Norbury Parish Church COVID19 – Pastoral Letter 1.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

May I share with you a prayer for times such as these:

Keep us, good Lord, 

under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious, 

be with those who care for the sick,

and lift up those who are brought low;

that we may find comfort 

knowing that nothing can separate us from your love

in Christ Jesus our Lord. 


It is with a heavy heart that we are stopping corporate worship at Norbury Parish Church. As of Sunday the 22nd of March we will not be gathering for collective worship in our church. That does not mean we cease to pray. May I encourage you to pray earnestly for those who are in need; for Hazel Grove; for our world, for our leaders and for all those who suffer due to the COVID19. 

We are in constant conversation about how we may best serve our congregation in times like these. We shall share material through our Facebook Group and website, for those who have access to computers, so that we may continue to gather in some sense and worship together at 10.15 each Sunday; even if we may be separated in our own homes.

For those who cannot access computers; we will endeavour to produce a list of phone numbers for our ministry team to use to contact all parishioners to know how best to serve those who are vulnerable or isolated. If you wish to help us in doing this in any way please do contact me through my email; or via the Vicarage phone which is 0161 759 8531. 

We do not know what the weeks or months ahead will look like but a team of us from Norbury Parish Church will endeavour, where we can, to care for those who are in need. I ask you to keep a discipline of prayer and encourage you to stay safe and follow the national guidelines with regards to self-care. 

Every Blessing,


Vicar of Norbury Parish Church.

Now is the moment to act. A sermon for ash Wednesday with a call to repent and treat the world differently.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

There is nothing like the words of a prophet to remind us of our own sinful nature. To remind us of our sinful mortality and to demand us to change. To shake us to the very core and make us look up and see what is going on around us. 

16 year old Greta Thunberg is one such voice. A voice calling us to repent and change. In one of her speeches she says:

‘I want you to panic. I want you to act as if your house was on fire. I have said those words before… I agree. To panic unless you have to is a terrible idea. But when your house is on fire and you want to keep your house from burning to the ground then that does require some level of panic.’ 

I think one of the hardest voices to hear is the voice of the prophet. The voice of the person who reminds us of our mistake and calls us to repent and turn from our evil ways. 

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. 

Greta Thunberg finishes her speech with this:

‘Our house is falling apart. The future as well as what we have achieved in the past is literally in your hands now. But it is still not too late to act. It will take a far-reaching vision. It will take courage. It will take fierce determination to act now, to lay the foundations when we may not know all the details about how to shape the ceiling. … To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible.’ 

Joel had a similar message for the people of Israel, their best was no longer good enough, they needed to do the seemingly impossible, turn to God and repent. Otherwise they were likely to face death and destruction. 

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Theologically, one of the most prominent messages that our passage from Joel places in front of any reader is a need to lament and turn back to God. But in the midst of their lament Joel promises them hope. Joel is not simply calling Israel back to God because it is the right thing to do but because God is where their hope is found. Joel is calling the people back to God so that their shame can be removed and their honour restored.

Joel does not just offer hope for the restoration of a sinful humanity but also offers hope for the restoration of creation as well . In verse 14, Joel makes reference to God’s blessing not just being upon the people but also upon the land. Here, Joel insinuates that God will leave a blessing behind him and that this blessing will restore the land as well as the people. This would have been important for the people of Israel who, at this time, would have been living in a land of desolation, and it is an important message for us to hear as well. 

In light of flash flooding and forest fires. In the words of Greta Thunberg and extinction rebellion we are being challenged to repent of our sinful treatment of the planet and amend our ways. We can see before our very eyes places of desolation and we must lament and, like the people of Israel, return to our God of hope.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Our current situation calls for us to repent. To turn back to God and put our trust in Him. For Israel this call to repentance was through acts of “fasting,” “weeping,” and “mourning” (2:12), which were linked to lament. Lent could be such a moment for us. Lent could be a time where we assess our sinful ways and mourn. It could be a moment, in the words of Pope Francis in On Care for our Common Home, that we weep and mourn for the state of “creation.” It could be the moment that we return to the Lord through worshi. There has been a moment like this. A moment which demands us to mourn, repent and turn to Christ.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

It is important to respond to the needs of “creation” in our worship; both liturgically and missionally. This, on the one hand, involves lament and repentance, it can involve mourning, but, above all, it must involve action. General synod made the bold promise of making the Church of England carbon neutral by 2030. This is impossible if we do not act. If we do not repent, turn from our previous ways, and act. 

We, the congregation of the parish of Norbury, need to be bold in our actions. We need to think about things differently. We need to be willing to change our ways and rethink how we care for creation. We need to move away from a model of apathy to a care which is deep and compassionate. We need to think bigger than recycling, bolder than turning of a light. We need to start rebuilding the foundations, even if we have no idea what the ceiling will look like. We need to reimagine what it means to live in a way which cares for one another, our homes, and the planet. This may take time, and it won’t be easy, but it is what we must do. For our house in on fire but it is still not too late to act.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Our passage from Joel reminds us that our salvation does not simply come from our repentance, but from God’s compassion. Therefore, in all our lament and repentance it is important to remember that it is not our action that redeems us but God’s grace. So, although we are called to care for creation and to repent communally, we are also reminded that it is God who saves us and it is God who redeems us. In the end our salvation does not come from our actions but from God’s love. 

When we come to the altar and receive ashes we are reminded not of our failed humanity, but of God’s redeeming love. We are reminded that there is a better path. There is a more worthy path. One which offers redemption for both us and the planet. We just need to be prepared to hear that call. What Joel reminds us is that our actions alone can never save us. It is only God’s grace that can do that.

Remember that you are but dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. 

Greta Thunberg. 2019. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference.

Pope Francis. 2015. Laurdato si’ – On Care for our Common Home.

Challenge and Call: Do you love me?

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Jesus asks three times if Simon Peter loves him in John 21. Three times Jesus commissions him to:

  • Feed my lambs
  • Tend my sheep
  • Feed my sheep.

Three times he asks Simon Peter if he loves Jesus.

Underneath these questions is a call to “Follow God”. To be taken by the hand and led into the unknown. Simon Peter is hurt by Jesus’ constant questioning, he doesn’t understand the call that his being placed upon him and yet he responds each time the same.

“Lord… I love you.”

This last year has been a whole heap of unknowns for Ashleigh and I. A year ago I joined with 21 pilgrims who yearn to see reconciliation and peace throughout the UK and Ireland. We had many moments of joy, but as we moved onto the next phase of our journey I realised that earthly reconciliation is only a temporary fix. A plaster, to cover the wound which can only be healed by the love of God.

Ashleigh, started her journey towards ordination. And after a couple of false starts she began training in September part time and has grown from strength to strength in her ministry. Reflecting the love God has for all people in deep and profound ways.

Yet, if that wasn’t enough we also answered a call to take up ministry in a new place, with a new flock. 50 days ago I was installed as Incumbent of St. Thomas, Norbury, and what a 50 days it has been.

We have seen over 1000 people come in and out of our building. We have mourned together at the loss of dear friends, while also celebrating and remembering the birth of Christ. We have danced and sang together, celebrating what is, but also sat pondered what is to come. It has been a hectic month and a bit, but that is part and parcel of God’s kingdom.

When Ashleigh and I look back on the last few months, we cannot believe what we have done. We know we are crazy, we know it has made our lives harder. But, we also know what motivates us, and it is the same love that motivated Peter.

When we began training for ministry we were very aware that life would not be easy. That there would be compromise and difficult decisions to make, but we decided to follow God’s call.

As I reflect upon Jesus’ question to Simon Peter, I cannot but help think that I’d be annoyed too. Annoyed that Jesus didn’t believe me, but then like Peter I would be missing the point. For just like Peter none of us know where we are being called. All we know is that we are being called through love. And the challenge is to show that love to others.

Jesus asks “do you love me?”

We are shocked by the places God’s love has shown up over the last few months and we are so excited to continue to follow it, wherever it may lead us. But, sometimes it is hard to remember who we are doing this for. It is easy to be caught up in the shiny or promising and forget the love which has called us.

The love which braved the darkest depths to call us home. The love which suffered the agony of the cross. We will not all face Peter’s call. Not everyone is expected to bare that particular cross. But we are all called out of God’s love.

I wonder where that love is calling you, and I wonder what your response would be to Jesus’ probing question.

“Do you love me more than these?”

Musings of a Cathedral Mouse- A Place of Hope

My second week in Chester Cathedral has been exciting and varied. It has included a whole variety of roles and opportunities but two of the most difficult challenges have been planning two large services. This may not come as a surprise as I am mostly spending the month shadowing the Canon Precentor.

The first service was a large funeral for a member of the Cathedral community, and in this act I have found a thread of Cathedral life which could be overlooked, the Cathedral as a place of Hope.

In the funeral liturgy we read of our certain hope in the resurrection. We acknowledge that death is not the end of our Christian journey and we speak of hope.

One of the prominent theme’s of Cathedral life is the mingling of different strands of business and worship. Dean Tim talks about creating a culture which is focused on Christ. A culture which has Christ at it’s heart. A culture founded on hope and this was something found both in the funeral but also in the second service I took part in: The Licensing of Pastoral Workers and Readers.

This second service spoke of hope in a different way. It spoke of the hope of the Christian faith continuing. Of faithful disciples witnessing to the Good News of Jesus in their communities. Over 600 people came to celebrate with them and cheer them on as they began their new ministries and it was wonderful to be a part of.

But one of the most striking moments for me was when we stood outside the West Doors and finished the final hymn and said the grace. In this moment Bishop Keith reminded us that this was what it was about. Stood outside the Cathedral on lookers filming this rather peculiar spectacle we were demonstrating the hope of our faith. It was a very powerful moment for me to reflect on!

I think at the heart of Cathedral life is hope. Hope that there is a different way to live. Whether it be through saying the offices, or celebrating the ministry of the diocese, there is hope found in the worshiping life of this Cathedral.

But, there is hope in other places as well. There is hope in lighting a candle with the mourning parent. There is hope in listening to the honorary chaplain telling stories about people’s differing needs. There is hope in listening to how the vergers care for people who have nowhere else to turn. There is hope in encouraging one person to remember that God can is with them in their daily life.

Many people enter the cathedral, some are explicitly looking for God but many are not. I am filled with hope that all encounter God in their own way, and fully believe that without spaces like this they may never encounter God at all.

Hope lingers,

Hope dwells,

Hope hovers and broods.

Hope does not demand,

Or expect.

Hope for the hopeless,

Hope for the hopeful,

Hope for those who regret.

A flickering candle,

The music of Handel,

Prayers fumbled

Silence which humbles


fill this cathedral with hope.

Musings of a Cathedral Mouse: A place of Welcome

This week I began to experience my first taste of Cathedral life at Chester Cathedral and I thought I would keep a sporadic blog to reflect on some of the experiences and to look back at later and ponder what God was up to at the time.

The first thing I want to reflect upon, sat drinking a steaming cup of coffee having completed my first full week of Cathedral life is how welcome I have been made to feel. The welcome has been wonderful, people have spent time with me (answering no end of questions), let me follow them and watch what they do and make me cups of tea when I have needed.

But I am not the only one. Every pilgrim who ventured through the doors seemed to be welcomed with a smile. Whether they be a tourist looking for an “experience”, I thoroughly recommend climbing the 246 steps to the top of the tower, or the person who wants to come and light a candle and pray. Everyone was welcomed with sensitivity and a smile. Chester Cathedral tries to go out of its way to welcome you, whether you be HRH Princess Ann to the person who refused to give his name but wanted to talk, we try to be a place of Welcome.

This may not sound like much but in the midst of a busy city I think it is important to be a place of warmth and welcome. Each morning the day begins with morning prayer. Gathered in a small chapel, around a single candle flame, we welcome the day with its unpredictability and thank God for those who we will encounter. But I will cover prayer later!

For now I end with this..

Whiskers twitching,

Nose sniffing,

There’s something in the air.

Not bread, not cheese,

Nor incensed steam,

But some form of deeper joy.

As the doors creak open,

Something is awoken,

A welcome beyond word or prayer,

A smile,

A nod,

A welcome that offers care,

A welcome that needs to be shared.

Journey of Hope in Neston

Lent may be past us but in Muthuraj Swamy’s Reconciliation which was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2019 lent book, the author writes: ‘Reconciliation begins with God, because it is God who initiated – and continues in – relationship with the world.’ The word reconciliation can be scary for so many reasons. It requires us to be willing to offer ourselves, to acknowledge our mistakes and be willing to listen to the other. It is however, ultimately about relationship. 

Over the past five months I have journeyed with twenty other Christian leaders as we have explored the work of reconciliation and peace in the U.K. and Ireland. We have visited several sights of pilgrimage, we have been taught lessons by those who are further along the road than us and we have supported each other as we have quickly learnt what it means to invest deeply in relationships.  

This journey has been a real privilege, it has opened my eyes to the breadth and diversity of the wonderful work that the church is involved in: the supporting of prisoners, working with divided communities, walking alongside people who have been abandoned by those who swore to protect them and it is a journey which I hope to share with you. 

For those of you who have accepted the offer we will journey together over the next month, we will share stories together as we come to appreciate the work of God in each of us, and hopefully we will end the month more enthused to listen to what God is up to here in Neston. 

The call to reconciliation is for all of us however and I encourage you, whoever you are, to think about the part you play. I encourage you to think about the ways you can help to be a part of our community, and to that end I leave you with this reminder from Swamy: ‘In reality reconciliation is greater. . . it is a long process of building relationships.’ 

I pray then for your relationships, I pray that you may begin to find words of peace and hope this month and remember that we are called to the work of reconciliation by the one who formed us, loves us and is one-in-three, the beautiful dance that is, the Trinity.


Reconciliation and Relationship: A reading of Genesis 2

In Genesis 2 God created Adam and Eve out of nothingness. On Ash Wednesday Christians around the world with gather in churches and receive the sign of the cross on their forehead, and will hear these words:

“Remember that you are but dust and to dust you shall return, repent and turn to Christ.” 

These words remind us that we were created by God, whether man or woman we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are not God, we do not have all the answers and that is okay because our God is a God of mystery. We believe in the mystery because we were created within that mystery. Whether man or woman we were created in unity and in mutuality to help creation flourish, we have strayed from that call and I think God is calling us back into relationship with creation. 

Genesis 2 tells us the story of Man and Woman being created in unity. In unity with each other and in unity with the world. It tells of a vision which we should strive for, a perfect unity in which all can live and move and have our being. Yet, we only have to go to Genesis 3 to hear of human’s response to that very vision. To read the story of Adam and Eve becoming creatures of oppression, trapped in a cycle of abuse. We read about them being tainted, of Sinentering the world. However, throughout the ensuing story one thing remains: God’s desire to be in relationship with us. Throughout the story there is always the possibility for change, for reconciliation back to God. 

         God is calling us back into relationship, trying to reconcile our relationship with the planet as well. That doesn’t mean that we are being called back into relationship with a church denomination, or a specific set of belief, but we are being called back into relationship with the God who made us and the God who loves us. In Genesis 2 we read of God wanting us to be in partnership. Not just union as Man and Woman, but for us to live in union with the whole of creation. Israel’s faith reflected this. The story of Israel demonstrated a people who understood their call to live in a world where solidarity, fidelity and responsibility are essential. Israel had a word for this, and that word is Shalom. Shalom, which has been mistreated and misinterpreted, means much more than peace. Shalom is about wholeness, about mutuality and about unity. Shalom is the kind of peace which can only come from the true flourishing of all. Shalom is not the kind of unity which we can pay lip service to, it is the unity which is found in God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

On the surface the word reconciliation can seem daunting. I know it was for me when I sat in a room with 20 other Christian leaders who appeared to have far more experience than I did. It also seems like big dream stuff, the desire of reconciling waring nations, divided communities or a fractured church. Yet at the heart of reconciliation is relationship. This is what Genesis 2 reminds us of. It reminds us that we are not just called into relationship with each other. We are called into relationship with God and with the planet. How often do we perceive Christian faith in terms of mission and evangelism? In terms of oppression and belief systems. We want to reconcile our fellow society to God, and yet we fail to think about our own journey. We fail to think about how our life reflects and demonstrates God’s desire to be in relationship with us.

Genesis 2 tells us a story of relationship. It reminds us of our calling into relationship and unity; relationship with each other, relationship with the planet and relationship with God. All our life decisions should reflect that desire for God to be in relationship with ALL of creation. Relationship is key to our reading of the Bible, our living out our Christian faith and our striving for reconciliation and peace.

The Eucharist: Unity and Reconciliation

Every Friday, after the Litany of Reconciliation, those who wish process into  Coventry Cathedral and gather in the Chapel of Unity to take part in the Eucharist. They gather not as Protestant or Catholics; Anglican or Methodist, but as Christian brothers and sisters stood around the alter facing each other. There is something very powerful about facing somebody, to see somebody over the alter. I am always reminded, as I come to preside at the Eucharist that we are all gathered as individuals who are, in those moments, united by our faith. We are all unique, diverse, created by God in God’s likeness but in communion we are reminded of our common body. The body of Christ gathered, facing each other, ready to receive Christ’s body afresh.

The Chapel of Unity is dedicated to this mission, to unite ‘the Anglican Church and the Free Church together for Christian service in Coventry.’ Born out of pain and suffering this mission was dreamt of in 1945 and eventually took shape in the chapel that is present today. It is a constant reminder of the unity which we seek and the risk it involves. The room is not perfect, in fact the floor slopes down to where to alter sits. But then the work of reconciliation isn’t perfect either; it is always messy, always difficult and never fully complete. Yet, in the Eucharist we get a sense of its completion. We begin to glimpse what we, as Christians, are striving towards and we begin to hope for a better world. 

The Eucharist is one of the most significant acts of worship in the Church; whether you call it Mass or the Lord’s Supper, what we are doing is remembering what Christ did for us and what Christ calls us to do. The word Eucharist, which is what most people call this shared meal means “thanksgiving” and you truly get a sense of giving thanks when you are gathered inside the new Cathedral having come in from the old. 


This is the one of first things to take place in any Eucharist service. There should always be time for preparation for the Eucharist and in Coventry it is the Litany of Reconciliation which acts as the preparation. But, after the preparation comes the Gathering. The Gathering transforms the gathered individuals, however many are present, into a gathered community ready for worship. It reminds them why they are there and points them on their journey towards Christ.

The idea of journeying is very prominent in the work of reconciliation. It may not come as a surprise that those who want to achieve reconciliation are often journeying towards it. As pilgrims we gather together and begin our collective journey. But journey’s are no good without a destination, you can wander aimlessly for hours, getting lost, unsure of where you are going if you don’t have a destination to speak of. In the Eucharist the destination is Christ, at the very heart of the Eucharist is Christ. It is the same for the journey of reconciliation, as Christians, at the heart of reconciliation is Christ. We are being called to be reconciled to God through Christ. 


Next comes the liturgy of the word. However short this is, it is an important part of the Eucharist and therefore shouldn’t be rushed or skipped over. It reminds us of our story, of where we have come from and of who we are. By reading and interpreting the word of God we are constantly reminded of the journey that faith involves. Whether it be through the eyes of Israel, or the disciples, or the Early Church we are told stories that remind us of our past. 

Stories hold a key role in reconciliation. Time and again I have been surprised by people’s stories. As people tell you their story they open up and connect to you. Stories connect people, they help people to begin to understand the journey and they turn acquaintances into friends. Dare I suggest that stories can even turn enemies into friends. At the heart of the ministry of Coventry Cathedral is a story, it is a story full of pain and loss, but it is also a story which united people. It united people around a common cause. It turned enemies into friends and it helped them to discern what their story was. 

At the heart of the Eucharist is the story of a God who loves us and wants to be reconciled to us. We should put this story at the heart of any reconciliation work we do, for without it we are simply speaking empty words. It is only through Christ that we can truly be reconciled to ourselves, to our neighbours and to God. 


It is in the liturgy of the sacrament that reconciliation truly begins to take shape. This liturgy usually begins with the peace, although there is option to include it elsewhere in the service, it acts as the bridge between the liturgy of the word and that of the sacrament. The peace is a glimpse of reconciliation within itself. Although announced by the priest, the priest is not the one who brings peace. In fact, we are all ministers of Christ’s peace. Just as we are all in need of it as well. It is this peace, sometimes given reluctantly, other times with hesitation, that is perfected within community. This peace will roll on, it will continue as we gather and talk after communion, it will continue as the priest begins to prepare the elements. But more than this, it is a gift from Christ which is perfected as we strive to become more Christ like in our day to day lives. 


Once the elements have been taken and blessed, two of the most important aspects of the Eucharist, they are then broken. These words, see below, can be used as a priest fractures the host, which for me, signify the brokenness that unites us all:

We break this bread 

To share in the body of Christ

Though we are many, we are one body, 

Because we all share in one bread. 

Although this is not something that scholars have agreed upon, it has been a prominent idea since the second century. The idea of the broken bread reflecting the broken body of Christ on the cross is a powerful tool for reconciliation and peace. We, as reconciler’s, bring our brokenness to the table and offer it to God. Just as Christ offers us his brokenness. From this broken state wonderful things can come to light. From broken bread and wine outpoured can come abundant blessings and promises of hope. 


The final part of the Eucharist is the sending out. This is a crucial part of the service as it reminds us that just as we have been drawn into the mystery of God’s divine love, so are we sent out as messengers of God’s divine love. The Deacon’s proclamation: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” is a strong command. It shapes who we should be as Christ’s followers. We may be pilgrims gathered around the Lord’s table, but we are pilgrims who are sent out with an urgent and important task. As those gathered together in the Chapel of Unity you are reminded of the practicalities of such a task. You are reminded as you exit the Cathedral and see the Old Cathedral ruins, you are reminded when you think of those words “Father, Forgive.” But, we are not sent out alone but as part of a new community. A new community shaped by Christ. We are sent out as part of the body of Christ, challenged to live in love and peace with all. 

Reconciliation and The Eucharist

At the heart of the Eucharist is the telling of the story of God’s love for creation. It is a story which reflects not just the nature of reconciliation but God’s heart to be reconciled to us.  It reminds us of the gift which God has already offered us and challenges us to shape our lives in response to that gift. 

In the Eucharist we are gathered; gently collected by God so that we can be prompted on a journey. We are reminded; we hear of God’s love for us and desire to be reconciled to us. We are reconciled; we are told of God’s love and reconciled to each other, made into a fragile community which is shaped by God. We are broken; we are reminded of God’s brokenness and see it in our broken lives. We are sent; we are challenged to “Go” to be reconcilers in the world, to tell people of God’s love and to bring them to the table at which reconciliation can truly begin. 

This is not meant to be a detailed explanation of the Eucharist, it never intended to create a detailed theology of reconciliation in light of the Eucharist. But, I hope it offers pause for thought. For those who are privileged to preside of the Eucharist, I hope it challenges you to rethink how you preside over this sacred meal and what message you are giving to the people gathered. For those whose faith is sustained by the Eucharist I hope it offers a moment of reflection. And, for those who do not know, or are not close to it, I hope this reflection prompts you to see the Eucharist as one of the key tenants for reconciling your relationship with God. 


Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England

Castle, B, Reconciliation: The journey of a lifetime

Gordon-Taylor, B and Jones, S, Celebrating The Eucharist: A Practical Guide

Davidson, A and Milbank, C, For the Parish: A Critique of Fresh Expressions 

Dix, G, The Shape of the Liturgy 

Schuegraf, O, The Cross of Nails: Joining in God’s Mission of Reconciliation

Reconciler’s Together #JourneyofHope

Sat in Coventry Cathedral looking from the new out onto the old Cathedral ruins, darkness blotting out the path I began to comprehend that reconciliation is about more than bringing people or community groups back together. Reconciliation is about far more than restoring what used to be. Reconciliation is transformative, it is scary, and it is what God calls us all to do.

The action of sending Jesus to live amongst us was transformative, it changed the dynamic of things. Jesus demanded us to think about our neighbour, to not be self-centred or pious but to see our relationship with God through a different lens. 

One of the first exemplars of this was Anthony of Egypt.  Anthony entered the desert at a time when the Church was facing great persecution, he believed that the Church could do more to encourage people to live differently. This call was heard by others and soon people sought him out with the desire to deepen and reconcile their relationship with God. Anthony had a saying, he used to say: ‘Our life and death is with our neighbour.’ It is through seeingour neighbour, truly seeing them as reflections of God, that reconciliation can take place. Not just seeing them and moving on but seeing them and responding to their need, as well as letting them respond to ours. 

It would have been far easier for the community of Coventry Cathedral to have responded to the bombing which destroyed the cathedral by taking the upper hand; to focus on forgiving them and praying for them. To write the words “Father, forgive them”, would not have cost them a thing. This would not have led to transformation, it would not have bridged the divides between two waring nations. The words: “Father, forgive”, on the other hand acknowledge the part we all have to play in the perpetual messiness of life. These are the words written on the old Cathedral walls. Father, forgive.It is far more difficult for us to acknowledge the role we play in hurting others. Far harder to ask for forgiveness than to offer it out. Coventry Cathedral models a radical, and frankly messy, model for reconciliation. It is true reconciliation however because it acknowledges the role we all play.

As you stand, shoulder to shoulder, with friend and stranger and respond to the litany of reconciliation in the Old Cathedral ruins you become aware of the part you have played. But you also become aware of the part you could play. For where there is remorse there is hope. From the old Cathedral you can stare across the void into the new and you are reminded that God came to birth hope out of destruction. To offer reconciliation in the midst of all the messiness and pain. 

 It can only be through deepening our relationship with God though that we are able to begin to deepen our relationships with others. It is through being aware of our neighbour that we can see God Invisible become more visible, as the Message translation paraphrased:

‘The Word became flesh and blood, 

and moved into the neighbourhood. 

We saw the glory with our own eyes, 

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son, 

Generous inside and out, 

True from start to finish.

(John 1:14-18)

Anthony set an example which is hard to follow, to reject the world and be reconciled to God through Christ. Coventry Cathedral’s history and mission reminds us of the challenge of acknowledging the role we all play in causing pain. These may not be the easiest examples to follow but they are important reminders to those of us who wish to work towards reconciliation. They remind us that at the heart of reconciliation is God. That at the heart of everything is God. They tell us that it is only God who can transform and forgive, and they challenge us to see our neighbour through God’s eyes. It is only when we make the invisible visible and acknowledge God, present amongst us, can we work towards reconciliation. Reconciliation of other-to-other but also our own reconciliation, through Christ, to God. 

As you journey with me on my journey of reconciliation, whatever that may look like, I will be offering short blogs about reconciliation and about the #JourneyofHope that I am on. Some will be practical, others more theoretical, but at the heart of these blogs will be the desire, shown in the life of Anthony of Egypt, to deepen our relationship with God and to make the invisible God more visible in our communities and world. 

Advent Journey #3.. An Advent Poem

John foretold long ago,

of a man who was to come, 

the Saviour of the world was He, 

the Hope of non and some. 

This man was Christ

who is our light,

our Hope, our Joy, our Peace.

For one and all, 

he shows the way, 

of justice, peace and love.

He challenges us to care and watch,

with friend, and stranger now. 

He came to love one and all, 

no matter what the cost.

He is our Hope, our Light, Our Peace.

His is our King,

our Friend.

He is our hope of Kingdom Come.

So come seek him out this day,

Find him meek and mild,

all wrapped in cloth

and in a manger lay.

Be filled with Hope and Love and Peace.

And yet in return,

be challenged to journey to the edge.

To love the friend and stranger

who has no hope,

no love,

no care.

Show love to all

walk close to Christ

and ever hope and dream,

Praying earnestly like John

For God’s kingdom to come.

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