End of Year Report by Fr Christopher for AGM
22nd Apr 2018
HOLY CROSS CHURCH CROMER STREET LONDON WC1H 8JU.
PARISH PRIEST’S REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2017-2018
Our Annual General Meeting always takes place within the season of Easter, and as we look back on the past year, we do so in the light of the Resurrection, which grants profound affirmation of our life in Christ, and of the promise of its continual refreshment and of the ‘green shoots’ of new life for the future. There is plenty of this at Holy Cross and we pray that God will bless our Mission.
REACHING OUT TO ARGYLE SCHOOL Fr Christopher regular visits the school and takes assemblies and is now increasingly involved working with individual classes. There are school visits to Holy cross Church at intervals during the year, with teaching on the Seasons of Advent, Christmas and Lent and Easter as well as classes on the symbolism of the Cross and the Holy Eucharist, as well as introductions to the church’s building and history. Each month, the school maintains discussion and class work around human values, and Fr Christopher is able to aid discussion and responses from the Christian point of view. Meditation classes take place for the final year six classes and there are informal sessions which prepare the final year children for moving on to ‘big’ school.
REACHING OUT TO THE HOMELESS We have once more sent groups of volunteers to support the Camden Cold Weather Night Shelter to cook breakfasts during the cold Winter months at St George’s Church, Bloomsbury. This year we undertook a sponsored walk around the churches of the South Camden Deanery ad raise £775 for the Camden Night Shelter (C4WS).
REACHING OUT TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY Fr Christopher is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (KCB). The group advises and supports the organisation in its vital and committed work among local children and young people and also alongside our elderly residents. There is a multiplicity of activities and the Church is being seen to be taking on an influential lead in these matters, especially as KCBNA takes a lead in tackling conflict issues and knife crime and drug issues among our challenged young people. At Holy Cross, we run our own lunch club on the first Saturday of each month, and this brings together both church and local community members around the one table.
ECUMENICAL INVOLVEMENT Holy Cross Church forms part of a network of Christian churches representing all the denominations, with each community offering a distinctive ministry to this part of King’s Cross. We come together for The Good Friday Walk of Witness. We have regular ecumenical minister’s meetings and share our good news and maintain close links and friendships. This April saw the
THE HOLY CROSS CENTRE TRUST This year is the final year of Holy Cross Centre Trust as we at Holy Cross market the crypt premises. Their drop in and other groups have all found new homes and this marks the end of a 35 year relationship. We are now marketing the crypt premises and hope to achieve a balance around the commercial and charitable use for its future use. HCCT had been given responsibility of management of the Peace Garden (owned by Camden Council) at the east end of the church and we have contacted Camden, and, through the service of Camden Green Gym and their team of local volunteers, have held two gardening days, the next of which takes place on Thursday 3rd May. It is already looking heaps better!
INTERFAITH INVOLVEMENT Fr Christopher attends the meetings of The Camden Interfaith Communities Partnership throughout the year. This provides an invaluable means of maintaining a strong solidarity among the religious groups and their leaders Camden-wide. This year we were able to go to Sandfield Mosque in Cromer Street to join our Muslim friends for prayers.
ON THE HOME FRONT We celebrated the Confirmation of Richard Nicholl, Carl Wratten, Thomas Olowade and Jonathon Kitson on our Patronal Feast Day, Sunday 17th September, in the presence of the Bishop of Edmonton. We continue to witness the often very significant number of visitors who come to Sunday Mass from their travels around the world. We rejoiced in the award to our own Margaret Holness of the Canterbury Cross for her services to the Church of England as ‘The Church Times’ education correspondent.
AND FOR FUTURE PLANS….The Louis Lewis Bequest has beern granted for the provision of Holy Cross. Our claim with Ecclesiastical Insurance is now in the hands of the Archdeacon of Hampstead, and, with our churchwardens, our structural surveyor, Ken Amblin, and our architect Jonathan Louth we are continuing to press on. We have carried out a ‘Spring Clean’ of old and worn items from the church and have put the gift of tables and chairs from the Royal Physiological Society to good use. We are currently marketing the crypt premises and have welcomed the Huaxia Chinese Church to use our church premises each Sunday afternoon. We hope now to find a new tenant for the crypt premises and to ‘take back’ roughly a third of the crypt – the current TV an Parish rooms for our own use and will in due course erect a stud wall and occupy this space for our own social and missional use. We are hoping for a church ’turned inside out’ and turned toward the community it is called to serve and begin to fulfil our Mission prmises which we have put together on our Mission and Vision Days.
The Resurrection is for the Christian community and for our world a sign of hope and of future glory and we at Holy Cross live and work for the promise it offers to us in our own amazing community here in King's Cross, London.
Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter
15th Apr 2018
EASTER 3 YEAR B
“They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence” Luke 24.40
We are still in the season of Easter, and will remain so for some weeks. This is The Church’s deliberate intention. We experience and re-experience the Resurrection and its aftermath so that we may come to realise its profound meaning for ourselves. The Resurrection is never to be seen as the simple end-point of the life of the Jesus. It exists dynamically in time. It is for the Christian Church its own past, present and future life. It exists for the changing and the maturing of lives. It is deeply relational. The apostles had already shown the emotional freedom and courage to set aside their existing attachments and follow Jesus, and they now had to grasp the far more unsettling message that their lives, and the life of the whole world, would now be utterly changed.
We can’t avoid the fact that the gospel writers found the resurrection of Jesus quite puzzling. Except, that is, in one point: in different ways, all the gospels labour the point that Jesus was no ghostly apparition. He appeared to them after his own resurrection from the dead. The tomb was empty; but Jesus had gone on ahead and had appeared to Mary Magdalen and spoken to her. The risen Christ ate, broke bread, spoke, and even allowed Thomas and others to put their fingers in his wounds. He was very much an embodied presence. Jesus was actual and present to the disciples. On the road to Emmaus we are told that Jesus’ friends walked along in conversation with him for several miles without recognising him. He appeared to them and he entered locked rooms, and then suddenly disappeared from their sight – all things which sound much more like the ways we think of disembodied ghosts. But it is not Jesus as ghost but Jesus as physically present that is emphasized. And his presence is one which challenges the disciples and their perception of him, and who challenges them to ‘move on’ from this.
The focus is on the reality of Jesus. His being very present. Why, at this moment of resurrection vision, do we come to the frankly mundane sounding sentence: ‘They gave him a piece of broiled fish’?
One of the real dangers for people of faith is that we fail to recognise the importance of the physical, tangible world of which we are part – that we make our faith ‘other worldly’. This has always been a danger – right back in the early centuries of the church when Gnostics denied that God had made the physical world, believed that it was evil, and taught that we had to be saved out of it. But Christians have always believed that the physical world of everything is in fact and deed, God’s creation, and that it is to be loved. We, like him, are both of the body and of the spirit; the resurrection tells us that the true life is one which does not oppose the physical, but reaches beyond it. With our whole hearts and minds and bodies, we are called to behold and proclaim God’s glory in the very real present, in the very cold light of day, and to proclaim ourselves as a church which is for human flourishing:
The grave clothes of winter
are still here, but the sepulchre
is empty. A messenger
from the tomb tells us
how a stone has been rolled
from the mind, and a tree lightens
the darkness with its blossom.
There are travellers upon the road
who have heard music blown
from a bare bough, and a child
tells us how the accident
of last year, a machine stranded
beside the way for lack
of petrol, is crowned with flowers.
R S Thomas
The Resurrection brings the Church into new birth as the wellspring of its life. It is not isolated in history but an ever-present fact for the Church and its present and forward momentum. We can’t ‘do’ the resurrection on Easter day and then get on with the rest of life: The Church is called to stay in the resurrection so as to be able to live as Jesus lived. The French word for ‘resurrection’ is resussité, resuscitation, which powerfully asserts the grace of life giving refreshment renewal in the Christian life.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.
The Resurrection stands in contrast to life that is fossilised and atomised and turned in on itself. It is the perpetual declaration if new life in the immediate present. It is also RS Thomas’ “…stone being rolled from the mind”.
A Resurrection church is one which, like ours, has understood our Diocesan command to become one more caring, creative and compassionate, and it is most recently that we as a church must make decisions, following the departure of the Holy Cross Centre Trust. We are pledged to continue as a church offering broad and warm welcome and care to those in need at the local level and at the point of need. We must set the need to maintain a building (which costs money) alongside the overriding need to be most fully a Church. The Church which emerged out of the Resurrection was a people resuscitated, given new life from its source. A Church which continued to be oxygenated by the Holy Spirit and whose influence powerfully and prayerfully informed the church’s every move. A church too, not only understood through sound bites and mission statements but actually found in the authentic lives of men Christian men women and children who have dedicated their lives to Christ.
Pope Francis’ March Encyclical ‘Gaudete et Exsultate’:
I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”.
Let us be spurred on by the signs of holiness that the Lord shows us through the humblest members of that people which “shares also in Christ’s prophetic office, spreading abroad a living witness to him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity”.
When the resurrected Jesus ‘eats the bread in their presence’ he is calling us all to make him and to make his Church more real as we embrace more fully and activate more passionately His call holiness.
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
8th Apr 2018
Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter Year B
Then (Jesus) said to him “Do not doubt but believe”.
Thomas answered him “My Lord and my God!” John 20.27b,28.
In the painting ‘The Incredulity of Thomas’ by Caravaggio, Thomas is a gnarled old peasant, who, with furrowed brow and inquisitive and amazed eyes, has placed his bloodied index finger into a wound in Christ’s side. Two other disciples look down at the implanted finger as though medical students at an examination in a teaching hospital. But they are not young medical students but rough old peasants with dirty finger nails. In a fascinating detail, Jesus guides Thomas’ finger into the wound. The scene is spine tingling. You are a witness to a startling scene, and you feel its effect viscerally, with your nerve endings, and it makes you want to shudder!
The painting takes the dialogue between Jesus and Thomas and involves us to the extent that it is WE who are made to feel the finger going into the Christ’s wound ourselves. The spiritual reality of the resurrection is to be experienced in the flesh. The Resurrection of Jesus presents for the mind of the sceptic a difficult or even impossible level of understanding. In this context Thomas becomes the hero of the piece, for he echoes that all too human incredulity which befalls the one for whom faith and wonder exist on the unreachable or neglected side of the human imagination. But Jesus is there as the abiding reality, for Caravaggio he is bathed in light. He is the one who with guiding hand, allows us to see that the spiritual and the physical, the past and the present, have become one in him. As the hymn says ‘Only believe and thou shalt see, that Christ is all in all to thee’. But belief is not a simple business. Thomas makes it look very easy.
But for Thomas the disciple, this was not always the case. Several chapters earlier in John’s Gospel, when the news reaches the ears of Christ that Lazarus is dead, Jesus speaks at first of Lazarus as being asleep, and that he must go and wake him. The apostles are concerned that Jesus will be stoned if he returns to Judæa. What follows tells us more about Thomas, and surprises us:
‘Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go with him, that we may die with him.' John 11.16.
Here Thomas is far from doubting, he is the one who is willing to follow Jesus unto death and to risk the consequences. It is the believing Thomas who cries ‘Let us go with him!” John 11.6. No wonder then, that in the eastern orthodox churches, Thomas is known not as a doubter but as ‘Thomas the Believer’. If we are honest, we might say that Christian Faith finds its centre of gravity somewhere between a kind of certainty and a kind of doubting. Many of our well-known hymns express this kind of faith, in which God is seen in hiddenness and inaccessibility. ‘Immortal Invisible God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes’, we sing. And in the hymn ‘Jerusalem the Golden’ comes a ringing endorsement of the existence of heaven with the admission that ‘I know not, O I know not, what solid joys lie there…’ Thomas sets before us the existence of faith and doubt as part of the one offering to God. This is echoed in the poetry of R S Thomas as he describes the idea of faith as both presence and absence, and as the confounding of that desire as TS Eliot put it, to ‘verify, instruct yourself, inform curiosity, or carry report…’:
Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Via Negativa R.S. Thomas (1913–2000)
The Resurrection of Jesus was only slowly realised by the disciples. The Gospel of Mark, which we have been following this year, is full of their misunderstandings. The disciples are not learned men. They struggle with their own partial understanding. But the Gospel writer is able in this way to make a larger point about the nature of human perception itself. The point is that faith in Christ is never the finished article or a final statement. It grows and develops and may grow deeper and more mature. More vision and trust may be granted. The fact of the resurrection is not just a romantic adjunct to the life and death of Jesus. It is the arrival at an understanding of the identity of Jesus in all its fullness. After all, the new relationship which the Resurrection has founded is the one in which Jesus of Nazareth, the rabbi and teacher, the healer, the worker of miracles, the one who died that shameful death on the cross is now risen from the dead! He has become for Thomas and for Christians for all time, “Lord and God!”
In the final analysis, an understanding of the Christian faith does not rest on belief and doubt in a theory. It is not about supposition but about reality. It is about us and what we are and why we are alive and what we are doing with our lives and whether we are becoming what we were made to be and whether we acknowledge that we are chosen and cherished by a loving Maker, who has sent his son to live among us, to die for us and to raise us to new life. This is the belief that the Christian risks. The risk as I say to myself, ‘Let me go with him, that I might die with him”. Let us go, anyway. There is nothing to fear. God has already taken the initiative. He has made his choice and we are now to make ours. But with the caveat that we are not to doubt but only believe.
“Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God's loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love.” .
Sermon for Easter Day 2018
1st Apr 2018
Easter Sermon for 2018
We are bound to say as we now arrive at this glorious Easter time, (in the words of the song) ‘What a difference a day makes’. Within the space of three days, everything for the Christian Church changes. And in the passing of this brief period of time -- of Holy Week and now of Easter, the Church has endured the pain of death of Jesus and now all is transformed. The Church’s proclamation is the one which has proceeded out of the death of Christ, and through his Glorious Resurrection she proclaims new life for the world. It has all been encapsulated into a week, and the saving events into three days.
The Holy Week days we have lived through cannot be experienced separately but together. They define The Christian Church, and this evening’s Easter Liturgy allows us to celebrate new life in Christ as we recapitulate the saving events of our Faith. This faith emerges out of the life that Easter makes possible, and it is ushered in as a flame, flickering delicately, The Light of the Risen Christ proclaimed as “Christ our Light” and then acknowledged and honored in the glorious Easter song The Exsultet…
Then there is a Liturgy of the Word for the recapitulation of The Christian Faith in the tracing of our origins. It begins with The Creation Narrative in Genesis, and then proceeds to the Exodus and Abraham and then the coming of the One who will promise us the God not our of religious duty alone, but his own being from the communication of one heart speaking to another. This Easter Liturgy is a profound celebration of the sacramental life that God has granted us through the blessing of the font, of the baptismal water and of the renewal of our baptismal vows. Everything is to find its renewal through the grace which is Easter. We then celebrate the Eucharist, dominated by the great Easter candle…The light of Christ which now shines on a world redeemed by God’s action in Jesus Christ dead and risen from the dead.
I was in Waitrose this afternoon and saw the sad sight of the Easter eggs which were becoming too difficult to be sold. They sat on the shelves, forlorn, with their expensive price tickets waiting to suffer the ignominy of being reduced by half, or even more when the supermarket’s ‘Easter effect’, marketed since the end of February, becomes redundant and no longer sales worthy. A salesperson was carrying one of those guns which slap a red sticker on the buns as ‘reduced by half’. We live in a supermarket economy in which sell-by dates mix with sales trends and Waitrose’s own seamless thread which runs both vaguely with and absurdly counter to the Church’s calendar – how else can we explain the fact of hot cross buns sold in Marks and Spencer’s at Christmastime? In the popular mind’s eye, very little would be known about Maundy Thursday or Good Friday except as odd adjuncts to Easter. Easter-time stretches out from soon after Christmas. Lent is passed by, forgotten; after all how do you market Lent? A little speech was made after a show three weeks ago at a local theatre in which we were all wished a Happy Easter on the Second Sunday of Lent! And so we experience this disjunct between a popular, commercial culture which no longer remembers this time of Holy Week and Easter.
For Christians this is very strange. For this is the most important time of the Christian Year, one in which Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are each and alone significant in very specific ways. Each also belong to one another, and they all belong to that part of The Church’s life which places a premium on the hallowing of time. The Church’s calendar allows us to inhabit time in a way in which it is not thrown away or discarded as a fad or whimsy. The Church commemorates and celebrates and marks time. The passing of time is not made without its being offered to God in and through his Son. And this for the Church is, in the words of The Bishop of London ‘deeply inspiriting’. It is life-giving and is a way of living the Resurrection in the present and in the time to come. This is because, through our worship, it finds its place within our hearts. And so we don’t speak of the ‘Easter Effect’ or ‘The Easter Experience’ without its having been inscribed on our hearts and expressed in our actions. In this way we follow in the footsteps of the original resurrection witnesses. . The Easter joy is held in our hearts and proclaimed to our communities as joy and life and hope and freedom. It exists for a transformed humanity.
The contrary movement is the experience of an ‘Easter’ with the true Easter taken out, and we return to our unsold but expensive eggs! We see a society which no longer memorizes Easter as the time of Resurrection. It has been important in this church to celebrate The Resurrection through a preceding death. This action does not seem to be immediately gratifying and is puzzling to many. But it is for the Christian quite natural. But it can only be known and experienced through the eye of faith. Easter joy comes to us as a joyful surprise. It is like that of the followers of Jesus who come to the empty tomb and hear the words of the angel “Why seek the dead among the living? He is not dead. He has risen, as he said he would. Go therefore to Galilee where you will find him’. Easter activates hope.
The joyful message of Easter is that God’s time and our time have become everlastingly one.
Now, in Christ His Son, our hearts beat as one!
Easter, George Herbert
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts vied
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.
I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.
The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.
Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.