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Sunday, 9 May 2021
Today our 10 am service was a parish Eucharist, and Father Roger was the celebrant. We had 3 Hymns, and as has become our habit, part of the service was said and the Covid Choir sang some responses. The Choir also sang a setting of the Ave Verum by David Terry. Father Roger's Homily is further down the page.

After the service we held our annual church meeting, chaired by the Church Wardens, who have been re-elected for another year, and several new members were added to the PCC. The report prepared by the Church Warden described how we have managed our way through the Pandemic, and is a tribute to every one who has kept the 'show on the road'.

One bubble returned to Sunday School this week. The theme was to explore what it means to be a friend and to see Jesus as our friend.  The children made friendship bracelets which they were all wearing in school on Monday and some have given them to others as a sign of their friendship which is lovely.


 In Eastertide, as we think of Christ rising, we think also of the body of his followers becoming alive and  active in the world. So we read from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles quite a lot in church, right through to Pentecost, and will recall that it was written by St Luke, who also wrote Luke’s Gospel, and who travelled round with St Paul and kept diaries he could quote from later.

With so much, we need a perspective. The first 70 or 80 years of the Church are complicated. We may have found the last 70 or 80 years complicated, and we will have seen many changes in our Church. I remember the old ladies sat on the left side of the church. The men on the right. The ladies had imitation fruit on their hats and dead foxes round their necks. When I was ordained, we used, illegally, the Marriage Service from the 1928 Prayer Book, to avoid mention of brute beasts and carnal lusts which were in the old 1662 service. Eventually Series 1 church services, Series 2 services, Series 3, the Alternative Service Book and eventually Common Worship in the year 2000. Over the years we went from Ruridecanal Conferences to synodical government. I was taught as a child in Sunday School by a capable and well-trained deaconess, which was a serious lay role, but not Holy Orders. No women deacons, or priests, then. The Church finally had the good sense to ordain her as a priest, but not until she was in her late 80’s. Had I not married Christina when I did, she would have completed training as one of those deaconesses, whom you don’t see these days, wearing a dark blue veil. So much has changed in the lifetimes of our older members, and that is just in the Anglican Church, not the whole Church.

The first 80 years, or so, of the Church was not steady and simple either. Christians started as a group of Jews following Jesus. In the Roman Empire the Romans had their own gods, and to be a proper Roman you had to make sacrifices to them. But they went easy on the Jews, as long as they didn’t cause trouble, and Christians were tolerated for a while, being seen as just a part of the Jewish community. At the end of Luke’s Gospel he says that the Christians were – at that stage - happily worshipping in the Jewish Temple. But cracks appeared – Christianity was not he same as Judaism, in the way it valued Jesus. Christians were thrown out of the Temple. They were now a minority group, and minority groups were often suspected, unjustly, of unsavoury practices and became unpopular. In the summer of 64AD, half of Rome burned down. The Emperor, Nero, didn’t say, ‘sorry folks, I think it was me’ – although he was the No.1 suspect. He made the Christians the scapegoat. Not a nice man, the next year he brutally murdered his second wife. Christians were now seen as something separate from the Jews, so no longer had the same protection from persecution as the Jews. There would be ten periods of persecution for Christians until the Roman Emperor Constantine became Christian in the early 300s AD.

When things were tense in the years after Nero, Luke, it seems, wrote his Gospel and the Book of Acts. Saying to the Roman Empire, ‘Christianity is built on the best things of Judaism, and is something, - not just for the Jews, - but for the whole world, - for your whole Empire, - and it deserves the toleration you give to the Jews. Jesus was not a violent revolutionary, but someone of nobility, grace, and charm, someone of values and ideas and can engender helpful qualities in all sorts of people, even the unlikely.’

Looking at today’s first reading, we are reminded that the first Christians had a tough time steering the right course, as some of us may today. The first Christians had three sorts of people on the scene, Jews, who might become Christians. Gentiles, called proselytes, who followed many Jewish ways and standards, but who never officially converted to Judaism, and might now want to become Christians. And then there were people who had never been Jews, but who, also, might be attracted to the Church. If the first Christians were Jews, and Christianity began as a part of Judaism, did not those wishing to be Christian ought to become proper Jews as a first step? In our reading St Peter managed to get things right, which he didn’t always, saying, ‘it’s blindingly obvious that these Gentile people who, by God’s grace, have actually found a Christian experience and commitment, blindingly obvious that they must join us right now in Christian baptism – no need for them to become Jews first!’ 

It was baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. It seems that the first Christians joined professing that ‘Jesus is Lord’ that is, Jesus is at one with God himself. It was only later that ideas of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, developed.
Peter had his Jewish food traditions, and traditions about how he could, and couldn’t, mix with Gentiles. Traditions, - ways handed down, - ways the Almighty seems to have led his people into in the past, ways which, therefore, demand loyalty. Loyalty can be good, as long as it remains about focusing on God and serving God in the present, and doesn’t become simply about continuing with what we are used to, what we fancy, and what we are comfortable with. Because - guess what – as Peter found out – God can change the status quo. And if we are not truly glimpsing what he is about, now, we might find ourselves on the wrong side of the situation, defending the indefensible. We might see failing to accept the ordination of women as that sort of scenario. 

But Peter struggled, as we might, with change. In his letter to the Galatians, St Paul remembers calling Peter a hypocrite on one occasion. Hypocrite, of course, literally, means play actor. Paul, who had been a strict Jew, but was converted to reach out as a Christian leader to the Gentiles, he and Peter had been eating Gentile food with Gentile Christians. When some heavyweight conservative Christians turned up from Jerusalem, and were watching him, Peter lost his convictions and courage, and stopped eating with the Gentile Christians, and St Paul told him off.

There can rarely have been a time when Church life was not challenging and demanding. You have your Annual Church Meeting this morning. If that were challenging and demanding it would not – necessarily - be a bad thing at all.

One of my favourite prayers for the beginning of a Church meeting goes like this:

Holy Spirit of God, source of knowledge and creator of fellowship, open our minds to recognise your truth, and our hearts to welcome it. That, in company together, we may learn your will, and be strengthened to obey it. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Fr Roger

Acts 10:44-48

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

While Peter was still speaking, 
the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded 
that the gift of the Holy Spirit 
had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 

for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. 
Then Peter said,

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people 
who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 

So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 
Then they invited him to stay for several days.

John 15:9-17

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

Jesus said to his disciples:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you;
abide in my love. 

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.

I have said these things to you 
so that my joy may be in you, 
and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, 
that you love one another as I have loved you. 

No one has greater love than this, 
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

I do not call you servants any longer, 
because the servant does not know what the master is doing; 
but I have called you friends, 
because I have made known to you everything 
that I have heard from my Father. 

You did not choose me but I chose you. 
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, 
so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 

I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

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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