Dedication Festival 2019

Sermon preached on 6th October 2019                                                                                    (Readings: 1 Chronicles 29: 6-19 & John 2: 13-22)

I haven’t had chance this year to make my customary trawl through the Visitors book to see people have made of this place – but I did have a quick glance at Tripadvisor to see if there were any notable comments online. And I’m just going to read just two of them – that caught my eye mainly because they were totally misplaced!

The first spoke in glowing terms about this “unusually grand parish church”. Which is not unreasonable, except that it had been posted on the site for Old St Mary’s – which may well have been very beautiful, once upon a time, but even then was hardly exceptional!

But then on the site for this church came the only post with a negative rating, which said,
“Pretty much a waste of time. You don’t get anywhere near it and the tours cost a fortune. If the weather is bad you will know a new level of suffering.”

Well I was pretty dumbfounded by that – you can get pretty close to most things here, our church guides (as far as I know!) do not pass the hat round for a tip, and the weather is hardly more of an issue in here than it is anywhere else.
And then {our Parish Secretary} Christine Matthews said – do you think they’d been to Stonehenge? And then all became clear – this post is also in the wrong place, but ruining our ratings!!

By any measure we do have a remarkable Parish Church here – pretty unique even today – even moreso back in 1845. There are many precious artefacts and works of art in this building – which is why last year we were designated as a Major Parish Church, alongside the likes of Bath Abbey, Wimborne Minster and Christchurch Priory. Compared to them, we are really quite small and modern – but significant nevertheless.

As always, at Dedication, I’d like to go back to basics and consider why this is all here: what possessed Sydney Herbert and Countess Ekaterina to spend such huge sums of money on creating this building?

I’d like to think that the answer lies partly in David’s description of the Jerusalem Temple: for David the opulence of God’s house is seen as a reflection of God’s own generosity, and it is built in order to inspire others to give freely in return.
And those sentiments are echoed here,
not only in the external inscription, on the Cloister, which describes this place as “The Lord’s Temple”, but also the less than subtle inscription on the gallery – taken form the reading we heard – “All things come from you O Lord, and of your own do we give you”.

If we stick with our Scripture readings for a moment, we also have to square what is here with Jesus’ own reaction to the Second Temple in Jerusalem. He was not amused to find money changers in his Father’s house – clearly they offended his sense of that building’s true purpose.

It’s worth reflecting perhaps, that the problem is not money itself: I really don’t think we need to worry too much about our postcards and tea towels.
What annoys Jesus is that the Temple authorities have made it impossible to enter the House of Prayer without first buying the live offerings necessary for ritual sacrifice.
In 1st Century Jerusalem – you simply had to pay to pray.
That’s what incensed Jesus.

And, Jesus also distinguished between the literal, stone Temple and the living temple of his own body – and, by extension, the metaphorical “body of Christ”, the Church.
And so we’re reminded that, however grand our places of worship may be, they are only ever temporary “visual aids”, pointing us to the greater and eternal glory of God.

It’s worth remembering too that this church has not stood unchanged since 1845: the central mosaics that dominate the Altar now, were only added in the 1920s. Like the Holy od holies in Solomon’s temple, which was covered I gold, the apse is meant to speak to us of the beauty of heaven – possibly something which this community needed in the years following the First World War.

And in less dramatic ways, this building has evolved in ways that were intended to make it more comfortable – heating, lighting sound systems and a toilet.
None of them of great theological significance – but important in making it easier for some of the people of God to come and worship here.

As you know, this time next year we will reach our church’s 175th anniversary of dedication – and we intend to use that occasion to launch an appeal to help us equip the building for our work now, and for future generations.
And that’s providing one of the biggest challenges that our PCC has faced for some time: what is realistic target and scope for our ambitions?
What should our priorities be if we can’t do everything we’d like to? And I would urge you to pray – whether or not you are a member of PCC – that we get those decisions right.

We’re told that there’s not much point spending large amounts of money of conserving our precious artefacts unless and until we’ve replaced our current heating system. And that presents another set of challenges – how much can we realistically expect to spend on a heating system; what would actually keep us warm as well as preserving the building; and can we do anything to reduce our impact on the environment?
And that’s before we even get onto the question of facilities – whether or not we are equipped to cope with increased numbers of visitors, or the varying needs of those who come here for services or other public events.
Behind all those aspirations and decisions lies a dilemma which many churches have faced – whether it’s better to invest in “mission” (to spend money in order to make new things possible and so to connect with more and more people) OR whether to invest time and energy in more focussed “mission activities”, in order to bring in more people who we then hope will bring the money with them.

In truth, I think we probably need a bit of both – to use what we have been given wisely, and con fidently, so that new live may flourish here; and, at the same time, to be smarter and more persistent in inviting people to come and see what is already here – within this stone temple and among this living temple that we form together.

However we decide to do that, I hope that we can focus our efforts NOT simply on maintaining the building, or on restoring it to what it was – the whole project could then become simply a millstone and a barrier to growth. Instead I hope we can be inspired by what is here, by each other, and by God, to find a clear vision of what we need this building to do for us now, and of what it can be with, a little imagination and, perhaps, a hefty dose of determination.
Such a vision, I suggest, will be centred on Christ’s own vision of the Temple as a house of prayer.
I remember clearly the first time I came into this building through the Cloister door – to be met yet another text, painted above the arch – the text which would have greeted our patrons as they entered through that same entrance:
“My house shall be a house of prayer for all the people”.

If that was Christ’s understanding of the Temple, and if that was Sydney and Catherine’s ambition for this place, then we’re in good company if we make it ours too!

Whatever we aim for, and whatever we ultimately manage to achieve, let us hope and pray that we can do our bit to make this truly a place where many different people can come, and marvel at what is here and,
whether they worship among us or not,
to make sense of the Divine presence in their own time
and in their own way.

May this building be always a house of prayer for all people, and may God raise us up as living temples to his glory. Amen.

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Diary Dates September 2019

Sunday 1st ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 2nd 5.00pm Pastoral Ministry Team Church Room

Weds. 4th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm MU – Bible Bring-and-Buy 18 The Hollows

Friday 6th 2.30pm “Young at heart” Community Centre

Sunday 8th BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 9th 2.40pm Collective Worship Primary School

Tues 10th 2.30pm Fayre meeting

Weds. 11th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm “Meet the Oliviers” Olivier Place
Christine Matthews talks to MU and residents
Thurs. 12th 10.00am WMSET Trustees meet St John’s Priory
11.30am Holy Communion St Peter’s

Sat. 14th 6.00pm Working Party – marquees Parish Church
Sunday 16th ST. EDITH OF WILTON
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
12 noon Barbecue Parish Church
12.30 – 2.30 St Edith’s Fayre Parish Church

Monday 17th 2.40pm Collective Worship Primary School

Weds. 18th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Friday 20th 2.30pm “Young at heart” Community Centre
Sat. 21st tbc History Symposium Parish Church

Sunday 22nd FOURTEETH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 23rd 2.40pm Collective Worship Primary School
Weds. 25th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm PCC meets Parish Church
Sunday 29th HARVEST FESTIVAL
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
10.45am Harvest Thanksgiving Service Parish Church
6.00pm Harvest Evensong St. Catherine’s

Monday 30th 2.40pm Collective Worship Primary School

Ancient and Modern!

Sermon preached 7 July 2019

Readings: Isaiah 66: 10-14  Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

 

Two headlines caught my attention this week:
the first read – “Mark Wood’s lucky touch symbolizes England’s change in fortune”. I really didn’t know I was so influential!

The second was rather brief and read simply:
“A good week for teenagers”.
Behind that article was the separate successes of two fifteen year olds. Firstly there was Alex Mann, who found himself quite literally plucked from the crowds at the Glastonbury Music Festival and hauled up onto the main stage where – for almost 5 minute – he performed flawlessly alongside his hero – a rapper called Dave; whom I’d never heard of, possibly because I’m not a teenager!!

And there was Coco Gauff, the American tennis player who astonished the crowds at Wimbledon by beating her own here – Venus Williams – and going on to win her match against the Slovenian Polona Hercog – so making it into the last 16.
For two particular teenagers, then, it was a VERY good week.
I heard something rather different on Thursday, however, at a meeting of the Local Youth Network – the group which advices the “Area Board” on which local initiatives deserve Council support.

In the middle of the meeting we wandered into the area of mental health – and our main youth worker suddenly said “You know, I think this is a really depressing time to be a teenager.” And seeing the raised eyebrows around her, she went on to explain why.

Although we may think that young people have more freedom, more opportunity, than we ever did, the fact that the school leaving age has been raised to 18 takes away some of the choice we had: if you really are not academically minded, you can’t now leave school and get started on a career – as previous generations could.
If you’re the kind of teenager who just doesn’t fit in at school – the prospect of living with that until you are 18 can feel like a life sentence. And of course there’s far more scope for bullying now – on and off school premises.
None of which is great for mental health and wellbeing.
Young people today are only half as likely to have a Saturday job as their parents’ generation – not because they’re lazy, but because the opportunities just don’t exist. Retailers don’t hire as many staff, Newsagents don’t have paper rounds any more, employment legislation designed to protect the young from exploitation makes them, in some cases, too expensive to employ.

And with that loss of opportunity to work comes the loss of independence – the sense of pride that comes from earning your own money and deciding what to do with it – the ability to go and do things for yourself without having to ask your parents for the money.

For many in our own area, that lack of freedom is exacerbated by lack of public transport: if you live down the valley in Fovant, or Compton Chamberlayne, or Dinton – you may well live in a very lovely house and a beautiful area – but if you want to get into town or to visit friends, you still have to rely on Mum or Dad to drive you.
And while their parents may well have got on a bike and ridden into town – today that simply isn’t safe.
On balance, it really isn’t clear whether today’s teenagers have greater or lesser freedom than their parents.
And when they do finally make it into the grown-up world of work – there will be the prospect of zero-hours contracts and other unpredictable employment systems that just didn’t exist 20 years ago.

The likelihood of being able to afford to rent a house, let alone to buy one, as many of us did in our 20s or 30s will be pretty much zero.
And the prospect of a decent pension at the end of our working life is seeming increasingly distant for MY generation, never mind the next one.

There is now much more freedom from some of the constraints that were imposed on us – at school and through social pressure beyond that. But even there the lack of an agreed social norm produces a new set of pressures – needing each of us to decide for ourselves what to regard as “normal society” and where we fit in.

So, a good time to be a teenager? Not necessarily.
As so often, it’s a question of perspective.
Of course teenagers are going to feel hard done by – they can’t remember any of the hardships or constraints their grandparents or parents faced, only the sense that NOW their elders seem to have all the power. That’s always been true to an extent.

But then, their elders generally see things through the lens of their own experience too.
We remember what it was like, don’t we – we’ve all been to school after all? Except that school life today is rather different than it was 10 years ago, is very different from when I left school in 1986, and completely unlike anything many of you would ever have experienced before then. And it’s easy to make assumptions which may actually rest on rather flimsy foundations.

I’m labouring this point rather, not to make us ALL depressed – but just to encourage us think about the way we do read the headlines or interpret comment in the media: do we make assumptions about people who are younger, or older than us, that really we have no right to make? Do we ever challenge those assumptions – whether made by us or someone else?

The question of “perspective” is there in our Gospel reading today – with its equally challenging picture of power-play and motivation.

The section we just heard comes at the end of a gradual unfolding – in Chapter 8, Jesus set out on his ministry of healing and teaching, then in chapter 9 he sends the 12 to continue this work, and now in chapter 10 he sends out “70 others”. They are evidently successful in their mission, and return excited and eager to tell Jesus all about it.
But he’s not interested in that; he’s more concerned that they have they eyes set on the future – on the coming kingdom of God. “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you – but that your names are written in heaven.”

What matters, it seems, is not the power we can achieve – the things we make happen, for good or ill – but the reason we do anything at all.

If we are motivated by God’s love and concern for all people and all life, and a desire to make that love known and that life a rich experience for all, then surely we will develop a perspective that sees things from many angles – that sees the world in the way that others do.
And that, I think, is what Jesus is asking of us.
We somehow need to work for a practical vision of the future which both recognises and encompasses the mix of needs and perspectives across the generations and within each generation – to avoid generalisations about “young people” or “old People” or any other category of people and to see just “people”.

The world in which Jesus first preached the kingdom of God is as alien to us as life on Mars would be – 2000 years away and with social complexities that we simply can’t comprehend.
And yet that vision does speak to us, as it does in hugely different cultures around world and as it has throughout the intervening generations since Jesus first spoke of it.
That vision is one of inclusion, of justice, of love and forgiveness – it is a broad vision of life in all its fullness.

To all of us, then and now, Jesus gives an urgent call to action – to be labourers in the harvest of God’s people – and not to feel that we have failed when some refuse to see that vision with us. It’s not success that he asks from us, but our willingness to join in the attempt.

Diary Dates July 2019

Monday 1st                                                                                                                                            10.00am Music Planning Meeting Rectory                                                                                      2.00pm Singing Outreach Primary School                                                                                      5.00pm Pastoral Committee Church Room
Weds. 3rd THOMAS THE APOSTLE
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Mothers’ Union Summer Supper Party 32 Waterditchampton

Thurs. 4th                                                                                                                                              6.30pm Local Youth Network Committee Church Room

Friday 5th.                                                                                                                                             2.30pm “Young at Heart” Community Centre

Sunday 7th 3rd Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 8th                                                                                                                                             2.30pm Singing Outreach Primary School

Weds. 10th    All Day Diocesan “Clergy Day” Blandford Forum
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm Mothers’ Union Service with Enrolment St Peter’s
fb tea at the Riverside café Garden Centre

Thurs 11th                                                                                                                                              11.00am Holy Communion St. Peter’s
3.00pm Town Team meets Pembroke Arms

Friday 12th – Sunday 14th “Pulse Camp” (youth) Hampshire Christian Trust site

Sunday 14th 4th Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 15th Alabaré Veterans Complex – Official Opening
2.00pm Singing outreach Primary School

Weds. 17th Deadline for Wilton Educational Charity applications
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm PCC meeting Parish Church

Sunday 21st 5th Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 22nd MARY MAGDALENE
2.00pm Collective Worship Primary School

Tuesday 23rd                                                                                                                                           2.30pm Holy Communion Pembroke Court

Wed. 24th                                                                                                                                  10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Educational Charity Trustees meet Rectory

Thurs 25th JAMES THE APOSTLE
11.00am Holy Communion St. Peter’s
2.00pm Primary School Service Parish Church
(School Term ends)

Sunday 28th 6th Sunday after Trinity
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 29th – August 9th Electrical work in progress Parish Church

Weds. 31st                                                                                                                                             10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Diary Dates May 2019

Diary Dates May 2019
Weds. 1st Ss Philip and James
10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm MU – ‘Mapping the Community’ 14 Harnwood Road

Friday 3rd 2.30pm ‘Young at Heart’ Community Centre

Sat. 4th 10.00am Mothers’ Union Coffee Morning Community Centre
Sunday 5th THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Tuesday 7th 2.30pm Holy Communion Olivier Place

Weds. 8th 2.30pm Mothers’ union: “Action in the Community” Church Room
Weds. 10th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm MU – Action in the Community Church Room
Sunday 12th FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.00am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
11.15am ANNUAL PAROCHIAL CHURCH MEETING Parish Church
1.00pm Parish Lunch

Monday 13th 2.40pm “Open the Book” Primary School

Tuesday 14th 11.00am Deanery Chapter Chalke Valley
2.30pm Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee
3.00pm Holy Communion Bulbridge

Weds. 15th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Thurs. 16th 11.00am Holy Communion St Peter’s
6.30pm Youth Committee meets Church Room
Saturday 18th 12.30pm Marriage of Joseph Houston and Jade Moore Parish Church
7.30pm Concert: Cambridge Renaissance Singers Parish Church
Sunday 19th FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist with Holy Baptism Parish Church

Monday 20th 2.00pm Singing Outreach Primary School
2.30pm St. John’s Trustees meeting

Tuesday 21st 2.30pm Holy Communion Pembroke Court

Wed. 22nd 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Saturday 25th 2.00pm Marriage of Victoria Riddell and Darren Martin St Catherine’s
Sunday 26th SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
12.30pm Holy Baptism Parish Church

Monday 25th School on “half-term” this week

Weds. 29th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Thurs. 30th ASCENSION DAY
11.00am Holy Communion St Peter’s

Diary Dates – April 2019

Tuesday 2nd 2.30pm Holy Communion Olivier Place

Weds. 3rd 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Lent Meditation St John’s Priory

Thursday 4th 6.15pm Wilton Beavers visit Parish Church

Friday 5th 2.30pm ‘Young at Heart’ Community Centre

Saturday 6th 10.00 – 12.00 Spring Clean Parish Church

Sunday 7th FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
8.00am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
9.30am Matins, BCP St Catherine’s 10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church
3.00pm Holy Baptism Parish Church

Monday 8th 5.00pm Pastoral Ministry Team Church Room

Tuesday 9th 3.00pm “Bulbridge” Holy Communion

Weds. 10th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
2.30pm Sudan, a talk to Mothers’ Union
by Revd Canon Ian Woodward Church Room
7.30pm ‘Behold the Man!’ Contemplative Prayer St John’s Priory

Thursday 11th 11.00am Holy Communion St. Peter’s

Saturday 13th 11.00am Thanksgiving Service Parish Church
for Rita Stephens

Sunday 14th Palm Sunday
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist and Procession Parish Church

Thursday 16th 2.30pm Holy Communion Pembroke Court

Weds. 17th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory
7.30pm Stations of the Cross Parish Church

Thursday 18th MAUNDY THURSDAY
11.00am Chrism Mass Salisbury Cathedral
7.00pm Eucharist of Maundy Thursday Parish Church

Friday 19Th GOOD FRIDAY
9.00am Mass of the Pre-Sanctified Parish Church
11.00am The Way of the Cross Parish Church
to St Peter’s
11.00am Meditations on the Cross St Catherine’s
2.00pm The Liturgy of the Cross Parish Church

Saturday 20th HOLY SATURDAY
No services are held, reflecting the stillness of Christ’s tomb.
The Parish Church will be open for private reflection.

Sunday 21st EASTER DAY
Midnight Liturgy and First Eucharist Parish Church
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Wed. 24th 10.30am Holy Communion St John’s Priory

Thursday 25th 8.00pm Local Youth Network meets Church Room

Sunday 28th SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
8.00am Holy Communion Parish Church
9.30am Holy Communion St Catherine’s
10.45am Sung Eucharist Parish Church

Monday 29th 10.00am Standing Committee meets The Rectory