Streamed service this evening, at 5pm, a quiet half an hour of reflection and prayer for the start of Holy Week. Click here to join: https://youtu.be/w9_sEWTattI
Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) by Sister Claire, SMMI
Fuller Seminary Archives and Special Collections, “COLLECTION 0064: Collection of Sr. Claire, SMMI Biblical Art, 1980-2003” (2018). List of Archival Collections. 154. https://digitalcommons.fuller.edu/findingaids/154
A Churches Together in South London (CTSL) debate on how to encourage a more diverse and inclusive leadership in our churches
This online discussion on 4th November sought to tackle some key issues central not only to CTSL, but to our own Church of England. Namely: how can we all be proactive in putting diversity and inclusion at the forefront of our planning and leadership of church projects, not least those where we combine resources and co-operate with other Christian churches in our area?
As might be expected for such an ambitious topic, the event was successful in raising awareness and spurring us on – but left it to us to navigate ways forward within our own communities. There is a pressing need for us to seek God’s mind at a local level and to make issues of social inclusion and justice relatable in our lives together, so this in itself marked a significant way forward. As lockdowns force on us new ways of living as a Eucharistic community, we are looking for signs of our times, for those moments of ‘Kairos,’ that invite us into God-being-ness, which, with prayer and collaboration, start to be the living stones of the Kingdom.
First to speak from her lived-experience was Chine McDonald, Head of Community Fundraising and Public Engagement at Christian Aid, author, and Trustee of Greenbelt, Christians Against Poverty and Christians in Media. The quote, “from principle to practice” comes from her – itself a quote from Dr Elizabeth Henry, an anti-racism activist who has advised the Archbishop of Canterbury. Her full quote speaks of the need to move beyond willingness to tackle racial inequalities to consolidating that goodwill in action and outcomes.
We have to start where we are. We cannot be in that moment of God-given change if we are stuck in the past, or busy projecting forward our own expectations. St John’s is part of Inclusive Church, and we are called to follow Jesus’ example of servanthood if our ministry is to bring life and healing to those around us and beyond our church community. We are called to empty ourselves of what has gone before, and to listen to the “idle tales” of the marginalised that speak of resurrection life.
The second speaker was Richard Reddie, Director of Justice and Inclusion for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, author, commentator and researcher. His word was one of unity, urging considered thought and positive action to promote inclusion, and building on Chine’s assertion that “diversity is a fact; inclusion is a choice.”
These are the two questions the speakers left with us to consider together: What are the barriers to creating diverse leadership in our churches? Is racial diversity in leadership an afterthought or a forethought?
Every time we sit down at the page, we’re beginners.
CLAIRE VAYE WATKINS
This is a quote from the American writer Claire Vaye Watkins. It is about the process of writing.
It reminded me of Revd Lu’s evening sermon last night, about sitting with God, and bringing our sometimes discomfort and disappointment with him or our lives into his abiding presence. The quote above is also about making a start, a beginning, and sitting with the feeling that we don’t really know how to do it or what will come of it. It is, in its own way, an act of humility.
It struck me that sitting with God in this way has that element of beginning too. As we begin the process of doing this, God begins a process within us and something new is born. The example Lu gave was King David being told he would not be the one to build the temple, God’s house, and spending time with the Lord in his disappointment. There God tells him he will build him a house instead – the house of David, through which Jesus is born.
So, to return to the idea of writing, sitting with God in our difficulties, including the difficulty of prayer itself, allows God to write his words on our hearts, and to begin something new. St Paul, writing about writing to the Church at Corinth, calls them “a letter from God,” and says, “This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”
As we pray for one another and our Church at this time of new beginning, may the Spirit of the living God write his Word on our hearts, and grant us a new faithfulness as we seek him in Scripture and begin to sit with him no matter what.
Please join us for our Service of Healing and Wholeness this evening at 5pm. It’s a gentle and reflective time of prayer, using an Iona Community liturgy, and lasts for around half an hour. A chance to join to pray for God’s healing and blessing for the world, people we know, and ourselves at this present time.
To find the link go to the red Menu bar at the top of this page and press ‘Worship.’ Then press ‘Live Streams.’ The Healing Service will show at the top of the list as the next Service to be streamed.
Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy. Sustain and support the anxious, be with those who care for the sick, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may find comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love… 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Here are some prayers from Inclusive Church for Epiphany, which we celebrated on Sunday:
You share your love with every people;
we draw limits of race and creed.
Lord have mercy
You immerse yourself in love of life;
we hold back in fear and shame.
Christ have mercy
You change the water into wine;
we refuse to let our hearts be moved.
Lord have mercy
Christ has broken down the dividing wall that made us strangers to one another;
he has made us one humanity
that God might be all in all;
he is our life, our hope, our peace.
by Christopher Herbert, entitled Hedgehogs:
come snuffling and scuffling
through the garden
like old men walking along a path
Lord, thank you for the strangeness of hedgehogs.
At the beginning of this new year, we thank God for all that comes from the edges of our understanding and experience; and for all that challenges us from the highways and along the hedgerows, pointing us to deeper ways to love and pray. May we walk a wiser path and delight in your presence with us O God. When we feel our own prickliness to difference and put limits on your love, speak to us by your Spirit and immerse us in your love for all you have made and all who seek you. Christ, be our peace. Amen.
Steven Shakespeare, Prayers for an Inclusive Church, Canterbury Press 2008, p.149
Christopher Herbert, Prayers for Children, The National Society and Church House Publishing, 1993, p.48
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