had tried not to look too horrified; but it is true that time really does fly when you’re enjoying yourself! There are moments within any service that can transport you away from the ordinary and for me this proved to be true – such as knowing that your friends and family were standing up to show their support during the laying on of hands; the foot-washing when an Abbot not only washes your feet but kisses them as well and the glorious Sanctus during the Eucharist Prayer which resonated around the cathedral walls and pierced deep into my soul. Then it was out into the Close for greetings and photographs. Somehow, I couldn’t stop grinning!

After ordination

Joy overflowing! ‘Photo credit for individual portrait and new deacon with bishop Winchester Diocese’

The day’s celebrations, however, had not quite finished and it was back to our house where friends and family gathered for lunch and popping a few bottles of prosecco.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm,
to give you a future with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

So the end of one part of my training has drawn to a close, but what a great beginning to my new form of ministry. Hopefully over the coming weeks, months and years I will be able to share with you some of that as the new Assistant Curate of St James, West End takes up her post.

Celebrations with friends and family

Celebrations with friends and family ‘Photo Credit Lyn Colman’

Ember Days

Ember DaysThen one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. ‘See,’ he said, ‘now that this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘send me!’
Isaiah 6:6-8

The days are passing quickly now, flurries of letters and documents are being exchanged to ensure that everything will be in place for my ordination. College work is being completed and deadlines met. It is now less than nine weeks before I stand before the bishop and make my vows that will admit me to holy orders and I when I will become a deacon.

Ordination traditionally takes place during Petertide or Michaelmas. In Winchester this happened at the former time on the Saturday and Sunday nearest to St Peter’s Day (29th June) and this year it will be over the weekend of the 5th-6th July. As the time approaches I become more aware that whilst this has been very much a personal journey I have been uplifted and supported by a whole host of others, not least through their prayers.

During the church year, there are special periods set aside for prayer and fasting, some of these are known as Ember Days or Weeks, when prayers are sought and offered for all those preparing for ordination and for the parishes and people that they are being sent to serve alongside. Often, these requests are in the form of Ember cards, that are made and given to friends, family and congregations – a handy aide-memoire.

It also seems appropriate to use the image of an ember for this part of the journey as well. After all an ember is a glowing, hot coal made of greatly heated wood, coal, or other carbon-based material [in the hothouse of a theological training college!] that remains after, or sometimes precede, a fire. Embers can glow very hot, sometimes as hot as the fire which created them [God and those who have led them to faith]. Although outdoor types are often careful to throw water over them or cover them with earth [the world that still doubts or does not know] because they radiate a substantial amount of heat long after the fire has been extinguished, and can rekindle a fire that is thought to be completely extinguished or which has new fuel added to it [our ministry to hearth and home, wayfarer and wanderer?]

So here is my ember card featuring a design I created of a celtic cross:

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit. John 15:16

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit. John 15:16

and if you are the praying type then here is a prayer you might like to use:

Dear Lord,
You call us all into fellowship
both within and without your church:
hear our prayer that those who are called
to be your faithful people,
through their vocation and ministry,
and who are soon to be ordained,
may each be an instrument of your love;
and grant that they may receive
the necessary gifts of grace
in order to do your work;
we ask this through our Lord and Saviour,
Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.