Sunday, 20 March 2011

O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed...

....Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments, and also that by thee, we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Tonight I went to Evensong, a service which I am very familiar with, but have been away from for a very long time. Yet in the manner one meets an old friend one hasn't seen for a long time, I settled quickly back into the familiar routine, with its familiar words, it's familiar comforts.

The Second Collect has always resounded with me. It has brought me comfort in times of trial and 'earthed' my feelings of loss and aloneness.
Give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give
God's peace is reachable. It is as accessible to us in the world in 2011 as it was in 1662 through these words above.

At this service a certain priest, not so far away from me, preached on the subject of finding who God wants us to be, and not being defined by our possessions. This line then jumped out, over and over again. God gives us peace, a peace that this world can not and will not give.

I don't know about you...but when I am worried about something this panicky feeling is not just emotional it is physical. I shake, I sweat, I cannot settle. God's peace is the only way to calm this. To say "Yes God, help me, I need you!"

I love evensong, whether sung by some world-class choir in a cathedral, said alone, sung in church with 2 or 3 gathered together, I would still love the essence of evensong. God's people gathered in penitence and praise.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

On this day in 1994

On the 12th March 1994 the first women were ordained priests in the Church of England.

I was a mere 13 years old, a young female Christian for whom this news was joyous! I was confirmed at the tender age of 10 and took a full part in the life of the church. I was by this point, a member of the church choir, I had read lessons, and I had just started to lead intercessions under Dad's watchful gaze.

There had been a Deaconess in one of Dad's previous parishes, but I was too young to realise that these women were anything other than a usual part of parishes all over the country, or indeed to recognise the lack of ordained ministry for women.

By 1995, I was attending my first Eucharist celebrated by a woman. This woman was the Anglican chaplain at the Royal Berks Hospital, her husband was the Methodist chaplain. Dad had been invited to her first Eucharist and Mum and I also attended.

It was a wonderful occasion in that little college chapel. I felt the hairs on my back stand on end as she raised the Host during the consecration. I felt tears in my eyes as she gave us God's blessing. Words cannot fully explain how this felt for me, as a teenage girl, to be part of a Eucharist celebrated by a woman for the very first time, I cannot ever imagine how that would feel for the lady who presided.

In the car on the way home Dad turned to me and said "Now you could be a priest."

I have discovered today to my great joy that one of the ladies who was ordained on that glorious day in 1994 baptised our son in 2008. She is just one of the many wonderful priests, I have had the privilege to meet.  Male/Female the great ones are really great! God has given all these wonderful people a calling, male or female and I for one am so glad that they are all able to live out that calling within the Church of England.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ash Wednesday thoughts

"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return, turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ"
Yesterday was a strange day for our family. We celebrated my husband's birth 37 years ago, we mourned the death and celebrated the life of a person we knew and cared deeply for, and we both had ashes imposed to mark the beginning of the season of Lent (I should say that the Curate both imposed ashes himself and had them imposed twice, celebrated Communion once and deaconed once, and fitted in a piece of birthday cake and some presents too).

This sentence from the Ash Wednesday liturgy rang true for us particular after the events of our day. I was  particularly moved as it was the first Ash Wednesday when I have been able to be in church for 4 years, thanks to the kindness of a lady in our congregation offering to babysit.

In church last night were our Guides, a noisy bunch of young girls who behaved very well and appeared to be open to the learning experience a service for Ash Wednesday provided. However I am not sure but I suspect that, like me at their age, the line which reminds us of our human mortality was lost on them. It is difficult (and frightening for some) to consider the possibility of death, the death of our loved ones, not to mention our own death, when we are just at the beginning of our human life, and feel immortal. Yet Christianity has us facing that truth in the picture of Christ on the cross very early on in our faith journey, but not without the hope of the resurrection.

So to continue my thoughts about the reason for Christ's death, I believe in a resurrected God. In order to share in Christ's victory on Easter day we have to follow Him to the cross. Allow Him to wash our feet, break bread with Him, accept the times when we have denied Him access to our lives and our hearts, weep with Mary at the foot of the cross, and experience her fear at the empty tomb. Only then can we truely share in the joy of Easter Day, in that most glorious victory.

So that is where the "turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ bit" comes in. This Lent I shall offer anew all I am to God who loves me and forgives me and who loves and forgives you.

God our Father,
the strength of all who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers;
and because, in our weakness,
we can do nothing good without you,
grant us the help of your grace,
that in keeping your commandments
we may please you, both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.