For all the saints and souls…

We’ve reached the time in the liturgical year when all the feasts and commemorations pile in at break-neck speed. This Sunday, we not only celebrate the festival of All Saints’ (in an all age eucharist, 10am) but we also commemorate the departed (choral evensong, 6.30pm) at All Souls’. So, we celebrate the company of earth and heaven for those who are living, and those who have lived the Christ-life.

As we come to the end of the Trinity Season and its summer-long, green growing Sundays and autumnal-falling Sundays, we now enter the Kingdom Season. Red is the colour used to reflect this season. November becomes the month in which red symbolises the poppies of remembrance upon the battlefields of the western front, the presence of the Holy Spirit in purity and fire, the sacrifice of Christ the King on the cross of Calvary. The Kingdom Season, starting with All Saints’, encourages us to seek out the kingdom on earth as well as heaven.

The Kingdom Season is a time of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. I would suggest that the world needs these virtues at this time. It is our vocation to seek hope where there seems little but anxiety and despair. I am most encouraged by the way in which God washes up saints in the flotsam and jetsam of life. Flotsam comes from the French word meaning to float and jetsam is the abbreviation of jettison. These words coupled together describe the debris (including saints and sinners) thrown overboard by distressed crews in danger of capsizing and dying.

I wonder if we are at a particular kingdom-making epoch? A season in which humanity continues to throw overboard its treasure and its rubbish in order to desperately keep the ship afloat? In such chaotic times we value little else than our own precious existence with little thought to others. Kingdom building is the opposite of these acts of vandalism. Kingdom building seeks to collect and renew the debris, it attempts to rescue the drowning saint and sinner, it aspires to bring all that has been discarded and bring it back onto the boat (the Church… the world).

Building the kingdom might not look or sound very conventional!

And the kingdom building starts with you and me!

Learn more about the Kingdom of God and the company of earth and heaven this Sunday at St Michael & All Angels, Summertown, 8am, 10am and 6.30pm.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! See what’s going on by clicking here which will transport you to our website.

Pentecost 100

“What if we could welcome 100 people to church on the Feast of Pentecost this Sunday at 10am?”

Gavin’s dream – Pentecost 100

Pentecost is so-called because it occurs 50 days after Passover and links God’s promise of salvation to the Israelites with his promise of salvation to the all the nations of the world.  

The liturgical colour for this feast is red symbolising the way in which the blood of the passover and the fire of the Holy Spirit converge to form a palette of passion.

On the first day of Penetecost children, women and men throughout the nations of the world became aware of God’s presence.  The presence of God pervades within us today, each human being without exception.  The Holy Spirit, the advocate, the guide, invites us into a fellowship with God and enriching all of our relationships.  

The Acts of the Apostles describes how men and women hurriedly came together to hear and see and feel and touch this Spirit that was moving within and between them.  The disciples were joined together at the time of Pentecost. They were given the gift of communication to discern and understand others, to listen and to extol.  People from many different nations and cultures first heard, on this day, the word of God.  And they believed.  God gives us this Spirit to build up his church on earth.  This Spirit is within us, and it is our decision whether or not we wish to join in or not.

This idea of the Spirit of God being present – whether dormant or alight – is caught by the poet Joyce Rudd:

Inside each of us there awaits a wonder-full spirit of freedom.

She waits to dance in the rooms of our heart that are closed and dark and cluttered.

She waits to dance in the spaces where negative feelings have built barricades and stock-piled weapons.

She waits to dance in the corners where we still do not believe in our goodness.

Inside each of us there awaits a wonder-full spirit of freedom.

She will lift light feet and make glad songs within us on the day we open the door of ego and let the enemies stomp out.  

The ‘dance’ of Pentecost has caused me to dream. I wonder if we, as a parish church, can kindle a flame of hope and produce a bounty congregation on Pentecost Sunday? Can we invite friends, neighbours, work colleagues and family members to church in order to swell our numbers to 100? Are you up for the challenge? All you need is to forego any embarrassment and ask – my hunch is that people will be pleased, even intrigued to be asked. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a full church to celebrate Pentecost. Just as the church grew from that moment in Jerusalem, maybe our congregation will also grow if we intentionally seek to increase our numbers.

I will be printing 100 sheets for Sunday. I will warn the welcomers to expect a large crowd. So now over to you. Who can you invite? I cannot promise fireworks in the nave or a bonfire in the church garden but I can trust that the Holy Spirit will kindle a small flame of hope for those who attend. Please join me this Sunday at 10am in celebrating Pentecost 100!

Gavin

Thy Kingdom Come

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus. What started in 2016 as an invitation from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer. This blogpost reminds us of the importance of this Easter prayer which is situated between Ascension and Pentecost.

During the 11 days of Thy Kingdom Come, it is hoped that everyone who takes part will

  • Deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Pray for God’s spirit to work in the lives of those they know
  • Come to realise that every aspect of their life is the stuff of prayer  

After the very first Ascension Day the disciples gathered with Mary, constantly devoting themselves to prayer while they waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Like them, our reliance on the gift of the Holy Spirit is total – on our own we can do nothing.

Through the centuries Christians have gathered at that time to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ picks up this tradition. Over the past three years more and more worshipping communities have dedicated the days between Ascension and Pentecost to pray ‘Come Holy Spirit’.

Please join in! Here is a prayer to help:

O God, who in Jesus gave us an example of how to embrace pain and opposition, as we enjoy both sun and rain
from our common humanity help us to pray intently for the redeeming and blessing of our blue and green planet.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

On Ascension Day, Thursday 30th May, we will be celebrating the Eucharist at 10am and 8pm. The choir will be singing in the evening. Do come and mark this important event and pray, Thy Kingdom Come….

Gavin

Call me by my name

Henry Scott Holland made this well known appeal in his poem ‘Death is nothing at all,’ “Call me by my old familiar name. Speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.”

It is a poem which riles some and soothes others. Scott Holland personalises death through the inveterate way in which we use names. It is difficult to navigate through the day without using names (I wouldn’t commend this behaviour). Name calling, in its proper use, is a dignified form of communication. We feel good when somebody uses our name for the first time, it signals a new stage of relationship. We are identified, known, revealed for that most precious title – our name.

Names are also significant because they have meaning. Many of us been attributed with names which are part of our family heritage. They are a way of remembering important and loved people. Our names can reflect culture and creed. There were a huge influx of Kylie’s in schools as the Minogue celebrity grew in the 1990’s. There have also been a throngs of apostles and evangelists used by the righteous for their sons and daughters across the centuries.

So, names in life and death have meaning, bring purpose and identity. God calls us by name also. From the calling of the boy Samuel to become king, to the in utero calling of Jeremiah and John, God calls his people to life and action. During his short life, Jesus was called many different names including the Christ, Lord, Master, Rabbi, King, Son of God/Man/David… Jesus knew the power of name-calling so much so that he re-named Simon to Peter. This new name represented extra responsibility but it was also an acclamation of Peter’s strengths. Jesus appointed Peter (Cephas in Greek, meaning rock) as the leader of the apostles, the one who would be strong enough spiritually, physically and emotionally, to support the followers of the Way as it grew into what we now call the Church.

If we have been wronged or hurt by another, we often prefer not to use their name. We might even defer to a different, more retaliatory, form of name-calling.

Names are important to God, they are the means by which God communicates to us – silently, persistently in every given moment. Unlike God, we can choose whether we call someone by name or not. If I am honest, I notice myself doing this to those I love and (much easier) to those I find difficult to love). Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand Prime Minister responded to the atrocity in ChristChurch last week by refusing to name the gunman responsible. Her speech was passionate, authoritative and sensitive. She said, “he will, when I speak, be nameless… I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them.”

I couldn’t agree more! Yet, God in his unlimited love, cannot be silent; he is not nameless before God. Is this what unconditional love means – that God continues to call the name of the man who created such evil and destruction? Perhaps we should dwell on this during Lent. Let me offer you some verses from the prophet Isaiah and his sense of hope and liberation:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.

Learn more about God’s redemptive love this Sunday at St Michael & All Angels, Summertown, 8am, 10am and 6.30pm.

Don’t forget Stations of the Cross each Friday in Lent at 6pm in church.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! See what’s going on by clicking here which will transport you to our website.

The Agricultural Year

I’ve been wondering what it would have been like to live in Summertown 100 years ago or even earlier. When Alderman Twyning purchased the land to build what was to become St Michael’s at the very beginning of the 20th century, the emerging parish was mainly composed of farmland, orchards and dwellings running up and down the Banbury Road. How things have changed!

The area now known as Summertown would have been filled with orchard meadows and farmland.


The agricultural year would have shaped church life and worship. Parishioners would have been all too aware of the vagaries of weather, of pestilence and disease. They would pray for God’s blessing at seedtime and harvest. So, there developed a seasonal honouring of the beauty and fragility of God’s nature.

The Church would witness the agricultural year in prayer and devotion: In chronological order, Plough Sunday came first. It was observed on the First Sunday of Epiphany and refers back to Victorian times, but behind it there is a much older observance. In medieval times some ploughs were kept in the parish church for care and safety!

Next came rogationtide, from the Latin, rogare meaning to ask, taking place on the weekdays before Ascention Day. It is the seasonal observance asking God for a new springtime. Processions started to be organised around the parish. The poet George Herbert interpreted the procession as a means of asking for God’s blessing on the land, of preserving boundaries, of encouraging fellowship between neighbours with the reconciling of differences, and of charitable giving to the poor. This developed into the tradition of ‘beating the bounds.’ 

Next in our order, we have Lammastide, from the Anglo Saxon meaning Loaf Mass! Held on 1st August as a thanksgiving for the first-fruits of the wheat harvest. Traditionally, a newly baked loaf from the wheat harvest was presented before God within the mass of that day. And finally, we have Harvest Thanksgiving which is the most modern addition to the church calendar. By the late 19thcentury, the first Sunday in October became the chosen date for a Christian response to the largely secular ‘harvest home’ celebration. 

Purple crocuses are a special feature in our garden this year, witnessing to those in Africa still suffering from Malaria.

On Sunday at 6.30pm, at a special service of Choral Evensong, we will be celebrating the agricultural year God’s beauty in nature. We are inviting everybody in the parish and beyond to come.

Learn more about God’s care for creation this Sunday at St Michael & All Angels, Summertown, 8am, 10am and 6.30pm.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! See what’s going on by clicking here which will transport you to our website.