Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 24 September
15th Sunday after Trinity
It is now nearly eleven years since the PCC vision setting day where we asked the question what sort of Church do we want to become? At that time there were two mid-morning services, one lead by the men and boys’ choir, the other by the girls’ choir. Over this decade-long journey, as we have built our beautiful St Peter’s Rooms, much has changed. Our Church worship has evolved. Gone are canticles, psalms and robes from the first service; now children are welcomed and included; there is a new repertoire of contemporary worship songs and a worship band. The second service has sought to maintain the richness of the Classic sung common worship tradition. These two styles – the Contemporary and the Classic – are the Anglican norm across the UK.
With the completion of the building work we were able to return to having two mid-morning worship services. When we fulfilled that promise I had said that we would review the pattern and that is the plan for October.
We are asking just one question: “Which is most important to you?” with two possible answers:– (a)
- Worshipping together.
- The Worship style.
At every morning service in St Peter’s during October worshippers will be given a coloured counter. This includes children (who will have a different coloured counter). You are then invited to post the counter into one of the two boxes labelled “The most important aspect is worshipping together” or “The most important aspect is worship style”.
Some folks have asked how they will know, if they choose the ‘worship together’ option, what particular style of worship it will be, and the answer at this stage is that they won’t. If it is the worship style that is more important to you then put the counter in that box (like with charities at Tesco or Waitrose).
You may wonder what happens if you come every week in October (or go to both a 9.45am and an 11.00am service on the same day). Will you be able to vote more than once? And the answer is yes.
Unlike Brexit, this is not a binding referendum, it is a consultation and the results will help the ministry team as we pray and reflect the difficult decision of how to shape the worship pattern to enable the congregation to grow in spiritual depth and commitment to Christ, as well as numerically.
Sunday 17 September
14th Sunday after Trinity
What is the Church?
On 31st October we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral and the start of the Protestant Reformation.
The impact in this country began to be felt immediately amongst various dissenting groups, but it was only with the translation of the Bible into English by Tyndale that the foundations of the reformation were sown more widely. (He translated all the NT but was put to death before the OT was finished, Coverdale completed the translation.) At the heart of the reformation was the vital questions of how are we put right with God. How can sinful people come into the presence of a Holy God? Scripture now available in the native language gives the answer by grace through faith, salvation is not earned (bought through indulgencies) but is a free gift (God in his great love has fully covered the cost).
This was not the only challenge the reformers presented the Church authorities with. The accurate translation of a number of words in the new native tongue translations – that had in the Latin texts been mistranslated to affirm both the power, wealth and authority of the institutional church – were exposed as false.
Of these words perhaps the one that caused most conflict was the translation of the word ‘Ekklesia’ which the reformers accurately translated as congregation rather than as ‘Church’ which was as the authorities had translated it. The accurate new translation undermined, and continues to undermine, the wrong understanding of the word used in scripture as either a building or an institution.
The etymology of Ekklesia leads us to two complementary understandings:
Called out: those who God has called out, chosen for a particular purpose.
Assembly: the gathering of a group of people.
We see this in Jesus’ ministry. He calls out disciples they leave nets, tax booths etc, then they gather – assemble – around him. That is what the Church is. It’s the assembly – the gathering of those who have been called by Jesus and gather around him, listening to his teaching, being open to His Spirit, living out the lifestyle he calls us to.
With the King James translation it was in the interest of those in power and authority to return to the mistranslation of Ekklesia as Church. The word then becoming so culturally imbedded that many subsequent translations have followed suit.
So when we see in our Bibles or hear in Church the word ‘Church’, it is good to remember that it is never speaking of a building or an organisation but is talking of a gathering of people called out by God meeting with Jesus.
Sunday 10 September
13th Sunday after Trinity
Press release issued Tuesday 5 September The Reverend Patrick Angier, Vicar of St Peter’s said: “We were deeply shocked to hear of David Bradford’s arrest last year on possession of abusive images of children. David had until then been the part-time choirmaster for some years, although we believe none of the victims are connected with the church. We haven’t been permitted to speak openly about this until now, as we have been following guidance from both the police and the diocese to avoid impeding the investigation. St Peter’s has for many years followed strict and robust policies and procedures to safeguard the children and young people in its care, including full DBS checks for adult leaders. Our thoughts and prayers are with the children who are the victims of this abuse. We would encourage anyone who has concerns or has been the victim of abuse to contact the relevant authorities.”
It is every vicar’s nightmare, when crimes of the worst possible kind are committed by someone on the Church staff. It is made harder still when we have to keep silent, as for the period between arrest and trial we are told to sit on the information so that the police could follow leads, prepare their case, work out if this was a network or individual.
All the time asking ourselves as ministers the questions; were there warning signs that we should have noticed? Were concerns raised? But those who know David best – his closest friends within choir parents, music staff and wider church – saw nothing that gave away his secret life. I am very thankful to Andrea (our Youth Minister) whose persistence in insisting safeguarding policies and procedures were followed by the girls’ choir has ensured that our girls were not put at risk.
But most of all I am heartbroken: for the children who are the victims, whose lives have been damaged, whose childhoods destroyed. Our prayers need to be for them, for their healing and recovery in body, mind and soul.
How as Church do we respond?
As a Church our intention is not just to learn from the experience but to take action. All our licensed ministers already undertake regular training in safeguarding and child protection, but we will be rolling that out to all staff, small group, young church leaders, church officers and those with significant responsibility.
We have already implemented the latest safeguarding procedures but will be taking advice on any changes to our staff handbook and employment processes that ought to be made.
St Peter’s is and remains a Church where all are welcome of any age, where all can worship and grow in faith safely together.