Tag Archives: ministry

16 November: The ruined chapel

ruined chapel

This derelict chapel is lost in the Herefordshire countryside. The church at nearby Richard’s Castle is no longer in regular use for worship. Has God abandoned the Marches (the Welsh/English border country) or have the Marches abandoned God?

It’s more complex than that. People have gone. Farm work is done mechanically; the railways that employed thousands have closed or greatly reduced the number of workers, and so on. But also people have indeed turned away from Sunday worship.

This chapel was built around 1810 by local people who responded to the Methodist Revival led by the Wesleys. They wanted to live the Christian life more fully and when they were cold-shouldered by the established Church of England, they erected chapels that look as much like dwelling places as churches. Other  groups were also building ‘dissenting’ chapels, like the Baptists and Congregationalists. One of my ancestors is believed to have ministered at Bethel Chapel in nearby Evenjobb, across the border in Wales.

It is a shame to see the building abandoned, the lawn gone to nettles, brambles, and buttercups – we can welcome the buttercups, but the others will soon be preventing people from entering. It is unloved. Perhaps no descendants of the worshippers live nearby, or they don’t know about the chapel, perhaps they don’t care.

So do we Christians pack up and go home? Or do we try to tune ourselves to Christ, live as he would do, in season or out of season?

In a final plug for Rowan WIlliams’s  Luminaries, a few words from his reflection on Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

You’re free to offer God’s love quite independently of your own security or success. Sometimes the world may be in tune and sometimes not; sometimes there is a real symbiosis, sometimes a violent collision. But the labour continues, simply because the rightness of the service does not depend on what the world thinks it wants and whether the world believes it has got what it needs from the Church. (p116).

 

 

 

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October 24, Month of Mission: walking and working together.

Nurse

Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr writes from  Kasama, Zambia, about youth work in Saint Anne’s parish. To read his post click here. After describing some of the successes of this ministry in a large parish with many communities, he touches on some challenges.

Family breakdown

A good number of our young people are raised by single parents; others have been orphaned at a young age and were brought up by their grandparents. Some have never met their fathers. Dealing with such young people needs spending time to listen to them and counselling them. Peer counselling is a skill that is needed.

The widening gap between Urban and Rural Youth

There is a growing gap between young people coming from urban and rural setups. In some areas, children have to walk 10 km on foot to reach the nearest primary school. In the rainy season, roads get really bad and some bridges are washed away. Added to that, the grass grows tall so that it becomes risky to walk in the bush and on top of all that some villages are widely scattered. In such areas it is difficult to find someone who has finished secondary school. This poses a challenge of leadership in the Church. It also increases a vicious circle of poverty.

Youth In the year 2017, I baptized 17 adults among whom were 8 school girls aged between 14 and 18 years of age who had dropped out of school. Later I discussed with their parents and church council how to ensure they go back to school. We must be interested in the formal education of our Christians if our ministry is to be transformative.

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16 October: Month of Mission: Close to Home


Canterbury Street Pastors

Today is the feast of Saint Paulinus the Apostle of Yorkshire and first Bishop of York. He went up there from Canterbury about 1400 years ago. This post is about missionary activity in Canterbury today, and an ecumenical mission at that.

The Night Economy has grown in Canterbury over the last few years, and a night on the town leaves some people very vulnerable. Street Pastors are not there to take advantage of them as potential pew fillers but to see them safely home.

We are part of a national team first pioneered in 2003, and Street Pastors continues to grow throughout the UK and across the world.

Street pastors are trained volunteers from local churches and we care about our community.

We are usually on patrol from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night to care for, listen to and help people who are out on the streets.

We are led by our local coordinator and we also have support from local churches and community groups in partnership with the police, local council and other statutory agencies.

If you are interested in finding out more about our work, or are interested in becoming a Street Pastor, please visit: https://streetpastors.org/locations/canterbury/

Canterbury Street Pastors- Registered Charity Number 1164627

 

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6 July: U is for Upham

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I’d forgotten this alphabetical gazetteer of places around Britain till I turned over the drafts folder. There are fewer places beginning with U than you might expect. Uttoxeter? Horse racing and biscuits. I could tell a story about biscuits from forty years ago, but I’m going back further, to my schooldays, and the village of Upham, unofficially known to us at school as Upper Upham, to distinguish it from nearby Lower Upham.

Both villages are tucked away off main roads in rural Hampshire. As a teenager, I was sent to Upper Upham as a catechist to a young boy preparing for his First Holy Communion; I was following in the footsteps of other boys who had taught his sisters. We were given adult responsibility as teenagers. And I had an early taste of working one to one with children out of school, though this lad was simply receiving some of the religious education he would have been give had he been in a Catholic primary school. He was not a school drop out or throw out.

My lad did not live in the Brushmaker’s Arms, but we sometimes made our way in there. Smaller than this it was, as I recall it, all cool and dark inside, but it is good that it’s still open, and welcoming far more customers than 50 years ago. No doubt we’d have to show ID to get a glass of beer there if we were teenagers today.

Our Church seems as confused about young people as the rest of society. Children or adults? Capable of preparing younger children for the Sacraments? We don’t really trust them, yet catechists are needed and grandparents should not do it all, willing though they may be. Readers, ministers of the Eucharist? They won’t volunteer if they don’t think they fit the picture; and someone has to put them there.

It’s worth recalling that youngsters like Saint Pancras gave their lives for their faith; and for every young Roman man I know of there are many young women, Roman and British: Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Perpetua, Felicity get mentioned in the Roman Canon at Mass, they were considered that important in those days; Tydfil, Winifred, Eanswyth, Mildred among our more local heroines.

Do we think young people in Britain today can have a lively faith, evident in their lives? Just asking.

 

 

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22 June: Overheard on a journey

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I had been visiting friends a long way from home, and took a train from Western Ontario back towards Montreal and my plane which I almost missed, but that’s another story.

A conference was finishing in one of the towns we passed through, a conference for church ministers. Two, an older man and one as fresh-faced as I was at the time, came and sat behind me. They would be crossing the border back to the US, changing half an hour later to get their plane or connecting train, so I did not hear the whole of their conversation.

I wished, and still wish I hadn’t heard any of it at all, but occasionally it comes back to haunt me. My apologies to any reader who thinks I ought to have kept it to myself.

I can well understand that the ministers would not be talking Scripture or Theology or Hospital Visiting at the end of the conference, unless there had been a truly inspirational speaker! Sport, family, holidays, gardening, I could understand. But what I could not help overhearing would have put me off if I had been one of their flock or someone inching towards faith.

The older man was congratulating his colleague on his appointment to a church that he knew, but rather than advising him about the congregation, the town and their strengths and needs, it was a monologue on clerical ambition and how to fulfil it. ‘In five years’ time you should be looking to be in a much larger, more prosperous church’, the younger man was told. Making a name for himself in the local newspaper (this was 40 years ago), driving newer, larger cars, the message seemed to be that the prosperity gospel was to be lived by example.

I could not believe my ears; this man clearly felt he was safe on the train, nobody could hear him. Did he believe that Jesus preferred his gospel to that of Saint Francis, or a poor Baptist preacher, supporting a church in a run down suburb or rural settlement? Was he idealistic as a young man? Where did his zeal go?

Lord, send us priests and holy priests!

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February 7. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe VII: Brother Sheward and Brother George did the impossible.

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Br. Hugues OFM

Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

Br. Sheward Mandongwe and Br. George Machega have spent the past several years in the Franciscan formation programme, which included human development, religious and Franciscan studies with practical experience in pastoral ministry.

Br. Sheward did his Franciscan Year at St. Francis of Assisi-Nharira Mission in 2014 while Br. George, at the same place in 2015. The Franciscan year is a period of integration and Franciscan experience as it is said in the General Statutes of the Order of Friar Minor that during the time of temporary profession, all the Friars must follow an integrated formation that is properly Franciscan so that they may live out more fully the life of our Order and carry out its mission in a more suitable way.

Following the tradition of the Franciscan Friars in Zimbabwe, at Our Lady of the Angels Friary, Tafara, the day before the profession of our two brothers, after an evening meal there was a time of dialogue between the brothers of the Custody of Good Shepherd and Family members of Br. Sheward and Br. George.

Some brothers explained the Formation stages: Aspirancy, Postulancy, Novitiate and Temporary Profession, Philosophical studies, Franciscan Year and Theological studies. Br. Alfigio explained about the three religious vows; Poverty, Chastity and Obedience with the fact of renouncing all individual goods. Other senior Friars explained the total belonging of the friars to the Order until death, that brothers are buried in the graveyard of the Franciscan Friars not in the family graveyards.

That evening gathering was also a time for the family members of the two brothers to ask questions about Franciscan life. The following day, the special day for Br. Sheward and Br. George, the ritual of their Solemn Profession took place during the Mass led by Br. Fanuel Magwidi OFM, the Parish Priest of St. Matthews Parish, Glenview. The Celebration was well prepared by a committee from St. Matthew’s, in collaboration with their parish Priest. Br. Jean Claude OFM, during his homily instructed the two brothers that Solemn Profession is done only once in life and there is no way backwards once it is done. Brothers are bound by vows into the Order for the rest of their life.

The Custos, Br. Alfigio, received the Final Profession of Br. Sheward and Br. George. After the Eucharistic Celebration, a meal was shared with all who were present, religious from different congregations, families and relatives of the two brothers, the faithful and even uninvited guests. We thank God for this grace, Br. Sheward and Br. George did the impossible by not only gathering different people from different families and leave everything for the sake of Franciscan life, a decision which is not easy to take. Through this celebration, the Franciscan Family is also growing and the Order is very thankful to God and to all the people who made the day possible.

Thanks to Brother Chris for letting us learn about Franciscan Formation in Zimbabwe. We hope to return there in the future. Will.

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5 March: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XVII. Listening to Each Other in Humility

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Once again we see how a sense of humour was essential for living with Saint Francis, and how the community balanced its loyalty to Francis and loyalty to Brother Masseo. 

SAINT FRANCIS, desiring to humble Brother Masseo, to the end that he might not be lifted up to vain glory by the many gifts and graces that God gave him, but by virtue of humility might grow therewith from virtue unto virtue, on a time when he abode in a solitary
place with those true saints, his first companions, (among the which was the said Brother Masseo), spake on a day to Brother Masseo, before all his companions:

O Brother Masseo, all these thy companions have the grace of contemplation and of prayer; but thou hast the grace of preaching the word of God, for the satisfying of the people : wherefore to the end that these may be able to give themselves up to contemplation, I will that thou perform the office of the door and of alms- giving and of the kitchen ; and when the other brothers eat, thou shalt eat without the door of the House; so that whosoever shall come to the house, thou mayst satisfy them, ere they knock, with some good words of God ; so that then none other need go out save thee; and this do for the merit of holy obedience.”

Therewith Brother Masseo drew back his hood and bent his head, and humbly received that obedience, and continued therein for many days performing the office of the door and of alms-giving and of the kitchen. Whereat his companions, as men enlightened of God, began to feel in their hearts great remorse, considering that Brother Masseo was a man of great perfection, even as they and more so, and that on him was laid all the burden of the House and not on them. For the which cause they all were moved with one desire, and gat them to the holy father and besought him that it would please him to distribute among them those offices, sith their consciences could in no wise endure that Brother Masseo should bear the burden of such toil.

Hearing this, Saint Francis yielded him unto their counsels, and granted their desire; and calling Brother Masseo, said unto him: “Brother Masseo, thy companions desire to have share in the offices that I have given thee, and therefore I will that the said offices be divided.”

Quoth Brother Masseo with great humility and patience: “Father, whate’er thou
dost lay on me, or wholly, or in part, I deem it altogether done of God.”

Then Saint Francis, beholding their loving kindness and the humility of Brother Masseo, preached unto them a marvellous sermon on holy humility ; setting forth unto them that the greater the gifts and graces that God giveth us, the more humble should we be, as without humility no virtue is acceptable to God. And done preaching, he distributed the offices with love exceeding great.

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African Missionaries to Africa

The final stages of becoming a Missionary of Africa priest, or White Father, are to take the  Missionary Oath and Diaconate . This happened just before Christmas in Merrivale, South Africa for 18 young men from many African countries and from India. Follow the link to read an account of the two ceremonies, but here is an extract from Deacon Jean–Baptiste Todjro’s account, appropriate for today’s Feast of the Holy Innocents and Sunday’s of the Holy Family:

One word was echoed strongly throughout the celebration of our Missionary Oath and Diaconate Ordination: FAMILY. Prior to the celebration of the oath, Didier Sawadogo, representing the Superior General, presented to us the message of the General Council by giving to each of us the positive affirmation of our Society which states: ‘Filled with the joy of the Gospel and guided by the Spirit, we are an intercultural missionary society with a family spirit. Sent out to the African world and wherever our charism is needed, for a prophetic mission of encounter and of witness to the love of God’ (Capitular Acts 2016:17). It is with this sense of belonging and willingness that we responded YES to the call of God and the desire of making God’s love known and flourish in the African world. The word FAMILY was at the heart of the homily of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier who in addressing us insisted that we have to participate in the mission of the Church and identify the challenges that families are facing as our primary mission in collaboration with the universal Church. As such one can boldly say we are ordained to be APOSTLES TO FAMILIES, NOTHING BUT APOSTLES TO FAMILIES.

Let’s pray that God will give them all the graces to be just that, apostles to families; and that we, too, may recognise and live out this same vocation.

MMB

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21 April, Easter Friday: “Who are you?”

Easter Friday
Image from: http://fatherkevinestabrook.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/homily-easter-friday-2016.html

Jn 21:1-14

‘None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, “Who are you?”

I was wondering why such a question would even arise? Didn’t the disciples know what Jesus looked like after going around with him for three years?

Then it occurred to me that perhaps Jesus’ appearance was different after the Resurrection. After all, the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognise Him either. It was only Jesus’ familiar actions – breaking bread, feeding and caring for them, creating miracles of abundance that gave Him away.

The lesson from this for the disciples is that, from now on, the Christ will be recognised not by an individual physical appearance but by what he does. That is why He asks Peter to feed and care for the people of God, continuing His ministry. It applies to us, His followers, who continue His mission today. People should be able to recognise Christ in us by our actions: breaking bread in the Eucharist, feeding and caring for people, trusting in the Father’s providence for our needs.

I ask God to keep reminding me that my actions should always be those of Jesus, to witness that He is alive in the world today.

Amen – alleluia!

FMSL

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31 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: VI, Scandal.

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Dear BBB,

There is, of course, an elephant in the room. Has anyone ever said to you something like, ‘Your priests are all child molesters.’ It’s not true of course, but

The disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them, and said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But he that shall scandalise one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:1-6.

It is not just non-Catholics who are scandalised. I once got chatting to a visitor to Saint Thomas’ in Canterbury, totally thrown off balance by learning that his beloved parish priest had been convicted of viewing and storing child pornography on his computer. The institutional church has to regain our trust. 

As a parish minister, working with children, there came a day when I had to submit my name for a police check that I had no record of abusing children. I felt violated that it had come to this. I don’t need to be told that those who suffered abuse from trusted priests and other adults had far more reason to feel violated, but we are one body in Christ. What violates my brother or sister violates me. And if my sister or brother walks away, I am the poorer: if I don’t feel the poorer, something is wrong with me.

You, dear BBB, not only noticed their absence, you drew it to our attention. Thank you.

Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast [the demon] out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

Matthew 17:19-21.

It will take time for many to take our message seriously so long as we are not seen to be loving one another.

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