Southwark Cathedral an inclusive Christian community growing in orthodox faith and radical love The marks of our community are: confidence in God and the Gospel
As a Church of England school in the diocese of Southwark we link much of our learning and charity projects with our local churches and of course Southwark Cathedral. This year, we join with Bishop Christopher’s mission ‘Hearts on Fire’. You can read his Pentecost sermon below, where he reflected on the previous years ‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Mission. Our Art Exhibition and much of the work we will be doing this year will focus on ‘Hearts on Fire’. Please come along on 18th July to see some of the Art work the children have prepared for us to celebrate this mission.
Christopher’s address at
the Diocesan 2014 Pentecost Service
‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’
How wonderful to see you all here this evening. How wonderful to gather together in worship and praise giving thanks for all we have shared through Faith, Hope and Love: my call to Mission. How wonderful to celebrate our glorious diversity at Pentecost and to pray for the gift of the Spirit to lead us into the future.
I am delighted that you have come in different ways. Those from Kingston with Bishop Richard have walked along Bankside from St John’s Waterloo. Those from Croydon with Bishop Jonathan have journeyed on the train up from Horley and all points in between – in something of an unusal route – to Blackfriars and then walked alongside the river. And those from Woolwich with Bishop Michael have been on the river and come by boat on a journey that began in Woolwich and has spent the afternoon gathering more pilgrims along the way.
From the various parts of the Diocese we have gathered in this our Cathedral, the mother Church, on this important day to give thanks, to pray and to look to the future.
We have heard just three snapshots of some of the work that my Call to Mission has helped inspire. From Purley, creative workings using Messy Church in order to share the faith. From Reigate, wonderful examples of a Deanery coming together in hope. From Norbiton, the community enriching Joel Project working with those who are homeless to serve in love.
And across the Diocese there are many more stories that could be told as we have explored these great pillars of mission: Faith, Hope, Love and in so doing have seen God at work in wonderful ways.
Our sharing of the message of Faith, Hope and Love, which is so much part of the essence of the Gospel has captured the imagination of all parts of the Diocese and particularly our Schools. Faith, Hope Love has been an abiding theme of many memorable school visits over the past two years – including St Peter’s Walworth (who were unable to be with us this evening) and St John’s Angell Town and plenty of others. Indeed the way the Call to Mission captured the imagination of our schools has been one of the great blessings of Faith, Hope, Love.
Even into this week living out this message and sharing it widely in the community has been very much on the agenda. I heard only the other day of the wonderful Carnival of Witness that took place in Sydenham with children from Holy Trinity School and I am now going to invite Judith the Headteacher and Ed the Vicar of Holy Trinity to come and share with us what they got up to…
(The Revd Ed Olsworth-Peter and Judith Standing, the Headteacher of Sydenham Holy Trinity School, talk about the School’s Faith Carnival held a couple of days previously. More details can be found here.)
In all we have heard this evening and in the many and various responses, from those of individuals, of schools, of parishes and deaneries, one thing has struck me again and again – and that is the abundant levels of joy that have surrounded us as we have sought to share the Faith, Hope and Love we find in Jesus Christ.
This great feast of Pentecost teaches us that the life of the Spirit is a joy-filled life. Our faith brings us deep joy, an overflowing joy we should want to share with others wholeheartedly. In the light of Easter and Pentecost our journey of discipleship with Jesus The Lord should be characterised by gladness and joy.
And so as we turn to the future I am mindful that there is a great deal that is going on in the Diocese. The work of Strategy for Ministry is looking at resourcing and delivery of Ministry and Mission. The work of the root and branch group is looking at how we assess and collect parish financial support for the costs of our clergy and administration. I have recently established a group to look at some of our diocesan structures in terms of boards and committees and a great deal more is going on. All these things are very important but will bear fruit only to the extent that we are Christ centred and outward focused in everything we seek to do and to be, the Lord being our helper. I am therefore immensely thankful to God and to all my brothers and sisters in Christ in this Diocese that alongside due recognition of the need to engage with the challenges we face in terms of our life together, energy and commitment continues to be poured into support for foodbanks, credit unions, street pastors and a whole host of initiatives that attest with joy to the love of Christ for those in greatest need.
I want us therefore to lift our eyes up to the hills from whence cometh our help. Many parishes and deaneries are fully embarked on Mission Action Planning to help focus on how we proclaim the Good News and serve our community and this too is good and wonderful work. All of this work is about fulfilling the charge that the Archbishop of Canterbury gave me when I became your Bishop. I have strongly articulated this as Renewing Vocations, Empowering the Laity and Breathing new Life into Deaneries.
In the light of all of this I was asked recently ‘what, in the future, do I want the Diocese of Southwark to be’, what are my aspirations or vision for us as a community of those whose lives are bound together in Jesus Christ, as his body in the world. Well it was quite a question! I was drawn immediately to the story from St Luke’s Gospel we heard a few minutes ago, the encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus.
It is a powerful story, a story of conversion, revelation and evangelism but begins in the most unpromising way with those two disciples, so full of the terrible events which have happened in Jerusalem that they fail to recognise that the apparent stranger who accompanies them along the road is none other than the risen Lord. And so in conversation and exchange they are reminded of what lies at the core of their faith and of what they are already prepared for through the unfolding of the Scriptures. The disciples are converted in their faith; Jesus is revealed to them in that simple and yet most powerful of actions, the breaking of bread; and they are so filled with joy at what happens that they rush back to Jerusalem to tell others all about it.
This joy, the joy of the Good News that cannot be contained and must be shared, the joy of an encounter with the risen Jesus, the joy of being a community that knows this – this is what I want our Diocese to be. I want us to be people so filled with the overflowing gift of the Spirit we are compelled to serve our communities and share our faith and to do this with great joy and gladness. And St Luke uses a wonderful phrase to capture all of this: ‘were not’ one disciple says to the other, ‘our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ Were not our hearts burning within us, were not our hearts on fire with the power and knowledge of his love?’
I want our hearts to be on fire, just as those disciples hearts were on fire because of their encounter with God, because of that conversion and that moment of revelation. My friends, as God’s people in South London and East Surrey, as we pray for the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on us, let us pray that we will be people with Hearts on Fire, who love God, who walk with Jesus and who are led by the Spirit. Throughout the Diocese of Southwark may this be seen in our worshipping, in the service we offer in our communities, in how we live and in the way we speak for the marginalised and weak. And so as those who love God, walk with Jesus and are led by the Spirit I also now re-articulate the priorities I have set for the Diocese. For in response to our generous God we will – release gifts, renew vocations, deepen Discipleship, be the Church.
This is my vision for us as God’s people and I commend it to you in the knowledge and hope that you will take it to heart and to prayer. At the end of this service there will be the opportunity to be anointed – a visible sign of the outpouring of the Spirit on us all for ministry and mission – and there is also a prayer card to help focus on Hearts on Fire. As you come to be anointed may your heart be on fire, may you love God, walk with Jesus and be led by the Spirit and in this Diocese where beauty, love and truth abound, may we release the gifts we have, be renewed in our vocation, deepened in our discipleship and joyfully be the Church.
Come Holy Spirit of God, kindle in us the fire of your love. With Hearts on Fire we are Loving God, Walking with Jesus, Led by the Spirit. Amen.