Churches Alive – NOT redundant

Ian in Buckden, near Cambridge

It has been my joy this visit to England to attend the local Church in Dulwich, London and to visit my cousin’s parish in Buckden near Cambridge.  I also visited a small Hampshire parish in the village of Seele.  Three stories of hope emerge for me.

St. Stephen's, Dulwich and the Crystal Palace tower

In Dulwich I attended St. Stephen’s parish this Sunday.  I went to the 8:00 am service.  I was delighted to worship with about two dozen folk at an excellent BCP service which included an excellent sermon in the Good Samaritan.  The final lesson was critical and well put – our main responsibility is to worship God, BUT we do so first in our Godly service to the poor and needy, who bear the image of God.  It so reminded me of our ministry in Peru where “Mision Integral” seeks both spiritual and social transformation, especially among the poor.  Fr. Bernhard gave me a wonderful personal welcome after the service.  This parish Church is ALIVE.  Praise God.

Seele parish church, Hampshire

In the village of Seele my brother and I visited but were unable to enter the church – for the best of reasons – they were holding a  service for children and parents.  It was a weekday too!  Again this is an ALIVE parish.

Lastly I visited the parish church of Buckden with my cousin Richard Noble.

Richard and Rachel Noble

Richard was until retirement the bursar of Ridley Hall in Cambridge and a very active but subtle lay evangelist.  Their parish is next to a wonderful Roman Catholic retreat called St. Claret where Katherine of Aragon spent a lonely year and whose buildings are like a small Hampton Court having been built in the same era and graced by Cardinal Wolsey.  What I loved most, quite apart from the beauty of the buildings and grounds was he fact that there is a door between the C of E Church and the RC retreat.

St. Claret and Buckden parish

How wonderful.  This Church is building a haven for folk traveling the A1 (major road from London to Scotland) as it is the first “roundabout” north of London on what is otherwise like an interstate highway.  Richard has started an active mens’ breakfast ministry, a prayer ministry and they have just finished supporting two theological students at St. Paul’s, Limuru, Kenya, where I taught briefly while on sabatical in 2005.  Rachel Noble is very much involved as warden and I suggested that Peru and our Sts. Augustine seminary might be a worthy successor.  We are much in need of support.

Buckden gargoyle

Last year I was somewhat depressed to find “redundant” churches – empty, beautiful but without people.  What a joy this year to find the opposite.  It all depends upon where one looks.

I made my annual pilgrimage to Oxford – what a joy it was to meet up again with Bishop Henry Scriven.

Bishop Henry Scriven at CMS HQ

We were made deacon together in 1975 at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Henry now directs the SAMS section of CMS.  I was also able to meet a number of the vital end energetic folk who work there on behalf of God’s mission around the world.  I am happy to say that my relationship with CMS is now regularized as an Associate Mission Partner.

I revisited the martyr’s memorial in Oxford where +Hugh Latimer, +Nicholas Ridley (1555) and + Thomas Cranmer (1556) were burned alive for their faith in Queen Mary’s purge of Protestants.  For me this is a pilgrimage.  All the more important now when the Church seems to be tearing itself apart we are called to stand under the authority of the Holy Scriptures and not to be ruled by the “spirit of the age.”

Martyr's Cross opposite Baliol College

Oxford Martyrs' Cross

Queen Katherine window, Buckden

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