in one kind

We became aware of the Archbishops letter about Eucharistic practice yesterday which suggest we only take communion in one kind. This morning I presided at the 830 Eucharist in the Ithamar Chapel but only gave wafers to the people there.

It was an interesting experience that I did not like. It felt wrong and threw me quite a bit, particularly as the liturgy demanded we still poured wine and consecrated it – but only a small amount for myself to drink.

Rather than enjoying celebrating the Eucharist with my friends this morning, I felt that I was actually depriving them from entering into the full celebration of the sacrament. It was not a nice position to be in.

Don’t get me wrong – hygiene must come first – I’m just hoping now that the pandemic passes quickly (but I do have a lingering question – if we ignored the hygiene, we would catch swine flu more quickly, and then it would pass – no more pandemic! But I guess that’s too simplistic!)

everthing has changed – and yet nothing has

I woke up on Sunday morning a priest! How weird does that sound!
The whole experience is still pretty strange to get my head around.
I guess the best thing I can say is that I am still taking it all in.
It’s the end of a very long journey, and the start, I guess, of a new journey or at least a new direction of my journey altogether.

I said earlier to someone that I feel like everything has changed, and yet nothing has changed. That sounds strange but in some way makes an odd kind of sense to me.

The weekend has been amazing: ordination, followed by presiding at the Eucharist has been quite an emotional experience. As the service progressed I was struck by an increasing sense of privilege that it is to preside and be able to serve people in this way. It was special to be able to share in this special meal with many friends and family. It was not until I got home and was nearly asleep that I realised that in all the emotion of the moment that I forgot to take the bread and wine myself – clearly I need to remember that one in the future!

I felt Bishop Brian did an excellent job and both his charge to us on Friday evening and his sermon at the ordination really hit me. In his talk on Friday he reminded us that we are to delight in God. A delight in God should mark my ministry and so be distinct from the world around.

He also spoke a little about mission and worship being totally interconnected. As I listened I think I focussed on what he was trying to say: some churches are imbalanced with a focus on worship style or a focus on mission. Worship should come from mission and mission should flow from worship. It’s both/and not either/or.

In the sermon Bishop Brian gave a clear instruction – we are not to be busy. We are not to be so busy that we lose sight of people. We are not to be busy so that we have no time for people. We need to be with people. This is one thing that was aprticularly ringing in my ears as the service came to an end.

The weekend was special – thanks loads to all of you that joined me on the day, some traveling great distances, and to an even bigger number of you who have been part of this amazing journey over the last few years. Thank you for your patience with my ability to frustrate, your love when I was downhearted, your encouragement when close to giving up, and your friendship which has meant an immense amount to me.

God bless you all.

eucharist training

I had an interesting morning with my curate peers at West Malling Abbey. We had been gathered together to look at the Eucharist, and specifically how to preside at the Eucharist.

The Abbey is a fantastic place of quiet and solitude and I always enjoy visiting this holy place – its been too long since my last visit and I really should look into booking a study day there.

As I said we were there for training on how to preside after our priesting. This has become something for most of us to look forward to. It is certainly big on the agenda for me at the moment as I contemplate presiding for the first time in the cathedral. It was good to hear that amongst ‘a standard way’ that we had to develop our own style which we are comfortable with. It was also good to be reminded that we should preside in a way that means we do not draw attention to ourselves and so allow people to worship and receive from God rather than be distracted by what we do. Another useful point Chris shared was that we all celebrate the Eucharist, and one person has to preside or ‘host’ the meal. This is not an outhority thing, and is all about serving. These useful things had already been shared with me by our excellent Precentor but its still good to hear it again.

As time gets closer I seem to spend a lot of time reflecting and asking myself what all this is about? What do I think happens at the Eucharist and has my opinion changed in the last year or so? I am so conscious of how I am still very much on a journey of discovery. I have certainly moved from this being merely a symbolic meal and probably now agree that something happens and God is present in some mysterious way we cannot explain in the blood and wine. That’s nowhere near the same as believing the bread and the wine change (transubstantiation) which as the 39 articles say …’is repugnant to the plain words of scripture’ (Article xxviii). But, if we pray asking God that this bread and wine ‘may be for us the body and blood of your dear Son Jesus Christ’ then it can no longer just be bread and wine! Something has happened.

I guess another unknown for me is how will I react emotionally as I preside. We were talking about this today and I think Dave brought this up in the discussion. It’s an unknown to me and today I heard how priests have become emotional during their first presiding experience which does not give me a lot of confidence. It doesn’t hold with not drawing attention to yourself either. But … I have noticed that while waiting with the wine and hearing the choir sing behind me in the cathedral I have been conscious of feeling a profound sense of God which has moved me to tears.

God is present in the whole world, and God seems to be present in a special way in the celebration of the Eucharist. For me, the biggest thing I have come away with today is as I prepare to preside I need to be prayerful, well prepared and allow God to be God.

a creative sunday

Yesterday I had planned and expected to be a deacon, and carry out the ‘deacon’ role, in two very different environments. In the morning I was to deacon in 10.30 Eucharist at Rochester cathedral and in the evening at the MOOT Eucharist.

What may surprise many is that I encountered innovation, refreshment, delight and surprise in both services. I always feel a great sense of serving when I am in the role of the deacon. The preparation of the table, the placing of the bread, and the pouring out of the wine have become very powerful and symbolic parts of worship. Particularly as I pour the wine I find myself thanking Jesus for the act we are remembering.

Yesterday I had the privilege of experiencing this in two very different settings. In the morning the Girls Choir sang magnificently Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass. To have the familiar liturgy set to such powerful jazz music was simply amazing. I have found an mp3 sample here. (although our girls sounded much better!) This was a great and worshipful experience and I went away that morning smiling at the thought many have that cathedrals are stuffy and lack innovation!

Last night I had another privilege of deaconing at the Moot Eucharist. A different experience again with a community of people that are battling and learning what it means to live as Christians in the city of London. The theme of this service was ‘accountability’ and after an interview with Brandy and Travis, which you can hear on the Moot podcast, we were presented with some challenging questions. Questions that I need to spend a lot of time considering.

Questions like:
how much do you reflect on the way God and others love you for who you are?
how do you relate to others about your spirituality?
how do you get beyond your own thoughts and feelings and help others?

There were a lot more … but those are the 3 I’ve chosen to focus on first.

Two amazing services which displayed integrity, creativity and innovation while maintaining the centrality of the importance of Eucharist. And people wonder whether the diversity within the Church of England is a good thing!!!!!

eucharistic reality

One of the things I can to do as pioneer curate attached to the cathedral is be involved in the services that the cathedral does. Over the last 2 Sunday’s I have been deacon at the Eucharist, the thought of which scared me a little, but a role which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The deacons role, I think, is to serve. Apart from some things in the service, such as read the gospel (this morning with incense which was cool) and say a few things, the deacon lays the alter, pours the wine and lays out the bread ready for communion.

This morning I found this to be a very moving experience. Last week I was very nervous about making sure everything was put in the correct place. This week I was a little more relaxed and found the whole process to be a real privilege.

I was particularly moved when sharing the wine with people. I used the words ‘the blood of Christ … shed for you’. I do not know what is was about this morning’s service but there was a good pause between each people receiving wine from me (having 2 chalices at each station rather than one caused this) and the reality of the symbolism really hit me in that gap. ‘This symbolises Christ’s death’ I thought to myself. As I quietly stared into the chalice of wine while waiting for the next person I could see my reflection and felt God say ‘and this is my blood also shed for you’.

I was amazingly struck by those words, and the reality of the statement. I think when serving others it is easy to forget that this act was done for me as well. As well as serving this is a time to thank God personally as well.

Today the symbolism went a little further for me. On my drive home my reflection in the wine hit me again – not only was this blood shed for me, it was also shed for those that don’t yet know Christ. As I reflected in that wine, I am to take that reflection to the community – somehow, in some way that can be understood, I need to reflect the reality of life with Christ to people I brush against in day to day life.

The Eucharist … I’m not totally sure if we can fully understand it … but it’s more than an event in a building, more than symbolism at a particular time, … more of a reality that should be lived out attractively drawing others to Christ.

Hard Questions

I visited Lambeth Palace today to attend one of the Fresh Expressions Hard Questions days. In the morning Bishop Lindsay Urwin spoke about Sacramental ministry in fresh expressions of church followed by Tim Dakin from CMS on Developing ecclesiology in global perspective.

It was good to meet up with a few friends and make some new ones – some of whom are in the sorts of situations that I may find myself in the future – 50% parish and 50% fresh expression – although I stil dream of 100% pioneering!

The morning was particularly good as I was challenged by Bishop lindsay’s comments on the place of the Eucharist in fresh expressions. He was saying we have institutionalised the Eucharist and that we need to rediscover its power and importance. We need to re-engage with the truth that each encounter with the eucharist should be a fresh encounter with Jesus. He also holds the view that any fresh expression needs to have the Eucharist central to its life if it is going to continue to grow.

To someone from low church background that all seems a bit heavy and on SEITE residential I regularly talk about the Eucharist with my more catholic friends but end up trying to wind them up – usually very unsuccessfully – but the whole sacramental ‘thing’ does interest me massively. The heaviness was lifted however with some words from the bishop that I was not expecting.

As well as needing to de-institutionalise the Eucharist we also need to start a discussion asking what is central to the Eucharist, what is essential and what ave we added, what makes a ‘live’ Eucharist. He also advocated a climate of permission to experiment with deregulation to do so.

I agree entirely but it worries me that there is no consistency here across dioceses. In some experimentation is allowed, in others it is done ‘un-officially’ and in still others bishops block any innovation. It frustrates me personally because instead of spending time on ‘who is in and who is out’ arguments based on sexuality, I think we should be considering stuff like this that because this is stuff that really matters on an everyday basis to everyday people who are spiritually searching.

I hope and pray Bishop Lindsay is able to share his thoughts with the other bishops.

Eucharist of the Ordinary?

The other day while driving back from Head Office with Sharron we started to talk about the Eucharist and particularly about the bread and the wine. In particular I was asking if the bread and the wine are in themselves symbolic? By that, I mean did Jesus deliberately choose bread and wine for the significance we have assigned to them over the centuries (the bread and wine signifying Christ’s body and blood), or did Jesus choose bread and wine because they were the ordinary everyday foods that were around in 1st century Palestine and easily accessible to all?

As ever, I am thinking aloud, but in that thinking I am wondering and asking if we have missed the point over the centuries.

Was Jesus saying that particularly in the bread and the wine are my body and blood; or was Jesus saying in the normal everyday things you have around you are my body and blood?

We have traditionally gone with the former which has resulted in Christians paying particular reference to bread and wine as we celebrate and remember what Jesus has done. In this was the celebration becomes one of remembrance but seems to me to be restricted to just two things. At this point I think of Christians in the middle of the desert, or in parts of Africa, or indeed in many parts of the world where bread and wine are just not available or are not part of the everyday diet of people. How can Christians in those places partake of God if they do not have any bread and wine for the Eucharist?

It strikes me that if bread and wine are essential that is not very good news for those that have no access, and maybe never will have access, to bread and wine.

On the other hand, maybe Jesus was saying that in the normal everyday stuff you have around you you can find me. Could he have been suggesting that in our staple food, the food that normally sustains us on a daily basis, that we could enter in daily communion with him. If this is the case then the Eucharist could consist of fish and rice, maize, sauerkraut, sushi, or whatever the normal everyday easily accessible diet happens to be.

I wonder if, in the Eucharist, Jesus is saying ‘I am accessible to you, I am here in the everyday – you don’t need to look to hard, you don’t need to struggle to find me, you don’t need anything special, I am here in your normal everyday!’

That sounds more like good news!