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Community Routes: September 2013

Community Routes

Faces of Faith

Helen Julian writes:

Above the door of one of the many pubs in Bishop’s Castle are the words ‘Enter as strangers, leave as friends.’ I came to this Shropshire town near the Welsh border, along with three fellow ordinands from Ripon College, Cuddesdon, in the middle of April to take part in a mission event. Called Faces of Faith, it centred around an art exhibition in the parish church, with panels produced by church members and others, each featuring an important Christian image from 2000 years of art. Each day we prayed morning and evening in the church, welcomed visitors, including local schoolchildren, and took part in lunchtime discussions. We stayed with local families, and ate each evening with different parishioners.

Bishop’s Castle is in a farming area, and we made a fascinating visit to the town’s cattle market with a local farmer. I hadn’t realised how expensive cattle were and we were all very careful not to make any gesture which could be mistaken for a bid! We also visited a farm and heard about the various problems facing farmers at present.

Musical events, icon painting workshops for adults and children, and a pub quiz enriched the programme, along with conversations in and out of church, with believers and those who were just interested. By the end of the fortnight I think we all felt we were leaving as friends, enriched by our experiences.

All of this was part of my year’s ordination training at Cuddesdon, which ended in June. It has been an immensely varied and rich year, always busy, sometimes stressful as deadlines loomed and I wrestled with new ideas and tried to recapture the art of the academic essay. As well as the academic work there was the chapel life, and practical duties ranging from serving tea at 4pm to checking security at the end of the day. And then there were the unexpected extras; I tried my hand at ‘waitressing’ at a formal Guest Night dinner; and at goalkeeping at the Cuddesdon Fete. And of course there were also the people, fellow ordinands of all sorts, their families, staff, visitors. From being strangers at the start of the year last September many of them have also become friends, and part of the lasting legacy of this extraordinary year. In them, and in my studies, I have also seen ‘faces of faith’ and been enriched by them.

Simply Living: Melanesian Mission UK

On March 22nd, a group of 10 brothers and sisters from the Anglican Church of Melanesia led by Clark Berge SSF, arrived at Gatwick airport to begin the Simply Living Mission to England sponsored by the Melanesian Mission. The four religious orders in the mission were The Community of the Sisters of the Church, The Community of the Sisters of Melanesia, The Melanesian Brotherhood, and The Society of St. Francis. We had a huge ten week itinerary: Hilfield Friary, Dorset; Estover, Plymouth, in the Diocese of Exeter; Lichfield Diocese; Chester Diocese; Chorley in the Blackburn Diocese; the Diocese of Ely; Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds Diocese, and the Diocese of London.

As we progressed around the country we were blessed by generous hosts and people seeking to learn more about Melanesia and how to live simpler Gospel-based lives. We presented five programmes: prayer in the Melanesian context, issues of social justice, climate change and care for the environment, a Bible Study on the Beatitudes, and a drama based on the story of the Prodigal Son. Of course much of the work happened unofficially, during shared conversations over meals, and tea. Perhaps for many people who met us, the sight of us playing football, jogging through the Cathedral towns and heaving a cream pie in the face of a brother during the course of our drama helped redefine what religious life might be like.

There were many highlights of the Mission. We began with an enthusiastic welcome from the Immigration official checking our luggage. Seeing our return address, “The Solomon Islands,” he recounted the joys of his visit to Honiara, took our carefully prepared packing list, and waved us through with blessings. In Chorley, in the Blackburn Diocese, a huge crowd of primary school students, nearly 300, erupted spontaneously into dance when we played the panpipes. We performed for and were interviewed by the TV programme Songs of Praise, for an Epiphanytide episode. At Ely Cathedral, the Girl’s Choir spilled into the aisle at the end of Choral Evensong to dance with us. In London, Archbishop Justin Welby invited us to dinner at Lambeth palace, and the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, Dr Rowan Williams, shared a retreat day with us at John Keble Parish, Mill Hill. The Mission culminated in a spectacular liturgy at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

JPIC Conference

Hilary writes:

About forty people, mostly RC religious, gathered at High Leigh over the last weekend of April, Br Hugh, Ann Hussey TSSF and myself being the sole Anglicans present. Most of the members were well known to each other and there was a good ‘community’ atmosphere from the start. The conference entitled ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God’ was led by Mary Colwell, an award winning TV, radio and internet producer who makes programmes for the BBC and the independent sector, as well as being a feature writer for The Tablet and other magazines.

Mary was a very lively and passionate speaker who brought a light but serious touch to her presentations. There were four main sessions. In the first – ‘The power of the ordinary’ she began by ‘testing’ us on our interaction with the world around us – listening to the dawn chorus (for those who managed to get up in time). How far are we connected with the natural world around us? We recognised that creation has a meaning which transcends us – it is not just there for the benefit of humanity!

The second session was ‘The age of forgetting’ – many activities we might remember from our childhood or growing years are no longer commonplace today. The natural world is thinning out and it is our duty as people of faith to notice how the earth and the seas are being raped for our benefit. Do I notice enough? Do I educate myself? Do I care? Do I act? What do I do about it?

Our third session was about ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Loving the unlovable, the ruthless and scary aspects of creation. We have to stop seeing the earth as a basket of resources and see it imbued with the face of God.

In the fourth session the Garden was used as a vision of harmony referring to many different images from Christian, Judaic and Islamic understanding and practice, and re-iterating our responsibility to do our own bit to preserve the wonderful world we have been given.

This was a challenging, inspiring weekend and thoroughly enjoyable.

‘IF’ campaign

Hugh writes:

In addition to the Religious Lobby of Parliament referred to by Benedict in the Minister’s Letter, to prepare for the G8 summit the Enough Food for Everyone IF… coalition called a rally on 8th June, reminding us that a billion, 1 in 8 of the world’s population, are hungry.

Fredrik Jerxsen and Jonathan Herbert of the Hilfield Friary Community, Desmond Alban, and I joined a Christian Aid coach in Dorchester for the service in Westminster Central Hall, where we were diverted to the also full St Margaret’s overflow. The Most Rev Vincent Nichols gave the address, Archbishop Justin Welby a video message, the General Secretaries of the Methodists and URC gave contributions, while Aimee Manimani spoke of her experiences of hunger in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Joining Peter and Vaughan, we walked to Hyde Park with Sr Kay Finnegan of JPIC Links where we added our paper flowers to the installation, a petal for each one of the 2 million children who die of hunger every year, more than are killed in war.

In Hyde Park, we met many friends, including a Muslim Aid worker who I had known in London, now an MBE, and several tertiaries. Joining an enormous crowd, we heard Bill Gates, the philanthropist, start his talk by reminding us that 100 years ago to the day Emily Davison, the suffragette, died of her injuries and encouraging us also to strive for change. Among other speakers were Julie Siddiqi (a Muslim), Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, and Satish Kumar. The weather was perfect, with a carnival atmosphere.

Unfortunately we had to get back to our coach before the end, missing Dr Rowan Williams, now President of Christian Aid.

Back at home The Guardian Online reported, ‘While supporters enjoyed the sun in Hyde Park, across London politicians and government officials pledged up to $4.15bn to tackle malnutrition, effectively doubling the annual current spend on nutrition by 2020. A spokesman for the IF campaign hailed the commitments as a major breakthrough. “That’s one big IF down, another two to go,” he said.’

Round up

Reginald moved from Canterbury to Alnmouth in August.  During September Joseph Emmanuel will move from Canning Town to Alnmouth, Cristian Michael from Canterbury to Glasshampton, Michael Jacob from Alnmouth to Glasshampton, David and Micael Christoffer from Glasshampton to Newcastle, Robert from Glasshampton to Crofton Road, Plaistow and Christian to Canning Town.

Helen Julian was ordained deacon by the Bishop Protector at Hilfield on 4th July

Phyllis has withdrawn from CSF; James William and Jonathan Guthlac have withdrawn from SSF.

In the Province of the Americas, Jude and Pamela Clare have been re-elected to a further term of office as Ministers Provincial of their respective provinces.  f