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Sunday, 11 April 2021
We met for the 10am Eucharist on a very cold but sunny morning, in a somewhat sombre mood in the light of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. Father Roger took the service and spoke of the effects of change, our first Sunday without Father Stephen, and out thoughts with Her Majesty the Queen in her loss. Our 'Covid Choir' masked and socially distanced in the south transept sang some Easter Hymns and the Elgar setting of the Ave Verum. At communion there was an opportunity to light a candle in memory of the Duke.  
At the end of the service, after  the dismissal we kept a minute of silence and then sang the National Anthem. As we left the Church Joanna played the Sailor Song by Schubert to mark the passing of the duke.

Some of our lovely Easter Flowers

Fr Roger's Homily

Currently we will be thinking of the Queen and revisiting our memories of Prince Philip. Some of you will have more memories than I.

Like some here, I remember the Queen’s wedding in 1947. In 1950s, with my parents, I saw Prince Philip at an event at Eastney Marine Barracks in Portsmouth. In 1990s the Duke joked with me at St James’s Palace, when my younger son got a D of E Award. Later still, Christina and I had a short trip to Bruges. The locals said, ‘you’re in luck. The Duke is here this weekend at a military event, where you can see him. Also, they said, a small container of Jesus’ blood is on display this weekend.’ (It had allegedly been brought back by a crusader.) The Duke would have been amused that the two events had been so incongruously lumped together. The Duke would surely also be amused that the Gospel today is about Thomas, a man who rocked the boat by not hesitating to say what he thought!

Plans are having to be made for Prince Philip’s funeral. Plans are having to be made here, too, now that Fr Stephen has retired. In the story from Acts, the first disciples are having to make plans for the newly-born Church. 

Firstly, it says, they were pretty united, of one heart and soul. It wasn’t a case of one or two plotting and scheming and trying to pull strings behind the backs of the others. They had their appointed leaders but they did all work together. They wanted to care for the poorer members, very commendably, and so they tried … wait for it….Communism!

But we must see that in context. They probably expected the end of the world within a generation, and so had no need to take a long view about their family’s property. But the end of the world, and the return of Christ didn’t happen. They had got it wrong, but they had worked together, they had cared for each other, they had troubled to make a plan, and to make an effort to meet the situation, under God, as best they could understand it. We must do no less.

On this Sunday, every year, we hear about Thomas and his doubts. Every year there is need to defend him. He was not a man to follow the herd. He simply thought for himself and said what he thought. There are two other occasions when we particularly hear of Thomas. Jesus, at one point, talks of returning to the Jerusalem area, where his most powerful enemies were, - putting himself in danger. Most of the disciples said, no, no, don’t do that, Jesus. Thomas said, Jesus knows what he is doing, they should go too, and stick with him, and die with him if necessary. At another time, when Jesus speaks of his going away to the Father, and that they know the way, it is Thomas who says, ‘we don’t know where you’re going, how can we know the way?’ 

In today’s reading, when Thomas hears that Jesus is risen, he goes into Victor Meldrew mode,  - or dare I say Piers Morgan mode -  saying ‘I do not believe it!’ ‘At least,’ he says, ‘not without further evidence.’ ‘I wasn’t expecting a happy ending!’ Thomas was simply telling it as it was. And happily, a week later, he found further evidence. There is much to be said for thinking for yourself. You can’t realistically believe something and act on it unless you stop and weigh it up under God, and then ponder what he wants you to actually do about it.

We usually have two readings on a Sunday morning, rather than three, which means that, most often, the Old Testament reading is lost, which is perhaps a pity. The Old Testament was an absolutely central part of Jesus’ background and upbringing. 

Old Testament prophets are important, at their best they were those who bravely told it as it was, and often got into bother for it. You will know of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and other prophets, but what about Micaiah? I think Thomas would have liked him as well, but we hear very little of Micaiah, except one special story. Micaiah is in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. 

The most ancient Hebrew prophets came in two sorts. And Micaiah’s first crucial decision was about which sort of prophet he would be. On the one hand, there were large gangs of prophets, who hung around the royal court, and tried to keep the King happy by telling him what he wanted to hear. And then there were the independent, lone, prophets, who took the things of God a bit more seriously, and were often unpopular for that. Micaiah felt that that was his vocation.

Way back, after King Solomon’s time, in the 10th century BC, the Hebrew Kingdom divided into two. In the story, the two kings, the King of Israel in the north of the Holy Land, and the King of Judah from the south, are together contemplating fighting a battle to retake some territory. The gang of prophets says to Ahab, the King of Israel, ‘Great idea, you’ll win the battle’, and they even act it out for him dramatically to try to please him. But the King smells a rat. ‘Let’s see what Micaiah has to say, misery as he is,’ says King Ahab. So Micaiah, faced with two Kings and a big hostile gathering, says, ‘er, well, OK then, it’ll be fine’. But the King replies, ‘Micaiah, tell us what you really think.’ And Micaiah then musters the courage to make the right decision and replies , ‘I see total disaster if you attack’. Micaiah is punished, for his honest message, but he is right. They go to war, against his advice. King Ahab is killed and the dogs lick his blood.

In the old ordination service the clergy are ordained to be, amongst other things, ‘stewards and watchmen of Lord’. The steward bit is about seeing there is decent organisation in the Church, the watchman bit is about prophecy – trying to see things as God must see them, and daring to speak out, even if that is unpopular. But it is not just clergy who might glimpse the right way forward, even children might. When you have a new parish priest, it will be one of their duties, not just to try to discern what God wants, themselves, but to listen to what God is saying to others, and through others, and try to weigh that up too.
A parish priest will often have to decide whether or not they should rock the boat, and possibly court unpopularity by making an issue of something. And if they decide that they should do so, they must decide if they are actually going to do it. It would be sad if a parish priest was never moved to take a lead and make a stand, or refused that vocation. And sad indeed if a parish went looking for such a priest in the hope of having an easy time. The ways of God and of real life with him are otherwise!

 Acts 2. 32-35

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, 
and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, 
but everything they owned was held in common. 

With great power the apostles gave their testimony 
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, 
and great grace was upon them all. 

There was not a needy person among them, 
for as many as owned lands or houses 
sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 

They laid it at the apostles’ feet, 
and it was distributed to each as any had need.

John 20.19-31

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

When it was evening on the first day of the week, 
and the doors of the house where the disciples had met 
were locked for fear of the Jews, 
Jesus came and stood among them and said, 
“Peace be with you.” 

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 
Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 

Jesus said to them again, 
“Peace be with you. 
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 
“Receive the Holy Spirit. 

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; 
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 
was not with them when Jesus came. 

So the other disciples told him, 
“We have seen the Lord.” 
But he said to them, 
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, 
and put my finger in the mark of the nails
and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, 
and Thomas was with them.
 Although the doors were shut, 
Jesus came and stood among them and said, 
“Peace be with you.” 

Then he said to Thomas, 
“Put your finger here and see my hands. 
Reach out your hand and put it in my side. 
Do not doubt but believe.” 

Thomas answered him, 
“My Lord and my God!” 

Jesus said to him, 
“Have you believed because you have seen me? 
Blessed are those who have not seen 
and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, 
which are not written in this book. 

But these are written so that you may come to believe 
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, 
and that through believing you may have life in his name.


Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to risegain for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of your son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Third Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Sung Matins

Fourth Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Variations can be found in the Parish Magazine or the Calendar at the bottom of this page.

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  6. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.

Please note that St Mary's are not responsible for the contents of external links

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