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Mark Rowland
27 November 2011 @ 12:50 pm
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80
Mark 13:24-37


The Advent hymns and prayers often spend a lot of time telling us to wait. Watch and wait for the coming of the Lord. And that's of course an important emphasis of this season as we await Christ's coming again and as we remember those who awaited his first coming: God's people through the ages, the prophets who foretold it, John the Baptist who prepared the way and Mary as waited for the time to come when she would give birth to Christ our God.

But how do we often think about waiting. Often it sounds quite boring, quite passive. Do you often have to wait for a bus? Where I grew up in mid-Wales we didn't get many buses and sometimes if no one had got on further up the road, then the bus would come through the village quite early. So sometimes if you were out waiting for the bus, and it hadn't come, you began to wonder if it was coming at all.
If we start to think of Advent in those terms, then we have lost the excitement and the purpose of this season. Advent is one of my favourite seasons and part of that is because it's a season which is so much about the here and the now. Advent is a season that encourages us to look at the world around us, a season that encourages us to recognise all that is in need of redemption and re-creation by Christ. To see everything that will be put right in the new heaven and the new earth that Christ will bring. It's a season to pray with renewed enthusiasm, your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Not just to mumble it hastily or routinely but to recognise the reality of what we're praying for.

God's people through all the ages have longed for that redemption. The words of the prophet Isaiah express something of that longing, a deep and powerful sense of expectation, of joyful hope shot through with awesome reverence. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quakes at your presence!” Come Lord and save us. The words of a text that echoes through the traditional liturgies of Advent take up that theme: “Drop down you heavens from above and let the clouds pour down righteousness.” Let the heavenly kingdom come down, may the justice of heaven pour down on us like the rain, may it flood the land. May the whole creation be renewed, refreshed and grow again according to the will of God.

The people speaking through the words of Isaiah recognise that this means things for them personally and for their life together as well as for the whole created order. They recognise that they themselves live in ways which should not have a place in the new creation, that they do not always live according to the will of God. “There is no one who calls on your name or attempts to take of hold of you,” they say to God. They recognise that they have tried to live without God and have not looked for him or sought him. But they remember that God is their Father and that he is the potter and they the clay. Consider, they say to God, we are all your people.

It is against that background that we come to today's gospel reading. If we set this reading into its wider context, Jesus has been speaking of the destruction of the temple and the dangers the disciples will face as his followers, The gospel goes on after our passage to speak of the plot to kill Jesus and of Judas' agreement to betray him. The atmosphere is tense. Jesus has foretold his own death to the disciples three times already – he knows what is to come. Look how many echoes there are of the passion story. Do you remember the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree after his entry into Jerusalem? Here the fig tree puts forth its leaves. Do you remember the disciples falling asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, and sleeping when Jesus came to them? Here they are told to stay awake. Do you remember that as Jesus dies the sky is darkened and the earth quakes? Here we are told that the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

Jesus' coming again is in many ways part and parcel of his coming the first time. He comes to redeem the world, he comes to restore us to himself. He comes to share our suffering and to bear our pain. He comes to fill the world with righteousness, peace and justice and to restore us to the image and likeness of God, which sin has obscured. We wait for that with a deep longing, but with the knowledge that it is not far off like a bus that may never come. For Jesus comes to us in every moment and at every time. We are always called to return to God, we are always called to faithful service, we are always called to be signs of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

We live in days when many people see some of the things that are wrong with our world. Many people see the injustices that come from the distribution of wealth, of political power, of influence in the media and big business... I could go on. Some are beginning to speak and to live as if things could be different. As followers of Jesus, that is what we are called to do. To speak and to live as if things could be different. To speak and to live today in the light of the Advent hope for tomorrow. To speak and to live as citizens of the new Jerusalem, where the Lord God will be the light and the nations will be healed. As we come to Holy Communion, we proclaim that different world. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory. We enter into Christ's first coming, we look for his coming again, we pledge ourselves to live for him as his servants and witnesses and we look to the feast in heaven when all will be gathered from east and west, from north and south.

Drop down you heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness. Amen.
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
08 September 2011 @ 02:13 pm
From time to time, I'm moved to write something liturgical: often prayers and texts for specific occasions and sometimes hymns. I've been encouraged to share them so in honour of today, here's a Eucharistic Prayer I wrote on the inspiration of the Magnificat. I may yet refine it further, but we'll see. Feedback would be appreciated.

The Lord be with you:
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts:
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Our souls magnify you, O Lord, and our spirits rejoice in you, for you are our Saviour. In every generation, you have shown the lowly your favour and have blessed the poor in their need. When the time had come, you looked with favour on Mary in her lowliness and by the power of your Holy Spirit she gave birth to your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

With all generations, we call her blessed, and with her we rejoice in your saving help. Through her, through us, and through your whole Church you have done great things by your might and so with Mary, with saints, with angels and archangels, with all your people on earth and in heaven, we proclaim the holiness of your name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest.


Holy God, let your Spirit come upon these gifts of bread and wine and let the power of your Spirit overshadow them, that they may become holy and be, for us, the body and the blood of Jesus Christ, your Son and Mary’s Son.

For on the night that he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, broke it and gave it to them saying, Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me.

Similarly, after supper, he took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them saying, Drink from this, all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.

When we eat this bread and drink this cup,
we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus,
until you come in glory.


So with this bread and this cup we remember that your mercy endures from age to age on all who seek you. We proclaim your greatness and might and the strength of your arm, as you scatter the proud and raise the lowly. Fill us and all who hunger with good things and remember with your saving help all in need of your mercy.

For you are the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,
of Mary and of Joseph,
of the saints of every age;
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, we worship you gracious and holy God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is copyright me. You are free to reproduce it (without alteration) for use in worship. If you do so, I'd love to hear about it!
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
Isaiah 51:1-6
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Who do you say that I am? Could probably be one of the preacher’s favourite questions. A solid and challenging sermon demanding response. Christ’s question to the apostles and in particular to Peter becomes his eternal question to us. Can we proclaim, with St Peter, that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God? But I’m not going to preach that sermon although it’s a good question to reflect on.

I want to move on to the response that Jesus makes to Peter’s affirmation. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

It might sometimes come as a surprise but Jesus founded the church and he did so on a rock. He did not build it on the sand – but like the man of his parable, he built it on a rock to stand firm against the storms of the ages. Two thousand or so years later, here we are: now a worldwide church but still founded on the rock as Jesus founded it.

That has not however stopped the church from facing challenges in her life. In every age there have been difficulties to overcome – both from inside and outside the church. Our time is no different in that respect: the difficulties we may face will be different but our identity as the people of God, as God’s church is unchanged. We still share in that community, founded by Christ, proclaiming him as Son of God and Messiah and seeking to proclaim the gospel to all peoples.

As we go through times of change and times of reshaping how we do things, we must remember that what we do we do only as stewards of all the good things that God has given us. We can never imagine that the church is somehow ours to do what we will with. We can never talk of starting again because the only start of the church that matters is the one made by Christ himself. Of course, we are always called to pursue the path to holiness, to become more faithful, to be more effective in our mission and we pray that God will guide us to do that.

So it is that Paul appeals to the Christians in Rome to present themselves to God as a living sacrifice, to be one body together as God’s church. We, who are one body in Christ, need each other. We cannot do this alone, and we cannot do this without all the people God has called together. We have different gifts, we bring different approaches, we have different experiences, but we need them all. Together, we can play our part in God’s church – apart we cannot.

It is as we gather together in worship and especially as we gather at Holy Communion that we are most fully God’s church. Through this sacrament, we are drawn into closer unity with one another and with all God’s church of every age. We proclaim every time we celebrate, it that it is with saints and angels and all the company of heaven that we proclaim Holy, Holy, Holy, God of power and might. We rejoice in our communion with the saints of every age, with St Peter and the first apostles gathered around Christ, with the saints of the early church, with those saints who first brought the gospel to these islands and who lived and prayed in these hills and valleys, with John and Charles Wesley and the early Methodists and with all those who have gone before us in faith and love. It is with them that we are united in worship and prayer and in succession to them that we engage in God’s mission in the world.

Through the church, we seek to share the message that Christ is the Son of God, we seek to draw people into our community of love and care, we seek to offer to God the praise that is his due. As God’s church, in whatever place we may be and in whatever form we find ourselves, that is what we must do. Against the challenges of the 2000 years of our history, the realities of early 21st century Cardiff might seem rather small. But we have the responsibility here and now of continuing this mission, of being the hands and feet of Christ in this place, of offering God worship day by day, week by week. So as we move to new ways of working, new ways of doing things, we all need to hold before us what the church is and why we exist, we all need to remember that we are one body together and that we need each other and we must remember that the church exists for the worship of God and for the mission of God. There will be challenges, as there have always been but God will always be with us. We can hear the words of the prophet Isaiah as words to us too:

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
   you that seek the Lord.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
   and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
   and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
   but I blessed him and made him many.
For the Lord will comfort Zion;
   he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
   her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
   thanksgiving and the voice of song.
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
04 August 2011 @ 11:55 pm
The last few days have been interesting and varied. We've had some difficult work to do in the Council: particularly in the new constitution. That's not been so much because of its contents as because of existing issues between Member Churches of the Council which come to the surface in discussion of subjects of that kind. In general, I think it's been a bit regrettable that a number of issues and reports have come to us fresh on the floor of the council which we could have had sight of in advance and thereby had the opportunity to consider before coming to Durban. But be that as it may, we have, I think, worked hard to consider the material put before us and to reach appropriate conclusions on it. My slight regret is that it only seemed towards the end of yesterday that we were actually functioning together as a Council by which time our work is essentially done and the next time the Council meets its composition will be different.

Today the Conference started and it was a very refreshing change. The larger gathering of people, a move to a different place (not that there was anything wrong with where we were before, but simply that it is good to move sometimes) and the exuberance of the worship, singing and presentations provided us with an impetus which had perhaps become obscured. Various of the younger members of Conference met together over lunch and I was glad to learn more of the history and story of some of the American denominations which make up our Conference and Council.

In the afternoon, I went to the seminar on international Methodist/Roman Catholic dialogue. This is a dialogue which I generally find very inspiring. I think they have produced some good reports which are both honest and challenging - I can recognise in them both real Methodism and real Catholicism. We shared experiences, opinions and questions. At the end of the day, perhaps unsurprisingly, the issues boil down to the the challenges between us of Eucharistic sharing and of the ordination of women. It would be wonderful to be able to move forward, but I think on both sides we struggle to see how that could be achieved. I was a little disappointed in Council when we reaffirmed the goal of the dialogue as "full communion in faith, mission and sacramental life" without debate or consideration. It seems to me that we did not appreciate the challenging and serious nature of what we were committing ourselves to nor did we really engage with the sacrifices that would require of us were we serious about it. It's not a goal that I see any chance of being accomplished in my life time but I am pleased that we still hold it before us - I have been somewhat dismayed at moves more recently to suggest a reorientation of the ecumenical movement to some lesser goal.

This evening we had a good event discussing how we work together in a global world as the people called Methodist - arising out of last year's All Partners' Consultation conducted by the Methodist Church in Britain and out of work done by the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Canada. There was some encouraging conversation. From this, and from other events in the Council and Conference, I am struck by the situation we have of multiple Methodist jurisdictions in many countries. This is a scandal and a problem and we should be working to reduce it. However, it seems that current practices in many places are likely to increase the problem rather than to decrease it. As a speaker this evening said, it would be better to see one connexion in each place.

After all of that, we retired for drinks in the bar - much needed!
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
01 August 2011 @ 07:47 am
I'm in Durban with the group from the Methodist Church in Britain for the World Methodist Council and Conference. There's a session for newbies this morning and then business proper begins this afternoon. I've not had any chance to explore yet, having arrived yesterday evening but I hope there'll be at least some time to have a look at the place. We've got reports to consider from our International dialogues with both the Roman Catholic Church and the Salvation Army as well as a proposal to establish a new dialogue with the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Orthodox Church). There is work to be done too on our own constitution and ways of working - not simply for the sake of it but to help make us more effective as the forum for global Methodism: to knit together in closer fellowship and action the people called Methodist (and various other things too actually!) and claiming the heritage of John Wesley. We are a world communion and I think it's often easy for us in Britain to forget that there are Methodists all over the world who are part of our tradition. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and to the conversations and celebrations that we'll have here in Durban.

Some of us will be blogging and tweeting (watch #wmc), but I'm not sure how good the net access is going to be (it's a little, erm, idiosyncratic here in the hotel) so coverage may be patchy!
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
18 July 2011 @ 03:29 pm
Sunday morning's sermon

Wisdom 12:13-19
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

It’s not often I preach on judgement. It’s one of those topics where I think I’d rather talk about something else. But each of these lectionary readings for this morning says something to me about God’s judgement. I don’t know how you react to the notion. Does it sound distant? Fearful? Wonderful? Long desired? Or any number of other things. I think we have in some ways sat very lightly to God’s judgement. Equally, I think there are some strains of Christianity that are ready to pronounce God’s judgement on everything they don’t like or aren’t very familiar with. As they say, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do, you can be fairly sure you’ve made God in your own image.

So what do these readings have to say to us about God’s judgement and what does that mean for us today?

The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon sets a context for our reflection. God’s care is for all people. God is righteous and just and rules all things righteously and justly. God does not condemn anyone who does not deserve to be punished. God judges with mildness and governs us with forbearance. God’s sovereignty over all causes him to spare all.

God’s judgement then is intimately connected to his goodness and mercy. I want to suggest that it is not about condemnation nor yet about sentence as we might think of it in terms of a judgement in a court of law. Yes, there will be things in each of our lives which we are called to repent of and to lay aside. None of us is yet perfect. But God’s judgement is about mercy and about restoration. “When we are judged, we may expect mercy,” the passage goes on to say. It is a judgement which seeks to bring us back, to restore us and to make us holy once again. God’s judgement is not about casting us out but about drawing us in to remake us, to reform us in his own likeness. It is a judgement that builds up, not that breaks down.

St Paul gives us the other side of this. Christians are those who live according to the Spirit. We are then led by the Spirit of God who bears witness in us that we are children of God. This too is God’s judgement – to look upon us and to claim us as his children. Not just his children, but his heirs. God’s judgement is that we inherit through the Spirit all the good things of Christ as we are drawn into the life of God the Holy Trinity. But it is not all rosy: St Paul and those he’s writing to are very aware that they live in a real and imperfect world. His reminding them of this judgement of God is about supporting and encouraging the church in Rome in responding to the challenges that they face. Face these challenges in the face of God’s judgement that you are his children, that you have received his Spirit and that you are heirs all the good things of Christ. These promises sustain us through all we face at the present time.

Perhaps what we face is a picture something like the parable of the wheat and the tares. We look out at a very mixed picture, in our world, in the church, and maybe in our own life. We know that there are tares in our field, so to speak. We know that our world, our church and our lives stand in need of judgement. We can see that what is there is mixed, the good, as always, is mixed with the bad. The parable reminds us that it was not intended to be like that. The farmer sowed good seed, but an enemy came and sowed weeds. So the harvest is not all that it might be. Jesus in explaining the parable places it in the context of God’s judgement at the end of time. All causes of sin will then be rooted out from the world. But for now, we live in this mixed world, acknowledging the mixed-ness of ourselves and our church too. So God’s judgement is something we need and something we should pray for. We look for the day when God will restore all things and his kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

As we come today to Holy Communion, we come knowing the righteousness and justice of God’s judgement, we come knowing ourselves judged to be his children and heirs of his grace and we come praying for the coming of his kingdom where all that is wrong will be set right. At this table, we are privileged to see a vision of that judgement. We are drawn in, we are restored and remade, and we are sent out as God’s servants and witnesses in the world. Through the saving body and blood of Christ, God’s judgement washes away all that is unworthy, fills us with his grace and draws into his eternal life. This is the table of God’s judgement and mercy, of God’s peace and love and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all people. Amen.
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
Ok, I promise this'll be the last one on ordination!

I think I might be getting somewhere towards having an answer to those people who say "Does it feel different?" And the answer is, yes, yes it does. Quite profoundly so, actually.

In many ways I struggled with being a probationer and with what it was to be a probationer. Apologies are probably due to those who had to endure my angst on it! Being a probationer is to be neither fish nor fowl. You're not quite clerical, but you're not really lay either. Day to day most people probably don't notice the difference but there are some subtle bits of polity where it becomes more apparent. For example, you must attend ministerial synod but have no vote; if you sought election to Conference it would be as a lay representative. I used to dread those conversations with ecumenical partners which seemed inevitably to end up at "Oh, so you're not really a minister yet..." But yes, we are styled "Reverend" and we do use clerical dress. In general you exercise "the office and work of a presbyter" but the Church has not yet prayed that you might have the Holy Spirit to do that.

So in terms simply of the negative, it feels different because all of that is swept away. The strange in-between-ness of probation is gone.

But there is also the positive side of feeling different. One long journey has ended and its destination is reached. I felt called to be a presbyter. That call has been tested. I have been formed in order to pursue it. I have been accepted and approved. By the grace of God (and only by that), I am worthy. I am now a presbyter. That is for today and for the rest of my life. It is forever a part of me; something of my identity. And while (God forbid) I could be thrown out, removed from full connexion or whatever, I can never be un-ordained. That is a remarkable realisation and reality.

So yes, it does feel different. One long journey has ended and another has started. On we go!
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
12 July 2011 @ 10:29 pm
A short sermon from my first celebration of the Eucharist on Saturday.

It has been a huge joy to share with so many of you at the testimony service three weeks ago, last Sunday in Southport and at Chester and of course, here today. Lots of people have asked me how I feel, or what I think about it – is it different? I was told that being ordained allows you to be in more than one place at once, but I still haven’t worked out how you do that.

But there was one way that many of us chose to speak of the events of last Sunday. We spoke of them as an eternal moment, a focal point within our own lives and within the life of the church, the point that our vocational journeys had been directed towards and the point that they radiate out from again. In one sense nothing has changed for all of this has for ever been in the hands of God, but in another sense everything has changed.

The readings point us to other eternal moments in the life of God’s people. God’s people hear from Moses the word of the Lord and his presence descends in the cloud. The elders of the people are moved to prophecy by God’s Spirit. In the word, in the cloud, by the spirit, God’s presence is revealed for a moment, but for an eternity.

In the upper room, Christ’s most devoted followers – women and men and including his blessed mother Mary – are gathered. This is another eternal moment, in wind and in fire, the presence of God the Holy Spirit is revealed. They are all moved to speak in other languages as the Spirit enables them. They create stunned and shocked reactions in those around them and they, through their preaching, reveal God to those around them. God’s presence is revealed to them, and by them to others.

Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, comes to the disciples gathered in fear in the Upper Room. He comes to Thomas who could not believe unless he saw and touched. Jesus Christ, God the Son, reveals himself to Thomas who recognises him as his Lord and God. It is another eternal moment, the presence of God revealed.

Ordinations are eternal moments, signs and symbols of God’s revelation to the Church, gifts of the Spirit and encounters with Christ.

But it is the supreme eternal moment in the life of the church that we gather to celebrate the afternoon as we come to the Lord’s table. For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. We are joined here with the sacrifice of Calvary, with his glorious resurrection and ascension, with his eternal reign in heaven, with the Church on earth and in heaven through all time and space as in this one moment of eternity we offer the greatest praise we can give to God the Holy Trinity. This is an eternal moment.

These eternal moments draw us in to the presence of God, to God’s gifts for us, to God’s grace for us. They plunge us deeper into the life of God which is the source of all life. And they send us out, they propel us on, to share God’s love, to speak God’s word, to reveal God’s presence to the whole world. We are drawn in and we are sent out through the eternal moment of God’s presence in our life. Amen.
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
04 July 2011 @ 07:28 pm
Since being received into full connexion on Sunday morning and then ordained on Sunday evening, people keep asking me how I feel and what I think and is it different? It was an amazing day in so many ways and lots of those ways are still coming into bloom as it were as I continue to reflect on everything that happened. You've prepared for this day for years in some terms, and practically you know what is going to happen. But nothing really prepares you, cliched as it sounds to say that.

I left my hotel in good time so as to have time to walk slowly (and maybe even prayerfully) to the briefing session. On a bench on the square outside a man was sitting. "Priest!" he called. "Priest, priest". I went over to him, not knowing quite what he would say or what he might want. "Are you a holy man?" he asked. On this day, of all days, what a question. "We all try" I said and he wished me good luck and waved me on my way. Some have entertained angels unawares...

In the Conference auditorium, we walked through our movements - stand up, sit down, process this way, process that way, turn around, with humour and good grace knowing it would help us all if we had an idea of what was to happen. After that coffee, pastries (but just water for me - couldn't be trusted not to spill anything down myself!) and ordination cards that had been delivered to Conference for us were waiting. Lined up to go in we waited for the gathered crowd to be briefed and called to worship and we entered as all sang "What a faithful God have I". I very rarely react like this, but I was completely choked and couldn't sing and tears came to my eyes as we moved to take our places in this great assembly of God's people.

Worship together as Conference has been beautifully crafted and brought together many gifts, in prayer and song, in image and word until near the end we reached that part of the service which is both business of the Conference and still profoundly worship. We ascended to the stage to be received into full connexion and as the whole Conference and all the guests rose to their feet, it was done. A few moments later it inspired awe to see Conference rise again for our diaconal brothers and sisters.

Following lunch and near moment of disaster when I realised I'd forgotten my cincture(!) we drove to Chester for the ordination service. Preparation felt hurried and challenging in a quickly filling cathedral and with the music of the band beginning to play and in a flash we were lined up, in order, in the cloister. There are so many amazing moments - glimpsing friends, family, church members, folk from all different times of my life in the congregation, the cries of "They are worthy", the laying on of hands, receiving the stole, the spontaneous outbreak of rapturous applause as we left in procession at the end of the liturgy. Then so many people to greet, to welcome, to see again for the first time in a long time. I was overwhelmed with kindness and good wishes, with cards and gifts, with love and support.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I declare that you have been ordained as Presbyters of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ.

Remember your call.

Declare the Good News.
Celebrate the sacraments.
Serve the needy.
Minister to the sick.
Welcome the stranger.
Seek the lost.


Amen and amen.
 
 
 
Mark Rowland
29 June 2011 @ 09:26 am
Methodist presbyteral ordinands are currently gathered on retreat as we prepare for the events of this coming weekend. I went yesterday with two others to the Vigil Mass for the feast of St Peter and St Paul at the Metropolitan Cathedral. There was a certain appropriateness to the day as Peter and Paul have been patrons of various places which have had significance along the way for me. It was good to be gathered with people in worship and to be reminded in the homily of the ministry of love to which Christ call us. I read with sadness and a certain irony one of the information panels which talked about the Metropolitan Cathedral's history of engagement with other traditions. "In 1990, the Metropolitan Cathedral was chosen for the service to inaugurate the Council of Churches in Britain and Ireland (CCBI) and has been the venue of major celebrations by the Free Churches."

Before coming away, I was also beginning to reflect on the latest report of the international Methodist-Roman Catholic dialogue which will be presented to the World Methodist Council this summer. It is reflecting on encountering Christ in the Church and Sacraments, with particular reference to baptism, the Eucharist and ordination. The report suggests:
Catholics and Methodists affirm together that: (1) all ministry in the Church is ultimately that of Christ and is only ever exercised by individuals as his representatives; (2) the ordained ministry is both sign and instrument of Christ‟s ministry; (3) a rite of ordination (involving the imposition of ministerial hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit for the appropriate gifts for ministry) is itself sacramental in nature; (4) by virtue of their ordination, individuals are enabled to represent Christ to the Church and to represent the Church before God; (5) the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the faithful participate in distinct but related ways in the priesthood of Christ; (6) in the celebration of the Eucharist, the ordained bishop or presbyter represents Christ the priest in the midst of the priestly people of God; (7) the orderly transmission of the ordained ministry is a sign and instrument of the apostolicity of the Church.


I am encouraged by the report, but as ever the significance of it depends on the responses our traditions make for it. As ordinands we are here to prepare for this ministry and for that I ask your prayers. We pray, as ever, for the deeper unity of all who follow Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, "I leave you peace, my peace I give to you." Look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever. Amen.