VICAR’S LETTER FOR AUGUST-SEPTEMBER MAGAZINE
Today (1st August) I have just received news from Linda Dean’s husband Peter that she is a little better, though she will remain in intensive care for some time to come. At last he has been able to show her some of the many heartening cards and other messages that have been sent, and he asks that I relay her thanks and his for everyone’s kindness, concern and good wishes. I am sure we will all continue to pray for Linda and Peter and their family.
Our churchwardens Malcolm Craddock and Steve Reynolds took their oaths of office for the coming year at a service in St Paul’s Cathedral during which the Diocese of London Capital Vision 2020 was launched. The Bishop of London calls on all Anglicans in the diocese to be
- confident in speaking and living the gospel of Jesus Christ;
- compassionate in serving communities with the love of God the Father;
- and creative in reaching new people and places with the good news of the power of the Spirit.
The members of St Mary’s Primrose Hill have a long history of being compassionate. Every winter we host a cold weather shelter on Monday nights for homeless people with the help of a host of volunteers, ably organized by Celyn. Thanks to Ronnie Fuller’s initiative, we are more proactive in looking after the elderly and vulnerable in our community, and we have recently begun to work in partnership with Mora Burnett House. Members of the congregation look after one another, as they always have done, with great kindness and no fuss. And of course our commitment to community youthwork, and particularly to young people at risk of involvement in gangs, was demonstrated recently when the money needed to save Jason Allen’s post was raised in just two weeks.
Being creative is also in St Mary’s DNA. Our parish has long been home to people in creative professions – even a hundred years ago we were notorious for being more bohemian than respectable! – and our tradition of fine music, lectures, the designer sale, an all-age panto, jazz concerts, book clubs, wide-ranging discussion and high-quality design is something we can rightly be proud of. As a congregation we are willing to try out new things, whether it is a family eucharist, a welcome survey, admitting children to holy communion, or even just moving the furniture around from time to time to stage a new kind of event. I think it is fair to say that we try hard to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
I believe the Bishop’s challenge to be confident is the one that we need to grasp. Many educated and successful people, able and at ease in every other part of life, feel under-resourced in their faith and religious practice. This is no surprise. The Christian faith has been under continuous attack from cultural commentators for decades. Familiarity with the Bible, Christian doctrine and the Church year, formerly a part of a typical British education, has become rarer and rarer. Young art students now wander around galleries wondering what the religious pictures they see are all about, and students of English literature miss many of the scriptural allusions and quotations that would have been well known to every Victorian reader. Many modern seekers feel more comfortable identifying as “spiritual” rather than “religious” in large part because of this unfamiliarity with the specifics of the Christian faith.
Church is the place that should be able to resource us so that we can speak of what we know. In a recent sermon I said that the clergy are a bit like the pump attendants at a full-service petrol station. Lay Christians come to church on Sundays to be “filled up”, nourished and equipped to live the good news in daily life, which is where it really makes a difference. The development of the Faith at Work initiative at St Mary’s, inaugurated by Mark Wakefield but now being taken forward by lay leaders, is undoubtedly one of the most important projects we have undertaken in many years.
The parochial church council spent this year’s Awayday looking at what the Bible says about the ministry that we are called to in our baptism. We were somewhat taken aback by the consistency and strength of the message that ALL are called to be disciples in the world, active in serving the gospel. In the coming year there will be many opportunities to be refreshed, challenged and resourced in order to take this calling seriously.
I hope that the year ahead will see us growing in confidence as we fulfill our mission statement “to make Jesus Christ known”.