For All Who Hunger

Somewhere around 2014/15 a series of what we might call Godincidences brought St Lydia’s to my attention. I had stumbled upon a subject for my Masters’ thesis that involved sacramental theology and communal tables – and in the process discovered this “dinner church” in Brooklyn that appeared to embody much of the theology I was advocating. At the same time, a friend moved to NYC and joined the church’s staff team; another friend found themselves there sporadically when in the city… I finally made my first visit in September 2015, when over a two week break post-MA break, I managed to spend four evenings at St Lydia’s. (I wrote a very enthusiastic write up in the days when I still blogged regularly.)

I returned to St Lydia’s multiple times – my last visit was just a couple of weeks before my friend Hannah left the team to move to Toronto in January 2019. Each time, I picked up the name badge I’d written in 2015 and got stuck into to dinner conversation, washing up (always my preferred post-dinner chore) and after-church drinks. It’s also thanks to Lydians that I have a favourite karaoke/Korean food haunt in Brooklyn.

The Lydians setting up for Advent 2017

In St Lydia’s, I found a place where the meaning of the Lord’s Supper was enacted with an authenticity that felt lacking in many other churches. All were welcome at the tables; all were fed, physically & spiritually. [I have never gotten over the communion service I attended at a church in LA where in order to receive bread and wine I’d have needed to hand over documentation to prove that I was entitled to it. Not what Jesus meant people!!]

In the five years since my first Lydian encounter, I’ve pondered setting up a version of dinner church in my own context. Various things have got in the way, and now who knows what might be possible in a Covid-19 world? But the principles behind it remain inspirational.

By a stroke of luck, I managed to get onto the launch team for the release of For All Who Hunger – the story of how St Lydia’s came to be, by its founder Emily Scott. An advance e-copy of the book landed with me last month, but I’ve discovered that being a church leader in the midst of a global pandemic doesn’t allow much time for reading. So I find myself having finally read it – mostly within a single afternoon/evening – a week after it’s official launch. (Although it looks like readers in the UK can’t buy it till the end of May, so I feel marginally less guilty.)

British church culture currently seems very focused on church planting that results in large churches – particularly following the ‘resource church’ model. [Although who knows what the impact of Covid-19 will be on this? Perhaps we’ll be looking at planting lots more smaller churches….here’s hoping.] It was therefore refreshing to read Emily’s account of the slow grind in getting St Lydia’s off the ground.

“The part no one ever talks about is the humiliation. It’s humiliating to try to start a church in an aggressively secular city. To invite people to come to worship when they’ll likely think you’re unforgivably naïve, unsophisticated, uneducated, and conservative to believe in something so off-trend as God. It required divesting myself of the notion that I would ever, ever be anything resembling cool.”

For All Who Hunger isn’t a blueprint for starting up a church – every church, every leader and every community is different – but with its stories of how St Lydia’s evolved over the years, it provides examples that should inspire others. There’s common-sense relationship building – listening to people to hear what their needs are, rather than just barging in. Collaborating with the right people at the right time. Learning from those who were there first. There’s a powerful account of getting involved with Black Lives Matter and Faith in New York, told with acute awareness of white privilege. The description of the response to Hurricane Sandy hits particularly hard right now, as the world struggles to formulate a response to the pandemic. Who knows how St Lydia’s might have evolved were it not for the insight that that disaster provided?

The story of how the church evolved is told alongside (some of) the story of Emily’s own personal evolution.  As a single female church leader myself, I really appreciated Emily’s – often comedic, always realistic – insights into the perils of trying to date as a pastor! It concludes with her moving on from St Lydia’s – an important part of the journey that isn’t often told in this kind of book. St Lydia’s and Emily’s ministry continue, but in different places.

Ultimately, I’m grateful that there’s now a book I can point people towards when I tell them something of my own experience of St Lydia’s. Telling Brits to head over to the Atlantic for a Sunday or Monday night service isn’t particularly feasible, but reading this bridges that gap. It evokes so much of the atmosphere of St Lydia’s that when I finished reading late last night, I looked up from my iPad half expecting to be back in Brooklyn.

“St Lydia’s showed me abundance is a secret hidden inside of scarcity. It lives, tucked inside not-enoughness, waiting to show you that God does not do math. Abundance is discovering God’s provision right in the middle of your fret and worry.”

Resources for the Church in different times…

There is a certain irony to the fact that, having spent much of the last decade thinking about the way church can embrace digital (and vice-versa), I find myself leading a congregation where around 40% of regular worshippers don’t have access to the internet. (It’s a small congregation, with a significant number of elderly people.)

When churches first started closing across the US – a week before the same thing happened in the UK – I realised I needed a plan for how my congregation could continue to worship while in their own homes, because streaming was definitely not the answer. What I have come up with, I’m sharing below, in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

  • A Booklet of prayers & readings to use at home, plus suggestions for where to find worship on radio/TV. Compiling this was my distraction while waiting for the Archbishops to suspend public worship on March 17th. Virtually all the prayers come from the Church of England’s Coronavirus prayers and liturgy webpage. It feels like this has already made its way around half the Church of England, after I offered it up on Twitter! There are highlighted sections that should be amended for your own context…
  • Creating a piece of code that enables people to ring a number (local – you can choose it) and listen to a sermon (or any other mp3 file you’d want to share). I used this brilliant step-by-step guide, and had it up and running for last Sunday. I’d been concerned that some of my non-online people also had poor eyesight, so sending them text documents wasn’t necessarily helpful. An added bonus of this is that I can circulate the dropbox link for the audio around via email and WhatsApp, so everyone gets a sermon!
  • On the ‘Final Sunday’ we created a WhatsApp group for the congregation. I usually wouldn’t go down this route (I have a love/hate relationship with WhatsApp groups at the best of times, and there are potential safeguarding issues) but again, my congregation is small. We worked out who was not on WhatsApp and buddied them up with someone who was – this was pretty organic and there’s already a great pastoral structure that supports the older members. The WhatsApp group is now an easy place to share info and have it disseminated wider. We also get to hear updates on whoever has recently been phoned up – so it very much feels as though the pastoral burden is shared.
  • As my vicarage is connected to the church, I go in on Sunday morning and preside at communion. The congregation know that this is happening – they’re invited to send prayer requests in and we’ve shared the peace via WhatsApp. This week, as part of a Holy Week/Easter mailout, I’ve also shared the Church of England’s guidance on spiritual communion, in case that’s helpful to them. [There is a PDF on the CofE website, but frustratingly it goes onto 3 pages by just 3 lines, so I copied & edited it until I got it down to just two sides of A4!]

My other thought on March 17th, was that this was obviously going to affect Holy Week and Easter. In packs that I sent out yesterday (with palm crosses enclosed), I included two Holy Week/Easter specific things:

  • A booklet of Bible readings & meditations for each day of Holy Week (up to and including Holy Saturday). The meditations all have a sensory element to them – it’s basically a slightly adapted version of something I created for Good Friday two years ago, but I felt like it had the capacity to work in people’s homes too, and felt like it could work for families.
  • A liturgy for Maundy Thursday that could be used around an evening meal. My church was meant to be hosting a Maundy Thursday supper as part of our contribution to our Group Ministry Holy Week. Again, streaming didn’t feel right (although the Group’s Good Friday services will be done online), but I felt like something people could use in their homes would be apt. It’s drawn from a couple of different places and has several Bible readings in it (which could be cut down depending on time/attention spans), and although it mentions bread and wine, is definitely not sacramental!

While some may prefer not to send physical materials to their congregation (it is thought that the virus can live for up to 24 hours on paper), this is really the only way I can get such things to them. I made use of Royal Mail’s Click & Drop service, and the envelopes will have been sealed at least 36 hours before they actually arrive anywhere. I don’t imagine I will do anything quite like this again until we get to Pentecost.

I have quite a bit more to say about the church in its current season, but I’m going to leave that for another day. Certainly we are in unprecedented times, and if I can save someone a bit of time or mental energy with what I’ve managed to get done, I’m glad!

The curse of Hot Priest

Last month, the Guardian published an article entitled “Is this the cultural moment of the hot priest?” In the words of its author, “when I thought about it, I began to notice hot priests everywhere.” Obviously, there’s THE Hot Priest of Fleabag series two fame; but then there’s Grantchester, the Young Pope, and a trendy priest in Derry Girls. [If you haven’t watched this gem, why? In our current political climate everyone should watch a comedy set in 1990s Northern Ireland.]

The writer of the article decided to do some fieldwork, checking out their local Episcopal church (first sign that the article was written by an American dwelling Guardian writer) for evidence of hot priests in the wild. Their discovery?

The priest who administered my communion was fairly good-looking. But was he a hot priest? I wondered, tripping as I entered my pew. And how do you define “hot”? The scale itself is subjective, is it not? Does a man (or woman) of the cloth need some other, more je ne sais quoi quality in order to qualify? Is it more about charisma?

And this is where I begin having a massive issue with the hot priest trope…

Don’t get me wrong, Andrew Scott IS categorically hot. (And also bears an uncanny resemblance to Ant *and* Dec, which once pointed out to me, I can’t unsee…) The chemistry between him and Fleabag positively sizzled and honestly, drinking a gin in a tin on a bench in a church yard will never be the same again.* [See below for a sidenote of a story…]

Hot Priest was hot, and flawed. Each week I would ponder why he wasn’t thinking about crossing over to the Church of England. Whether he was playing Fleabag. Why he thought snogging someone in a confessional was a good idea. Why he hated foxes… Hot Priest needed to be hot. That was the point.

But take the hot priest phenomenon into a local parish and I have problem.

For starters, please don’t contemplate the hotness of the priest presiding at Eucharist – male or female. It’s not exactly the point of the sacrament.

And could we not expect priests in real life to be like the ones on TV? (In so many ways! I don’t want a priest like Hot Priest leading a church!) True, Adam Smallbone of Rev and Father Michael of Broken had moments of brilliant realness and embody some of what I know many clergy do in their day-to-day ministry, but they’re rare bright sparks in the media’s depiction of the clergy.

But the biggest issue I have with the fetishisation of the hot male priest is the way in which it undermines the campaign to smash the stained glass ceiling. Society’s ideas about female appearance and sexuality are shown to be a major factor in objections to women taking on leadership positions in the church. A recent video from the United Methodist Church showed male clergy reading aloud comments that their female colleagues had received from congregants. Many of the comments related to their appearance, including:

“It’s hard for me to concentrate when you say ‘this is my body given for you’ during communion…”
“I can’t concentrate on your sermon because you’re so pretty.”
“I keep picturing you naked under your robe.”
“If I were 20 years younger, you wouldn’t be able to keep me away from you.”

In the era of #metoo and #churchtoo, surely we should be beyond such a superficial obsession? Would the Guardian have published a similar piece on hot female priests? No – partly because there are none in TV sitcoms or dramas (would we call the Geraldine Granger “hot”? Or the feisty women clergy in Rev?); and – more likely – because it would be called out for being horrendously sexist and exploitative.

I’ve seen the occasional piece that’s made a thing of a female vicar’s looks – I recall a Daily Mail piece nearly a decade ago that suggested that the growing congregation of a rural church was down to its young, blonde female priest. I know friends who’ve been wolf-whistled while wearing their dog collar. There was my well-meaning parishioner (sadly no longer with us) who told me a few years ago that I should wear my black DM boots more often because they made me a “sexy vicar”. (He meant well. I never wore them to the office again!)

Perhaps the hot priest phenomenon is considered acceptable because it’s not new. The classic trope of the male curate adored by spinster parishioners has featured in literature for centuries – whether it’s Jane Austen or Barbara Pym. The history of film is littered with attractive actors playing men of the cloth, including Oscar winning performances from Spencer Tracy & Bing Crosby, not to mention the fact that Robert de Niro has played a priest at least four times. But Hollywood is always going to prefer a priest who’s on the hotter side of the spectrum…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy to see some more mainstream depictions of clergy in the media; but it strikes me that we are heading down a road that’s unhelpful. Two of my favourite TV priests (or aspiring priests) of recent times have been attractive, but that’s not been a deliberate part of their character arc. Father Brah on Crazy Ex Girlfriend was a recurring character who dispensed wisdom and occasional dance moves. Daveed Diggs playing a seminarian on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a genius way to introduce Kimmy to church.

It would be lovely for more of these characters to be female. Where’s the gritty drama starring a over-worked female vicar? Why, 25 years after the ordination after women as priests in the Church of England, is the only female vicar who’s the protagonist in a TV show the flipping Vicar of Dibley?? (In the 90s Dibley was groundbreaking. I am now thoroughly sick of it being the only pop culture anyone can make relating to my vocation.)

Yes, Fleabag is one of the best things that the BBC has ever produced, but it’s led us to something of a dark place. Society, could we get a grip please?

Fetishising priests doesn’t help anyone, especially not real priests. Especially at a time when churches of all denominations are having to rebuild trust between their leadership and wider society.

Fetishising male priests really undermines a lot of the efforts to level the playing field for women.

And, there will never be – ever – a member of the clergy who can compare to Andrew Scott. Apologies if that shatters any illusions, but it’s the truth!

[*Sidenote: In the middle of series two airing, I made a trip back to the shire to visit my family. Arriving at my parents ahead of a Sunday roast, my mum offered me a G&T which I declined on the basis that I’d had a train gin en route. She replied: “Ah, I thought you’d have a can of gin – they’re very popular these days, thanks to Fleabag.”

My first thought was “well, we’ve been drinking cans of G&T for absolutely years and I’m pretty sure you’d have been more surprised if I hadn’t picked one up for my post-church train journey”. This was swiftly followed by “wait, what??! You’re watching Fleabag?!” When questioned, she declared “Oh yes! It’s one of the best things I’ve ever watched!”

Reader, think about Fleabag and then think about whether it’s a TV show you’d expect your mum to be watching…]

The mystery of everything

The Mystery of Everything & The Magic of Stuff’ – Genesis 1:1-14

Christ Church Highbury, February 18th 2018

[Each year, Christ Church chooses a Lent course that is followed in home groups & in Sunday’s sermons. This year we used The Mystery of Everything, a course by Hilary Brand based upon the film The Theory of Everything. We use the course in our home groups and Sunday sermons – this was the first week of that series.]

The ‘mystery of everything’ is potentially quite an undertaking for just 6 weeks, but it’s broken down into five themes of mystery:

  • Our origins
  • Suffering
  • God’s care for us
  • Wisdom
  • Weakness
  • The cross

It acknowledges that faith requires us to engage in mystery. We never reach a point in our relationship with God where we know all the answers. No human in the history of creation has come close to fully comprehending the mystery of God, although many have tried!

The problem is that this doesn’t sit well with our human instinct of curiosity – we’d rather know the theory behind everything, rather than having to settle for a mystery. We seek answers to questions; we are created with an innate desire for knowledge within us. I’m not sure we ever fully depart from that phase all small children go through where every other question is “But why….???”

And, over centuries, humanity has tried to establish the answers to our questions. This course explores some of these questions, doing so through the story of someone who attempted to find answers in science: Stephen Hawking, and the film based upon his earlier career, The Theory of Everything.

Stephen Hawking is arguably one of the greatest scientists the UK has ever produced. His book A Brief History of Time, published in 1988 as an introduction to his work and ideas for the masses, sold over 10 million copies in 20 years. It’s been published in 35 languages and is one of the bestselling science books ever published. Covering topics such as the Big Bang and Black Holes, for many people it’s been their main introduction to some of the ‘big’ questions around our origin and how our world works.

Modern culture has a tendency of viewing science and faith as an either/or situation. Can you believe in Genesis and the Big Bang? Hasn’t modern science disproved monotheistic views of how the world came into being?

The Mystery of Origin

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” 

The most we are told about HOW God created the world is that his Spirit hovers above all, and that at his command, light, sky, land, and all that grows & lives on earth. The intricacies of exactly how this all came to pass, and a precise time frame is not part of Genesis’ opening chapters.

It’s generally understood that this account was written by Moses, in around 1445 BC. It is certainly not an eye witness account! There are also widely understood to be two creation narratives, this in chapter 1 and then a further narrative in chapter 2. They are complementary rather than contradictory, providing God’s people with an understanding of his centrality in their world.

God’s creation is shrouded in mystery, and the more that we have learnt of the world through scientific exploration, the more questions have been raised. Some would argue that theories such as the Big Bang and Evolution are indicative of Genesis being wrong. That there is no God, or that creation couldn’t have taken place in the way Genesis accounts for.

I don’t know where you stand on these questions. I am categorically not a scientist! It was not my strongest subject at school, and I don’t really have the greatest of interests in it – certainly not to the extent that I would buy A Brief History of Time and read it for fun! But I am a historian and theologian. I am interested in why and how things happened. I’m fascinated by the way in which our world has grown, changed and evolved. And obviously, I believe that God is in the centre of it all.

My father has a scientific background – he was part-way through a science degree when he realised he was being called to ordained ministry. As a result, growing up, religion and science were not regarded as an either/or – they were compatible rather than being mutually exclusive. I learned about evolution at school, but was shocked to discover that there were Christians who didn’t believe in the scientific theory because it was at odds with Genesis. Aged 9, I was rather hasty in my dismissal of these Christians (probably to my parents’ great amusement), but it resulted in a long conversation with my father about how to reconcile the two arguments with each other. As an adult, I still hold a similar view – that I can see God at work in these scientific ideas, and I don’t consider them to undermine my faith and beliefs.

There isn’t time to go deeply into the debate of which creation ‘story’ or theory is correct, or grounded in the most evidence. I’m sure many of you will have your own opinions on this. What we should not do is dismiss scientific discoveries and research as attacks upon God’s autonomy – because although there are atheist scientists, there are many who have a belief in God’s work in creation too.

I love this story about one of Einstein’s classes:

A class of students were saying they had decided there was no God. Einstein asked them how much of all the knowledge in the world they had among themselves collectively, as a class. The students discussed it for a while and decided they had 5% of all human knowledge among themselves. Einstein thought their estimate was a little generous, but he replied: “Is it possible God exists in the 95% you don’t know?”

Even within science, there is still mystery…

When we read the creation narrative set out in Genesis as readers dwelling in the 21st century, we do so in our specific time and culture. We bring to our reading myriad questions that would not have crossed the minds of those hearing Moses’ account centuries ago. But we see God at work at the beginning of time, just as we see God at work in the world in which we live today.

A sense of awe:

In the mystery of creation is a sense of awe. As we ponder these questions of how, when and why, we are struck by the majesty of what God has done and is doing. Where do we find that sense of awe at God’s creation in our lives?

There has been more than one depiction of Stephen Hawking’s life over the years. Just a couple of years before The Theory of Everything came out, the BBC made a film of his life starring Benedict Cumberbatch. I happen to be more of a Cumberbatch fan than an Eddie Redmayne one, and in this drama was a scene between Hawkings and Jane – who he later married – where they lie together in a garden, gazing at the stars. As they do so, Stephen attempts to explain some of his ideas about black holes and the universe – very romantic!

But as I was re-reading Genesis, I was struck that I have a similar response to the stars. Not a scientific weighing up of possibilities, but a sense of awe at the vastness of God’s creation. Living in London, it’s not something I get to do every day – but I think of when I’m on holiday in rural France, sitting outside late at night, looking up at a sky that seems so huge and full of infinite possibilities. That the stars I’m looking up at began burning bright centuries ago. That people I care for far away can look up at the same stars. That, these lights in the sky were created at God’s command…

This sermon was preached just a few weeks before Stephen Hawking died. In the days following his death, many tributes appeared that included some of his work on stars. (Credit.)

As I look back on my life I can think of plenty of other moments where I’ve felt a similar sense of awe:

  • Holding a newborn baby & marvelling at this tiny, perfect creature who’ll grow up to be someone.
  • Watching a child do something for the first time.
  • Standing in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, overcome by the vastness of water.
  • Catching sight of a beautiful sunrise or sunset.

I could go on, and I’m sure you would all have plenty of moments to add to that list. I would encourage you to find time to think about those that have come into your mind. Thank God for his creation, and for the way in which it has reminded you of his presence.

Perhaps you have questions? Lent can be a time in which you choose to intentionally engage in the mysteries of our faith and our world – through a lent course, through conversation with others, or through intentionally finding out more about an area you’re curious about.

Despite all our questions and wondering, in the midst of the mystery of everything, there is one certainty: God is at work – yesterday, today, and forever.

The challenges & encouragements of the talents

Matthew 25:14-30 – The Parable of the talents

Christ Church Highbury, November 19th 2017

Have you ever participated in a challenge based upon this parable? Where you’re given a sum of money and challenged to do something creative with it…

Several years ago, Tewkesbury Abbey – where my sister worships – did this with its congregation in order to raise money for a worthy cause. Every participant was given £10 and challenged to use it to raise more money for the church. She spent the money on ingredients for Christmas mincemeat, selling the jars to friends and family and giving the abbey back not just the original £10, but also a tidy profit.

Obviously, this wouldn’t have worked as a fundraising strategy had everyone at the abbey buried their £10 note in the ground and returned it when the abbey asked for it back. It’s a pretty good contemporary illustration of Jesus’ parable.

***

We know this parable best as ‘the parable of the talents’ – but our modern translation has exchanged ‘talent’ for gold. A ‘talent’ was a measure of wealth equivalent to more than could be earned over 15 years as a labourer, but we can probably visualise bags of gold more easily. Either way, the servants are entrusted with a phenomenal amount of money by their master – and acquired a good deal of wealth on their master’s behalf.

In Jesus’ time, servants were often expected to care for their masters’ properties and businesses while they travelled – potentially for long periods of time. The masters needed to be able to trust these caretakers, and expected faithfulness in return. In addition, it was important for the servants to do their job, but not to inflate their own status – believing themselves to be stand-in masters.

In this parable, not only are the servants trusted, they are given the extra responsibility of caring for their master’s money. Verse 15 states that the gold was given to each ‘according to their ability’ – so one could argue that the master already held the last servant in low esteem!

The third hapless servant is overcome with fear. That is his motivation for burying the gold. Perhaps he was concerned that he might be tempted to spend his master’s money. Perhaps he feared that he wouldn’t manage to keep it safe from thieves. He doesn’t trust his master for giving him this responsibility and seeks to protect his own interests. In contrast, the two other servants are ready to take a risk – for themselves and for their master – and it pays off.

***

I wonder which of the servants you find yourself identifying with? Entrepreneurship is a gift that I don’t think I possess, so I’m not sure that I could have thought of a way to double the master’s money!

 

This parable is an invitation from Christ to us to take up the gifts we have been made responsible for, and to do the best with them for the good of the kingdom. It is one of a series of parables Jesus tells to illustrate what will happen when he returns and brings about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

The message is stark: ill-treat what God has entrusted to us, and face miserable consequences. The unfortunate servant is thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

But it is also an encouragement – I promise!

We should be encouraged that all of us have been entrusted with gifts by God. They take different forms of course – for some it may literally be bags of gold to use wisely and for the benefit of others. For others it may be practical gifts that can be used to give our society a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. The parable tells us that each servant is given money according to their ability. God does not call us to tasks or situations without also equipping us with the gifts we need to fulfil his calling.

Each of us, as Christians, have the opportunity to multiply the gifts God has entrusted to us – in turn, growing the Kingdom.

The challenge is to overcome the fear that is the third servant’s downfall. It is very easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task that God has put before his church. When we are overwhelmed – as I’m sure we all have experience of – the temptation is to bury our heads (or our gifts) in the sand, and to put off offering any kind of contribution to God’s mission – the proclamation of the gospel.

But, as I said, the encouragement is to be found in the faith and trust that the master placed upon his servants. We have been entrusted. God has confidence in us, his children. All we have to do is act!

***

I had one further thought that struck me as I thought about this familiar passage was how helpful it is for Christ Church, during this season of being in vacancy. While we are without a vicar, we are responsible for the church and the resources that God has given us. I’m not suggesting that Jonathan (our previous vicar) was our master, but that it’s an interesting parable to draw comparisons with. We have been entrusted with keeping Christ Church going – all of us, not just the staff team and Church Wardens – and, to each of our abilities, God has given us even more.

Vacancy periods are great times to give people new responsibilities, particularly those who are not ordained. So  a few members of the congregation, have had training in how to lead some of our services and over the next few months this will be a really valuable contribution to keeping our worship going. Similarly, a group of people have taken on the responsibility for our monthly Jazz Vespers service.

In this way, when a new vicar is appointed, they will be greeted with more than was left behind when Jon left us in July. Many of you will have acquired new skills; developed new responsibilities; and grown in your relationship with God. A church that buried its riches during a vacancy period would stagnate, even regress – but I am very confident that this is already not the case with Christ Church.

***

I asked you earlier which of the servants you identified with this morning – and that’s a question that I would love you to leave today pondering.

If you are confident that you are using the gifts you have so well that you’re multiplying them – great! And thank you! Perhaps you could do some encouraging of those who are apprehensive of the responsibility.

If you are feeling apprehensive, perhaps disbelieving that you have been given anything, may I encourage you to take just one small step. Perhaps that’s reading a book that will deepen your understanding of God and your faith. Perhaps it’s volunteering with the church or in our community in some way. It could even be taking the time to sit down with someone you trust to talk through what gifts you may have that you don’t even realise you possess – often we need other people to point them out to us.