REGISTER NOW for the Seminar! David Wilkinson events in Ely: When I pray, what does God do?

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I am delighted to be able to invite you to two free events in April with David Wilkinson, well-known “Thought for the Day” broadcaster and author – notably of his new book “When I pray, what does God do?”.

The first event is on Tuesday 5th April 2016, 7.30pm in the Old Palace, Ely (next to the Cathedral) and is an open lecture in the gracious surroundings of the Old Palace in Ely, by kind permission of King’s School. David will speak on the subject “When I pray, what does God do? Scientific and pastoral considerations” drawing on his extensive personal experience as an astrophysicist, theologian and minister.

The second event is on Wednesday 6th April from 9.30 – 1.00 in the Cathedral Centre, Ely (opposite the Old Palace) and is a seminar with David for lay and ordained ministers (colleagues from other denominations are welcome), picking up the themes of the lecture and book with plenty of opportunity for discussion and questions, and a practical focus on how our preaching and pastoral care can be enhanced in this area.

No booking is needed, but if you are coming to the seminar – to give us some idea of how numbers are going for catering purposes – a brief email to me at bishop.huntingdon@elydiocese.org would be appreciated.

Copies of David’s book will be available for purchase at the events.

A Climate Change Challenge from one of our partners in Vellore

Alfred (Alfie) Arunkumar is Principal of the Kasam Agricultural Institute in Vellore, whose Diocese is “twinned” with the churches in Cambridgeshire. Bishop Stephen visited Kasam, which trains farmers, when he was in Vellore and that paved the way for our Ecumenical Council to invite him over here for a month – and here he is now.

Alfie is not only a devout Christian and skilled agriculturalist (he earned his Master’s in London), but is also passionate about addressing climate change – because he can see with his own eyes the devastating effect it is having on his local farmers as the monsoons fail and the seasons become more extreme. Listen to him “live” on the video and for the challenge he gave when he visited me yesterday.

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

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.

Licensing of Caroline Wilson, to be priest-in-charge for Whittlesford and Pampisford

John 15.1-1

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

It’s great to be here with you, and on behalf of you and the whole diocese I want to give a very big welcome to Caroline and Colin and all the family. I’m sure, Caroline, that these two lovely villages will be a most welcoming community for you all and help you settle in really well.

My sense is that those communities are very special to you. Places with long and interesting histories as this building shows with all its quirks and turns: look around and imagine all the generations that have left their mark (and it’s perhaps as well that the Shelagh carving is on the outside as you do). Places where families have abided, to pick up a word from tonight’s reading, for centuries

Places where you want the families of today to flourish and bear fruit, to pick up another.

So it is natural that in describing the qualities you want in a new priest you major on relationships. Her ability to collaborate with others, with good pastoral skills across all ages; to collaborate too with our other Christian denominations, especially of course the URC; and with the whole community.

But as we know, and as this building also shows, each generation also brings change, and we face death as well as life, erosion as well as growth. The world is in a dangerous place at the moment, and the easy hope of never-ending improvement that I remember from my youth is a distant memory. So there is a real question here

How can we help things to flourish in our generation? And what is the role of the church in that?

Let me take you to a final very small but very important word in the reading. As.

Our Christian faith teaches us that God is love; and that love is his very nature; his DNA if you like. Jesus is held in God’s love, and shares God’s nature, so he loves us just as God loves us, and gives everything for us. And then he invites us to do the same. To so abide in him that we have his sap, his DNA flowing through us, and are able to love others too, in the same way as him. It’s a wonderful chain reaction, and it can change the world, one “as” at a time.

Gripped by God’s love you go home tonight and make it up with that family member that you’ve been grumpy with all week. They wake up feeling so much better about life, go to work, and the atmosphere their office or school changes too. A pupil or customer who could have been given a hard time is heard and cared for, and goes home and … And so the world changes, one “as” at a time.

It’s easy to feel scared about commitment and faith, to worry that it will become dogmatic, exclusive, dangerous. But if we try and live without roots, without commitment, without belonging, without close fellowship, we will never be able to help our communities flourish today. The answer to the all-too-evident problems all around us is not to abandon commitment, motivation, faith and values, but to choose a good faith, and good values, so that dangerous ones are not left to win the day.

Here in Whittlesford and Pampisford generations of people have found goodness like that here, in the church of Jesus Christ. And they have found it because despite the temptations of their human nature, another nature which is self-giving not self-getting in its very DNA has drawn them back time and again to a better way. And as they have deepened in their love for God, and let his nature become their second nature, so they have deepened too in their love for one another.

It is when we deepen our commitment to God through word,worship and prayer that Ghod’s church grows healthily, finding new disciples and leaders, and is able to engage fully and courageously with the needs of our communities, locally and globally, which for the URC members and visitors among you are words taken straight from our diocesan vision statement and the Ely2025 strategy launched last weekend in the cathedral.

So Caroline, help the good people here to go deep so that they can go wide; and don’t forget to do the same yourself.

As Christ has loved you, so you can find the strength in him to love another. Abide in his love.

Photos from the village websites.http://www.whittleweb.org.uk/local-services/church http://www.pampisford.org.uk/#/ with thannks.

Getting Friendly at St Clement’s Outwell

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It was very encouraging to be at a well-attended Special General Meeting last night of the Friends of St Clement’s Church, Outwell, home of the famous roof carvings. The meeting was needed for housekeeping purposes, but it took the opportunity to discuss the upcoming project to install a loo and mini-kitchen – vital accessories for the open church of today! Schemes like this in sensitive ancient churches are never easy, but it looks as if an application will be going in very soon for the permissions and grants in aid that are needed. Keep in touch via the website at http://www.stclementsoutwell.org.uk/.

Mission Ahoy!

2015-09-29 13.55.57Ely Diocese’s exciting new Mission Team gather for a time of encouragement after a morning of team-building with Ruth Adams, together with members of the diocesan Mission Council. Rachael is there for youth and local mission project grants, Ed for young adults and Fresh Expressions, Debbie for work with children and families, Fiona is on the case with World Mission, and we are looking to recruit a final team member who will develop school chaplaincy. Jes Salt had to slip away to minister at funeral, but is holding the ring for social engagement such as foodbanks and credit unions, and Jane is Spirituality Adviser – all under Peter’s leadership of course. Thanks to Sarah for the admin support, and Diana, Mark, Ray, Stephen and the rest (not forgetting outgoing chair Hugh) for the work on the Council.