Thinking ahead

A year ago the clergy of the Cathedral went away together to talk about where the Cathedral was going in the next stage of our life, what direction we would be taking. it was out of that that ‘Living God’ came. We are now entering the second term of that process, the phase in which we will be thinking about ‘Living God Living Word Living Prayer’ and it begins in earnest this Saturday with a morning in the Cathedral in which we will be thinking about word and prayer. It should be excellent and I hope that many will be able to join us for this so that this term begins well.

But our conversation was about the final term and then what …. It was a good conversation and there were a great many ideas which we can begin to take forward. So more of that when we have made some firm decisions.

As always this has been a busy week in the Cathedral and it has culminated in the Installation this afternoon (Sunday) of six new Honorary Canons. In the newly approved Statutes of the Cathedral we have increased the number of clerical and lay Honorary Canons and introduced for the first time, ecumenical canons. This is a big change for us and it means that, with such a large diocese, we can bring more people into the life of the Cathedral, into the Foundation, and that gives us excellent opportunities to make the College of Canons more reflective of the diocese.

Six new Honorary Canons for the Cathedral

Six new Honorary Canons for the Cathedral

The priests this afternoon, for instance, were a mixed bunch, from all shades of church tradition, and reflecting so well the diocese as a whole. Between them they have huge experience of priestly ministry and have contributed in so many ways to the local and the national church. I was delighted to be able to preach on this occasion and so to take the opportunity to reflect on priesthood.

One of the things I had been re-reading was George Herbert’s, ‘The Country Parson’. It was written almost as a handbook for the parochial clergy in the very early days of the Church of England. Herbert describes what the ministry of the ‘parson’, of the ‘vicar’ is. He looks at almost every aspect and much of it is as relevant now as then – the essentials of ministry never really change.

George Herbert - priest-poet

George Herbert – priest-poet

Herbert begins with a wonderful phrase which makes those of us think deeply, pause and think deeply

A Pastor is the Deputy of Christ for the reducing of Man to the Obedience of God.

No one would dare claim such a thing for them self – Deputy of Christ – and we can only accept the truth of it in humility, knowing our unworthiness to accept such a high calling. Yet, that is what the six installed this afternoon had the courage and the audacity to do, to hear the call of God in their own life and respond with a ‘yes’. And for those not ordained priest, the implications are huge as well.

That phrase ‘the reducing of Man to the Obedience of God’ is very challenging. We have to remember of course that Herbert was writing in the seventeenth century and using language differently. Faith for me, obedience to God, is for building up not ‘reducing’ but I know also that so much of me does need to ‘submit’ to God. Even that word is too harsh for some – submission – and yet we have to align our life to God, give our self in sacrificial response to the God who gives all to us.

So a challenge to all of us, I think.

The other day I mentioned a friend and mentor, Bob Hawkins, who had died, the Head Server at the church where I grew up and from whom I learnt so much of the faith and learnt, in many ways, something of obedience to Christ. Then this last week one of my aunts died. She had grown up with Bob. She had been Churchwarden of her church and a great supporter in particular of the choir. Since she died, Facebook comments from former choristers, testified that her house was always open to entertain the choir and to encourage them. She was just living out her Christian faith, like so many people in our churches and we give thanks for everyone, ordained or not, who try, day in day out, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so, to live out what it means to follow Christ.

Living God,
may our faith live in us
live through us
that we may help others
to find their life in you.
Amen.

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