Praying today for the Synod on the Family

The Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church gather in Rome for the “Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” which will last for three weeks. Their theme is “the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.”It will “reflect further on the points discussed” at the 2014 Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops “so as to formulate appropriate pastoral guidelines” for the pastoral care of the person and the family.

Obviously all eyes are on their consideration of the contentious issues of divorce, further marriage after it, and same sex relationships. Their discerning here will be a defining moment of our times. But their more general reflections on the family, its nature and purpose in the contexts of today are also of the highest importance.

So let’s pray for the Synod and its members, with whom we would dare to say that we are one in Christ in the one world God has given us in which to live and love.

For a bit of briefing try the inevitable Wikipedia at

Sermon at the Admission and Licensing of Ely LLMs 2015

Just when I thought I was back in Ely, I seem to have found myself surrounded by a sea of blue-scarved Ipswich supporters. It’s very confusing! In reality, it is of course a real joy to be back on this side of the border, and back amongst friends – so many faces I know, and so many names I still remember, though please do prompt me if I look even more vacant than usual.

Back too with a renewed brief to do most of the bishopping on behalf of Stephen and myself for lay ministers, and not least alongside our first LLM Warden of Readers, Steve Mashford, for this honourable company, who really ought to have their own Livery Guild by now.

Today we are admitting and licensing three new Readers – Ann, Andrew and Pat, whose vocation and ministry celebrate, and in the context of both a wonderful inheritance of long service by those who have gone before them, especially those who will receive their awards today, and also of significantly increased numbers of new people starting training now who we will be welcoming in the future. Whatever the future of the Church of England in these interesting times, licensed lay ministry is clearly going to be part of it round here.

What we do know about the future, even if its organisational and institutional shape is living through a time of change, is that its own vocation and ministry remains unchanged. The words that begin our Diocesan Vision statement may be newly crafted, but their sentiment is as it has always been: we pray to be generous and visible people of Jesus Christ. And LLMs, who give so generously of their time and talents for a very visible public ministry, are part of our response to that prayer.

When St Paul wrote to the young Christians in Rome, church looked very different from how it looks now, but the calling was the same, on it as a body and on its ministers and members as individuals. He calls them to a generous life of self-giving not self-getting, which he daringly calls a living sacrifice – or lively sacrifice as those of us who were brought up on the Prayer Book remember it and which captures the sense even more richly, because we know that to give is to receive, and that the more we are generous to others, the more we are a people fully alive ourselves. This, Paul sees, is the real heart of worship: not the hymns or even the words of the prayers, but the hearts opened and offered in service to God.

Our fallen nature means that this does not come naturally to us. The Fall of Volkswagen has been all over the news this last fortnight, as the fragility of even apparently admirable human operations is exposed. It is so very east to become conformed to the way of the world. So we need to work at our transformation, at being not conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our minds. And that of course is just what Ann and Andrew and Pat have been doing during the long years of their training. Not just picking up a few useful skills, but soaking themselves in the scriptures, in prayer, in the wisdom of those who have gone before us, the three-stranded rope of the Anglican tradition which becomes our ladder to heaven. If all has gone well their character will slowly and sometimes strikingly have been stamped afresh with the image of Christ, like a coin fresh minted, gaining new worth and usefulness, new currency. It is a personal transformation in fact from which no Christian in fact can stand apart. We need to come to Christ and be formed afresh by him, or there is no life in us.

When we do come to Christ though, are conformed to him, then Paul teaches us that we start to see and understand, to discern what the will of God for us is, a will that is always good and for the good – and what other could we want. We start to share in the prayer of Jesus that God’s will might be done, and that prayer becomes our mandate and our marching order for our mission and ministry. Continue reading

Help–our church building needs work on it and I don’t know where to start

Try Buildings for Mission: A complete guide to the care, conservation and development of churches by Nigel Walter (of our own Ely Diocese), Andrew Mottram available here on Amazon. You could almost call it “Be Your Own Archdeacon”, it’s so good at explaining all the do’s and don’ts, rules and regulations – but keeping a strong sense of the mission of the church in mind as well. Real Archdeacons are a great help too!

Admission and Licensing of LLMs at Ely Cathedral 2015

Many congratulations to the Diocese of Ely on being blessed with its three new Readers to be admitted today at 2.30pm at the Catherdal (and to them of course!):

Andrew Bartram, to serve in Warboys with Broughton and Bury with Wistow
Pat Blyth to serve in Denver and Ryston with Roxham and Bexwell
Ann Williams to serve in St Neot’s

and to old friends Geoff Dodgson, Dennis Sadler and Barrie Swingler who have clocked up 25 years of service each, and Philip Dean, Julia Evans, Marie Lucchetta and Andrew Watts who receove John Hullock Awards to help them buy books to keep their post-licensing training going.

If the technology works, here are Andrew, Pat and Ann to say hello – and then the text of my sermon and official photos will follow.

Be an angel ……

Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, gave the sermon at the recent consecration of Anne Hollinghurst, Ric Thorpe and Ruth Worsley. I wasn’t able to be there so I was glad to find it online – vintage Cottrell. Here’s a quote:

So – a new line for the litany- Good Lord deliver us from successful bishops, from too well prepared or even too well organised bishops, from ready answer in the back pocket and PowerPoint strategy self-sufficient, all efficient bishops. Take us to those high places, places of perspective and reality, where we and all our schemes are set on fire, which, paradoxically for us, are also those places where life is raw, and pain and darkness requisite.Take us to the heights of prayer, to the depths of the scriptures, to the bottom step before the altar, to places of silent waiting where, with mitres off and staffs laid down,we will be replenished and know our need of God, and there be renewed and strengthened for the things that lie ahead as bishops of God’s church – messengers, sentinels and pastors.

The full text is at

New Fire in London


Hie ye over pronto to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website at for the full text of a remarkable and frank lecture by the Bishop of London chronicling the turnaround of the Diocese of London and its journey into growth over the last 20 years. Essential reading.
(Photograph: Lambeth Palace – Bishop Richard Chartres speaking at Lambeth Palace, 30 September 2015)